Amena Brown: Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of HER with Amena Brown. I am Amena Brown, I am your host here and I am so excited about this season. If you are just joining us this season. Our theme is create. So I am talking to all of these amazing women of color who are founders and creators and creatives and inventors, just everybody that I can get to. So I'm excited to have today with us speaker, author, reconciler, bridge builder, founder of nonprofit organization Be The Bridge, the Be The Bridge equips organizations, companies and individuals for racial justice, diversity, restoration and reconciliation. Welcome to the podcast Latasha Morrison. Woo!
Latasha M.: Hey, how you doing? Yes!
Amena Brown: I'm clapping. I always do this 'cause I want you to feel the claps. I want you to feel it. Like there's going to be actual audience applause that's gonna be there but I like to clap while we're recording so that you can hear the claps.
Latasha M.: Oh great, it's great, it's great.
Amena Brown: So y'all, Latasha and I, we go way back. Like way, way back before either of us were doing any of these things for a living. Latasha has known me long enough to have seen me with my straight hair before I went natural, and my straight hair wasn't even cute. Like she was around for my fashion faux pas, my too big glasses. Latasha has known me a long time, so I just love her as a friend and have been so excited to watch just what's been happening with you and your organization, but even more so because we have such deep history. Some of which we will talk about here and most of which is not for the public. We gonna share the parts here that we can, so, I'm so glad that we met.
Amena Brown: So Latasha's known me since I was a college student, we actually went to church together when I was a college student. And then she moved away to Texas and so we didn't see each other a long time. And then I get to Texas to an event and I was like, "Latasha?" And we reconnected and your life really has just taken off. Maybe in some ways that you had no idea it was gonna do. Like when you think about that time of us reconnecting in Texas, and looking at your life now, did you have any thought or imagine this was gonna be your life several years later?
Latasha M.: No, not at all, not at all. And I know some people, they have their lives mapped out, and in some ways I had my life kind of mapped out as far as what I wanted to see myself doing, when you think about when you're younger and you're in college and you're mapping stuff out. My life in no point has turned out how I mapped it out. Not one thing has turned out the way I mapped it out, so, I had no idea none of this would happen.
Amena Brown: We're gonna talk a lot more about Be The Bridge just as an organization, and just as a founder of a nonprofit. Just, that's a big deal by itself, that you founded a nonprofit, but also that you have watched this organization grow exponentially so fast.
Amena Brown: But I wanna go back to your origin story, I always like to start each guest just talking about your origin story. Because a lot of times the things that we end up doing that we love, that we believe in, that we feel called to, we had some moment earlier in our life that actually was showing us that this what we were going to become. So, you have been interested in bridge building long before you had a nonprofit organization to show for that.
Amena Brown: What was one of your earliest moments that you could say, you look back at yourself and you're like, "I was meant to be a bridge builder,"?
Latasha M.: Yeah. I think it really started in middle school and high school for me. I think those times in your life are just instrumental, I think they give insight to what's to come if we pay attention to the threads and to just the fingerprint that's being placed there. And so I think for me running for class office, being involved in student government activities, I was always trying to bridge that divide between administration and students. And so that's something that, wanting to be a voice for students, and then that even lead to me leading the charge for Black History Month in my high school.
Latasha M.: And so that was something, I saw a need, kind of like now, I saw a need, "Okay, why don't we do that? Why don't we talk about this month?". Not thinking that there would be any pushback and I didn't have the language that I have now to speak up against it. I just knew that, hey, I wanna know more about this, we don't talk about this, and when we do talk about stuff the way we talk about it makes me feel shame. And so I knew something was wrong, and so I think that's the charge, and I remember bringing that up.
Latasha M.: And when you were into the government in my school you had to take a leadership development class that taught you how to conduct meetings, Robert's Rules of Law, or something like that, think that's what it was. And just, all these different things that we would learn. It helped me find my voice, that type of class, helped me find my voice but I still didn't understand the thread that was there at that time. But it was information that was poured into me that later on that I would use to kind of point back and say, "Oh man, okay, that was definitely a fingerprint right there,".
Latasha M.: But for me bringing it up in class and just the rejection and just the different points of view from people that were your friends. The people you were in band with, people you served with in clubs, that participated in sports with that you thought were your friends, but realizing in that moment as a teenager, "These people don't know me, and I don't know them,". And I think that right there was probably the thing for me, having to be that voice for the African American students in my high school going back to them.
Latasha M.: And then I will never forget this one girl telling me when I was upset about how the meeting went in the class, and I remember going to the lunchroom, and I didn't hardly eat much at school. I would either bring my lunch, or either do work or always have projects during our lunch hour. But I remember that day going to the lunchroom, and if you go into mostly any high school today you're gonna see the cafeteria is pretty much gonna be segregated by race. And then maybe the band students will all sit together, maybe, maybe. But I remember going in there and sitting at the black table, you call it, and just telling them what was going on. And I remember this girl was like, "You could do it, you could make this happen Tasha, you gotta be our voice," and I remember that. And then she remembered my campaign, I had a theme for my campaign that was like, "It's time to make a change,". So I came up with that before, so.
Amena Brown: Come on, come on. "I came up with that before,".
Latasha M.: I came up with that because you-
Amena Brown: Thank you.
Latasha M.: -know change was happening back in the 90's at Southview High School.
Amena Brown: Come on, brother Barack, being inspired by Latasha's campaign in school. Thank you, okay, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Latasha M.: Yeah, and she reminded me of that, but it gave me that really empowerment to go back and say, "Hey this is why we need to do this,". But I had to kind of compromise, and we had a pretty good teacher and I think she saw the need for it too. I think she understood that I didn't really have the language, I didn't really know how to argue the point at that time.
Latasha M.: But we turned it into Brotherhood Month. It's a travesty. So we did Black History Month but they refused to call it Black History Month.
Amena Brown: Wow.
Latasha M.: We called it Brotherhood Month, yeah. Isn't that something?
Amena Brown: Wow, wow.
Latasha M.: We couldn't even have (that).
Latasha M.: But yeah, but I think that was the beginning of it as far as understanding what bridge building is and I think some people get a misconception of that, especially when you're talking about racial bridge building. Because when you talk about bridge building you are getting walked on from both sides. Because you're trying to please the group that you're representing, the group that when you think about racial bridge building as an African American woman is like every marginalized group is looking for you to be kind of like their voice, and that's too much of a burden to carry. So that's why a lot of people are like, "Uh-uh (negative), I can't do this," and that's understandable but it's in the fabric of who I am, Amena.
Latasha M.: I don't have to try to be this, this is who I am. I think it goes back to even how I was raised and my family dynamics, family situations, I mean I've just been designed this way. So for me, I don't really know another way and when we talk about racial bridge building, when you're talking about this you're trying to bring out the stories and bring conversation to a group that has been harmed. And so who carries the space? Who should carry the dominant space in that conversation has to be the marginalized groups. When you talk about racial bridge building it's not about, "Oh we're coming together on the bridge and we're both gonna tell each other's stories," and that's the misconception that a lot of white people have about when they hear the word bridge building.
Latasha M.: But we're talking about racial bridge building, you're talking about highlighting the marginalized voices so that the stories that they've been telling can be heard. Because nobody's voiceless, they're just unheard. And so that's what, when I think about the bridge building that we do on Be The Bridge, that's the type of bridge building that we want to represent is we're highlighting the stories and the issues of the marginalized groups. And then the other response of the majority group is to be that of learners and listeners in the conversation. So, it doesn't always work like that but we have to remind each other of that.
Amena Brown: Right, right, right.
Amena Brown: How did the idea for Be The Bridge begin, because for many people who ... Obviously we have some people listening that may be encountering this information about Be The Bridge for the first time, or some people are sort of new even to the concept of bridge building itself, and new to knowing that there is an organization that helps equip people to do this. How did that idea for Be The Bridge begin with you?
Latasha M.: Yeah, I think for me, like I said nothing that I'm doing has happened as a plan. But I think for me going from being in a predominately African American church to transitioning into predominantly white churches, I just saw the difference. In the black church, in the African American church, even as messed up as the church I was a part of was in that sense, there was always a effort to reach beyond that racial barrier to the events that we attended, the music that we played, the conversation that we had. There was always some intentionality as it related to that. And then in our staff although our church would not have been considered multiethnic because when you're talking about percentage, 20%, we had representation in our elder board. Several, not just one person on our staff, but several, at least four people that were white on our staff.
Latasha M.: So I just remember there was this intentionality behind what we were doing but transitioning to the white church I didn't see that at all. It was just kind of like not even thought of. I would go to conferences and we would be the only brown people there and we would be able to engage, but I just remember having this space and the white church it was kind of oblivious. You're not even trying to reach anyone beyond your box in that sense. And I think some of it is unconscious, because when you're the majority culture you don't have to think like that.
Latasha M.: But there was no intentionality behind it, and so one of the things I realized is that, "Hey, if I'm gonna be in this space I'm gonna have to speak into this space," because I'd sat on staff before and seen things happen and not speaking into it because of fear, because you're young at that time. Just a lot of things. Just being fearful of your job and just the tension and the conflict that it would cause. And when I went back on staff, because I didn't have intentions to go back on a church staff, but when I did I was like, "Okay, if I'm gonna be here I'm gonna speak into this,". And I just started saying stuff and I realized the comments that people would say and the things that people would say, I'm like, "Oh my goodness, we have a problem,".
Amena Brown: Listen.
Latasha M.: It really started with conversations around Trayvon Martin, just being in a small group at a church. It was like, we are in an uproar, pain, everything is happening, and people are carrying on like nothing in the world is happening. They haven't been impacted. And how the narrative that was created around him and having to correct that and I mean why would you even get that? This was a 16 year old kid walking in the neighborhood, coming back and what would make you think that someone had the right to shoot, I mean to bring a lethal attack against a kid? Even when the cops was telling them to stand down on the phone. Not the cops, but the operator.
Latasha M.: And so just those stories I was like, "We gotta talk about this, if we're gonna be family, we gotta have some family talk," and I think to start it with conversations like that and then just correcting. And I think the main thing was just hearing someone's historical account about slavery that shook me to my core. And I remember it like, "Okay we not gonna be family if y'all thinking like this,".
Amena Brown: Right.
Latasha M.: And I mean we lump people together, I'm not saying everyone thought that, but I had ran into so many people with this type of mindset where this uncommon memory. The memory we have about our history and how history has happened, the way it has been taught in schools has done a disservice to our country. And disservice to groups of people, and it has really plagued the reconciliation process. Our disownhership of our history, our full history of American history, and so I think that was the part that started the conversations where, "Let's just come together and start having some conversations on some things,".
Latasha M.: And that's really where it started, it started with me and it just started with me having some conversations around movies at first and just little things. I was having those conversations on Google Hangout at first and then those were just around movies and then I wanted to do some real life conversations and that started with a group of women in Austin.
Amena Brown: So going from what seems like you still were using some online components there, but I alao was really excited to talk to you because Be The Bridge, as some of you may be familiar and some of you may not, Be The Bridge as an organization really was built through online community. And so for you, your initial steps even early on as a bridge builder were these in real life interactions with people. These in real life conversations that you were having in the workplace, in other personal settings or in other settings that involve spiritual community. Why start, or I guess I should say, why one of the next steps there in what became Be The Bridge organization, why online community? Why did you feel like that was gonna be really helpful to this conversation?
Latasha M.: Yeah, I think it's one of those things where you have all these different vehicles and I tried Google Hangout and that was a little complex. And it was on the phone and I really wanted to post information that was articles and stories and different things that was gonna be helpful for people. I didn't want this long text message group or all that stuff-
Amena Brown: [crosstalk 00:18:27]
Latasha M.: -email group. But the only vehicle during that time was Facebook, and I think is really still the only vehicle that has groups like that where you can interact and share information, share videos, share files, share documents, share stories. There was just so many tools within the Facebook groups and so I started the group because I wasn't an organization, a lot of people think when I came out at the conference that I was already a organization. I was just a girl trying to do my little part in pushing this conversation forward. That's all that I was trying to do and I knew that, okay, not having a website, not being a organization, if people have questions, or if we wanted to start something how're we gonna capture people?
Latasha M.: And so I created a Facebook group, probably a month before, just to kind of curate the conversation and I started with 69 of my friends and posted stuff. Just wanting to talk, because people needed an outlet. Especially people of color. A lot of us were in spaces where we could not be our full selves. We could not express the things that were really in our heart, a lot of us were in places where we were code switching a lot and just all these different things. And so creating this space for people, like, man. Okay, yeah, because I been in this other space alone, and I wanna know if anybody else is thinking like me. It was a wake-up for a lot of people when you think about things that were happening in 2014, 2015, leading up to that, after Trayvon Martin's death. You had Tamir Rice, and all these other things where we were just getting compounded. There was something the news, and although these things were already happening, we know that they'd been happening for centuries, they were magnified and illuminated because of the vehicles of social media, and cell phones, and technology.
Latasha M.: So these things were in our face for the first time, we weren't just reading about it, we were seeing it. We were seeing it for the first time and that creates a lot of trauma, triggers where people had gone through some of these things before, this happened in your family. Or just where you're thinking the country is one place and you're realizing for the first time that it's not. And so I think that was also the space, I wanted a place where people of color could share their stories and where majority culture, where white people, can listen in and learn. That's really the heart behind it.
Latasha M.: And it started with 69 people, and then we had the conference and so we couldn't point people to a website or to a organization so we pointed people to this group and to start having conversations. I had no idea, that sounds real simple, right?
Amena Brown: Right, right.
Latasha M.: It sounds real simple, "We just want you to have a conversation, and we want you to download this guide," just real simple. And I mean, we had, I think that first month there were over like 10,000 people that downloaded that guide.
Amena Brown: Wow.
Latasha M.: I had no idea that would happen, and you were part of that conversation. Some of your stories probably contributed to that. [crosstalk 00:22:02]
Amena Brown: Y'all, let me tell y'all something right now. First of all, Latasha knows I love her, so when she come to me like, "Hey, will you be on a panel for this? Will you do this or that?" she knows, because it's her asking I'm about to be like, "Yes, I'll do this girl,". So we were all at an event together, which became a part of how a lot of people were made aware of the work that Tasha was doing in bridge building. And so she asked me to be on this panel, y'all, and I'm not saying I'm a bad person to be on a panel, I just feel like I have a little thing in my brain that's kind of ignorant. Just have ignorant thoughts.
Amena Brown: And so there were a couple of questions Latasha had reviewed with us before the panel and she was like, "I might ask this, I might ask this," and so of the questions that she named I was like, "Please don't ask me that,". I had a question in my mind that I was like, "Don't ask me that one," because I knew I had very ignorant thoughts about that. And we got out to do the panel at this event and she turned to me and was like, "Amena, this question," and I was like, "I told you! Don't!". But we were there, on stage in front of thousands of people so if I had been at Latasha's house I would've been like, "I told you that I'm ignorant and I can't answer that question,".
Amena Brown: And ironically I can't remember exactly what the question was, Tasha. But I think maybe the question was along the lines of, it was something about stereotypes, like "What are stereotypes," or thoughts you had about people who were in a different ethnic group from you. And I was like, "Please don't do this to me," but she turned to me and so, y'all, and I'm still getting made fun of by a few friends for what I said that day.
Amena Brown: Because one of the things that I talked about is, growing up, I talked about what my experience was like sitting behind a white girl in class and how there was a lot of flicking of the hair, which resulted in hair on my desk and I was trying to talk through it and not embarrass Tasha on this panel. And I'm like, "I just want her to watch the circumference of how she's coming back here with this hair," but then that kind of gave me a thought about white girls and white women. That made me think, they're arrogant. Anytime I would see a white girl or white woman after that sometimes I would be like, "Oh there she go,". I still have friends to this day who will text me and that's all the text says, just all it says is, "Oh there she go,".
Amena Brown: But for y'all to have a little bit of context, a part of how Tasha was facilitating that panel while we were opening up with questions like that, which are obviously vulnerable for most people to answer, because we all have some bias, some experiences that we've had with other people who are in different racial or ethnic or cultural groups from us. We all have those things that we think about it, we might talk about it behind closed doors or at our small family dinner table, but we very rarely open that up in public even though those things we say in private effect how we see things. How we view the world, what hurts us, what wounds us. Especially in the case of those of us who are marginalized people also and the situations we were in where we did not have power to be able to make change in certain areas.
Amena Brown: So part of opening up that conversation was really leading us in the panel to be able to talk about, in the end, most of the women at that table were women of color, to say like, "What was the first time you encountered racism?". And most of us I remember, which was really impactful to me, most of us it was junior high, it was 6th grade for some reason. That 6th to 8th grade kind of time frame in life. And just talking about those things has been such a powerful thing for me and the work that Be The Bridge does. Because sometimes you're encountering racism all the time as a person of color, for me as a black woman, that some of it becomes normalized to you in a certain way.
Amena Brown: So even to have someone ask that question, "When did you first encounter that?" and me remembering those racist things my 6th grade teacher in Texas said to me was a way to honor ... You really gave voice to this earlier when you were telling your high school story, that when we're young we don't have the language to say, "That's racist, that made me feel horrible,". And we also don't have the language to say, "And it's okay for me to feel wounded by that thing that was said,".
Amena Brown: So I would do more panels with Tasha, but I just want y'all to know that that's what had happened.
Latasha M.: That's so good and that's the thing, because we haven't been allowed really to tell our stories and to talk about our pain. And I think the greatest insult that people can give to us is when we're telling our story, when we're talking about our pain, is to try to explain it away and reject that and to ask questions about it versus listening to it. And I think that takes a lot of discipline, and that's one of the reasons why as we've grown in our group online we've had to institute rules and guidelines for that. And so, we basically tell everybody, "When you come into our group I don't care who you are," because sometimes we're all, even if we're the same ethnicity, we're not all on the same page because we're not a monolithic group.
Latasha M.: And so people come into this space with different wounds, and different experiences, and different stories. Our story is not the same, there's a lot of commonalities and a lot of similarities as it relates to the big systems, but we're different and we were raised different. And so we tell everyone to not talk for three months, and my team was trying to talk me off the ledge because I wanted to change it to four months. Because I think in our society we just don't listen, and people want to be heard. I mean just human nature, everyone wants to be seen and known and loved. You know what I'm saying? And a part of that, the out working of that is being heard, and feeling heard.
Latasha M.: And I think that's the greatest gift that you can give to marginalized groups, especially those from majority culture, is to stop talking and listen. And just maybe think that, maybe the history that you've been taught or the stories, or your experience, is not universal, and it may not be completely accurate. But sometimes people would rather listen to 5% of people versus the 95% that's saying the same thing.
Latasha M.: And so I think that's the benefit of what we've seen through social media, so I think social media can be a blessing or a curse just like anything. I tell people, "Just like the car,". The car was a beautiful invention. It helped get people to places faster than horse and buggy would've done. But along with that there's a lot of things that you had to work out with the invention of the car as it relates to safety, seat belts, I mean there's a lot of things in a vehicle. Anything can be used for harm, so even a vehicle that can really bring people closer together, help you see the world, it also can be used to destroy families through accidents and through people using vehicles to bring harm to people. You know what I'm saying?
Latasha M.: So I think of social media the same way, where it could be used to bring beauty to the world, but it also can be used to really destroy people. And I think we have to use it for good and there's so many things I think about. My family, we're able to connect and share stories and share pictures before family reunion time. Or if you missed the family reunion you get to see pictures and you get to see this person. We had pictures of someone that passed in between our family reunion, we were able to share stories in our Facebook group about our family member and stuff like that. Those are beautiful things. People you graduated with, maybe you disconnected with, where you're able to connect again. People, I mean, in my family, I ain't trying to give away family secrets, but long lost family members, children that you had that you never knew.
Amena Brown: It happens.
Latasha M.: But I'm saying it happens, but I'm just saying, those are just some things that happened and I think the beauty of it is that people can dehumanize. People get a lot of strength and a lot of boldness when they're behind the screen. But sometimes you wanna say, "I bet you wouldn't say that to my face,".
Amena Brown: I bet you wouldn't.
Latasha M.: "I bet you would not say that to my face!".
Latasha M.: But I think we try to make sure that you're humanizing the person on the other side of that computer within the group. And so our group is closed, it's a secret group, we try to put as many safeguards as we can to keep people safe. We make sure that people have to answer questions before they enter into our group. We have admins and moderators to help manage that, and then when you're in our group there's, now we have a whole unit. A unit of information that we give you. So before you even speak to this we need to make sure you're educating yourself, so here's some things that you can work through. Because if, after your three months is over, you start saying stuff and it's bringing harm, we can see if you took those units. And if you didn't take those units we're gonna give you another three months of silence.
Latasha M.: And the thing is, you're signing up for it. I mean we're not asking you to be a part of the group, you're signing up to be a part of the group. So when you sign up to be a part of the group you sign up to be a part of the rules. And things don't always work the way you want them to work. You're gonna have flareups, you're gonna have tension, and it's how we work through that tension. And sometimes it can be, we work through it in a beautiful way, where healing happens, and sometimes there's a need for reconciliation in how we work through those tensions.
Latasha M.: But I think social media can be a great platform to start, as long as you know that, hey, this thing could go left or right. So you're gonna have to put time into developing the systems around it to try to keep it a brave space. It's not gonna be a safe space, because when people are putting their heart out there and when people can still reject it because we're in different places on the learning curve, and then we're exhausted as people as color, just exhausted in this anyway. What we're inviting people to is just discomfort and awkwardness and a lot of times pain. And who wants to sign up for that, you know what I'm saying? And so we were asking people to be brave in this space and then sometimes you can be brave one week, but you don't have to be brave next week. You don't have to be on there.
Latasha M.: But sometimes people need a place where they can say, "This is what happened to me, this is what I'm going through,". Or sometimes they need someone to come alongside of them, and so we're hoping to put some more safeguards even around our groups this year, even adding some counseling in our people of color group. Just to deal with racial trauma and really building up a brave space for people of color. And so 2019 is really gonna be focused a lot on some of the people of color initiatives as we have focused on some of what we call our whiteness intensive initiatives that we've had to educate white people so that they're able to come to this conversation and not bring as much harm.
Amena Brown: Yeah, yeah. I really love that the listening is so important in Be The Bridge as an organization, and how Be The Bridge equips people to become bridge builders. I was actually talking with a friend recently and just telling her just some things that I'm learning myself about life, and the world, and places that that effects my spiritual practice. Places that effect the way that I see God or see the community, all these different things. And my friend said to me something that's really wise that I really heard in the ways that you are helping people to approach bridge building. She told me, she was like, "This is a time for you to learn and discern," she was like, "It's not a time for you to speak about it,".
Latasha M.: You know?
Amena Brown: And how, especially when we approach social media, a lot of the times we ended up on social media because we wanted a soapbox. Or we wanted a place to say our things, we don't always think about the online space as a place to be quiet for a time and learn before we attempt to sort of use our voice when we may not be prepared or equipped to really speak truth to power at that time. We may have a lot that we need to learn.
Latasha M.: Yeah.
Amena Brown: I wanna ask a question of you. I actually put out to social media, I've been trying a new thing this season and so far it's been going so great. I put out on social media, "Hey everybody, I'm interviewing this person, what should I ask them?". And you got some good old questions.
Latasha M.: Oh lord!
Amena Brown: So, I'm a have to throw a couple of these out there because I wants to sip the tea from the answers here, so.
Latasha M.: As I sip tea. Hold on, let me get my thoughts together, okay?
Amena Brown: Please.
Amena Brown: So [Cat 00:36:53] from Twitter wanted to ask you, "What do white female ministry leaders do with the best intentions for racial reconciliation that actually harm the cause?".
Latasha M.: Cat went there, she just wanting to dive right in.
Amena Brown: Yeah, she went in.
Latasha M.: White women centering themselves in this work, I think is one of the things that works against it, and I think sometimes it's the air that you breathe and the water that you drink, and sometimes you're unconsciously doing it because that society revolves around you.
Amena Brown: Okay it's like, step in here and give us some examples on what it looks like for, in this case a white female leader to center herself. Because I think centering ourselves when we are a person of privilege is similar to pride, right? In a way it's like a chicken and egg sometimes that like, well, if you're prideful then sometimes it's hard for you to even see that you're prideful. And when we're used to centering ourselves, sometimes we're doing that and we don't even know that we are making ourselves the center of something we shouldn't.
Amena Brown: So like, give us some examples, one or two right here, of what does it look like for a white female leader to center herself?
Latasha M.: Yeah, I think one good example would be is, whatever you're doing or speaking on, is there another person of color that can do what you're doing? Does your voice have to be the voice? Are you thinking about other women, especially other women of color, in your pursuits? How are you trying to change some of the power dynamics, especially as we talk about reconciliation, undoing the wrong and the harm that has been caused. Like a complete reordering of things, when you're talking about those things, what are you doing daily to change that and to shift that? And I think that's even some of the best bridge builders sometimes even have a problem with that because you also wanna be seen. It depends on your personality. You wanna be heard, you wanna be leaders. But can you submit to a person of color's leadership, and be led and guided by them? Have you even ever put yourself in a place where you're being led by a person of color?
Latasha M.: And then also, even if you speak on something like this, I think a great example would've been the Jada Pinkett, she was bringing up this conversation about white privilege. And she interviewed Jane, I forget the lady's name, it's a older lady. But even in that, here's an African American woman ... And I know sometimes you want to, when you're talking about something that has white in front of it, you wanna have a white person's voice to kind of validate what you're trying to say. And the optics looks better for white people sometimes. But I think as a white person when someone comes to you with that, "I can speak to this but I also want to bring my friend," whoever, "That's a person of color to really speak to this first, I understand what you're trying to do as far as validation as it relates to other white people. But we have to get white people to listen to people of color,". You know what I'm saying?
Latasha M.: As so I think in those dynamics just really being able to put your voice in the background in order to lift up a lot of the voices that are around you that are not being heard and just don't have the same opportunities and the same influence. So sometimes you have to say no to some things, but not just saying no for the sake of saying no. Saying no and giving them names of other people to reach out to and why you're doing that. And so that will cost you, and I think the other thing is white women in this space they're not really counting the cost, this is gonna cost you, and it may cost you a book deal. It may cost you some money. It may cost you a speaking gig. You know what I'm saying? It may cost you some things. But the thing is just think about what the systemic issues have cost people of color in this country.
Amena Brown: Yes, yes.
Latasha M.: What this will cost you would never amount to what it has cost my grandmother, or my great grandmother, or my mother. We have to think in terms like that. That it will never cost you what it has cost us. And this may be painful for a while, but the endurance of that has not been centuries like it has been for our people. And so I think that's the weight and the burden for people to carry, and understanding when to speak and when not to speak. And I think sometimes that's a dance and sometimes people get afraid because if they mess up they shut it all down, they don't wanna have to like, "I'm not gonna talk about this anymore, because I'm afraid of messing up,".
Latasha M.: The thing is, you're gonna mess up. But a part of it is we wanna know are you gonna show up tomorrow. You know what I'm saying? And I see so many times when someone messes up or they get, what you would say, rebuked or ridiculed or something because in the process of their learning they mess up or have some missteps. But my thing is if you really care about this issue are you gonna show up again tomorrow to say, "You know what, I messed up. Show me how to do it right,". Can you take the low? But are you gonna fight your way because you feel that you've arrived and you know everything.
Latasha M.: I tell everyone, "This is a lifestyle, you don't arrive, this is a lifestyle, we're all learning,". I learn something everyday, we have to remain teachable. And I think the other thing that happens with a lot of well-intentioned people in this space, they don't remain teachable. Where it's like, "Hey I read a lot of books, I'm doing this, I'm doing that," and you're not listening anymore, and we see that happening in that space a lot with a lot of people who are thought leaders in this that are white. Where they make some mistakes and they don't even know how to correct the mistakes the right way anymore. And so I saw that happen with just some major thought leaders, where comments that were made and instead of apologizing for the comments they're trying to back trail it-
Amena Brown: Right, and double down.
Latasha M.: -or explain it away and double down and different things like that. And the thing is, that too is a part of white supremacy showing up still. So it's like a deconstructing, a detoxing, that you have to do because it is the air that you breathe, and the water that you drink. And the same thing with us as people of color is that we are impacted by that same air and that same water, and there's something that we have to deconstruct daily, because I see that happening within just the minority groups. The disunity within that, the anti-blackness within that, that we are also learners in this and we have to learn each other's stories too.
Amena Brown: Yeah, no, that's great. And Cat didn't ask me but I'm gonna tell her my two thoughts.
Amena Brown: I think one of the things that, it's been my experience particularly in some of the faith-based spaces where I've had the opportunity to work is, to your question Cat, what are white females leaders doing even with best intentions that are actually harming racial reconciliation, racial justice. And I would say one of the big things is thinking that this is about feelings or that this is about being personally offended more than this is about systems and structures and equity and justice.
Amena Brown: And I think a lot of times it's been my experience when I talk to other women of color that they've had countless experiences, whether it's in a faith-based space or a corporate space or a nonprofit space, so on, where they have had a conversation with a white woman who they thought was a colleague or who was in leadership in some of these situations and went to say, "Hey, this is something that I think is an injustice. This is something I think the organization needs to do better," or this or that. And that became a conversation about tears and about feelings and about the white woman leader feeling like, "I don't want you to think of me that I am," fill in the blank, "racist, or I am not looking out for you or that I don't love you," or those things. And that's not really what the conversation is about. The conversation is about how can you, as a person of privileged in those situations, use your privileged in better ways and in good ways and how are you leading that leads to equity for marginalized people, that leads to justice for marginalized people.
Amena Brown: And not that we're not gonna have feelings about that, but a lot of those conversations are not about feelings. They're not about personal offense, we don't wanna stay stuck in that side of the conversation. We wanna get into the part of the conversation which is the very center of true bridge building. We wanna get into the part of the conversation where we wanna effect change. And if you are in a leadership position, if you are a person of privilege, or a person of influence, a person who has power, that's really what we're talking about. Is how can you really do, for a lot of us in a Christian context, how can you do what we watch Jesus do all the time, which is lay down your privilege, right? And think about the ways that you can center the voice and experiences of people who are marginalized.
Amena Brown: So, Cat we thank you for going there girl because, receipts.
Latasha M.: I know, and that's such a layered thing because even when you get up underneath that, where people that centering, where does that come from? And you have to see the outworking of where that, what you were saying, that normality to center yourself and to make it about you. You have to understand the system that that's coming from, and that's coming from the system of white supremacy. And so you don't wanna operate out of that system, and so you really have to fight that centering and stuff on your feelings.
Latasha M.: So, that's a good thing, and the other thing I'll add just to throw this out there, just right quick, is that I think sometimes we focus more on diversity-
Amena Brown: That's right.
Latasha M.: -than inclusion and anti-racism. And so I think, well-intentioned you want diversity but you have to long for anti-racism and inclusion more than diversity. Because if you're focused on being anti-racist and you're focused on inclusion, you will get diversity.
Amena Brown: Right, that's good Tasha, yeah.
Latasha M.: So you know, a lot of times people focus on diversity and don't understand why this is isn't happening. Because you haven't really focused on anti-racism and inclusion, and when you focus on those two you're automatically get some diversity. But when you're just focusing on diversity the other two may not ever come. And they shouldn't because it would be a horrible place to people of color.
Amena Brown: That's so good.
Amena Brown: I wanna ask this question, [Monica 00:49:28] from Facebook, she said, "I'm sure you've seen your fair share of setbacks, and lived through disappointments while doing this emotionally intensive work. How do you keep faith in humanity?". Thought that was a great question.
Latasha M.: Yes. That's a good question.
Latasha M.: You know this is something I'm walking through right now, you have to know when to shut it off and shut it down. I think probably the last seven to eight months social media has been more difficult for me, and so monitoring how much time I'm devoting to social media, what I'm doing on social media, and really focusing on self-care. I have to be intentional about it, I miss it a lot of times, and a lot of days because of just where I am in this season of life. There's not a lot of margin and so it's really hard, but I think as we're fighting for justice, we can get, for me as a person of faith, I have to remember that I'm also fighting for redemption. And we need to want redemption just as much as we want justice, and if we're not wanting redemption as much as we want justice, something has gone awry.
Latasha M.: Because ultimately, God wants redemption, and redemption should also look like justice. And we're talking about restorative justice, and so I think that was a thing because you can get to the point where you burn it all down. Not just burn it all down, burn them down. And when you're talking about, when I say burn them, I'm othering people already by using that term 'them'. I'm already not wanting to see that person rightfully restored and made right and things reordered. It's just that, I just wanna win. You know what I'm saying? In this life that cannot be my heart posture, this is for me, I'm talking for Latasha Morrison. This is the journey that I'm on because in the midst of this I don't want my heart to be marred in the midst of this. I wanna love deeply, I wanna see the humanity in everyone even when they don't see the humanity in me.
Latasha M.: And that's hard talk, you know what I'm saying? Because this is a really tough time right now. But I think, just that reminder, and I think the key for me is having a place where someone can say that to me. And so you need whatever that is for you, if you're meditating, if it's taking retreats, if it's getting with friends that you trust and talking and dialogue and people that's pouring in to you. If it's a conference, whatever that way is for you, I think that's important for us to have those things in our lives. And I think that's the thing that's keeping me right now, but you will mess up and you're not gonna always get it right, but then the next time maybe I'll get it right. Maybe I'll think differently, maybe I'll say something differently.
Latasha M.: But we're gonna have some missteps in this, and I think we have to understand this. We're gonna hurt each other because what I'm realizing, especially in this people of color space, is hurt people hurt people. And I think that's some of the most painful thing when you're hurt by your own community or you hurt your own community. I think those are some of the painful things, so I think we really have to give grace to each other in this space just in order to maintain some type of emotional health.
Amena Brown: So I have another question here, and I didn't get confirmation on pronunciation here, so this is either [Rachel 00:53:50] or it could be [Rochelle 00:53:51]. So, both, until we get confirmation on which one it is.
Amena Brown: But she asked, "What grounds you in the midst of a season of a rapidly growing organization?"
Latasha M.: Oh wow, yeah.
Latasha M.: I think the thing that grounds me is the mission. The mission and the values that I've set up. That's the thing that grounds me, because you can have so many things happening. Right now I have the book stuff, I have grant stuff, there's so many exciting things but there's a lot of work. There's the people part of it. I think the mission grounds me as of ultimately what do I wanna see? What do I feel is the pathway for being a bridge? And then also the reason why I do this, and I do this because I want to create a better future for those that are coming behind us. The same bridge that we're walking across now is through the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors and those during the civil rights movement. The first civil rights movement back in the 1870's, you know what I'm saying? We're living out and carrying the mantle of the work that people done before us.
Latasha M.: And so I wanna do my part to really pass off a mantle well to this next generation, and I think that's the thing that grounds me is ultimately understanding that, you know what? I have to hold this work with open hands, I don't control people. I don't control people, I'm just gonna do the next thing that I know to do, the next thing that I know to do, the next thing that I know to do. And understanding that I don't transform hearts, and not getting sideswiped when someone rejects what I'm trying to do. You know what, if you're rejecting it, it's not for you. It's not for you. It may be meant for you, but if you're rejecting it then I'm gonna move on to the next person, you know what I'm saying? And you're missing out, I'm not missing something, you're missing out. That's your loss. And I have to look at it like that and keep it moving where, you know what? I'm not the person that's gonna help that person, maybe there's someone else.
Latasha M.: And so not exerting too much energy in people who are not trying to change. I'm about helping those that are aware, and that are acknowledging, and that want to see change. Anybody else I'm not trying to convince you of anything, if you feel like there's not racism then I'm a let you sit right there and feel like there's not racism and I'm gonna keep on moving to the next person. Because, that's exhausting, you know what I'm saying? Because some people are fully gonna reject what you're doing and you cannot get so caught up in those people where they take all your energy and they zap you, and they de-center you. Because then you have 20 people over here that are like, "Which way do we go? I'm with you. I'm ride or die with you," or "I don't understand, but I agree,". You know what I'm saying? Or, "I don't completely get everything but I wanna learn,".
Latasha M.: Those are the people, those are your people, and all those other people? We gotta keep it moving because what I do know looking at history, it doesn't take a million people to really transform the world. It's always a few people. When we think about our history it didn't take millions of people, there were a few people. There were a few people, and when I look at it from my faith I look at it like, Jesus had 12. Jesus had 12, against a whole bunch of people, so that's kind of how I have to look at it to stay grounded. Hey, let's just do our part because there's some other people out there doing some other parts, and some people doing some other parts. And with their parts, and my part, and this part, and that part, no telling where our parts can take us.
Latasha M.: And so we have to understand and support each other, even people that have different voices from you. People who have different ways to deliver this message of reconciliation, of bridge building, it's not gonna be one way. There are gonna be many ways, and so I want to support other people who have other ways because I understand it's not just gonna be my part that's gonna shift culture but it could be the whole of all these things that other people are doing. And if we can just support each other in that and understand that there may be differences, but we can still have oneness in our differences.
Amena Brown: I wanna ask one more question from Rachel, Rochelle and then I wanna ask you the three questions I ask every guest.
Amena Brown: She also asked, "What's coming up for you or Be The Bridge that you're excited about, and how can we champion that?"
Latasha M.: Yeah I think one of the things that's exciting, I just wrote my first book!
Amena Brown: Woo!
Latasha M.: And I know there's probbaly people out there, you were a little girl and you dreamed of doing stuff like this. This was not a part of my plan and I think it was just, I'm not completely surprised by it because if you remain open in that sense. But I think this is a big thing and I think I was just telling you that it's just now setting in. Like I don't think it's been this distant thing, but yeah I'm releasing a book October of 2019, this year. And so that is something that I want people to rally around, I mean this is where I really want people to use their privilege. Utilize that privilege!
Amena Brown: Leverage that power!
Latasha M.: [inaudible 01:00:17] yes! And so just with promoting that and just I'm putting this book in the hands of people who want help. And so I think that's one of the things.
Latasha M.: The other thing is, when I talk about this next generation I'm really passionate about that. Just because I don't have children but I just feel this weight of making sure that we're setting this generation up for success, they wouldn't have to endure. We didn't have to endure what our parents endured, our parents have not had to endure to the same degree of what their parents, each generation has gotten better. And although it's changed we cannot feel like, "Okay, well I didn't have to endure what my parents endured so we good now. We good, we good,". We do a disservice when we do that to this next generation. We're not good. It could be better.
Latasha M.: And so we want to hand them something that they can take the charge and really instill in them that hey, now it's about your kids. And keep passing this on because something like what we've had happen in American with intentionality it take centuries to change and to shift. We've had a little over 50, almost 60 years and people are like, "Okay we good!". See, we're not good when you're talking about systems and structures and stuff like. So I think that's one of the things that I wanna make sure that we do.
Amena Brown: Three questions I ask every guest.
Amena Brown: Question one, what inspires you to create?
Latasha M.: Oh, I think that goes back to, I think what inspires me to create would be my faith and my love for people. I really love people, I really do. I do. It's not that I don't get upset with people, but I really, I love image bearers and I have hope in image bearers. So I think that's why I love to create.
Amena Brown: What is one thing you've made that you are really proud of?
Latasha M.: A freaking book, dog!
Amena Brown: You should be proud because writing a book is hard. You should be really proud.
Latasha M.: Oh my god. I mean, I think that probably more so than even Be The Bridge organization I think one of the things I can see myself doing organization, and things. I think the book is the next level and who else? What else can happen from here? So I'm just open and ready and this is not the end. Look, my thing is this is a lifestyle, so my thing is like, "Look I'm gonna be doing this until I take my last breath,". So whenever that is I want to, what you would say, fulfill whatever purpose I feel that I'm here to fulfill. You know whatever is that part I'm here to fulfill.
Latasha M.: So, yeah.
Amena Brown: If you could give another woman a She Did That award, who would it be and why?
Latasha M.: Oh man! Oh, She Did That award. Okay. You know what? I'm gonna go, I watched the Oscars andI'm a rep my people right now, just to see the ladies from Black Panther win for costume design and I forget the other lady, I think it was production or environment or something. I'm not technical so I don't know. But you guys, you know what I'm talking about. But I think just to see the pioneering in the area that hasn't been for us, and doing it without the recognition or the accolades for so long and to see them shine this Sunday and then to see just the wealth of history, just the projects they worked on before and it never really being recognized. I think I would say, she did that.
Amena Brown: Woof, yes, she did that.
Amena Brown: So of course my people on social media please know I did not get to all of your questions but don't worry, Latasha and I are gonna record these questions and her answers to them so you will hear those soon. In the meantime Latasha, how can people follow you, follow more of your work, find out what's going on with Be The Bridge, how they can be a part of it, how they can support this book coming out in October 2019. How can the people get all this information?
Latasha M.: You can follow me on the social medias @latashamorrison, that is my information on Twitter, Instagram. I am out of space on Facebook, so did y'all know you can run out of space on Facebook?
Amena Brown: Oh yeah because it happened to me. Yeah, it's not fun.
Latasha M.: Okay, yeah, and I've been removing people. People if you don't have a picture you're probably deleted. But I've been removing people all along because I saw that I was getting close but it's gone now. I have another page which is tashamorrison, it's my author page, and I actually post a little bit more there anyway than my private Facebook page. So you can follow me on Facebook on tashamorrison.
Latasha M.: So that's really all my social media and my website is latashamorrison.com.
Amena Brown: It's nice, y'all. It's nice.
Latasha M.: It's up and running! So yeah, that's all my information.
Amena Brown: If people-
Latasha M.: And I'm not on, what's the, the Snapchat?
Amena Brown: No, mm-mm (negative) I gave up on that a long time ago. I just, no, I was like y'all.
Latasha M.: I'm not on the Snapchats! I can't do all that.
Amena Brown: I'm not, no. It took me awhile to figure how instastories work so I definitely was not gonna be on Snapchat.
Amena Brown: If people want to know more about Be The Bridge as an organization, they want to support it or find out how they can be involved, what's the best place for them to go?
Latasha M.: Yes, for Be The Bridge the best involvement would be to start following our social media. That is beabridgebuilder.com on Instagram, bethebridge on Facebook, and then @beabridgebuilder. Yeah, all these people, be the bridge is a common thing so we were having a hard time getting that and our website is actually under construction right now. It's still up but we are working on a new website for that, and that is bethebridge.com for all the things, for our guide, and all those different things for that. And yeah, and we have a Facebook page and it's Be the Bridge to Racial Unity on Facebook.
Latasha M.: But just know that you will have to answer questions, you will have to do work to get into the group, and you will have to be quiet for three months. And we know basically, when you join a group, we can click on your profile and it tells us exactly when you joined. So we will know. So yeah, so for all the brave people who wanna take that step you can join bethebridge.com but that's all the information.
Amena Brown: Tasha, thank you so much for joining me-
Latasha M.: [crosstalk 01:08:39]
Amena Brown: -for sharing more of your story with us and just, as we're talking about create the season it was really cool to get to hear how creating an online community played such a big role in what Be The Bridge is today and what Be The Bridge is becoming.
Amena Brown: So thank you for sharing that with our HER with Amena community so much!
Latasha M.: Yes, great! I am so glad to be here, and glad to be interviewed for HER.
Amena Brown: HER with Amena Brown is produced by DJ Opdiggy for Sol Graffiti Productions. Don't forget to subscribe, rate, write a review, and share the podcast. Thanks for listening!