Pause On The Play Ep 23
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Hello, hello, and welcome back to Pause On The Play. As always, it is amazing to see you here where you are challenged to examine your beliefs, question your predisposed notions, and consider realities you may be unfamiliar with in order to understand that they too are real. I am your host and conversation emcee for the day, Erica Courdae, here to get the dialogue going.
So disclaimer, kids are home from school. They have been in school all day, but they are outside. They are loud. So might hear kids in the background. Just want you to know, imperfect action here. So there's that. And internet has been a little bit questionable, so just in case, I'm going to try to minimize that as well being a problem, but just FYI.
Erica Courdae: So I'm actually going to, in a second, bring back my lovely cohost, India Jackson of Flaunt Your Fire again. But I'm going to first kind of just do a slight recap to tell you a little bit about what the last episode was and kind of how that went. So our last episode was around India's experience with Afropunk. And a lot of things came up, which if you're not new around here, you know that this is how things go. We talk about something, and all of a sudden it's like, "Whoa, wait a minute. Wait a minute, pause. There's that. We need to go there."
Erica Courdae: And so we started to talk about taking up space, and we started talking about being an imperfect ally, and where if you're not careful, that can go dangerously close to being a white savior. White saviorism is a thing. And we talked about how this is a space that is meant to be inclusive. It is meant to embrace people and to make them feel as though they are welcome there. It was created not only with them like, "Oh, you're welcome here," but this was made with you in mind. This was made for you. And yet in this space, things happen that just shouldn't have. And it really provided a point for India to come up on some things that looked very different than what they had in the past. So we wanted to come back and kind of talk about a couple of the things that we came up across. So without further ado, here is my lovely cohost, India Jackson of Flaunt Your Fire.
India Jackson: Hey, guys. Glad to be back here on the podcast.
Erica Courdae: So again, I actually want you to kind of just give that thing that you really took away, that really made you feel like it was important to not only bring it to the podcast once but to continue it here again. Because you had a lot of takeaways, but there were some that really stood out and were hugely impactful for you as someone seeing things through a different lens as well.
India Jackson: I am definitely going to start by saying if you haven't listened to the previous episode, you need to go back and listen to that ASAP. So many things came up for me, and disclaimer, I actually got a little bit of emotional having to say some of this stuff because it is just an interesting place to be in to think that something was created with diversity in mind and it's for everyone, all people welcome, and to still feel like you don't have a space and the little that you do have is still too much for someone else to give it to you.
India Jackson: But I think what came to mind for me, one of the takeaways is definitely that being able to step into saying, "It's okay for me to take up space. I deserve to have space. I deserve to be seen. I deserve to be visible. My presence matters," and also to see the parallel of that - or the opposite of that I should say, where someone is so much into that mindset that they are stepping on other people's spaces literally.
Erica Courdae: And this was actually something that came up in our conversation right afterwards, that conversation of how do you step into your light without stepping on other people's toes literally and figuratively.
India Jackson: I definitely think that that was a big question that came to mind for me in my experience at Afropunk is saying like, "Where can people step more into their light that aren't," and honestly really having... You know the word for this, Erica, it is slipping my mind. I want to say witch's wound, but maybe it's like a generational wound, whatever it is that goes back into your...
Erica Courdae: Oh, yes. Well, it's definitely a generational wound because you kind of just go with what you were taught and what you were told is the way that you move through life. And so that can make you automatically, and kind of as reflex, get small, shrink yourself, take up less space, and be less visible because then you're less of a target. And the witch's wound concept was something that I kind of heard in a book I was listening to, and I looked it up, and the research I did, the long and short is that women are so used to kind of just being persecuted or just told that you're somehow wrong if you are not this type of woman. And so we carry this trauma of I'm wrong. I'm too much. I'm too big. I take up too much space. I'm too loud. I'm too strong. I'm too powerful. I'm just too big for everything. And so they all essentially say, "Be smaller. Be more nondescript. Be less obvious be less, just period. Be fucking less."
India Jackson: And I think that part of the experience that we were kind of unwrapping my story behind Afropunk was making me also kind of open my eyes to that generational wound that I think many people can have. And it doesn't have to be the ancestral wound based off of your ethnicity. It could be the homophobia that ran through your family. But just the wound of saying, "Be small. Be soft. Don't stand up. Don't take up space. Don't say too much." You're not safe to do these things because literally for generations it was life or death if you did, can be the reality for a lot of people out there.
Erica Courdae: And I'm glad you used the word safe. I think that word is important because very often someone that does take up a lot of space has been given the narrative, whether through actions or words that it is safe for you to do this. And someone that doesn't take up space was given the narrative that through words or actions, it is not safe for you to take up space. And it creates a power dynamic that is very obvious if you look at some things in how... If you look at a group of people, who needs to be quiet about who they're dating or who they love? Who needs to tame their hair and make it more acceptable by mainstream standards? Who needs to water down their religion because some people have fear around it? Who needs to change what feels authentic to them, how they dress, how they speak, and the way that they look physically in life in order to not have to paint a target on their back? I think it's very important to acknowledge who was given the narrative that it was safe and who was given the narrative that it wasn't safe or had to learn through experience that it wasn't safe.
India Jackson: And here's the thing. If you have the story and you've had it from a young age that I live in a safe world or I don't live in a safe world to be myself, then it may not even be a conscious thing anymore to be loud and outgoing and bold and brave or to be small, be quiet, don't be seen, don't say too much. And if this is now a subconscious thing, how does this show up in your visibility? How does it show up in your ability to be an ally to somebody? How does it show up in your ability to start to create the changes that you want to see in the world, to step into that job interview with confidence, whatever it is that you want to do? I feel like these mindsets affect everything.
Erica Courdae: And being the change that you want to see by starting with your own actions and how you're moving through life, I want you to also acknowledge that you could be a white woman that grew up with the world being safe, and yet somehow, you were minimized because you weren't skinny or because you dated people that didn't look like you, because maybe you were gay, because you were a woman. So you can have both. So acknowledge that as well. This is not an either or. This is an and. You can be something that is told to stay small and still be somebody that is told that it's safe to not play small. And that's not easy either.
India Jackson: It's not. Because I think that that might actually be more complicated.
Erica Courdae: I think it plays a lot into the imperfect allyship part because you know and can feel that there's something that you need to do differently, yet somehow, there's this conflict that you can't quite put your finger on. So you have this. It's safe. But no, it's really not safe, and you're like, "Well, I don't really know what to do with that. I don't know how to act on that. I don't know how to be in that space." And so I am by no means taking away from the person that really doesn't have the safe at all. I am never going to diminish that space, but I also don't want to diminish how it can be a hell of an oxymoron to feel as though, "Yeah, I'm safe. I can do this," but how do I do that and still be safe?
India Jackson: I think one of the words that comes to mind for me for some reason in this conversation is blind spots. If you were given safety and then you had life tell you it's not safe to be yourself, then there can be blind spots and where things don't line up. By blind spots, I just mean you can't see everything clearly. You can't make that connection. You may need the help of an outsider's perspective to kind of help clarify where these things are not matching or not aligned.
India Jackson: But I can also see on the other side of that. If you are in a place where you feel safe and you're ready to step into being our perfect ally, making sure that there are not blind spots in that of where now you're stepping over into the saviorism place where the things that you're doing to try to help another who you think may feel unsafe or you think may feel that they need to hide or can't fully take up space because of the environment they're in is saying, "That's not okay," how do you begin to help this person without making it be about needing the pat on the back, without making it be about your ego, without stepping into the other spectrum of now, you've checked a box, and you really didn't do the deeper work involved with that?
Erica Courdae: Well, and you just gave a really good example of what white saviorism can look like. Because being an imperfect ally is absolutely saying, "Hey, it's not okay to diminish the voices, feelings, and/or impact of people of color and/or marginalized individuals, and I'm not going to stand by idly as that happens." However, I think it is also important to acknowledge that you need to make sure that that's kind of wanted from you because there are some spaces that you can do that, and the person can feel like, "I could have done that for myself," or "You doing that made me feel as though I couldn't speak up for myself. And that the point that you made was only valid if it came through your voice and not my own."
Erica Courdae: So it is important to kind of be aware and take the temperature of the room and the situation and those involved to be able to gauge whether or not this is a place that you need to speak up or maybe even just when you need to speak up and understanding when you need to let the person that it affects or people that it affects utilize their own voice. Because don't be the person trying to amplify the voices of someone of color by using the megaphone of your own voice and yelling over theirs, "Hey, look at them." But now, you can't hear them. So you have to be so careful with that. Not from a place of like, "Oh, I'm too afraid to do it," but just don't make it about you. Don't center yourself in it. That's kind of the simplest thing I can kind of tell you without taking you through full coaching thing. This is not about you. Don't center it on you and your feelings.
India Jackson: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think what I hear you're saying is that there's a difference between saying that I'm going to step up and say something about what I believe or what I see to be wrong, and there's a difference between doing that and stepping up and speaking for someone and trying to speak for their position or what they're going through. There's a line between the two.
Erica Courdae: I think there is a line. I think there are times that it is appropriate to do the second, but I think that again, it shouldn't come at the expense of that person feeling as though they are again losing their own voice. One of the things that actually comes to my mind when it is appropriate to speak up is when the two black men were arrested for sitting in Starbucks, and they're like, "He didn't do anything wrong. Neither one of them did anything wrong. This isn't okay. Why are you arresting them? This is not okay." Yeah, you speak up with stuff like that because that is wrong. That's not okay.
Erica Courdae: But I was reading something online, and it talked about someone in a class feeling as though a student was receiving treatment from the professor that wasn't okay. And so the person that was like, "Hey, I'm seeing this. I don't think this is okay," that may not have been their time to necessarily jump in because you don't know how that person felt that was receiving it. Maybe they had handled it privately. Maybe they didn't feel as though it was a fight they wanted to fight. You don't know.
Erica Courdae: So maybe that's an opportunity for you to start a conversation. Just say, "Hey, I'm kind of seeing this," or "I'm feeling this, and I just want to know, do you feel like this is affecting you? Because I think it's important that we're all in here in an open environment able to learn." So I think sometimes it's having the dialogue to figure out whether or not your help is needed. But there are definitely times when... Yeah, you see something, you need to say something. Speak the hell up.
India Jackson: I think the word respect is coming to mind for me right now. A little off subject, but for those of you, we're just going to assume that you listened to the previous episode where we talked about how there were some people who were not of color at an event for people who were of color that were still intruding on the personal space, so the people of color, myself being one of those people in particular. But I think that it kind of also makes me think about Erica's birthday. I don't know if you're okay with me telling people. Are you okay with me telling people?
Erica Courdae: Oh, yeah. Tell them. Yeah. Tell the people about my birthday! By the way, and I am happy and proud of that.
India Jackson: So Erica had a birthday, and we surprised her by taking her to... It was my very first drag queen show, and I'm not a drag queen. I'm a heterosexual female, and I identify as female. I was born female. That's not my space. Well, I am a woman of color, so I could tell myself that I've checked a box. I'm diversity. I don't know their particular set of things that they have to deal with on a daily basis, and therefore, I would never... I understood going into that situation that we were supporting people who we may not be the same as them. And I think that what stood out to me is there is a very big difference between saying, "I am going to come out of my pocket and support an event for other people because I believe in diversity. I believe in what they're doing, and I want to support them," and to just show up and be like, "Okay, I did that. Box checked. Now, I can do whatever I want in their space."
Erica Courdae: And it's cool.
India Jackson: And it's cool verses... And to me, that is saviorism. Now, correct me if I'm wrong. In this example, I would be stepping into drag queen saviorism. I don't know if that's a thing but...
Erica Courdae: We're going to go with that example.
India Jackson: We going to go with it, drag queen saviorism. However, it is a very different place to come into this situation and to say, "I am supporting them with my money, but I'm actually going to do the work and get myself into a energetic space where I am the kind of person that can be like, 'Yes, queen," and celebrate what it is that they're doing and really look at the artistry that they're putting into this." How they planned out their outfits, I mean, some of these head pieces they made themselves. People were doing back flips with wigs on. I'm like, "I don't even know how to get a wig to last me without flipping. How the hell did you keep it on? Props to you for that." And I'm all for it. We had so much fun, and yet, we didn't take over their space.
Erica Courdae: No and-
India Jackson: There's nothing to be saved. They're fine.
Erica Courdae: No. You got a group of people that said, "I'm going to live out loud." Who really needs saving in that space? It's not them because they were like, "This is me, and I'm going to show up as exactly that." That to me, that is goddamn bravery. Should it be bravery? No. Because you need to be able to live out loud without fear of repercussion. However, that does not happen to be the reality that we live in. So my particular take on it is that when you choose to do that, that is an act of bravery, and personally, you ain't doing anything that's hurting anybody else. So guess what? I applaud you. I celebrate you for that.
Erica Courdae: And it was, from an artistry point of view again, yes, the rehearsal, the show, the theatrics, the costumes, the makeup, oh, the hair, the, oh, my gosh, the everything. And to step into that space to let that be their space but to be able to also hear that there were some of them that the money went directly to charities, the one girl said, "I am a walking nonprofit charity on two legs." And I was like, "Yes, please repeat again for the people in the back in the cheap seats," because it wasn't even just about what can I come here and get tonight. It was what can I come here and do and support something else that matters to me that I believe in.
Erica Courdae: And that's important. This is somebody saying, "I am going to make a difference by doing something that I love to do, something that matters to me, being me." And being able to be there and to have that appreciation and to... I walked back to my seat after going to the bathroom at one point, and I walked by one of the beautiful drag queens, and I said, "You are beautiful." And I told her that because it was accurate, and it felt like the right thing to do because if I saw anybody else and I thought that you were attractive, you were handsome, I would acknowledge you, so why would I not?
Erica Courdae: Especially when it is something that, to me, I know that the world is not always kind to them, so I'm like, "I will be absolutely not only kind but a fucking cheerleader for you. You inspire me because you are like, 'Fuck this. I'm not going to do something that is not okay with me AKA I am going to take up space,' and I love you for it." That was huge and so to be able to support that, that goes with my values and my ethics. And that then gave me a space that I could take up space by saying, "I am going to patronize something that I believe in fully, fully. If you do not already know, that is my allyship. Anybody that is within a place of being gay, bi, lesbian, trans, non-binary, I don't care what it is, that is the space where I'm like, "I support you 150%."
India Jackson: I think it's important for the audience listening to rewind that back 15 seconds and play that again because you don't get a checkbox because you're a woman. You don't get to check the box because you're black. You don't get to check the box because you're Asian. Whatever the fuck you are, that is not diversity, and honestly, I have you to thank for realizing that difference is diversity is supporting all varieties. Diversity is supporting people stepping into who they are 100%. And if I had to really break down what it feels like to be an imperfect ally, in one of the few situations where I clearly knew that I was in that role consciously, was the birthday party that we put together for you at the drag queen show. And what it felt like to be in the seat, by all means chime in Erica from your coaching experience, was that I wasn't at a drag queen show being an ally to drag queens. I was just applauding people who said, "This is who I am, and this is how I'm going to be, and I'm going to be that fully," and for that, I will applaud you all day long. Be your fucking self.
Erica Courdae: Taking up space and living out loud, that is a reason to celebrate. That is a huge thing. It just so happens that was the particular mode of celebration that night, but we were celebrating what we stand for from an ethical standpoint. And then from an artist standpoint, we appreciate everything that goes into the hard work side. So there's multiple places that we were celebrating that taking up of space, and we were there to cheer on pom-poms and dollars and all because you tip drag queens.
India Jackson: Dollars, lots of ones. Look I found leftover ones in my pocket today.
Erica Courdae: That just means we got to go back. Sidenote, I had not been to a drag show since my bachelorette party back in 2010. And I hate that it has been that long, but this absolutely reminded me how fucking fabulous it is and how much I love it. I have seen pieces of it, and I've been to different things that included it, but fully, to fully say I'm going to go to a show, and I was like, "Oh, I forgot how much I love this." It is every goddamn thing.
India Jackson: And here's the thing, I know it should be very obvious, but I feel like you may be able to word this better than me, Erica, it wasn't a drag show. Yes, we were there for a drag show. We knew what we were going to, but it didn't feel like I was there to see drag queens like somebody goes to the fucking zoo. I'm there to support human beings being themselves. And I think that that's important takeaway because I see it show up where it's very easy to say, "I'm helping coach this team of little black kids," or "I'm here to coach this team of underprivileged Mexicans." And it's like, but you just put them in a box. Weren't you there to support them not being in a box? But in the way that you've put that in your mind, you put them back in the box to say that they are the little black kids or they're the little Mexicans or in this case, they're the drag queens. It wasn't even about that. I was looking at humans. I was seeing different facets of their personality. What they were didn't matter anymore.
Erica Courdae: And the beauty of it is that it's a different energy in the room when you are watching people stepping into this authentic version of themselves where they are comfortable, and they are whole, and they are taking up space, and they are living out loud and it... I'm going to quote Chappelle's Show, "It's a celebration, bitches." Sorry, y'all can be mad at me for saying it. I said it, and it was fun, and it was... I mean, the energy was... It was lightning in a bottle. It was just beautiful to be a part of something where it was about fun. It wasn't heavy. It was simply, we are here. We are having fun. We are laughing. We are celebrating. We are supporting. This is all the shit that is good in goddamn life. And that is what was beautiful about it, that feeling, and it was just amazing. It was amazing.
Erica Courdae: And there is just literally something about people living out loud and taking up every inch of goddamn space that is available to them that I will throw dollars on at any given time. So yes, that coach part of me loves to see somebody fully stepping into who and how they are. And I will always advocate for that because it's not always an easy thing, and some people really do struggle with it. And so when those types of moments in life show up, you do celebrate that. You applaud. You clap. You take a knee, and you bow down to the embodiment of being bold and brave. That is that moment and that person.
Erica Courdae: I think that it is very important to acknowledge that there are people that are willing to take up space and live boldly and authentically, even if it could mean their life. Because if we're going to talk about drag and trans, I can't even talk about that without saying that it could cost you your life. Talk about painting a target on you. And to still be willing to risk it, that is, goddamn, that is everything. That is everything.
Erica Courdae: And that goes back to when I was asking you in the last episode, where can you take up more space? Where is it that you can take up less space? Because sometimes, you taking up less space allows somebody else to take up their space. There's beauty in it. That's not about minimizing yourself. That's about allowing somebody else to maximize themselves. That's a beautiful thing.
Erica Courdae: So I'm going to actually bring that back again. Where can you take up less space, or where should you take up more space? I still think it's very important to keep that little thought in the back of your mind as something that you can do as a part of that verb when it comes to imperfect allyship, whatever your version of that looks like as I told you about mine. Who can you be an ally to? It's real shit. It's real.
Erica Courdae: So I actually have an upcoming workshop, and this particular one will be on Thursday, November 14th, and the title of it is How To Take Imperfect Action As A DEI Ally. I talk a lot about imperfect allyship, and I think it's really important that people understand that allyship is a verb, and it's about action, and it's not about being perfect. It is about being in action. So these workshops are 150. They are an hour. They are audience driven. This is a place for you to come and get support and get your questions answered. And I think that this is where we can really have some amazing dialogue for change around imperfect allyship and how you can be the change that you want to see. What you think, India?
India Jackson: I think they need to sign up right now.
Erica Courdae: Yes. So on that note, I am going to ask you guys again to really think about where you can take up less space or where somebody else you can allow them to take up more space. As always, dialogue is welcome, Instagram, @ericacourdae, website, ericacourdae.com, email, email@example.com. Thank you, India.
India Jackson: Thanks, Erica.
Erica Courdae: Pause On The Play is one iteration of how we use conversation to create connection. Our one-on-one calls is another. This is where you can get support on how your beliefs and values around diversity, equity, and inclusion are showing up for your business, how you vote with your dollars, how you are sharing your message to let people know that you curated a space with them in mind that you want to talk with them and hold space for them to have a seat at the table. Hop on over to ericacourdae.com today and register for a complimentary tea time chat. These are our connection calls, so we can hop on, discuss your needs, and create a plan of action that's personalized for your brand to further its evolution.
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