In this episode, SooJin brings in spiritual wellness consultant and restorative yoga teacher Marjorie Grevious to share the wisdom and insights she’s garnered from witnessing how toxic masculine definitions of what it means to be a “man” has robbed the men in her life. She discusses not only how men are complicit in toxic masculinity but also women and offers a powerful alternative to toxic masculinity, as she shares the various ways her and her partner worked to preserve the innocence and goodness of her nephew, as they worked to safeguard the #BlackBoyJoy he was born with. She also points out the responsibility that white people need to play in creating an environment where Black boys are safe and protected.
Restorative Yoga with Marjorie at Yoga Sanctuary
firstname.lastname@example.org (Marjorie’s Email for Consultation Requests)
Radiant Rest by Tracee Stanley-Newell
Restorative Yoga for Race and Ethnic Stress-Based Trauma by Dr. Gail Parker
“A Humanist View” Speech delivered in 1975 by Toni Morrison at Portland State University
E19: Addressing Toxic Masculinity with Marjorie Grevious
Co-hosts: SooJin Pate and Hannah Carney
Guest: Marjorie Grevious
Intro (music by Mike Myth Productions):
SooJin: Welcome to the Antiracist Parenting Podcast, where we're working to create an antiracist world for ourselves, our children, and future generations to come.
Hannah: We are Hannah Carney and SooJin Pate. And we're coming to you not as experts but as parents who want to share our missteps and successes in raising antiracist children. Thank you for being on this journey with us, as we work together to build a community of antiracist parents who are raising a generation of antiracist kids.
SooJin: Welcome to Episode 19. We are rounding out our series on toxic masculinity with Marjorie Grievous, a spiritual wellness teacher, wise woman extraordinary care, and my dear friend. But before we bring her in, I just have a quick announcement. We have another patron. Emily Schorr Lesnik is our most recent patron of our podcast. I asked Emily if she wanted to promote anything, and she said, “I've been working with the Institute for Antiracist Education and would love for you to lift up their work.” So thank you, Emily, for supporting us in this way.
Now I will get into our Accountability Check-in. So I said that I’d fill you in on the conversation I had with my daughter Sxela about consent based on the commitment I made from Episode 16 with Kyle. Just a reminder: Sxela is 14 years old. I told her that I wanted to have an important conversation with her about consent given that she’s getting older and that she and her friends may be dating soon, if they aren’t already. I started by asking her if she knew what consent was. And she’s like, “Yeah. We’ve talked about this many times.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep track of all the times I’ve discussed something with my child. I think the reason for that is that every time I talk to her about an issue or topic, I try to talk about it in terms that are developmentally appropriate so I’m not able to address everything in one sitting.
So every few years or so, I’ll revisit the same topic but talk about it within the context she’s in, in that moment, to not only drive the point home but also to show her that an issue can look like and can come across in different ways, different forms, depending on what’s she experiencing given her age.
Anyway, I insisted that she tell me in her own words what consent is. She said something short like, “It’s when you give permission to someone, saying it’s OK to do something.” “Like sex?” I asked. “Yeah.”
“Ok, that’s good,” I said. “But it’s not just only about sex. It’s about everything that could lead up to sex. And it’s also about stuff that’s not about sex at all.” And she’s like “Yeah, I know.”
So we watched Kyle’s poem “Consent at 10,000 feet” and talked more about how it’s important to communicate every step of the way. I also reminded her that she never needs a reason or explanation to justify her “no.” Sometimes, people will try to manipulate and try to control you to do what they want you to do. Like demanding a “good reason” before they’ll accept your answer. I reminded her that she can say no whenever she wants and leave it that. And that she can change her mind at any time - that a yes can turn into a no.
I asked her if she had any questions. “Nope.” I could tell that she was losing interest in the conversation as she responded with, “I know. I know” to the things I was saying, so I didn’t press her to watch the other videos I had planned to show her. But all in all, I thought it was a good conversation. I plan to have deeper conversations about how to keep herself protected when going to parties or clubs and talk through different scenarios she could face. But like I said, that will be for another time.
The commitment I made from the last episode with E.G. was to propose to Sxela the idea about coming up with a family creed, a family mantra. She asked why we would do that. I recounted the story that E.G. shared and said that it could serve as a touchpoint, something she can go back to, to lift her up when she’s down or restore her confidence in times of insecurity or give her courage in times of fear, etc. Basically, it could serve as a pep talk to yourself, to remind you of your power, strength, and brilliance.
Her response to that: “No, we don’t need to do that.” “Why?” I asked it. “Because I don’t need it. It wouldn’t be helpful to me.” “Because you rely on other ways to build yourself up?” I asked. “Yeah.” Ok and I left it at that.
One of things I’m learning from following through on these commitments is that what I consider important or what I take away from our guests doesn’t necessarily align with what’s important to my daughter or what she needs. So I’m giving myself permission to be experimental - to try things out, to create an opening, a door. And I’m learning that she’s not going to walk through every door I open. And that’s OK because she knows herself and knows what she does or doesn’t need. And that’s a very good thing: knowing yourself so much that you know what you need or don’t need in your life.
Do you know how long it took me to get to that point in my life? Knowing those things for myself? So I’m not going to kill that skill, that strength, that knowing that she already has about herself because I want to preserve her ability to trust herself. And I can do that by listening and following her lead on things.
Ok, onto our intention for today. We learned from E.G. in our last episode that tapping into our femininity, our feminine power, is an effective antidote to toxic masculinity. So in our last episode of the series, I want to help create and nurture and relish femininity, relish in feminine power.
I can’t think of a better guest to help us with that than my dear friend Marjorie Grevious. We met as coworkers - we ended up working at the same organization. And when I first met her, I remember thinking to myself, “I got to get to know her! I want to be her friend. I want her in my life.” The reason for that was because within minutes, I could tell she was so wise, so brilliant. And you’ll experience that for yourselves, y’all, in just a minute.
That was 7 years ago. We both left the organization but we’ve continued to nurture our friendship over the years. And I just feel so blessed to have this spiritual being in my life.
So without further ado, my dear beloved friend and sister, could you tell us a bit more about who you are, where you come from, and what you do? And if you have an intention for our time together, you can share that, too, as well.
Marjorie: I am incredibly honored by that introduction, and I, too, hold our friendship in such a sacred sister space that I'm so excited to be here with you today. My name is Marjorie Grevious. I am a spiritual wellness consultant and a yoga teacher here in the Twin Cities. A long-time nonprofit professional. I am married to the best human being I know. And we live in the south metro. My intention for today when I hear the term toxic masculinity is that I want to honor the whole humanity of men so that they can experience the full range of humanity. And so if I have any intention, it's to honor that truth that I think lives in all human beings, but I think, unfortunately, gets denied men in a lot of really hurtful and damaging and traumatic ways.
SooJin: Mmm. Oh, that's so lovely, Marjorie. Thank you for that. So you've worked with a lot of youth in your nonprofit career, and you raised a young man. You raised your nephew Jelani who unfortunately passed this past spring. And I just think it's so amazing that— You know, just witnessing your grieving and mourning process has been so amazing for me. Like I've learned so much from you in terms of how, even in the midst of great trauma and heart break – I mean, I can't think of a more heartbreaking scenario for a parent to endure – even in the midst of that, you still are so full of joy and talk about your dear boy all the time. And every time you talk about him, it's with light and sparkle in your eye. It's with laughter in your voice. It's just so, so very beautiful.
So anyway, you've worked with youth. You raised a young man. And you've served as a confidant and friend to many men in your life. Can you share how dominant stereotypical notions of masculinity have harmed the boys and men in your life? You talked about how toxic masculinity— What it does is it cuts their ability to be fully human. How have you seen that?
Marjorie: When I think about toxic masculinity, what I think about is how so many men— And as a Black woman, I kind of think of and contextualize this in terms of the Black male experience ‘cause that's what I am most familiar with, the most intimately connected to. I am the big sister to two wonderful Black men. I raised my youngest brother's son, as you mentioned, who unfortunately passed on March the 15th. I have loved Black men in various capacities all throughout my life as an adopted auntie, as a lover, as a friend, as a colleague, as a boss. So I've known them in a lot of different contexts.
And I think when I think about toxic masculinity, I think about how men are robbed of starting at a very young age, starting at boys, you know, “Don't cry, be a big boy, get over that, brush that off.” And then that grows into what men don't do and these definitions of what's allowable in manhood, what's allowable in masculinity. And I think that it short changes men on having a full emotional experience of their lives and of what they're experiencing in their life. I am married to a wonderful Black woman, but many of my friends are heterosexual women. And so when I hear women speak about never having seen their husband experience or their intimate male partner experience emotion that brings tears to their eyes or emotions that brings sadness about them or something that touches them deeply. I'm saddened by that. I'm saddened by that because I believe that they are having that experience, but they have been taught that it makes them less than a man to fully express the full range of their emotions.
And I think that that is part of what creates the male/female tension and dynamic as we get older.
SooJin: And you know, I'm thinking about Jelani and one of the first things that I noticed about him was like he's not your stereotypical, like macho, boy or man and didn't grow up to be that, right? There's a lot of men who are feminine. You know, we all have feminine and masculine energies and there are some men that are more feminine, tapping into that more than their masculine side. And so I just think about— That would have been totally crushing to Jelani’s soul, if you had raised him with that definition of masculinity.
Marjorie: I definitely believe in the old adage, “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.” I definitely think that parents instill a lot of things at a cellular level, at a core level, at a spiritual level, that is a seed that then blooms into a weed that we have to spend a lot of energy as adults clearing out or creates beautiful perennial blooms as we go throughout life. And I think both things happen.
I think with toxic masculinity, what gets planted is these ideas of what it means to be a man. You know, in raising Jelani and in losing him, the common hashtag #BlackBoyJoy really defines who he was naturally as a spiritual being. I would say I had no hand in that. I would say that that's how the Divine made him. What our work was in stepping into a parenting place with him was to preserve that for as long as we could. One of the things that we took very seriously in raising a Black boy in America was the necessary work of preserving his innocence and preserving his romance with life and the world around him, preserving that naivete that I think gets stolen and snatched from Black children way too young and way too often and especially our boys. And so I think that a lot of men, which has been commented on, I think a lot of males would consider that soft. Like “I can tell he was raised by women because he wouldn't do that had he been raised by a man.” And it’s just like, “Well, what's wrong with this sparkle? What is wrong with this spontaneous burst of joy? What is wrong with him having a welcoming and opening spirit? The armor that he needs as a Black man in America, it will come. But underneath that needs to be a tender human being. And he needs to be able to choose when and how to put that armor on and to take that armor off.
It is necessary. We all wear a certain amount of armor to protect ourselves, but I think, unfortunately, we put the weight—like when you think about what armor was made of—we put the weight of that on our young boys and expect for them to grow into that and that retards their growth. That hinders their whole spiritual and heart experience of the world around them. And so when I think about how Jelani moves through the world— You know, even in the depths of my grief, to think of him for too long brings laughter and brings smiles because of that natural well of joy and of love and goodness and just of romance with the world around him and how he would immediately like, “Oh, that's my friend.”
I'd be like, “Buddy, everybody can't be your friend.” Right? But that is literally— You know, what we learned at his celebration of life service: that is literally how he moves through the world is that everybody was his friend until they rejected him. Right? And so I think that all of our young people, I think all boys have that softness in them. But they are taught, something tells them, that they need to be hard, that they need to be tough, that they need to be closed off, that for some reason, they shouldn't and can't feel pain. They shouldn't and can't process complex, deep, dark and light emotions. That they can't cry at a touching movie like Moonlight or The Color Purple. That they also can't be reduced into a veil of tears when, you know, they see a beautiful work of art by Alvin Ailey or Jacob Lawrence. Like all of these things get denied them. Or even when they're children and they skin their knee and they have actually physically hurt themselves and they are actually bleeding, I have witnessed parents be like, “Oh boy, you need to stop with all that crying.”
And what message does that send our children? What message does that send a boy child about his pain being denied him and him having to stuff it. And once he stuffs it in there, then that's what they're feeding on, right? They're not feeding on all the complex range of emotions and experiences that life brings them. They've had to stuff so much pain down in there that I think as women, when we go to be an intimate relationship with them, that's what a lot of us are combating and trying to work through is all this toxic masculinity and these ideas of manhood and what it is and what it should be and how it's supposed to look like. A lot of them has been a lot of energy in trying to work through all that.
It is hard to realize that you have been given the care of a tender-hearted, sensitive spirit boy child because you know that his heart will be broken and that his spirit will be tested. But I think part of the parenting responsibility is to stand in that sacred space with letting him know that that's okay and that he will survive that. And he will learn to love bigger and differently and his love will take on dimensions and grow exponentially past this pain and hurt. But to first acknowledge it and sit in it and be with it—it's very hard because the world is geared towards men not having that experience and having a very flat kind of one- dimensional experience of how they're supposed to be and move through the world. And I think it takes a hell of a man to do the work, to step into that space for himself—the full multi-dimensional brilliance of his whole being and to allow that to unfold not only with them but also in their relationships with other people all around them.
When men don't show affection to their children, especially their boy children, “Oh, you too old to be hugging and kissing.” Right? Jelani was real quick to like show affection and wrap his arms around and give a kiss, but I would see that messaging come at him: “Oh boy, you're too big for that. You're too old for that. You need to just give the fist bump. Like we need to just dab.” Right? Or like that shoulder, not-quite-a-hug-thing that men do. And my boy went through the world with his heart first, his arms ready to wrap his whole being around you. I think other men want that. I just think that they get taught that that's not an okay way to be, that it's in effeminate way to be, that it's somehow a weaker, less than way to be.
And in terms of walking in feminine power and when men get accused of being effeminate, I think that's hilarious considering that all the things that women go through to bear and bring life into this world, all the things that effeminate-spirit people have the power to do and how, when one is seeking comfort, that is often the place many of us go is to an, effeminate-spirited person to get that comfort and to get that care.
So the fact that we kind of beat that out of our men, both physically and figuratively, and then when we are looking for an intimate partner, that's like the number one complaint is like, “Oh, I wish I had a man who could care for me, as well as take care of me. We get taught to look for a provider, but who cares for us and not just takes care of us. And so if a man doesn't learn all of those things in his growing, then we're not going to get that in our intimate connections with them.
SooJin: One of the things that I admire so much about you, I mean, there's so many things, but one of the things, especially within this context is, I feel like the way that you raised Jelani was you saw all the ways in which Black men in your life have been robbed of their humanity. And you have this opportunity to raise this Black boy who will be a man and, therefore, the way that you parented him and raised him was, in a way, thinking about what kind of man do I want him to be? What kind of partner do I want him to be for other people? What kind of friend? And, so, with that said why is it— I don't know, maybe this isn't a fair question, but why do you think it is that so many mothers raise their boys that reproduces these toxic masculine ways that creates the very kind of partner that they wouldn't want to be with?
Marjorie: I think because as women, I think that we get trapped in these ideas of manhood ourselves. Right? I think we get really trapped in these ideas of manhood ourselves. And what it means for a man to be strong, what it means for a man to be a protector—not only of us physically but like of our home and of our lives—what it means for man to be a provider, what it means for a man to be the type of person that we want to have on our arm and walk down the street with. And so I think all of those things get overly romanticized into like this statue of a man that very few actual human men can live into or live up to, but I think gets stuck in. And then when we get a man who doesn't cry or shows less affection over time or reduces our intimacy to just sex and we no longer get lost in conversation or hold hands through Target. Like when all of these things kind of get lost and we have to— You know, often in those relationships, there has to be a pause and a redefining of what it is I really needed and really wanted in my romantic partner, in my life partner, in my soulmate, in my person—like how I really wanted those things to be because eventually we're gonna get sick and we're gonna want our most significant, most intimate other to take care of us. And if he's void of all of that because he has bought into this rigid idea of what it means not only to be a man but to be yo’ man, right? We have to make space for the men in our lives—our good friends, our intimate partners—to have this full range of emotion.
We can't be put off when our man is reduced to tears, whether he slams his finger in the car door or whether it's something that we watch on TV together or something that he reads and brings to us and shares it with us. You know, when we belittle that, we create that cutting off, and we keep them from being. But then when we're sick and we're down, we're like, “Oh, I wish he would do this. I wish he knew how to do that.” And it's just like, he kind of did, but then we gave the message that this is not what it means for you to be a strong man, a good provider, a good protector, for me. And I think that that contradiction shows up in our parenting of our boy children. You know, the whole mother-son dynamic like, “I love my boy. I love my boy.” Then, all of a sudden, he becomes a “rusty, butt boy. You know, that boy get on my nerves. You know, then he becomes like this whole other thing in this whole other entity outside of that little boy that we loved up until about eight or nine. And then all of a sudden, he's a troublemaker. He's out here in trouble all the time. And the cuddles stop. And the softness stops towards him. And we don't offer that to him. And we deny him that in how we expect for him to act in these definitions of masculinity.
You know, a lot of Black men with that tender heart and that sensitive spirit: I've been honored that I've known several men who've shown that side to me—not necessarily as lovers but even just as strictly platonic, good friends—and to have men say like, “I wish I could talk to other women the way that I talk to you. You know, with the sex piece kinda being off the table as a queer person, something about that then frees them to be able to share themselves with me as a woman that they're not able to do with other women in their life because they're living into this idea of what it means to be a man or into these twisted ideas caught up in toxic masculinity that is denying them or shorting them from their full human experience.
And so when they don't have to live up to that for me and I have no expectations of that—because I'm not trying to be with them, I'm not trying to get them to pay my bills, we ain't going nowhere, our relationship is just what it is, either as friends or colleagues or coworkers—then they're able to open up to me in a way that, in the end they say to me, like, “I wish I could talk to my sister like this, or I wish I could talk to my mom like this, or I wish I could talk to my woman like this.” But these ideas that we build as women and that they're trying to live into as men, it creates this chasm that I think a lot of intimate couples who stay together in a healthy, happy way, do a lot of work to tear down—at least between the two of them—even if they hold a certain image publicly between the two of them creating that safe space for the man to have that full range of experience of his humanity, I think, becomes incredible for those who are open to doing that.
SooJin: You're raising a good point here. You know, the way that we've been talking about masculinity right now— It's been very binary like man and woman but mainly focused on
man. But you're also bringing in like the component of women, how women can also buy into that and also expect that kind of masculinity to show up in their man.
But it's important to know that when we talk about masculinity and femininity, it's not about gender, right? Because again, all human beings, we all have masculine and feminine energies residing in us. And so with that said, I was wondering, why is it important for all genders—from all the way from cis to non-binary—why is it important for us to divest from these harmful, hurtful forms of masculinity?
Marjorie: That's a very, very big question. I think from my teeny tiny perspective, when I think about human rights movements, when I think about civil rights movements—whether based on race or gender equality or LGBTQIA plus rights and equality—it really has to do with allowing all human beings the full expression of their humanity. If I get denied that because of who you think I am or how you believe I should move through the world, then we both get shorted because you don't get to experience the full brilliance of my being, and I don't get to become and fully inhabit the full expression of my brilliant being. And when we are looking at human rights and what it is that we are fighting for, often times when boiled down to its absolute core, it is that: how do I get to be fully me without you diminishing that?
When I did date men many years ago—I've been married for over 20 years—but when I did date men in a different chapter of my life, and I have girlfriends who have heard this to this day who are heterosexual, like, “You come across like a man.” What does that mean? What does that mean? Because I handle my business? Because I don't take no bullshit? Like what does that mean that “I come across like a man”? Or I think about the rapper Eve; she was part of Rough Riders crew. And she was called “a pit bull in a skirt.” Right? And it's like, what do these things mean when we are limiting these definitions of femininity and masculinity and not dwelling enough into the interlocking circle that connects both of them, which is our humanity. In all of us as human beings, [we] have this full range of experience and of emotions and how that comes through us and how we express that, that I think needs more room to be allowed when we decide how a girl should act, how she should cross her legs, cross her ankles, what is proper, proper way to be in the male gaze— When we teach men how to control and hinder and retard and cut off the full range of their emotions or what they're experiencing in their minds, in their bodies, in their spirits, in their emotions, it just creates this continued lopsided way— You know, Black, white— Like what does it mean to act Black? What does it mean to talk white? Like what do all these things really mean? And what it really means is that we've limited our definition in that person's humanity and that person expressing themselves fully.
SooJin: Mmm, I just want to sit with that because you spoke some words. You dropped several words. What you didn't share with our guests is that you're also a theologian of sorts. And we're witnessing, we're experiencing that right now. Oh, I am for sure. Thank you for that. That was a big question, but your answer was like amazing!
I wanted to kind of go back to, you had mentioned about how someone in your family or a friend saying like, “We can tell that Jelani is raised by a woman, you know, because he's ‘soft.’” And I was curious, like what has been your response or what was your response to them?
Marjorie: You know, my mom was a single mom for most of her parenting life. And I have two brothers, and my mom would get that type of critique and criticism of her parenting of my brothers.
And mostly what I watched my mom do was not defend herself or even take umbrage but to be about her business like, “You not stepping into this arena of what it means to raise a Black boy child in America, so I'm just gonna need you to have several seats.” That's it. That's all. Nothing else. Like, “Unless you out here doing this work” because often it comes from people who aren't necessarily in that work or doing that work or doing it in a way that was in alignment with how we chose to raise Jelani.
You know, one of the things Lisa and I chose to do is that outside of school, when Jelani was awake, that he was always in the presence of someone who genuinely cared about him. And he knew that at any point in time, if that shifted for him—he could be at school, he could be at a friend's house, it did not matter—he could call us and we could talk through that or we would come get him. And so he knew in the middle of the school day, if he felt a teacher's energy was not right, he would pick up the phone and he will call one of us—often, it was Lisa—and he will call one of us and she will talk him through that. Or she will pop up at the school so that he can see that the safe place that he needed in the world existed for him. Right?
We were very careful about who he was with and who he spent time with and how much time he spent with them. And then who he was when he returned home from being with people outside of our immediate circle of family or chosen family, then who he was and how he processed that. And what that developed in him was a sense of safety and well-being that you always had this homeplace that he could return to and kind of finish out the experience of his feelings and his thoughts about that and make choices and decisions as he grew older about if he wanted to keep that friend or wants to go to that person's house again. Like, “Nah, I'm good with him. Like I don't need to go over there anymore.”
You know, he had, like a lot of Black kids, he had a lot of white friends. And as he got older, we would have to train white parents like, “Our Black child can’t be out here walking the streets of your neighborhood after dark like your white child can. What kind of chaperone situation’s going to be at your home? How are you supervising or monitoring the space?” And if it didn't sound like something that was safe for him, both physically, mentally, spiritually, we would have to have a conversation about that as a family like, “Is this a good place for you to go? Can we have a phone call every couple of hours to make sure this is good for you, that this is going well?” and planning our lives in such a way that we were available to swoop in. Which did happen. And it happened without shame and without hesitation. If we got that call, it happened without shame or hesitation. “Oh, you need us to come. We will be there in 20 minutes.”
So I think people think about that for girls. Right? They think about that for their girl children because of what we know about all types of violence and assault against women and women's bodies. Our boys need the same thing.
Marjorie: Our boys need the same thing. I think the conversation is just starting to happen that when you ask many adult men about their first sexual experience, more than a fair number of them were minors, having sexual experiences with adult women. And we are just now starting to have a conversation about what kind of impact that has left on men, what kind of impact sexual assault and pedophilia is having on boys. I think it often gets very focused around girls.
Consent, as well. My boy knew that if someone liked him and they wanted to express that physically, that he had the right and autonomy over his body to also say yes or no. I don't think we think about our boys and men having consent or also needing consent or also having the right to say, “No, I'm good. I don't feel that way about you. That's not what I want to do or go in this relationship.”
I don't think that we have that conversation about teaching our boys that their bodies are sacred, that they have the right to hold them and share them with whomever they choose and paying a lot of attention to who sets them off, who lights them up, who makes them feel safe. And that's how we would choose mentors in Jelani’s life.
You know, we were blessed, especially when he was younger ‘cause it's always easier before they get to the teenage years to find people who want to spend time with your kids, and we were always really mindful of filling his life with a lot of different types of Black men, a lot of different shapes, sizes, professions, backgrounds of Black men, so he didn't get stuck in this singular idea of what it looked like or what it meant to be a Black man.
He was around folks with PhDs. He was around artists. He was around restauranteurs. He went to big luscious, beautiful homes and gatherings of Black people from across the diaspora. I mean, all of these things were super intentional on our part. They were not by accident. They were super intentional ‘cause there was a fair amount of, “Oh, thank you for the invitation. We’re good.” Or, you know, “We have something to do this weekend.” And so the intentionality— I think there's a point like after toddlerhood for boys where we kind of leave them to like this rough-and-tumble, “Oh, they'll figure it out” kinda way through the world, where we continue to kind of walk our girl children a little bit further into their innocence and naivete. And we let our boy’s hands go. And we kept ahold to our boy for a really long time so that when he entered young adulthood and it hit hard a couple of times and he was like, “Can I come home?”
“Sure. You can come home. You can come home for a month or two and figure it out and go back.”
“Okay. I want to go back and live with my friend.”
“Okay. All right. Well, you over 18 now. That's what you can do.”
That's part of what home is for as opposed to, “Oh, you'll figure it out. You a man in the world now.” You know, I remember when he was 15 and we started talking about college and going away to college and how exciting it would be to go to college. And I remember we were at a restaurant at brunch and he looked at us with tears in his eyes and he was just like, “Y'all talking about me leaving home. Like I'm not ready for that yet. Like do I have to leave?” And we realized, “Oh! Okay. So you're not ready? Okay. Nope. Your room is your room. Like yeah, this is where we are. That's fine,” instead of being like, “Oh boy, you'll get used to it. Like, buck up! You're a sophomore, junior in high school now. You gonna leave home eventually. Get it together!”
It was just like, nope. This was a tender spot for him that he wasn't ready to explore this space yet. And then the time came where he was just like, “I want to be in the world.” “Oh! OK!” So like really, really paying attention to that as opposed to, “Oh, this is what happens at this age. This is what happens at this age. This is what it should look like for him. If he doesn't fit into that, then I would just push him with my boot at his back.”
And it's just like our boys still need that tenderness and that tender space and that care for them and not just taking care of, you know, their food, clothing, shelter, and medical, but also caring for the spirits, the body, the mind, the emotion that was happening, that is happening there. Honoring that whole being and not just these arbitrary expectations that we've set in our mind.
SooJin: Marjorie, thank you so much for those stories and all those examples that you shared because I feel like— One of the core kind of tenants of antiracism is that the inequities that we face, especially within this context in terms of treatment, how we're being treated, is that we don't blame the person; we blame the situation, the scenario. So when you talked about how, being very mindful that you are raising a Black boy in America, instead of telling him to “buck up” and be “strong” and be “hard” and all that stuff—and I'm putting all these in quotation marks—instead of doing that, you're going to the white parents and being like, “What can you do to create an environment of safety for my son in the same way that we would be doing that for our girls, right, living in a sexist world full of all kinds of violence. And so thank you for being a model of an alternative way to protect and provide armor to our children in a way that doesn't reinforce and reproduce toxic masculinity.
You know, never at one moment in time, would I ever describe Jelani as “weak” or “soft.” Because, as you said, when he entered a room, he filled it up with light and joy. I mean, his smile is like a thousand watts, you know? And like that is a strength and he is a man. Like all man. So we need to redefine what it means to be a man in terms that is just about being fully human. I feel like that's kind of what you're saying is the solution to all this harm: just receiving people in their full humanity, giving people the chance to express their full humanity and accepting them instead of trying to squelch and compartmentalize. So thank you for all that.
It just feels so…it feels like medicine, Marjorie. Everything that you're saying, that's what it feels like. It feels like medicine.
Marjorie: I think we also have some really beautiful images of that starting to shift in Black men. I think about the singer John Legend and how he openly delights in his family and delights in his children and what a light and a presence I experience when I follow him and his supermodel wife and their beautiful children. And even their open journey around the loss of a child—I forget if it was last year earlier this year—and just the tenderness and sweetness. And how his masculinity, before he married Chrissy Teigen, was questioned like, “Is he gay?” You know?
I think about the athlete Stefan Curry, who also— Like one of the things that blasted him on the scene was how he scooped up his little girl after basketball games and her big sparkling personality and how he openly delighted in that. I think about the actor Devale Ellis and his wife Khadeen with their three whole boys, and how they live their life openly in social media, showing Black love and Black marriage and what it means to raise three young Black men in the world and how they're doing things, you know, the things that they're holding onto from their culture and the things that they're doing differently as they move forward.
So I think that there are some beautiful images coming forth of a shift around masculinity and around manhood and that there is a beauty and a strength in men being happy, in men having emotion, and in men having the glow, and in men starting to show that and pass that on to their boy children, I think, is really powerful imagery that are starting to come forth in this generation, which I'm so super excited about. I'm so excited when I hear celebrities or “big name” people talk about and delight in— You know, I think about President Obama talking about his two daughters, being a girl dad, and how celebrated Kobe Bryant was not just as an athlete but also as a husband and as a father. And how he overcame a really ugly public scandal many years ago to then become this icon of not just ball but of who he was as a man and as a father and as a husband. So I'm super excited about what I think is a shift and an opening and this new place for men to be able to live into.
You know, my grandfather was a very stoic man, ran his own business for 30 or 40 years with his four children. And he was a very loving man, but he did nothing domestic. He did not do laundry. He did not cook. He did not clean. And he and my grandmother were in business together. They were business partners. And so she did her part of the business and cooked and cleaned and all of the domestic duties and entertained and all of those type of things.
And so I see this shift happening now. You see men cooking on TV with their families, with their wives. Even what we're seeing in commercials and images of men in like laundry commercials and in cleaning commercials. And so I think that there is a shift that is starting to happen that I hope will soften the experience that boys have in becoming men and stepping into this new definition of manhood and this new way of being a man.
SooJin: Thank you for all that. I was wondering, is there anything that you'd like to promote or an issue that you'd like to lift up?
Marjorie: You know, what it means to be a spiritual wellness consultant is that I help people get grounded in their truth, find clarity on their path, and to hold peace in their being on this journey. And the one thing that I would want to put forth to all human beings is the incredible mystical, magical power of rest and how important it is that we rest our beings. And most importantly, that rest is different than sleep. Rest is different than sleep. Rest is purposeful. It is intentional. Sleep is inevitable; our body's gonna shut itself down no matter what we do. But rest is something that we do when we get in our comfy clothes, and we make our favorite warm or iced beverage, and we get our favorite blanket. Rest is what we do when we sit down and we close our eyes for 15 or 20 minutes just to take a moment.
And so if there was anything that I would want to leave people with, especially as we continue to live through a world-wide global pandemic unlike anything humanity, as we know it, has ever known or seen before, that we each need to create and find and be in our rest. To be in rest. To claim it, to have it, to experience it, and create it as often as you need to for as long as you need to.
SooJin: Thank you for giving us permission because some of us that's what we need to do, right? So, you know, this is also an opportunity, my dear, to talk about your stuff—like you're a yoga teacher, consultant. Can you talk about that? And then how we can reach out and hire you?
Marjorie: Absolutely. Absolutely. I work both with individuals and with organizations and groups and churches. I currently teach one traditional yoga studio class at Yoga Sanctuary in South Minneapolis. I do teach in-studio and online on Wednesday evenings, 7-8:15 PM.
I teach something called Hatha Restorative Yoga, which is traditional yoga poses—like light-medium yoga poses. Nothing crazy. But I begin and I end the session in rest. We began with 5 to 10 minutes of rest, and we end in about 15 minutes of rest with some opening and stretching of the body in between. So that's on Wednesday evenings, 7-8:15 at yogasanctuarympls.com.
You can reach me at email@example.com. I teach yoga to individuals. I do spiritual wellness consulting with individuals. I also work with both corporate and nonprofit organizations who want to bring the healing power of rest and yoga to their people, who want to have a workshop or a better understanding of what is self-care? What does that look like to take care of ourselves? Because a lot of us are providers and are busy providing and taking care of life, but we don't really know how to take care of ourselves. So I do that work on an individual basis and also on a group basis. So again, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SooJin: Awesome. Thank you so much for that, Marjorie. All of that will be provided in the show notes. So we're gonna move into our Lightning Round. Okay? Just whatever comes to the top of your head.
SooJin: So the first is, “Antiracist parenting or caretaking is…”
Marjorie: Fierce and noble work that we all must do.
SooJin: Mmm. Lovely. When you think about your boy, Jelani, what scene comes up for you that makes you smile?
Marjorie: I'm sitting in our living room right now and we have a small window seat. And from the time he was a little guy, he liked to curl up in the window seat with a cup of hot chocolate or hot tea and his favorite book of the moment and all the throw pillows all around him.
And he did that right up until he was 17 or 18 years old. So then it was like all arms and legs in the window seats. And I thought he was going to bust out a window at some point, but he’d be like, “This is my favorite spot.” So that's what I think about.
SooJin: Oh, that's beautiful. What are you reading right now?
Marjorie: Oh, wow. What am I reading right now? So I am in a yoga training program right now. And as a restorative yoga teacher, I'm augmenting that with some side training on my own. So I'm currently reading Radiant Rest by Tracee Stanley, magnificent yoga teacher that I hope to study with in person. And then my personal mentor, the work of Dr. Gail Parker, Restorative Yoga for Race and Ethnic Stress-Based Trauma. Always reading and rereading her work as it augments and feeds my own.
SooJin: Oh, wow. Those titles sounded amazing. I mean, just the titles alone. Wow. Wow. Okay. What are you doing to take care of yourself?
Marjorie: What I do to take care of myself is, I am a big walker. So I do a lot of meditative walking. I think a lot of people think that I'm listening to something and I'm not. I will put something in my ears so that people don't talk to me. And so I've been living in my neighborhood for 15 years, so I can walk—except for construction season in Minnesota—I can walk pretty mindlessly and pretty safely in my neighborhood. And I usually like to do it right after the crack of dawn. And when I do it, it makes everything better in my being and in my life. When I don't do it, when I skip too many days doing it, things go kind of left of center for me in the core of my being. It's also how I've managed the unfathomable grief that we've experienced this year is to kind of walk with it, walk it out, talk to it, be with it, be in it while my body is moving and my mind is free.
SooJin: What question would you like anti-racist parenting podcasts to answer in a future episode?
Marjorie: I always want to know what white people are doing. I mean, because you know, we out here doing the heavy lifting. You know, this blob that we call BIPOC. You know, the big ultimate family picnic and barbecue, the BIPOC. But I always really want to know why are you putting raisins in your potato salad, but most importantly, how are you raising your children to treat mine as equals, as human beings having an equal experience?
What are you doing, watching, reading, saying, talking about around your dinner table at night? Like what is that conversation about and how are you talking about people who are different than you? How are you talking about people who are different than you. And how are you continuously wrestling with your place in American society as part of the privileged class?
It is what it is. What are you doing with your privilege? How are you using it to benefit others? You can't give it away. You can't take it off. It is what it is. What are you doing with it? That's what I always want to know.
SooJin: Brilliant. See, this is why I love you. This is why I love you so much, why I am in relationship with you. Oh! Because you can say all the things. All the things. So much wisdom, so much brilliance. Anyway, love it. Okay. Is there anything else that you'd like to say or share before we say goodbye.
Marjorie: Well, I just want to thank you for this conversation, for this opportunity to continue to celebrate the 19 years of life that was our Jelani, who not only was loved dearly but put so much love into the world in 19 years. So I'm so grateful for this opportunity to continue to honor him in this way. And I'm so grateful for this work and these conversations that you are having with folks that are really so important because the children are our future. I mean, they really and truly are. And how we go about helping them to process their human experience in this world is really going to affect all of us as we all continue to live longer. So it's really important how we are touching our futures through our children. And so I'm so honored to be a part of this work with you. And I am so glad for you, as my warrior sister, to be out here asking the hard questions and pushing forward this important conversation.
SooJin: Thanks, Marjorie. When I thought about this series— So this was a series that was suggested by another guest, Kale Fajardo, this past summer. And when I was thinking about this series, I knew who I wanted to begin with and I knew who I wanted to end with. But I wasn't sure why. And I knew I wanted to end with you. But I wasn't sure why. And now I know exactly why: you're the perfect ending to the series. And I feel like with all the previous episodes, it has built up for us to understand all the wisdom and brilliance that you shared with us today.
Marjorie: Thank you. Thank you.
SooJin: And to be able to take in the medicine that you provided us with. So thank you so much.
Marjorie: Thank you! Thank you so much.
SooJin: I love you.
Marjorie: Love you, too. Love you, too, so much.
SooJin: Take care.
Marjorie: All right.
SooJin: Have a good rest of your day.
Marjorie: You, too. Bye-bye.
SooJin: Okay, folks. So was I right, or was I right? Did I not tell you how brilliant she was? I'm so glad that you all were able to experience her. She truly is a magical being. She is so smart. She is so wise. She is so insightful. And she is the type of person who, all of that wisdom and insight comes from living, comes from doing; it's not in her head. I mean, she's [an] intellectual, for sure, as we just witnessed, but she doesn't stay there. She actually takes action and lives out all of the ideas and principles and approaches and philosophies that she's shared with us. And so, I just can't thank her enough for spending time with us today and for sharing just all of her glorious brilliance with us.
I talk a lot about how this work of antiracism and specifically, antiracist parenting, is about humanization: rehumanizing ourselves as adults, as caretakers, as parents, so that we can preserve the humanity that already exists, that is innate already in our children. And I just feel like this conversation with Marjorie just really drove that home in a way that was so visceral, that was so beautiful. The scenes that she wove as she recounted the conversations, the approaches, the way in which she raised Jelani—I just think really helped us to visualize like what that actually looks like, what that looks like to rehumanize ourselves. And then also to preserve the humanity that was already innate and within Jelani. You know, Jelani was born with all of this goodness and that was her goal—her and Lisa, her partner—that was their goal was to preserve that goodness for as long as they could.
And I think that really is, you know, in the end, bottom line, what parenting is about: is preserving the goodness in our children that they're already born with because so much of adult life seems to be about undoing the harm that has come from adults, undoing the socialization that comes from living in a world that is oppressive.
So as parents, as adults, if we can work to preserve the innate goodness in our children that already exists, we will be saving them a whole lot of work. We will be saving our children a lot of labor, a lot of time and energy from undoing all the harmful practices that we have socialized them into doing and, instead, reroute all of that energy and time saved into doing—whatever that doing is, whatever passion, whatever interest is motivating and driving them, is bringing them joy.
For our white listeners: Another thing that I'm thinking about reflecting on the conversation with Marjorie is— I love that question that she posed at the end, you know, about what she wants this podcast to answer in a future episode, which is, “What are you, white people, doing?” So for our white listeners, I really hope that you take to heart that question and all the other stuff that she said after that question. It reminds me of the speech that Toni Morrison gave at Portland State University. We had shared it in the episode with Dianna Miles in Episode 17. And in that speech, a question was posed by an audience member about educating white people and the role of Black people and Black artists in educating white people. I just want to read this portion here. This is her response:
We could. Going back to the part of your question about educating white people, we certainly, I suppose, could say a lot about it. We have said a lot about. I don't think, however, with all the things that we've done, that should be one of our burdens. I really don't. You know, white people aren't stupid. They can educate themselves. They have a responsibility to educate themselves and their children. They really do. And they have to assume it.
Now I'm a writer, and I'm supposed to be able to visualize or project myself into other kinds of things. But I do believe that if I were a white person and I had children, I would prefer for the safety of my children—just for their well-being—that my children grow up around happy, well-fed Black children rather than unhappy ill-fed, angry ones. I would prefer that my children be in a world in which everybody had access to the things they needed in order to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I would want it so much for my children that I’d give up something. I wouldn't be so greedy that I had to take it away from that group in order that I have more. And then, them over there is mad. I wouldn't do it to a neighbor because that's the threat situation. It's an angry situation. It's a hostile situation for me. It's not good for me to be surrounded by people who hate me. I do it for that reason. They know that. They've got to know that. That's their job, and we have another job.
So in other words, that's the job of white people: to educate themselves. And then she goes on to say that we, Black folks, we, people of color, have another job.
So I just love what she says there. She's thinking about if I were a white person, I absolutely would be doing whatever I could. I would give up things to make sure that the world in which I live in, the world in which my children live in, is one where everybody has their needs met, where everybody has the opportunity to pursue life, liberty, happiness, because I don't want to be around people who hate me, you know? I don't want to be around people who despise me. And so it's a smart thing. It's a smart thing to do. And so, the question that Marjorie was posing about white folks: “What are you doing to ensure that my children are safe? That my boy, my Black boy is safe?” Because when he’s safe, your children will be safe because, again, we are all interconnected.
So I just want to thank, Marjorie, for raising that question, for bringing that to the fore. And I hope our white listeners really take up that call, take up that question that's posed by Marjorie and heed these words by Toni Morrison, the brilliant Toni Morrison who says, if I were a white person and I had children, I would rather that my children grow up around happy, well-fed Black children, and I would do anything. And I would want it so much for my children that I’d give up something. I wouldn't be so greedy that I had to take it away from that group in order that I have more.
Powerful, powerful words. And I can't think of a better call to action within the context of antiracist parenting for white people. So thank you to Marjorie and to Toni.
So in terms of commitments— If you don't get anything out of this conversation, I hope you get this, which is: listen to Marjorie. Do what she tells you to do. And so, I will be the first to do what she is asking us to do and that is to rest. To be really intentional about rest. And, you know, I never thought about the distinction between rest and sleep. Like my mind was blowing when Marjorie was delineating the difference between rest and sleep because I love sleep. It's one of my favorite things to do in life is to sleep. But, you know, she's right. Like it's not intentional in the sense that our body will sleep. Like it will happen. But rest—like that is an intentional act. And so my commitment is this: to meditate on what does intentionally resting look like? In the same way that I've been meditating on the word enough, I want to meditate on the word rest and what that looks like, what that feels like, and how I can incorporate rest into my life.
Yeah. Okay. Thank you so much for being on this journey with me as we examine toxic masculinity and the ways in which we can interrupt and not reproduce that in our lives and in our relationships. And I just want to thank all of our guests, Kyle, E.G., and Marjorie for lighting the way in this conversation and helping us to be better human beings.
So thank you to our guests and thank you to you, our listeners, for being on this journey with me, with us. Take good care.
SooJin: We just want to say thank you for joining us today. You can find more information about us and past episodes on our website antiracistparentingpodcast.com. A big shout out to Mike Myth Productions for the intro and outro music.
Hannah: This work requires us to challenge ourselves and take care of ourselves. Be well.
SooJin: Be antiracist.