We sit down with community leaders and social impact entrepreneurs Secunda Joseph and Jessica Davenport to learn about their work to achieve social justice, racial partnership and improve social and emotional intelligence.
Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and yes, you’re listening to a B-Side. Now, we’ve introduced the purpose of a B-Side before, but every episode is someone’s first episode. So for our new folks, B-Sides are essentially random shows we have in-between our larger shows. These are much less structured and somehow even more lit than our regularly scheduled shows. Now listen, for Living Corporate these are the types of folks that we really enjoy talking to – social impact entrepreneurs, educators, folks actively involved in the corporate space in a diversity and inclusion perspective and ethnically diverse leaders within the corporate space, and today we have two special guests, Secunda Joseph and Jessica Davenport. Secunda and Jessica are activists, writers, public speakers, and social impact entrepreneurs dedicated to racial justice. Working with Project Curate, they seek to build social and intellectual communities that can address civic challenges and work towards intersectional justice. Welcome to the show, y’all. How are you doing?
Secunda: We’re good. Thank you for having us so much, Zach.
Jessica: Glad to be here.
Zach: Hey, no problem. Now look, for those of us who don’t know y’all, can y’all tell us a little bit about yourself?
Secunda: Well, yeah. My name is Secunda Joseph. I am from H-Town by the way of South Louisiana, [inaudible], and yeah, I am–I have been working in spaces that relate to, like, media, digital media, organizing and activism on the half of black life, and that’s what I do. I’m a servant and a lover of my people, to sum it up.
Jessica: And I’m Jessica. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, but I’ve been in Houston for about eight years now and have really fell in love with the city. I am a full-time student, but in addition to that I also do work with an organization called Project Curate but also [inaudible], which does lots of work in the community around critical dialogue and creativity in the arts to push folks towards thinking about ideas of racial justice and building more transformative communities.
Zach: That’s amazing. So today we’re gonna be talking about a particular program that will be coming really soon. So can you talk to us a little bit about the program, the title of it, what inspired it, all of that?
Jessica: Sure. Secunda and I both work with an organization called Project Curate that has been hosting conversations here in the city around race, religion, and social justice. This semester we’re gonna be starting a curriculum that we’re offering to the community. We’re asking folks to come out and join us over the course of several months–we’ll meet once a month on Saturdays–to work through a book called Emergent Strategy. This book has really–a lot of us have read it, those folks who are really interested in building community and doing justice work, but this book is a little different than the usual kind of social justice how-to or the activist how-to. It’s not a manual for how to do that. It actually asks folks to sort of stop and pause and ask themselves how they can shift their own practices, their own personal interactions, their own behaviors, do small-scale things in order to have big impacts, in order to shift the world. So that’s what we’re gonna be working through. The course is called Frequencies because what we’re trying to do is to get people to think about how to create a kind of synergy, a relationship between other people, to think about their engagements with other people, to think about their relationships with themselves, and to think how those small-scale things, those small-scale relationships, can get us to think about how to build more transformative communities with one another. So we’re asking folks to come out and join us once a month, and we can say a little bit more as we go throughout the show and share a little bit about how people can find more information, but that’s kind of the gist of it, of what we’re up to.
Zach: That’s really cool. Now who do you believe that this class is catered for? Who do you believe this class will help?
Secunda: This class would help, you know, show [inaudible] towards folks who are in the corporate world, and, you know, when I think about the black and brown folks that walk into this space and how they–you know, sometimes you have to–you know, you come (on?) with a new face, put the things that you may be–the solutions, the systems, the understandings that you have, that you were taught sort of at home aside as you walk into this space, but I think this opportunity helps you to, like, think about ways that you can bring in creative solutions and build a new way to do things much better. I think that’s [inaudible] for yourself and any organization. It’s also for folks who are activists or organizers who are frankly wore out, you know? And they’re tired of like, “Let me get 200 people in here, and maybe 50 of them will stand up, and we need 1,000 people at this rally,” who are thinking very linear to get things accomplished, and a lot of times that really snatches the [inaudible] out of us. One of the things that I say, I tell people often, is that one of the things that this book does is it gives you a lot of examples of what–kind of what happens in nature. It talks about fractals and these small patterns that we consistently that really moves our world. So just, you know, it speaks to many people who really want to move (with?) the world and just need more intention on how to do that in a practical and a [inaudible] way.
Zach: That’s beautiful. And, you know, when you were talking about–as you both were talking about Frequencies and really the course itself and how it really focuses on being intentional with the little things, quote unquote, that you do and the people that you engage with, it kind of reminds me of a topic that we’ve discussed on the show around just being socially and emotionally intelligent, right? So being cognizant of who you are, being cognizant of your own emotions as well as how you’re coming off and reading the social cues of others and just being intentional and purposeful with your time. So I believe there’s a lot of relevance and intersection from that perspective as well. I’m curious now, who else would you say–when you kind of talked about Frequencies, you talked about Project Curate–who would you say that inspires this work for you all? Who would you say really, really is someone that you would point to and say, “Wow, this is why we do what we’re doing.”
Jessica: You know, someone for me that came to mind is someone who was talked about a lot in this book that we’re working through, and that’s Octavia Butler, who was actually a writer, a novelist, and was a specialist in what people now know of as science fiction writing, believe it or not. So what I think what’s really dope about Octavia Butler is what she asks us to do is imagine a world beyond the one that we see right now, and that that world that we want is actually possible. We can create that, that the structures that are in place now, that are unjust structures, those can be rethought, but it’s–one way to go about that is to, you know, work for kind of large-scale change and to do the activist work and to hold up the signs, but another way to do it is to think about how to build community with one another, how to be in relationship with one another. And so when I think about her work and I think about her writing and I think about her thinking, she laid out a blueprint for us to think about how to do this in a way that is more holistic, more just to ourselves, because I think what we were recognizing is that a lot of folks who are in this fight for justice or a lot of folks who are trying to make a change on their jobs, whether that’s in the corporate world or elsewhere, feel like they have to take on a lot and do a lot, and that’s true. I mean, they do have to do that, but what would it mean for us to scale it back and think about these just–starting with your relationships, starting with the relationship with yourself, right, and making sure that you are doing justice to yourself. Those kind of questions will come into play, and when you say who inspires us, I think definitely Octavia Butler’s writing is definitely a part of that.
Secunda: And I also think of–and one of our team members brought this up about those folks who are excited about, you know, shifting our world or shifting our systems, and to–I think about folks who would have an opportunity to start off with a clean slate, right? So there are those of us who have been practicing in a way, you know, corporate tells you. You know, the way you learn in school, the way you learn to organize or do something just in a corporate structure, and then there are those who are just getting their feet wet, and they come in with a clean slate, and they have an opportunity to create something from a more holistic perspective, right? Instead of watching all this–you know, somebody like myself, there’s a lot of things I had to unlearn, right, and put into practice, but a person who’s new to this, our young people, our younger students who this is their first opportunity to do something, to ignite other people, right? To move themselves and the people around them and to really have the tools to do that in a way that is beneficial for themselves and the people around them. Like, it is–you know, it’s like you look at a–in our organizing work, like, we move in a non-linear structure. Like, we are a (leadership-full?) group, and, you know, as we’ve done this coursework and as we’ve had these different conversations, we encourage that and we’ve, you know, taught that in a sense. I hate using the word teach, but we’ve created space for that. But this takes what we’ve done–it’s like looking at a cell and then breaking it down to an atom. This takes what we’ve done and just breaks it down in a very easy to sort of easy to ingest–not easy to ingest. [laughs] Way. Yeah, you want to?
Jessica: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I think that’s true. A lot of the conversation around, you know, how to–how to bring change, again, is we think–we think big, and we think large-scale, and we think how do we organize? This is kind of what (Sec?) said earlier. You know, “We need 100 people to come up in this space,” or, you know, “If we want to make a change in the corporate world, we need, you know, 50 employees to help us to sign whatever petition,” or whatever, but what this asks us to do is to kind of break that down on a smaller scale and say, “How do we engage–” Let’s just start with how we engage with one another. How do we shift–how do we shift the culture of a place, right? How do we shift–yeah, how do we shift our engagements? How do we shift our thinking? It may not mean us meeting, you know, every Saturday to do some kind of direct action, but it can mean me agreeing with myself to say, “When I walk into this space, there’s a particular type of energy that I want to bring into this space,” or “When I engage with Secunda, I’m gonna make sure that–” You know, if I know that I have a very strong personality, I’m gonna step back and make sure that the way–if I want, you know, to have equality and equity in the world, well, maybe I need to figure out how to have equality and equity in my relationship with Secunda first, right? So that means I need to step back a little bit or think about the ways that I may take up all the air in the space in a room, and then think about how that can–those small-scale things can lead to a sort of cultural shift in how we engage with one another.
Zach: This has been an incredible discussion, and I want to make sure, before we get too much further, that folks can know where they can learn more about the program. So would you mind sharing the information for that?
Jessica: Yeah. They can go to Project Curate.org. That’s our website, and they can go–there’s a little Events link there that they can go and visit, and that has a list of our–of the curriculums that we’re offering this semester. They will find Frequencies there, and they can register there on the site. Our kickoff is going to be Friday night, September 7th, and that’s just gonna be a gathering for folks who have registered and who want to participate with us. We’ll have a, you know, small kind of eat food, you know, kind of greet thing happening [inaudible], then kind of introduce everybody, and then our very first session, when we begin to get into the work, will be Saturday, September 22nd, and we’ll have more information on the website about locations and that kind of thing.
Zach: This is really cool, and so what I want to make sure is we’ll have the information, Project Curate.org, that website, in our show notes so folks can direct from there, and then we’ll make sure to encourage our folks to check it out, especially if they’re in Houston, right? If they’re in Houston to check it out and to engage with it. So it’s really exciting. So before we go, any shout outs or parting words?
Secunda: Parting words? Just thank you for having us on, and I just want to encourage people to just begin doing the move of just doing a little research on [inaudible] and some of the conversations that are available on [inaudible], and I think of where, like, you’ll be really intrigued, if you’re not able to attend the class, just to start the conversations at home with yourself.
Jessica: Yeah, and I’ll add–you know, what’s a beautiful thing about this is all of the material that we’re using is really written and produced by black women, and so it’s a really beautiful thing to think about how this presents an opportunity for us to really, I don’t know, mind the beauty that’s there of our culture and what people are producing and the new [inaudible] that people are putting out, and so shout outs to all the black women who are doing innovative work out there, and we hope that this space will really encourage folks to sink deeper into the work that’s there.
Zach: Absolutely. I’m so excited and thankful that you guys were here, so thank you, thank you both. Excuse me, I said you guys. I should be more inclusive with my language. I’m so thankful that you both were able to join us, and I think when you talk about–when you talk about the community and the relationship aspect, that’s so relevant for Corporate America because so often when we talk about inclusion and diversity or we talk about creating some type of change we talk about it at this high level, almost like top-down approach, where as really if it’s a people-driven thing, then the focus should be the people, and it’s not really ever going to–you’re not really gonna see any major transformation organizationally, socially, politically, whatever domain you’re operating in, until you’re able to actually operate and start at a people–person-to-person perspective, and I think this course, and really Project Curate as a non-profit social impact organization, really reinforces that, and so I just want to thank you both again. And that does it for us on the show, so thank you for joining us on the Living Corporate podcast. Make sure to follow us on Instagram at LivingCorporate, Twitter at LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through living-corporate.com. If you have a question you’d like for us to answer and read on the show, make sure you email us at email@example.com. This has been Zach, and you’ve been listening to Secunda Joseph and Jessica Davenport, members of Project Curate. Peace.
Kiara: Living Corporate is a podcast by Living Corporate, LLC. Our logo was designed by David Dawkins. Our theme music was produced by Ken Brown. Additional music production by Antoine Franklin from Musical Elevation. Post-production is handled by Jeremy Jackson. Got a topic suggestion? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and living-corporate.com. Thanks for listening. Stay tuned.