The Breaking Point with Anasa TroutmanJun 04, 2020
What's different this time? Today, African-American community leader Anasa Troutman discusses race relations in America, and how the pandemic, unemployment, and systemic police brutality led to a breaking point. What does leadership look like in this moment? And amidst the suffering, is there hope?
To hear more from Anasa, you can also listen to her TEDTalk here: http://www.anasatroutman.com/tedtalk
Jeff: What's the vibe in Memphis?
Anasa Troutman: There have been protests every day. There's a woman here who I support who is a young woman, she's like in her twenties. She runs a nonprofit and she is one of the most brilliant people I've ever met. At the end of the protest on Saturday she was attacked by the police unprovoked, walking down the street leaving the protest and one of the police officers yelled out, "Get the girl," and they ran towards her, tackled her, and four police officers jumped on her in full riot gear. She's like one of our leaders here. She's, for me, the person who I'm like, "Everything I got is going behind that girl right there, because she's going to be the future of Memphis." It's just been interesting. And of course, all the right responses, the mayor wants to have an investigation, all the black-led cultural institutions have put out a statement so on and so forth.
Anasa Troutman: But it just speaks to where we are. Where we are that there's these really beautiful protests, peaceful protest, protest over, and then someone decides that somebody needs to be attacked unprovoked. And then we end up reeling from it as a consequence. She's now physically okay, but what does it do to you to decide to stand up for your people and then you get attacked by the police for no reason. And what does it mean for her work? What does it mean for all of us who love her? What does it mean for the work that she's doing, the people that she's supporting to have this interruption. So, on one hand things are ... you know, protests and so on and so forth, but on the other hand, it's like we are, as an arts community specifically, dealing with the trauma of the impact of what's happening right now.
Jeff: Yeah. Also, you would think with the raised level of scrutiny, that there might be more awareness.
Anasa Troutman: Oh, you would think.
Jeff: Yeah, you would think. But I suppose that's what it's about is that there is no thought.
Anasa Troutman: No, there isn't, and I have been thinking this all week, I've been like, "If I were a police officer, I would do my best to make sure that there was no brutality and unjust use of force just so that this kind of interruption wouldn't happen." Because I can't imagine that police officers are like, "Yay, we get to put on our riot gear and deal with this." Even for their own self protection and identity in the world, why does the culture of abuse and excessive force and murder, why is that allowed to live in the police force? Why? Who was co-signing that? Who was like, "This is a great idea, yes, we should be people who do this." I don't get it. I don't know. I guess since I don't get it, I don't get it. I don't want to get it.
Jeff: And you said something that strikes me, and I think it's very reflective of who you are. Because you said, "If I were a police officer," and when I think of Anasa Troutman, I think of empathy.
Anasa Troutman: Oh, that's nice. Thank you.
Jeff: Sure. And so I wondered if you would just take a few minutes to tell the listeners who you are, where you grew up, where you came from, and what ...
Anasa Troutman: Tell the story.
Jeff: The story. What were all the ingredients that go into you now?
Anasa Troutman: Yeah. This version of the story, there are parts of it, I'm going to tell it to you in chronological order, not in order of what I know. Like, "Oh, this is what I just found out." So my great, great, great grandparents were named Georgiana and Armstead Branford, and they were both born slaves in Virginia. Armstead's father was also his slave master, so my story and the recorded and repeatable part of my story and my family's history is really the epitome of the story of African Americans, where I have this legacy of enslaved Africans parented by white masters who had violent and inappropriate relationships with female enslaved people. These children born who then have to figure out their identity, and their life, and their family, and their place in America ... and Armstead and Georgiana, the land that they worked as slaves, by the time they died, they owned part of it.
Anasa Troutman: I don't know that whole story, but that also speaks to the other part of this story of America, which is about land ownership and wealth building, self-determination, the amassing of land and fortunate and this thing called the American dream that is most often not available to anyone who was ... certainly not who was a slave. So there's like that part of my history, some of which I know and some of which I don't, but that really intrigues me because then the descendants of that couple give rise eventually to my father who was born in the South Bronx, super, super, super dirt poor. The stories he tells me are terrible about how it was for him growing up, listen to stories from my grandmother about how life was.
Anasa Troutman: And then on the other side of that is my mother, who was born in rural South Carolina, who grew up picking cotton as a child, who their family's work was they would go out to the road in front of the house, they would wait for the truck, the truck would take him to the cotton field and they would pick cotton for a living when it was cotton season. Eventually her and my grandmother moving to New York, and her meeting my dad and me growing up in a family where when a lot of people were asking the question of, "Is the answer to black liberation, black power?" Or, "Is the answer to black liberation, civil rights and nonviolence?"
Anasa Troutman: Their answer was like, "Yes, and we actually are going to take this path of culture. And we're going to say to our children and to our community, 'We know there's a lot happening, but we want you to know that you are special, you're important, you're beautiful, and you are contribution because of your blackness and because you're a girl. And because of everything about you makes you special and makes you valuable, makes you important. And don't let anybody ever take that away from you.'"
Anasa Troutman: When they were in college, they were with these friends and all of their friends created this cultural context for all of their children. So all the people who are in my extended family, that's why my name was Anasa and my sister's name is [Nandi 00:08:31] and then there's [Timba 00:08:32] and [Taewo 00:08:32] and all the African names, because our parents wanted us to be connected to our African heritage. And they wanted us to be proud of our African heritage, even in not actually being able to trace back to a specific tribe or country or name or family. They wanted us to know that we had a home somewhere, and they wanted us to know that we had a legacy and that our history started before the first slave ship ever came to steal and enslave Africans on the continent.
Anasa Troutman: And so I grew up in a house where culture and artistry and spirituality and politics and community and all those things were really one conversation. There was no separating one from the other. It was as important for me to listen to black music and read black books and draw things and all that. It was as important for me to do that as it was for me to vote, or to be kind, or to pray, or to do anything. So when I became adultish and I was in that time in college when you look up and you realize that the world outside of your parents' house is different than what you grew up with. Me, I was like, "Wow, the world out here is not really great, like, this kind of sucks out here. What am I going to do?"
Anasa Troutman: And it's funny because there was never a question of whether I was going to do anything. It wasn't like, "Should I do something?" It was like, "What am I going to do?" And my decision was to build culture because that's what we did in our house. And so when I was just getting out of college I was 22 ... maybe 22 or 23 ... I worked in a record store and I met a whole bunch of artists and I decided that these artists were going to change the world and I started the record label. One of the artists happened to be India.Arie, who I think y'all have talked to recently, and that work and working with her and understanding that the power of culture, the power of song, the power of creativity outside of my little world ... going out into the whole wide world and seeing what her music did for people, proved to me that what I was thinking about was right.
Anasa Troutman: That sent me down a trajectory of the rest of my life to really continue to experiment with art, culture, and creativity as a tool for social impact. I did the music industry, I've been in politics, and now I'm really thinking about real estate development and resource development and community wealth building and all of that stuff, all in the cultural storytelling and all in the context of creativity, because what I know is that anytime you have a political or economic shift, that a narrative and cultural shift has to precede it.
Anasa Troutman: I have spent really my entire career, from being in my twenties, thinking and perfecting how to tell stories that open people's hearts, how to be able to have people see a new vision for the world if they are stuck in their old vision. And then, once you're inspired, then let's move and let's see what we can do. I have a company here in Memphis called Culture Shift Creative and it has a podcast and a media platform that we're developing called The BIG We. We're just doing our best to tell the stories that are going to get people to wake up and then give them something to do so that they don't wake up and then fall back asleep.
Jeff: Yeah. You know, it's funny you talk about waking up and ... first of all, thanks for sharing that story.
Anasa Troutman: Oh sure.
Jeff: I think I saw you speak, maybe it was a video, where you mentioned that you were quite shy growing up. And it's funny because I know you as exuberant and gregarious and articulate, and I don't know if extroverted is fair, but I know you that way. And I wonder if there was an inflection point in your life because shyness, belies your current character.
Anasa Troutman: You know what, I'm so happy you asked me that because I have had a humongous revelation about that very thing in the last couple of weeks, which has been really life changing. I think it's important because ... let me tell you a story first and then I'll tell you why it's important. I got a therapist. Therapy has been really funny to me because literally the lady just sits there and listens to me and I just jump through all these portals, like, "Oh my God, I never realized." And I just am talking myself through this thing, I'm paying this woman just to listen to me, which I guess is the point, right?
Anasa Troutman: But the other day I realized ... because I do, I tell that story a lot about how shy and scared I used to be growing up, because I really was. I understand why you don't recognize it because it's hardly there at all, but I used to be so shy that I would take my books, pull the couch out, and go sit behind the couch and read behind the couch. Or if we were out, I would just be literally hiding behind my parents and peeking around their leg or never saying anything and having things that I wanted to say. Being in a conversation or being in class or wanting to create something and just being like gripped with the fear of death and not open my mouth.
Anasa Troutman: I remember not being able to tell my parents I loved them. I remember talking to my mother one day and being maybe 11 or 12 and wanting to tell her I loved her so badly and just being so afraid just to say words. When I was in the therapy session the other day, I had clear and distinct remembrances of three or four instances in my life before the age of nine when I was all those things, gregarious, and loud, and vivacious, and creative.
Anasa Troutman: And I was like, "Wait a minute, I am not shy. I was afraid and wounded and scared and had to go through this process of combing through the incidences that got me from being a very expressive, very outgoing, very extroverted child to deciding that the world wasn't safe." And a lot of it is just because I was ... being an empathetic person makes you spiritually and emotionally very sensitive. So part of growing up in our country, is parents are not prepared to raise children who are emotionally sensitive. So the world at some point just got to be too much for me. Part of that was being on the beach as a seven or eight year old and being called the n-word by some guys in a truck.
Anasa Troutman: And going from feeling like, "Oh, everything is wonderful. I'm out on the beach. Life is amazing," because I wasn't with my parents, I was just with a couple of friends walking down the beach because I felt safe enough to do that. And then realizing that for me as an eight year old black girl, that the world actually wasn't safe. That was the beginning of me shutting down to the point where I just wouldn't say anything to anybody. What I'm learning is the work I have done over the past 10 years because I was like, "I'm tired of being quiet. I would like to be trained, and then speak up," and be all the things that you know me as [inaudible 00:17:02].
Anasa Troutman: It wasn't that I was creating a new personality, it was that I was uncovering all of the muck that I had put on top of my real personality to be able to rediscover who I actually am. The thing that's been so interesting about that is at the same time I'm in all these conversations about race and class and I'm discovering that ... what I know about every human being that I've ever met is that they have issues.
Anasa Troutman: Every single one of us have some kind of childhood issue. Some of us have worked through our stuff and some of us have not, some of us are halfway through. What I'm learning is that on top of all of this systemic historic narrative around race, class, gender, sexuality, all of that stuff, is also a layer of who people are, what their capacity for introspection, change, accountability, and so on and so forth.
Anasa Troutman: It just makes these conversations about global transformation all the more difficult because if we were just talking about social issues it will be one thing, but I have to talk to you about social issues through your lens of your own personal hurt. It makes it a thousand times more difficult, especially because most people, when they're in those conversations, don't recognize or acknowledge the person's humanity and the issues that they're dealing with that make them not be able to hear, or listen, or look at themselves, or change or any of that kind of stuff.
Jeff: Yeah, and I suppose that is hyperbolized right now.
Anasa Troutman: Oh yeah.
Jeff: That might be an understatement. What I witness in you is the approach to conversations with love and honesty, and an optimism really. I'm sure that there's plenty of dark nights of the soul going on as well, but I wonder if ... and I know we've talked about this before, but one thing I'm very grateful for is that you do step into the role, whether you see yourself as stepping into this role or not, as a bridge between people.
Jeff: And I really mean all people, but in this particular context, between black and white communities. And I'm grateful for that because it lets me be vulnerable and step in a pocket of shit, and with forgiveness. But I wonder how you see yourself and your role navigating this wickedness.
Anasa Troutman: In all honesty, I'm still working through that. It's a tight rope. I think the first time that I realized that I could, or even might, play the role of like ... I don't even know what you call them, like being an ally to white as they try to be allies to black people. That's what it feels like. I was at a retreat, maybe ... gosh, probably 10 years ago now, and it was a room full of people from all races. It was black folks and white folks and Southeast Asian folks and Latino folks. Everybody was in the room. And we were shown a movie called the Traces of the Trade.
Anasa Troutman: The movie was a documentary film about this woman, I can't remember her name, but this woman's grandmother wrote a book about their family history. It was like a 100 page book that had their whole entire family history. They were like an old New England family, and her grandmother had written this whole, whole, whole, whole narrative about their family history for their Christmas present one year, I think it was.
Anasa Troutman: So this woman, I want to call her Katrina, I think that's her name but don't quote me. But anyway, this woman read the book and there was one line that said, "And we were involved in the slave trade." And then that was literally the only line in the whole book. And she was like, "Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. We are a good New England family. How is it possible that we were involved in the slave trade?" And she started asking questions. She called her grandmother first and her grandmother was like, "You're worried about the wrong things. We're not talking about this. That's all that you need to know. Move on with your life. Don't focus on the negative."
Anasa Troutman: And she started asking questions in the family and people were getting angry with her. They were telling her, "You're making us look bad, you're kicking up dust, you need to stop this." And she ended up writing a letter to her entire family, it was like 300 people, and said, "This is something I'm curious about. I need to know what our relationship with race is and our history with race and slavery and I am inviting you all to go on a journey with me to figure out what this looks like." And she was getting hate mail from her family and eventually six other of her family members agreed to do this with her, and they hired a film crew and they traced their family's relationship with slavery all the way back to what their actual role in the slave trade was, and they had a major role.
Anasa Troutman: I won't spoil it for you because you should watch it. It's an amazing film. Their actual role in the slave trade as a good liberal North New England family who was part of the founding of Brown University. They're deep in the history of New England and saw themselves as like raging, Democrat, progressive. And they have a deep history with the slave trade. And then they went back to West Africa, they went to the Caribbean, and they literally retraced their family's route in the transatlantic slave trade, in the triangular trade.
Anasa Troutman: And the conversations that they had during the process were gut-wrenching. They were like, "Oh my God." It never occurred to me to think about what it must be like for a white person whose family has a legacy around slave trading and slave ownership, what that feels like. And in the room, when the movie was over, we were having a conversation, the amount of shame and anguish and pain, and embarrassment that was sitting with the white people in the room was incredible. It was like ... I never, wow ...
Anasa Troutman: It was a whole revelation to me. What I realized is that part of the reason why we haven't had really healthy conversations about race in America is because there's no place for white people's grief around it. Often what happens is there's either no place or it's centered, and neither one of those is really helpful. You don't get to come to a conversation about race and say, "Well, it wasn't me. I wasn't even there," right? Because that's one scenario, and the other scenario is you don't get to have feelings at all, which is not human.
Anasa Troutman: It's not human. How are you supposed to show up? How can I ask you to show up fully in a conversation and then ask you not to show up fully in a conversation. But the balance around trying to express the grief and shame without centering grief and shame is something that I find that white folks find hard to do. And on top of that, it is not my responsibility or obligation to help white people hold their shame and grief, but it's something I choose to do. But it's not for the faint of heart. It's very heavy. It's very hard. It's very painful. It's very violent to have to hold that kind of grief when you're holding so much of your own and so much injustice of your own, especially when it's still happening every day.
Anasa Troutman: It's not like, "We need to deal with this thing that ended 20 years ago so we can have some reconciliation." It's like this thing that happened 500 years ago, and 400 years ago, and 300 years ago, and three days ago, and three hours ago, and three minutes ago. So I'm actively having to process my own grief, my own fear, my own everything, and still hold you in a place where you can do the same thing so we can have a real conversation and you can activate.
Anasa Troutman: Because the other thing is some people are never going to activate. Some white folks are just going to be like, "That's not my thing and I'm so sorry for you and whatever," but for me, I need folks to activate. I do it because I'm optimistic and I'm like, "Well, surely you're not doing it because you don't really understand what's happening." So maybe if I make the contribution of creating space for you to actually experience your own feelings and relationship with what happened and then learn some more truth based on my perspective, then I'm sure-
Anasa Troutman: And they learn some more truth based on my perspective, then I'm sure surely you will do something because this is... Especially folks who are in the wellness community, just because I feel like we are a community of people who has a different kind of relationship with themselves, and with a different relationship with the world in theory. So we're generally people who pray, we're generally with people who understand how to be still, we're generally people who have some kind of embodiment practice, which gives you more access to hard conversations. And my hope is that folks are just sitting in their privilege and not really clear, or they're scared, or they don't have an entry point. And I feel like it's important for me, especially in this moment to do my best, to say, "Hey everybody, here's what's happening. Who's interested? And if you're not interested, God bless you," Because you'll benefit from the transformation anyway, but if you are interested and you do want to be active, and you do want to learn, and you do want to learn how to see other people in their full humanity, then I'm strong enough emotionally and spiritually to hold that weight.
Anasa Troutman: And I have my own community that I can go to when I get forward. And I know how to say no when I need a break. And I know how to say, "Actually I can't hold that today. You need to go call somebody else," And I also have white friends who say, "When white people call you, or if you can't handle it, tell them to call me and I got it," because that's what happens when you're in community, you have people who step up when you're not able to.
Anasa Troutman: And I struggle with the notion of doing other people's emotional labor because that's something I don't ever want to do whether they're in personal relationships or other. I don't want to do anybody else's work because I can't. But I do wonder, and I do continue to push myself and I do continue to experiment with what it looks like for me to be a clearing for other people's work when they're willing to do it. If you're going to show up, I will show up for you and help you until you don't need anymore. I don't know why. I don't know where that came from. I think going back, I keep seeing the flashes sitting in that circle after that movie is like humans... It looked like human suffering. It was like, you know what it looks like when people are in anguish, when they're in emotional anguish and they don't know what to do with it? And it had never occurred to me that there were white folks who were just like, didn't know what to do with the emotion of it, because it's a lot. It's a lot.
Jeff: Yeah. It's also interesting just hearing about your upbringing and how intertwined spirituality and culture and politics were in your upbringing. And as I studied a bit of American history, certainly like in the 1960s, when kind of liberal white, progressives in American started becoming interested in Eastern religions, and Buddhism, and meditation, and yoga, that was very closely Lloyd to political action. I mean, I remember interviewing Marianne Williamson one day and she was like, "I used to be eating in the morning and then, anti-Vietnam protest in the afternoon," and there was a much tighter unity between one's concept of their own spirituality and the wellbeing of society. And then somewhere, it feels like we lost our way and wellness and spiritual practices became very personal and obviously highly commodified and more associated with Lycra than civil rights, if you will. And I think we went through multiple generations of this idea of get your Solly, dirty politics out of my sacred personal space. This is where I go to escape that.
Jeff: Obviously I think since 2016, I think people have started to wake up, but what they... And make that connection a little bit more directly that the notion that I can't be well, if my society is not well, and drawing that straighter line between their own personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of society. But I think what we need in that regard are messengers to help shepherd that idea. And we need them in every community, but particularly in the white community that I think has looked to wellness as a... In a very commodified almost capitalistic way. So, I mean, just kind of bringing the conversation into kind of what's happening right now. And just for context for our listeners, this is Tuesday, June 2nd, that we're recording this. So we're eight days out from the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And over that period, boy, the world has changed. We've been witnessing obviously protests, largely peaceful, but not always, in virtually every American city. And now this has become an international phenomenon as there's demonstrations all over the world.
Jeff: And I guess my question for you is what's the difference this time? Because for 10 years it's been Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner and, Freddie gray, Michael Brown, and Brianna Taylor-
Anasa Troutman: I know, Amado Diallo.
Jeff: Right. Yeah, I was in New York then.
Anasa Troutman: Natalie Alice in Jersey. I remember it very clearly.
Jeff: Yeah. And what's the difference this time? Why did it boil over?
Anasa Troutman: I have been thinking about this for months, so I have the actual answer, but I want to go back to something that you said a few seconds ago that I want to just point out that it's very natural for Americans to take the sacred and make it a commodity, because our culture is really rooted in capitalism, and patriarchy, and white supremacy. So anything that doesn't do that, anything that doesn't... We don't figure out how to sell and make about us individually and be myopic about in all that, and turn our backs on the rest of the world is actually kind of cultural. And that's why we do it so easily, and we slip into it so easily, and we never even realized that until we look up and we're like, "Oh, wellness is no longer a practice of [inaudible 00:07:43].
Anasa Troutman: I think it's important that we understand that and we own that as a truth because the only way that we're going to have... We're going to be able to build a new culture for ourselves collectively is if we can acknowledge the culture that we've been seeped in this whole time.
Anasa Troutman: And that if we think about the fact that 500 years ago, this country started by some folks who decided that the people who lived here were not worthy of their life or their land, and they stole land committed genocide and stole a whole bunch of other people and enslaved them, is the same exact set of value that allows us to kill the planet, and to kill animals, and to use too much plastic. It's all the same disregard for life, for the sake of profit. And it's the same set of values that allowed us to go from a community of people who were practicing Eastern practices and forget about that and the most important thing is like, who's logo was on your booty, on your yoga mat.
Anasa Troutman: It's this literally the same culture and the same set of principles. And I think it's important that we start to make those connections so that we can see how pervasive it is, and how if we just make one shift, then the whole world of liberation for all people, all beings, all planet, all animals, all over the layer like this all shifts. If we just change the way that we interact with life in general, right? Because that's important-
Jeff: I think that's an incredible point. And you'd say it beautifully that the nature of our human relationships has become completely transactional. So if you're an economic unit that reflects value to someone, then you will be valued. But if you live under an overpass in Hollywood, you're basically not worth anything.
Anasa Troutman: That's right. And that's an extension of the last year, the 1619 podcasts came out, they had the second episode was about the economy. And they basically made an argument that our 21st century economy is derivative of a slave economy, which is why there's this thing around, what financial value do you bring? If you bring no financial values, then you're useless to us as a society. And also the way that we work in terms of all of us, no matter what color, what religion, what background we work too much. Our culture is about working too much and getting the most, last little drop of life we can get out of everybody. And if you can take a break, God bless you. What you probably not. I'm not even going to take a break when you have a break because we're so trained.
Anasa Troutman: The most important thing, our identity is connected to our work. And so we're all suffering from the idea that you can turn a human being into a commodity and have them spend their life force, making money for you. That's what corporate life is about. That's why so many people are like, "I quit my corporate job and starting to be a pastry chef because I felt like I was dying," Because corporate jobs are built to squeeze the life out of you. It's just the way our culture is built. So now I'm going to answer your question.
Anasa Troutman: Your question was what is different now, and I think a couple of things are different. I think that the thing that struck me first when I was thinking about this was that we have all been sitting at home for two and a half months, some of us were longer than that. And we all know in this community, what stillness does for you. And when you're sitting at home and you're not on a plane every week, or you're not going out every night, you're not self-medicating with shopping or drinking or whatever thing you do, friends, whatever you do. And many of us have been not just sheltering at home, but sheltering at home alone. And so our relationship with ourselves, whether you want it or not is deepening, our relationship with silence and stillness is deepening whether you want it or not.
Anasa Troutman: And the awareness and the listening that you have for life deepens when you have a stillness practice. So I think that that's part of it that we'd been sitting at home for almost three months. I think the second part of it is that people... There are some people who are leaning into the stillness and there are some people who are losing it, who are like, "I can't say in this house for one more minute," which is a whole nother thing to you, right? To you about being ready to jump into action and being ready to show up, being ready to say the thing, being ready to do the thing. And so I think that there's that. I think the third element of it is the narrative that we've all been listening to around the pandemic that is listing up these issues of race and class that has been here all along.
Anasa Troutman: So thinking about the number of people who are unemployed, thinking about the health disparities in black and Brown communities, the fact that black folks are dying faster, more often from COVID, the fact that folks in black communities in Latin X communities lost their jobs sooner, and in more volume, the number of folks who need frontline support, all of that stuff we were already for two months, we've talking about how hard it is for black Brown in poor communities. We were talking about that for two months, and talking about it in such a way that people weren't shocked, right? So it's like when the world is changing this fast and everybody is suffering and you like, "Whoa, I'm suffering because I just lost my job, but look at what you're dealing with," because it's on the news every day. And that is not something that people talk about on the news. Health disparities, income, inequality, the digital divide, that's not something you get that you hear, the narrative that you hear drummed into you everyday, everyday, everyday, everyday on the news.
Anasa Troutman: And so the combination of the hyperawareness of the issues that these communities are already dealing with on topics I'm even sitting at home and you're either activated to do something or you're listening very deeply, I think is how we ended up in a space where the world is activated around the response to the murder of George Floyd. And for me, when the pandemic first started and we first had to stay at home, I felt guilty because one, I enjoyed it because I liked being at home by myself. But two because I was excited because I was like, "This is a time where people are going to be suffering and I'm sorry for this suffering. And I also think that this is a window for people to actually see the truth of who we have been being and give us an opportunity to make some shifts." When you go through a global pandemic, there is no normal anymore. That thing that people keep being like, "I can't wait for us to get back to normal." Like normal is over with, it's over. Life is going to be different in one way or another from now on, because of what we've been through, just from the global pandemic.
Anasa Troutman: If you go back a week and it's like, "Life was never going to be the same already. And the decision was like, are we going to be a community of people in this country who support people in need, who have a culture of care and make sure that we all are living just equitable, abundant, joyful, beautiful lives, or are we going to get worse?" And are the inequities, and the divides are going to get worse and worse and worse.
Anasa Troutman: And now that we're also seeing this, the evidence of so many years of violence in terms of who we are as a militarized country, which is part of the conversation that was missing. So if you think about Martin Luther King, you think about his speech on April 4th, 1967, it was called Beyond Vietnam. You can listen to it on the internet. He gave a speech and he said like, "This war is unjust. I can't sit back anymore, I have to say something," and he turned that into a speech about the expansion of his theory of change from just talking about race, to talking about race, talking about class and talking about militarism. And he said that these are the three legs on the stool of injustice, and unless we can deal with these three things, then we are never going to have a free country.
Anasa Troutman: And what we saw during the first two months of a pandemic was a lot of conversation about race and a lot of conversation about class and what the emergence of this latest police monitor has given us is entry point into the conversation about militarism and what it means to be in an over police, over militarized, unjust practice around that part of our society. So what's happening right now is that we are squarely at the nexus of race class and militarism in our society. And everyone's like, "Holy crap. What?" And a lot of folks are waking up for the first time. There are those of us who live in black communities or Brown communities or in poor communities who are like, "Where have, y'all been?" Mad that people are just now like, "I can't believe that this is happening." Because for us as a day to day thing. I was called in work for the first time, at eight years old on the beat.
Anasa Troutman: So I'm not surprised when a black man is killed by the police, and the people who are shocked, we're like, "Man, okay, give me a few minutes because I needed to be mad for a second that you're just now figuring this out," and now that you're figuring it out like, what are we going to do? What are you willing to do? What do you see? What do you feel? And folks are like... People who are conscious don't want to live in a place like that. People don't want to live in a place that is unjust or unfair, but folks have been able to close to it. That's the power of white privilege. You get to not see it. You get to pretend like it's not there. You get to talk it away. You get to excuse it. But it's so on the surface because of those reasons that... You were to the point where you can't unsee it, you know what I mean?
Anasa Troutman: And again, as painful and as horrible as that is for me, it's an exciting moment because it's not like this has not been happening, but now, I mean, for God's sake, Disney did a seven minutes and 46 seconds off the air yesterday in the acknowledgement of a police murder. And I get that it's brands and the brands don't, are not whatever, but even that I would not have ever imagined that Disney, the Disney channel would have gone... Oh no, it wasn't Disney, it was Nickelodeon. That's even worse, right? Who would have ever imagined that Nickelodeon would have gone off the air for almost nine minutes in the honor of a black man murdered by the police. That to me says that the conversation is shifting and their openness for something new to happen that could not have happened a month ago.
Jeff: Let me digest all that for a minute.
Anasa Troutman: Yeah, please.
Jeff: Because I haven't thought about that trifecta. That's sort of, I guess, in this case, imperfect storm. And I'm going to go watch that video. I think that's one year to the day before he was assassinated.
Anasa Troutman: It was literally the year to the day before he was assassinated, literally. And it's a very, very powerful, very powerful speech. It's like shaped a lot of who I am. I listened to it intentionally for the first time a couple of years ago because of my work in Memphis. And it's like that speech plus the film called King In The Wilderness, if you watch those two things together, then you will... Your understanding of what we're dealing with politically and economically, and culturally will expand exponentially.
Jeff: I wonder if one of the reasons that we're seeing greater sense of outcry and involvement and statements from corporate America has anything to do with the lack of leadership that we generally count on from our public institutions. And I think we've been seeing that over the last couple of years where companies and the private sector seems to be more emboldened or feel a greater sense of responsibility for shepherding culture and society forward in the absence of leadership. So yesterday I'm sure you watched president Trump, and I don't, just to be clear, I don't bash the president on this show lightly. I don't do it flippantly, is I guess the word, but I do think it's important to talk about it because these are the times that we look to leadership.
Jeff: So I'm sure you saw this, the president was photographed outside of the St. John's Episcopal church across from the white house, holding a Bible and it was evidently protestors were scattered with tear gas, so he could make it there. I wonder how that made you feel, and what would be the appropriate kind of leadership that you would be looking for from a president right now?
Anasa Troutman: I wish you could see, I was literally holding my face. How do I even see? So it's so funny as you were asking your question, I'm like, "Oh right, I forgot to add the big condition that we're dealing with that has brought this moment on, and that is our presidential leadership." Because in one way or another, a lot of people have been suffering since the day he took office in a different way, and folks have been afraid and impacted in a way that has never happened in their lifetime. And I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true. And it's been interesting for me to watch corporate leadership in how folks are like, "No, we're not allowing you to do that." And, oh my God. Yeah. So yesterday I definitely watched the press conference, which is rare for me, because I don't. I have not been watching the news that much, but of course with all of the uprisings in all the communities, I'm watching the news more the last three days, because it's important for me to stay connected to that as I do work that I'm doing here to try to deploy resources and information.
Anasa Troutman: I'm trying to do my best to stay in touch with what's happening on the ground. And I happen to be watching when those peaceful protesters were shot with rubber bullets and tear gas to try to move them out of the way. So this man could walk across the street and hold a Bible up in front of the building. And there's so many things that were so painful for me to watch. One was him go in the Rose garden and give that speech where he acknowledged George Floyd for literally two seconds and then spent the rest of his time embodying the very thing that got George murdered in the first place, which is over militaristic, patriarchal language around control and law and order.
Anasa Troutman: And all the things that we're doing wrong, he was basically doubling down on to the point where he's like, "I am on top of all of that. I'm about to invoke the insurrection act," And it's like, that is an act that was put in place to deploy American military against American citizens when they're in a rebellion, trying to take over the government, and it's like, you equate... Are you telling me that you're equating Americans saying, "This is not okay, and you're hurting us," to a straight up like a coup of the government, because that's what you're saying, right?
Anasa Troutman: And the equating of the damage of human property... I mean, of people's property over the damage to human lives is just astounding to me, astounding to me, that somebody who is in charge of our wellbeing as a nation is taking that stance. And then to walk across the street standing in front of that church and hold up that Bible as a symbol of what? What is it that you're doing? And of course, it's wondering, I'm like, "Oh, he wasn't doing anything. He was sending a message to his evangelical base to make them excited and to let them know, let them know that he was still in control." But that's not what leadership looks like to me. I mean, and not that he's ever been anything that looked like leadership for me.
Anasa Troutman: And again, I'm not saying that to be flipped or anything. Honestly I'm saying when I think about what it means to be a leader that's not someone who embodies compassion, vision, strength, knowledge, communicate, like all the things that you want from people who are leading, he literally has not one of them. And by God, I wish he did. I really do. I wish that he was a better person and I wish that he had more compassion and more integrity, but he doesn't. And that's not... That he just doesn't. And to use imagery associated with Jesus who was actually one of the most powerful and intense to be field organizers and supporters of the poor and the downtrodden men, for him to use that imagery for political, financial, and military gain-
Anasa Troutman: For political, financial, and military gain is disgusting to me. It's disgusting. It's tone deaf to us, right? To his base, they're like, "Yeah." I was watching the news earlier and they're like, a lot of evangelical leaders were so excited about that and they were like, "Finally, yes. That's how you take control of the situation. Okay." But that's just old thinking, old patriarchal thinking. All that stuff, releasing its grip on society. And I feel like what we need to do... I have a terrible secret. I have a terrible secret to tell you. I can't believe I'm about to tell you this. This is awful. This is awful. I'm going to say it because we're having the whole conversation.
Anasa Troutman: So, the night that Trump was elected, I was at my dad's house in Florida. And I was sitting on their couch. Everybody had gone to bed because I was like, "I'm not going to bed until they settle this." And I was sitting on the couch and they announced him as the president and I burst into hysterical laughter. And I was like, "Well, here we go. This is the truth of who we are. And now we're about to have to deal with ourselves. Amazing. Fantastic. Let's go." And I knew that a lot of people were going to suffer and I knew there would be pain and I knew it was going to be hard. But I also knew that if you think about... And I also don't want to paint Barack Obama as the savior of all progressive politics because he wasn't. He did some things right, but he did a lot of stuff wrong, right?
Anasa Troutman: I do think that he was probably the most compassionate and spiritually mature president that we've ever had. Obviously he was the first black president and that means something to me too. But I don't want to paint him as if he is this bashing progressivity and he did all the right things, that he freed all the people, and freed the land. Because that's not what he did. But if we think about just those two people in the contract that they represent, they are both who we are as a country. And it was important that Donald Trump take this position so that we would have to face the other side of who we actually are as a nation. Because what he represents is very deep in the DNA and the cultural DNA of our nation. And we have been acting like it's not true for a long time. So, when politicians go on and we have inspirational speeches, people are like... Joe Biden did it today. Joe Biden did a speech today really kicking off his campaign.
Anasa Troutman: And he was like, "America is about freedom. America is about this. And America is about that." And while that may be true, America is also about choosing profit over people, commodities over communities. That is also very much who we are. Donald Trump is literally the concentrated manifestation of all those things about us that we don't want to look at and having Donald Trump as the president forces us every day to look on that TV, look on the news, listen to his complete and utter shenanigans and figure out how to reconcile the fact that he is a representation of who we are.
Anasa Troutman: Some of us are doing it. Some of us are laughing at him, ridiculing him, dismissing him and pretending that he's not a part of us, but we would do well to say to ourselves, "Let me look at this man and think about how I'm embodying what he's representing to me. And how I am impacting who we are as Americans and how we are facilitating and enabling the murder of somebody like George Floyd." Because we all are participating in patriarch, in hyper capitalism, in white supremacy. We all participate because it's the narrative that is pervasive in our education system, in our banking system, in our whatever system you can think of. Those DNA of this country is those things too.
Anasa Troutman: And unless and until we're willing, again, to face that, and what that does for us, in terms of the shame that we might feel, the embarrassment that we may feel, the denial that we may feel. Until and unless we're able to face our own darkness, individually and collectively as a nation, then we're going to continue to pretend like it's all good and we're going to be surprised when another black man gets murdered on the news.
Anasa Troutman: And so our opportunity right now is to be like, "Okay, this is part of who we are." Donald Trump was not an enigma. He was not because of this culture that we're in right now. He was a result and an expression of part of the culture that we have been embodying for 500 years. And this is a fantastic time for us to say, "Okay." Because the thing is, number one, every system boils down to people, right? So, I'm also... I also full disclosure am a person who believes in the spiritual evolution of humanity. So, we did nothing, in 100 years it would just be better because our souls will evolve, our understanding will evolve, our connection to God will be deeper and more intense if we will just be better. So, there's that, right?
Anasa Troutman: But I also think there is an opportunity for us to take a moment and once the veil has been lifted on the reality of race, the reality of class and the reality of who we are as the militarized government. And ask ourselves is that who we want to be? Or do we want to be the beloved community that King talks about in that speech? Are we interested in making the leap from being a society that is full of extraction and exclusion and violence, or do we want to be a fully interdependent, beloved community? Understanding that love is not always juicy and fluffy and easy and rainbows and sunshine. But sometimes love is accountability. Love is difficult. Love is hard conversations. Love is looking at yourself. Understanding all of that, this is probably the first time in my lifetime, certainly. And maybe ever, that the window is open wide enough for all of us to jump through it together. But we have to jump through it together.
Anasa Troutman: And I am looking for the people who are like, "This is going to be hard. And I don't really know how to do it. And I'm going to make mistakes. But I want to jump too." And that's why I spend my time in conversations like this saying like, "Let me create a portal for you to walk through because this is not just about..." This is not... My parents raised me to be very committed to black liberation and to black people. And I love black people. But if only black people get free, then we didn't do the thing.
Anasa Troutman: This is about, I'm a person you should never say all lives matter to. However, we have to make... Everybody has to get there. Everybody has to get there. We all have to get there. We got to get there. As a human race, we've got to get there. Now, am I going to be more committed and more active and more to black issues? Absolutely because that's my duty as a black woman, and it's also what we need to help bring equity. We got to do that work, and I think from a spiritual perspective there has to be an accounting for the fact that for some folks this work is going to be harder than for others. And I don't want people not to jump in because they're scared.
Anasa Troutman: I'm like, "Yes, it's going to be scary. Yes, it's going to be hard. But you know this was the right thing to do. Why don't you just come on? Just come on. Just come on and we'll figure it out."
Jeff: Yeah, I want to ask you, on that note, I want to ask you about religion. And...
Anasa Troutman: Okay. I love talking about religion. Yes.
Jeff: Because if everyone's going to jump through that window, it's going to be a lot of folks that believe in God, that are Christians in this country. And certainly, evangelical. So, I woke up this morning and a friend of mine had texted me a quote from Matthew. I'll just read it. It's pretty quick, Chapter Six, verse five. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father who is unseen. Then your father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Jeff: So, he sent it without any context, just sent me the quote.
Anasa Troutman: No context needed.
Jeff: Yeah, no context needed. And the president doesn't strike me as someone that can recite a lot of scripture on his own. But he certainly has a tremendous support of the evangelical community. I think 81% of the evangelicals voted for the president last time around. And when I look at some of the absolutely necessary structural organizations that can provide girding to a movement, I think back to the 60s and this Southern Christian Leadership Conference and snake, and what a big part the black church played within the movement. And I wonder where that is now, because for the last, I don't know, 20, 30, 40 years it feels like the right has a monopoly on religious morality. Even if the policies of that, of the right, are incomplete misalignment with the teachings of Christ.
Anasa Troutman: Yep.
Jeff: So, I just wonder, where is the black church right now within the movement? And do you see that as an integral part of the movement today?
Anasa Troutman: Yeah. I have so much to say about this. This is a whole nother podcast. Oh my-
Anasa Troutman: Yeah. So, jeez, where do I start? So, the first thing I will say and I think it's an important thing to be reminded of is that one of the most powerful tools that was used in slavery to keep folks enslaved was the Bible. And that there were so many scriptures that were pulled out, repeated over and over again. Slaves obey your masters, like that's in the Bible. And that was used to be able to keep folks enslaved and quiet. It's also been used against women, like this is the role of the woman, this is the place of the woman.
Anasa Troutman: You can use scripture to justify horrible things, right? So, first, let's separate the Christian doctrine and the Bible from the embodiment of righteousness, wisdom and joy and love. Because it's easy to do that.
Jeff: Yeah, fair enough.
Anasa Troutman: And I also love to remind people that Christ wasn't Christian. Jesus was a Jewish man who came into the world at a time when there was great corruption in the church, great corruption in the government. And he was like, "We're not doing this anymore, guys. These rules don't matter. What matters is that you love God with all your heart and that you love your neighbor as you love yourself." He didn't say start illusion in my name. He did not say build a bunch of buildings. He did not say oppress people with the Bible that you wrote down from remembrance of what I did and said. He didn't say any of that. He said, "Love God, love your neighbor as you love yourself. Those are the rules that you need to follow."
Anasa Troutman: And so I think that the foundation of this conversation is that, and the understanding that sometimes Christians act outside of the will of Christ. That's really important to know. And I think it's also important to know that there is actually a political strategy that created this idea of this Southern religious, white, evangelical, republican, right wing political context that was really about the fact that during reconstruction, a lot of white southerners who used to be Democrats during reconstruction, they were pissed because they were like, "Why are y'all spending all this money on building black communities? Why this? Why that? And why? We want slavery back. We're Confederates. We let the Dixie flag fly." People were pissed and the republican party made a strategic decision to lean into the discomfort and the disenchantment of Southern white people and said like, "We're going to build a party where we can magnify and lean into the fact that white people in the South are mad because black people are getting what they need to thrive."
Anasa Troutman: And the modern wave of white evangelical Christians comes from that. And because of that, the right has always done a fantastic job of talking about values and vision and like, this is our land. This is our country. We need to protect these values. And that is why they've been able to rise and to use SERP and take control of the moral stance in politics, because they don't talk about policies. They don't talk about like, "We're going to pass this law, that law." They talk about community. They talk about family values. They talk about God. They talk about all the things that resonate with us as human beings. Yes, their application of those things are nefarious from some people's points of view, but the way that they... Their marketing campaign is all about family, about values, about vision, about all that.
Anasa Troutman: And the left does a horrible job at that. We always want to talk about the details. We always want to talk about the policies. We always want to make people read 500 pages, white papers and this and that and the other. But we do a horrible job of inspiring people by sharing with them what our vision of the world is, and what our core values are. That is the thing that we need to really think about. How do we shift the narrative before we try to shift the policy? Because that's always the way this works.
Anasa Troutman: The second part of this conversation specifically about the black church is that if you listen to the... So, at Historic Clayborn Temple in Memphis, which is the real estate development that I'm working on, it's a historic black church that was the site of King's last campaign. So, when King was murdered in Memphis, he was working at Historic Clayborn Temple. And the man who was the chief strategist for that, for the sanitation workers' strike, that campaign, his name is Reverend James Lawson, who was the original architect of King being nonviolence because he met King when he was in his 20s and he had already traveled to India, traveled to Africa and had been studying nonviolence. And introduced King to Gandhi and nonviolence.
Anasa Troutman: Came to Clayborn last year. He's like in his 80s. He's the smartest man I ever met in my life. He's adorable and I love him so much, but we were talking and he said like, "When you think about the narrative of the black church and the civil rights movement, it's not accurate because most churches and most preachers stayed at home and did not show up for the movement." But because the ones that did were so prominent, it looks like it was a movement of the black church.
Anasa Troutman: The other thing that I think is important to know is when you're talking about the 60s, the idea and the context of respectability is important because at this point, you think it's bad for black people now? In the 50s and the 60s and the 40s, people were being literally lynched from trees all the time, right? That was happening a lot back then. So, what was important for the narrative, for the people who seemed respectable in society, who would be able to get the listening of folks, who would be able to not be able to be disparaged in the press, to be able to stand out front. So, if you think about Rosa Parks, Rosa Parks was like the fourth or fifth or sixth black woman that got arrested, that sat on the bus and got arrested.
Anasa Troutman: But the NAACP and other organizations made the decision to not put those other stories forth because one was an unwed mother, or one wasn't in Florida, one was too young, or one was this, or one was that. And Rosa Parks happened to be not just the person who sat down on the bus and got arrested, but she was also the person who was the perfect age, the perfect look. She had this secretary job, she was a churchgoer. She had all of that. There was no way that anybody could disparage her in the press. They couldn't disparage her character. They couldn't disparage her practices and defeat her. Her character was bullet proof from a modern, public point of view, right? In addition to that, Rosa Parks had been trained at a place called the Highlander Center in Tennessee on how to do civil disobedience, how to run organizations and all that stuff.
Anasa Troutman: So, when we look at the story that we think about, this was just a bunch of black people who went to church who decided... That's not what it was. It was a highly organized, highly effective, highly thought out movement. Right? And then, all the people fell in because at that point, every black person is going to church, every white person is going. Church is what you did back then, right? They was not... You think about society in the 50s and 60s and societies in 2020, the number of people who are involved in traditional Christian Church is totally different. Right? So, if you wanted to organize black people, you had to go through the church because it was where people felt safe, it was where they built community. Churches were not just where you went on Sunday. It was where you went on Wednesday night for Bible study. It was where you went on Saturday night for the social. It was where you went on Tuesday for the fish fry. It was where your kids went for kids' church and for youth group. It was like what you... It was the center of your community. It was not... People were not driving 30 minutes to go to church. They were neighborhood churches that provided food for your soul, for your body, for your mind and for your family.
Anasa Troutman: And so, it was a central organizing entity in every neighborhood so that when politics were activated, it just became the same thing too. Now, in the 21st century, I think that there are absolutely still religious leaders who are doing the work of social justice. If you look at Reverend Barbara, look at Reverend Saint Kooser in Memphis. You look at the whole institutions like Union Seminary in New York. There are religious institutions who are committed 100% to social justice.
Anasa Troutman: But I think people's relationship with church is different now. And I also think that there's a lot of people who are questioning traditional religious doctrine and who are like, "Wait a minute. I don't see myself in this. So, I don't see myself when I go to church and there's a white Jesus on the wall. Or I don't see myself when I go to church and you're telling me I have a demon in me because I'm LGBTQ, or I will see myself because I'm a woman. And you said that women can't lead in a religious space. So, I actually don't know if I can be my whole self here. If I can show up in my soul, if I can feel honored and loved in this space. And so, no I'm not going to give you those parts of me that are most tinder or most whatever. And I'm not going to trust you to lead me in terms of political organizing."
Anasa Troutman: And so, I think that there's a shift in the traditional manipulated religion that is traditional Western Christianity that people don't trust like they did back then. And people are building religion and they're building spiritual community in a different way, whether inside or outside of the Christian context, you know what I'm saying? And so, I guess the answer to your question is part of it is that the story that you think that you know about the role of the church is not exactly that. But also, so much has changed and people want to be free. And a lot of people, unfortunately, don't feel free in that context.
Anasa Troutman: And I hope that leaders who are followers of Christ and who understand the need to and the compulsion to rebuild the church, that that is more in alignment with who he was and what his vision for humanity was. Including the fact that he wasn't a white guy. We need to deal with that. Jesus was not a white dude, right? He was not born and lived in Europe. He did not have straight blonde hair and blue eyes. That is not who he was, and I think that that is like, when you're talking about society, if you tell the lie that in a Christian country, like understanding that we're a very diverse, and lots of people do lots of spiritual approaches. But for America, espousing itself as a Christian country, when you put the head of the church as a re-imagined white man with long hair, that's blonde and blue eyes. And you say, "This is the reason why white people are the best is because God is white."
Anasa Troutman: There's nowhere to go from there. There's nowhere to go from there. And when you have people on the news saying, not only is Jesus white, but so is Santa Claus and deal with it. That's not... That doesn't ever lead you anywhere good. It doesn't ever lead you anywhere good. And I also want to acknowledge a lot of folks who are listening, this a conversation around their dinner table with their family and their extended family. A lot of folks, a lot of white folks who have embraced Eastern religious practices or wellness practices or meditative and contemplative practices are in families that still believe in the old ideas about who white people are to the world.
Anasa Troutman: And we have to be courageous in having those conversations and find ways to discern who's interested in coming along and who's not. And then, stop fighting. Don't fight. Don't fight. Spend your energy working towards building a new reality and the new world, as opposed to trying to convince your uncle that Jesus is not white or whatever. Don't do it.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, no, I think it's interesting with what I would say is a cross racial disaffiliation with institutional religion that's happened over the last 20 years. I think one of the kind of perilous parts of that is the absence of community space and community place and organization, what fills that gap? And that's, if anything actually does, and that's a whole, I think, extended conversation.
Jeff: I want to bring in the dimension of COVID because it's a whole nother layer. Of course, two weeks ago, or even nine days ago from this recording. There was COVID all the time. And obviously-
Anasa Troutman: All day [inaudible 01:18:51].
Jeff: That's obviously the narrative has changed. And obviously we have lightly touched on the fact that African Americans have been disproportionately impacted by COVID. The numbers are striking. I did just pull a few statistics. In Louisiana, African Americans make up 32% of the population, but account for 70% of the deaths. And you can pretty much map that similar math, almost everywhere. And there's a lot of ground conditions or underlying conditions for that, that COVID has shown a microscope on.
Jeff: Nine days ago it was stay at home. Now, of course, since the death of George Floyd and everything that we've talked about that has now bubbled to the surface. We've seen protests all across the country. And I wonder what the message is out there because certainly, there is a public health risk that the community that wants to galvanize is putting itself at risk. But then, at the same time, I mean, what is the message? Is the message like go out and pray with your feet and hit the ground? Or is it stay home and focus on your own health and public health? It's very confusing.
Anasa Troutman: Yeah. That is the conundrum. And what I would say is that... Well, there's a couple things. So, the first thing I would say is two weeks ago, I mean, three weeks ago, the message was kind of stay at home. But there was also a whole bunch of people at a whole bunch of state houses with signs that say, "I need a haircut."
Anasa Troutman: People at a whole bunch of state houses with signs that say, I need a haircut. So, this is not the first instance of civil disobedience and people out in the street protesting. That was actually conservatives who were mad because they couldn't go to the movies. So there's that.
Anasa Troutman: The other thing I'm going to say is that three weeks before that, most of these folks who are in the street were at work because they're essential workers, because they work at the grocery store, because they work as delivery people, because they're nurses, because they work at the liquor store because they work at... you know, all the ridiculous things that we've decided were essential outside of the things that are actually essential. It's black people, Latinx people, poor people, indigenous people who are doing these jobs. And so for a lot of people, it would be like, people were getting mad because people were like going to the park. It's like, "You are making me go to work on Monday, but then telling me I can't go out to the park on Sunday. What are you talking about?" Like, the dissonance was already there.
Anasa Troutman: And so a lot of these folks have been going out every day already, and risking their lives every day already. And so to ask them to stay home and not risk their lives for their lives, doesn't make any sense. You know what I mean? And if none of that were true, if none of that were true and all them people were at home because they have jobs that they get to go on Zoom and they have a... if all that was true, even still, imagine how horrible this must be for us, if we decide that even in the midst of a global pandemic, I'm going out on the street because I can't not say no out loud in public, on camera, on whatever. Because that's what it's like for us.
Anasa Troutman: This is like, imagine, for us, George Floyd is a representation of generations and generations and generations of violence, of disrespect, of being told we're not human. Literally in the law, we were three fifths of a human, right? And yes, a lot has changed. Yes, slavery is over, thank God. Yes, we have made a lot of progress. But when you look at our practices, collectively, at who gets loans, at who gets jobs, at who gets respect, who gets rights... I as a docile, shy, pretend shy or not, African American girl, was followed around stores because people would suspect that I was going to steal something because I walked in with my brown skin. And that's real.
Anasa Troutman: And I know that a lot of folks don't see that. I know white folks don't see that, but that is real. It is real. And I am drenched in privilege. I have a physician as a father, an attorney as a mother. I went to college. I have a lot of class and education privilege, in spite of my lack of privilege when it comes to my gender or my race. And so even those of us who have privilege... Like, you saw Skip Gates arrested in front of his house. There's so many stories, right? There's so many stories. It doesn't matter how educated you are, it doesn't matter how smart you are, doesn't matter how articulate you are. If you are walking around in a black body, you are not safe in America. That's just the truth of what it is.
Anasa Troutman: And in order for us to... it's impossible to reconcile. There is no message, right? There is no message on whether you stay home or you go out to protest, because we've already been experiencing the conflicting message for this whole time about who has to go outside or who gets to stay inside and look out the window and go on Zoom. Right? When you order groceries, and they get dropped off, and you look at who's the person who's delivered your groceries, it's probably a black person or brown person or an indigenous person. That's just what it is.
Anasa Troutman: Because the way that structural racism is set up is that white folks have more access to jobs and to wealth and to resources, and have jobs that don't require them to leave their house during a pandemic. But that's not true of other folks. It's not true of black folks and brown folks and indigenous folks. We got to go out and work. We got to deliver your packages. And we got to make... you know, all the things that you're not doing for yourself, somebody who is one of those races is probably doing it for you. And so they've been outside this whole time. So, why can't they go outside and fight for their freedom and protect their families and rage against the machine that tells them they're not human?
Jeff: Yeah, that is a poignant observation, that, yeah, they have been outside the whole time. Okay, help me unpack something else.
Anasa Troutman: Okay.
Jeff: And we spoke about this briefly. And then... because I know it's getting late, and you're here on central time. So I respect your dinner schedule.
Anasa Troutman: No, it's all good.
Jeff: So today actually there is a campaign on social media to mute in solidarity. And in some cases I think that there is an encouragement to share African American voices on your own social media. And then there is another message, competing message, which is, silence is complicity. And certainly, Dr. King has his famous quote on silence that we see now as a meme.
Jeff: So, help unpack that for me in terms of, in your opinion, what is appropriate? Should white people be muting and listening and being humble? Of course they should, but is that the appropriate response, or does one use their platforms to speak out?
Anasa Troutman: I have such a profound answer for you. Are you ready?
Anasa Troutman: I don't know.
Jeff: I don't know either.
Anasa Troutman: Because I think one of the things that I've been sitting with for the past year or so is the truth that, if we're talking about, how do we build a just and joyful world, how do we do that, and the answer is that nobody knows... And that we're all just... we're doing the things that we think will work. Like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman, they didn't know if this... When Harriet Tubman decided to run the first time, she didn't know she was going to make it. She was just like, "I know this is what I'm about to do. I feel compelled. I have this spiritual grounding and it's telling me I got to go and I'm going to go. And life is uncertain, so nobody knows the answers."
Anasa Troutman: Like, this is so funny to me, people being like, "In these uncertain times." Life has always been uncertain since the first person was born. Nobody knew what's going to happen. We could all get swallowed by a tsunami today. Like, the people at the bottom of Mount Vesuvius, they had an uncertain life and so do we, right? No matter what plans they had made, they got eaten by a volcano that day.
Anasa Troutman: So there's this idea that people are supposed to know the answers. That just is not true. And what we can do is be in community with people who are more experienced or smarter than us, and decide to follow them, or to take our own experience when it's appropriate and lead when we need to. And I think that what happened today around the muting and the blackout, it's like, somebody had an idea. Somebody was like, "I feel strongly. I have this idea. And I want to do this."
Anasa Troutman: The question is, did they look around and say, who is leading in this moment? Who is holding the organizing? And should I check in them to see if this is something that's going to hurt the larger movement? It did not happen, because even in the social justice world, there's, like, folks who have been working all day to counter the impact of that black square on your Instagram, because folks were tagging black lives matter, the movement for black lives, and drowning out the fact that that movement for black lives was posting directives and resources and help for people that they weren't able to get to because they had a sea of black squares on their Instagram that were tagged, hashtag black lives matter.
Anasa Troutman: And so that's why organizing is so important, so that when we're doing these big sweeping requests of people, that they're actually coordinating in such a way that they're going to lead to something and not squash something else. And that's... We don't have a deep organizing practice. Like you said, back in the day, communities, both black church communities, Eastern practice relig- those folks were organized. And they knew where to look, who to look to, to get the instructions. There was a way for the information to get out. That's just not... it's not as widespread today.
Anasa Troutman: There is definitely organizing infrastructure. There are definitely people who are leading. And we're in this new reality, 21st century, age of Aquarius. And there's a shift from... I was just talking about this book last night, this book Leadership and the New Science, and the shift from traditional structures that were serious about your role, to new more open structures, where your relationship to people is more important, right? So we also have this shift in humanity that they don't talk about in political circles, they don't talk about on the news. But folks who are studying astrology or studying spirituality, and studying all that, we know of the last 20 years, there's been a shift in humanity. So new things are possible. But that also means that new things are emerging that we don't know how to manage yet.
Anasa Troutman: And I think what's important... Like, no, you shouldn't be... I mean, I don't think anybody should be silent in this moment. The people who are silent, I'm looking at you cross eyed. I'm looking at the other side of my eye, like, why aren't you saying something? I'm looking at you crazy if you're not saying anything. Does that mean that you need to feel like you have the answers and that you know what to say and that you know what to do? It does not mean that. It might mean that you need to be in relationship with other white folks who have been in this work around justice and equity and joy for all communities and get some instruction and some tutelage from them. It might mean that if you are in deep relationship with black folks already, or indigenous folks already, that you offer your support to them, and you say, "I want to be a part of this. Is there space for me in what you're doing?" And make that request.
Anasa Troutman: Please do not go and meet some new black friends and tell them you want to learn how to be a freedom fighter and to teach you. That's not their job. That's not their responsibility. And it's too much of a heavy lift for us. So do not do that. If you are from the beginning, from scratch, you can give to organizations who are doing this work. You can talk to... find white folks who are prepared to bring you into the fold and teach you how to be a part of this movement. And you can educate yourself, and you can read and listen to podcasts, and you can watch films and all that stuff, to get yourself to the point where you know more.
Anasa Troutman: But please don't feel like you have the answers, because we don't have answers. We have things that we're trying. We're building on old information, we're creating new information, and everybody is doing their best. And mistakes are going to be made. And that's okay, too, right? That's okay too, because as we're building a new world and we're learning that there's new space for our voices and there's new things to be done, we're going to make mistakes. And part of living in this new world of compassion and love and grounding the divine feminine is that we have grace and we have space so that when we make mistakes, we forgive ourselves, we forgive each other, and we say, "Well, what did we learn? And let's do something new. Let's do something advanced. Let's do something that builds on this thing that we just learned."
Anasa Troutman: And I think that that is really important, because this is not about being right. It's about being embodied in the values of a culture of care. That's what this is about. And if we want to live in a world where care is at the center, that means we have to be caring now. So when you see a man murdered on TV, it's not like... you don't need to know what to do, except for like, what would you do if you care? What would you do? What would you say? Where would you go? Who would you talk to? Who would you give money to? What would you read? Like, that's the answer. To me, that's the answer.
Anasa Troutman: I mean, everybody's doing their best, you know what I mean? We're all doing our best. And that doesn't mean be wanton to be reckless and just do stuff, but it does mean that you're going to make mistakes. And I would rather someone make a mistake in earnest, than do nothing because they were scared.
Jeff: Yeah. And in terms of organizations that you feel are, I suppose, well organized and have good institutional leadership, who do you look to right now? That can be leading that on the ground?
Anasa Troutman: Yeah. I think that there's a few people. I think if we're talking specifically about where we are today, I think that there... I mean, obviously the work that Movement for Black Lives has been doing this whole time is phenomenal, important, needs to be paid attention to, it needs to be supported. There is an organization called the Minnesota Freedom Fund, that's been working specifically in this place, in this new nexus, of work that's been happening. There's another place that's amazing called the Black Visions Collective that is doing amazing, phenomenal, incredible work.
Anasa Troutman: And there's a lot of local people doing amazing work, and they've been doing this work for a long time. Right? So wherever you live, there is a way for you to find out who the justice oriented organizations are that are doing amazing work. I don't know who they are in wherever you live, but I guarantee you, they're not difficult to find.
Anasa Troutman: And I think that there are also resources specifically for white people. If you go on and you're like... do a Google search for how to be anti-racist or do a Google search for your town and the folks who are doing work in your town, and you can find ways to plug in and to support and to be a part of what's happening, even if you've never done it before today. Don't feel like you have to take some course or read five books or know all the vernacular and all that. You don't. You've just got to get off your butt and get activated.
Jeff: Yeah. Are you hopeful?
Anasa Troutman: Always. Always.
Jeff: I know you are.
Anasa Troutman: Always. Always. In some ways I'm more hopeful today than I ever have been, just because eight months ago when I was in Memphis, suffering, dealing with my own version of patriarchy and white supremacy, and not knowing if anybody in the outside world was ever going to care or change or do anything, or even if the people who wanted to do something were ever going to have the space for it to actually work, I was not as hopeful as I am today with everything that's going on. Because the thing that makes me hopeful is that the more people we have that are aware, and the more people we have that say no, make the possibility of a new future more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more real.
Anasa Troutman: And, I think it's important to note that being hopeful and making progress, doesn't mean ease, and it doesn't mean no pain. If we are midwives to witness and support the birth of a new reality and a new humanity, birth hurts like hell. If you've ever had a baby, if you've ever watched somebody have a baby, it is, like, the most pain anybody that I've ever seen has been in. And there are moments that it's dangerous. There are moments when you cry your eyes out. There are moments when you want to punch people. There are moments where you're confused, where you feel like you can't do it. And then on the other side, you get the greatest gift of life.
Anasa Troutman: And so I am hopeful, and I know that this is not going to be easy, and I know that people are going to make mistakes, and I know that all kinds of violence and terrible things are going to happen in the midst. And, if we're going to have a hard time, we might as well have a hard time in the quest for joy. In the quest for justice, and the quest for abundance. Yeah. That's how I feel.
Anasa Troutman: It's worth it. It's worth it. There's this quote that India and I have been wrestling with this, like, "Is the life we're living, is the work that we've been doing all these years, is it making a difference?" And this quote that she's found, it says, "He who plants a seed knowing that he will never enjoy the shade is beginning to understand the meaning of life." And we had a conference online with Wellness of We this week, and she came on and did a thing and she was like, "Plant the seed, not because you want to see the shade, but because you want to plant the seed."
Anasa Troutman: If you're just sitting in your house and you're suffering because you're like, "This is not how humanity should be, this is not how I want to be, this is not how we should live," and you want to plant a seed, plant a seed because it's the right thing for you to do in this moment. Not because you have all the hope that in your lifetime, you're going to see the fruit of your labor, because that's not what this is. That's not what this is.
Anasa Troutman: My grandparents who were born slaves did not do the work that they did to be able to own their own land, because they knew that they were going to live in 2020 and be able to have whatever, the things that I have. They did it because it was the right thing for them to do in the moment, because they refused to sit and live in a context that kept them enslaved. That's not what they were going to do. And so, do it because it's the right thing for you to do now.
Jeff: Yeah. Anasa Troutman, thank you for being, first of all, such a good friend-
Anasa Troutman: Oh, thank you.
Jeff: ... but also, and such an articulate, outspoken leader who's really just helping to shepherd a lot of people through this time, both black and white. And I'm very grateful. And it's hard to imagine that you were ever shy.
Anasa Troutman: [inaudible 01:41:59]. I do not lie.
Jeff: But I'll meditate in that. And yeah, I'm here humbly as your ally in any conquest, whether it's large or small. So, thank you so much.
Anasa Troutman: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Jeff: Yeah. Ah, that was awesome. Thanks so much. You're just... I mean, really, just so great. Yeah.
Anasa Troutman: Thank you.
Anasa Troutman: Yeah, that was better than I thought it was going to be. That first stuff, I was like, "What, you just said that that was good?"
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, no, there's, like, a book of pull quotes in there, and we'll go through them and harvest them because, I think this is what people want. And it's sort of like, there's a reality, but also it doesn't have to be just doom and gloom. And I think people... Man, this on top of COVID, people are so numb and freaked out, you know? Like you and I, we have some tools to manage our fear and anxiety and distress and all this stuff, because we've been through it. But I think the human condition for a lot of people is just absolutely devastating. People don't even know what to do.
Anasa Troutman: Yeah. I think that's true.
Jeff: But there's so much packed in there too. Man, it's like, also, I'd love just to go and... all the stuff that... your commentary on religion and sort of the repackaging of the civil rights movement from a religious perspective is so fascinating. Really fascinating.
Anasa Troutman: It's deep. It's deep. There's so much, there's so much, there's so much unsaid and unknown. It's like really deep. This is so deep.
Jeff: Great. Well, I'm going to get this out, because we're going to try to turn it quick, and I think it's going to be probably two, so we'll probably cut it in half and do then back to back, like maybe Thursday, Saturday, or... I don't know. I've got to talk to my production guy. But yeah, obviously the time is prescient for this.
Anasa Troutman:Thank you for letting me do that. Thank you for letting me-
Jeff: Yeah. And on bigger scale, I'm here. I'm here for you, and... the way you've been there for me. And, you know, I have this platform and I want to use it in the right and appropriate ways and whatever that looks like, I offer that up, humbly, just for summits videos, what... I don't know. Any way that we can be useful.
Anasa Troutman: Yeah. I want to talk more about that, because I think that that's right, but I don't know what it looks like.
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