Leaders of Color
In this episode of the Be the Bridge podcast, Latasha Morrison and Jo Saxton talk about barriers to leadership for women of color, the importance of leveraging opportunities for the sake of others, the power of representation, and the restorative benefits of intentional self-care.
“Sometimes leadership begets leadership. You know, you do something for a while, you learn the lessons even when it goes badly, and it creates opportunities for other ways to lead.” –Jo Saxton
“I think the story of Black people around the world, there’s a sense of having to be twice as good to get a shot at something or at someone. And that was a huge part of the journey as well. And so when you have those messages, and also on top of that you don’t see yourself in popular culture, in the political sphere, in the cultural sphere, in the media sphere, in places of authority…I had all these things about what I felt should be done, but I didn’t see how it was going to happen for somebody like me.” –Jo Saxton
“Having access to a leader who was in my life, who was as loud as I was, whose skin tone was dark like mine, had a profound impact on me, in terms of what I understood was possible for me as a leader.” –Jo Saxton
“And even in the midst of this pandemic that we’re in, people are like, ‘Okay, you will never get this time back. You gotta create, you got to produce, there’s no excuse!’ …It’s kind of like, I just want to take a breath. Like, I just want to take a nap. I just want to sleep! A part of leading and a part of producing and creating is also resting too.” –Jo Saxton
Jo Saxton is a Londoner born to Nigerian immigrants (to which she credits her tenacious spirit), an author, speaker, podcast host, and leadership coach. She has spearheaded an initiative aimed to help women grow in leadership, and has written books on leadership, identity, and legacy. Her most recent titles are More than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World and The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Chris, and their two daughters.
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The full episode transcript is below.
Latasha Morrison 0:06
You’re listening to the Be the Bridge podcast with Latasha Morrison.
Well, Jo, welcome! We are talking to leaders of color and just finding out like, the “how, when, what makes you you?” and what you’re doing! And so I’m so grateful today to have Jo Saxton. I’m not gonna go into my British voice because I do not do it well, but [Jo] is a Londoner born to Nigerian immigrants, to which she credits her tenacious spirit. An author, speaker, podcast host, and a leadership coach, she has spearheaded an initiative aimed to help women grow in leadership and has written books on leadership, identity, and legacy. Her most recent titles are “More Than Enchanting: Breaking through barriers to influence your world” and “The Dream of You: Let go of your broken identities and live the life you were made for.” She lives in Minneapolis with her husband Chris and their two gorgeous daughters (I added the gorgeous in there for them, okay? So you can let them know that!)
Jo Saxton 1:29
I will let them know!
Latasha Morrison 1:30
Okay. And listen, Jo. My friend, I was just talking to her…she was like, “Yeah, we’re doing a Bible study by Jo Saxton!” And I was like, “Oh, really? Which one?” And so here in Georgia, my friend that goes to Westridge is doing a Bible study with your “Dream of You” [book]!
Jo Saxton 1:52
Oh, cool! Oh, that’s exciting!
Latasha Morrison 1:54
Yeah, yeah. I love when people are like, using Bible studies and reading books of my friends. I just love it, I just love it. So tell the audience those who may not know all the wonderful things about Jo Saxton! Tell us just a little bit about yourself, Jo.
Jo Saxton 2:11
Yeah, um, well, like you said, [I was] born and raised in London, in England. Nigerian parents, my family moved to England in the 60s. So I grew up surrounded by a large Nigerian community. There’s a very big Nigerian community in London. I’ve lived in the States about 15, 16 years now, my kids are teenagers. And yeah, I mean, the leadership thing kind of, I would say, I was the last to work out that I was a leader. I don’t think I caught up with everybody else around me! But it was as I was growing up in school that I realized more and more that whatever—I always got, I was always the person who was given the things to do, you know, and it felt like the respectful thing, you know, to be in charge of a team or in charge of a project. And I think as I grew older and older and became more confident, I realized this is something that I was kind of designed to do.
Latasha Morrison 2:58
Right. It’s like the threads are always there, a majority of the time.
Jo Saxton 3:02
I think so. And sometimes the thread is like on top and you can see it and sometimes they are all these things underneath that are a bit messier, but still part of the picture. And I think that’s exactly how it was working for me.
Latasha Morrison 3:14
Yeah. Tell us a little bit about like, just some of your work with leaders and organizations. I know you’ve worked with a lot of organizations and with leaders. You were, I forget the name of the organization, but I know when I first heard of you several years ago, that you were a part of…
Jo Saxton 3:34
Yeah, over the years I’ve (like many of us) worn different hats at different times. So I was a youth pastor then a college pastor and a church planter. And so I spent a lot of time working in churches and got ordained years ago, but I was working with—when we met—I think I was working with 3D Movements, 3DM, that work with churches on how they did discipleship and mission and how they engaged in their community. But I think at the time, I mean, I arrived in America doing that and had my kids all at the same time, so there was so much I didn’t know. So much I didn’t know!
Latasha Morrison 4:06
I can imagine!
Jo Saxton 4:07
It was a wake up call of all kinds, just trying to engage with it. So when I was working with churches, and they were largely white majority churches, and it was saying how…there were norms, there were cultural norms, I would just kind of step in and stare at because I just didn’t understand all that was going on. I could tell something was missing…whether it was, in some cases, I may have been the first Black leader they’d worked with and they weren’t used to [indistinguishable] being coached by a Black woman, and in their experience, due to no proximity with other leaders of other ethnicities. But it was a fascinating journey, a wonderful journey, a challenging journey all at once, working with churches around the country, and from there began to speak at events and conferences. And yeah, and I think sometimes leadership begets leadership. You know, you do something for a while, you learn the lessons even when it goes badly, and it creates opportunities for other ways to lead. So that’s how it grew over time for me.
Latasha Morrison 5:03
Wow. I know sometimes I’m looking at just like, some of the kids we have working with Be the Bridge Youth and just, you know, even from like, a young elementary age, you’re like, that’s the leader! But you know, like you said, sometimes we can see the threads on top of the ground and you’re like, oh, wow, yes, that’s a leader. But then sometimes it’s underneath and it’s messy, and it has to be unraveled. And you don’t see it, you know, like you see it in others. Like when did you first recognize your leadership skills? I think you said that others recognized it in you first before you even recognized it in yourself.
Jo Saxton 5:46
You know, I think it was probably my early 20s. And I’d done one-offs. So there’d been maybe a project I’d been involved in at church or at school, but I felt leadership was something I did. It took a long time to untangle. When I grew up in England in the 80s and 90s, immigrants were not popular people. Nigerians were not popular people, culturally. So there was often this kind of, very much on the tabloid level, the sense of stealing people’s jobs or Africans were backward. It wasn’t that sense of heritage and legacy. And that was in the public consciousness at the time, I was very much “other.” And so that was one burden. And then the other part of, which is, I think the story of Black people around the world, the sense of having to be twice as good to get a shot at something or at someone. And that was a huge part of the journey as well. And so when you have those messages, and also on top of that you don’t see yourself in popular culture, in the political sphere, in the cultural sphere, in the media sphere, in places of authority…I had all these things about what I felt should be done, but I didn’t see how it was going to happen for somebody like me. I grew up in the inner city. I’m from a Nigerian immigrant family. I was very grateful to have teachers who did not go the way of channeling me in particular directions, but actually let me be who I was, and encouraged me to be who I was. But I think those were massive obstacles for me even beginning to think of any leadership potential. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see how I would get to do those things anyway. And I wasn’t sure whether I was worthy of it…it seemed to be that the people who led had access to opportunity and environment and connections, and I had no connections. I had no environment. I had no resources to do those sorts of things. I was on like, I guess the equivalent of food stamps, as a kid. I wasn’t in the environments where I was going to brush or rub shoulders with influence in any way. So I think that was one part of it. And I think it began to get unpacked a little bit for me when I moved to another part of the country for Bible college for a year or two. And one of the mentors was a Black woman. And I think it was seeing a leader and having proximity—because obviously I saw some [people like me] on TV—but having access to a leader who was in my life, who was as loud as I was, who was as dark as I am, had a profound impact on me, in terms of what I understood was possible for me as a leader.
Latasha Morrison 8:11
So that real life proximity made a difference. And I think that, that you just said so much in there. Because like, a lot of times we’re looking at TV and we do, you know, we want to see ourselves and we do see ourselves. But when that thing is tangible? When it’s up close and personal? That has a whole new experience for the person that really hadn’t seen themselves or didn’t see the possibilities. And I think that’s just really key, mentoring, like that is such a big thing, you know, and an important thing! Especially in our community. So, I mean, I hope those of you who are listening, you’re like grabbing these nuggets out of that. Now, when we talk about leadership, I know you lead a lot of different people. Not just women, but I know you focused on women in leadership. What drives you in that? And where do you see that need to have women leading other women, the importance and value of that?
Jo Saxton 9:22
Yeah, I think what fueled it, and it kind of ended up fueling the most recent book, was a sense of meeting women who were leading. I’d be speaking at a conference or speaking at an event and I’d meet women over in the coffee break or in the restrooms, or whatever, and we’d be talking, and some would be really frustrated! Because they’d be asking for mentors and they’re like, “I don’t want to have to ask for a mentor from a strange woman in the bathroom. And I don’t want you to think I’m a stranger when asking you, but there’s so little access to opportunity. This is the first time I’ve seen a woman speaking on this platform. This is the first time I’ve seen a Black woman speaking on this platform.” And so I think the more I connected with women around me, I wanted to center women in leadership because I—you know, I’ve worked with a lot of great male leaders, and I could see how they had multiple role models all around them, multiple people who were people they were like, “Oh, I’m a bit like that. I’m not like that at all.” And women who had nothing, no examples or tangible acts, or again, accessible role models, people who they could talk to about, “How did you answer this question?” or “How did you make it work for you here?” And I feel like it’s just a weak thing anyway, you know. There’s that Chinese proverb, I think it is, which says women hold up half the sky. And we know that like the data is very, very clear on the benefit of companies and communities when women are given access to places of leadership, when there is diversity and equity in leadership. And it’s like, this is leadership suicide. If we want to be effective leaders in our communities and our churches and our nonprofits and our businesses, then this isn’t a kind of optional extra. This is integral to this…so for me, it’s a leadership issue as much as anything else, you know. If we have a high value on humanity and think that humanity has gifts and talents to contribute to the flourishing of human beings around the world, then why are we not investing in them to their full extent? Why aren’t we nuancing our leadership so that it brings out the best in the men and the women around us? Because there are unique talents that they have and unique talents that they bring, and we are only weaker when we don’t invest in it.
Latasha Morrison 11:27
That’s so good! Now, you brought up your new book, “Ready to Rise” and it says—and this is what I love, I love on the front…First of all, it has your picture on the front which I love. And it says, “Own your voice, gather your community, and step into your influence.” And I had the opportunity to read some of your book before it came out, and I just really love it. You have a way of connecting with the readers, you know. And just seeing ourselves and then taking and really expanding Scripture, like pulling out nuggets that you’ve never thought before. So I love when people do that in their writing. But you know, why this book? Why now?
Jo Saxton 12:20
It’s funny you even talk about the woman, about me being on the cover, because I remember when I was pitching the book a couple of years back. And I remember talking to one publisher who did not sign me, who said there are loads of leadership books out there and they listed them, and I said, “There are some great leadership books there, but all the people you’ve listed are white men.” And I said, “Are we saying that only white men have something to say about leadership today? Is that we’re saying?” Because we bring different stories and we bring different angles and we have different nuances. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it, I’m saying there should be leaders of all ethnicities, and across gender, all bringing their nuance to bear on leadership! Because one size does not fit all. So that was part of the “why.” Part of the “now” was we’re already behind, in terms of women discovering their place, their voice, in society. I’ve reflected a lot on the past couple of years. And when the Me Too movement—we know that the Me Too movement began long, long before it became part of popular culture through the work of Tarana Burke. But I was reminded of when it did become far more louder and known, I was struck by, how many things are we missing out on because women aren’t having conversations with each other? So what’s not happening? What isn’t happening in terms of the injustice and the abuse that women have to endure? The suffering they had to endure? But also things like, the pay they’re not getting! I mean, the issue of pay equity and disparity is terrible. And we’re talking the difference in whether you can afford to send a kid to college or not. We’re talking about the difference between whether you can look after your father and his medical bills. It’s not whether you’re too rude or proud for asking for pay, you’re just asking to be equally paid! Equally paid! That’s all we’re asking for.
Latasha Morrison 14:09
That’s right, right. I mean, it is just absurd when you think about it, like…Come on! Let’s talk equality here and equity. Like why wouldn’t we? Yeah, that’s good.
Jo Saxton 14:22
And I think we needed to have—I wanted to have a space where we could, particularly for women who said they had a faith, who often have that other layer of saying, oh, as a Christian, is it too much? And, you know, they kind of hide their gifts and call it humility in some spaces. You know, “Who am I if I ask for things?” It’s like, “No, we’ve got to ask for the things that are required for our lives, so that we lead in the way that God has designed us to do so.” And so I think those are the things that were stirring me when I was writing the book and I was doing life with women leaders of all kinds: like business leaders, nonprofit leaders, community leaders, and watching their lives and how challenging it was to lead! Challenging because of the second guessing in their own mind, challenging because of the lack of resources, challenging because of the lack of support, challenging because of the lack of income. And I thought we have to do something here! If you’re busy surviving, you can’t lead to the fullness of your capacity.
Latasha Morrison 15:17
Whew! That’s good. That’s good, Jo. When you’re talking about leadership and you’re like, “Okay, I needed to see myself.” And so also having in mind that others need to see you, what leaders have made a difference in your life? Just some key leaders, and why were those leaders instrumental? So you mentioned the lady in England, but are there others that made a difference? And why?
Jo Saxton 15:48
Yeah, I think there were, I mean, there have been a number of leaders who—I remember one of her colleagues also, he gave me a senior leadership position and we were doing a mission trip. And it was a local one within England, but I was the youngest on the team, and he gave me the position of leading. And I just thought, huh! And I think it was a kind of, for me, it was just that he trusted me with that level of leadership so early. And he didn’t ask me to be anything but myself in the midst of it, I think [that] was a really powerful thing. I’ve seen other leaders who…I’ve been really blessed by the times when leaders have, you know, because I’ve worked in the white majority spaces, I mean there are all kinds of challenges that can come up. But I was struck by one particular leader who basically sacrificed his opportunity so I could have some. And it made me realize: that’s actually what it takes! You actually have to leverage your power and privilege and get out of the way for equity to take place in certain environments. And I was struck by a leader who was willing to do that because it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t just, “Here, make me look good.” It was, “I will get out of the way, I’ll dismantle what I have, so that the right thing happens in this environment.” And I was struck by the willingness to sacrifice, I think. And the willingness to serve without many people knowing that’s exactly what he did. You know, I was just struck. Enough people knew who were leaders like him, as a model, that that’s what they should be doing. But, do you know what I mean? It wasn’t something he advertised. And I appreciated that. So I think they have shaped me. I think in this chapter of my life, it’s a lot more with my peers, as I’m watching what the likes of you, or Amena [Brown], or Austin [Channing Brown] are doing, and other people who I’m connecting with. I think there’s just this kind of brain trust of experiences that helped me, helped inform…inform the world. I mean, I think partly because of coming over, now as an immigrant here, that I’ve needed to educate myself well. I know the Black experience in England, but there was a whole lot of learning I’ve had to do in terms of the history books. And in fairness, some of the English history books are telling things that I’m not sure the American history books told, but they had their reasons for that. So I think that, I make it a point of being a lifelong learner. And so I’m listening to podcasts, I’m reading, and catching conversations where I can with people who just give me a broader picture of the world.
Latasha Morrison 18:12
Yeah. And I just think we all like, this lifestyle, you know, of just really understanding—just having this racial literacy—it is a lifestyle, you know, of learning even for myself! So I appreciate the fact that coming from London, you know, where the situation’s—there’s some similarities, but the history is totally different. So coming over here, and living and working in order to thrive and survive, it’s like you have to know this history here in America. So I’ve always appreciated you sitting up close and listening and learning, and leveraging what you’re learning is really valuable. And I think that is something that others that are listening, you know, if you didn’t grow up here, it’s so important for you to engage and understand the history here. And then really listening to the marginalized voices, their perspective and their experience with the history, you know. Because when you’re not elevating the marginalized voices—it’s kind of like, you know, I can’t think of that quote now, but I’m gonna, I’m gonna ask you your favorite quote in just a moment—but it’s kind of like, this is like when the story of the hunting of the lion is told by the hunter versus the lion. And so there’s a different narrative that’s told, and here in America we have different narratives that are told about our history, and I think that’s important. But as we’re thinking about that, I know there’s quotes that I have that I go back to, that you post up, that you remember, that you memorize, and just things that speak to you. What is a quote, whether it’s a leadership quote, or just, you know, a scripture, whatever it is, that really motivates you, moves you, and helps you continue to become the person that you were created to become?
Jo Saxton 20:19
Yeah, I think there’s two. I think one, that quote is (I was just looking for it while you were talking about it_ is, “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
Latasha Morrison 20:27
Yeah, yes, there it is!
Jo Saxton 20:31
And I think that just, I think I have grown up realizing all you know, in many ways, when I was a child growing up, we were the story—I would watch the story being told about Nigerians and the story being told about Africans and stuff. And I’d be like, “Why don’t we ever get to tell our story?” Or are you just going to keep on telling and will you have these assumptions based on who we are and our identity and all that kind of stuff. So I think that was one. And the other one is from Marian Wright Edelman, where she says, “You can’t be what you can’t see” and she was talking actually in the context of children and their development and stuff because of her role in the Children’s Defense Fund, but I think it’s just always hit home. It’s helped sum up for me the issues for women in leadership, for Black women in leadership, for women of color in leadership—is that, can you see? And how important that is…the difference it makes when your children see themselves and see leaders. I remember the first time I went to Nigeria it was such a game changer for me. It was such a game changer. Because I saw myself everywhere. I saw my tone of voice, I saw my volume, I saw my Blackness. And I saw the distinctions because I’d grown up in the UK, but at the same time—and everybody talked to me and spoke to me with my Nigerian name and it was just a very different—it was like something lodged in place just being there. And like I said, I grew up around Nigerians. But again, it was just a different dynamic. So I think that sense of, the whole thing of “You can’t be what you can’t see” or how hard it is to be what you can’t see, has just always struck me for our leadership journeys.
Latasha Morrison 22:13
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In your book, you also talk about leadership, but you also talk a lot about taking care of ourselves as a leader. All the things we’re talking about, and I know so many people that are so driven. And even in the midst of this pandemic that we’re in, you know, people are like, “Okay, you will never get this time back. This is the time to do, this is the time to do! You gotta create, you got to produce, there’s no excuse!” You know, all of that. And I know some of us that have been going nonstop the last like, not just few years, but several years, five years. It’s kind of like, I just want to take a breath. Like, I just want to take a nap. I just want to sleep! And so I was telling a friend like, a part of leading and a part of producing and creating is also resting too. You know. And so tell us just a little bit about that. I know you speak to that a little bit in your book.
Jo Saxton 24:36
Yeah, I mean, it’s something I’ve had to learn the hard way. And to be honest, a lot of it began from my childhood, of the whole thing of…I remember my aunt sitting me down (and I love this aunt to death, she’s my favorite by a long stretch) and she said to me, when I was about seven years old, and there had been riots not far from where we grew up and you know, you could see the stuff about the police and the clashes on the TV. And my aunt said, “It’s going to be really hard to make it in this country.” And she said, “Jo, you need to know it’s not the same for you as it is for everybody else, and what your friends are doing doesn’t matter, you will have to be at least twice as good. At least twice as good. Because you have two marks against you: you’re Black, and you’re a woman.” And these are women who have been nurses, they lived in England for 20 years by that point. They’d been nurses, they’d struggled and had very rarely got what they were due if ever. And the thing is, she didn’t even sound bitter, Tasha. It was like medicinal, it was just kind of, these little lessons. We know how it is. This is how you do it. And she was talking specifically about my education at that point, but I think I just imbibed it as my message for life, because I heard it in every part of my life: Twice as good to get to be equal. And it wasn’t that I was trying to be better than everybody else, it was that I was trying not to be left behind. I didn’t want to live where we grew up because, you know… it was like this area that London had forgotten, you know what I mean? It was just this place where everybody had been abandoned…to a nightmare. I didn’t want that for my life. I didn’t want that for my family’s life! None of us wanted it for our lives at that time, and I mean, typically now it’s been gentrified, and now it’s a real expensive place to live. But that, that’s another story!
Latasha Morrison 26:11
That story is all over America also. Yes.
Jo Saxton 26:15
They’re sitting on a goldmine now! But I think what it did for me is that there was no arriving, there was no arriving when nothing was secure. No matter how much you achieved, you never knew when it could be taken away from you unjustly. No matter how hard you worked you never knew when someone would look at you and decide, well it’s a Black woman, forget it. It didn’t matter how hard you worked. And so it doesn’t give you permission to have a day off. It didn’t give me permission. I knew that—my mantra was, because the hard thing was, Tasha, it worked enough to be dangerous. It worked enough to be dangerous, so there’d be times when I would work twice as hard and I’d do as well. And I would walk in the doors that were often shut to me and my peers, and I’d have some degree of success. And so that was, whenever any challenge came up, it was, well, “you know what you need to do.” And as I got older, and as you go through life and you get a few more scars when you kind of knock in your head on brick walls all the time, my body was more and more tired, but I wouldn’t relent because it’s like, “I can rest…but let’s not pretend that my resting isn’t going to come at a cost.” And so I’ve had to do this battle over the years of, “When will you say enough? When will you say enough, and who’s going to pay the price? Is your body gonna pay the price? Are your relationships gonna pay the price? Or is there another way around this? Because you can’t keep on making yourself sick in a bid to be equal to other people because you weren’t designed to live this way.” No one is!
Latasha Morrison 27:39
Yeah. So good. So good. I mean, I think you just hit on the other question I wanted to talk to you about, is when we start talking about the nuances related to leadership, especially as it relates to people of color. That’s another terminology, we say “people of color” but sometimes when we’re trying to really be specific, we want to say Black and Indigenous, because just the category of “people of color” can be so wide and vast and so sometimes we want to be very intentional and specific. So we’re talking about BIPOC, Black and Indigenous, you know, like, one of the things you talked about, you know, social capital. Social capital is totally different, you know. Relational capital, finances, resources, and feeling like—not just feeling like you have to be better, you have to be stronger, you have to work harder, like society expects you to do that, like you don’t think about even the hire. And I see people hired all the time, especially in white church where maybe they’ve had a lot of experience, they were with some great organizations, you know. But when it comes to a person of color, it’s like, you have to come with all the initials after your name in order just to be a little bit creditable. And I mean, and if you don’t believe me, check it out. Look at who…
Jo Saxton 29:07
Look at them. It’s not hard. Just look.
Latasha Morrison 29:09
Jo Saxton 29:12
It’s really not hard to—if you look at lineups. And you look at, read the biographies. But that was one of the things when I first landed here, which was, it wasn’t a shock…it was this great disappointment to me. I felt like, “We’re still here. We’re still in this place where I’m watching these women who have got more degrees than a thermometer after their name, and then these others who don’t have anything [get hired].” And I’m just like, how, how has this happened? And the truth is, I know exactly how it’s happened. But it is real!
Latasha Morrison 29:42
It’s real. And what other ways have you seen that especially like, and, you know, in people that you mentor and places that you’re leading? What are the solutions to that? What do you feel are, you know, just a solution for those who are listening? And you feel it—I’m feeling it right now. Like, just to be taken seriously sometimes because, like, although we can have, you know, great organizations sometimes like, you know, success does not equate to finances. You know? So let’s talk a little bit about that.
Jo Saxton 30:17
I mean, I think it’s complicated because while success does not equate finances, bills are real! Do you know what I mean? Also, and this will make me sound greedy but nevermind, I want what’s mine. I don’t want to have a good feeling when someone else gets $10,000! I’ll have ten thousand dollars too if I’m as qualified! One, I think it changes all the time. I think that’s one of the key thing is I’ve had to be mindful of my yeses and noes. I’m way more zealous about the tokenism of things now. And I’ve had to ask myself, who do I want to be in this environment? What kind of leader do I want to be if I know how this world works? I spent my life in white majority spaces and I’ve observed them from the outside—even when I was on the inside, I was on the outside—and watched what social capital looked like in that world. And I’ve had to ask myself, is that the world I want? And there have been times, Tasha, that I’ve gone in and thought, well, I’ll try and be part of that thing as well. And it’s like…hmmm…it could work for a while, but it comes at a cost. I think the reality is it comes at a cost—assimilation always has. It’s always come at a cost and it’s a brutal one and it can clip you at any given moment. So I’ve learned to…I’ve been very proactive in building the relationships with people who have been safe places and are saying, what does it look like to grow together? What does it look like to share what I know with people? What does it look like for them? So I talk with people about their pay, I talk with people about their connections, and almost in some ways, rebuild my own different cultures of doing things. With whoever’s around. And so I’ve been very clear with my white friends who are leaders, about what the expectations are. And it doesn’t have to be for me, it’s just like, are you going to leverage your privilege and power or not? That’s the only question I really have. Are you going to leverage your privilege and power or not? Because if you’re not, then I don’t know, I don’t know what you’re doing.
Latasha Morrison 32:15
Jo Saxton 32:16
I don’t quite know what you’re doing to build a world for human flourishing, because equity is an integral part of human flourishing.
Latasha Morrison 32:25
Say that again! Repeat it, repeat it!
Jo Saxton 32:27
Well, equity is an integral part of human flourishing. If you’re not doing it, I think that, you know, there was a moment where I had to remind myself I’m not in the inner city anymore waiting for hot water, which was my childhood. I’m now a grown up woman with resources and all that. And some of that made me think, “Okay, what am I going to do with what I have? What am I going to do? And how am I going to use the opportunities I’ve been given, and the spaces I inhabit, and how will I use my voice more effectively? And how will I make introductions more effectively, and what will I challenge?” And all of those things. And sometimes that’s the last conversation you have with an organization! Sometimes it is.
Latasha Morrison 33:04
Jo Saxton 33:06
I’ll tell you the other thing I had to do, and it was a hard lesson, because it took me too long to work it out. I remember there were some organizations I used to connect with, who were very good at having me on a panel and stuff. And I realized—I spent a lot of time, and I looked into: what’s the fruit of this? And I looked at the fruit, and I could (and [they were] sweet people, sweet people) but could I say there were more people of color involved? Could I say there are more Black or Indigenous people involved in that organization as a result? Could I see that there were more women raised up as a result? No. So what was the point? And I remember talking to one of them about it, I’m like, “Guys, I’m not here to be the help. I’m not here to be—I’m not the help. And I’m not the answer to your prayers. My calling is my calling and my calling is not to make you feel better about race relations.” Do you know what I mean? And soI think for some of us, we may need to take stock of the people in our midst and say, “Did I become the help when I wasn’t watching?” Or did that person, or to those of us who are the majority culture—did that person become the help? Have you stopped doing the work because you’ve got those names on your list? Because this is a live issue. And I think I’d say to all of us, once we have some position of power, who are you mentoring? Who are you sharing resources with? Who are you paying well? Who are you proactively seeking out? I have zero time for excuses now. I’m just not, do you know what I mean? There is no excuse. If you’re not sure, pray and fast about it. God will give you a name. I don’t care if you’re an atheist! Do the work. You’ve just got to do the work.
He’ll still give you a name. Because it’s that important that we leverage, and we dismantle these things that keep people captive! I tell you what a friend of mine told me. There’s a Black woman, and she’s interviewing someone, another Black woman, for a position. And the woman undersold herself, and she stopped the interview and she said, “Don’t ever do that again.” And she gave her some coaching on how to do it…and in the end, she wasn’t the right person for the job. A couple of years later, the woman got the job—$80,000 more a year. And that’s why I feel so strongly about this stuff. It is the difference. We’re talking generational wealth here, do you know what I mean? We’re talking children in college here, we’re talking about debts and whether you have some broken car, or a car—I mean, I live in Minnesota, so the winters are real—that actually gets you through the winter. We’re talking about in a pandemic, how you survive, because the thing that concerns me in this moment is that the margins are accentuated in this moment. The fault lines are open. But these are people who are all made in the image of God! So if we’re not being proactive, we’re not actually helping. If we can’t act, if we’re not actively doing something, then we are actually—well, I don’t know what film that had that whole thing of, “What does it take for evil to succeed but that men do nothing?” And I think we have to think about that.
Latasha Morrison 35:58
Yeah. You dropped so many—it’s like raining truth bombs! Like raining down, you know? And, you know, we were talking about just like…you hit on community and all those things and how that’s important. I know I’ve benefited from that, just having that real talk and really, I need help in sometimes not underselling myself. I’m so grateful just for you and some of the other women around me that have, like really mentored me in that. Because, like, sometimes you don’t see your worth! And you have to have other people point it out. So if you don’t have that, and you’re listening to this, make sure you get that. Make sure you’re around some people that can drop truth bombs, like Jo Saxton, and like she’s doing now. And I’m so grateful for you and for all of that. What is your hope? Like when we start, you know, talking about this space and decisions. I know some of the things you’re doing with your community. What is your hope related to leadership? What is the hope you see for not just the body of Christ, but also for organizations? What do you see?
Jo Saxton 37:19
I think part of the reason why I invest in leaders is because leaders create cultures, do you know what I mean? They create cultures. So I want to see leaders who create equitable cultures. I want to see leaders who are equipped to do the right thing by people, by their employees, because those employees are families, they’re units. I’m passionate to see us own our gifting because we have a contribution to make! Much of the leadership lessons I teach are what I learned growing up as an immigrant kid. Do you know what I mean? As I watched my aunties gather together and help people, that’s why I do community—because that’s how I was raised! I was raised in community. If I don’t own the stories of my heritage, I don’t bring that leadership contribution to the world. And in the same way, if we are only owning one leadership narrative, then we’re all weaker as a result. So I really want to invest in leaders so that they have the confidence to bring their story, their qualities, their gifting to bear on the world around them, because I think the world is better for it. I’m not saying it’s easy at all, but I think we’re better for it. So I think if we keep on finding ways to creatively and accessibly…I think the other thing I’d like, I’d like developing leaders not to be as expensive as it’s been in the world. Because it’s then it defaults to privilege. It defaults to privilege and it defaults to historical privilege, and it defaults to whiteness, and male whiteness at that. And it’s like, well, it’s not like those leadership gifts aren’t evident in everybody. It’s not like all human beings weren’t made in the image of God. And if that’s the case, we can’t have these false barriers that stop people, that don’t give them access to opportunity. So I think those are the things I want to see. I want to see the leaders that I know are already there, but who had been under-invested in, underrepresented, and under-utilized, be given the access and opportunity to create the worlds that they would bring to bear. Not just so that they have a chance to rise to the top, because you might get to the top and find it’s built on a house of cards, but to build the thing that’s in their heart and mind to build. We’ll all be better off for it.
Latasha Morrison 39:29
Wow, wow, this is good. Whew! So many nuggets! I’m telling you, I’m gonna have to listen back to this one. This is some good stuff. You guys, I’m telling you, she is bringing it. She’s just dropping some real truth. And so I hope you’re listening—I hope you can hear what she’s saying in this. And, you know, I like to ask this question and I don’t know why…because we talk about like, our hope—the things that are happening, what hope do we see in this? Because that’s why we still remain in a lot of these spaces and we keep doing the things that we’ve been called to do, because we do identify the hope, you know, the outcome, the hopeful outcome, in the things that we’re doing and saying in the platforms that we have. One of those things I like to do is dream. Well, you know, I’m a dreamer (a dreamer AND a do-er!) But if you had unlimited resources, Jo—you know, because I’m thinking about all the things, I’m thinking about your collective, all the things that you’re doing, your leadership cohort, all these things. If you had unlimited resources, no barriers, no obstacles, and there was equality and equity, what would you do to help people maximize their leadership potential?
Jo Saxton 41:03
I think I would do a couple of things. I’d probably have some kind of foundation for young people to experiment with business. I think that whole thing of like having access to capital, I would connect people with mentors, I’d probably redesign their education. I’d redesign their education so they’d have access to mentors and development and therapists. Do you know what I mean? That kind of full lineup, I’d want every woman I met to have access to all that she needs, with some kind of accelerator, where she’d have access to investment, to counseling, to mentoring, to training, so that she could launch and then invest in it. And that part of her commitment would be that she’d invest in somebody else. I think that’s the kind of thing I would set up. Because I think—my observation of women leaders is not that they don’t know how to lead—I think so much of it is confidence and access. And then you can just leave them to take care of the rest of it for themselves. They’re creative, they’ve got initiative, they’ve got power. And I would do that. I would then step back and see what they would create.
Latasha Morrison 42:08
So good, so good. Now, as we record this, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, you know, related to the Coronavirus. And you’re seeing some incredible things happening, and like people coming together, people leading, people producing, and creating, and loving, and giving. You’re seeing some beautiful things. And then we’re also seeing some…the things where sometimes tragedy and things that happen can bring out the best in some, and then sometimes it could bring out the worst in some. And I think we’re seeing these two tensions that’s happening around—especially here in America. I don’t see a lot of other places, you know, doing all the things that we’re doing. But you know, that’s for another time and another podcast. But right now, as we’re sheltering in place I know for me a part of my self care is you know, taking in a TV show, watching a movie, you know, like all the Netflix and chill! I don’t get to do a lot of that on a normal basis and during the year. And then because when I’m able to chill, I either want to take a nap or watch something that doesn’t have any drama connected to it, just all feel-good stuff because of the heaviness that I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I want to just completely unplug. Sometimes I just want to sit on the edge of my bed and just think. I call it “collecting my thoughts.” Doing absolutely nothing. But what are you doing? You know, what are you watching? What are you doing to kind of like refresh yourself, just to have fun during the shelter in place right now?
Jo Saxton 44:09
Yeah, I’ll tell you one thing that’s been a lot of fun, is inviting my children (when I say inviting, I mean telling them) that they’re cooking in the week so that’s been good! They’ve been great. I’m like why didn’t I do this earlier? Things that will not change after this [indistinguishable]. That part ain’t moving on. I’ve been getting outside, like long walks and sometimes those walks are really refreshing. Sometimes they are grieving, sometimes they are frustrating, but it’s just been good to be outside. It’s been important for me to exercise. You and I are both Peloton sisters! Peloton has been a gift from the Lord and I will enjoy that gift! And it’s just been good for my mental health to kind of ride on the bike or to do the strength exercises…or other forms of pain inflicted on me.
Latasha Morrison 44:57
Jo Saxton 45:02
I’m not that great at having fun, so this is forcing me to kind of settle with the kids and I have watched some TV. I’ve been watching Mrs. America, I think it’s called. It charts a number of women in the 70s. So, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm.
Latasha Morrison 45:19
I haven’t seen that one, I’ll have to write it down.
Jo Saxton 45:21
That was a bit illuminating to me. I mean, they say it’s not all the facts, but ummm….that gave me some thoughts Tasha, that you and I will discuss offline!
Latasha Morrison 45:34
You’re like me, your head is always going and spinning even when we’re like trying to unplug and just listen. And we’re like, oooh, okay, I got an idea. What does it really mean?
Jo Saxton 45:45
I need to talk to someone about this, I need to recap!
Latasha Morrison 45:52
Oh, my goodness. Yes, the Peloton has been a gift. And you know, I have a bicycle too. So the last couple of days I’ve been trying to ride that outside just to get some fresh air, you know? And all that. Remind me how old are your daughters again?
Jo Saxton 46:10
13 and 14. Nearly 15, my oldest is, yeah.
Latasha Morrison 46:13
Okay. And so we’re coming on the end of Mother’s Day. So how was your Mother’s Day? Happy Mother’s Day! What did you do?
Jo Saxton 46:23
Well, they made me breakfast in bed at 6am, which was kind of early actually! I mean, I’m an early riser so they wanted to do it before I’d be up, but I would have waited. So then we all went to bed after that. They watched me have my breakfast and everybody was yawning and they’re like, okay, I’m gonna go sleep more.
Latasha Morrison 46:44
I love it. I love it. When you told me that I was like, I have to get her to tell that story.
Jo Saxton 46:48
[Laughs] Yeah, at 6am, eating my breakfast. It was good though! It was avocado toast and sausage and all that kind of stuff, it was really good. And then I went back to sleep, and then I went for a run, and then once again just hung out all day. I didn’t do anything, it was lovely! It was lovely and it was just space and relaxing and all of that, which is what I needed. You know, we were talking earlier about self care and I’m just trying to be mindful that these days are long. These days are long right now, because it feels like starting a business I wasn’t planning on starting…as well as grieving the losses as well as making sure my kids are good as they’re grieving, and my husband’s job, and all these other—he’s working and everything but it’s demanding, because he’s out there from dawn until night and stuff. And so it was good to—I find myself getting to the weekend and thinking, “I have to shut this laptop and I have to walk away now, and I will not pick it up until Monday morning” because I just need to decompress before I can even enjoy the weekend.
Latasha Morrison 47:48
I know, because you launched a freaking book during a pandemic! I mean…
Jo Saxton 47:57
I don’t know whether I’m laughing or crying to be honest, Tasha, but yes. Yes, I did.
Latasha Morrison 48:01
It’s hard enough to launch a book, but to launch one during the pandemic, I mean, hats off. Jo, we’re so grateful for you. I’m so glad that our paths have crossed. How can people find you? We’re gonna have this in the [show] notes and all of that, but where can people find you and find out more? Learn more?
Jo Saxton 48:22
Yeah, if you go to, on social media, it’s @JoSaxton. That’s my handle for all the things. I’m often there doing live [videos] and kind of just sharing stuff there. On my website, JoSaxton.com you can find out more, I host a podcast and the information’s there. I have a leadership coaching platform, it’s a digital platform for women who are leaders. So if you head to JoSaxtonn.com, you’ll find out all the information there. And the book is there as well! “Ready to Rise” is there for you to get your books!
Latasha Morrison 48:50
Yes, get your books! So thank you, Jo. And the book is called, “Ready to Rise: Own your voice, gather your community, step into your influence.” Thank you for your voice, thank you for all that you do, thank you for being a listener and a teacher in the midst of everything that you’re doing. Keep going! I’m so grateful to call you a friend. And thank you for joining us here.
Jo Saxton 49:17
Thank you for listening. For more bridge building resources, visit our website at BetheBridge.com!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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