04 Feb 21st Century Black Resistance
Say Their Names:
I dedicate this Black History message to Tyre Nichols and all this who have fallen before him
throughout the history of Black people in America.
Resistance is always about taking action
Hello and welcome. I’m Anita Russell, Founder/CEO of The Place To SOAR.I’m a Personal Transformation Expert, Professional Speaker, International Bestselling Author and Host of InflexionPoint Podcast. I invite you to take a seat at the table to hear my personal message for Black History Month 2023.
The title of my message is 21st Century Black Resistance: Antiracism Activation through Conversation. Let’s start by acknowledging that resistance is always about action. Antiracism activation is a verb. I define antiracism activation as a sustainable grassroots movement of humanity tied to generational leadership.
In 2020 three major forces unfolded: the pandemic lockdown; the birth of my second grandson, Cairo; and the murder of George Floyd. My George Floyd origin story is where my work of antiracism activation through conversation formally began.
It started with a family conversation acknowledging 3 generations of protesters in my family – my mother, myself, and now my two daughters.
The conversation ended with the Cairo Question: Will Cairo have to protest in his lifetime for the birthright to freely and peacefully exist in the skin in which he was born? If the answer is yes, then he would be the 4th generation of protesters in my family.
This conversation was the spark that led me down the path of antiracism activation. I wrote a book Cultivating Change from the Inside Out: The Power of Being Human. Designed an Activism through Coaching Model. And created InflexionPoint Podcast with a three-fold focus: Historical literacy. Racial literacy. Being Black globally. And this year I hosted the First Annual Antiracism Activation Summit.
Intentions transformed into actions
Gil Scott Heron once said, “The first revolution is when you change your mind.”
Antiracism activation begins with personal transformation initiated by stepping into a zone of discomfort. Stepping into that zone of discomfort requires courage, conversation, relationship, and accountability to address systemic racism, along with its social, health, and economic disparities.
So, the question is: Can we can collectively eradicate racism and create a different future?
From a coaching perspective my work is about cultivating change through personal transformation. The approach I take is based on the work of Robert Livingston, Harvard professor and author of The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations.
The book is described as “An essential tool for individuals, organizations, and communities of all sizes to jump-start dialogue on racism and bias and to transform well-intentioned statements on diversity into concrete actions…”
In his book, Dr. Livingston introduces the PRESS Model. PRESS is an acronym for problem awareness, root cause analysis, empathy, strategy, and sacrifice.
Embedded within the PRESS model are 3 fundamental questions:
- Condition question – Do you believe that racism exists?
- Concern question- Do you care about the problem and the people it harms?
- Correction question – Are you willing to take action to solve the problem?
How these questions are answered by individuals on a personal level reflects either willingness or unwillingness to move towards antiracism activation on a larger societal level.
Actions are tied to generational leadership
Cultivating change through personal transformation links directly to social transformation. From a grassroots antiracism activation perspective, transformation at the individual level has the potential to activate change in the realm of social, health, and economic equity. When change is activated in one generation it impacts the lives of future generations.
I once heard Dr. Ida Jones, archivist at Morgan State University, talk about the need to harmonize historical truth with past and present lived experiences. We all know that one primary function of history is to allow the past to inform the present for the purpose of empowering the future.
This is the message of Nelson Mandela when he said:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
How far we are able to move the needle of antiracism activation today will determine what tomorrow holds for kids like my grandson Cairo. This is the essence of generational leadership.
Black History is America’s collective history
One thing I didn’t mention in my intro is that I am also the VP of Media Relations for the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, also known as ASALH. The biggest takeaway in being a member of the ASALH organization is the access to history, historians, and researchers, which goes a long way to inform the antiracism activation work that I do.
And it’s particularly interesting when you contrast the work of ASALH with the banning of certain areas of Black History because it make some people feel uncomfortable.
The truth of the matter is Black History is for everybody simply because it is a part of our collective history. All the banning in the world isn’t going to change that fundamental fact.
It is time for truth, reconciliation, and transformation so that kids like my grandson don’t go through life feeling uncomfortable because of the skin in which they were born.
What is your Black resistance story?
Many of us have a personal Black resistance story. My personal Black resistance story is rooted in my mother who was an activist. She did a lot of work in the area of Welfare Rights and I watched her prepare for marches on multiple occasions growing up.
My personal Black resistance story is also rooted in an experiment with forced integration in the seventies. In 1971 I had a moment of racial reckoning as I stood outside of my new school in the presence of police and emergency vehicles. A bomb threat had been phoned into the school because Black bodies were now present in a space that was previously off limits.
In 1976 I entered undergrad on the heels of a new Black Studies department at the University of Pittsburgh and protesting became a part of my life as a freshman.
So, I leave you with these final questions to ponder:
What about you?
What is your personal resistance story?
What role do you currently play as a generational leader?
I invite you to share your resistance story at theplacetosoar.com/21stcenturyblackresistance. Oh, and you don’t have to be Black to have a personal Black resistance story. [Don’t believe me? Check out Loki Muholland and his mom, Joan Trumpauer, activist in the Civil Rights Movement.]
Thank you for taking a seat at the table.