You are listening to the Be the Bridge podcast with Latasha Morrison.
Latasha Morrison 0:06
[Intro] How are you guys doing today? This is exciting!
Each week, Be the Bridge podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.
Latasha Morrison 0:16
[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 0:53
Okay, I am so excited! To the beehive (the Be the Bridge hive, as we call you) to have this discussion today we’ve been wanting to have this discussion about small groups. A lot of you guys are leading Be the Bridge groups. And some of you are having a great time and some of you are having a lot of success. And some of you are having some issues, you’ve ran into some hiccups. So I’m here with Andrea Middleton and Margo Yoder. And we’re going to talk all things Be the Bridge groups today. Are you guys ready?
Andrea Middleton 1:36
Latasha Morrison 1:37
Okay, so we have Andrea and Margo who are leading a group here in the Atlanta area. And I wanted to bring them on, because Andrea is also the Be the Bridge educator and the leader of our Be the Bridge Leaders Group that we have online. And this is a place where leaders go to help guide them as they participate and as they lead groups within their community. So they join this group to find out best practices, we also have training, orientation, all of these things. And it’s important, if you are hearing this and you had no idea about this group, you have to make sure that if you are leading or participating in the Be the Bridge group—is your group registered? And if you have a registered group, you will, once you register your group, you will get important information, especially about the next Be the Bridge Guide that’s coming out. So, it’s coming out. So I wanted to have them on here just to talk about some things and how they’re leading the group. I’ve been able to watch them closely and also from afar and see the growth that they’ve had together and then also individually. But I wanted to talk to both of you! Margo, how many groups have you participated in?
Margo Yoder 3:02
I have participated in four groups, one as a member and then three times as a co-leader, maybe once maybe I wasn’t quite ready, but felt the nudge and jumped in.
Latasha Morrison 3:15
Okay, we’re gonna come back to that “not quite ready” because we want people to learn from that. Okay. And Andrea, how many groups have you participated in?
Andrea Middleton 3:27
All right, I participated in one group from beginning to end, was actually in Margo’s group that she led, and just kind of fell off the map. Didn’t complete. And then I’ve led three groups.
Latasha Morrison 3:45
Okay. Okay. So you fell off the map and then you came back! Okay, so you had to reset yourself. So that happens! Like, I want to talk about that, because that happens. And it doesn’t mean that maybe at that point, you weren’t ready. I remember a friend of mine just telling me saying, “Hey, I love what you’re doing. But I can’t talk about this with white people. I can’t be in a Be the Bridge group.” And you know, it took a couple years and now this person was helping to lead a group. And so that, you know, there’s some resets or recalibration, and sometimes we have to do work in our own lives before we can lead others and participate. So this is, I’m glad that you guys are honest. Now, so you’ve led some groups and you have participated in some groups. How did you prepare to lead? Like, how, what are some things that you did individually, you know, where you were preparing to lead?
Andrea Middleton 4:46
Um, so I started leading right after George Floyd was murdered. And Margo had mentioned earlier about feeling that nudge. I felt the nudge, I am an active member and in a group that’s called Community of Change within our school community. And knew that, you know, conversations were happening with other white members in that particular group. And they’ve seen me, you know, be supportive of Be the Bridge. And so that’s kind of how the group formed, just through everyday relationships. You know, from me posting on Facebook and people inquiring, you know. But the main way that I prepared, honestly, was through prayer. I felt the nudge, and the flesh side of me, the real side of me was like, “You are not even prepared to lead anybody anywhere.” But it was one of those things where I prayed, and was like, “Alright God, like, I am fully depending on you to help me lead several women.”
Latasha Morrison 6:18
Yeah. And I remember you, you know, I know—knowing you for a long time, I know these are conversations we’ve had. But then I began to see a shift in you where you were reading articles and books and sending [messages], “Have you heard about this? And have you heard about this?” So there’s a lot of educating I saw that you were doing also personally. Margo, how about you?
Margo Yoder 6:41
I would echo Andrea. With prayer, definitely. For me, when Andrea started these groups, she came to me looking for a co-leader. And honestly, I trust Andrea’s leadership. I feel like I would—Andrea and I have known each other for what, seven, eight years. And I feel like if Andrea asks me to do something, I’m gonna do it.
Andrea Middleton 7:06
Latasha Morrison 7:07
How did you guys—Okay, wait a minute, this is great! So how did you meet? How did you meet?
Andrea Middleton 7:16
Gosh, we—so our boys attended this “Moms want a day out” program when they were like four or five years old. And I remember thinking there was something a little bit different about Margo, but you know, you’re like two ships passing in the night. It was, you know, a drop-off and then we keep going. And then we found out that our two girls were in the same class. And then they formed a friendship, so there was some, you know, there was some interaction that we had, but it wasn’t—you know, it wasn’t too deep. You know, we weren’t in each other’s lives like we are now. I mean, Margo has made it to my favorites list on my cell phone!
Latasha Morrison 8:10
Wait a minute! That’s a big deal! When you’re on the Favorites list…Did y’all hear that? Okay Margo is on Andrea’s Favorites list. But that’s great. And so basically, you met through your kids at school, you became acquaintances, and then that later developed into something else. I love that. And so sometimes the people that you’re supposed to connect with are the ones that are right in your life, but you haven’t like, zoned in on them. So it could be that other parent that’s dropping off. I’ve heard this story so many times of people who are leading groups together, it was from, you know, at their kid’s school or at a, you know, someone that was on their kid’s soccer team or basketball team. Some of these things happen, it doesn’t always happen that, “Hey, we went to the same church and we formed this.” You guys go to totally different churches, you know, just about everybody in your group is a part of a different faith community. And then also some are not even a part of the Christian faith. And so I think that’s just interesting how you guys are just growing and learning. What have been some of the—what does growth look like to you in the area of racial healing, equity, and reconciliation? What does that growth look like that you’ve seen people in your groups or even yourselves go through? What is that growth look like for you?
Margo Yoder 9:42
I think for me, one of the signs of growth—especially for white members—is increased humility. We talk a lot about centering in Be the Bridge and I think when a white participant, which some people have this naturally but not everyone does culturally, we do a real good job as white people of centering ourselves. But when we learn to just listen without adding in our own words and our own experiences, and just listen and believe the person who is speaking to us—I think is a huge, huge marker of growth.
Latasha Morrison 10:20
Okay so let’s go back to that, because I’ve heard someone else say this. You know, when we talk about, I always—even in the book, I talk about this posture of humility. But a lot of times we can talk about that, and maybe sometimes we think we’re leading out of a place of humility, but what are some of the action steps to having a posture of humility? So you said listening, what are some other action steps, you know, that a person who is actually not the marginalized in this conversation—so if you’re not the marginalized you definitely need to be a listener and a learner—what is something, you know, how do you demonstrate humility? Because it’s easy to talk about and we can say it, but what are the action steps? Like what are some of the tangible things that shows that this person is entering this conversation in a humble and with humility, in a humble way, and with humility?
Margo Yoder 11:25
That’s a little bit of a tricky question. Because I for one am a box-checker and if you tell me, you know, my five ways to get humility, I’mma work real hard to do those.
Latasha Morrison 11:36
[Laughs] I love that. I love it.
Margo Yoder 11:38
I mean, I think like a lot of things in faith, like, it’s a matter of motivation, and it’s a matter of heart change. Right? And that looks different on different people. It doesn’t mean that you stop talking or stop sharing your experience, it’s, it’s your posture, whether that be physical or non-physical towards another person as they are sharing their life. It’s putting someone else’s story up on a pedestal, and not, it doesn’t have to make sense to you.
Latasha Morrison 12:10
Mhmm. That’s good. So it’s like, your response. Because sometimes we can tune people out and we’re thinking like, “Hey, I’m still in the room.” So I am here, I am walking in here with humility, because I’m staying here, but you’ve tuned the person out, and you’re thinking about something else, you know. Or you’re like, “I’m listening. I’m not gonna say anything.” But yet still, you’re thinking about what you’re going to prepare for dinner, because you’ve tuned out because there’s a disagreement, but you haven’t verbalized it. But mentally and emotionally, you’ve checked out, you know. So I think that’s good. And I think sometimes people feel like, “Because I’m showing up, I’m displaying humility.” But how are you actively showing that? You know, so I think that’s important. Andrea, what about you?
Andrea Middleton 13:03
I want to piggyback off of what Margo said. Humility on both sides. As a woman of color, I also had to show up in this space with the correct posture. And, you know, sometimes—actually, posture is my word for the year. But, but yeah, just showing up in the correct posture, and what that looks like as a person of color. Being transparent—a lot of times it’s hard to open yourself up to people, to white women, you know, talking about our group in particular, and not sure how they’re going to respond to what I’m, you know, sharing. You know, sharing some deep concerns and wounds that me and my family have experienced. You know, people in my community, and still coming in every week and saying, “Okay, I have to be transparent and vulnerable to let them know that what you see on the news—you may not know anybody, but you know, that may not be your story, but here I am in front of you and I’m telling you this is real. You know, this is what we experience.” So, and then Margo says something often which, you know, I’m like, I’m going to coin it, I’m going to say it’s mine…but she says often that we have to be willing to fall forward. And this is like where we’re all learning. You know, we’re all learning. We, you know, we all have to be in a place of learning, being able to open ourselves up, effectively express our feelings in that moment. Being able to, you know, listen—you know, because even as a Black person, you know, being able to take a step back and listen to what, you know, what is being said on both sides, you know, so I can learn. You know, so I can learn how to respond to them, which will then, you know, growth happens.
Latasha Morrison 15:43
Yeah, so that’s good. So one of the things you were saying is showing up, and being transparent, that was like an act of humility for you. Because it’s like, the only way they’re gonna know is if I show up as a truth teller, you know. And so, but you had to, like, be prepared. And so we know that this was a brave space. And we don’t like to use the word “safe space” because we understand that, you know, spaces are not safe for everyone. And so you had to be courageous, and you had to be brave, and you had to show up in your courageous self in this space. And so that’s important! And then I think it’s important too that, on the other side of that, you know, that people receive you in that manner too. Because when you show up in this in your fullness, and then you’re not received, that could be very oppressive too. You know. And so, that’s really good. I love that. What are, what are some of the triumphs, you know? Or what, you know what, before we get to triumphs, let’s talk about: what are some of the challenges that you’ve had maybe leading a Be the Bridge group, or maybe things that you’ve seen in other groups? What are some of the challenges that you seen?
Andrea Middleton 17:03
Oh goodness. We have um…this past summer, we had, I had three groups. And Margo and I, we kind of joked about it, and we say, you know, we have our first child, our middle child, and our baby. And, you know, one of our groups, I mean, they would come prepared. And, I mean, they were dedicated, just—help me out Margo, trying to describe our first group…
Margo Yoder 17:38
You got it!
Andrea Middleton 17:39
They were just very challenging.
Margo Yoder 17:40
Yeah, they were a smaller group also.
Andrea Middleton 17:43
Yeah. And so, for me as a leader, at times that group, from a head perspective it challenged me mentally. So I was challenged mentally in one group. Whereas in another group, I was challenged a little bit more physically, and what I couldn’t do verbally, I had to pray even more. You know, and think even more, and, you know, just it was a little bit more physically challenging.
Latasha Morrison 18:26
So, describe it…give me an example. Like, I know, your group members may be listening, but you can say hypothetically.
Andrea Middleton 18:33
We love you!
Latasha Morrison 18:33
You don’t have to use any names, but what are some circumstances that were challenging? Because there’s people listening out here, and they’re going through some challenges in their groups, you know? And maybe they’re thinking about, you know, stopping it. How did you survive the challenge? Like, did you keep pushing through, did y’all talk about it, did y’all say, “Hey, wait a minute, we’re gonna stay in this another week,” or “we’re going to take a pause and we’re going to talk about this”? How did you handle those challenges? And, you know, what were maybe an example of what—something that was like, challenging for either one of you.
Andrea Middleton 19:13
So in one of our groups, I began leading this group by myself. And I thought, you know, okay, I’ve, you know, I’ve already started leading a couple other groups, I could probably do this, you know, do this by myself. I know all the women. And in me leading this group alone, I quickly realized that I cannot do this by myself. I need the help of another person. I begged Margo, I paid her (nah), but I recognized in myself as a leader that what I needed to give to them—I didn’t have at all. And so you know, there were a couple of times where we would get off track very easily. And because we’re all, you know, our kids all go to school together, you know, sometimes it will be very easy to, you know, start talking about what’s happening in the community. And then what is supposed to be an hour, hour-and-a-half conversation, you know, turns into several hours. And that’s because of, you know, my inability at times to, you know, stay on track. And Margo has definitely been that person, you know, to back me up, and, you know. We’re constantly texting and in communication, and we’re like, “Okay, this person is not saying something,” and, you know, “Let’s call on this person,” and “This person needs to not say as much” and so that particular time frame was extremely challenging for me. And then I think, with our other group, there were times where we had a, you know, some members would sometimes play devil’s advocate…
Latasha Morrison 21:13
Oh, I don’t like that game. We got enough devils! Don’t play…wait a minute. Let’s take a pause. Let’s even stop using that term! Because when people even say that, first of all, it shuts down the conversation. And I’m like, there’s enough people out there that are playing devil’s advocate that you don’t need to play it. Like, you know, and so, yeah, so anyway, going back. I just wanted to say that! [Laughs]
Andrea Middleton 21:40
Yeah. And so in playing devil’s advocate, you know, or asking that question to a certain group of people can be, you know, at times honestly was extremely triggering. And challenging for the women of color in the group, to where, you know, there’s probably a couple times, you know, they wanted to back out and say, “You know what? This is too much. This is too harming to myself. And I’m going to have to take a pause.” You know.
Latasha Morrison 22:24
What made them—what made them stay? Because I know that, it’s just that, I think people have to realize too, you know, people who are doing this work are bridge building in this space of racial healing. You know, as people of color there’s a lot we’re taking on. Because like, you know, one of our friends wrote, she’s like, “Look, the blood of Jesus is the bridge, not my back.” And so we have to approach this conversation in that like—because some people think like, okay, because I’m a bridge builder, you’re going to say anything you want to say, and I need to answer all your questions. That’s not the type of bridge we building! That’s not, that’s an unhealthy bridge. And, this is too much for, even as a person of color, for us to carry the weight of. And so but we stay—a lot of times we stay in these conversations, not because of a person, but because of our relationship with God. And because we want to see everyone flourish, or we want to see our children, you know, live free like everyone else’s children are living free. You know. So what made them stay?
Andrea Middleton 23:45
Margo Yoder 23:47
Andrea Middleton 23:47
I mean, honestly, that’s what [sighs]—clinging on to hope, hope in God’s Word, that, you know, when the Bible talks about, you know, or “he will complete the work in us, through us.” Having hope, also, just honestly, even remembering that the grace that has been extended to me as a Christian, you know. All the times where I didn’t show up, and I didn’t do what I was supposed to do, and I knew better, and I, you know, and how God’s love for me was just that real to where I was like—I can’t give up on our group as a leader. So, you know, because Christ did not give up on me.
Latasha Morrison 24:52
That’s good. So Margo, what would you say are some of the challenges that you’ve seen or heard or experienced in leading Be the Bridge groups?
Margo Yoder 25:05
Yeah, I think especially like Andrea said, we have been doing two groups since last summer. I think just remembering that groups are not, they’re not all going to look the same. Their flow is not going to be the same, their needs are not going to be the same. So my expectations as a leader have to remain flexible. Right? We would have, you know, we would meet on Tuesday with a group and then Thursday. We’d go over the same exact unit, you know, Be the Bridge unit, completely opposite conversations would happen in both. Which is, you know, part of the culture of, I mean, that’s why we do it in person, right? Um, but at some point, you know, it can get exhausting for it not to go the way you think it’s gonna go. And again, that goes back to humility for me, right, like, staying pliable and flexible for however the Spirit’s gonna lead the discussion. I think…but that can pose a challenge too, because, you know, you gear up for a certain conversation, and then it goes a totally different way. And you got to be able to pivot as things change.
Latasha Morrison 26:10
Okay. Okay. So what have been some of you know, this is some of the things that when I’m talking to people, and I’m talking about some of the transformation that I see happening in the groups—one of the things that they, one of the things that I would hear is them talk about, I’m sorry, let me go back. I heard something in the background. [Laughs] Okay, so one of the, the other things that I wanted us to talk about was, you know, some of the triumphs that we have, you know, in our Be the Bridge group. I talk about this a lot, you know, as I’m leading around the country. And you know, there are other people who are doing this work, they’re like, “Please let me hear these because I know you guys are on the front lines, and what I’m seeing in the spaces that I am in, it’s just all a mess,” you know. And so let’s talk about some of the triumphs that you’ve seen in your group, or maybe in other groups that you know about, and maybe Andrea, some of the things that you’ve seen other Be the Bridge group leaders talk about and discuss. You know, so we talked about some of the challenges. And we’ll talk a little bit more about those. But what are some of the triumphs that you’ve seen in the groups?
Andrea Middleton 27:26
Man. God, there’s so many! I have seen, gosh, there was this one incident that happened, where one of our group members, her son was in a really bad accident. He had a really terrible injury. And the way our Be the Bridge group surrounded her was the most—one of the most beautiful things that I’ve been able to be a part of and witness. And talk about being the hands and feet of Jesus! That’s what we did. Like we were, and we’d only been meeting for maybe a couple of months, but I remember a conversation I had, you know, with the mom, and she was like, you know, during that time, we were the church to her. You know, and so, it was like one of those things where had we not, you know, formed or started Be the Bridge, been consistent, you know, we wouldn’t have been able to experience that togetherness and community. You know, with her, and, you know, so that’s, I mean, that’s one. Gosh, I mean, we are like…
Latasha Morrison 28:59
So you were relational, you were in proximity, you have formed a—although you had only been meeting for a few months, you know, when tragedy happened, you guys rallied as a community. So the one of the triumphs that you’ve seen is a true authentic community being formed. You know, where you have become, you know, friends beyond this discussion.
Margo Yoder 29:26
Yeah. It’s really, it’s really Tasha, a miracle of the model that was created. I mean, when you put people in a room together, right, you move from exchanging ideas and experiences to sharing life together. It’s a choice. You don’t have to, you don’t have to be vulnerable and go there. But just watching that happen over the months in the groups I’ve been in is always a miracle to watch that exchange. Moving from exchange of ideas to exchanging of life, I think is really cool.
Latasha Morrison 29:57
And so most of your group started like, during the pandemic! A lot of them.
Andrea Middleton 30:01
Right. Yeah. Which was, which was another God wink. Because during that time, you know, where we’re in a space where we are at home, that need for community was basically absent. And so forming, being a part of Be the Bridge group gave us something for us to look forward to, you know—having some sort of outside communication with other like minded people, and those people honestly becoming a part of our community. So they’re, I mean, I just think about how we, like Margo said, how we are in each other’s lives. Like we are in each other’s lives. Yeah, I mean, we are talking, texting, FaceTiming, Zooming, going out to dinner. I mean, we’re going out to dinner tonight. You know, like our children—they are now forming groups. You know, so…yeah.
Latasha Morrison 31:14
I love it. So you’re, you’re passing this on to your, like, next generation. And I did hear one of your members talk about their daughter forming a group, you know, with your daughter, and, you know, I love it and how this is happening. And so I guess people weren’t passive aggressive while they were doing it over Zoom or whatever you were using, and turning their camera off when they had an issue. And…
Margo Yoder 31:44
We can talk about Zoom challenges also!
Latasha Morrison 31:49
Okay, but okay, what are some…let’s talk about, I want to, well, let’s talk about some of the—cuz there’s a lot of people listening to this. And they’re like, “This is good, this sound good for y’all group, but this ain’t how my group, I can’t—I mean, I’m, I’m barely talking to some of the people in my group!” You know, there’s a lot of different stories we hear with Be the Bridge. And so I know a lot of people are listening, and maybe this isn’t your story. Let’s talk about some of the common mistakes people make when participating, or when they’re leading a group. What are some of the common mistakes that, you know, maybe not in your group, but Andrea, like some of the things that you’ve seen in the Be the Bridge leader group or other leaders talk about? What are some common mistakes that people make? And, Margo, I want you to chime in on this also.
Andrea Middleton 32:36
I think one of the main common mistakes that I’ve, that I have recognized being a part of, you know, being a part of BTB is the leader and co-leader not on the same page. And, you know, one thing I can say about Margo is, and our relationship, we’re not just leader and co-leader, like we are genuine friends. And I think when you have that genuine friendship with someone, and leading a group on racial injustice, like there’s a level of trust and commitment, and that has to be there. And respect for one another that has to be there for it to be a healthy group. And so, I am beyond grateful, blessed, that, you know, I had that with the co-leaders—with Margo and my other co-leader. You know, so yeah, them not, you know, there being a power struggle. You know, Tasha you had talked about it earlier about, you know, a white person having to give over that power to a person of color. You know, that’s, that’s a legit issue!
Latasha Morrison 34:06
Let’s talk about that. And one of the things we were talking about is, when you’re in these dynamics of, you know, a leader and a co-leader, and understanding that a co-leader is assisting, you know, and being able to give power. Like if you’ve been in an environment where it has been very, you know, it hasn’t been diverse, or maybe you grew up in a space that’s not diverse. And so maybe you’ve never had a person of color lead you. Maybe you’ve never had, you know, a person of color as a teacher or a professor, a pastor, all these different things. And, you know, as a person of color, and especially as an African American, and in this space when we’re talking about leadership, you know, most of us have, I mean, I would say, 90% of people that’s a person of color, or you know, African American in this country, we’ve had to be in spaces where we’ve been led by someone that is not of our ethnicity or race, you know. But that’s not true for white people. So I know that can be a problem. And sometimes it’s unconsciously and sometimes it’s consciously, you know, where, you know, you’ve never been put in a situation like that. So you don’t know how you will respond, or you don’t know that it’s even in you to resist until you get in this space where you’re, you know, maybe you’re supposed to be co-leading, and then there’s this pull—because, you know, you don’t agree, y’all not on the same page, maybe there’s no friendship, or maybe there’s a friendship but you know, there’s this tug. And so there’s some healthy leadership dynamics, and then there’s some unhealthy leadership dynamics. And so Margo, what is the ability—and you mentioned this a little bit, you trust Andrea—your ability to follow Andrea’s leadership and not try to control it? Or to change it? Even when you see, you know, like she said, “There are some things that it’s not my strength, you know, I get off course a lot. And Margo is able to bring us back.” What are some ways and you still respect that leadership, even when you see, hey, she’s not perfect, nobody’s perfect. But you see some of the mishaps in her leadership? How do you still continue to follow?
Margo Yoder 36:43
Whew, that’s a big one. Um, so I can talk about that experientially, after participating in my first group as just a participant. I mean, I feel like that was a season in life where scales were falling off my eyes. So it was continuing to be in the process of working out my salvation, right. And one of the big things for me during that group and then after, was learning what it meant to be a white woman, right? Learning the power that has been given to me, learning the weapons that I unconsciously have been given and use. So for me, it was continuing to remember that I’m still learning about this. Like for the rest of my life, I will be undoing the first 40 years of my life where I grew up in a culture of not understanding the world around me. And so for me, I don’t know if I’m gonna answer your question in a way that’s going to be helpful to lots of people, but for me, it’s that humility, it’s realizing that I don’t understand, you know, the life and what it is like to live as a person of color. And so I can do nothing but trust Andrea’s experience, right? Because I don’t have that experience for myself. And she and I having a shared history, I mean, that trust comes from having, you know, almost a decade of friendship behind us. So that wasn’t, I mean, maybe not for the podcast. Like that was never hard for me, to trust Andrea.
Tandria Potts 38:28
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Tandria Potts 40:16
[Voiceover] Thanks for staying with us. Let’s get back to our conversation.
Latasha Morrison 40:20
So if you know, we’re talking about a subject that maybe you don’t agree on, what I’ve seen happen in some groups is that people, if two leaders will openly disagree, it’s not to say you’re going to agree all the time. But when it comes to, when it comes to my oppression, it does matter, you know what I’m saying? And so, I know that I’ve seen unhealthy behaviors where they don’t talk about maybe the curriculum, or what they’re going to talk about before they get in front of the rest of the group. And so I know, sometimes that can be a challenge, if you’re not having conversations as two leaders, and talking about, you know, what you’re going to talk about with your group prior to going in, you know, having this discussion with other people—that can pose a problem. Or if something happens, and then instead of going to the, you know, you as two leaders discussing it and debriefing about it, that, you know, the leaders go to the people, the participants, and talk about it. And so that can cause a lot of issues within the group. And you can have these, you know, dynamics. And so I’ve heard a lot of this type of thing happening. So I think one of the takeaways that people could do, because you’re not going to agree on everything, but it’s best for us to have this conversation—if you’re talking about lament, if you’re talking about acknowledgment, or some historical context, to have these conversations as a leadership team first, and then, you know, talk about this with your group. And so do you find that, I know everybody doesn’t have to do that, but do you find that that’s helpful? You know, as you’re, you know, dealing with some things, you know, or maybe some things that are happening in, you know, in our society or in our culture that are very challenging. It’s good to have those discussions as leaders, and kind of, you know, pray about those things before you even take it to your group. Have you ever found that helpful?
Andrea Middleton 42:28
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, there were…Margo and I, if we didn’t talk, you know, daily. But, um, I mean, for the most part, you know, we would, we would always talk and prepare, you know, the lessons together. And debrief! You know, I’m glad that you brought that up, because that is also very, you know, important. It is not just a, okay, end meeting on the Zoom call, and I go to bed. You know, nine times out of 10, Margo and I we are texting each other to discuss, pray, you know, even if it’s a one liner, “Hey, okay, that was a lot. Let’s talk about it in the morning.”
Latasha Morrison 43:17
Andrea Middleton 43:19
But the two of us did that. And also want to say something too, I can’t remember, there were a couple times where during the summertime, it seemed like every week we were meeting, there was a new killing. Somebody else was, you know, dying. Last summer was extremely difficult. And because, you know, I had to be open and honest with Margo to let her know, “I’m struggling today. Like, I know I’m supposed to lead, but I can’t lead.” And, you know, that’s me humbling myself and recognizing, you know, I don’t have it to give.
Latasha Morrison 44:07
To give. Because I can’t answer no questions, I don’t want no one to say, “But he did this…” and I don’t want to hear any of it today. Yeah. I get you.
Andrea Middleton 44:19
Yeah. And so that happened, you know, quite a few times, you know, throughout the course of our meetings, our two groups that we lead together. And, you know, one of the things I’m you know, most appreciative of [about] Margo as a co-lead: she was right there to pick up all the pieces that I couldn’t put together. You know, so we really walked hand in hand. Whatever I couldn’t give, she was able to give, you know? And vice versa. But that, you know, that takes a communication on both of our parts. That takes me being transparent, especially as a Black woman. You know, if I’m crying in front of somebody, to me, that means I’m like, really pissed off. I’m angry.
Latasha Morrison 44:19
Andrea Middleton 44:21
But to, you know, but there were times where I literally like would be weeping in our groups, and then they would start praying, you know? Or, you know, one of the members would be challenging another member and say, “Do you see the work that it’s taking for her to do this and show up every single week?”
Latasha Morrison 45:47
So you had people in your group, and also Margo, showing up in the midst of your pain and anguish and trauma, because you were still leading through this, but Margo was able to lift your arms during those times when you needed her the most. And not only that, but you weren’t demanded to give of yourself—but your group members, those that didn’t understand were directed by those who did understand. And I think that’s something that’s really important, is just that to remember when these things are happening, you know, there’s a lot of trauma that all of us are dealing with. Whether you’re dealing with family trauma, you know, personal trauma, you know, there’s a lot of things. We’re all dealing with trauma in some capacity. And so one of the things as you know, African Americans, we deal with racial trauma. And I think it’s important, you know, it’s hard for us to be in these conversations and give of ourselves. I remember last year, when Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd was happening, and you know, it’s like, the whole Be the Bridge community is looking for me to give a response, to say something. So in the midst of my pain, and anguish, and what I’m feeling, I don’t—like, trying to process all of that before I’m even able to give out because I may, I’m gonna probably give out the wrong thing. And so sometimes it’s like, the only thing we have to give out is: “I can’t help you today.” Or “I’m crying,” or “I’m taking a moment for me to gather myself and take care of my mental health.” And it’s alright to take those timeouts. But we need people in the groups to be able to lift up the arms, or to say that, or to help the leaders and to be sensitive to that.
And I think sometimes we can be insensitive to that, you know, when people are going through a traumatic experience. Just imagine someone trying to lead and do all of this, and they’re going through a divorce or, you know, they’re going through a health issue, you know, how would you respond? How would you step up? What would you do? Or you know, are you going to cook potlucks? Are you, you know, are you thinking about that as it relates when these things are happening? How can I lift this burden a little bit, you know, for my friend, or my sister, or my brother?
Okay, so what are some common things, Andrea, that you see in the Be the Bridge leader groups? What are some common things that we see—before we get into the do’s and don’ts of starting and leading a Be the Bridge group—what are some common themes that you see?
Some common things or themes?
Themes! I’m sorry! What are some common themes? I’m sorry.
Andrea Middleton 48:44
Some common themes that I see in leading a group…hmm…
Latasha Morrison 48:55
Leading a group, or either what you see in the Be the Bridge—you oversee about 2,000 people who are in our online Be the Bridge Leaders Group. What are some things that you see as common in the group dynamics that leaders are trying to filter through or process or learn from each other or glean from each other? What are some, maybe some common themes that you see overall?
Andrea Middleton 49:25
Yeah, one common thing that I see, and I’ve, you know, mentioned it before, not having a supportive co-lead. Not being on the same page with the co-lead, not knowing, you know, not knowing your role. You know. It’s okay to, you know, talk about who’s going to do what, you know, what are your gifts, what are your strengths, weaknesses. You know, one of my leaders or co-leads, he is gifted from an administrative side. And I can do it, but that’s not, you know, that’s not my strong point. And that is [his]. So having those conversations. Being prepared—you know, I had to do that, you know, from reading, from talking, podcasts, following different people on social media sites—this isn’t just a “I have a feeling and now I want to do it.” Like, no, we’re talking about something that is so deep.
Latasha Morrison 50:36
Yeah. Historic. Centuries.
Andrea Middleton 50:38
So yes. Yes. Like, you know, the same things that our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents…
Latasha Morrison 50:46
Andrea Middleton 50:48
Great-great. You know, that we’re still dealing with to this day. You know, and, you know, so honestly, you know, leaders not being prepared.
Latasha Morrison 51:02
So leaders have to be learners.
Andrea Middleton 51:04
Leaders have to, yes! Leaders have to be learners. And, you know, another thing, I get emails a lot of times from members who don’t feel a connection from their leaders. And so if you are leading a group, there’s a level of…there’s a different level of commitment that is required from you, that’s not required from the members. And so there are times where, you know, yeah, I do have to go the extra mile and, you know, send out a text or call a person or pray for a person or, you know, just to make sure that, you know, we stay engaged. Because it’s easy to, you know, kind of, after you talked about repentance, shame, guilt, reparations, for a person to, you know, close that book and not think about Be the Bridge ever again.
Latasha Morrison 52:08
Yeah, yeah. Because you can’t walk away from it. Some people can walk away from it. So as a leader just keeping it before—so that’s about establishing relationship. And I think one of the things in the way Be the Bridge groups are designed, it’s not just designed for you to have these discussions and come and, you know, have these group discussions. But one of the key things in the first group that, you know, that I ever led was to build life and do life with the people. So that’s, many of us who are a part of communities where we have small groups, or if you’re a part of, you know, any kind of community group, you see where it’s like, okay, you’re going to each other’s birthday, or you’re doing a phone call, or you’re sharing a text. It’s like, it’s not just, “I close this, and I don’t hear from anyone else,” you know, or when something happens in my life, no one knows, or no one is going through. You know, this is an extension of your life. And I know sometimes that’s hard to do, especially some groups where I have gotten together with people that didn’t know each other. But you guys basically, you know, you didn’t know each other intimately in that way until you really formed this group. You were associates, you participated in a group together. But Andrea, you were in and out of that group. And so you later connected. So I think that’s important to see. And I think that’s really good. Margo, was just something you were going to add?
Margo Yoder 53:41
As far as leaders go, I think one theme that I see is just the desire for support. And that’s where I think the Facebook leader page is super helpful. So for leaders that aren’t on that page, get on that page! It’s anything, it’s anything from spiritual and emotional support, like “this is happening my group, how would you all handle it?” to logistical support. You know, “I remember seeing this article somewhere that would be really helpful for my group, but now I can’t find it. Can someone help me?” And so I think just like the model of Be the Bridge is to be done in community. That’s how we build bridges. I think leading, even if it’s online, can be done in community. I think leaders need other leaders to bounce ideas off of and to feel supported. And to talk about hardships with.
Latasha Morrison 54:30
Yeah, we can’t do this, like we can’t become an island in this. And then the other thing is, you know, there’s training that’s happening in the Be the Bridge leader group, I know there’s orientation that happens. We have a new 3.0 guide that is coming out soon! We’re excited about that. And I know that there’s going to be a leader training group and some videos that’s going to accompany that. And so this is where you’re gonna find out all the information. And the first groups to be able to order this or to find out the training and all the details of this are going to be people who are part of that Be the Bridge leaders community. And then there’s some things that I think as leaders that can be done as it relates to training is, you know, we offer a BTB101, there is the Be the Bridge intensive that we offer to help, you know, our white brothers and sisters. Then also for our BIPOC community, there is a guide, and we’re doing some trauma care within our Be the Bridge BIPOC group that we have. And so there’s something, there’s some things that we have to do sometimes on our own to start the learning journey and to start the healing process, so that we can come together more effectively. So I think when leaders are doing that work on themselves, they’re able to also lead others in a healthy way.
Now, one of the things I wanted to talk about—because let me tell you guys, we’ve been doing this, we’re coming up on our fifth year. We’re going to be five years old! So what took place when we were two or three, you know, it’s not acceptable anymore, now that we’re five years old. So there’s gonna be a lot of resetting and recalibration that we’re doing as an organization internally and also externally. And there’s just things can go rogue! I mean, you know, Be the Bridge was in existence for a year before we even became an organization, you know, before it was like…Okay, now we’re going to do—some of the people were having groups and doing these discussions before there were really guidelines and rules and all those different things. And so we’ve had to put a lot of those things in place. So I want to talk about some of the do’s and don’ts to leading a Be the Bridge group. Because if you’re not part of the leaders group, we have a lot of rogue groups out there, we have a lot of groups that are not registered. So one of the do’s is to make sure that you DO register your Be the Bridge group. If you are leading a Be the Bridge group, if you are using, you know, the Be the Bridge Guide, then we want you to register your group. One of the things that we don’t want you to do is we don’t want you to change the curriculum, or just make a whole bunch of copies. You know, Be the Bridge is a nonprofit organization. So if there’s going to be changes that are going to be duplicated to a group, we need to know about that. We have that in writing as you download the guide. And then if you are making several copies of it without paying for it, then that is called what? Stealing!
Andrea Middleton 58:04
Latasha Morrison 58:04
[Laughs] So we are a nonprofit organization. We make the majority of our money and our funds to support our staff, to support someone like Andrea being in the Be the Bridge leader group to answer questions and to kind of guide and coach our leaders. You know, that comes with a cost and so we support our organization through the things that we sell.
And so I think people need to understand that also, we are a 501C3, but most of the people who are leading Be the Bridge groups aren’t! And so you are leading a Be the Bridge group, but because you’re leading a Be the Bridge group you cannot accept the money on behalf of Be the Bridge. Anybody that’s trying to donate or you know, you can not collect money on behalf of us. You need to point them to the leadership of Be the Bridge and you can do that by emailing [email protected] or [email protected] And so yeah, so those are just some of the do’s and don’ts. I want you guys to name some do’s and don’ts that you see. You know, some of the things maybe people need to do and some of the things they don’t need to do. What are some things that come to mind that people need to do or don’t do?
Andrea Middleton 59:31
Oh my goodness, I can think of several. Before you lead a group, if you are a white person, white brother or a sister, please sign up for BTB101. I’m encouraging several people who are wanting to start groups and they’re not even a part of, you know, BTB101, they haven’t participated, they haven’t even been in a BTB group. Another “do”—Oh, you had already mentioned registering the group. Another don’t is: do not cherry pick which sessions you want to teach on for the week! It’s sessions 1 through 9, and then the new guide is going to be sessions 1 through 10.
Latasha Morrison 1:00:28
Yeah. So don’t leave out reparations because you don’t want to have pushback! And so “We’re gonna leave that out,” because that’s a part of it—we can’t have the conversation on reconciliation, and, you know, racial justice, if we’re not having the conversation on repair and restoration.
Andrea Middleton 1:00:47
Latasha Morrison 1:00:48
Or lament! Yeah, don’t just because you’re uncomfortable with it, you know, you have to push through it. And there’s, you know, there’s Scripture to guide you in that. And then if you want to, one of the things you “do,” one of the things you can do is to use the book, The “Be the Bridge” book, written by myself personally, to guide you in some deeper conversations as it relates to lament and restoration and reconciliation and repair. The book goes a lot deeper, where the guide cannot go in just the timeframe. The guide is scratching the surface a little bit, just giving us an idea of this. The book goes deeper. And we will have, we have some curriculum coming out later on, there’s a lot of things coming, to help people engage in this conversation. Any more that you guys can think of? Any do’s or don’ts?
Andrea Middleton 1:01:45
Another “do” I just thought about, Tasha, whenever you mentioned about if you’re uncomfortable with a particular session or topic: do reach out to other leaders within the Facebook leader group, and, you know, ask for their help. You know, maybe there’s somebody from another group in your area that can, you know, possibly join or could assist you widening your understanding of that particular topic. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. You know, that’s one of the benefits of being a part of the leader group, it provides a special covering that when you are out there, kind of, you know, being a rogue—and there’s, like Tasha said, there are quite a few groups, unfortunately, that have gone rogue, you know, leaders have gone rogue—but when you’re out there just kind of doing it all doing alone, you’re not covered if something happens. You know, if conflict comes up, that’s a “do.” If you have conflict within your group, do reach out to, you know, one of the BTB leaders who are on staff, you know, there are several contractors. I have received several emails, where, and I’ve been in meetings where, you know, conflicts have arisen between the leaders and/or the members. So if there’s conflict, don’t try to, you know, pray it away. It’s okay, reach out to one of us, you know, email me, and, you know, I have no problem having that conversation to help, you know, help your group get past it and to grow from it.
Latasha Morrison 1:03:41
Yeah, that’s good. Any…
Margo Yoder 1:03:45
I have a couple! One “don’t” I would share is: don’t rush through the guide. I mean, we’ve had, we’ve had sessions where, you know, we talked for an hour and a half about question one on that lesson for that week. And, you know, we deemed it important to continue the conversation the next week. So remaining flexible, I mean, respectful of people’s schedules, but remaining flexible that you know, you might have to spend a couple weeks on lament or acknowledgement. And just to hold that flexibility. And another thing I would say as a white participant and white leader is don’t join a group or lead a group so that you can share your wisdom that you think you have with the groups that you are a part of. If that is your motivation for joining, I would do some introspection and some self-work before we jump right on in.
Latasha Morrison 1:04:42
So that brings up one that I had. It’s to “don’t” think that you’re going to become an expert. We are all learners in this. We never arrive. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. This is not a movement, this is a lifestyle here. And so we are, this is a part of your life, it’s like, you know, I think Margo you said this, like “I’m spending the rest of my life trying to unlearn the first 40 years of my life.” And so that’s a lot! Like we are trying to deconstruct and reconstruct in a healthy way. I mean, theologically, all these things, I mean, how we’ve been cued, how we’ve been informed, you know, as children, you know, theologically—all of those things that we are now, you know, putting a microscope on those, a magnifying glass, excuse me, and putting ourselves under a microscope, and just putting a magnifying glass on all these things. And so, this takes time. This is one step at a time, but you continue to engage and you take those pauses when you need to pause, or you take those timeouts when you need to take a timeout. And you do the self-care work that you need to do personally. So “do” make sure that you are taking care of self—yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally and spiritually. Those are important things. Because I know myself, you know, just in everything that I’ve been through, I haven’t been on social media as much as I have in the past. It’s just because where I am in my stage of life, and just the things that I’m dealing with as it relates to trauma and grief. And I know, in some ways I’m not going to show up, you know, maybe like I would, or say things like I would, or I just haven’t the capacity to deal with a lot of things. I don’t, I don’t have the grace to do that right now. And it’s okay for me to take a timeout and pause however long I need, and you know, and show up when I can as my best self, you know, throughout the season that I’m in. So we’re all going to go through difficult seasons, where it’s just harder for us to engage but we don’t want to isolate ourselves, and we don’t want to go back to homogenous, you know, thinking and living. So this is definitely a lifestyle of work.
So those are just a few of the do’s and don’ts that, you know, we want you to remember. And for those of you who want to, you know, you can listen, read, listen to this and get those, it’s going to be in the transcript. But you know, making sure that you know, that you register your groups and that you’re not operating your Be the Bridge group as a chapter or as an organization where you are receiving funds on behalf of Be the Bridge. That is a no-no. And please let us know about, you know, issues that come up! We are here to help and guide you the best way we can, maybe some of our suggestions is that you pause that group, and maybe there’s individual learning that needs to take place. And I agree with you, Andrea, I think BTB101 is a great place for people to start. Especially those that are in the majority culture, you know, it is important and imperative that you kind of begin to understand what’s been broken. Because how we’ve been informed, you know, through our faith or either through our history telling and who tells the history. A lot of those things, you know, we have been queued the wrong way. And so it’s important for us to realize and know, what things were broken and give us context so we understand, “What are we here to pray, towards restoring and repair and reconciling?”
So I thank you guys for being here. Are there any other things to these group leaders that are listening, those who are maybe thinking about starting a group, maybe those who are in a group that’s thinking about quitting, or those who are in a healthy group, and they’re growing? You know, we want to hear your stories. We want to hear the challenges and the triumphs, you know, that comes with the territory because we learn from them. And so, as Andrea and Margo both said, Margo said when she first led it was like “I was trying to lead…but…you know,” so there’s something that—but she didn’t give up. And so is there any encouragement that you ladies have to give those that are listening, maybe they’re thinking about it, maybe they haven’t participated in a group like this. Maybe there’s some people out here having conversations but really haven’t really become a learner in this and so they’re not talking from an informed position. What are some encouraging words that you have for those that are listening?
Andrea Middleton 1:10:02
Um, the very first thing that comes to my mind is praying. Like, do not forsake the power of prayer. You know, don’t think that you have to be this theologian and know all the statistics and you know, you have to have everything correct. If you have a willing heart and you’re open to learn, and you know, you’re in constant learning, you know—God will cover you. God will make up where you are missing those pieces. And so that’s, that’s what he does, you know, we have to be in full dependency on him. You know, we have to, you know, do that. And it’s a faith walk in even leading a group. So it grows your faith.
And another thing that, you know, I want to encourage us—Tasha, you had kind of mentioned about it, is self care. That is so important in leading a group, like taking care of yourself. You cannot give what you don’t have. You know, so Margo will tell you that I am like the self-proclaimed nap queen. There were plenty of times where, you know, it’s like, “Ooh, let me get back with you. I need to go and, you know, take a nap.” And that’s okay. Because I needed to make sure I was in the right frame of mind, you know, to where I’m not speaking, you know, from a place of brokenness or disappointment or whatever. So, yeah, self care. And you know what guys?! Y’all can do this! You can do it! There’s a community of people available that are here to support you. This is tried and true, we have a leader who is amazing, and she just doesn’t write about this stuff. She lives it. You know, so, you know, we are representing you Latasha, because you have been the bridge to so many groups of people. So, you know, be that example, you know, to other people in your lives.
Latasha Morrison 1:12:44
Yeah, that’s good. So you can’t, so I think the thing is, like—be authentic in this. Like, live out what you’re saying. And it’s not just the idea, but it’s like, you have to put it into practice. And so I think that’s very important, because so many people have an idea. But when it comes to them actively walking it out, you know, they’re unable to do that. And so you want to really show up in an authentic way. Any parting words from you, Margo?
Margo Yoder 1:13:15
I think just be willing to be transformed. I mean, this is Kingdom work that we’re doing. And when we do Kingdom work, we become more like Christ. So be willing to be transformed.
Latasha Morrison 1:13:32
Yeah, I think that’s so good. And that’s what this work is about. It’s about transformation. And I know for me, personally, I am not in the business of transformation, I cannot transform someone’s heart. And that’s what we need in this work of racial equity and racial healing and racial reconciliation, is we need transformation of heart and mind. And we need people to change their minds about ideologies and belief systems and values that they have propped up as idols. And so that is what this work of Be the Bridge is about. The groups are the heartbeat of what we do. This is a lot of times people’s first on-ramping, their first experience. We do recommend, like some of the BTB101, all those things, the intensive—they came about after we had started groups, but the reason why the BIPOC group and all these other things exist is because we knew that there had to be other things to support people who have a heart for this work. And so we had to go back and add some of the things that we felt that would help people become better bridge builders by adding the intensive and the 101 and the BIPOC group and all the other things that we’ve done. The transracial adoption material. We want people to be able to equip their children, the youth and college information and guides that we have. Those are just a few things that we’ve done. And just even when your group is done, there’s, you know, there’s book studies you can do together. There’s other, you know, curriculums that you guys can tap into. But we want you to keep the conversation going. Like I said, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And so this work doesn’t just stop with a conversation or start with a conversation, it continues on in how you live your life.
And so we thank you guys for all the work that you’re doing. And so if you have not joined the Be the Bridge leader group, make sure you do that. Make sure you log on so that you can continue to learn. And thank you for continuing to be bridge builders! And so thank you, Andrea and Margo for giving of yourself today and teaching us and guiding other leaders as they navigate this journey. And those of you, maybe you’re out there and you have an awesome story that’s happening with your group, make sure you share that with Be the Bridge. Or maybe there’s some challenges that are happening. We want to hear about those and maybe you’ve worked through a lot of challenges. We want to hear how you’ve worked through the challenges, you know? So thank you so much. And thank you guys for being on the Be the Bridge podcast.
Go to the Donor’s 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 Brittany Prescott. Please join us next time! This has been a Be the Bridge Production.