Ever since my book came out, I started adding a new word to my bio: conversationalist. In addition to being a writer, a speaker and an author, I wanted a word that spoke to the power of the stories we were having around my book – after all, when The Color of Life launched into this world, it wasn’t about the white lady getting up on stage to talk about issues of race.
No, if and when that happened, not only would I miss the point but my audience would very well miss the point as well.
Instead, I took my cues from the wisdom different friends and mentors, both online and in person, spoke over me. I heeded the advice of Kathy and Sandra, Lisa and Father Mauricio, Idelette and Daniel. I took their words, their criticisms and their passions to heart – after all, at the root of it all existed a desire to not get the conversation wrong.
That didn’t mean I couldn’t be (and wouldn’t be) wrong in telling my story, but it didn’t mean that I couldn’t be wrong in subsequently causing harm to the already-laid justice groundwork. I couldn’t, in other words, “get wrong” conversations that had been taking place long before I decided to get my White Awake on and show up to issues of justice, race and privilege.
After all, sometimes coloring outside the lines means having conversations, before, during and after the fact. No one ever said justice (and doing the hard, day-in, day-out work of justice) would be easy.
So, when it came to promoting my book, I began to line up conversational events with friends of color. In Oakland, I took the stage with Julie and Myisha. In Hayward, Michael and I shared a mic. It was Jordan in Seattle. Velynn and Michelle in Portland. Abrem in Santa Cruz. Roy, Sally and Kevin in San Francisco, and, of course, my father-in-law and Jemar in Jackson.
In each of these places and with each of these people, we celebrated the power of story. We listened to the stories that change us, the stories that make us think and feel and believe differently because they’re connected to real, live, fleshy human beings like you and me.
This wasn’t about me curating a conversation – because, as I’ve told some of you, if I try and curate, then I’m still the one holding all the power. I’m still the one driving the story and telling everyone where they should go. I’m still the one holding onto privilege like it’s the only thing left.For me, as I think about the second half of my book, it’s not actually about my book.
The truth is that this has never actually been about my book or about me, but it’s always – always – been about extending an invitation into the stories the change us.
And in that way, I’m honored to continue to partner with a handful of folks over the next couple of months. In fact, everything in October and November is listed here:
Of particular note, if you’re in the greater San Francisco East Bay, you won’t want to miss an event in early November on talking with kids …about race. Children’s author Mitali Perkins is the moderator for the night, and I’ll be on the panel with my friends Anita and Myisha.
And because a few of you have asked if I’ll be in your neck of the woods (I’m looking at you, Denver, Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York City and Dallas), I’ll say this: if schedules allow, I’d be absolutely delighted to engage in conversation with folks from your community. But I cannot do this on my own dime.
If there’s a writer or speaker you know would be a great fit for your community, band together with a group of folks to make it happen. See if everyone can pitch a certain amount so you can fly them out, honor them with a hotel room all their own and pay them a decent honorarium. For those of us without the luxury of a speaking agent or tens of thousands of followers, this is where we start.
After all, we pour years into our words.
And because this is our job, it’s not only honoring but necessary to pay people accordingly.
So, Denver, Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York City and Dallas, I’m looking at you …and I can’t wait to be with you in person someday.
Until then, to the conversation!
Conversations change us, truly. Stories change us, absolutely. How have you been changed by the power of story?
*Post contains Amazon links, yo!