Activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham on Building a Lasting Movement (ep. 108)

July 2, 2020
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In the last month, protests have erupted across the country calling for justice for Black lives, a wholesale restructuring of policing, and a greater racial reckoning across all facets of American society. 

It feels like change is in the air. But we’ve been here before: Eric Garner was killed by police in New York City in July 2014, followed weeks later by Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, igniting outrage and protest. Activists then hoped for change too. 

We’ve seen countless social justice movements surge in popularity, cause a stir, and then peter out weeks or months later. This time, however, feels different, but how do we actually ensure that it is different?

Joining us to discuss how we sustain movements and compel real change is Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist, educator, and writer who has been on the frontlines of these conversations most prominently since the Ferguson protests.

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KENDALL CIESEMIER
From the ACLU, this is At Liberty, a podcast about the civil rights and civil liberties questions of our time. I’m Kendall Ciesemier, the producer of this podcast and your host for this episode.

Breonna Taylor. Rayshard Brooks. Riah Milton. “Rem’mie” Fells. Tony McDade. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Oluwatoyin Salau. Elijah McClain, — all Black Americans still awaiting justice for their wrongful deaths and we know there are more. In the last month, protests have erupted across the country calling for justice for Black lives, a wholesale restructuring of policing, and a greater racial reckoning across all facets of American society.

It feels like change is in the air. But we’ve been here before: Eric Garner was killed by police in New York City in July of 2014, followed weeks later by Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, igniting both outrage and protest. Activists then hoped for change too.

We’ve seen countless social justice movements surge in popularity, cause a stir, and then peter out weeks or months later. This time, to many, however, feels different, but how do we actually ensure that it is different?

Joining us to discuss how we sustain movements and compel real change is Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist, educator and writer who has been on the frontlines of these conversations most prominently since the Ferguson protests.

Brittany, thank you so much for joining us!

BRITTANY
[00:01:38] Hey, Kendall. Thanks for having me.

KENDALL
[00:01:40] So for context for our audience. I've known you, Brittany, for a few years now --

BRITTANY
[00:01:45] For a little while.

KENDALL
[00:01:46] Yeah. We spoke briefly right after the protest ignited, it's now been about a month since. And I'm wondering where your head's at right now and what are you thinking about?

BRITTANY
[00:01:55] Yeah, right now I'm feeling ready, is the most clear word I have. And that is not by happenstance. When you live in this skin, when you have a marginalized identity, when you have more than one marginalized identity, it doesn't turn off like a water faucet. And it doesn't end when people decide to go home or change their timelines back to normal on Instagram. So there is a readiness that I feel because this has always been my work and it has always been the work of so many people that I love and respect and learned so much from. And they and our ancestors and our elders have been preparing us for each and every time a new chapter to the freedom struggle begins. So in this moment, I find myself recognizing that there is a palpable power, that we're seeing folks not just in urban cores where we always see this kind of activity -- I live in Washington, D.C., and this is a place where there's literally always a protest happening -- but we see this also happening in rural communities and suburban America. And young children are deciding to pick up signs and markers and march around their neighborhood right and in mixed race groups, no less.

So I think that there is something that is uniquely happening right now in terms of other people's readiness because of the preparation that has happened over the last six or seven years, and the last six or seven generations. To have the books to read at this moment, to have the films to watch at this moment, to have the examples of protests to follow in this moment, to have the voices online to follow in this moment, to to have better structures and systems for how to push on outward systems, to create more justice. But also how to do the inward work to shift our own personal mindsets and behaviors. So I feel ready. And I think a lot of other people are finally ready in a moment that they have been being pulled to for a number of years.

KENDALL
[00:04:04] Yeah, I mean, I think a lot about how preparation and opportunity meet. That's what they always--

BRITTANY
[00:04:09] Yeah.

KENDALL
[00:04:09]
-- talk about, right. I wanted to touch on one thing that you noted in the beginning, right. That you, we see these waves of activity and we learn from them and prepare for the next one. Right.

BRITTANY
[00:04:22] Yeah.

KENDALL
[00:04:23] And that this has been going on for a very, very, very long time.

BRITTANY
[00:04:27] Yeah.

KENDALL
[00:04:27] Not just starting with Ferguson. I wonder, though, if we went back to Ferguson, because that's where we first heard your voice on the national stage, what about that experience was different? And what did you learn from that experience that you've applied to today?

BRITTANY
[00:04:46] I think one of the things that's different about now compared to Ferguson is that we see a broader and much more intentional network of individuals, organizations both nationally and internationally, standing at the ready to do the work. A lot of the organizations that we are following now found their footing or literally were founded in 2014 and 2015. Right. So we know that the Black Lives Matter Global Network was founded in 2013. We know that organizations like Movement for Black Lives, which is really actually a coalition of many organizations that were started in that era, between 2013 and 2015, that they operate as one. There was a lot of work and planning that went into making sure that these networks existed for such a time as this.

I think we're also seeing a greater readiness right now to -- to have come into fruition the honor and dignity that Black women, Black queer folks, Black gender non-binary folks and Black trans folks have in their centrality to this movement, right. In 2014, these ideas of patriarchy and transphobia and homophobia and trauma parading around as culture were things that we were just starting to push on. There was learning that all of us were just doing. There were lessons that all of us were just learning. There were connections and relationships that we were just building with people who were very different than us, but who have been critical to freedom work always, but who are finally being seen as the backbone of this work. And some of the things that were being unlearned starting in 2013 and 2014 and 2015, we’re now able to put some of those lessons to the test. Because we're never trying to replace one supremacy with another. Right. I mean, if if what we get out of this is Black male supremacy or Black cis supremacy or Black straight supremacy or Black Christian supremacy or Black able-bodied supremacy, then we will have failed. The point is to be trying to build the world that we want to see as we are moving toward it, which is a difficult task. But if our movements aren’t equitable then the world that we build together will not be. And so I think that we've learned a lot of those lessons over the last couple of years, myself included. I've learned a great deal about disability rights and what Black and disabled folks are teaching us and how much they are sacrificing to make sure that these conversations are inclusive and to make sure that justice is real. So i think that those kinds of lessons happening in real time are really powerful for folks, because even though the Internet might drag you left and back and forth for your evolution, personal evolution is actually critical to this work. We are much better digital organizers now than we were in 2014. We know how to use the tools and not have them be used against us, to the best of our ability. We certainly have deeper relationships and relationships and community matter so much.

KENDALL
[00:07:49] You talked about the process of public learning and what that can do for people.

BRITTANY
[00:07:54] Yeah

KENDALL
[00:07:54] Education and teaching have been a big theme of your personal journey. You were a teacher at Teach For America. You rose up the ranks there. What role do you see education playing in activism and how do you employ teaching in your own personal activism? How do you navigate that idea of being a teacher innately yourself and knowing when you want to step in and teach people, and when you know you could

BRITTANY
[00:08:23] When I can pass it on to somebody else?

KENDALL
[00:08:23] White people gotta show up for -- yeah.

BRITTANY
[00:08:26] Listen, I believe that teaching is the first line of revolution. A lot of people say it's the final stage of revolution and I’m like no, no, no. It is, the classroom is the first stage of revolution. I just repurchased Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed because my old copy is literally falling apart because I've spent so much time in that book. But I felt like I wanted to recenter myself in that ideology, that understanding the depth of thought that is presented in that book, which has an educational framework but is ultimately applicable to the work and the cause of justice in all ways. He talks about the purpose of education for oppressed people being to free ourselves and our oppressors, which is a radical idea when you really think about it, because it correctly places so much agency and so much power in the seat of the people who are pushed most to the margins of society.

And when I think about it like that, I recognize the power in the 60 third graders that I taught in southeast D.C., the power in the home that they came from, the power in the churches and mosques where they worshiped, the power in the conversations and the lessons that were being had on basketball courts and on street corners and in front of Lifts market -- which was the place I used to go and get half smokes across the street from our school.

[00:09:48] And three pillars: academic rigor, cultural confidence and critical consciousness, are the pillars of culturally responsive pedagogy. And that is a theory of education that I actually became introduced to after I was done teaching, but when I was leading Teach for America in St. Louis. And when I really wrapped my arms around that, it was right in the middle of Ferguson. And I found myself -- yes, I was out there as a protester, I got appointed to the Ferguson Commission, appointed to President Obama's policing task force -- but my chief function during that time was to make sure that I was giving as many culturally responsive educators to schools and to families and to students as I possibly could. And it was a steep learning curve for our whole team. But we completely shifted the way that we were doing the work. I obviously had always been diversity-minded and equity-minded and justice-minded. But for me, this was the real linchpin to make sure that our classrooms were places of revolutionary learning. And I almost hesitate to say the word revolutionary because the kind of underpinnings of this, again, being confident in who you are, aware of the world and then applying your skills to change the world is not truly a revolutionary act, right. That should be normal. That should be regular. That should be how everyone is experiencing education, whether you're in a public school, private school, charter school. I don't care. So I learned a lot in that time about who was ready for that conversation and who wasn’t, who felt threatened by that conversation and who didn't, who had been begging for teachers like that and who had to warm up to the idea.

KENDALL
[00:11:26] And now you really take a lot of that, in my opinion, to your platforms, right like you do a lot of educating.

BRITTANY
[00:11:34] Yeah, and I see that as my role, right. Like I spent a lot of time as a woman of faith in prayer in conversation with people who love me, really looking at when I go out and speak or I write something, what people respond to and take with them. And I kept finding myself coming back to feeling good when people said, you know, you said that thing or you wrote that thing, and then my next team meeting was different. Or I went and parented my children differently or I decided to go and pick up this book that I had never considered. It was when people took action from my words that I felt like I was accomplishing something legitimate. And so I really got down to this idea that my purpose in life is to speak and teach truth that moves people to action. And listen, if someone does not choose to be your teacher in that moment, especially if they come from a marginalized background, then it is our responsibility to respect that, understand it and ask no more questions. Right. I mean, that is the end of the conversation.

KENDALL
[00:12:31] Find it somewhere else to put your question.

BRITTANY
[00:12:34] Find somewhere else to put your questions.

KENDALL
[00:12:34] Google.

BRITTANY
[00:12:35] Google is still free, right? There are so many brilliant people online who are talking about everything from anti-racism work to, you know, Black queer feminist theory and lots of things inbetween. They’ve already written the books, written the blogs. And they're already engaged in these conversations. So if you follow them and you follow their hashtags, you can actually get this knowledge without asking anybody to perform any extra labor. But in my agency in my natural, I think, acclimation toward educating folks, I have chosen to do this more often than not. And when I don't have the energy or when I don't have something to teach in that moment, I quiet myself. Now it's time for me to sit back and say, OK, what don't I know? What's next? What is next for me to learn and then for me to share?

And so I chose this like I chose taking the stance of an educator publicly. But that also means that I chose the stance of being a public learner. And we need to make sure that we are looking to the people who have chosen that path and respecting the boundaries of people who are making offerings in different ways, who are giving you their art, who are giving you their music, who are giving you their photography, who are just telling their story, right. Who are just talking about what it is like to live in the body that they are in. And there's plenty to learn from that without them deciding actively to educate you. So, yeah. Respect the boundaries of folks who don't choose that and continue to listen to them.

KENDALL
[00:14:11] Yeah, I think that's so right. Who’ve been the greatest kind of teachers in your life? Or in this moment? Who are you looking to?

BRITTANY
[00:14:21] So, so many teachers. Reverend William Barber I think is one of the most profound and prophetic people we have the privilege to witness work during our lifetime. His attention to fusion politics and to the violence of poverty, to the power of solidarity between people from marginalized and oppressed backgrounds is always instructive to me. And that requires that people from marginalized and oppressed backgrounds actually recognize that we have more power together than we do in competition with each other because it is supremacy that put us in competition with each other in the first place. So he's definitely one of my teachers.

I just recently virtually -- not in person because, you know, the ‘rona -- but virtually met a young sister, Nala Toussaint, who does incredible work on behalf of and as a part of Black transgender communities. She is a seminary student. She does a whole lot of work in the community. She raises funds. She gives people access to services. I mean, she literally has her hands in everything and does so much. And she said something to me. She said, you know, I feel like folks need a place to put their trauma, and too often they choose Black trans women. And I had been thinking about that ever since. Right. About what it is like to be at the bottom of the ladder and have everyone’s trauma fall to you while they stand on your shoulders to get free, right. It knocked me off my feet. And she can even just in the few weeks that I've known her, has continued to be such an incredible teacher.

[00:16:04] My husband is a brilliant photographer. Reggie Cunningham, he is a brilliant, brilliant photographer. And the way he sees the world is so, it's so brand new to me. Like the way in which he just can see people's humanity so deeply. He does portrait photography in particular. And he really focuses on people's eyes. So he'll take a picture and I'm like, this is beautiful. And he's like, well, you know, he'll be able to pull out the sadness or the grief or the joy-- I mean, all of it. And that's like how he looks at the world all the time. And I'm constantly trying to look at people's hearts and not just their actions. And he helps me to do that.

My parents continue to be hugely instructive in my life. My dad was a pastor and a professor of Black church history and Black liberation theology. So whenever people are like, what was the spark for you to choose activism? And I was like, the spark was literally when I exited my mother's birth canal. I had no other option but to do this because I used to sit in the back of college classrooms and hear him talk about a brown skinned, nappy-haired table flipping Jesus and the Black church as an institution for earthly freedom. And so, like, I was like I don’t know anything else. My mother is also an educator and founded the first student support services for multicultural students at our largest public institution in St. Louis, where I grew up. And so she was constantly doing the background work right, of making sure that people had what they needed, that they were supported. She's also a minister. So she can, both of them can preach people down, and as we say in our space can preach their socks off as we also like to say. So she's an incredibly powerful orator. She also knows how to hold people up and aim for change more than credit. And I learned that from her.

[00:17:52] My brother is the last person I'll say, Barrington. He, as a young Black boy, my mother was told that he'd never learn how to read. And in 2015, he graduated with his master's from Yale Divinity School, which is also my father's school. And he just continues to defy expectations all the time. And so I, he is always instructed to me about how to just keep my hands to the plow and not give up no matter what folks have to say.

So I learn so much from so many different people. But I am always grateful when people decide, even if they don't know it, to pour into me because I have plenty to learn and I'm excited to learn all of it.

KENDALL
[00:18:31] So you mentioned your family, which I love. And they had a very prominent place in this program that you did with Billie Eilish. Very cool. You took over Billie Eilish’s Apple Music Radio Show called Me and Dad --

BRITTANY
[00:18:46] Thank you,

KENDALL
[00:18:46] for Juneteenth. You said in the episode this moment isn't about just police brutality, but the truth of our existence.

BRITTANY
[00:18:55] Yeah.

KENDALL
[00:18:55] And I think, you know, it's so great that we are in the practical mode of pushing forward, defunding the police and looking at budgets and slashing them. Right. But where else do we need to have this critical eye and how can we apply it to other things?

BRITTANY
[00:19:14] It's so interesting because I think people are learning quickly, if they did not know, that this is about more than police violence, that it has always been about more than police violence. Police violence is a symptom of the virus of white supremacy, both as a system and as a culture. And it is a global system, a global culture. And so every chapter of the freedom struggle from, you know, early colonial times, through chattel slavery, through Jim Crow, through the crack epidemic, through the tough on crime era, through Ferguson, through right now, has always, always been about ridding the world of the cancer of white supremacy, systemic racism and systemic oppression. And you can tell because if it were just about police violence, then Aunt Jemima would still be on the box, Band-Aid would still be making one color, right. I mean, places from your yoga studio to your favorite cereal company wouldn't be talking about Black Lives Matter on Instagram, let alone talking about making plans to create anti-racist spaces and companies and institutions. So if you were sleeping under a rock somewhere and thought that this was just about one case or one city or even one system, you are mistaken. This is about the whole thing. This is about transforming the entire thing, which obviously you already know.

But inside of that transformation, we are required once again to recognize that, as Fannie Lou Hamer said, until all of us are free, none of us are free. And many people have repeated that same sentiment over time. Lilla Watson, who was an Aboriginal activist, said that if you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because you know our liberation is bound up with one another, then let us work together. Right? It's the same idea that I can't get free, Kendall, until you're free. You can't get free until I'm free. And until that day, we all still have work to do. Every single one of us on behalf of ourselves and somebody else.

KENDALL
[00:21:25] One of the other things I noticed about the program, right, was your very clear focus on Black women. And I know you to be an advocate for Black women, Black trans women. You brought me Chikesia Clemons' story years ago. You were one of the most vocal advocates for Breonna Taylor, the very beginning.

BRITTANY
[00:21:47] The conversation about police violence is often gendered and biased toward Black men. We hear the names of Sandra Bland and Rekia Boyd and Tatiana Jefferson and Breonna Taylor so much less. We hear the names of Black trans women who suffer from gendered and racial and sexual violence so often, yes at the hands of police and also at the hands of the broader community. We don't hear Nina Pop’s name enough, right. We don't hear Dominique Fells’s name enough. And I appreciate that at the beginning of this episode, you read off a list of names. It was Black men, Black women, Black trans women, Black trans men. Because if, again, if all of us are not free, then none of us are free. On that episode of Me and Dad radio, my biggest get, I was like, OK, we got Jesse Williams, we got Amber Riley, we got my mom, we got Patrisse Cullors, we got Clint Smith.

KENDALL
[00:22:42] By the way, your mom looks and sounds exactly like you. I just had to put that in there, I was stunned.

BRITTANY
[00:22:50] People were dm-ing me and they were like, I just want your mom to like soothe me, to sleep. Like, can she just read me, sing me a lullaby? Like read me a bedtime story. My mother is just beautiful and brilliant.

KENDALL
[00:23:01] I googled her and I was like, wait, she looks exactly like Brittany!

BRITTANY
[00:23:05] We’re totally, especially with my hair short we're twins. My hair changes all the time. But when my hair is short, we are absolutely twins.

KENDALL
[00:23:11] Sorry

BRITTANY
[00:23:13] No no no. I love it. I love that people love my mom. She’s gonna crack up at that.
We've got all these brilliant people, but the biggest deal for me was that we got Kimberly Crenshaw. Kimberly Crenshaw, I have known for about a year. I've known of her for longer than that. And people who don't know her name know her work because she is the legal scholar and professor that coined the term intersectionality. So she literally gave us this framework to understand the world and that, you know. Now you hear people like accepting Academy Awards talking about intersectionality. And I'm like, Kimberly Crenshaw is still alive, somebody should talk to her. Put her on tape. Put her on film, something.

KENDALL
[00:23:55] Wow.

BRITTANY
[00:23:55] She is brilliant. And she in that episode talked about the fact that what she was really trying to do was speak to the experience of how systems intersect in our lives when you have more than one marginalized identity through her lens as a Black woman. And she was saying, as she said in the episode and has said in so many papers, it's not about the sum of those things. It's not about racism plus sexism. It's about recognizing that systems and culture intersect in a Black woman's life in a particular way. And there are particular stereotypes and particular hurdles and particular struggles that are unique to Black women, just like they're ones that are unique to indigenous women and unique to disabled women, et cetera, et cetera. Therefore, though, that invites us into ensuring that if our analysis of the problem is intersectional, that our solutions are intersectional, right.

So intersectionality is not a euphemism for diversity. It's not a checkbox that you need to have for your corporation or your board or the slate of speakers that you have hired for your anti-racist training day. Intersectionality is the lens through which you should be testing every solution. Because if the solution actually doesn't work for everybody, then it still holds bias. If your solution for pay equity in your workplace, for example, only works well for white women, then you need to go back to the drawing board, right? You need to adjust some things. So I think that because this word is finally on everybody's lips and she and other people are finally having the space to be able to do that kind of instruction, Black women, Black trans women, Black gender non-binary folks and folks of those gender identities of all races are finally being able to have a different conversation and hopefully see different results.

There is also healing work that has to happen between Black men and Black women. There are ways in which Black men have ingested patriarchy. And, you know, I've had these conversations with men that I loved and saying, I know that you love me. And here are things that you might not recognize or acknowledge that are in your way to being able to love me more and love me better and to love all Black women and not just me. You know, there are conversations with non-Black women that I have that say, hey guess what there are ways that you have of operating that are actually deeply damaging to me. There are conversations for Black women to have among one another, because the ways that we have ingested our own oppression and internalize our own oppression to deal with it. Sometimes we heal and other times we transfer it to other people because that's the only coping mechanism we know.

KENDALL
[00:26:43] We've seen this kind of resurgence of Me Too, right. To me, it was actually like just the very clear picture of intersectionality in operation. If we're talking about racial justice, we also have to be talking about gender justice. And sexual violence is a part of the experience of many Black women, Black trans women, et cetera. Like, that was just a very interesting conversation to see, kind of, percolate after we’re having this police violence conversation. But move towards something bigger and broader and more all encompassing.

BRITTANY
[00:27:24] And it's because we're coming for all of it.

KENDALL
[00:27:26] Right.

BRITTANY
[00:27:27] Because we are, we know that our attention spans are wide enough and our wingspan is big enough and our courage is deep enough to actually replace all the systems that harm us to actually replace all the cultures that harm us. And that is in everything. Right. I mean, we're seeing people talk about the fact that half of the people killed by police every single year have a mental or physical disability. When we talk about Elijah CcClain, I don't know his entire story, but we know and that is one of the most frustrating examples that we have of this point that the institution of policing is an institution that treats everything like a nail. And they’re the hammer. So even if someone is a mental or physical distress because of a disability or because of a recent trauma, they still respond with the badge and a gun.

Instead of building systems and structures in our cities, in our neighborhoods that make sure that those folks are responded to with a mental and physical health care that they need and that then that health care doesn't saddle them with a massive bill that they then are feeling even more pressure to pay -- because as we know, people with mental and physical disabilities suffer from poverty at disproportionate rates compared to people who don't have those conditions. So we're coming for the whole thing, right. All of these things are interconnected. If we're gonna talk about police violence, we're gonna talk about health care. If we’re gonna talk about health care, we're gonna talk about housing. If we’re gonna talk about housing, we're going to talk about living wages. If we're going to talk about living wages, we're going to talk about employment and education. If we're talking about like -- we're coming for the whole thing because we have to. Because the whole thing has been, has been abusing and harming us the whole time. So I'm coming for the whole thing. And we're not going to stop until we replace the whole thing.

KENDALL
[00:29:18] I love it, unraveling everything. So while we're talking about these systems, right -- we got the macro, the systems and the micro, ourselves. Right. And you gave a TED talk last year, I believe. That has reached millions and millions of views at this point. But it's about confidence. Right. And I think after people have listened to us discuss all of these other things, they'd be like, maybe why is Britney talking about confidence on her TED Talk? Why did you talk about confidence? Why is confidence important in your life as a, and role as an activist, educator and writer? And and what do we need to know?

BRITTANY
[00:29:58] So it's interesting because when we whittled our way, we being myself and my TED coach, whittled our way down to this being the conversation, it came from conversations about my time with my students, my time as a child as a young Black girl, and my time trying to function in a world that saw confidence when it was dressed up like me, as a threat and not as something to celebrate and embrace. And so I understand confidence, especially especially when marginalized folks and when young folks hold onto it and possess it fully as a revolutionary act. For some of us, confidence truly is a revolutionary act. There is a particular archetype of confidence in this world. And if you stop right now and think about what confidence looks like to you in your head, chances are you are thinking of somebody white, you are thinking of somebody cisgender, you are thinking of somebody male, you are thinking of somebody straight, you are thinking of somebody in a suit. You were thinking of somebody with a certain level of education and a certain amount of wealth. Right. Because those are people that we assume to be confident. Those are also the people that we allow to be confident.

[00:31:14] And so I actually wanted to dig into this idea of what it takes to build confidence in ourselves and in other people, because everyone deserves to be confident and we all benefit when other people are confident, like when we've got folks in our workplaces who are feeling silenced and marginalized and withdrawn because of the culture and the nature of the place where they work, we're not benefiting from the greatest ideas, right. In the world, there are brilliant inventions and solutions and cures that are sitting in the minds of people whose confidence has not been encouraged. And if their confidence is not encouraged, we may miss out on what they have to offer all of us. And that would be, as I said in the talk, our greatest shame. Right? What a shame if we really let all that brilliance languish in people's minds simply because we were not expansive enough to make sure they felt the room and the space to be confident, too. And it's funny because I gave that speech after like some, I don't know, like literal rocket scientists, or somebody who is so brilliant and spent way more years in school than me. So I'm literally about to walk on stage, give a speech about confidence in front of a bunch of billionaires, and my own confidence was shaken for a moment. Right. The irony, right. I was like, wait a minute. People are going to think this is ridiculous. Right? People come here to talk about brand new galaxies they’ve discovered, and not about like confidence -- oh, that's cute. What a nice little talk for Ted kids, right. But people really took to it because at some point or another, so many of us have had a crisis of confidence. They're 70 percent of Americans who have identified experiencing imposter syndrome at some point in their life. If you were to delineate that and disaggregate that by race, gender, all of that stuff, I'm very, very sure that the numbers would increase disproportionately for people who have marginalized identities.

So I really wanted us to get clear on the power of revolutionary confidence. And look, everybody who’s out there, who can imagine defunding the police while everybody tells them they're crazy. That takes confidence, right? People who are like no women should actually make the same amount as men and women of color should make the same amount as white women who make the same amount as white men, like, and we're going to go and make that happen? It takes confidence. All the people who put their hat in the ring to run for office when you know the Stacey Abrams of the world, who folks say you don't fit this type, you don’t fit that type. You're not the right one to you like to --

KENDALL
[00:33:52] Pete! Pete’s fine.

BRITTANY
[00:33:53] Exactly! You get it! Some people are rewarded for their confidence and some people have to fight through the jungle to capture their own confidence. I am one of those people who had to fight through the jungle to feel confident, and it's still a struggle in so many days. So I think that recognizing the importance of revolutionary confidence and making sure that everybody can feel it and not just certain people feel it will genuinely, genuinely be a benefit to all of us.

KENDALL
[00:34:20] You talk about love and power a lot. You have a social change agency called Love and Power. I know you've now stepped away from Pod Save the People and Campaign Zero, I was stalking your website. What is ready to act? What are you building? Can you tell us anything about what's next?

BRITTANY
[00:34:39] You are sneaky Kendall!

KENDALL
[00:34:41] You know what, it’s on your website, Brittany. OK? So.

BRITTANY
[00:34:44] It is. It’s true.

KENDALL
[00:34:45] So what's next for you?

BRITTANY
[00:34:47] I was trying to be mysterious, Kendall. I’m really, I’m genuinely trying to, I'm genuinely trying to be prayerful and thoughtful and intentional about what's next. The truth is the work has never stopped, right? So I still am a commentator on MSNBC and NBC News. I consult for organizations and companies that are genuinely invested in anti-racism. And I have a whole lot of questions that I ask folks before I say yes to them, because I'm like, if the resources are not there and the will is not there, then I'm not the person you want to hire because I'm going to push you hard. So I do, I do that kind of social impact and anti-racism and anti-oppression consulting. I'm trying to finish my first book, which I am almost done with! Which you, you've been hearing about this thing for years, but it is a curated collection of speeches by Black women throughout history and some essays that I have written to accompany them about this moment in time. And I'm feverishly changing some things because there are some things that need to be updated based on what’s happening right now. Everything changed. So how do we write this book?

But because you caught me --

KENDALL
[00:36:00] I did.

BRITTANY
[00:36:01] I was trying to be mysterious. But when there were two Black trans women who were found dead within 24 hours of each other. Dominique Fell's and Riah Milton, I got together with some non Black trans woman friends. And I was like, can we just get a Google doc going quickly? And I had a mind to do it because after Breonna Taylor was killed and George Floyd was killed and things suddenly started erupting, two of my white women friends reached out and they were like, You're doing a lot. We are so appreciative of you. But also you shouldn't have to be doing all of this. So is there anything we can do? And if so, what? So I was like, can you help me, please? Can you just pull together, document that direct people to resources? She was like, oh, we had already started that. That's perfect. I'll let you know when that's done. So this this document that was created by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein went viral, like the Google doc version of viral, right. We had tens of thousands of shares. People were texting it to each other, tweeting about it, posting about it, leveraging the resources on it. And so in the same way, I said we need to show up and do it in the same way I needed a white woman to show up and do this for me, my black trans sisters need me and us to show up and do this for them.

And I made a decision and I said, OK, so we need to make sure that we are not giving labor to Black trans women, but we also don't need to be moving without their advice. So the labor was ours. We collected the stuff, Alyssa formatted the sheet. Right. We pulled in resources from places. Phil added these narratives because he had also been the editor in chief of Out Magazine. We had a lot of this information. And then what we did was we compensated either directly or to organizations that they wanted donations to the Black trans women who were our board of advisors, if you will on this is a pretty quick document. We stood it up as a living document. There was an email address that I created and I was like, if you got feedback, give it to us. So ready to act is something that I am working on building so that it can be a one stop shop for those kinds of beginning actions that you want to stand in solidarity, you want to stand and sacrifice. You actually are ready to act on behalf of somebody other than you and on behalf of a cause greater than you here is a place that you can come and do that. So we are building this site now trying to pull all of that stuff together. Folks got to give me some time because there's a lot happening in the world. But these things will always be relevant and that justice work will always be necessary. So it's just me trying to create a platform and a contribution, because I know that people come to me often saying, what do I do? And I want to be able to make sure that they've got something that is, that is thoughtful and intentional and is a living document so that we can continue to improve it over time.

KENDALL
[00:38:51] I just have a couple of speed questions. They're very fun, you can answer them very quickly. A quote you're holding to.

BRITTANY
[00:38:58] “You had purpose before anybody had an opinion,” anonymous.

KENDALL
[00:39:02] Cool. What's bringing you silly joy right now?

BRITTANY
[00:39:07] My husband and I singing the Hamilton soundtrack, slash the Hamilton premiere on July 3rd -- which is not an ad, but we're very excited about it. We got engaged after Hamilton. So it's a whole thing in this house, yeah.

KENDALL
[00:39:20] What's your favorite pandemic binge watch?

BRITTANY
[00:39:23] Oh, it was Ozark. We finished it so quickly. It was very, very good. And now I'm almost done with all of Fresh Prince,

KENDALL
[00:39:30] Okay. And last but not least, your favorite pandemic food. I wrote this when I was hungry, clearly.

BRITTANY
[00:39:39] I have learned -- so because we just got married right before all of this started, we've got so many kitchen gadgets because, you know, people, our loved ones are very generous and gave us all so many of the things from our registry. And so we got the KitchenAid stand mixer. We actually got it from my speaking agent, Sean. And so I really don't bake. I like to cook, but I was like, I'm going to bake. And so quarantines the perfect time to bake. So I have perfected a recipe for soft ginger cookies. The secret is the baking soda. That's what keeps them soft and under baking them and just a little bit so when they cool they stay, pliable? But oh my god. The recipe that I found and then adjusted makes like 24 cookies. So it's a problem -- like I can't do it all the time because then it's like you're just eating cookies for days, because they're just there. But yeah, those big soft ginger cookies are, they're a staple and it's a problem.

KENDALL
[00:40:34] Oh my gosh that sounds awesome.That sounds great. Now everyone's hungry listening to this. We can end the podcast.

BRITTANY
[00:40:40] Now I’m like, I’m gonna go make some more cookies, this is bad!

KENDALL
[00:40:43] Brittany, thank you so, so much for joining me. And thank you so much for all the work you're doing.

BRITTANY
[00:40:48] Thank you for all you're doing. Thanks for keeping the people informed. Thanks for continuing to teach me so much. And thanks for having me.

OUTRO
Thanks very much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please be sure to subscribe to At Liberty wherever you get your podcasts and rate and review the show. We really appreciate the feedback. In the coming weeks, we’ll feature other movement activists on the podcast, including Renee Bracey Sherman and Andrea Ritchie. Stay tuned, you won’t want to miss these episodes. Until next week, stay strong everyone.

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