The full episode transcript is below.
You are listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast with Latasha Morrison.
Latasha Morrison 0:06[intro] How are you guys doing today? It’s exciting!
Each week, Be the Bridge Podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.
Latasha Morrison 0:17[intro] …But I’m going to do it in the spirit of love.
We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society, but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.
Latasha Morrison 0:51
Okay, Be the Bridge, as always, I’m excited to introduce you to a sister, a friend…look, a new friend now (laughter). I don’t mean a stranger. Just someone that’s doing some incredible work. And I want to introduce you to Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts. She is a writer, a thought leader, and the author and a collaborator of 20 books across several genres. Didn’t know that! She offers those who read her work and hear her speak an opportunity to explore the intersection of culture, identity, and faith at its deepest levels. Tracey is the host of the podcast HeART Talk with Tracey Michae’l and the founder of HeARTspace, a healing community created to serve those who have experienced trauma of any kind through the use of storytelling and arts. Her book, Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration – I love that – her book just recently won the 2023 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Instructional. Her latest release is a powerful book, Then They Came for Mine: Healing from the Trauma of Racial Violence. And so this is the new one that’s coming out or is that one currently out, Tracey?
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 2:24
That one is currently out, it came out in September. So Black Joy came out in February, and Then They Came for Mine came out in September. I entered the conversation about racial violence from my own grief. I had written Black Joy, and it was kind of the antidote, right, before I actually had the wherewithal to really unpack my own grief around racial violence and what Black and Brown and Indigenous folks face in this country and all over the world. On October 24, 2018, my elder cousin Vicki Lee Jones walked into a Kroger grocery store in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and didn’t make it home. A white man decided that she would die that day because she was Black, along with a grandfather that was there shopping with his grandson. And so I’d watch my family, and continue to watch my family, navigate that grief very publicly. You know, everything from trying to get it, you know, classified as a hate crime and all of the work that goes on behind the scenes, while also trying to deal with our own mental and emotional health in the process. And so that began the excavation. I began to not only just kind of deal with my own healing process, but also figure out or explore how Black folks have been navigating this violence.
Latasha Morrison 3:51
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 3:52
Looking at history, present day. But then also challenging white people, white people of faith, around the complicity of silence, around what is necessary for healing to happen in both realms. And just began, you know, everything kind of just flowed from that mountain, if you will, like that fountain of grief, of rage, of sorrow, and joy in the midst of it all.
Latasha Morrison 4:26
Yeah, yeah. And that’s the, I think that’s that two prong thing that’s hard to explain where, in the midst of grief and sorrow and despair. I know this to be true, especially in our people, there’s like this joy. You know? Like, out of, you know, out of our pain with everything that was happening in 2014 with Mike Brown comes Black Twitter in the midst of that. And so you, you see this, even throughout history, just when you think about the things that have been created during times of great despair, it’s just unbelievable. You know, I mean, blues, blues music, gospel music, you know, all those things were birthed out of pain in a lot of ways.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 5:23
I always say that Black folks are the ultimate alchemists. We have learn how to transform pain. And like part of the thing that I wanted to, even in my book, Black Joy, the subtitle is Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration, because resistance is only one part of our joy.
Latasha Morrison 5:44
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 5:44
You know, it’s not..if our joy only showed up as a form of resistance, then that means that we’re centering the thing that we’re resisting. But it’s so much more than that. Resilience is a kind of alchemy of transforming pain. And like you said, every major American genre of music is born from our pain, from our rhythms. So gospel, blues, rock and roll, hip hop, you know, all of that comes from us. Right? And so we’ve learned how to do that transformation work. And so I think the next leg of the race for us is the healing work, is the restoration.
Latasha Morrison 6:21
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 6:22
Our ancestors have given us survival, given us access, given us all of that. And so now, yes, we still have to resist; yes, we still transform. But like, how do we restore and heal, whether or not we solve the problem of racism and white supremacy.
Latasha Morrison 6:39
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 6:40
How do we do that?
Latasha Morrison 6:42
Yeah. And how do we…like because that healing is a part of our survival. And so, when you talk about healing from trauma and racial violence, I think one of the first parts of your healing seems like it’s like, the writing it down and telling your story.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 7:00
It is. Yeah, I think that’s always been. Right? For me, it’s always been…the safest place for me was the page. Because of my own personal trauma, the safest place for me was the page. The page could hold the pain. The page could hold it even if I didn’t have a voice. Right? If I felt like I didn’t have a voice to talk about it, it was the place where I held it. So that has always been my starting point.
Latasha Morrison 7:26
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 7:27
It got to a point where it wasn’t enough. But it was definitely my starting point.
Latasha Morrison 7:32
Yeah. How long have you been writing? Like, how long have you been penning…it probably goes back to high school. (laughter) But I’m just saying like as a professional writer, I would say.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 7:44
Yeah. Like you said, I’ve been writing forever. Some little skits in Sunday school.
Latasha Morrison 7:50
Yeah, I love it! (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 7:53
High school, Black History Month programs and all that. But professionally, I would say for about 21 years.
Latasha Morrison 8:00
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 8:01
So in 2002, I published my first little poetry collection. I kind of entered it through poetry and fiction, then began freelancing and journalism, then went to grad school. You know, then went to grad school again. (laughter) Because you know, Black women, you know how we do.
Latasha Morrison 8:01
We have 50 degrees. (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 8:11
Exactly. (laughter) So went again, began teaching, and then writing nonfiction essays, and so on, and so on. So about 21 years.
Latasha Morrison 8:31
Oh, wow. Wow. So you know, we’re hearing about some of your work now. But you’ve been doing this.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 8:36
I’ve been here. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 8:37
Yeah, you’ve been here. Look, she’s like, “Hey, some of y’all just noticing. But I’ve been writing. I’ve been grinding. Like, you know, I got a catalog.” (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 8:48
What’s interesting about that is like, and I think that’s important for like, anybody who might be listening that’s trying to do something, is that a lot of times we define our enoughness by who has seen us or what kind of accolades that we get. And what I’ve had to wrestle with and come to terms with is that what people are just now seeing, I’ve been doing. Right? And I’ve been honing that craft, and I’ve been doing it for a long time. And there have been times where I was like, why am I doing it? Nobody is seeing me. Nobody’s paying attention. Nobody’s buying my books. And yet, there was some value in that hidden time, in that hidden space.
Latasha Morrison 9:32
It was preparing you for now.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 9:34
Yes. Because I wasn’t ready for it. I couldn’t hold it. Right? And I think hopefully now, we’ll see, hopefully, I can hold it. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 9:41
I believe you can. This is Women’s History Month, and in Black Joy you talk about the power of Black women’s sharp and pointed, tender and omniscient love for each other. Can you talk about that? Just talk about that a little. Just that, when you talk about the sharp and pointed, tender. There’s so much in that, even how you describe that.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 10:10
Yeah, there’s a complexity for our love for each other. You know? And when I was writing that piece, The Blacker the Love, I was asked by Essence Magazine to write a piece on Black love. And I know the easy route would have been to talk about romantic love. But some of the most beautiful romances I’ve seen have been between friends, you know, platonic. And I use romance lightly, I know that can get, will interpret that as they will. But what I mean is that the love at the kitchen table, at the salons of my childhood, in the gatherings in the living room or on the porch. Right? Like that love, that dynamic, yes it… you know, because of the world in which we live and the context we live, it can be perceived as sharp and pointed. Right? The way that we speak to each other, the way that we care about each other. But underlying it, and that’s why I say even joy is an undercurrent. It’s not happiness, which is external, it’s undercurrent. Same thing with our love. There’s a tenderness, there’s a tender quality. It’s a care that I observed; that I’ve always longed for in my friendships and relationships. And it was important for me to highlight that kind of love, that kind of sisterhood and bonding that I watched aunties and mom, and even the ones that I began to establish myself in college and later on. So The Blacker the Love…you know what I mean? Like, we all know, the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice. Right?
Latasha Morrison 11:55
Yeah, yeah. (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 11:56
There’s something very sweet and tender, but also tart and saucy and sassy. Like everything that, we’re nuanced people, we’re complex people. Our humanity is comprised of so much. And I saw that in the relationships between women, and again, have longed for that in my own relationships.
Latasha Morrison 12:22
Yeah, I think when you was talking about that, I was thinking about even how that was modeled watching my mom and her friendships. And she was just telling me about a couple of friends that she used to work with that she connected with, that she reconnected with and just what they meant. And one of the ladies, I remember her doing my hair for prom. (laughter) Just that complexity. And thinking about my grandmother and her relationships and how people that lived on the street. And my dad told this story about one day he had come home and all the women that lived in his, they lived in the public public housing at that time, and they were all at his house. And they were all crying. And he said he came in the door, he looked around and everybody was crying. And he started crying too, because he thought something had happened. He started crying. And he was like, “What were they crying for? What happened?” And they said, “Somebody shot Victor Newman.” (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 13:31
(laughter) That part.
Latasha Morrison 13:33
They would gather to watch the soap operas. They would gather to cook. They would look out for each other’s children. They would work together. You know, all these things. And so it just, I hadn’t thought about that in a while or that story since my dad passed. But when you were saying that, that’s the first thing I thought about is you know him coming home to these African American women and they’re crying. (laughing)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 14:04
It was weeping and gnashing of teeth over Victor Newman. So listen, I wrote in Black Joy an essay about my grandmother and Victor Newman shows up and that story also. Okay, because I remember being two and three years old. My mom would drop me off at my grandmother’s house. And she had a girlfriend, Violet. I’ll never forget Violet, face was always like beat to the gods as the kid showed me. Just glorious. And they used to talk about Smokey Robinson and Victor Newman and all the stories and it was just, the camaraderie, the care, the comfort that they found in each other was just…I will always remember that. Even my little three year old mind. I don’t know how I remember. I think I remember the energy of it.
Latasha Morrison 14:49
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 14:50
Latasha Morrison 14:51
That is incredible.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 14:52
There was a connection with Victor Newman!
Latasha Morrison 14:56
And the fact that I remembered his name. Like the fact that it rolled off my tongue. The fact that I remembered that; that is crazy. Yeah. But I can tell you, all the stories we can tell about watching soap operas with your grandma. (laughter) Can you share about, you know, some of the women who have shaped you, and helped you in your journey of joy and healing?
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 15:21
Yeah, I think one that I just mentioned is my grandmother, who we lost in 09. The one thing that I think she…and I’m actually writing about this now, so it’s interesting that you’re asking me about it. Because the one thing that I know about my grandmother is that she was a master of reinvention. And I learned a lot from her in terms of how you never have to stay in the place that’s not serving you. I don’t think that I’ve learned that lesson anywhere else but from her. She has lived all over the world; she traveled with high profile people; taking care special needs kids; she got her degree later on in life. She just, I mean, in hindsight, you think of your grandmother as older, but when I realized when I did the numbers, when I was born, she was 39. You know? And my mom was 19. And so, there was just this way that she carried herself that I think that I always longed to be, which was confidence…but again, she held in tension that with depression. Right? And the trials of two divorces, and all kinds of things that were going on in her life that of course, I wouldn’t have known as a child. She was holding the grief and the rage and the sorrow of that along with what I was feeling, which was her joy and her vivaciousness. Like I always say she wasn’t the grandmother with the moo moo and the Bible. Right?
Latasha Morrison 15:28
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 16:04
She was the one that she would try to gourmet soul food. She’d try some risotto with some pig ears. (laughter) Try to mix it up! Because her travels showed her, and she got a chance to see the world. And so I think, she’s one person that comes to mind. I’m gonna say this, and I apologize in advance if I get a little weepy. But I am going to call my mother’s name. And it’s not a name that I probably would have said if you had asked me that a year ago. Recently me and my mother had an opportunity to sit before a therapist and have really a deep healing session. And what I saw in that moment, as much as she resisted it, as much as she was like, “I don’t know about this therapy honey, I go to Jesus.” And I get it, you know, she’s of a generation that struggles a bit with that. But the courage that I saw, and honestly the depths of her love for me that she was willing to sit and reconcile some things from our past. She is now my model for courage and healing and being willing to set aside all of the anxiety that comes with maybe believing that you didn’t do your best job. And yet standing before your child and letting them know that, “I’ve always loved you and I always will.” Again if you asked me this question a year ago, I may not have said her name. Not because I don’t love my mother. I love my mother. But her willingness to sit and heal alongside me in that space. Yeah, my mama.
Latasha Morrison 19:17
That’s beautiful Tracey. Thanks for sharing that. I hold our stories dear. And especially sharing that here on this podcast because you know…we’re not deserving to hear other people’s pain and struggle. Sometimes we get something out of that. But just know that it’s an honor when people share; especially it’s an honor when people of color share their stories with you. So you know, our community is very diverse, so for those of you who are listening, when someone shares their story with you like this, to listen and to sit with that, and know that it’s an honor for them to share part of themselves with you. And so, thank you for that. You know, we are very complex. Our history is so complex. I mean, our relationships with our moms. You know, because you think about, I think we’re probably around maybe in the same age bracket, and so our moms are probably in the same age bracket. And knowing what they’re a product from as far as their parents being some of those early baby boomers in that sense. And they having come up in the 60s and 70s, and the trauma that they hold, and the relationship that they had with their parents. It’s like, I realized, you know, now that I’m older, the grandparents that I had were not necessarily the parents that my mom and dad had. And so you don’t realize that until you get older. And there’s something, there was kind of like a transformation that happened as they’ve gotten older. But there were some things that left some trauma within our parents, and then that instilled upon us and how they communicate, or the lack of communication or the lack of ownership. And so it’s like, so much of what you said, I understand so much. And I’m like, I understand. And like most of our family, they don’t really believe in counseling. It’s very taboo within our community. You’re hearing about it more now. But yeah, that is real. That is so real.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 22:10
It’s funny, because now I think where I see that the most is when I look at my daughter and I look at my mother. And I have an 11 year old, and she’s challenging me because she’s going through adolescence. (laughter) 11, 12, and 13 young lady, and it’s a lot.
Latasha Morrison 22:34
I can only imagine. (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 22:34
But watching the dynamic between my mother and her. And it can be easy to long for something that maybe you didn’t get. But the tension of that, the two things that can be true, and that is that also I am watching healing in action. Right? I am watching it in real time. And I’m seeing this 11 year old free Black girl that is benefiting not only from what I’m giving her the freedom to do that I did not have, but also watching my mother get free in the process also. And that’s a very, it’s an interesting dynamic, but it’s also soothing. It’s a blessing.
Latasha Morrison 23:25
Yeah, yeah. Just seeing how…I think you can get a glimpse of how your parents love through how they interact with grandchildren or nieces or nephews and things like that. I’m watching even one of my cousins, he was like, “Oh, I just love being a grandpa.” You know, just seeing that, just watching him and watching him live through that now is just, it brings me so much joy. In your book, Then They Came from Mine, you say, “In John five Jesus asked the man laying at the side of the healing pool of Bethesda.” I’m saying that wrong. Hold on. Let me see.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 24:21
It’s technically Bethesda, but it’s Bethasda in one region.
Latasha Morrison 24:26
Okay, “Jesus asked the man laying at the side of the healing pool of Bethesda.” I want to make sure I sound correct. (laughter) “Laying right beside the place that could heal his pain. Do you want to be well? I ask the same of both white and black readers. Are you ready to be well? What if wellness lives on the other side of pain and grief? What if wellness looks like sitting in the discomfort of what privilege and balance have wrought your fellow man?” I mean, whew child. Like that right. It’s so true because like, my healing, if I left my healing tied to something that white people have to do, I’m never going to heal.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 25:22
Latasha Morrison 25:23
You know what I’m saying? And so like, it’s just, how do we heal even in the midst of continuation of pain and affliction and oppression and marginalization? And then also, that other question of saying, do you want to heal?
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 25:47
That is huge.
Latasha Morrison 25:49
What was you thinking? Like, I want to use that.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 25:52
Like I said, I was entering this from my own grief. After grieving the loss of my cousin, I was doing some DEI work on the campus where I was teaching, and we were getting a lot of hostility, pushed back, threats. And in July of 2019, my body shut down. I was basically in the bed for 6, 7 months. My body said, “No more.” And I think, from that space of stillness, I began to hear those questions. Do you want to be made well? Like you’re literally sitting beside the pool, the thing that can make you well. Are you willing to pick up your mat and walk? And as I began to ponder that question, I began to look at it globally, like, are we really willing to do what’s necessary to be well? Because here’s the thing – that work looks different from white and non Black folks, as it does for Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks. Right? And so I am of the mind that Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks will have to find ways to heal, again, whether we solve the problem of racism, whether or not we dismantle white supremacy. That work has to occur, that is the next leg of the race that our ancestors are like, pushing us toward. White and non Black folks are going to have to sit in the discomfort of decentering themselves, sit in the discomfort of not just listening and learning, but also locating the evidence of the things that they’re listening and learning about. Right? And then leveraging whatever privileged status they have to make the change. That’s their work. But my work is not defined by theirs. Like you said. My work of healing goes back to the antidote, the book beforehand, which is joy. How do I access joy in my body, even when rage and sorrow and grief is still big in it? Right? How do I allow myself, give myself permission to experience joy in the same vessel where rage and sorrow continuously exists? How do I do that? How do I, once I figure out what joy feels like in my body, which is really was the starting point for me. My therapist said to me, “Tracey, what does joy feel like in your body?” And I was like, “See what had happened…I don’t know.” And I was well over 40 years old. Like, I could not name it; I could not tell you what it felt like. I could tell you what rage felt like though. I can call that real quick. I can tell you what grief felt like. But I couldn’t name joy. And so I began the work of trying to figure out what it felt like in my body. And then once I did that, now I had an access point, I could call it up. And I can, when the rage when I got another on my feed another unarmed Black person is killed or something came my way that triggered my grief and sorrow and rage, I could call up joy to help me…it’s not going to make it go away. But it’s going to help right side me, so I don’t go off the deep end in rage, in my grief. And so that to me is the work of Black and Brown and Indigenous folks. It’s like how do we embrace our own humanity, the full complexity of who we are, which includes joy and peace and love and ease, and give ourselves permission for all of those things, even as we rage, even as we wail simultaneously. That is the work of wellness for us. And then how do we amplify our joy so that it replicates itself across the community, across the collective? White folks and non Black folks have a different work. And that work, I would argue, is incredibly challenging, and it is the source of much of the resistance that we see now. Because what people don’t want to talk about when they talk about race and talk about racial violence in particular, is that there is a real grief in knowing that in order to right side racism and all of the isms, something has to be lost. Your status, your centering, something has to be lost. There’s a real grief in that. And that grief for people who have always colonized and dominated the world shows up as violence. And January 6 is a great example of that. Right? So I think the work is different, but they’re not dependent on each other.
Latasha Morrison 0:00
It looks different, And that’s like, even through Be the Bridge, like how we reach our white bridge builders is totally different from our BIPOC. And those are things that we had to really be on a learning curve with. Because, you know, me, starting out in this work it was like, you know, “Get a group of diverse friends together and sit and have this conversation.” And that’s what I was doing, but that looks different depending on the community, and the posture of the people coming into the conversation, and then also what the person has gone through, where that can be very triggering for people. And so we started this work, and then it was like, “Wait, hold on, hold on, hold on. We got to create some resources first. We need you to go through this intensive first. So we need to really get you to understand white culture, white identity first. And then we also need to really do some deep healing in ourselves before we come together.” So that’s why we’ve created some of the resources we created. But some of it, it was like, “Hey, go and do!” And people were doing. (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 1:19
Latasha Morrison 1:18
And in some places it was working well, and in some places it was blowing up. And so that’s the part that we don’t, you know, like to talk through. But there’s some people that stayed through the blowing up part, and on the other side of that. But you said something, just now that was like, so key. In our work we do, we talk about this posture of listening, learning, lamenting, leveraging, love. And you just said something that was like, I feel like a missing piece…I think we do it, it coincides with lament. But sometimes with that lament, you know, having this collective lament leads you towards justice if you do this work right. But I think part of that that’s missing is you said locate.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 2:23
Yes. And that was, you know, all of the allies and co conspirators and accomplices that I know, I would listen to them. And they were saying, “Oh, I’m listening, Tracey. And I’m learning.” And I was, “Okay, great.” That’s a great summary. I think what you said, where you guys started, the conversations are necessary. That’s important. Education is important. But if you can’t see it once you know it. You know? If you’re at the workplace, and you can’t locate what it is that you just learned about, because you don’t have the lens for that and you can’t even locate the individuals that can help you get the lens or whatever, then all of the leveraging can’t happen. Right? Because you don’t see it. You are at the, you are standing in line at the Macy’s. And you don’t even notice that this Black woman has been skipped twice in line because it’s not on your radar. And you’ve read all the books about Rosa Parks and all the things, and you’ve done the Juneteenth, and you know it, but it’s not, it’s still very disconnected. And I’m a somatic person. So it’s like embodied. It’s disconnected from your real life, so you can’t locate. So you’re not gonna step in, you’re not gonna step in and say, “Wait, no, it’s her turn. She should go next.” You’re not going to leverage whatever status you have in that moment, because you can’t see it. So locating I think, I added. I have four L’s: listen, learn, locate, and leverage. And so that third L, I think, is one that most people don’t even think about. They think, we assume that once you learn something…knowledge is not wisdom. Right?
Latasha Morrison 4:14
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 4:15
Knowledge is knowledge. Right? And so I know a lot of allies who have a lot of knowledge, have no ability to actually apply it. And so the lack of application comes because they can’t see what’s happening. It’s not part of their world. It’s not in their bodies. And they don’t have enough of the relationships to be able to be around, the intimate relationships that allow them to be able to see something. It’s the same way as a partner who notices that their partner is going through a thing because they have been around that person. They can read the language, they can read their bodies, they know, “Okay, something’s not right here.” You don’t have the relationships, then you don’t have the ability to read in such a way. And you certainly are not going to be able to locate where the gaps are in whatever space you’re in, whether it’s church, job, wherever you happen to be.
Latasha Morrison 5:14
That is so good. Because I mean, we’re seeing that. When you say locate it’s kinda like, I’m thinking about some of the things that’s happening now with the banning of books, you know, the things with the whole. Like, clearly we can see, okay, to be anti woke is to be anti Black.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 5:35
Latasha Morrison 5:35
Like, it’s so big and bold. I mean, if you know anything about history, if you read any books, you can clearly see the playbook. This is just the Southern strategy just reinvented a little bit. It just evolved. And like, we can clearly see that. But when people, they can jump on that bandwagon and say, “Oh, no, don’t say that. Don’t say this.” You’re like, wait a minute, like, what? Have you? Like, what have you been doing? What have you been reading when you can’t see? And I think really what I would say is white supremacy makes you blind. It makes you ignorant. It is a deep, we know it’s a sin. We know that. But it is a, it’s a very deep evil.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 5:35
Latasha Morrison 5:55
And so, and those of you who are hearing this, I’m talking about the system of white supremacy. And so, those are just some of the things. And I think this is really, really just incredible. One of the things you say in sharing about Then They Came from Mine, you said, “I have the power to plant seeds and curate safe and nurturing environments for Black and Brown, folks, wherever and however I can. But healing the hearts of people who can’t see God in my face is above my paygrade.” Amen.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 7:10
It is. I can’t do nothing about that.
Latasha Morrison 7:13
I can’t do nothing. Yeah, give it to Jesus. There are people that I say will get it and some people who won’t. And I if I’m so worried about the people who won’t get it, the people who are here will get overlooked. And so, you know, so I’m all for you know, it’s in Matthew where it says you sometimes you just gotta shake the dust off your sandals.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 7:40
Latasha Morrison 7:40
We’re gonna shake the dust off our Jordans (laughter) and keep it moving. And so that’s the thing. I think that’s what also allows me to maintain my hope and peace in this. Sometimes you just have to let it go. Because I do believe that this work is not mine. That it’s God’s work that I’m doing and just being used as a vessel. So because I can hold that loosely like that. I’m just like, “God, you gotta get yo people because whew child.”
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 8:16
Latasha Morrison 8:18
“They a mess.”
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 8:19
They a whole mess.
Latasha Morrison 8:22
I mean, that’s how I pray. That’s how I talk. Like, Lord, get them. Only you can do that. I cannot transform hearts.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 8:29
Exactly. And I don’t entertain anybody who doesn’t operate in good faith.
Latasha Morrison 8:29
Oh, that’s good.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 8:35
And so there’s some questions I just don’t answer anymore. There’s some questions that I might answer, but my answer might be a little short. One of the questions that comes up inevitably, every time we have some reiteration of violence, people reach out to me and they always say, “I’m thinking of you.” Because they know my family has gone through this. Which is fine. I’m grateful for that. But then they say, “Well, what can I do?” And I say, “What would you do if it was your family member?” And there’s silence. Right? It’s like, if you see me as a human being, if you see my humanity, if you see this person’s humanity, then you know exactly what to do. Because you would do for your own family member, for your own, you would go to the ends of the earth for their justice.
Latasha Morrison 9:35
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 9:36
And so my pushback sometimes, if I do decide to answer is like, let’s challenge your notions of who you believe is worthy of justice. And, do you really see me as human? Does my humanity really matter? And these are for even the most so called progressive folks. And I have to push back and say, “Just put your family member’s face on that body. And then you tell me what you’d do.”
Latasha Morrison 10:15
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 10:16
I don’t answer certain questions anymore. And like I said, there’s certain things, I can’t change your heart; I’m not the Holy Spirit; I do not have that power. All I can do is create environments for safety for my people. I can provide affirmation for my people. I can inspire. I can motivate. I can push us past survival towards thriving by offering us safety where it’s possible. That’s it. That’s my ministry. Somebody else got a different ministry. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 10:51
That’s what I say! We all have different parts in this. And there’s some people that hey, that’s their thing is convincing. That’s what they want, then that’s their part, and I will send them to you. You know, I’m not trying to convince anyone of systemic racism. If you’re coming to Be the Bridge, you need to know that that brokenness exists and you want to play a part in the solution of that. And so that’s why you’re here, we got to have to start from that starting point. Now, there’s some people that, you know, they’re before that. And so, there are other organizations that can do that pre work. And just like, there’s stuff that we do that, you know, hey, after you go through this pathway, this transformational pathway, then there’s other organizations that, you know, you need to understand the X, Y, and Z, about. You know? And so I think this continuation of growth is…we’re always learning, we’re always growing. What are some things now, like you say, what are some of the practices or rhythms that you engage in to help you foster joy and healing?
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 10:51
Yeah, I mean, I think there are, they’re my personal practices that I do. So I actually was just talking about this to someone. I swing. Wait a minute, let me fix that. (laughter) There might be someone who thinks something else…no not that kind.
Latasha Morrison 11:59
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 12:09
What I do is I go to the park and I get on a swing,
Latasha Morrison 12:25
Oh, okay. I thought you were thinking, swing dancing.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 12:29
Oh, no. I don’t have Megan’s knees. I can’t do that. (laughter) So one of the things I used to do when I was a child that, even when turmoil was around me, was go to the park and swing. And I felt so free. You know, I’d get on that swing, and back, then I would, you know, my knees were good. So I would jump out of that. And it felt like I was flying. And it was such a joy; it filled me with so much joy. And so, actually, recently, a couple of days ago, me and my husband and my daughter walked to the park up the street, and I got on a swing. And I had been feeling not that great in my body. And there was something about being on that swing, even my husband was looking at me laughing because he’s like, “You just happy as a lark.” (laughter) You know? There was something about just my almost 50 year old self on that swing, just swinging and you know, a lot of things kind of fell off. And so there are things…what I tell people is that figure out what joy feels like in your body. So you can access it later. And then once you do that, make an effort to recreate that as much as you can. Write your joy in to your day.
Latasha Morrison 13:45
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 13:45
And that might be something…that’s not always like the big trip to Mexico with the girls. Sometimes it is I’m just gonna turn this music on and I’m gonna dance for 10 minutes before I go into a meeting and these people drive me crazy. Or, you know, play.
Latasha Morrison 14:01
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 14:02
Whatever play looks like for you, and being intentional about setting that up as a practice for yourself. Because we know that the rage and the sorrow and grief and stuff is coming. Like our existence as Black people in this country means that there’s a kind of hyper vigilance that we do have around what’s coming. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. And so the tension that we live in is…the thing, I always say the blessing that our ancestors gave us is that we can hold this multiplicity of things in our bodies, and we can give ourselves permission. And I think for some of us, we need to do that. We need to give ourselves permission to hold joy, even when we’re feeling these other things. And so for me, it’s swinging. It’s my prayer, meditation practice. It is my daughter who is like the epitome of joy. Like just looking at her you’re gonna get a little joy. Cause she’s a full mess. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 15:03
I love it, I love it. (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 15:04
In all the good ways.
Latasha Morrison 15:05
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 15:08
And I just, pray, you know, for people to find what that looks like for them, and to be intentional about it, to guard it. Right? Because we know how the enemy works. So, you know, once you start to employ these things, your body may kick back on you and be like, “Wait a minute now this don’t feel safe. Because what if. Once you start feeling good, the other shoe may drop. Something bad is going to happen.” And letting go of the control that we think that we need to have. Because we’re not in control. No amount of joy you have today is gonna stop violence from happening tomorrow.
Latasha Morrison 15:44
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 15:44
Cause it’s not. But it will fill you up to the point that you will be able to sustain yourself when that violence happens. And so, I think, you know, just being intentional, on a daily basis. I say daily, and I don’t like to be…I know that some things aren’t accessible for folks. Right? I have the privilege that I could go up the street and swing or go to the ocean.
Latasha Morrison 16:16
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 16:17
Not everybody has that privilege. But whatever it looks like for you. It might just be sitting on a bench somewhere, taking a deep breath, 10 deep breaths, and then go on about business. Right? Like whatever it is. Take it. Own it. And guard it.
Latasha Morrison 16:31
Yeah. I love that. I really love that. I like to go on walks. And I think that’s gonna look different for everyone. I think it’s a challenge to really to say, hey, discover that yourself. What is that thing that that brings you joy? For some people it’s singing, instruments, you know, different things. It’s gonna look different for a lot of different people. But we need to find that and really hold on to it, you know, especially in these these days that we have. For some of us it’s laughter. You know, just, I like a good laugh.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 17:17
A good cackle. In your gut. That you feel in your body. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 17:22
A good laugh. Yes. That you can feel. Laughter is healing in so many ways. What are some things that you are…I ask pretty much a lot of, all of my guests this question. Just so that even those who are listening, they know how to pray for you. They know, things that, maybe they’re not lamenting, others are. So just it just brings about awareness, too. What are some things that you are lamenting?
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 17:56
Latasha Morrison 18:01
I know it’s so much.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 18:03
There’s so much. And I don’t want my answer to be like, overly woowoo. But I am lamenting how many of us are walking around disembodied. Meaning that there’s something…there’s nothing behind the eyes. And it’s because of trauma and because of pain, and because of being in survival mode. Like, this is how I can navigate. I was in Los Angeles for the Image Awards. And I saw a lot of that; there was something missing. Even behind the smiles and the, you know, presence, and the beauty. You know, there was, and of course, not everyone, not all. But like so many of us have not connected to…we’re afraid to be in our bodies.
Latasha Morrison 19:13
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 19:14
And I believe that some of what the Holy Spirit shows us starts there. Some of what’s revealed a lot of times starts in our bodies. Some of the aches and pains that a lot of us have is a conversation that God is trying to have with us. And so I think…I don’t know, and maybe it’s less about people walking around disembodied and more about I wish more of us felt safe. And I think so many of us just don’t feel safe. And yeah, safe in the arms of Jesus. Yes, like I get it. Like at a spiritual level, there is a covering that those who believe have. But there is a an insecurity and a lack of safety that especially Black and Brown and Indigenous folks that we have that I think is taking its toll.
Latasha Morrison 20:18
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 20:19
And I’m not again, it’s above my paygrade to really know, besides to do what I’m called to do, what to do about it. You know? And again, I didn’t want to get to, yes I lament white supremacy. Yes, I lament systemic racism.
Latasha Morrison 20:37
Yeah, I get it. I get it.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 20:39
But I’m thinking about how do we navigate this world?
Latasha Morrison 20:43
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 20:43
Right? And I feel like so many of us just don’t feel safe.
Latasha Morrison 20:47
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 20:48
And I’m like, my God, like, how do we…what is it going to take for us? Some of us can’t hear, because we don’t feel safe. We can’t allow our vulnerability, allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough, because we are hyper vigilant, and we always have our guard up. So there’s a long winded answer to your question.
Latasha Morrison 21:14
No, that’s good. Because I think it’s something about having these conversations with other Black women, you know, Black and Indigenous women, I think there’s power in that and speaking those things. Because sometimes we don’t even know what’s missing ourselves. You know? I know, for me, like one of the things that I’ve been carrying, probably really since the shooting at Tops grocery store. Like the world moved on.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 21:48
Latasha Morrison 21:49
But like, I think about that every time I go into a grocery store. I was just sitting in my car the other day, doing something, and I was like, “Oh, let me make sure my doors locked.”
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 22:02
Latasha Morrison 22:01
Just things like that what I’m constantly processing. And it was like, I felt, it’s so crazy that I’m bringing words to this. I felt more safe in South Korea than I did in my own country. You know? And it’s like, what is that? Because we have a very violent culture in the United States. Yeah, so I think bringing sometimes truth to that lament and words to that and confessing that to one another, that helps alleviate some of that, where I don’t have to carry that.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 22:33
We can give it air.
Latasha Morrison 22:38
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 22:48
When we give it air then it’s not a weight that we carry alone. Like you mentioned, the grocery, after my cousin was killed. I didn’t go in the grocery store for probably almost a year. And even today, Instacart is my friend. I’m very hesitant about going into groceries. And when I do, I have a mental process, an internal process, I go through for checking exits, listening to this person, you know, that kind of thing. And I sometimes get panic attacks. So as a person who lives with generalized anxiety disorder, and, you know, the panic attacks became more frequent. So I think that’s the reason why I’m sort of drawn to conversations about the body. Because I feel like there, there was so long that I was so disconnected from my body that I couldn’t hear God, I couldn’t hear what was being said. And I literally had to be laid down and forced to be still. And in that was around that same time period where I was hyper vigilant. I’m naturally hyper vigilant because of my own personal trauma, and then to have the trauma of the world, the things that I’ve observed in the world placed upon me. Yeah. So I have, maybe that’s my lament, because it’s a great point of continued growth for me, I think.
Latasha Morrison 24:28
That’s good. You talked about something that’s bringing you joy as far as going to the park and being with your family and swinging. What is something that’s bringing you hope?
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 24:45
You know, I struggle with hope. If I’m honest.
Latasha Morrison 24:53
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 24:54
I’m struggling with hope. I think if I had to just think off the top of my head it’s this next generation. When I look at my daughter, she classifies herself as a free Black girl. And there’s something about her naming that for herself. And her having a kind of voice that I didn’t have, couldn’t even imagine having at 11 years old. That gives me hope for a future that is less about the gaze. Right? The white gaze and the work. Right? Even though the work will always be and will continue to be. But also, like a certain kind of moving through the world with a freedom. Because I know God can use that. God can use someone who understands that their personhood is not defined by any of these things that people have tried to put on them. It’s like, “Oh, okay, so you ready for the work ahead. Whatever it is that I’m calling you, my daughter in particular to do.” So that gives me hope. But I have to admit that I struggle with the concept of hope. And that is just a function of me still doing my joy work. Joy is teaching me to hope. And so every day that I choose joy, every day that I choose ease, choose wholeness, choose to listen, it gets me closer to or it just amplifies the hope that’s kind of goes up and down. Sometimes it’s kind of flaky a little bit. I got flaky hope.
Latasha Morrison 26:57
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 26:58
You know, I always say, “Well, Lord, you said, a mustard seed of faith. So I’m hoping that my little mustard seed of hope.” (laughter) I know I’m isogeting Scripture, but you know, I’m saying, can I grab on to that?
Latasha Morrison 27:14
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 27:16
So yeah, I think, you know, joy helps me have hope.
Latasha Morrison 27:22
I thank you so much for your honesty, because it’s hard sometimes. I can’t, I don’t find hope in people. Because people will let you down, disappoint you.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 27:36
Latasha Morrison 27:36
And so it’s like, on the other side of that, hope for me, it’s just like, my hope, you know, not trying to sound super spiritual, but it’s in God, the creator of all. I think it was 2021, the song that got me through was like, “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 27:36
“Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
Latasha Morrison 27:39
And I mean like for real. And like in that song, “I need thee now.” I had it on repeat and singing it. Because that was the only thing that could sustain all of what I was feeling and all the complexities of everything. I lost my dad to COVID in 2021 and just in the midst there was just so much happening you know, leading this organization, all these things, and you feel like the world is coming in on you. And that was the thing is, my faith that was sustaining me. And definitely not in systems or people.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 28:53
That part, that part.
Latasha Morrison 28:55
Because that quick little racial awakening, reckoning, or what you would say.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 29:03
The five seconds of reckoning we had. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 29:04
The five seconds. Right then we was like, “Oh my goodness!” Because I mean even I tell people Ta-Nehisi Coates even said, he felt hopeful. Like, this is a dude that don’t believe. Our unity was bringing him hope. And five whole seconds.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 29:27
Five whole seconds. If that. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 29:29
And you know and just to see just the things that came crashing in. What you would say, what you term as white rage that came crashing in because of that, you know, wanting us to rise above that and not fall for these things again. And when you see some of even the elite falling for this, you’re just like wow, okay.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 29:59
Latasha Morrison 30:00
But I am so grateful for your voice. I’m grateful for your words. What would you say? I think this is gonna actually, I think yours is gonna go live this month. So there are a lot of Black and Indigenous women that are, Brown women that are listening to this now, I would love for you just as we close to just speak…What would you want to leave with those men and women that are listening right now?
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 30:39
Joy is your birthright. It is not something you have to go find. You might have to dig for it within your own soul. But joy is yours to have. And in the midst of great pain and rage and violence and a culture that wants to diminish your joy or outright deny its presence, you have the power to be able to access the joy that God has already placed in you. You don’t have to, like I said, it’s not…a lot of people say, “I’m gonna go find joy.” No, you’re just tapping in.
Latasha Morrison 31:32
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 31:32
You’re just reclaiming what has always been yours to have. You know, for my church folk, joy is a person.
Latasha Morrison 31:44
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 31:45
And we can talk to and tap into that person. And so that’s what I would say. Joy I feel like it’s a great starting point for the healing journey, which will encompass so many other things along the way. But I think, being able to hold your joy in tension with all of the complexities of being a human on this planet, in this time, in the season, is a great starting point for healing for all of us.
Latasha Morrison 32:19
Well, thank you. Continue to write on sister, write on. You know, I think something about writing a book, if anything shall happen, these words are left here. And I know that’s something that those of you if you write poems or songs or whatever that is, it’s like having that a piece of yourself just published I know that’s a big thing. Or journal. So you continue to write stories that heal and that transform, and that will be here for kids even younger than your daughter, your daughter’s generation.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 32:30
Latasha Morrison 33:01
And like you said there is, like this generation, they are different.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 33:19
They are different. Fierce.
Latasha Morrison 33:21
Very different. And at that age like that age 10 and 11 is so critical. When you were talking about your daughter, I was thinking about my my best friend’s son, my godson, and I remember when he was 10, he’s 16 now. But he overheard a conversation that we were having. And it was something like we said, people need to understand what it means to be white. What does it mean? Like there’s a meaning to being Black, we understand. But do white people understand what is the meaning, like, understand what it means to be white. And so he overheard that conversation. And he was like, “I know what it means to be white.” And we were like, “What are you talking about? You don’t know what you’re talking about. Just go back to sleep, go back to sleep.” And he said, “It means to be free.”
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 34:16
Latasha Morrison 34:18
And it’s like, in his 10 year old head,
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 34:20
He had already observed.
Latasha Morrison 34:22
He had already absorbed in this racialized society and had interpreted that. And he even, you know, elaborated on it where it says like, “If you’re white, you’re always innocent until proven guilty.”
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 34:46
Latasha Morrison 34:48
And so, even in this society he had already, at 10, understood the danger.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 34:57
Absorbed it. Yeah.
Latasha Morrison 35:00
So yeah, so there’s a lot of work to be done.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 35:04
Can I say something really quick? I believe in giving folks they flowers while they still here. (laughter) And I just want to thank you for the work that you do. Like I said, I’ve been following you for a great long time and listening, different things that you’ve done, and I am so grateful that you are here and willing. And I know, I can imagine how hard it can be sometimes. I can imagine how the enemy will often mess around, mess with you. And I just want you to know that I am so grateful to you for your work for all that you’re doing, for all that you will continue to do. And I know that God is just, He’s doing something special for you, for us, for people in general for reconciliation. But not in the sort of kind of way that we’ve defined it. But for a greater reconciliation that we can’t even imagine at this point. And you’re one of His soldiers in that work. And so just, thank you. I just wanted to make sure I thank you personally for all that you’re doing.
Latasha Morrison 36:25
Thank you so much. Thank you for saying that. I appreciate that. I was just telling Lauren and Sarah that like sometimes you just, I’ve had several podcasts today and each person there has been a touch point with Be the Bridge in some kind of way. And that just, and I was like we will never know like just what a yes has equal to in the lives of people. So you know, sis we’re gonna keep praying for each other. Keep saying yes, keep writing, doing everything that we know to do. So I’m just grateful for you. I hope this will not be our last, I know this will not be our last conversation.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 37:16
It will not! You my sister!
Latasha Morrison 37:17
(laughter) Right, right. I was just gonna say you in New Jersey, Lauren in New Jersey. Y’all need to hook up.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 37:25
Latasha Morrison 37:25
I actually when I do get this book out, this next book out we definitely want to come up to that area.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 37:34
Oh yeah. Let me know if you want to be in conversation, if you want to do something like that. I mean it.
Latasha Morrison 37:41
I sure will. I sure will. So Lauren, we’re gonna keep your name and information down. I’m following you. All that. (laughter) Your mom went, did your mom go with you to?
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 37:54
Yeah, I took her to the Image Awards!
Latasha Morrison 37:57
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 37:56
Her little Kentucky self. She just was so happy. She put on a dress and she was just like, whew! And trying to get pictures of Angela Bassett and everybody. (laughter) You know how mama’s do.
Latasha Morrison 38:10
I can imagine. I remember my dad, we went to the, I got the Ebony 100 a couple of years ago. And I remember him, the people, he watched that show Queen Sugar. And we were sitting right beside their table. And he loves that show. So he was up there, I just remember, (laughter) and I think I still have this picture of him doing to the side where he’s like…no idea that they like, you know, my dad, he was like, he didn’t want to go over there and disturb him. But he was like, you can take these pictures. (laughter)
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 38:50
Yeah, my mom was like, “You go, you go. Just tell them you won the award.” I was like, “Ma, it don’t quite work like that. But Okay.” (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 38:57
I love it. I love it. I know it did her heart so much good to see you.
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 39:01
She was very proud. That was probably bigger than anything.
Latasha Morrison 39:07
Being able to take your mom there and her to see that. Oh, I love it. Girl I love you!
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts 39:15
I love you, too!
Go to the donors table if you’d like to hear the unedited version of This podcast. Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast. To find out more about the Be The Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to BeTheBridge.com. Again, that’s BeTheBridge.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded, and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the Senior Producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been a Be the Bridge production.