Wit and Wisdom: The Personal is Political — Ongoing Conversations of Race, Class, and Gender

Kate Seely is the Director of Field Operations with EPIP. She is a leadership development enthusiast, a believer that honest communication and authentic leadership are the underlying keys to any sustainable change we endeavor to effect in this world.  [caption id="attachment_10360" align="alignleft" width="300"]Me and my amazing Dad, summer 2012. Me and my amazing Dad, summer 2012.[/caption] As I have grown in my career over the past 10 years, I have thought a lot about what it means to make change and have learned what I feel are a few valuable lessons. The part that I’m interested in is the personal part, that part that we so often push below, which is so crucial to how we each approach this work. We come at this work with different backgrounds, identities, upbringings, beliefs, inclinations, all of which color how we approach our work and whether we feel fully invested in it. The research on generational shifts shows that work has become more personal with our generation, with individuals feeling committed to causes as opposed to a certain organization or company. [caption id="attachment_10355" align="alignright" width="300"]IMG_7276 Nakisha Lewis and Alfonso Wenker at the EPIP People of Color Gathering, February 2013.[/caption] EPIP has always placed value on creating a safe space for people of color to talk about identity. Moreover, we believe that we should cultivate space to authentically discuss how identity relates to an individual’s impact, both in the larger world and within our workplaces. As a white girl interested in racial dynamics, racial equity, and deeply engaged with cultures other than my “own,” I have always sidled up to the conversation, not knowing exactly how to engage in the conversations, but wanting oh so badly to do so. Growing up with the privilege of being born white was not something that I understood how to address, and I still don’t, as this is a lifelong conversation. I believe the important part is the trust that I have in my own authenticity around the potential discomfort, which leads me to a first lesson: embracing and acknowledging that these conversations can be uncomfortable, and trusting that others will meet you there and hold your hand through it.  (more…)