Politics and Culture

Episode 42: An Afro-Latina Conversation on Race

With social media buzzing about Gina Rodriguez, Cardi B, and what it means to be Black, African American and Latina this episode of Everyday Conversation on Race is timely.

If you’re interested in the topic, have an opinion or want to know more, you’ll love this conversation on race with Cessie and Mercedes.

Cessie Alfonso and Mercedes Martin join me to talk about cultural intersectionality and their own Afro-Latina identities. Spanning generations, geography and sexual orientation, they find that diversity, equity and inclusion are more relevant than ever today as more people identify become aware of their own intersections beyond race and ethnicity.

 

Topics in this episode include:

  • What it means to be Afro-Latina in the United States and accept their own cultural intersectionality
  • Afro-Latina identity is complicated and often misunderstood
  • Experiences of feeling not being accepted by either culture because it’s impossible to only “choose one” identity
  • Response to racism and rejection
  • Addressing the claims that someone can’t be Black if they speak Spanish
  • Why they can’t separate and only claim one culture since they are mixtures of all of their cultures
  • More Afro-Latinas, Afro-LatinX are speaking out about their experiences
  • Cessie’s response when people question whether she is Black or Latina, and why she’s speaking Spanish
  • How African slaves were brought to the Caribbean Islands even before slavery in the United States
  • The difference between race and ethnicity
  • Why conversations on race are important and how they are different today than in the 1950’s and 1960’s
  • Growing up in New York vs in the California suburbs as Afro-Latinas
  • The browning of America in US culture and how that will be reflected as more than Black and White but the multitude of identifications
  • How we create space for the multiplicity of backgrounds in our population now and in the future
  • Stereotypes and assumptions about Afro-Latina and Afro-LatinX
  • How to learn more and engage in conversations on race and ethnicity

 

Bios:

Mercedes Martin is a Cultural Accessory Designer, Entrepreneur, and Educator. She runs a successful African-Diaspora inspired brand called Tres Mercedes- designing embellished sunglasses, hats with African Fabrics, Ancestor candles, and statement piece earrings & rings. She self- identifies as a natural curl hair spiritual Black Woman, but if she gotta be more specific about ethnicity: Black and Afro-Cuban American. Born in California and raised in Oakland.

 

Part of the Millennial generation she has had her own small business, Tres Mercedes since 2010.

link: www.tresmercedes.com

Instagram: @TresMercedes

 

 

Cecilia “Cessie” Alfonso, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, is a nationally recognized expert in forensic social work, domestic violence and organizational development in the area of cultural competence and valuing diversity.  She is the founder and president of Alfonso Consultants, Inc. For the past 20 years, Alfonso Consultants, Inc. has provided social work and psychosocial assessments to the clients of civil and criminal attorneys throughout the United States, as well as internationally. As a mitigation specialist, she and her associates have conducted over 700 mitigation investigations since she began providing services.

Ms. Alfonso is a bilingual (Spanish speaking), bicultural (Afro-Puerto Rican-Cuban) social worker who has trained attorneys and professionals to appreciate and integrate into their practices and organizations the ethnic diversity and cultural aspects of their clients’ lives. She is also a nationally recognized domestic violence/battered woman’s expert who has appeared on national television and British Broadcasting Company (BBC) radio and is one of the few African Americans qualified as an expert in domestic violence in the State of New Jersey.  She has conducted training in domestic violence to professionals in the criminal justice system.

 

Ms. Alfonso has received the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association’s (NLADA) Life in the Balance Achievement Award for her pioneering work as a forensic social worker/mitigation specialist. In 2008 she was recognized by Governor Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey as a leading mitigation specialist who significantly contributed to the ultimate abolition of the Death Penalty in the State of New Jersey.

 

In 1987, Ms. Alfonso, along with her associate, Kathryn Bauer, wrote one of the first articles ever written that details how the social worker skill set can assist criminal attorneys in preparing and presenting the life history of their defendants facing the death penalty.  Ms. Alfonso has been qualified as an expert social worker and has testified in the penalty phase of capital cases in states such as Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Her expertise has contributed to criminal defense attorneys obtaining life sentences for their clients.

 

Ms. Alfonso’s ability to educate attorneys on how to engage and defend individuals who are different from themselves in terms of race, class, gender and/or sexual orientation has enabled attorneys to communicate to the jurors why they should give their clients life as opposed to death.

 

Cecilia ” Cessie” Alfonso has received the following awards:

 

Recognition Award, First President of National Association of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists (NASAMS), NASAMS 20th Anniversary Conference, March 2013

 

Life in the Balance Achievement Award – National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, March 2008

 

Recognition Award, presented by Governor Corzine of New Jersey – Leading mitigation specialist who significantly contributed to the ultimate abolition of the Death Penalty in the State of New Jersey, 2008

 

Mim George Award – National Association of Sentencing Advocates (founding member 1995), 2005

 

Outstanding Faculty Member in the Defender Institute Basic Trial Skills Program – New York State Defenders Association, June 2000

 

Contact info: cessiealf@aol.com

(518) 928-8199

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 41: Does Culture Fit Hiring Promote Racism?


This week on  Everyday Conversations on Race, Simma is joined by Barbara Williams Hardy, former head of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for a large tech firm, and LeRon Barton a well respected journalist and speaker on the experiences of being a Black man in America. The main theme is Culture Fit Hiring and it’s impact on diversity, equity and inclusion.

They offer their perspectives and answer the questions:

  • Does hiring for “culture fit” promote racism and discrimination?
  • Is it only the responsibility of white people to promote diversity, equity and inclusion?
  • What is the role of Black people and other people of color in culture change and inclusion?

Topics covered include:

  • Culture Fit hiring- friend or foe of diversity, equity and inclusion
  • How we’re all capable or making wrong assumptions
  • Breaking up status-quo hiring and with inclusion
  • Where to find Black computer engineers
  • Asking the right questions to determine whether a statement has racist intent or meaning, and opportunities to educate
  • What recruiters and leaders need to do ensure inclusive hiring, making people feel welcome across difference and supporting their success
  • LeRon, Barb and Simma share songs that represent thoughts about race, racism and bringing people together

Barb Williams Hardy and LeRon Barton

Barbara Williams Hardy is a visionary, innovator, connector, catalyst for change and global citizen of the world. She is an award-winning thought leader with a global mindset and is known as a “Go To” leader who develops high-level relationship alliances that foster inclusion, belonging, collaboration and commitment to align diversity strategies with business objectives to accelerate employee engagement, experience, innovation and organizational success.

Barb grows leaders. She is the former Global Head of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at NetApp, Leadership speaker and the creator of the Barb List, Principles for Achieving Success and Living an Amazing Life.

Barb’s mission is to unlock the untapped brilliance in all of us.


LeRon L. Barton is a writer from Kansas City, Mo that currently resides in San Francisco, Ca. He has been writing poetry, screenplays, and short stories since he was way young. LeRon’s essays have appeared in Salon, The Good Men Project, Eastbay Express, Those People, AlterNet, SF Bay view, Buzzfeed, Gorilla Convict, and Elephant Journal. His first book, “Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture” was released in Feb 2013. LeRon’s new book, “All We Really Need Is Love

Episode 40: How Black and Brown Communities Are Destroyed By the System of Mass Incarceration


Vincent Garrett joins Simma on Everyday Conversations on Race to talk about race, mass incarceration and creating a “prison to school pipeline.”

A former addict and incarcerated felon, Vince has been clean from drugs for over twenty years.  He shares his experience of being released from prison, finding a mentor, getting his BA from UC Berkeley and being part of Underground Scholars, a program for the formerly incarcerated.

We talk about race, racism and mass incarceration and the unequal way Black and Brown people and White people are sentenced for the same crimes.

Vincent and his whole family were caught up in the crack epidemic in Oakland. He saw people around him being arrested and sent to prison for a few rocks of crack, while white people and upper income people in the Oakland Hills using powdered cocaine were ignored by law enforcement.

He is now working towards a master’s degree and is the program outreach and retention specialist for Restoring Our Communities (ROC), at Laney College.

Vincent and ROC are working to advance the “Prison to School Pipeline,” to ensure that formerly incarcerated people get what they need excel in college and in life.

Additional topics are:

  • Racial disparities and inequality in our society today
  • Images of Black and other people of color in the media and how that contributes to mass incarceration
  • Internalizing racism from outside messages
  • Repairing the damage of mass incarceration and race

Episode 39: How a Young Mexican-American Man Navigated the Start-up World – Zach Moreno


Zachariah Moreno

Co-Founder & CEO of SquadCast

Zachariah Moreno is a technologist, author, and co-founder of SquadCast. He and his team are on a mission to amplify collaboration, seeking to empower creatives to engage in meaningful conversations without barriers.

 

Episode 38: Not All Privilege is the Same


 

All privilege is not the same, nor does all privilege provide equitable access to luxury. There is the economic privilege that comes from having financial resources, wealth and position, and then there is the privilege that comes from being white in America. Racism can negate every other privilege when you’re a person of color in the US. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what you own or how many employees work for you.

Luis Martin, a brown-skinned Mexican American man, and his Dominican husband have enjoyed a lifestyle of economic privilege that few can afford. Luis is a well-known artist in New York whose work has been displayed in galleries across the world.

However, when you’re a person of color, economic privilege has its limits to where you can go. When you’re out in the world, you can still be targeted for your race and experience the inhumanity and hate of racism.

When Luis and his husband bought first-class airline tickets on Delta airlines, they assumed they could access all the benefits that came with those first-class tickets. However, when they tried to enter the first-class lounge-like every other first-class passenger, they were barred from entering and told that people going to Mexico were not allowed.

In this episode, Luis Martin shares his experiences as an artist, a brown-skinned Mexican-American and the role that art and culture play in building consciousness around conversations on race, racism, and justice and equality for everyone.

Luis Martin is an artist working in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in Los Angeles California, Martin moved to NYC as a teenager. He received a Bachelor’s in Fine Art from The Fashion Institute of Technology. He has shown nationally and internationally in solo shows and group shows in Europe and Latin America. As a Curator, he founded and directed Parenthesis Art Space in Bushwick Brooklyn. Martin has worked with over 100 artists and curating shows that traveled to the Zhou B art center in Chicago and to Miami during Art Basel. Martin has collaborated with brands like Wix, Mount Gay Rum, and Braven, to create art-centric programming. Martin has worked as an educator with a museum in LA and NY like MOCA, LACMA, El Museo del Barrio and MoMA.
In 2018 he was named a rising star of the Other Art Fair by Brooklyn Magazine.

 

Episode 37 : Being the only one in the room: Laura Cathcart Robbins


 

Have you ever been to an event, in a class or attended a conference where almost everyone was the same race, ethnicity, gender, etc. except for one person? Has that ever been you or have you wondered what it was like for that person? Have you seen been at an event where someone was excluded because of the color of their skin, seen or heard someone be targeted by racism or ignored and wanted to intervene but didn’t know what to do?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, or if you care about making people feel included then you need to listen to this episode.

Being the only person who looks like you in a group of people can be uncomfortable, awkward and impede participation. Author, speaker, and podcaster Laura Cathcart-Robbins recounts her experiences as the only Black person in the room at a writer’s conference of 450, in classrooms and other events in her life which inspired her to produce her podcast, “The Only One in the Room.”

In this conversation on race, you’ll get to hear how Laura’s mother gave her the tools she needed to excel despite being excluded, stand up for herself and speak out and be heard as a Black woman. You’ll learn what you can do to support diversity in the room and actively support inclusion. Plus you’ll hear what songs Laura and Simma are listening to this week that reflects their thoughts and feelings on race, racism and eliminating the fear of differences.

Help us stop the hate and spread the message of love across the globe by sharing this podcast.

Laura Cathcart Robbins is a freelance writer, podcast host, and storyteller, living in Studio City, California with her son, Justin and her boyfriend, Scott Slaughter.  She has been active for many years as a speaker and school trustee and is credited for creating The Buckley School’s nationally recognized committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Her recent articles in the Huffington Post on the subjects of race, recovery, and divorce have garnered her worldwide acclaim. She is a 2018 LA Moth StorySlam winner and host of the popular podcast, The Only One In The Room, which is available on all podcast platforms.  Laura currently sits on the advisory board for the San Diego Writer’s Festival and is also a founding member of Moving Forewords, the first national memoirist collective of its kind. You can find her on Facebook @lauracathcartrobbins, on Instagram @official_cathcartrobbins and follow her on Twitter @LauraCRobbins.
Laura Cathcart Robbins

Episode 36: Millennials: Racist. Color Blind or Woke?



Are Millennials less racist than other generations?

What do people from Africa have in common with African-Americans?

What generation is most in denial about racism?

What’s it like to be the only Black person in your class?

These questions and more are answered on Every Day Conversations on Race. My guests are Mary-Lou Milabu, a millennial black Christian woman, whose family is from Congo, and Sara Bierman a millennial white Jewish woman from California who is also a lesbian.  Both women share their experiences and views on race, racism, and perspectives on white privilege.

Mary-Lou shares what it was like to be one of the few Black people in her school and constantly being asked to be the spokesperson for African-Americans. While learning about Black history, a white teacher kept asking her about her family’s history going back to slavery. When Mary-Lou said that was not her family’s history since she was second-generation Congolese the teacher kept insisting. She had to school the teacher.

Sara shares what it was like for her growing up on a street where she was the only white kid and learning about racism towards people of color. She shares stories of talking to other white people about race and racism.

This exciting conversation on race with two millennial women, one white and one black will open your eyes to stereotypes, white privilege, and racism.

Episode 35: How Living the Principles of Kwanzaa Fights Racism



 

Phyliss Williams co-host of Living the Principles podcast joins Simma to talk about the importance of the principles of Kwanzaa, and how her time in the Marines impacts the good work she does today.

Phyliss shares stories and experiences as an African American woman growing up in the south dealing with racism, and what it’s like to see the racism today across the USA.

We talk about the importance of involving family and friends in the race conversation and having an impact on them.

Topics covered:

  • Why it’s essential that people vote
  • Selfish reasons why people don’t vote and not voting is a vote against equal rights
  • Tactics used today to repress voting particularly in Black neighborhoods
  • Parallels between the past and the present in preventing people from voting
  • During her time attending a Christian College, she experienced racist dog whistles from other students and racism goes against all the principles of Christianity
  • How the Trump administration continues to dehumanize Black people and other people of color, Jewish people, LGBT People and immigrants

What we can do to have the conversation about race, eliminate hate and fear of differences and spread love

  • Be mindful of our energy, share resources and support each other
  • Remember that the holocaust happened because “nice” people said nothing
  • Speak out against gerrymandering which will impact the results of our voting
  • Speak up when people are told “go back to your country”
  • Listen to the stories of Black people and their experiences with racism, police brutality
  • Check assumptions and generalizations
  • Think about how different forms of privilege or automatic advantages impact us
  • Dismantle stereotypes

Episode 33 : What is behind the cancel-culture movement?



Joel Brown talks about the need to allow people to grow, and the problems that arise when they are not given a chance to change. Racism doesn’t get eliminated by attacking people who want to stop racism but may say the wrong thing. That’s different than someone who is a racist, supports racism and takes actions to perpetuate racism.

Everyone is going to make mistakes. What is the point of having conversations if we can’t do that? Joel says it’s making him tired. While some of these issues are valid, they don’t call for canceling people out. We need to be savvier.

When do we allow benevolence to be a good thing? When the billionaire keynote speaker at Morehouse said he would pay off everyone’s school loans, someone asked on social media “why didn’t they do that for Spelman?”
People are angry, not being heard, and want to be heard. Other people are cosigning because they don’t want the other person to be in pain.

There is a hypersensitivity to issues that have not been addressed. At the same time, there needs to be room for conversation.
The USA has not dealt with its history of racism and slavery. We need to figure it out, or nothing will change. By calling out every single thing someone says, and putting so much energy in shutting people down, we end up not dealing with systemic racism.
It’s easier to deflect from our own issues by making someone else “the enemy” when they are on our side. If we want to eliminate racism, we need more dialogue, conversation and education.

Conversations on race can only happen when people are open to listening, learning and talking.
If we want change, we have to look at manifestations of racism. Ex. At a high school white kids had “thug day,” and dressed up as their stereotype of Black rappers. The white woman who exposed it was getting death threats. More attention needs to be on those issues and why this is going on.

Different issues need to have different consequences. We need to address how egregious is it? What were the intentions? How willing is the person to listen, learn and change?

Joel also says that it’s essential for people of color to learn about each other, that Black people need to learn about Asian people, Asian people need to learn about LatinX people, etc.  Just because people consider themselves a person of color doesn’t mean they understand or have any contact with people from other groups and may have biases about other groups.

There is too much conversation and too many people saying that Democratic candidates for president are not “gay enough” “Black enough” or made a comment 20 years ago. If we want to defeat Trump, we will need to get behind whoever is running. Change and progress don’t happen under repression. Racism, loss of rights, gender inequality only gets worse. Hate crimes go up.

People can create change under a liberal government. It’s up to the people to take power together. Even under Obama, changes like gay marriage happened as a result of people putting pressure.

Increase in tribalism makes it easier for people to be co-opted, particularly white people who are alienated, many of whom are being targeted and recruited by white supremacists.

Solutions
Look at ourselves
What part do we play, what do we need to change about ourselves?
How do I heal myself?
Hold politicians accountable, even those that look like us
Everyone needs to vote- think of the most vulnerable
Have the conversation
Have more conversations on race, real conversations beyond social media
We need to be in the same spaces and think about things differently
See the “other side.” We need to listen and hear the basis for other people’s thinking
People who are privileged have to look at what part they play and look at imbalance
We all have privilege and power in some level and need to share
Recognize when someone is making a good faith effort and be patient and educate
This is different than someone who is an active racist?

Episode 32 : Former Black Panther discusses current political climate



Elmer Dixon was one of the early leaders of the Black Panther Party in Seattle, Washington  and in Oakland, CA. In this episode of Every Day Conversations on Race, Elmer talks about the history and legacy of the Black Panther Party.

The Black Panthers were created some of the first Food Banks, were responsible for hot breakfasts for school children that are now provided in many public schools.

Topics in this episode:

  • The lack of adequate health care for working class and lower income people
  • How he lives his values today of equity and equality while working with CEOs and other C-suite leaders and making sure that our communities and families survive
  • The increase in progressive people who are now CEOs who have the well-being of their customers and employee as priorities
  • Working with Steve Reinemund, former CEO of Pepsico and then his successor Indra Nooyi, as well as other rich people who are looking to give back
  • The importance of continuing to have conversations on race between white people and people of color different levels
  • Speaking to young white kids in Finland and around the world who are well-schooled on the history of the Panthers and want to organize against racism
  • The need to stood up against bullies and how the Black Panther Party stood up to bullies
  • White elementary school kids are interested in learning more about the Black Panthers and applying it to make the country and world a better place
  • What it’s like to work with police today and why it’s important to develop good relationships with good cops
  • The work that Elmer does in training police to understand issues in the Black community, and for police and the community to know each other
  • If police live in the communities they serve, there will be less police shootings of unarmed people

Throughout the episode Elmer recounts stories of the Panthers and we all can work together to combat racism

Elmer Dixon

edixon@executivediversity.com