EP002: Andréa Ranae Johnson - Making Space to Be Human

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A conversation about taking care of yourself while reaching out to others, and what happens when two connected but disparate worlds (coaching and activism) collide. New episodes every other Tuesday! Subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, or your favorite podcatcher. 

Introducing Andréa Ranae Johnson

This week, an interview with Andréa Ranae Johnson. She’s an activist and a coach, and she runs an online class called, “Coaching as Activism.”

When I first encountered Andréa through her writing in 2016, I had been feeling this weird tension, like I was straddling two worlds. One was about personal change, and the other was about social change. And I had this sense that on each side of that divide, there was a suspicion of the other. And as someone who was trying to do my work in both world’s, this was often unsettling to me, but in a way I was having trouble naming. The good news was that I didn’t have to, because Andrea was, well, naming the hell out of it.

She was raising questions that I was still trying to formulate. Questions like, “what’s up with this divide between personal change and social change? Why is it so racially segregated? And why does it seem like we talk about personal change like it’s somehow separate from social change?” Those are the kinds of questions that led her to creating her class, Coaching as Activism. And as it turns out, those questions were really personal for her too.

Interview Highlights 

[26:07] I know a lot. I know a lot more than other people about these subjects. And there's a lot that I don't know. There's so much more that I don't know. 

..So when I'm speaking with someone who has been -- especially with white folks, but with anybody in general who is having this "veil" lifted.... I was there too. I had the same experience....

And I'm still there in a lot of ways. So I would want someone to come to me with some compassion as well. But still not hold back, not coddle. I would want the truth. I would want to be met with a clarity about what's happening.

But all my work is about honoring the humanity in other people. 

[34:12] I see social justice work, and reclaiming our humanity as a really spiritual thing. It’s like THE most holy and sacred thing that I feel like I can do. That connects me to whatever is beyond us. And because it’s whatever made possible… us, being on this earth. God, big bang, evolution, whatever. We’re here, and we were built to be human, to have feelings, to connect with each other, so we can survive and thrive. And there are so many things that get in the way of that. So many systems that we have built. ...cultures… to be able to unpack that, unravel it, release it, change it, transform it, into something that is more humanizing and that does honor our being, the totality of who we are… it’s everything to me.

[38:37] Unless you are really interested in creating change in the world, I can't force that on you. and i'm not really interested in convincing people tht they should care what happens in the world because that is exhausting. but if someone is saying "I'm doing this because I want to create change in the world. I'm doing this so I can support other peole to make their difference in their communties and families -- then I have an entry point. because then it's a matter of integrity.

[42:07] Around the time when Tamir Rice had just been killed, and we were just getting news about decisions being made that there would be no indictment for the murders for Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice. And there was a lot of energy happening in Ferguson, and it was the first time I really, really felt what it means to be Black in this country.

And how painful, even if you're not connected to what happened in another part of the country, you are, because you're Black. and, it was really painful for me... I spent two weeks, just distraught. And I was watching what happened, watching my twitter feed and facebook feed, and seeing all this go down and so much happening all at once, and I would see posts from people I was follow that are about healing and personal growth, and they were acting like it was business as usual.

And I was like, 'what?' ... And you're not going to talk about it because it doesn't have anything to do with your work? Or you're not going to talk about it because you don't talk about politics in your work? But i'm the person you say you want to support. I'm Black in America, and I'm going through a lot of stuff right now. And by you not addressing that, and acting like nothing is happening, that let's me know that your work is not for me. It's not, because you have no idea what support I need. So for me, it was a very personal thing.

[51:41] I think about Erica Garner, and how hard she was going for her dad, and to get justice for her dad and for other people who had been murdered. It's literally heartbreaking. And I can imagine that her heart was literally broken, just from losing her dad. And to have to fight so hard for people to even consider that something was going on. That something was off with the way that her dad's life was ended. And she lost her life, fighting for that.

And there are so many factors at play, but I really want to support people to do all that they can to take care of themselves, and to take care of each other.

And if we're not having conversations about our capacities, and our support that we need... we won't be able to have the... the longevity of someone who has all this knowledge, expertise, and awareness and has been working really hard and comes to a hard stop. Because they've been worn down so much. we don't get the benefit of just being with that person, and learning from them and continuing our work together. 

A big thanks to our sponsors:

Alexis P. Morgan is a writer and artist. You can see her unfolding work, “The Season of Maya,” at https://www.thechurchofsaintfelicia.com/

Sasha Allenby is a ghostwriter for thought-leaders in the social evolutionary field, specializing in books on socio-economic, racial, sexual, gender and refugee equality. www.sashaallenby.com