In this Episode
This episode we have part of Lisa Sharon Harper’s posse on the show! Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton, Dr. Claudia Owens Shields and Corey Nathan are all partners with our work on Freedom Road.
Waltrina is the executive director of Community Renewal Society and a senior consultant with Freedom Road, specializing in Spiritual Formation. Claudia is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in multi-ethnic psychology, formerly tenured professor at the Chicago School of Psychology. Claudia also serves as a senior consultant with Freedom Road. And, finally, Corey Nathan is the celebrated host of the Talkin’ Politics and Religion without Killin’ Each Other podcast. He doubles as the engineer and producer of the Freedom Road Podcast.
These friends were invited to join Lisa to help us reflect on 2023.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Thread or Insta Lisa @lisasharper or to Freedom Road @freedomroad.us. We’re also on Substack! So be sure to subscribe to freedomroad.substack.com. And, keep sharing the podcast with your friends and networks and letting us know what you think!
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:00:00] Coming to you from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection, I’m Lisa Sharon Harper, president of Freedom Road, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap. Welcome to the Freedom Road Podcast. Each episode we speak with national faith leaders, advocates, activists, people in government to have the kinds of conversations we normally have on the front lines.
It’s just that this time we’ve got microphones in our faces, and you are listening in. Now, today we’ve got my posse with me, or at least part of it. These are the people that I run with all year long and they do the work alongside me in our consulting work, and the podcast, and in a lot of other different spaces and venues.
And I am so excited. I invited them to come and talk with us to help [00:01:00] 2023 y’all, because we are now at the end of an incredible year. A year that has brought calamity, a year that has brought hope, a year that has brought beauty in small spaces and in large spaces. And I didn’t want to just do this on my own.
I always, you know, I’ll work with my people. So I decided to invite Dr. Claudia Owen Shields and Corey Nathan to join me. They are partners in our work on freedom road. So Dr. Owen Shields is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in multi-ethnic psychology. She’s formerly a tenured professor out of Chicago School of psychology, and she’s also a senior consultant with freedom road.
And Cory Nathan is the celebrated host of the Talkin’ Politics and Religion Without Killin’ Each Other podcast, and he doubles in his off time as the engineer and producer of this podcast, a Freedom Road Podcast. So welcome my friends to Freedom Road, the Freedom Road [00:02:00] podcast, and I’m so excited to have them help us to process 2023.
Now we would love to hear your thoughts. So please tweet Insta, thread us, Facebook us and let us know how you, what you thought of this conversation. Let us know if you have other thoughts to add to the conversation, and also keep sharing the podcast with your friends. We have an incredible audience.
I just found out this week, y’all, I just found out that we are among the 1.5 percent. The top 1.5 percent of podcasts in the world.
So share it, share, share, share, share the conversation. Yes, we are. So we are excited. So let me just look, this particular conversation is going to be free flowing. I’ve asked my friends to come prepared, you know, to share some stories and also [00:03:00] insights they’ve had. And so, all right, y’all Corey, Claudia, what’s your favorite story that kind of illustrates a favorite moment in our work together in 2023. 2023 was a pretty big year. I mean, I’m thinking, I think back to all of the incredible guests that we’ve had, Corey, on the podcast. I think back to our conversations, even after our podcast conversations where you’re like, Whoa, that was amazing. And then, you know, and then you go into like, why did that actually rock your world and all that stuff?
And, Claudia, oh my gosh. Like we have experienced some crazy, amazing moments together, particularly you and I on the road in pilgrimages. Because that’s the primary place where you work with us is on our pilgrimages. So I’m really looking forward to hearing like, what were your favorite moments of the year?
Corey Nathan: Well, one of my favorite moments just happened because [00:04:00] we were just joined by another guest on this. Yeah. Did you see? Oh, you didn’t see the, yeah, you didn’t see that?
Lisa Sharon Harper: No, I didn’t see it because I’m looking at my script. Oh, Waltrina, it is so good to see you. Okay. So should I, I should probably redo the.
Corey Nathan: No, no. We’ll do it on the fly. This is fine.
Lisa Sharon Harper: We’re going to do it on the fly. Hey folks, we were just joined. By another one of our posse, Waltrina Middleton, Reverend Dr. Waltrina Middleton. She is the Executive Director of Community Renewal Society based out of Chicago. She’s also Gullah and kind of lives between Chicago and South Carolina and often joins us on the road on Freedom Road, literally on the road when we do pilgrimages, and she specializes as our spiritual formation director, the director of our work in spiritual formation, and she is a force. So I’m so excited. Thank you so much for jumping on Waltrina, thank you for making this [00:05:00] work. Thank you. Thank you, Lisa.
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: So good to be with you all.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Absolutely. Yay. Okay. So, so Waltrina, just so you know, I already asked everybody to please just share, share like one of your favorite moments in 2024 in the work that we’ve done this year together.
So Corey’s been working with us in the podcast. You and Claudia actually have worked together a few times. What are some of those moments? Anybody just go. You just jump in.
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: Well, there’s so many, there’s so many Lisa, and I think that of course it would probably be easy for me to point to some of the relationships that we’ve built with the communities, but I also think for me just personally, you just mentioned the cohort of partners that often travel to these sacred sites to help us to go deeper into the narratives in those spaces and to have someone that have the skill set that like a Claudia [00:06:00] have, you know, in terms of being able to hold space for folks as they’re processing, um, just emotionally what they’re going through.
And to have someone like, you know, Rene in South Africa, um, with her unique take on how we digest the biblical narrative, being able to kind of step back and watch, you know, I’ll just say it, these badass black women, you know, be a force In these spaces, but also to create these safe and sacred spaces just have been really transformative for me, especially in light of all that we have witnessed in our world and our society today, we’re often nurturing and caring for others.
And we’re holding these sacred spaces. But then we also need folks that can help us to replenish our spirits so we can continue to do the work. And so I’ll [00:07:00] just say that it’s really been powerful and transformative to share and bear witness in this space. And while we are working to minister to, I feel as if we’re also pouring into each other and to be able to walk alongside, your brilliance, the brilliance of a Claudia, the brilliance of a Rene and so many others.
It’s just… It’s really, um, helped me to even feel more empowered and stronger and courageous when we’ve left those places. So, and yes, I can cite like a specific event, like when we Freedom Road is doing work in Alabama, you know, and being able to trace the steps of those freedom fighters there to tell the narratives of the water.
And especially in light of the 21st century events, you know, like the steamboat uprising.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah, the uprising, right on the… [00:08:00]
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: Yeah. You know, to witness such a moment. In 21st century, but also to know the narratives of those rivers, and how enslaved people navigated those waters that you had significant folks like a Rosa Parks that walk those streets, and to understand that those systemic challenges still exist today.
And to be able to navigate and process and work through those narratives with communities today with the museums that bear witness to lynching. Those, those are spaces that I will never forget. I will continue to be transformed by the past and the present, but also giving thanks for those who have committed to doing that sacred work and to be in that space with you all.
I can’t speak to just how powerful that has been for me.
Lisa Sharon Harper: And I have to say, Waltrina, and I’m sure that Claudia can come in and chorus and just in confirm this, but honestly, like [00:09:00] your work, like your work in those spaces, particularly the work with objects that help us to carry the stories home.
That last one that we did with the Aspen Institute. I mean, that was like, like the nuclear version of your brilliance. Let me just share it. Like. Waltrina led us through in every step of the way, every day of a three day journey, she brought a new object that actually helped people to kind of carry the meaning of that day or the spiritual, but connect to the meaning of that day.
So the first day she had people… the first night actually, as part of our ceremony that opened things, she had people put water in to these little vials that she bought, like, it was just kind of, [00:10:00] and let me tell you, this was not something that I directed. It was something I asked her to vision for. We thought about it together, but this is the way that Waltrina’s mind works.
Right. She said, let me go get water from the river. So she actually got somebody, somebody was working on the side of the river one day when she came out a little early to go down into the river into the Alabama river and get water out of the river and we poured a little bit of water into each person’s vial.
And each day then a new thing was put into the vials. So that day it was about carrying the water. And that day we started at the water and we went to this, the ox, the auction block that is now a fountain. It’s actually a drained fountain in the middle. Hello, in the middle of Montgomery, Alabama. And then the next day.
She gave us each a shell to place inside of the [00:11:00] vial inside of the water and the shell represented the bones, the bones of the ancestors, because that day we went to the legacy museum and the lynching monument. The monument for peace and justice. And she… we were remembering the bones and then the next day she gave us these butterflies because butterflies are about life and, and transformation and the ability to move from death to life, from life to death to life.
And so everybody went home with a vial full of little bit of water with a bone in it and a butterfly. I still have that. I still have it in my room. I’m not that thing is gonna, I think it’s gonna be passed down as a memento. Let’s put it that way, because I want my descendants to, to know, to have that meaning as well.
So thank you for that.
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: Thank you. Ase. Thank you.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Claudia, did you have anything you want to add to that because you were there as well or anything. Well,
Dr. Claudia Owens Shields: 1st, I want to [00:12:00] say that that is a profoundly unfair question asking what the favorite moment is. It’s like asking a little kid who’s just walked into a candy store what their favorite is like.
So I just want to say that after this, I’m going to go back and go, Oh, I could have said that. And oh, I could have. Right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any torment as you start your advent holiday. Yeah.
Dr. Claudia Owens Shields: So, I’ll say two things. Uh, first, um, cosigning a hundred percent what you said about what Waltrina brought every morning, uh, on my counter right next to my mirror.
The first thing I see, um, is my butterfly and my little water with the shell and it, and it’s still exactly as you presented it to us. And so it grounds me every morning. So, so thank you. What, one of the things I will say that’s a particularly poignant [00:13:00] moment would also be from our most recent pilgrimage where we were in Albuquerque, New Mexico and we were listening to a Diné, also known as a Navajo, man. And he said, “There is no word for sorry in our language.”
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s right. I remember, I remember, I remember you look on your face, I remember you gaffed actually when he said that.
Dr. Claudia Owens Shields: I got chills just right now thinking about it because it so resonates with my faith tradition in terms of reparation, right?
And we don’t say sorry. We say, this is what we did that was wrong. Here’s what we’re going to do to fix it. Here’s how we harmed you when we did it. Here’s how we’re going to change our lives and our lifestyle so that this never happens again. And only then do you humbly hope for [00:14:00] forgiveness from the creator, but ain’t no sorry in it.
And so I just, that was life changing. For me.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah. And I have to say, I’m going to give a little shout out as well for Claudia’s work. I mean, so we brought Claudia on that pilgrimage and she was not able to be with the group the first time around. And the way that the time ended, and the way that it ends for all of our pilgrimages, it was like, it was like night and day.
Because Claudia was there and she was able to lead everybody through a coping and resilience exercise that brought us together as a community and really did help. I mean, people because they’re conscious of the unhealthy ways that we can begin to cope with this transformation we’ve undergone kind of without even realizing it. And we go back and it’s almost like diving into cold water and having to struggle to communicate to our [00:15:00] friends what we’ve just been through. I think a lot of our people have suffered a lot less, or struggled a lot less, because of Claudia’s work. So Claudia, thank you so much for the power, really, truly the power that comes from your expertise.
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: And can I just say also. I’ll take a risk and just say it, you know, like the power of touch, you know, because our bodies are sacred. And when we’re in these spaces, you know, our bodies were holding all of these very painful narratives, these painful encounters with our ancestors. And we’re trying to, we’re trying to push through it in real time, but we’re also kind of caught in this time capsule of the past we’re wrestling with we’re trying to reconcile a lot of things. And one of the things that you notice if you kind of step back from all that’s going on, is that Claudia, I don’t know, like what [00:16:00] superpower she has, but she keeps showing up like next to all of these people like there’s, if there’s someone on their knees praying, Claudia is on her knees praying next to them. If there’s someone holding onto the wall because they can’t hold themselves up. Claudia is just a present standing like I’m just right here next to you. I’m right here next to you. If you need to let that wall go, and you need to hold on to me, I’m right here.
And to have that presence, people begin to trust and know. Well, I mean, I don’t need it. I don’t want to be touched right now. But if I do need that hug, if I need that embrace, if I need that hand at the center of my back. That there is a presence there, and it’s very sacred. Especially when touch for, for bodies that have been marginalized, when touch is something that has been weaponized against the body, have a healing touch [00:17:00] that says, I’m affirming you, I’m affirming your humanity.
I’m affirming your narrative, your experience, your witness. That’s just a gift. As well.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Amen. Amen.
Dr. Claudia Owens Shields: Wow. Thank you for that affirmation and confirmation that I was able to hear spirit. Thank you.
Lisa Sharon Harper: These are our stories. You’re listening to the Freedom Road Podcast, where we bring you stories from the front lines of the struggle for justice.
Okay, so Corey, what was your favorite moment in the work we did in 2023?
Corey Nathan: Favorite, maybe not the exact word I would think of, but I would say one of the most meaningful moments for me in the entire year, not just in the work that we were doing together, but in my entire year. [00:18:00] Was we stayed after, I think it was Dr. Raheb had his interview, and we stayed after for quite some time. And I think maybe you detected that I was still processing. You know, it was in the weeks after October 7th. I have family. And for folks who don’t know, I have family in Israel. I think we had just learned that one of the nephews had indeed died on October 7th.
But the… number one, sitting through Dr. Rahab’s talk. It was a very important, for lack of a better word, exercise, because it’s so important to remember the humanity in all, in all places, uh, the humanity of people in Gaza, the humanity of Palestinians in Israel, the humanity [00:19:00] of this individual, this incredible brilliant mind who understands his family’s history.
And for me to hear it also to line up my own family’s history, now it’s not another side. It’s not God forbid. It’s not an enemy. It’s a man who, who has a family, you know, and experienced these historic events in a personal way. But speaking of experiencing it in a personal way, what you gave me, after that, I think it was after that recording was… I don’t know if there’s like an official term for this, but I think of it as the ministry of this sucks. You were kind of just, you were kind of just describing it. Like sometimes you just got to hang out with a brother, hang out with a sister, hang out with a loved one and just put your hand on their back, even in [00:20:00] a virtual way and say, man, this sucks.
Lisa Sharon Harper: No, that’s actually a real thing. That is a real thing. And I’m kind of in awe that you received it as such. I mean, that’s beautiful. It’s really powerful.
Corey Nathan: Your generosity and just asking questions because I think you could tell there are times when I can be minimally articulate, but at that time I, my insides, my heart, my head, my everything was still like mashed potatoes and not the good kind, you know?
So your generosity and just asking me, you know, asking me questions was really cherished.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh, that’s so cool. And if you’re my brother, you are my brother, brother. And I could tell, I could tell that you were, you know what I mean? I could tell it was a hard conversation and Dr. Mitri Rahab is no joke. No joke.
He’s the most published Palestinian theologian in Palestine. [00:21:00] And he came, he came with it, but it didn’t, he, we really did. He challenged a lot of our paradigms and I can, and it’s so sorry, it’s so close for you. This is so close that I just, I was genuinely concerned for you. I was like, okay, how’s my brother doing?
So I’m glad that you received it. And in the.. and that it you actually received it as something that helped. Thank you.
Well, I have another question for us. Let me actually, first let me share my favorite moment. So my favorite, I mean, and again, maybe you’re right. The word favorite is kind of a crazy word because it’s not really favorite.
It’s more like deepest impression. I have to say that, I think that the work that we have been doing as Freedom Road, I wouldn’t even say it’s like any one thing, but I feel like in the second half of this year, we have just been… [00:22:00] the impact of our work among the people that we’re working with has felt like fire, a transformative fire.
And I’m witnessing it. And I think that we experienced that with the Aspen Institute folks who went with us to Montgomery. I think we experienced that with the folks we worked with the Carter center and the evangelicals are working with their… when we went to Albuquerque and then also in, in that conversation with Dr. Raheb, but not only him, also with other people, even like, we had a conversation a little earlier this year, I think in the summer, um, with Tamice Spencer, right? So, um, Tamice Spencer… her last name Helms. She rocked my world and, and finding another, another human being who has been doing such deep work in the scripture and being able to push [00:23:00] her out to more people so that more people can hear and receive from her, it was just, this has been, it’s been a really powerful year.
So, that’s… those are my, it’s my favorite impression from 2023 from the work on Freedom Road is fire. It’s just, it’s an image, it’s, it’s the image of fire. So now I have another question. My question is, what are the greatest challenges? That our world has faced. Let’s just think about it in 2023. And what are your thoughts on how the church, and let’s say our society should be engaging them or could engage them?
Dr. Claudia Owens Shields: You know, I would characterize it as a loss of consciousness. It feels to me that much of our planet has sunk into some sort of slumber. We are asleep to the [00:24:00] fact that we are literally making ourselves and other organisms extinct on every level, right? The species are literally becoming extinct.
We’re killing our coral reefs. Our air is becoming unbreathable. Our crops are dying. Monarch butterflies are an endangered species, right? During COVID, there were elements of the ways in which slumber showed up in terms of our own well being, and not taking early on steps to protect ourselves and millions of lives lost.
And during COVID, we also saw that when human beings were required to shelter in place, the earth began to rapidly recover.
Lisa Sharon Harper: We could see wasn’t that deep?
Dr. Claudia Owens Shields: Right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah. We could see it. Like we literally saw the difference. As soon as we were not.
Dr. Claudia Owens Shields: Putting all of these gases into the air and contributing to global warming, very quickly, we could [00:25:00] see, um, photographs taken from space of the world beginning to heal.
And we slept right through that moment. That was a powerful opportunity for awakening. The war that we’re seeing now, again, is, to me, we’re literally killing each other. I love what Corey said about this is a human, and we’ve lost touch with our shared humanity. And so I guess I would say I am just hopeful that we will awaken, that there will be an awakening before it’s too late.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow. Thanks for that, Claudia.
Corey Nathan: It’s similar to what I’ve been feeling and sensing is the challenge is about rehumanizing each other. It’s similar to what I was discussing earlier, but in general, there is… the challenge is, [00:26:00] is to remember our own discernment. To eschew the temptation to characterize or mischaracterize in, in order to simplify or oversimplify in order to dehumanize, to make it easier for us to do these violent… conduct violence against each other.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yes.
Corey Nathan: The project is to, is to re humanize, or as our, our mutual friend, Roberto Che, Dr. Roberto would say, re-member that we’re members of each other, we’re members of our family, our community, right? Even across the miles to re-member each other. Right. So, and as we go into 2024, that challenge is not going to get easier.
That challenge, I was, this is… this might sound silly, but my brother, he loves MMA. Let’s [00:27:00] talk about pugilism. He loves MMA. So he took me to this new sports bar in town and we watched the fights together. And there was this one fighter who just brazenly, he wears the MAGA hat. He comes in with an American flag around him.
And he’s like, he’s like Trump’s fighter. He just, it’s like this character he plays, but he’s an actual MMA fighter. And there was something in me and I never prayed before like a sporting match. I prayed before that when I’m like, please allow this guy just to go down. Just like, I just want him to lose.
But the thing is everybody in… there were so many people, it was packed with Trump supporters apparently because they were just big fans of this fighter. And there was the, you know, I forgot the, what is it called? Let’s Go Brandon or something like that.
Lisa Sharon Harper: I have no idea.
Corey Nathan: There’s this term.
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: Yeah, let’s go Brandon.
Corey Nathan: Yeah, yeah, it’s derogatory towards Biden. And I’m just thinking, but the funny thing is I could have been sitting next to any one of them and having a perfectly neighborly [00:28:00] conversation because they are my neighbors. Right? But then all of a sudden, this red hat walks in and now all of a sudden, everybody like, it’s like we’re cave people, like, just ready to hammer each other, not just rooting for the what’s on the screen.
So the project is to remember, regardless of you. You know, regardless of the MAGA hat and, you know, the different sides of all that, that person is still my neighbor, whoever he might be rooting for that person is still my neighbor. And honestly, it’s a challenge for me because it’s a, you know, it’s a big hurdle for me to overcome, but it’s still my neighbor.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s so good. That’s, I mean, that’s like powerful and I, you know, it actually connects in with something that I experienced and wrote about this morning on Instagram. And, you do… guys, did you see the video of the girl who was saying to the guy, I want more Palestinians to die? More Palestinians [00:29:00] need to die, more Palestinians need to die.
And then the guy who is Palestinian literally sitting there going, really, do you really believe that? He goes, yeah. And then she’s like, I killed two. I already killed two. You’re like, what? He goes, I don’t believe you. And she says, I’m in the army. She’s in the Israeli army. And she’s like a kid. And he’s like, you’re in the army.
And she’s like, Yeah, I’m in the army. And then it hit me as I was watching this and then she’s like, they all gotta die. Like, she’s like, she’s like trying to be, honestly, she is, she’s performing blackness in order to be cool and saying that all the Palestinians have to die. It’s just like… it’s like literally as twisted as it could possibly be.
And as I thought about this, it struck me that this is moral injury. That’s what’s happened here. So Claudia, I know you could speak to this as a psychologist, but this is moral injury. And [00:30:00] not only that, but it’s not only her moral injury, but it struck me every single citizen in Israel has to, is compelled to, by law to serve in the military every girls, women, by the time they hit 18, at the time they hit 18, they’re conscripted. Their brains are not fully formed and they have an automatic weapon placed in their hands and they get… they have to then go through a process of dehumanizing the other. It’s a state-based process to dehumanize the other.
And I thought, that’s how that happens. And it’s not just a simple, okay, she has moral injury because she went through this process. You have generations of an entire nation that has been systematically taught [00:31:00] to kill their neighbor, their ethnic neighbor. And that’s just in Israel. Here in the U.S., we’re funding it.
We’re actually sending, like, I don’t remember, it’s like some inordinate amount, like 80 percent, 90 percent of the military arms of Israel is provided by the U.S. So we’re funding it. So we have to have some level of moral injury as well. And not only just that, but look at our own situation, the ways that the hashtag lives, eventually, our, our systems became desensitized to that river of hashtag lives. So, I don’t know exactly how to, how to wrap this thought, except just to say that I think one of the… I agree with you, Corey, I agree with you, Claudia, I think that [00:32:00] the most urgent need that we have coming out of 2023 is to re-humanize each other.
And I think specifically to reconnect with each other in doing it. That it can’t be done outside of the most, we need the most powerful version of rehumanization possible, which is through connection.
Corey Nathan: Yeah, if I may, it happens on a moment to moment basis. And individual who makes a decision on a moment to moment basis, because if I make certain decisions, like to say F Donald Trump at that fight, you know, at the fights, it might seem, you know, it might seem inconsequential and just, oh, we’re just cheering. And we’re just having, but in a way, it’s just a little scratch on my conscience, you know, or the [00:33:00] example that you used is much graver, obviously, but that’s an individual.
We have agency on an individual basis. One of my cousins who lives in Israel is a pacifist. So she’s still engaged in the war, but she’s chose to go a different route and teach. That’s her role in the army is to teach. And she teaches Palestinian Israel, the, you know, Israeli, um, citizens who are Palestinians, Muslims, Bedouins as well as Jews, of course, but that’s what she chose to do. Others though, it’s a… it’s our conscience. We’re numbing our conscience and we’re killing our conscience one little scratch at a time.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s literally it. And moral injury is particularly, it’s particularly the result of being compelled to work, to act against your conscience.
It’s being… it’s the force of the state, the force of authorities forcing you to take actions that you know are against your conscience. So anyway, I’m sorry, [00:34:00] Waltrina.
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: Well, yes, I’m echoing what you all have shared. I think the thought that came to mind is just a reversal of progress. A reversal of these progressive moments throughout our history hitting a wall where that in this wall that normalizes a culture of violence, this wall that normalizes, um, just outright racism and bigotry, and hate in all of its forms, you know, from Roe versus Wade, the affirmative action to a person running for president saying that slavery benefited the persons who were enslaved, you know, to George Santos, you know, to you know, there’s, there’s no level of decency or a line invisible or [00:35:00] not, you know, that says that this is inhumane, that this dehumanizes not even those… not only those that we oppress, but this demonizes us. You know what? How low will we go?
And so seeing this reversal of progress and understanding that lives literally were stolen so that we could get to this place that we call progress. And to see us kind of going backwards, if you will, I think is critical to note.
But it also reminds me of something that you know, we talk about using the master’s tool. You can’t dismantle the master’s house, Audre Lorde, using the master’s tool. And I’m wondering, if we had taken greater notice of what Audre Lorde was [00:36:00] saying, this important stuff, and I know that you like to focus greatly on as we should reconnecting and rebuilding and reimagining, and that’s important.
But I also think about the, um, removal, the, the uprooting, dismantling, these systems, and structures of oppression, the roots so that they won’t come back, so that we can say there will not be a reversal of these progress when we fought so hard to get African American studies in our schools. We’re not going to remove those books.
We’re not going to teach our children that slavery was good for them. And so forth. We all know the examples of what we’re witnessing, not just in this. Presidential race, but the rhetoric that has been normalized in our society gives evidence of the root. That was not [00:37:00] uprooted. Those walls that, there’s still… the structure is still there.
And how do we do that in a way? That’s also still life affirming so that life can still come forth from those places.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Walking Freedom Road from coast to coast and around the globe. This is the Freedom Road Podcast.
Wow. That was such a great point that you closed us with in that last segment Waltrina, actually, it’s a really great segue into my last question for our time. I actually, I tell you, we have like, y’all, we have had a great conversation, and it’s not done yet. So, I want to look forward to 2024.
You know, Waltrina, you talked about what I, let’s say what I [00:38:00] kind of, imagined as you were talking is kind of the difference between deconstructing, right, or decolonizing and what I’ve recently learned is post-colonial, right? So it’s that, it’s the difference between dismantling the colonial system, and now figuring out how do we live completely outside of it?
Like how do we find a new way of living together? Right? So what’s the new way going to be? And I, as we look forward to 2024, this promises to be one of the most contentious election years in American history. We have to strengthen ourselves. We have to strengthen our democracy. We have to organize ourselves and our communities and we have to preserve the freedoms that we actually already have and imagine new ways of being together in the world. So I’m wondering [00:39:00] from that, you know, what do you think we should be doing? What do we need to do in 2024 in order to get to the end of the year? In a space where we can re imagine a new way of being together in the world.
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: You know, we often speak of the African expression where they ask, how are the children, you know, if we’re not asking about the condition of the children, then, you know, there’s no future. There’s no hope. And I think. Also in that question, I also find what are the children doing? How can we look to them as well?
And I think that sometimes, um, if we look to how young people are showing up in the world today, we’ll find a road map to how. We [00:40:00] can be this beloved community that we say we seek, you know, we see a generation of young people that they’re rejecting this nonsense that, um, a woman does not have autonomy over her own body.
They’re rejecting this nonsense that we must dehumanize and reject a transgender individual. They are rejecting this idea that black, brown, indigenous, Asian, these communities of color that we cannot be harmonious in this world together. But Claudia talked about the environment. They are fierce advocates for care and for creation.
They are teaching us.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It’s really good.
Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton: Showing us how to journey on this path. Every generation will see a movement and uprising. And I’m convinced that the heart of every movement is the youth, it’s the children, they’re leading it, albeit South [00:41:00] Africa, you know, the United States, Palestine, wherever we will find movements and uprisings for freedom and justice, the children, the youth, alongside many other comrades, the youth are leading the way.
And I don’t say that to oversimplify it, but I genuinely believe that our African siblings were… that’s a profound way to enter into the community. Before I say hello, but sort of ask you, how are you doing? I must know how are the children because they are the ones that will show us the way, you know, when they quote, you know, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes, but the song that another verse also talks about the children, how they will see us through the gale. They’ll see us through the wind, the force of whatever injustice we’re fighting. The children will be the ones to see us through that.[00:42:00]
And so I can’t overemphasize enough that importance.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Amen.
Dr. Claudia Owens Shields: Rev. Waltrina, you were preaching. You made me think of the picture where Jesus says, Suffer little children to come unto me for such is the kingdom of heaven. And I never put that together until now. Really quickly, I would say my response, to your question, Lisa, in terms of what we would do.
I think we move to a relational place. As a community psychologist, one of the things I really believe is that it is the relationship that heals. Um, and I will close with a quote from Martin Luther King. He said, darkness will not drive out darkness. Only light will do that. Hate will not drive out hate. Only love will do that. And so as corny as it might sound, I think we need a love, period.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Amen. A to the men and the women, thank you very [00:43:00] much.
Corey Nathan: Yeah, amen. And to the women. Well I cannot be as profound as Dr. Claudia, but I do feel that we’re in good hands. Because just as an example, I look at who the protagonists already are and will continue to be going into 2024.
We look at the attorney general in New York. We look at a judge like Judge Chutkin in DC.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Hello.
Corey Nathan: You look at the DA in Fulton County.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Hello!
Corey Nathan: And what, what do they all have in common? I feel like we’re in good hands, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: So hold on, hold on. Let me just say. We, we, we interviewed Christina Cleveland.
Was that earlier this year or was that last year?
Corey Nathan: Yeah, it was a few months ago.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah. So Christina Cleveland wrote the book, God is a Black Woman. She’s show nough did, and she’s pushing all kinds of boundaries with her theological work. But what you basically just said is hello, black women, we are in good hands.
Corey Nathan: We’re in good [00:44:00] hands, but that’s on a grander scale. On a more personal level, I couldn’t agree more, Dr. Shields, that it’s about the relational. We often get caught up in, I get caught up in the contest and the transactional, but if I focus on nurturing relationships, personal relationships, that’s where that’s the seed.
Right. That’s the seed.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Amen. I want to just say that we are, we are in conversation right now with partners about developing a way for people in communities to come back together, and actually to come together relationally to rehumanize each other. So I did not, I did not plan for this conversation to go as it did, but I do believe, I believe that God is at work in order to heal our nation, and we can look forward to that.
But it’ll only happen if we actually engage it. So stay tuned, stay tuned for ways that we [00:45:00] can begin to heal ourselves and our nation.
The conversations leaders have on the road to justice. This is the Freedom Road Podcast. Thank you for joining us today. The Freedom Road Podcast is recorded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and wherever our guests lay their heads at night. And this episode was engineered and edited and produced by Corey Nathan of Scan Media.
Freedom Road podcast is executive produced by Freedom Road LLC. We consult, coach, train, and design experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment and lead to common action. You can find out more about our work at our website, freedomroad.us. Stay in the know by signing up for our updates, which are on Substack.
So make sure you check us out Freedom Road on Substack. We promise we will not flood your inbox, and instead we’ll actually be sending you some amazing [00:46:00] content throughout the month. So we invite you to listen again. Join us on the conversation on Freedom Road.