It’s been almost ten years since the founding of the Movement for Black Lives, which kicked off a decade of activism and creativity comparable to the abolitionist movement and the Civil Rights Movement. And yet, even after the work of these powerful movements we still see racism in this country. So the question remains: can white people learn to be less racist in action and thought? In this conversation with Dr. Tawana Davis we learn about her work trying to do just that by creating the Facing Racism program. We discuss her Antioch dissertation studying the effectiveness of that program, her work as a womanist centering the lived experience of Black women, and the more spiritual dimensions of making anti-racist change.
Visit our website to find the Seed Field Podcast interview with Stephen Brookfield about educating for anti-racism.
This episode was recorded February 23, 2022 via Riverside.fm and released March 15, 2022.
The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University.
The Seed Field Podcast’s host is Jasper Nighthawk, and its editor is Lauren Instenes. Special thanks for this episode goes to Karen Hamilton and Melinda Garland for their contributions.
To access a full transcript and find more information about this and other episodes, visit theseedfield.org. To get updates and be notified about future episodes, follow Antioch University on Facebook.
[00:00:00] Jasper Nighthawk: Welcome to the Seed Field Podcast, the show where Antiochians share their knowledge, tell their stories, and come together to win victories for humanity.
I’m your host Jasper Nighthawk. It’s been a decade now since Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, Florida was killed. That senseless death and the subsequent acquittal of his killer on the basis of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is a signal tragedy of our times, but sometimes committed righteous people can make some good out of what is otherwise only bad.
It was almost 10 years ago that a few people came together to start the movement for Black lives and to kick off what has turned out to be a decade of activism and creativity. Following in the footsteps of the abolitionist movement and the civil rights movement, all to try to make our country, the United States a less racist place. A question that comes up again and again, is whether or not white people can actually learn to be less racist in action and in thought, and even on some level, whether we can change our hearts.
I definitely like to believe this, have to believe this in order to upon living, but it’s a question of how you do this as well. We’ve tangled with this question here on the Seed Field Podcast before. Our first episode was with Stephen Brookfield, who we talked about his book, How To Be a White Anti-racist. I think this question deserves more talking to, and I’m so happy today to have the chance to interview Dr. Tawana Davis. Tawana is an important thinker in these questions.
She’s the co-founder of Soul 2 Soul Sisters, a nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, that she co-founded with Reverend Dr. Dawn Riley Duval. Soul 2 Soul Sisters responds to sexism and misogyny in the Black church, racism across the US, and the marginalization and oppression of Black women’s voices. The signature program of Soul 2 Soul Sisters is Facing Racism. In this program, it hosts cohorts of mostly white people for seven sessions. During these sessions, they ask and educate participants to center Black women and their experiences.
Tawana writes about this program, “addressing or eradicating anti-Black racism seems to be an audacious goal. However, if we continue to look at anti-Black racism as something we cannot address together, the Black diaspora will continue to die at the hands of this nation’s systemic ills.” With this mission and grounding, she’s led over a thousand white people through the Facing Racism program. Now, Tawana, I mentioned that she’s Dr. Tawana Davis, she’s also a 2021 graduate of Antioch’s PhD in Leadership and Change. She founded Soul 2 Soul Sisters while she was in the program.
Today, Tawana is not actively working with Soul 2 Soul Sisters, and she’s focusing her time on raising awareness about the health inequities Black women face, particularly in the realm of breast cancer, through work with the organization Carrie’s TOUCH. She also works with a domestic violence program called Healing The Healers. Tawana, welcome to The Seed Field Podcast.
[00:03:29] Dr. Tawana Davis: Thank you. That was a pretty great introduction and a description of Soul 2 Soul Sisters and the founding of the organization. I love it, Jasper. Thank you so much and it’s an honor to be here to discuss this very important and poignant topic for such a time as this.
[00:03:47] Jasper: You’re so welcome and I’m looking forward to deepening that understanding. I want to disclose to our listeners who were just reaching as voices through headphones or on the car radio or something. I want them to know what positions we’re coming from as we talk about things, especially privilege and power in society. I’ll start off with myself. I think it’s useful for folks to know that I’m a cis-gendered man. I hold American citizenship. I’m not currently living with a disability or an illness and I’m white.
Also on an economic level, I have stable housing and income, and this is all just a fraction of the story of what makes me Jasper. I want to acknowledge that today I’m coming to this conversation with a lot of privilege. Tawana, could I hand it over to you? As much as you’re comfortable where are you coming to this conversation from?
[00:04:42] Tawana: Absolutely. Well, first and foremost, I am Tawana Davis. I am the daughter of the late Rosalie Davis and the late Edward E. Davis Jr. Born and raised in Harlem. Black, dark-skinned woman who dealt with racism, colorism, ableism now as a breast cancer survivor and thriver as I am in active treatment for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. I am a domestic violence survivor, which is why the advocacy and bringing up a domestic violence awareness is so important to me. I am a cis-gendered woman.
I love all, I want everyone to be liberated and honored and their voices to be heard and acknowledged. Which is why we do the Facing Racism program in the way that we do it with Soul 2 Soul Sisters, through a loved-based revolution. I have two grown adulting master-educated children, and one grandson who is 12 years old and I love him dearly. I call him Dink and he calls me Meemaw. That’s the position where I come in today as this beautiful mosaic, bringing in varying experience. All to bring voice and our stories to the forefront through storytelling and encouraging the hearts and minds of people to love beyond measure.
[00:06:06] Jasper: That’s such a beautiful mission. I love that you weave in your own mission statement and the things that are most important to you into that position. That’s an inspiration for me in the future. Let’s jump right into Facing Racism, this program that you run. I want to start off with asking you to define this term womanism, which is at the center of your work there. I understand it interplays with your identity as a Black woman. Can you tell us about the history of this term womanism, what it means and why it’s key to the work you do?
[00:06:44] Tawana: Sure, absolutely. I will refer the listeners to Alice Walkers In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens for the four-part technical definition. It’s very robust. If I can offer my own take on it to summarize it, womanism centers and loves Black women and Black women’s experiences. It – also including the Black diaspora and because we center Black experiences and Black stories, centering it does not decenter another group. We are centering it because we are extremely and historically marginalized and oppressed.
As we see and hear, racism is still alive and well just based on the color of our skin and our culture. Womanism brings up this fullness. It brings up this honoring of who we are as human beings. The way Alice Walker describes womanism is as purple is to lavender, womanism is to feminist. Even though womanism was created pretty much after the feminist movement, we had all these different waves of feminism and then Black feminism came onto the scene.
For me, Black feminism still taps into some of the tenants of feminism, which excluded Black women and Black women’s voices, and tried on various levels to be inclusive. Sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessful, but womanism came after it. I would picture it as inserting itself into the narrative so that Black feminism has something to tap into that is for us and by us. That tells our own story without others trying to tell our stories for us, or to interpret our stories, or to tell our stories in judgment.
Womanism for me created a foundation for us to center Black lives and Black experiences in front of predominantly white audiences in order for– Paulo Freire talks about this in Pedagogy of the Oppress, which I quote in my dissertation. I absolutely love his liberation work. He talks about with us centering ourselves, we offer this epistemological curiosity. This curiosity of knowing of the way of being. Instead of being judgmental or making assumption, it’s really listening deeply and teaching people how to listen.
Not only with their mind, but also with their heart and their gut and coalescing those three things together so that we truly understand the experience that others do not get to experience. We have this double consciousness. Like W. E. B. Du Bois talks about it in the Souls of Black Folk, and we know what it is to be historically marginalized and oppressed, and we know what it is to live in this predominantly white world. For predominantly white people, it’s this they know whiteness and they know how to live it.
In America, these are standards and the rules and the constitution was all written around whiteness and patriarchy. We had to learn to live in both worlds. Who better than to tell the story of a womanist who is centering voices that are often silenced or ignored. That was a huge platform for us with Soul 2 Soul Sisters in general, and with Facing Racism.
[00:10:19] Jasper: That’s such a powerful term and definition, and I like your emphasis on centering the experience of Black women without displacing. It doesn’t have to be a displacing centering. I also see it as a response to the history of Black women, as leaders in abolition and later as leaders in the suffragette movement. Each time playing these important roles and later being pushed to the side. Again, with feminism being decentered, despite obviously having as valid acclaim as anybody on earth to the center.
[00:10:59] Tawana: Absolutely.
[00:11:00] Jasper: I want to bring up another movement that is important to your work, which is the spiritual tradition. You started on this journey that led you eventually to founding Soul 2 Soul Sisters, to coming to Antioch, and to your work today. When you left your more corporate job and decided to become a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which a lot of us know as the AME church. Your co-founder is also a reverend in that church. I don’t want to misrepresent it I think you’re really clear in your writing that it’s not dogmatic.
That your work is not specifically for people who follow this one faith tradition. You write this great line, “I identify as a theologian God-centered who believes in and practices Christian, African traditional, Jewish, Muslim, spiritual, theocentric, or universal God-centered religions’ thoughts and praxis.” I love that line, but you have this spiritual side too, Facing Racism that seems really important. You write about how anti-racism work has to work beyond the intellect and that heart and gut and soul work is equally important.
[00:12:08] Tawana: Absolutely.
[00:12:09] Jasper: What is the role of the spiritual in your life and in Facing Racism?
[00:12:13] Tawana: The spiritual aspect of it and the reason why it’s so eclectic and so involved with different traditions is because we do have different traditions and different faiths coming into the space who want to learn more. The spiritual aspect gives us a sense of commonality. It gives us a starting place. Most of the tenants of various religions are rooted in love and honor, and a higher self of operating outside of the known knowns. Those are the things that bring us together. I also want to mention, and I think it’s important for the listeners as well.
Reverend Dr. Dawn and I were both pretty much born and raised in the AME church. Along with that comes, as we grew in the denomination, we realized that there was a lot of misogynoir, a lot of disdain for Black women.
[00:13:14] Jasper: Can you define that term a little bit more fully for us? I used it in my introduction, too.
[00:13:19] Tawana: Sure. Absolutely. We hear of misogyny. Where it’s attached to patriarchy. Where white men, in particular, white men of power or false sense of power are in control. Rules, legislation, policy and all of that is generated around white men, or even in the church itself. You have a lot of male pastors, not a lot of women pastors let alone Black women. The misogyny war is focusing on this disdain, if you will, for Black women, Black women’s voices, Black women’s leadership, stay in your place, stay in your role. Follow the man, the man is the leader.
Now with Soul 2 Soul Sisters and Reverend Dr. Dawn and I, what we did with womanism, womanist theology teaches us how to see the text and to see ourselves in the liberating portions of the text. How do we see ourselves as Mary, who was a teen mom, or how do we see ourselves as those who have been raped and ostracized in the scriptures? What good can come out of that? Just like what we are dealing with now with the pandemic, with racism, with this racial reckoning. What good can come out of it? That’s what womanism does.
Womanism co-creates this liberation, this freedom. We break away from the stigma of this disdain for Black women. Now we insert our voices as the powerhouses that we are these divine powerhouses. Not this false sense of power with power over, but power with one another. Another point I want to state is when it comes to womanism. Alice Walker talks about womanism every and anyone who is about Black life and Black liberation and centering Black experiences can be a womanist. For Reverend Dr. Dawn and I, we weren’t quite ready to expound.
We have to start a little further back first before we’re like, all are welcome. That’s what the underlying tone is, but there’s so much to learn and so much to grapple with and so much to come to terms with. Especially now where we’re taking books out of schools, we’re trying to erase history. We got to embrace that history and understand what went wrong so that we don’t keep repeating it because you called the role. You talked about the suffragist movement. You talked about the civil rights movement. You talked about the abolitionist movement.
All of those movements came and then waned. When do we get to the point where we can learn from our history? I talk about Sankofa. Taking what’s good and what works for us from the past. Bringing it forward to the present so that we don’t repeat the ills of the past and end up dying due to the systemic ills and the racist systemic ills that are happening in our nation. Womanism encompasses all of that and really combats the misogynoir that we experience.
[00:16:31] Jasper: I want to pause for a second, just on your defensiveness of the womanist term. It sounded to me like you were saying that there is a way that people take on these labels and they say, “I’m a feminist, I’m a womanist. I am these things.” You’re saying this is something that you do through action. I think that that seems so important to focus more on action than on label or to only use label as a guide to action.
[00:17:01] Tawana: You are such a deep listener and I love it. I’m like, did you take the Facing Racism course? Because the way you are engaging in this conversation. Yes, it is more about action than the actual label itself. We talk about this in Facing Racism. We hear the terms ally for white people who are supporters of the liberation movement for Black people. We hear co-conspirator, we hear comrade. This is not like a hierarchy. This is not gold star for Jasper. You have made it to be an ally. Now you are ready to be a comrade.
Now you get another gold star or a platinum star because now you’re going to co-conspirator.
[00:17:43] Jasper: Our society is so obsessed with these gold stars.
[00:17:46] Tawana: These gold stars and these accolades. No, you just come being your true, authentic self and being for the movement of Black lives, which can look so differently. Facing Racism and Soul 2 Soul Sisters is a part of that movement for Black lives. You have Black Lives Matter. You have Soul 2 Soul Sisters, you have 1 Million Hoodies, you have abolitionist movements. You have all of these movements centering Black people, which is a part of the movement for Black lives overall. In this, we teach folk this, it can be an ebb and flow. It could be a spectrum.
Sometimes we need you to be an ally to be there when the police pull someone over and we need you to record, or we need you to witness. Sometimes we need you to be a co-conspirator and march with us and march along the outside so that cops won’t attack us or harm us in any way. Sometimes we need you to be that comrade when you’re at the tables that unfortunately we’re not at and to speak truth to power. It wanes it ebbs and flows. It’s a spectrum. It’s where you are in that moment and showing up unapologetically and authentically.
[00:19:03] Jasper: Thank you for expanding on what those actions look like. I want to actually ask you to expand even more and really tell us about Facing Racism on the nuts and bolts level. I know that it’s these seven sessions people enter as a cohort. It’s the same group of people coming back. On even an elementary level, I don’t know, is it just seven days in a row, or is it over a course of weekends? What does it look like?
[00:19:28] Tawana: Thank you for asking. If you don’t mind, I would love to start from the inception of Soul 2 Soul & Facing Racism. Reverend Dr. Dawn and I had an opportunity to preach at the state capital for Unitarian Universalists every year they bring all of their congregations together to the state capital to preach. This theme was Standing on the Side of Love. We were two of three preachers preaching in that moment. After we finished our sermonettes about 10 minutes each, people were coming up to us, and we hear the term white tears.
White tears are distracting from the said challenge or what’s going on. These tears were heartfelt. These words, the things that they were pointing out like really listening to the sermons like, “Tawana, when you said X, Y, and Z, that changed my life.” Dawn and I went to a Black-owned café in Denver called Whittier Cafe, and we said, we’re onto something. We’re speaking some language that’s reaching the heart of white people as two Black women. This is unheard of and unprecedented this country, period, at this level.
We started going in to organized religions to do this Facing Racism program. Facing Racism at first was like once a month, over a seven month period and we said, “Okay, what are we doing?” That is too much. That is too long. It’s just too heavy for us. We need to condense it where we give people time to rest and reflect and read and do homework. We started doing it every other week. Then we realized that we needed people to come to us because if you come to us in a cohort setting, that means you want to learn.
You are investing your dollars which is very inexpensive compared to what we’re doing because we want you to be in the seats. We want you to be engaged. We moved it from going into organized spaces of religion, and we just opened it up. Never Jasper, do we say from the beginning that this was for white people. This is who we attracted, and then we started to add a model where whether it was BIPOC for Black, indigenous, people of color coming in to offer a healing space for them. Everyone is healing, but our BIPOC community is healing differently than our white community.
It’s seven weeks. It’s every other week, we give homework. It includes academic journals, think pieces, YouTube videos, songs, poetry, whatever it is that is really– We even use work that’s antithetical to what we’re doing. People who don’t agree with these types of movements, just to get people to start critically thinking. They go home, they have two weeks to do the homework, pick and choose what you want to read. We encourage them to build this library. Even in this seven-session period, if you don’t get to all of the homework, this is lifelong work we tell everyone.
This is not again, gold star, you finish the sessions, and now you are officially an anti-racist. No, there is still work to do, which is why we have the Facing Racism alumni group that then meets as white people. We have white leaders, and they talk about the things they’re doing. They talk about things that work well, what didn’t work well, because there’s lessons to be learned in everything. That’s pretty much what the Facing Racism program looks like, and we talk about our experiences. We talk about our children. We talk about our experiences in the church.
We talk about the good, we talk about the not-so-good. We talk about how we deal. We live racism every day, so we do this so that we can live and our children might live and our communities might live and not die at the hands of systemic ills like racism, and anti-Black racism in particular.
[00:23:41] Jasper: Yes. Listening to your story which I didn’t know about the founding, what struck me was the move from, “I’m going to come to your church and help you do this,” to, “You’re going to come to me,” is a very physical manifestation of centering Black women and living what you preach.
[00:23:59] Tawana: Yes. That is spot on because if we’re centering ourselves and telling our stories, not everybody in the room is going to be for that if we go to an institution. It’s really the pastor inviting you to come, “Come see about this.” Some take it very seriously. For instance, I love telling this story. There was a 70 something-year-old Black man in a predominantly white congregation. We had a nice mix of about 40 people in this cohort, a handful of BIPOC folk and this one Black gentleman, a 70 something years old, came up to me with tears just pouring down his eyes.
He said, “Reverend Davis, all these years, something has been hurting me. I’ve been carrying this pain and you and Reverend Duval named it from me today, and it was microaggressions.” How he has been dealing with these little cuts all of his life and didn’t understand why it made him feel this angst? Why this pain? What was coming up for him? Why was this feeling of despair coming over him after said conversations with folk? And he’s 70 something so he’s been through the civil rights movement and all of the protests and things of that nature.
We were able to name for him what possibly amongst other things because we have a whole list of definitions. Whether it’s microaggressions, racial battle fatigue, white privilege, white power, all of that. He was able to name it and now begin to heal from it because you got to face it to fix it. You got to be able to name that which needs to be healed. If I have a cut, I need to know that cut is there and how to treat it because I’m going to treat it differently than a broken arm.
I need to know what that injury is so that I know how to heal it and how to address it. That was one of the most poignant moments out of my entire time with Facing Racism.
[00:26:10] Jasper: That’s so beautiful. Thank you for telling that story. I think that that’s a useful reminder of just how these new terms that I think sometimes can be off-putting to white people or even to just anybody who hasn’t heard them before. If they’re describing something accurately, are just like incredibly powerful tools just for understanding the lived experience, especially of people who are being oppressed.
[00:26:38] Tawana: Yes, absolutely. There is this article, a white supremacy culture that I talk about a lot in my dissertation because it was a research study for several years and they came up with these terms that developed. White people were saying, and this is white people, in Facing Racism, “We don’t have a culture because a culture is like-minded folks.” They’re not trying to associate themselves with white supremacy culture, but when we started reading the terms about power over individualism, either-or thinking, paternalism.
All of that, only one way to do things. Even though we all may have those different attributes, there is a culture that is aligned to dehumanize and diminish those non-white people. Using these terms to really highlight this false sense of power which turns into white privilege and white power and white supremacy.
[00:27:42] Jasper: Well, I want to talk about the dissertation because obviously, it’s long. It’s also really well written. I was just fascinated reading it. Can we just start at the top line? You did these deep interviews with, was it seven people?
[00:27:58] Tawana: I think it was seven.
[00:28:00] Jasper: Did it work for them? Did you find that Facing Racism works? Was that one of your conclusions?
[00:28:05] Tawana: Yes, and it’s one of the limitations because Facing Racism worked for everyone I interviewed. I would’ve loved to have heard from someone who was like, “This right here ain’t going to work for me and this is why?” because we’re always looking to improve on the work that we do. We didn’t have that in the dissertation. Everybody loved it. We felt good talking about the stories and just deeply listening, but I would’ve loved to have that other view involved to make the dissertation a bit more robust.
[00:28:39] Jasper: Well, despite not having the counterfactual, I think that the findings are really hopeful. I see this vein, especially among white people who claim to be allied. They’re taking on that label as we might say, but especially like in the Democratic Party, you see this doom and malaise, like, “Well of course there’s just no hope for these racist people alive today, but future generations are going to be less racist. We’ll deal with that. Things are just going to keep getting better and you can just look at your watch as the hours go by. Our country will slowly get less racist.”
You’re saying, “No, we can intervene today. We can do this work. We can ask people to show up. We can ask people to do this soul and heart and gut work.” Maybe not everybody can be reached, but it’s worth trying.
[00:29:35] Tawana: Absolutely. It’s worth trying because those people that come to Facing Racism are coming for a longing for change. Then we have the Facing Racism alumni so that you can go out and further enact this change at your dining room table with your racist uncle or aunt. In a smaller silo, in a smaller intimate setting, you now have the language which doesn’t degrade or demean your loved one. You still love your family members. Some organizations will tell you to get rid of them, cut them out of your life but this is your blood, this is your family.
What good is it to cut them out instead of having a teachable moment, and hopefully, something in the back of their mind will just click and say, “This is something for me to think about.” It’s having this level of hope, Jasper, where Dr. Allan Boesak, who was very instrumental in abolishing apartheid in South Africa. He wrote a book, Dare We Speak of Hope? This is one of my favorite quotes. He says that hope has two daughters, their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and the courage to ensure that they don’t remain that way.
This is about hope. This is really about instilling that hope and not feeding into the despair, or the anguish, or giving up and, “Oh, we’ll never get these racist people to be anti-racist.” There is a hope there that we must hold on to so that even in those small circles, now you have this language, to really have this conversation in a loving way with a love-based revolution. That sounds like somewhat of an oxymoron. This love and revolution but this is a love-based revolution where we are enacting change. We are being very active and very assertive in our change.
I tend not to use the word radical because in some circles the term radical is not a positive term. We use that sometimes to degrade our Islamic brothers and sisters and people from other nations who deal with racism and sexism differently. This love-based revolution is very assertive and it’s very hopeful at the same time.
[00:32:00] Jasper: Well, that’s so beautifully put and, gosh, I could ask a million follow-up questions and just like talk with you about this all day. We are starting to run out of time and I wanted to leave a little bit of room to talk about reproductive injustices against Black women. I know that this is a lot of the work that you’re involved with today. Can you tell us a little bit about these injustices, your work fighting them, and the importance of making space for discussions of basically Black women’s health in Facing Racism?
[00:32:35] Tawana: Absolutely. One, reproductive justice, it’s definitely a movement that must be led by Black women and women of color because we have been the most impacted and we are about telling our own stories. Reproductive health, reproductive choice, those are things where other groups predominantly white groups can come into the conversation and really speak to that directly. When we talk about reproductive justice, there has been such an injustice against our bodies from the inception of this country being deemed three-fifths of a person, to begin with.
Being raped, having our children taken away from us, forcing us to work in inhumane conditions. Let’s start there and then as we move into 2022, reproductive justice, my body my choice. I should not have predominantly white men deciding what I do and do not do with my body. Particularly as a breast cancer survivor, as a Black woman who made it beyond the five-year mark. I’m at five and a half years of surviving and thriving, still in active treatment. I should not be here talking to you, Jasper.
I should not have been able to complete my PhD because Black women have a 40% morbidity rate beyond what white women face. Yet we are diagnosed less but dying more. That in and of itself is why Black women must be at the forefront of this story. When I walk into Johns Hopkins Hospital to receive my treatment, one of the premier hospitals in the nation, I cannot forget Henrietta Lacks. I cannot forget that it was her cells that were taken without her permission and without her family’s position so that I could live and not die at this disproportionate disease that is plaguing Black women in such an astronomical way.
Reproductive justice is a huge part of Soul 2 Soul Sisters. We insert that into the narrative of loving ourselves, loving our bodies, taking care of our bodies, fighting against food deserts and redlining. Making sure that we have adequate health care, and health insurance and we have access to clinical trials. We have to fight for all of that day in and day out and it is our fight. This is where we need our allies, comrades, and co-conspirators to come in and speak truth to power based on our stories and our experiences.
Don’t get me wrong, let me add this caveat. White women have been impacted, especially when it comes to abortion or fertility issues. That is an overall woman issue. I get that. There are just some historic issues that have run historically through to today that have not been addressed. Nor has it been minimized as far as numbers are concerned, or addressed in a way where we are living and not dying at the hands of systemic ills.
[00:36:00] Jasper: Our medical system can be so inhumane, and then you add into it, systemic racism. Also, I don’t think that that many doctors are aware of their own racism or biases. We live in a society where Black people have had their wealth stripped away from them, century by century, and where medical care is really afforded also on the basis of whether or not you have economic resources. Especially you think about these states that have all but banned abortion with the tacit blessing of the Supreme Court.
If you’re a white upper-class woman, you probably have the resources to fly to a state. That in itself is trauma but it’s much different than being forced to carry a child who you didn’t choose to have.
[00:36:55] Tawana: Absolutely. We just had a presentation or a forum through Carrie’s TOUCH to the breast cancer support organization that I’m working with right now. We do a series of intimate conversations and this intimate conversation yesterday was about humanizing policy. How do we insert humanity back into policy, where we are not deemed as the outliers. These policies are rooted out of whiteness and work for the 1%. When I say whiteness and white supremacy, I am definitely not putting all white people into this category.
There is a certain subset of 1% that have this mindset, don’t have any idea, don’t care about Black people, look at the color of my skin as a threat. All of those and they’re making our laws, and you don’t even look at me as a human being.
[00:37:49] Jasper: Well, I want to ask one last question about the system and how we can change it to not be as terrible as it still often is. You’ve how to pronounce Paulo Freire’s name. I’ve always just said, Paulo Freire. Can you say it for us one more time?
[00:38:08] Tawana: Paulo Freire.
[00:38:09] Jasper: Oh, that’s so beautiful.
[00:38:11] Tawana: I’m from Spanish Harlem. Sometimes I get the little rolling of the R going on.
[00:38:18] Jasper: Well, I loved this quotation that you’ve quoted several times in our conversation. You quote him throughout your thesis, especially from his classic work, Pedagogy of the Oppress. It’s clear that his ideas of change and justice, and where these come from are deeply informative of all of your work. You have this great quote from Freire, where you say, “It is the great humanistic, and historical task of the oppressed to liberate themselves and their oppressors. The oppressors who oppress, exploited and rape under their power cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. The only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.”
That’s such a beautiful, and dare I say radical idea. It seems really unfair to say that the people who’ve had the hardest time also need to do the work of liberating themselves. By liberating themselves, they also are liberating their oppressors from participating in a system that oppresses.
Which I think is harmful to all people who have to participate in a system like that. Can you talk to us a little bit about this quote, and how these ideas inform and shape your own work?
[00:39:41] Tawana: Absolutely. I alluded to this earlier with this double consciousness because we have this awareness. We have this resilience that we are still here. After all of the heinous acts against us and things to dehumanize us, we are still here with this sense of resilience. and with a sense of community. We are a communal people. We are Ubuntu – I am because you are, you are therefore I am. I think that’s where Paulo Freire talks about this great humanistic task because it’s about inserting humanity into inhumane policies and practices and procedures.
I also want to insert Bishop Tricia Hersey-Patrick. She’s called the Nap Bishop. One of the things in our process of doing Facing Racism is rest and respite. Making sure that we care for ourselves as we are caring for others, because we can’t pour from an empty cup. When we talk about this liberating work and we talk about liberating ourselves, as we are liberating others, it’s so important to center ourselves, pay attention to our bodies. Rest when we need to, be silent when we choose to be versus someone silencing us.
We are in a space of power, of divine power, of communal power, of healing power in community. That’s why that quote is just so profound. I use it quite often because it honors who we are as divine human beings for the liberation for all.
[00:41:22] Jasper: Dr. Tawana Davis, thank you so much for coming on the Seed Field.
[00:41:25] Tawana: Jasper, I love you. This was so awesome.
[00:41:37] Jasper: The Facing Racism program that Tawana told us about today is still offered by Soul 2 Soul Sisters. We’re going to link to its website in the show notes. We’ll also link to Carrie’s TOUCH in those notes, and we’ll include a link to more information about Antioch’s PhD in Leadership and Change.
We post these show notes on our website, the seed field.org, where you can go to find full episode transcripts, prior episodes, and more. The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University. Our editor is Lauren Instenes. A special thanks to Karen Hamilton and Melinda Garland.
Thank you for spending your time with us today. That’s it for this episode, we hope to see you next time, and don’t forget to plant a seed, sow a cause, and win a victory for humanity. From Antioch University, this has been the Seed Field Podcast.
[00:42:54] [END OF AUDIO]