Diversity & Inclusion: Revolution or Reform

Generating Safety with Kalaya'an Mendoza

September 23, 2021 Connie & David
Diversity & Inclusion: Revolution or Reform
Generating Safety with Kalaya'an Mendoza
Show Notes Transcript

“Safety is when the conditions are such where you can feel that you can be your authentic self.” - Kalaya’an Mendoza


We are back with episode 2 of Diversity & Inclusion: Revolution or Reform? Today we are speaking with Kalaya’an Mendoza about generating safety. What does it mean to be safe both individually and within a community? Why is this important and what role does it play within D&I. We work through all of these questions and more.

 

Guest Bio

Kalaya’an is an activist, organizer, facilitator, and trainer who’s spent the last twenty years fighting for social justice and grassroots organizing from LGBT rights to anti-racist organizing, and beyond! His work is anchored in nonviolent direct action, community organizing, and solidarity building both locally and globally. Kalaya’an’s been with Amnesty International, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and is also the co-founder of Across Frontlines. 


Connect with Kalaya’an


Learn more about our work:

Email: [email protected]

Connie’s Instagram: @and.now.collective
Connie’s Work: and-now-collective.com

David’s Instagram: @amplify.rj
David’s Work: amplifyrj.com


Listen and follow the podcast on all major platforms:


Click here to access the transcript of today’s episode.



Connie (she/her)

Welcome y'all. Today's guest is not quite a DEI practitioner, which makes this conversation all the more illuminating on the boundaries and limitations of this D&I space. We are so thrilled to have Kalaya’an Mendoza joining us today. Just a little bit Kalaya’an before we jump in. Kalaya’an is an activist organizer, facilitator and trainer who spent the last 20 years fighting for social justice and grassroots organizing ranging from LGBTQ rights to anti-racists organizing and beyond. His work is anchored in non-violent direct action, community organizing and solidarity building both locally and globally. Kalaya’an has been with Amnesty International, Nonviolent Peaceforce and is also the co-founder of Across Front Lines. What a treat to have you here with us today, Kalaya’an, and thanks for being here.

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Thank you so much Connie. It’s a pleasure to be here. 

David (he/him)

We always start by having our guests share a little bit about their lineage with this work around justice. So for you, how did you get started in this?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah. First of all, thank you both so much for having me on here, David, thank you so much for reaching out. I think for many folks that have been involved in the organizing activism world, we're born to this, right?

My family and I left the Philippines at the height of the Marcos Regime. At a very young age, I remember being inspired by the people power revolution. I'm 42 years old, so I was quite cognizant when the revolution was happening. And I remember even being a child and crying and not necessarily understanding why I was crying, but like feeling this intense sense of hope. And even at a young age, I got to see what nonviolent direct action looks like when it's put into the hands of the people fighting for change.

With the current work that I'm doing with a nonviolent Peaceforce of the director of US programs, and what we're trying to do is to build out mutual protection and community safety strategies for communities all around Turtle Island that are grounded in holistic safety and security, informed consent, and just many of the ancestral practices that BIPOC folks have carried with us coming into different spaces. But I think with the intersection that I see kind of like the DEI work that I've done, the unpaid labor of it, and the work that we're doing right now is building out holistic safety and security.

And what that looks like is emotional or psychosocial safety and security, physical, digital, etcetera. If we don't feel safe in whether it's like our workplace or being on the ground, then we're not able to engage in ways that are authentic to us, and in ways that sees us as authentic human beings. So, yeah, that's a really quick snippet of where I came from and now I’m here.

Connie (she/her)

Wow. Thanks so much for sharing that lineage. I am certainly a fan as I've been following you on Instagram. And I actually love what you're talking about in terms of safety and would love to unpack that a little bit more in what safety means to you, how you understand safety and communities, organizations, and how that can then translate into workplaces? Because I know that David and I often think about what does safety means in workplaces, corporate workplaces where it seems like there's often a lot of harm. So, how do you define safety? What does that feel and look like and anything you're grappling with when it comes to safety in the work that you're doing?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

The way I talk about safety is when the conditions are such, where you can feel that you can be your authentic self, and where you don't feel under threat of violence, whether that's emotional violence, physical violence, and you have the tools that you need in order to keep yourself and your community safe. To me, safety is really grounded in community care. It is not just about individual safety, because I'm kind of like a download prepper, and one thing that I have been telling folks since the beginning of the pandemic is if we are going to apocalyptic times that we are, we cannot believe the safety of ourselves or our communities to a white settler colonial state.

What this means is that, our communities have always known how to protect one another and how to build safety, and that's really through relationship building. That's a very first step. It's like when you know your neighbors, when you know the folks around you, there's less likelihood that you will feel unsafe, whether that's in your community or whether that's in your workplace; however you define that in terms of just some fundamentals, when we train community.

So we were in Minneapolis during the Derek Chauvin trial during the aftermath of the killing of Daunte Wright, and we trained about 200 community members in the twin cities on community safety. We don't call it security because security is very much grounded. I feel it is very much grounded in patriotical white settler tactics, where people enforce safety. What we say is like we facilitate safety. We don't police people. We don't enforce it. Our approach is really about building informed consent and the right relationship with one another.

And informed consent essentially means knowing if you're going to be going into an action, you have all the information that you need in order to make an informed decision. That includes if you are content warning, I will be talking about state and non-state doctor violence, both from white supremacists in and outside of uniform. If you're going to an action that could potentially be arrestable, people should know that that's a case, especially if you're undocumented, especially if you have the record. Informed consent means being able to go into a situation with all the information that you need to make a decision to move forward safely.

Right relationship means building from a place of solidarity. So solidarity the way we talk about it, solidarities power with no power over. And it means like I will work alongside you and I will follow the leadership of the most marginalized and center uplift and amplify. So what that can look like is making sure that you participate in actions where you have an offering where you can actually show up. When I was in standing rock back in 2016, one thing I made sure to drill into our team is that we don't show up in an indigenous space without an offering, whether that is like, we're willing to wash the dishes, we're going to cut wood, you don't just show up. So safety is about informed consent. It's about building the right relationship, and it also about understanding what does safety mean for the folks in that space? Because our identities, both our mainstream and marginalized identities inform what safety looks like. Safety for me as a queer Filipino; that's hard of hearing will look very different than safety for a white body person.

Connie (she/her)

I really appreciate how you break down safety as different from enforced security cause I do think that there's a reaction to security, which feels like policing, state violence. And I came into this work really through community organizing and grassroots movement. So being in a DIY space makes me feel a little bit kind of like I'm selling out. But I'm curious when you're thinking about how you're defining safety, envisioning safety, and even the work you do on the ground, do you see that there's a place for this in the workplace? Like if we're thinking of about a tech company, if we're thinking about a corporate space, even nonprofit spaces, do you see the possibilities of what you're talking about in those spaces.

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah. First of all, I want to thank both of you all for doing the work that I can't do, nor do I want to do in corporate spaces, because that's really who needs to be educated, informed, and ushered, and facilitated through that process. In terms of possibility, there's always possibility. I remember being at the Women of Color Conference at UC Santa Barbara in 2004 or 05’ where inciters were talking about the folks were on stage and they're like one day we're going to be talking about white supremacy, and we're going to hear about it on CNN, not just in terms of the clan, but as a system. There was a pause and then everyone just started laughing cause we're like, that's never going to happen. Even at that stage, there was hope, but we kind of knew that in terms of possibility, it was like a slim chance of that.

But now we are having very nationwide discourses on white supremacy on CIS-Heteropatriarchy, and all of these different systems of oppression. So I feel like, especially with kind of the next generations are really bringing in a deep analysis, but also their lived experience, and they're going to be bringing that into the workplace. So the onus is on folks, whether it's in the for-profit or non-profit world to get with the program; like it's no longer acceptable to be replicating oppressive models in the workplace. Because I think especially in the last year, people have had to evaluate what they are willing and what they are not willing to put up with.

One thing I keep on talking about is like the old world and the old paradigms are dead or they're dying, and white supremacy is on its last legs. Patriarchy is on its last legs and these are systems that are crumbling. And I remember Grace Lee Boggs and Professional Angela Davis at UC Berkeley in 2015, talking about visionary organizing, moving from protest organizing to divisionary organizing, which is essentially, what is a world that we're fighting for and this is a world that we want to build. And I've seen that thread in this new crop of organizers, that folks that are coming into the professional world, who are just not willing to compromise on their principles and on their identities, and it's really beautiful. And the more that people feel empowered to be able to advocate for themselves and for their communities; like I said, the corporate and nonprofit world needs to get with the program or they're just going to be irrelevant.

David (he/him)

Kalaya'an, you’re working in the nonprofit world, right? Nonviolent Peaceforce is a non-profit organization. What does that look like for y'all?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah, for us, really looks like holding space for one another, especially in the mutual protection work that we're doing. Our team is primarily BIPOC and folks have experienced violence from the state and non-state actors in different ways, both generationally and also immediately. And one thing that we try to do is to really hold space for those realities that folks are experiencing. One way that that looks like very tactically is building community agreements, not ground rules, but like community agreements with one another and like community accountability measures. And I'm sure if folks who've been to a training have gone through norms or ground rules or even agreements, but these are basically what do folks need in order to feel safe in that space?

One of the agreements could be confidentiality. And if someone breaks confidentiality, how do we as a community call them into that? How do we not participate in disposable politics and like toss people out? How do we not replicate a carceral system where someone is criminalized and not kind of held in community? So that's yeah.

David (he/him)

So, keeping confidentiality of a situation. Is there an example that comes to mind that you're able to share in that accountability process?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah, actually I'll use another example. One of the agreements is like, what is shared here stays here, what is learned here, leaves here. So, we call each other in if it’s like, okay seems like we're revisiting what was shared rather than what was learned. So what did we actually learn? So rather than just calling out, we try our best to just like say, okay, so here's what I'm noticing and here's the harm or the effect, and really not being like, okay, you need to check yourself because X, Y, and Z, because like, we are going to have to work with each other, and I think that's kind of the approach. It's like, we don't want anyone to feel like they can't make a mistake or that there isn't room for growth, but we do have to have accountability with one another. And for me, the most important thing is like accountability with the community is the strongest form of accountability.

David (he/him)

Yeah, when we think about my approach to this work being restorative justice, thinking about accountability, it doesn't look like punishment for sure. And to your point, proactively making those agreements, prevents so much harm and builds relationships. But we are working within the context of a nonprofit organization that has to follow federal guidelines around different things around labor, and creating equitable workplace, and heavy quotes because of what the federal government deems as an equitable workplace. How do you work in parallel to those requirements from a federal government making community agreements? And that might've been a little bit of a leading question because it was assuming that you're working in parallel, but how do you work within that context?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah, one of the primary things as a 501(c)(3), like we can't campaign for, and we don't, that's just not within our work. So, it makes it easier. I guess like an example of this is, we are nonviolent as assessed in our name, and what that means is both not perpetuating violence, physical violence and not allowing emotional violence or identifying and calling in that, the harm when it happens. Yeah, I'm trying to think of an example because I keep on talking about the white settler colonial state and I was like, how far removed are we? How close are we? Just because we still have to work within that system. Just an example that hopefully most folks will see apply to them is like we have a 40-hour work week just like most folks. For me, I was like, the labor that folks put in is both kind of like intellectual labor and emotional labor. And I want folks to know that at a certain point, you need to stop working, whatever that looks like.

David (he/him)

For me, when I think about the context of Amplifier RJ being a for-profit business, like what are the things, not necessarily that I'm working in concert with the federal government, but what are the things that I'm replicating that are white supremacists’ power over those kinds of things. And so as much as we live in the world that we live in that is rooted in capitalism and it's a little bit different with the nonprofit world, but still how do you navigate bringing these practices into that place?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah. Thank you. I try to facilitate as many boundaries for folks like to remind folks, we need some models, what community care looks like. We cannot allow the mission or our drive or our connection to this work over workers. This needs to be sustainable. The goal of every for profit is supposed to put themselves out of business. But I don't know when safety will be something that everyone sees, but I'm hoping that's what we're working for. I think what that looks like very tangibly is making sure that- I manage like six folks around the country making sure to be like, okay, no more emails on the weekends. Don't check your phone. If there's an agreement that if there's an action happening, or if we have folks that are supporting on the ground, then we have that understanding. So, it's really about communicating where our support needs are and kind of like where we turn off and encouraging one another to turn off.

David (he/him)

Yeah, I think those boundaries are so important, and you talked about how within nonprofits it's to work yourself out of a job for a certain cause. I think optimistically or like rose colored lenses, even in the for-profit world companies don't exist to turn a profit, companies exist to provide a service or provide a product that helps people. And when you're so mission driven towards that, like I'm going to give my all to this because I believe so deeply in; whether it's providing shoes or providing cleaning services, you want to make sure that that happens for people who are your customers, people who you believe deserve this. But if you're going to do that for 80 hours a week, you're not going to be able to do that for very long. And so those boundaries are super important, whether we're working within a nonprofit or for profit or whatever space. Healthcare- this work goes beyond any given moment that we're in. I hope to be doing this work for the next 30, 40, 50 years.

Connie (she/her)

I'm curious, what does community care look like in the nonprofit spaces that you work in? Cause I know nonprofits are also so under-resourced in some ways where people are passionate and in some ways, because they are passionate and often identity marginalized down for the cause they end up just sacrificing and modelling them. What does community care look like in the nonprofit spaces, knowing that there's all these tensions around like resources, how does that look and and feel?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah. On a kind of like a macro level, it means that managers need to be able to have sustainable work plans that are co built with the folks that are going to be leading on that. Like I see myself as a facilitator. I hate managers. Like I've been a manager for a while and I hate that term. I'm like a facilitator. I was like, I served this brilliance in the room and created a container for folks to be able to do the work that they want. So from a management perspective, a leadership perspective. I hate the M word. From a facilitator perspective this work is effective. In this work, I think it's really about building the support and fixed infrastructure that folks need in order to be their best selves without burning themselves out. On a day-to-day level, everything from like, when do you have team check-ins it's like asking folks, like what the support looks like?

One thing that we use kind of like as a cross team accountability is like sharing out our weekly goals and objectives. And there's a specific column on who can support you, what does support look like and what do you need in order to be able to do that? Because everyone should feel like they have the agency to identify what support looks like to ask for it, then also to be able to receive it. So I think as long as we're able to ground the work and support and community care is essentially seeing the collective well-being, whether that is with your comrades on the ground, or whether that's in a workplace with the folks that you work with, that folks are able to say, “I need to turn off, or I need to go offline for this weekend, or I need to take a mental health day,” and to really make sure that folks do not burn themselves out in the same kind of patterns that have been replicated for awhile; where people will just like go hard and get into the whole hustle culture of things and put their wellbeing in compromising positions just to be able to meet a goal. So I feel like the more that we're able to see that there is kind of this power with one another to build that container, the easier it is for folks to be like, okay, this is what I need for support. This is how I'm going to reinforce my boundaries, and this is how I'm going to call in folks that we'll be able to soar and support me.

Connie (she/her)

I really appreciate that because I think part of what I'm hearing is that a first doable step for a lot of organizations in places is naming the need for help or the need for support. Making that more explicit instead of assuming or hiding behind that like, I need to pretend I can do it all which a lot of organizations try to do. So I actually really appreciate the explicitness of naming what we need.

David (he/him): When I'm thinking about the need for all of those things, I think, especially when it comes to taking steps back, taking a break, in the construct of a six person team, if someone's taking a break, that means more work is going to fall on somebody else, and so like in the hustle and bustle, and maybe that's not necessarily the case in your context. But I'm thinking about other examples where people have work objectives that ‘need to get done’ because that is the service we're providing, that is the product we're producing. And then when somebody takes a step back how do you navigate conversations around the additional work that other people then have to do?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Well, one thing I've learned is that if folks are managing a team and if one person leaves even for a day and the rest of the team is stressed out, you're not managing the team well, and people are already over capacity when that happens. So what I try to do, I'm not trying to say, like I have all the answers, but what I try to do is to really, when I do my check-ins with folks, I like to use Adrian and Henry Brown use the Ancient Mariner example in her book, emergent strategy. But I like to use that metaphor where we all know what our constellation is that we're following. We all have different roles in the boat, and it's important that we're all able to kind of move at the same speed and really at the speed of trust with one another to be able to get towards that. So that way people can take their ore out of the water and take a rest as needed. What that looks like on the day to day, is making sure that you have enough staff to be able to do the work. I've been working in nonprofits for like a very long time now, and I see that folks are given way too much work and expected to do magic with the little amount of time that they have. So I think it's really important for the board for senior management to really understand what it is that constellation, what are the resources that people need, and that also includes, people, power, resources, time etcetera, in order to do that. And really consistently check in with a team in order to make sure that folks are not feeling overwhelmed. There will be times when that happens; that's just like the nature of the work that we do, but to be able to, to facilitate that with each other, rather than seeing ourselves having to monitor for the movements. I've seen that over and over again. We need solidarity. We don't need saviorship.

Connie (she/her) We’re always curious about, and you're in a little bit of a different space because you don't consider yourself a DEI practitioner, even though there may be overlaps or crossover.

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah I don’t.

Connie (she/her)

We're not offended. We’re curious what you're wrestling with in your organizing work just given the lineage that you shared in the beginning, moving through to this current moment and the movements that we're in? And we're also really curious to know if you're bumping into any specific tensions with the DEI as it's coming into more mainstream practices, especially in nonprofits, I think, and not only nonprofits, but really just like generally within our country. For better or worse, I have a lot of thoughts about that, but I'm just curious to know what you're grappling or wrestling with in your organizing work, and if it's bumping into any of the DEI mainstreaming of X?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah, no, everything's perfect, and one thing that we say at Nonviolent Peaceforce is that conflict is inevitable, violence is not. So how do we allow for conflict to happen in generative ways? Whether that is a conflict of folks who may not understand why we share our pronouns to grappling with kind of like ideological shifts. In terms of what we're grappling with, I think it's really, how do we build these generative spaces of conflict, both within the staff, within community members who may come from very different backgrounds. Some folks may be really conservatives, nonviolent police forces are a non-partisan organization, which means like we don't take anyone's side, but we see ourselves as serving in terms of shuttle diplomacy, like being able to create a space where both sides can speak. I don't know how that's going to look like in the U.S. But in Enmar, the Philippines, Iraq, South Sudan, we build relationships both with whether it's internally displaced peoples or the military or guerrilla groups. So it's really about finding ways to surface conflict and hold conflict in a generative way. The real talk. It is very hard having seen and done work on police violence for most of my professional life and trying to build an understanding of folks on that side, that’s hard. It's really hard to put yourself in that, but that's part of the work that we do, is we take that on in order for communities to be able to show up in the ways that they need to, to talk about what safety looks like for them.

So I think what we're grappling with right now is after the murder of George Floyd, well we've seen, and since Trayvon Martin, this country has unmasked the brutality, the casual brutality of the state, and all of those who have both participated, been complicit and benefited from it. And it's important for us, to be able to address those head-on, but they're those in power that want to be like, “I'm colorblind. I don't see oppression.” All lives matter, and I want to say that within our generation we'll be able to have these conversations, but if not, we got to be in for the long game. You’re right, justice is not a one-time event. If there's anything I've learned from native water protectors at standing rock is, we really need to be thinking seven generations ahead in terms of our strategy, and I'm hoping that power folks look at this as like, this is not going to be solved in a day. But we need to be invested, and that's why it's important for us to feel that this work is sustainable in the long term.

Connie (she/her)

I really appreciate that, and I think that what I really appreciate about your response and just what you're bringing into this conversation is that for at least in my experience with facilitating and consulting on DEI, is that it's really like immediate, like we need immediate strategies and quick fixes. We want to see results overnight, but really in the lineage that you come from, where the practice is really about grassroots, community building and solidarity, it is very much like, what does the world look like seven generations down and how can we get there? What is the organizing principle around the work we're doing now to get to the future we want? And we may not be in that future, but we're passing it down to the people who are coming after us, and I think that that's something DEI struggles with, because there's inpatients and a lot of like, we need strategy. We don't want to talk about feelings and communities and right relationships. So I really just love that you brought that into this conversation.

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Thank you. I appreciate you saying that. Yeah, it's like the scarcity mentality is just so rooted in white supremacy and colonialism, right? Like when it's like, oh, we only have this amount of time. It's like, okay. Then be real about what you can do. I think that's one thing that folks, what I've seen senior managers do with folks trying to support in the DEI work that's happening is like demanding the impossible. When in fact it should be like, what is a shift that needs to happen within the culture? Whether that means like folks sharing their pronouns, whether that means folks checking themselves and like having that culture of accountability, those are by no means easy things. But the work that y'all are doing is just so needed, and I'm hoping that folks realize that it takes time, energy, and resources, and it can't just be overnight.

David (he/him)

Most of the people who listen to this podcast are folks who work in the DEI world; whether it's nonprofits current spaces, they might call it something else, whether it's anti-racist, anti-biased something around those. What is something that you want folks in this world to know-something that you don't think is being said?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

For a former human rights organization I worked for, I was leading on a lot of the anti-oppression work. We called it anti-depression work very specifically, and then they wanted to call it D&I work. The white supremacy, capitalism, and CIS heteropatriarchy are so rooted in organizations and companies, that it's important for us to know just as how we talk to folks about building boundaries. When do we say, okay, I can't do this or this isn't generative? There comes a point where I hope folks recognize that they can move away from harm happening to them. I wish someone told me that at the start because I was like, “My people's wellbeing relies on me.” And I was like that saviorship that's not like solidarity. So I'm hoping that folks build a culture of support with other practitioners and hold space for one another, because we are the ones that know best what safety and what care looks like, especially in the work that we do.

Connie (she/her)

I really appreciate that. Another question that we ask is, going to our podcast title, do you think D&I is revolution or reform?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

I think it's a step towards revolution. I think it’s a movement towards our revolution. We need to meet folks where they're at. One thing I've learned as an organizer is like meeting folks where they're at. That means not coming straight on and having folks feel like they're not able to grow. So I feel like D&I is a movement towards revolution, towards change, because we need to be able to support folks through their own education, their self-education, but also kind of like the culture change that needs to happen at an organization. It's necessary work that goes wholly onsite. So, yeah, I hope folks know that this is one of the many strategies that we need in order to fight for a better world.

Connie (she/her)

You make me feel a little bit better about what I do. So one of our other kind of closing things- actually, I don't know if it's closing, but one of the other segments that we do on our podcast is what's called D&I confessions. This is a space where you can go as deep as you want, or as light as you want. It could be a mistake you've made, it could be something that you look back on you're like, “Wow, that's funny. I can't believe I used to do that. What a lesson learned!” It could be something that you're ashamed of and our guests really take it in any direction and for you, if D&I confessions don't quite fit your space that you move through, maybe like an organizing confession or organizer, a facilitator, confession. David, do you have one just to give some time for our client to think?

David (he/him): Yeah. So something that is present for me right now is, we have to go into this work with a lot of intention and I think because I've done this facilitation work for so long. I don't always go in with as much. It's like the mindset is there, but the preparation isn't always there. And that bit me in the, butt very recently where I was not as prepared as I needed to be to facilitate a space for folks, and I think that's just always a reminder to not take shortcuts in the work, making sure that you're going in yes, with intention, going in being centered and grounded. But also being prepared, knowing the things that you need to know about the people in previous conversations in order to not just spit out a message that is like, “Oh, this worked before, this will work in this situation.” You never know. So that's something that is recently present for me.

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Yeah. Thank you. I feel like all the moments of growth or shame or whatever that I've experienced in doing this work has been applying a training or a scenario to another group where they're like, “What are you talking about?” And there've been many times, I'm just going to be real about this, where I'm like, “Okay, so this worked for this group that was doing a work around death penalty, abolition. It's going to work for this group that's doing gun violence.” These are very different groups, right? These are very different issues and not actually doing the homework of understanding that there's going to be a prevalence or mainstream identity in one group that I need to account for has created tension where I'm like, wait, why aren't you getting it? And coming at it from a place of using overly academic jargon and not really breaking it down into its essential like, this is what I'm trying to get across rather than hiding behind academic terms. So yeah.

Connie (she/her)

That's super juicy. I really feel it because I see it show up in my work. And the ones that I'm thinking about for me, and it's actually part of the conversation around safety, which is why I was so excited to ask you the question around safety. In my work, we always begin with community norms and guidelines to create a safe space or a safe container, brave space. And I've started to get to this place where it sometimes feels like lip service, because I questioned whether or not safety can be guaranteed in a lot of these spaces that we're working in. Whether there's already so much systemic harm that is out of my control as a facilitator or consultant, and even the people who are attending the session because they're usually in need of healing and that's why we're there. So I've started to really shift and think about harm reduction, and I don't know, even that doesn't feel good enough. So we talk a lot about safety in the work that we do, especially for identity marginalized folks, but then I'm like, “Can I guarantee it? I can't actually guarantee it.” So there's this heaviness that I'm always sitting with when I'm doing these guidelines and norms and talking about safety. But I appreciate what you shared today because it gives me a different way of thinking about safety in all those different dimensions.

David (he/him)

Yeah, for sure. And then finally, as we really draw to a close, how can people support you and your work, and the ways that you want to be supported?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Sure. So we're working with the Asian American Federation right now on their hope against hate campaign to build safety ambassadors here in New York city. In the last year, we've seen-- I don't want to assume, but there has been a huge rise in anti-Asian violence that is grounded in white supremacy. And one way that folks can support is by coming to one of our trainings; we have virtual training. For more information for folks to email me or DM me, you can DM me on Instagram or Twitter at K-A-L-A-M-E-N-D-O-Z-A, @Kalamendoza or send me an email at [email protected].

David (he/him)

Beautiful. Thank you so much. One of the things that is not always going to happen on this podcast, but just because we happened to see it on Instagram yesterday is you were able to blurb and review our friend and other podcast guests Michelle Mijung Kim's book. Anything that you want to shout out about Michelle and her work specifically with the book?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

Oh, my gosh, everyone should get it. First of all, The Wake Up is available on multiple independent bookstore websites. If you just Google it, The Wake Up and Michelle Kim, I think it is a book and guidance that many folks need in terms of how do we turn good intentions into real change because as we know intentions aren't sufficient, there needs to be real impact. And Michelle really breaks it down in an accessible ways, being that she has done D&I work with so many different organizations and companies, I feel like her approach is radically compassionate and deeply accessible.

Connie (she/her)

One day, we're going to have to get both of you on here and have a group conversation. Well, thank you so much for just giving us your time, your gifts. We are so excited to continue following the work that you're doing and supporting you, and definitely hope to have you back on with Michelle as well, and just to keep being in relationship with each other.

Kalaya'an (he/they):

Thank you, and if I may, I hope I don't take up too much time, but I just wanted to ask y'all what's one thing that you're doing to care for yourselves today? If you’re okay with sharing.

Connie (she/her)

Thank you for asking that. That's a really good question. The one way that I care for myself, and I think David has caught sneak peaks of this. Eat when I'm hungry. So I never put work aside to say, “Oh, let me finish work first.” I always like, once my stomach is rumbling, I'm like, no, no, no I'm going to eat, and even if I'm having a conversation with David, I'm like, “David, I'm sorry, I'm going to grab food and eat while we're talking.” But nourishing, my stomach is one way that I take care of myself.

David (he/him)

I haven't thought about it, and so thank you Connie for going first. I think this counts because I say it counts. But I think one of the things for me right now is creating a list of to-dos. What needs to happen today. I'm in this period of transition and strategy where there are a bunch of things, but I haven't yet put the to-dos down on paper, and so that's what I've got. What about you?

Kalaya'an (he/they)

I'm going to book a second appointment with my therapist this week. So that's one thing I'm doing for myself today. That's going to be kind of like later down the week. So yeah, I really appreciate y'all sharing and I hope that your listeners also kind of ask themselves because as we know the last year has shown us that we are the ones that know best, how to keep ourselves safe and how to protect ourselves. This is the white settler colonial experiment is crumbling and we're watching it crumble and we need to be able to hold and love one another deeply, and more fiercely, and more intentionally than the state hates us. So I really hope that you all are able to care for yourselves in the ways that you need, and if there's anything that we as nonviolent Peaceforce, or I personally can do to support y'all please let me know.

Connie (she/her)

Thank you for that. What a beautiful way to close out for us. Thank you so much.

David (he/him)

Oh! I loved that conversation with Kalaya’an , and it was so good to meet him. not only have you been following him on Instagram, but I have too. We've been talking in the DMS a little bit, but it was really good to sit down and have a conversation. What stood out to you?

Connie (she/her)

Oh, my goodness. I think what I really appreciated is how he approaches his work, where he sees conflict as inevitable, but violence is not inevitable and he really looks at conflict as generative. And I think that's something that a DEI space can really take on because we tend to, and we, as in like the big collective, we tend to shy away from conflict and get really scared of conflict instead of working through them, we're really seeing conflict as a gift and a way to grow. I really appreciate that. But what about you David?

David (he/him)

What I anticipated coming into this conversation was a lot more about the grassroots and how that works. And like, for some reason, it didn't click for me until we were talking about; Kalaya’an talks a lot about this work and organizes this work, in the streets, in community, but also does this in the role of a manager, within the context of the nonprofit. And so hearing the strategies about checking in with folks, creating collaborative work plans, and then offering support, making sure that people know where to go, when they need to get support was so crucial. As a team of two here on this podcast, I'm thinking about what are the things that we can do for each other? With Nikita, shout out to our wonderful editor/producer. But even with myself, what are the things that I can do? As I was thinking about my self care things like, I have all of these things that I want to accomplish to further amplify restorative justice work, and I'm not going to do this all by the end of September, or by the end of 2021, or even by the end of 2022. And I can't put all of that on myself because I'm going to burn out, and it was just a good reminder for me. So that's really what's sticking with me.

Connie (she/her)

Yeah, so that really stood out with me because I think the community care and checking in is something that is really doable and practical. And I think what I really appreciated about Kalaya’an in the conversation is that despite the work that he does, where it can get really heavy, he is so hopeful. He carries a particular kind of hope about the future and how the current systems are disintegrating and we're watching it disintegrate in real time. And I think that community care, and self care, and building the right relationship really does help us get to a place of hope, because I know I often feel despair when I do this particular work and it just seems like we're chipping and chipping, but we're not really getting anywhere. So in a lot of ways, what he was talking about is, I can see that showing up in the work of healing justice and even in the work that you do, David around restorative justice, because it is so much about the collective healing, and the collective repair, and the collective wholeness, and thinking about not just myself, but also who are all the people we are in relationships with, and how are we all taking care of each other in this world that we are currently in, but hoping for a different kind of world in the future?

David (he/him)

Yeah, I don't want to discount the immense amount of work that there is in the immense amount of vulnerability it takes to even open up those conversations in your places of work or with the people that you're in community with. And so, Kalaya’an shared with us a challenge to think about the ways that we are going to take care of ourselves this week. I hope you've started to do that. I want to push one step farther and think about what are the ways that you're going to open up conversations about community care with the people that you work with, the people who you're in relationship with in the community, even within your family and friends? And so with that, thank you so much.

Connie (she/her)

Thanks for listening. We’ll be back with another episode next time. We’d also love to hear from you; it’s D&I; Revolution or Reform. Send us your thoughts and juicy D&I confessions as a voice memo or text to [email protected]

David (he/him)

Make sure you subscribe on whatever platform you’re listening on, right now so you don’t miss an episode. If you’re on it, leave us a rating and a review and share this with a friend, old school mate or a parent at work. Later y’all.

Connie (she/her)

Bye!