Our Refusal is Divine (w/ Brittany Janay)

Brittany Janay is back this week with a timely affirmation, “Our Refusal is Divine.” She declares that we deserve to be unapologetic about our “no’s,” naming them as spiritual and our divine right. Brittany makes the connection to tennis player Naomi Osaka’s decision to prioritize her mental well-being and a recent story of a Black woman chemist, Dr. Lisa Jones, who leveraged her refusal on behalf of the collective. In the spirit of REMEMBERING, Brittany shares a historic anecdote of divine refusal, the story of Igbo Landing, a reminder that refusal is also resource. Whether it’s saying “no” to uncompensated emotional labor, turning down invitations to join all the diversity committees, or prioritizing one’s own well-being in the face of toxic capitalism… our refusal is divine. 

Learn more about the Igbo Landing on the IGBO History & Facts Twitter page.

You can connect with Brittany on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Check out her personal website.

Learn more about Liberated Love Notes.


Brittany: Hey y’all, this is Liberated Love Notes, a podcast on the Living Corporate network, hosted by yours truly, Brittany Janay creator of Liberated Love Notes. Critical, self-reflections, and affirmations for the culture. You already know Liberty Love Notes is your source for weekly doses of self-reflection, affirmation, and re-imagining, for us by us.

(00:36): I wonder if you noticed or not, but took a break off last week, found myself basking in black joy community. All of the things, modeling that ease that I speak about often. And didn’t quite get around to recording. I’m glad to be back though. And I’m hopeful that you missed me.

(01:17): I want to talk a little bit more about this affirmation and thought that has been on my heart and mind of late. And I’m actually going to jump right in. It goes a little something like this. Today, I affirm that our refusal is divine. I’ve been reflecting on that a lot. Our refusal is divine. Our refusal is divine. What do I mean by that? Very practically, our opt-in, our of spaces and places that no longer serve us y’all is divine. Our saying no to work that we are not being compensated fairly for is divine. Our prioritization of our bodies and well-being over unhealthy expectations grounded in toxic capitalism is divine. Y’all our using our PTO vacation, FMLA, whatever you’ve got [inaudible 00:02:49], unapologetically and guilt-free is divine. The ways in which we, you know, choose to at the interpersonal level, in incremental ways, the ways that we incrementally choose to disrupt white supremacist patriarchal systems is divine.

(03:20): And that’s really what I want to affirm this week. There’s something, at least for me, there’s something special about this juxtaposition of refusal and divinity, divine that really resonates with me. It really, really hits. I think about how refusal, in and of itself, at least, on the surface has this negative feel or connotation. Refusal, denying turning down, not accepting. Refusal, the act of expressing oneself is unwilling right to accept, has this negative hit to it on the surface. And yet, I’m suggesting that our refusal is of the utmost. Our refusal is divine, sacred, spiritual, transcendent.

(04:28): My reflections around this were actually affirmed after much of the news surrounding, if y’all were following Naomi Osaka. Talk about refusal being divine. And so, Naomi Osaka, for those of you and I’m pretty sure most of you, perhaps, were following the news. Declared just a few weeks back that she’d be prioritizing her mental well-being, that she’d no longer be speaking with the press. She further shared that she wouldn’t be participating in the French Open. But the powers that be, were all up in arms.

(05:22): This honoring of her body, and soul, and well-being, this disruption reflected on the scenario and it’s significant. And for me, Naomi has really gifted us with possibility. Possibility of what it means to, and we talk about this often on here, unravel one’s worth and sense of being. Unraveling, all of that from what we do in our work.

(06:01): Also want to call out that when I I use the word, ‹passibility’ I’ve started to do so more intentionally of late. And this was actually I was gifted with this new thinking. I was gifted with this new thinking, differentiating model from possibility, from an offer, an organizer, Marion Comba. And I’ve been thinking about how we often times suggest someone is model.

(06:40): It feels a bit finite or suggest perfection. It suggests that’s the way to do it or be. You know what I mean? Sometimes leaning into to model can have us in this space where the individuals of whom we do model, we start to see them beyond reproach. Maybe even have unhealthy and unrealistic expectations. And so, there’s something about naming when I’m inspired by someone’s behaviors or actions, naming it as possibility.

(07:19): Something that is to be considered, something that is to be curious about. Maybe not necessarily the end all be all. Maybe not something that will work for everyone, but it’s certainly possibility. So yes, for me, y’all Naomi Osaka and her declaration, her refusal offers possibility. Her refusal is divine. I also read recently of a chemist y’all. So a black woman chemist who was being recruited, as I understand it by the University of North Carolina. The same institution that has refused to give Nicole Hannah Jones, tenure. After all the white folks and conservatives push back around the 1618 Project. They’re over there reconsidering her tenure.

(08:27): There was black chemist who was being recruited by the institution. Actually, when they drew her candidacy, she pretty much say, you know what y’all, nah. If you all aren’t going to grant Hannah Jones her tenure, then this is not an institution that I want to be associated with. And when I read that, it got me thinking about this affirmation again. Her refusal being divine.

(09:06): This scenario gifts us with possibility from my perspective, as to what it looks like to enact collective power and impact y’all. And so, she didn’t even know, at least from my understanding, she doesn’t even know personally, Nicole Hannah Jones. What she didn’t know though, was that this was a black woman being undermined and harmed by a white institution, who was simultaneously trying to court her. Not only is her refusal divine. Her refusal on behalf of the collective is divine. Our refusal is divine. Our refusal on behalf of the collective is divine. Divine.

(10:09): And that’s powerful. At least for me, that’s powerful. And really wanting to emphasize divinity as a qualifier because yes, sure. It is also resistance. Our refusal is resistance and I think it’s way deeper than that. I think about refusal being power. I think about refusal being this act of reclamation, I think about refusal being something that is in us. When I think about the work around remembering, refusal, and access to that is resource.

(10:57): Interestingly enough, I came across in the spirit of remembering, which I think is even, not even, I think, is even more critical today. This remembering stuff, because quite frankly, if you follow the news, white supremacy is really out in the streets running in amuck. Trying to erase or wipe our collective memory. And so, there’s like a whole nother imperative for remembering. That the relearning and retelling of our stories that is so necessary, especially as black people.

(11:31): I actually heard a, I cannot remember who, but [inaudible 00:11:36] to say, you can’t be black in this world and not remember. You end up being lost. You can’t be black in this world and not remember, you end up being lost. Anyways. the reason why divinity and divine, also resonates with me in the context of refusal, is because it is. It is in us. It is part of resource and we have access to who we are.

(12:06): And that came across a few weeks back a story that, to be honest, not even a story, a piece of history that I had not been familiar with. And for me, it is a very beautiful and divine example of refusal.

(12:36): It is the story of the Igbo people. Igbo landing. Igbo Landing is [inaudible 00:12:44] it was how rather, it is referred. And so, in short, Igbo landing is the story of 75 Igbo captives who were being transported. In 1803, being transported by sea. The Igbo people revolted by capsizing the ship and drowning themselves. It is told that they did so while singing an Igbo song that is translated to, «the water spirit brought us, the water spirit will take us home». I actually came across this story, one, or from an Igbo history and facts Twitter page. And I’ve been thinking about it so much. So I wanted to share. I actually want to share the story a little bit more in detail because it, it resonated with me. And I think it connects back to this, the divine nature. The divine nature and spirit of refusal.

(14:13): As the story goes, and I actually read the one that I came across. Just some background Igbo Landing is a historic site at Dunbar Creek in St. Simons Island in Glen County, Georgia. Igbo Landing is known in history has one of the largest mass suicides acts of resistance of enslaved or captive people. It took place when Igbo captives from now, what is known as Nigeria, were taken to the Georgia coast in May of 1803. The Igbo and other west African captives arrived in Savannah, Georgia on a slave ship.

(15:20): They were purchased for forced labor, were chained and packed under a deck of a coastal vessel, which would take them from Savannah, Georgia to St. Simon’s Island. During that voyage, though, it is told that about 75 of the Igbo captives warriors and rebellion, took control of the ship. Drowned their captors, and in the process caused the grounding of the ship in Dunbar Creek. It is told that, and this is where it hit for me. It is told that they thereby excepted the protection of their god, Chioco. They thereby excepted the protection of their god and death, over the alternative of enslavement. They thereby excepted the protection of their god and that over the alternative of enslavement.

(16:50): They’re refusal of those conditions, their refusal to be dehumanized, their refusal was divine. Is divine. Their refusal was collective Their refusal was divine. Something about knowing, believing, affirming, that just feels timely. It feels timely and necessary. Our refusal to accept manipulative systems, our refusal to accept systems do not serve the fullness of our humanity. Our refusal is divine.

(17:19): Even when folks may qualify our refusal as trippin’, or our refusal as unrealistic, or our refusal, even if some may qualify our refusal as meaningless, because the systems and structures are way bigger. Our refusal remains divine. Even when folks suggest that perhaps our refusal is exclusive. Particularly when we find ourselves allying or being allegiant to the collective, our community, our blackness. Nah, our refusal is divine. When we say, you know what, no, I’m not going to be engaging in this additional labor. That’s divine. When we say, nah, I’m not going to be joining all of these diversity committees when my work, my day to day work is not valued. My humanity is not valued. Our refusal was divine.

(19:18): When we decide for ourselves that, I’m not going to participate in this diversity training, particularly because I don’t know that I can watch my white colleagues come into these aha moments while I experience re-traumatization. Nah, it’s not wrong. Our refusal is divine. Our no to system and status quo, our refusal of practices, and norms, and narratives, and requests that compromise our inherent humanity and worthiness, is divine.

(20:05): Our recognition, or our refusal of spaces, or things that no longer serve us, or that will not serve me or my people. LOur refusal of that is divine. Our refusal is divine. We don’t owe, I’m speaking to folks, those of y’all who may be in spaces for the most part, predominantly white spaces, where you can’t even just be.

(20:48): I want to affirm that you can. You deserve to just be. We don’t owe white folks, our colleagues, these jacked up systems. Sugar, honey iced tea ya”ll. No, we choose to extend grace, and love, and all the things that are inherent to us, that is our choice. Be it as it may, but we don’t owe. And so our refusal to do the most, our refusal is divine. Our refusal is divine.

(21:30): I want to affirm that, offer that to you as you kick off the week. As you reflect on your own personal boundaries. Avoid. Avoid the whole of guilt. Be unapologetic in your love of self, and your love of community, and your love of your blackness. And own. Own your nose. Own your nose.

(22:08): I promise you, our refusal is divine.

(22:12): I’ll catch y’all next time.

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