EAFH29: April Jefferson – Agile for Humanity Social Impact

Dr. Dave:                      Hello, and welcome to the KnolShare with Dr. Dave podcast. I am Dr. Dave, your host. My conversation today is with April Jefferson, the Soul Crafts Woman, and we're going to discuss growing equity in Black lives and the agile community and beyond.

Dr. Dave:                      I met April a few years ago at the Agile Alliance conference. What I can remember is that she walked up to me and a few African-American men and called us endangered species. Endangered species. And we're like, "Wow." I believe it was right after the death of Trayvon Martin or one of those other senseless death of Black men in the United States. We laughed about it at the time, but it sent a shock to my soul that I could be part of that statistics and it would be a reality. I just want to say that I'm super excited for this conversation today with April, and really look forward to the work we will be doing together, now and into the future. This is an important conversation for us to have, and I am just so grateful that we have the opportunity to do so.

Dr. Dave:                      Let me start off with a ... I'm being very festive for you today. I want you to notice that I'm wearing a Hawaiian shirt because it's you, April Jefferson, the Soul Crafts Woman. How are you today?

April:                            Oh, beautiful. Oh, I already know it's going to be fun. We're beginning right, with laughter

Dr. Dave:                      You have to begin with some laughter and some fun, right? Well, that's what we're about, right? We're happy people, I would think.

April:                            Yeah.

Dr. Dave:                      So, hey, let's just jump into some questions. I have a few questions, and I know you're going to have great responses. I know you are. I don't have to worry about that. So I know you're leading this Growing Equity in the Agile Community for Black Lives initiative. What has surprised you most about the response and the participation by people?

April:                            That people have put their guard down and stepped into vulnerability. And something that's quite polarizing, globally, that this is a global conversation, and that what I would I say, that the global Black community, we have been silent for a long time. And that there was no psychological safety to be completely forthright with what's going on within us. I felt that other people had the freedom to do so and that people gave space to listen. To listen to us. That we had a platform. Because oftentimes, that it involves us always listening first and not having the space or not it being reciprocal, right? To listen, and get curious. And that is about us accommodating versus people figuring out that taking time to be uncomfortable, and that's a big thing, is that it's a lot of work to be uncomfortable and say, "I'm going to sit here and figure out some tough things in that uncomfortability." The fact that people did that authentically.

April:                            And what I've been hearing out of it, which is probably one of the most important things, is that authentic relationships have been formed from it. Some people have honestly articulated like, "Yeah, I don't have Black people in my life, any people of color in my life, personally." People have shared that. And it's not that there was any hate there. Just, "I've never had that." Maybe they're from communities where there's not a lot of diversity.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            And to seek that out. But to walk away and forming real relationships, getting excited to see someone. This is a series which we're about to have. The final one in the series, but it doesn't mean the journey's over. That will continue. That work will continue. Excited to get to see them, to maybe see people start building those connections outside of the series. And that's how you know it's real. So-

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            ... that's been exciting, to see real relationships form. People taking time to understand how they see it. And that's really on both sides, is that ... Yeah. Thank you.

Dr. Dave:                      That's beautiful. That's beautiful, to really to be able to articulate that experience in the way that you have. That people are being able to see each other authentically, and looking beyond just the events, it's the relationships, right? The things that we really need to work on as human beings. I just want to say I'm super excited to be part of the Melanated Agile Group. And do you have a vision for that group? I know we meet and we talk and it's super awesome.

April:                            ... what you are talking about, and for ... It is a underground community that was ... It appears to be birthed out of this global conversation that we're having. But really, the idea behind this community was birthed years before, when I first met you and a few other people who are Black in the agile community, and that was never acted upon. And I said, "You know what?" I knew I was feeling some kind of way, and I didn't know how to articulate it. And I said, "You know what? Maybe there's others who are feeling some type of way." That they didn't quite have words how to articulate it. And just wanted to say, "Hey, thinking about you. Checking in." Right?

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah. Yeah.

April:                            And then said, "Let's get together and have that space." So Melanated Agile, right now, is a underground community for Black agilists on LinkedIn.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            So for those listening, connect with me if you meet that criteria. And right now, we're limiting it to that community, because that's what they need right now. That's what we need right now. And we'll let you know when we open it up for others. But right now, it's there. And it's a global community.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            Really, it started off with the few dozen people that I knew across the space, and it has grown quite quickly as other people say, "Oh." Tagging people, and realizing that we're not alone. We feel quite alone when we're out in the space, but we're not so alone when we think about how many there are, globally. So we have people a part of the community from all different countries. And-

Dr. Dave:                      I am-

April:                            ... my vision for that is not just a community to talk about what's going on in the world right now, but also for us

April:                            ... us to network professionally to help one another grow our craft. To support and promote one another's ventures. And maybe start doing what we already began starting conferences with Agile for Humanity Conference, right?

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            And doing that so we get bigger in places where we can invite people in. And I think it can go and do a lot more things. Again, we're not trying to scale out too fast, but that's where we are today. We're there to be a space for people to be free to be is what I like to say. And we haven't had that before.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            And that's what you find in melanated agile. You're free to be, and there's also a place to learn and have conversations and to grow one another. So people come curious and to offer and to seek.

Dr. Dave:                      So thank you. Thank you for acting upon the conversations that we have had within the conferences that we have attended. I know it's been really enjoyable for me and I will continue to encourage others to join as well. So one of the things that we have to deal with, just because of our skin color, is the burden of racial antagonism. And something I think about, how much courage is needed to move forward each day in our lives? It's not an easy thing. You can't turn it off. I guess you can go in a cave and hide, but it wouldn't matter much. But what do you think about that? The amount of courage you state to be able to walk out into the world, into the agile space and just be.

April:                            Yeah, I think one of the things that we like to say, and I kind of asked a question around this recently when I did the black women's lit segment, we talk about being a strong black woman or a strong black man. There's a lot of burden in that. But there's a lot of strength in that as well. So to highlight the strength in that, what strength has built in that is the mental toughness that we've learned to have moment by moment. It doesn't mean that it doesn't crack sometimes for people. And I think it does. But I think it's something that we're gifted in, in the professional space. We have definitely have taken on that mental toughness and we've been able to hone into it, to stay in a positive space than others who are in this field.

April:                            Because I've seen it. I've seen people actually comment and commend me like how I hold space and conversations. And say, "You're the only coach I can talk to. I've had other coaches get angry and yell, storm out the room. And you don't respond in that way."

Dr. Dave:                      Wow.

April:                            We understand that for us, like how we behave, that's not an option is a respond in those ways. That we can take a lot of maybe even verbal abuse, professionally that others can not take. And by even taking in some of that verbal abuse, which I'm saying like, "Oh yeah, come back later, say, I apologize, thank you for holding the space. So I went off in that way, it wasn't about you. But I appreciate that. That did so much for me."

April:                            And build a stronger relationship and being able to coach see them through things, by the way that I held myself. Because and understanding ... I've taken the mindset to understand when people react in certain ways, it's not about me. It's about something else. I've even said, I would talk to anyone and give love to anyone. Even I would have conversations with someone with the KKK. It doesn't matter in that I've had people say different things and what I've even told my kids, it's like, "Sometimes people have to use certain language to build themselves up. That's about them and not about me." And hopefully they'll get to a place where they don't need that.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah. Yeah. So, following along those lines, as a black woman, you may often get the double whammy discrimination for being black and being a woman. So what does R E S P E C T look like for you? I'm doing Aretha Franklin.

April:                            Oh, I know you are.

Dr. Dave:                      I thought you were thinking ...no I'm just kidding.

April:                            Respect for me is equity and a voice. Freedom to be me. And the reason why I speak about equity, I'm not a person who is about power to build up myself above others. I lead from a place of more generative engagement where I seek that balance of power with someone in every moment and every interaction. Because I value all humans.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah. Yeah.

April:                            And so that's the part of the respect is having a shared voice. And a balance there for people to engage.

Dr. Dave:                      So thinking about black lives. In order for black lives to really thrive an agile community, what focus and commitment is needed to be more present. And I'm talking about physically present, mentally present, spiritually present in the agile community and beyond?

April:                            I would say, is that it's a little bit of what I just spoke about. Is that our invitation into spaces is accompanied by that equity. That a shared respect, that balance for us to engage. That we have a shared voice. That's really important. I've definitely seen people who are trying to offer different things or we've heard from people in the community, like when they've been invited and feeling like a token. And naturally, they're there, but they're not really there.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            Space for us involves being fully present. And allowing our personality to shine. Our strengths to shine. Where we're mutually learning and growing from one another.

Dr. Dave:                      I would like to see more collaboration and partnership within the blacks, indigenous and people of color to BIPOC, in the agile community.

Dr. Dave:                      What do you think is needed to create that openness to suspend disbelief, that we could actually provide value to each other? I see that in the melanated Agile group. In general, as I run into people throughout the industry, and I've been in the Agile industry for a while, and I've met people from across the world that fit into the BIPOC space. I just wanted to see, how do we collaborate more? How do we be more open? How do we suspend disbelief that others are telling us that, or we're telling ourselves, or historically, that we can't serve each other and be good for each other?

April:                            Well, one of the things that I'm very interested in is a conversation we were having at the Growing Racial Equity series with the Agile Alliance, was the thought about Black thought leadership. I don't know if a name can come up, if someone's thinking about that. I think that's what they struggle with, in that, I do know others who have been not given space because of the color of their skin and being vocal about it. We have different people in the community who have been vocal about where they stand around this space, and they've still been, despite that stance, able to thrive. The key thing is we need to thrive beyond others saying that we are important. I think that's the thing that is the constant look for someone else. Like, "Hey, they are valuable".

April:                            Thought leadership, it's a ideal, right? It's in the eye of the beholder. I encourage the community to invest in people of color and encourage them to... If you are looking for training and that type of thing, or new learning, there's people in our community who are doing that. Seek them out first. I'm definitely not in the pro certification crowd, but there's people who offer it, like yourself, or other ones out there. I can rattle off some names. Seek after them. When they offer things, show up. Right?

Dr. Dave:                      Exactly. You know.

April:                            Listen in, be a part of it. Get engaged.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            Understand that the complexion of one's skin does not bring authority to it. That it's beyond that. When we look at all this, there's a potentiality in all of us. Together, we can unleash it. Right?

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah, exactly. One thing I would like to put a warning out to the allies, is this whole thing of thought leadership is not a single voice. That there's... Hello, hello! Good to see you just pop in and pop out. Your daughter, yay! I've never seen her, so... It was so cool to see that.

April:                            For the people listening, visually, you can see a little person. It's just-

Dr. Dave:                      So wonderful.

April:                            Coming in just to get a little hug.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah. Goodness. How do we encourage love? I want to talk about love. It's not a warm fuzzy feely thing. I'm talking about patience and kindness between allies and BIPOC lives and the Agile community. I love to describe it in this way because it comes from a text that's been around for thousands of years. I'm talking about love and patience and kindness between each other, allies, BIPOC lives. Even the people who are not allies, how do we give them love? How do we get love from them?

April:                            Wow. Well, I'm glad you asked me about this. I don't know if you've noticed that I've been posting about love for the past months, every week. I think weekly, on Tuesdays, I share out something just to have people reflect on love. I believe love is a mindset, and that when you invest in... And this is for all people, when you invest in love, it manifests in so many different ways. Say that, I will see love as a mindset, love as a practice, love as a principle, love as a value. Love. Be wild about how it manifests. That's why I can say no matter who you are, what your belief system is, whether it's opposite from mine, I can sit at a table with you. I can talk with you. I can love you. I can respect you as a person, right?

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

April:                            It can start there. No matter what, I think too often we focus on the noise, but imagine if we begin... Find our box of agreement. Maybe it's really tiny but if we begin there, what can we agree upon? For example, if someone says All Life Matters, I'm like, "Wow. You know what, I agree with you, All Life Matters". So, if All Life Matters, then that means Homeless Lives Matter, right? Native Lives Matter, right? Hispanic Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. We're talking about all those things are true. White Lives Matter, let's begin there.

April:                            The world today, they live in hashtags, right? That's why it is different things, and they take something and don't understand the meaning behind it, and getting curious behind it. So I encourage people to get curious. When we say Black Lives Matter, what are we saying? We're not saying other lives don't matter. We're not saying because you're White your life doesn't matter, not at all. Simply saying that Black lives also matter, right? That's with all things. I would say let's lead with curiosity, find out what people, "Okay, tell me about that." That's really quick, "You say Black Lives Matter, tell me more, what do you mean by that?" Ask. That's a part of love.

Dr. Dave:                      It is.

April:                            If you lead from love, one of the things that manifests is curiosity, right? And truly listen.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah. I want to learn more. So, that's why I wanted to end on that question. Especially that theme about love in this conversation, as we've walked through many different themes in our conversation. I'm going to ask you something interesting. Tell me about the tree house. [crosstalk 00:29:48] If you cared about the tree house. Tell us about the tree house. [crosstalk 00:29:54] I'm up in the tree house. What are you doing in the tree house.

April:                            So the tree house, how that came about is that when we decided to buy this house, there was a shed in the backyard. It's a really old house built in the fifties, and there was a shed, and I was like, "Yeah, I don't care about that shed. That could be your man cave." He's like, "Really? Okay, awesome. I have it." And then as our son was about to turn 13, he's been talking about building a tree house and stuff. I said, "Well, why don't we just take that man-cave and put it in the tree, and instant tree house, right?" It's like great idea. But it was so old, that it was very heavy to lift. It couldn't handle all the thing. We only have existing from that structure is the floor of that shed. And we actually built a tree house between three trees.

April:                            And I put that in a picture, and it's actually bigger than the original shed structure, because he's like, "Well, if I'm doing it, I'm going to regret not putting a loft in, make it a little bit bigger." So it got in it, there's a loft. There's actually one of the little, what do you call the wobbly ladders? Intentionally wobbly, going up into the loft, inside the tree house. And the tree house has me saying that, I told everyone we were a large family, so no space is private. This tree house is not just for me. Everything's a community space. I use it to work out of. The kids play in here. My husband games in here. I don't game. That's him.

April:                            The tree house is actually a playhouse. We didn't have to pull any permits to build this because it's considered a play structure. There's two slides going off of it. There's a climbing apparatus to get into it. There's a tire swing under it. You can't hear, because I use them with the headphones I have, I can hear my kids playing outside and jumping on the trampoline, but you don't hear anything because I have the noise canceling mic.

Dr. Dave:                      Nice. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

April:                            Yeah, that's why I use a noise-canceling mic is so that I can in enjoy the sounds, and not the headset. I can enjoy like, hey, is something going on? Or not. And we also have a deck on the tree house. So I've had a few people call it a tree-mansion. I've had people ask if I'll rent it out. It's not like completely decked out, but yes, we do have internet out here.

Dr. Dave:                      There you go. Yeah.

April:                            Of course, and we do have, what are the board called on the walls? I'm missing the term.

Dr. Dave:                      I don't know. I have never seen your tree house. So.

April:                            Yeah.

Dr. Dave:                      Maybe some hardwood boards.

April:                            There's really big windows, too, in the tree house. Probably nicer than what's in my house, actually. And there's a door wall as well. So the tree house is made out of new and recycled materials. All the play structure parts, did a lot of free-cycling and Craigslist to get different things. And even with the door wall, each door wall opening for the space, we also got from, well, I did all the work to get everything used or free. I don't think we paid for any of the parts, but yeah. So use recycled materials. You can have a little fun.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah. Awesome. I would just like to say, thank you. And I love playful things, because I'm a musician. So I am using a little rain maker to wish a lot of abundance in your life as you go forward and continue to do the great work that you are. I was you to have an abundance in your life. So thank you so much for doing this today. And I just look forward to the good work that you're doing, and the good work that we can do together as we become friends, family. That's the thing that I look forward to with us. So thank you so much.

April:                            Thank you. And people can now reach me at Soul Crafts Woman on LinkedIn, Twitter, by email.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah. Yeah. We'll let them know how to get in touch with you. Especially as this goes out into the ether, and in our next month's issue, but thank you so much for doing this. I'm really excited to hear feedback on what people have to say about this conversation. I thought this was very powerful.

Dr. Dave:                      Well, thank you for listening to the KnolShare With Dr. Dave podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation that we just had with April Jefferson, the Soul Crafts Woman. And you left with some insights into the social justice and impact that blacks, indigenous and people of color, [bi-pack 00:35:38] lives. You could find that the Agile for Humanity, Social Justice and Impact Series on the KnolShare With Dr. Dave podcast on iTunes, Google play and Spotify. The Agile for Humanity, Social Justice and Impact Series is also on the following websites. We're on the agilealliance.org, knolsharewithdrdave.com, grokshare.com, and also on agileforhumanity.org. Thank you again for listening. And until next time, I say, be safe, be well, and we'll connect soon. Thank you. A little shaky.


Sponsors & Summary

We would like to thank our sponsor KnolShare for the continued support for this podcast.  Visit KnolShare.org to achieve your awesomeness through agile coaching and training, digital transformation strategy, agile organization development, lean business startup, and diversity and inclusion training.

We support lean thinking and agile life skills education through the 5 Saturdays program.  Visit 5Saturdays.org to donate your time, money, and knowledge.

Checkout Dr. Dave’s latest book Elastic Minds: What are you thinking? On Amazon.com.  You will also find his book Transforming your leadership Character: The lean thinking and agility way on Amazon.com.

Look for the KnolShare with Dr. Dave podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.

The KnolShare with Dr. Dave Podcast is Streamed on GrokShare.com and KnolSharewithDrDave.com.

If you have any questions for Dr. Dave reach out on twitter @DrCorneliusInfo or @KnolShare.

This podcast and interview produced by Dr. Dave Cornelius

Until next time, find your awesomeness.

Music by: Kayanna Brow-Hendrickson

Copyright 2020 KnolShare and Dr. Dave Cornelius.