What Does It Mean to Amplify Diverse Voices?

Show Notes

In this season finale of Grow Kinder®, co-hosts Andrea Lovanhill, Dr. Tia Kim, and LaShuna McBride come together to explore what it really means to amplify diverse voices. They reflect on the importance of treating communities as non-monolithic entities; the positive impact of diversifying the workforce; and the power in making room for others to take center stage.

We’ll be back with a new season of Grow Kinder later this year. Until then, visit GrowKinderPodcast.org for more episodes from our archives. You can rate and follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, or Stitcher—we’d love to hear from you. And to let us know more about you and what you think of the podcast, take our listener survey.


[00:00:23] AL: Hi, Grow Kinder listeners. It’s Andrea.,

[00:00:26] TK: And Tia.

[00:00:27] SM: And LaShuna. Hi, ladies. How are you?

[00:00:30] TK: Hi.

[00:00:31] AL: Doing pretty well.

[00:00:32] SM: Good. I’m excited for our chat today as we’re going to dive into our season finale with what I’m sure will be a very substantive conversation, the three of us along with many others at CFC have spoken a lot this past year in particular about amplifying diverse voices and why it is so crucial that we share the lived experiences of others.

Andrea, I think this came up when you interviewed Melanie Willingham Jaggers about windows and mirrors, correct?

[00:01:02] AL: Yeah, it did. We talked about the importance of seeing accurate reflections of your unique identity, but also being given insight into others lived experiences. That’s a crucial element, I think not only in general in life. But when you’re doing programmatic work or work with kids, like providing social emotional learning materials, you want that to be relevant, effective for diverse communities. But it’s also important that each of us really think to ourselves what voices and experiences are missing from the conversation are being silenced at work, or in my personal life and then proactively seeking and amplifying those perspectives that are different from our own.

[00:01:41] TK: I like that reflection, Andrea around window and mirrors. I really like that metaphor a lot. We’ve been using that way of thinking a lot in our programmatic work. I think it’s been really helpful in thinking about how to amplify voices. But this conversation also reminds me a lot of a recent TED Talk that I watched from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, where she talks about the danger of the single-story. What I really appreciated about her TED Talk is that you have to be able to hear lots of different perspectives so that you get narrowminded on how you view either a culture or a group of people.

Something I really appreciated, she’s an African woman and she talks about that she even has single-minded sometimes point of view about Africans and their lifestyles. And thinking about my own life as an Asian-American an understanding that Asians are not a monolith and that we have very different experiences. I even have to you force myself to think kind of outside the box and not just rely on a single viewpoint of my own viewpoint and understanding those perspectives as well.

[00:02:48] AL: Yeah, I think that I’ve seen that TED Talk as well and it spoke to me too, I think for all the reasons that you’re stating. Also, I just think about what work it is in this day and age to proactively seek viewpoints that are different than your own and to think about other people’s stories. It’s very hard, the algorithms that we’re all exposed to, like they really narrow you in your focus and I think about what is going to be like for my own kids kind of growing up as they are given a mediated view of the world and they are interacting more digitally and things like that. Like what do they have access to?

In my own life, I also think about how that opened up a world for me, where I could have access to things like queer media that I just couldn’t get on my own as a teenager that really was important for me to see representations of myself there. That’s something that brings to mind to me as you talk about that TED Talk, which is such an excellent talk.

[00:03:45] SM: I love it. I knew this would be substantive. We are already getting there. This is exactly why I wanted to get your perspectives on this. I love to hear what each of you think — you’ve already touched on quite a few things, what you think about amplifying diverse voices. What do you think it really means and why is amplifying diverse voices, why is it so important to you?

[00:04:10] TK: I think it’s just taking a step back and realizing that in a lot of contexts and avenues, that there are a lot of voices that aren’t brought to the table and thinking or producing things. So it’s being intentional of making sure that you’re really getting a diverse group of people to the table when you’re discussing something or thinking about something, so that everyone has an opportunity to kind of express their opinions about something.

I think for me, that’s why it’s so important, I talk about this a lot and I know with you Andrea a lot about this is, I think that’s why it’s so important to have a diverse workplace because I think then, that diversity brings diverse voices to the table and helps you make better products, or better programs or whatever your company is creating or doing. I think it just helps in a positive direction. So to me, it’s just thinking intentionally about who’s missing from the conversation and trying to make sure that those voices are brought to the table.

[00:05:16] AL: Yeah. I think those are important points. Maybe I’ll just get meta for a minute, because Shauna and I both have communications backgrounds and we just care a lot about words. Words matter. I have to say that amplify is not one of my favorite word. Something about the way that it sounds and I kept saying it and thinking, “Okay. I’m using it because it feels correct.” But really, what’s behind that? I’ve been thinking about — you’re going to — I’m such a nerd. You’re going to make fun of me for this.

I like went to the dictionary and looked up amplify. I was like, “What does this really mean when I’m using this?”

[00:05:50] TK: Synonyms?

[00:05:51] AL: Well, I just was saying, I looked at it and it was, of course increased volume but also the other definition is increased intensity or focus. I was like, I like it more having sat with it. Because increasing volume or intensity actually already recognizes the inherent power, like the voice exists that the experience exists and that’s it’s being communicated. It’s really just — some folks are given microphones in our current system and some aren’t. I don’t know. It sort of like, “Are you seeking to amplify those that the system seeks to silence?” That really spoke to me and made me think also about what are the ways that I can proactively do that. Not only in the workplace or through our programs, but in my personal life and as a white person, sort of earning a place in the DEI work.

One of the most important things I can do, which think we’ll probably talk about later is listening with intention to understand and also just getting out of the way and not always accepting that centering of my own voice and experience that is sort of ubiquitous, especially in the US. That’s kind of what I’ve been thinking about a lot you.

[00:07:14] TK: What do you think it means to you, Shauna, about amplifying diverse voices?

[00:07:18] SM: Yeah. I mean, you both have already touched on. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. Andrea and I are lovers of words. Words, they are so important and I love that you went to the dictionary to really dig in, because I do think that’s important. I like that you touched on this idea about silence and really — that there is so much power and amplification, because it can help combat that.

Tia, I love what you said about recognizing that communities are not monolithic. Sometimes I am the representative for black people in spaces and I often say that I do not represent all black people. I represent myself and my experiences. So for me, amplifying diverse voices, it’s where it’s at and where we needed to be at. For me, it means seeking out voices that will help broaden my scope of thought, and my understanding and my perspective. Sometimes I hear people say things like, “Let’s give voice to the voiceless.” But I actually don’t think — I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t have a voice. I think they’re just communities and people that haven’t been given the opportunity to speak for themselves. They don’t have the platforms. So I love what we’re doing with this podcast and providing that opportunity to get out of the way, and to make space, and allow people to share in their own words their unique experiences and perspectives.

[00:08:52] AL: Yeah. I think also just to follow-on to that, when I say, “Get out of the way,” it’s really again about not centering, but it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be doing work and being proactive. I feel that too. I think I also really resonate with your sort of not being part of monolith. We were talking earlier about the LGBTQIA+ community and how there’s so much intersectionality, so many diverse identities within that group that have been — would be impossible for me to represent anything but my own very limited experience. Although my experience is important, as each person’s is. Thanks for sharing that because it does resonate with me.

[00:09:31] TK: I think something too, just listening to this conversation is, I think you really have to start with a recognition of whose voices haven’t been heard. I think you have to do that first so that you are again, like I said, intentional about making sure that they have a platform to be able to express whatever that they haven’t been able to express in the past. I think that’s super important.

[00:09:52] SM: Right. Yeah. And that you’re not talking for them. You are letting people speak for themselves. Dr. Mylien Duong, who we had on the podcast recently had this wonderful video about the power of listening to understand. Why do you think that SEL is such an important part of amplifying diverse voices? Andrea?

[00:10:15] AL: Well, I think that there are so many foundational aspects of social-emotional learning that lend themselves to really recognizing individual contributions, the unique dignity of each person, and being able to take other’s perspectives and then also respond. I think listening is one key element of that, but also just sort of recognizing that we are an interconnected community of people that have individual wants, needs, and identities and that all of us have value. I see that as something that emerges through social emotional competency. I know Tia will have a much more scientific and specific explanation to share though.

[00:10:57] TK: I don’t know if it’s more scientific, but I think what comes to my mind is that I think if SEL is done correctly in the right way, it’s really about celebrating differences and respecting each other’s individuality and differences. But also thinking about how those differences can come together for a common good and to really promote social well-being as part of a larger community. Again, I think the diversity of voices is important in that aspect as well. Because again, if you have more of these individual differences, it creates a better tapestry to promote good in the world. That’s one way I think about it.

[00:11:39] AL: I like that translation into more collective action. It also reminds me of conversation that we had, Shauna around education without action. Education in the absence of thinking about social action and our interconnectedness is in some ways not useful.

[00:11:58] TK: I think that’s the conversation right now, a lot in the field of SEL and particularly how it intersects with equity and that why are we promoting these skills in kids and why is it important. I think that’s part of the larger conversation is really, are we doing this to help kids individually? Yes, of course, but also for collective good and for social good. I think those are important things to keep in mind. Again, being able to hear diverse voices helps in that.

[00:12:24] SM: What is amplifying diverse voices look like in practice for each of you as individuals? We talked about the collective, but as an individual, what does that look like and what do you think it looks like for the organization as well?

[00:12:40] TK: I’ve been thinking a lot about this just in my own work with my teams. Shauna and Andrea could probably attest to this, but I’m pretty opinionated, have strong opinions.

[00:12:51] SM: You? No. No.

[00:12:54] TK: I’m pretty direct. But I’ve been really trying to take a more active like listening approach. I’ve been really trying to take a step back, and asking questions and trying to listen a lot more. I have people that are more reticent to kind of share their opinions. Again, it’s not that they don’t have opinions going to our conversation earlier, so I’m trying to take a more active approach and just say, “Hey! Do you have an opinion on this?” or giving them space to be able to do that. I’ve tried to intentionally do that a little bit more to ensure that everyone has an opinion or a voice in whatever we’re talking about.

I think personally, I’ve been trying to do this with my own kids. I have an official teenager now. My older son turned 13, turned 13 a few weeks ago. He’s very opinionated too, but I think just in our family conversations to ask questions and allow him to voice his opinion. Myself and his father don’t always agree, but I think it’s nice to show that you could have very open dialogues with differing opinions, and diverse perspectives and trying to foster those kinds of conversations I think are important for me in terms of raising my own kids. I think that’s how it kind of shows up in my personal life.

[00:14:11] SM: Yeah. Nice. What about you, Andrea? [inaudible 00:14:13]

[00:14:13] AL: Much of what Tia said I would say is similar to my approach. At Committee for Children in particular, I am really sort of thinking a lot about how I provide appropriate resources, and systems change, and processes that can help amplify the diverse voices of staff and also those we serve. I am so privileged to do that work with a team that’s really committed to that, both of you included. I think the work that we do together and thinking about how to do that is very important for this organization and for the communities that we serve.

I also think a lot about — I think making sure that my relationships, my networks, my inputs are inclusive of many different perspectives and lived experiences. I think that’s something, as I said before, it requires intentionality because we’re all very busy. We’ve been working in a remote environment for a long time. I’ve lost a lot of connections that were important to me that really I think added such incredible richness to my thoughts and conversations and I hope vice versa. I’ve been thinking about how am I intentionally accessing and providing access to those kinds of windows and mirrors for myself, for my kids.

Then I also think that when we talk about staff and how we are amplifying voices within our organization, so much of that really speaks to this adaptive leadership principle that I care a lot about, which is, power needs to go closest to the work. So thinking about how people are really able to make decisions and have the resources available to them so that their work is furthered and that they have a voice and how decisions that impact them are made.

[00:16:09] TK: Yeah. I think that’s a great point. I recently heard in some sort of meeting here at work that a lot of people were talking about that, and questioning how our larger decisions made and whose voices were at the table when those decisions were made. I also like, actually Andrea, the point you bring up about diversifying your network that’s close to you. I’m going to say, research says — Shauna loves when I say research says.

[00:16:32] SM: I love it so much. My daughter doesn’t, but I do.

[00:16:36] TK: For research does show that generally, we are connected and feel more closely to people who look like us and are like us. Typically, our networks tend to be people that are like us. I think that is a good point that to bring diverse perspectives into your own personal life, you have to kind of reach outside of your network and I think that’s important. You have to do that intentionally because like I said, research shows that you intuitively find people that are like you are similar.

[00:17:06] AL: That’s probably true not only from the human psychology perspective, but from a sort of perpetuating effective systems. Where you end up living and what kinds of jobs you have and all of those things are influenced by race, by class, by so many different factors of identity. So then I think, you have to be aware that intentionality has to be there because you’re kind of fighting against the system that pushes you into a very narrow network.

[00:17:37] TK: Yeah. That goes back to my earlier point of why it’s important to diversify workplaces, because for instance, if new jobs come up and your staff are primarily white, their networks are all primarily white. So how those jobs get pushed out are to those white networks. So if you have a more diverse staff, they have more diverse networks of people that they tend to communicate with. I think your point is right on in terms of how it perpetuates systems.

[00:18:04] SM: Speaking of systems, what do you think schools, and districts and even organizations should be focused on and doing to amplify. You’ve touched on a lot of it already obviously, diverse voices, perspectives, people that don’t always have a seat at the table.

[00:18:21] TK: One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is, I think schools and districts just need to hear from students more. I think student voice is something that is lacking in terms of decision-making, and policies and procedures. I was talking to someone recently in just about an example of the school that was doing diversity, equity and inclusion work really well, is they looked at — they were trying to look holistically about changing their discipline practices and they actually brought students to the table and said, “Hey! How do these discipline practices and processes, what do you think of them and how could they be changed?”

I recently heard a research talk about a woman who was doing work on racism and how it affected young people. She actually got a group of young people and just said, what’s your definition of racism. What does that look like to you? I think that’s a lot of times we neglect that and we in best intentions try to do things to support young people without actually asking them what they need or what they think the solution would be. I actually recently did a panel with some students and they had really good recommendations on what school educators could be doing to help them. I think we just have to give them more voice and opportunity to express that.

[00:19:40] AL: Yeah. That sort of aligns with something that I think of when you ask this question, I sort of feel like there’s a cautionary tale here of amplification or celebration without action beyond that or thinking they are doing it, right? But it’s really — you sort of said for instance, we’re going to celebrate a cultural heritage month, but how are you doing that? What are you doing the rest of the year? What actions are you taking to ensure that the environment that you’re co-creating with others is an inclusive environment, where folks are bringing their authentic selves and that they feel celebrated for that each day. That’s — I don’t know, the danger in just saying amplify, is doing that in a way that — that’s why I like when we talk about the definition, the intensity part. It’s like — there’s an application of pressure here. Don’t just say that, do things that make that a parent every day and that work to amplify every day.

That’s what comes to mind for me when we talk about what schools and district and folks needed to do. I think that they are committing to doing that work as Tia pointed out, there are really good examples of it. I completely agree with the student voice aspect, but I also think that there’s a lot of work to do to diversify the education workforce. And I think that we all need to look at what the root causes are of the education workforce not reflecting the students that they are there to serve. And not being able to retain educators to have incredible lived experience with those students could benefit from and see themselves in. That’s work that has to be done too.

[00:21:29] TK: Yeah, I really agree with that. That would have been my second point actually, diversifying the education workforce.

[00:21:35] SM: Before we end our last episode for the season, I’m sad. How are you being kind to yourself during this journey? I love that we use the term, language is so important. We talk about a journey versus an initiative or work. This idea around diversity, equity inclusion, amplifying voices, belonging. How are you being kind to yourselves as you’re digging into all this?

[00:21:58] AL: I think I might have communicated this at the beginning of the season, some of the things that I’ve hoped to do, which is taking time to actually have creative outlets, give myself real thinking and processing time, and actually just having set dedicated time where I think about my own mental, social and emotional wellbeing. And that I can create some balance between doing the personal work that I need to do, doing the work work that I need to do and also having time with my family, and celebrating them and doing that work with them too. It’s being kind to myself to allow myself time to do some of those things. What about you, Tia?

[00:22:37] TK: I’m still running and the weather these days —

[00:22:42] AL: Nobody is going to be able to catch you.

[00:22:43] TK: The weather these days is fantastic in Seattle and I’m still listening to BTS while I’m running.

[00:22:49] SM: Of course, but of course.

[00:22:52] TK: Something that I’ve been doing a lot more of and I think it’s a reflection of the work that we’re doing in our organization is, I’m just doing a lot more reading and learning, particularly around issues of race, and equity and diversity. One of my most favorite things to do is just to have time to read like scholarly journals, or articles or work in the field. I know that sounds really nerdy, but I really, really love doing that. So I’m trying to make more time to do that professionally, to just keep up on reading and learning. I’m an avid learner always, so it’s another way, I think.

[00:23:32] AL: I think that also part of finding my joys is to match her intensity with pop psychology books and articles so that I can annoy her.

[00:23:42] TK: I’m always like, “What research is this from? Is this accurate or not?”

[00:23:50] AL: These are link to the book. Wow! I can’t believe it, that it’s the end of the season of Grow Kinder. It really flew by. How are you both feeling? This is your first season and you did it? How are you feeling? What about you Shauna? What it’s been like?

[00:24:05] SM: So fun. Fun meaning, being in conversation is really fun to me. I enjoy talking to people. I really enjoy listening. I care a lot about learning from people, so having the opportunity to talk to different people and hear about their lived experiences, their expertise and learn myself and grow has been fantastic. I’ve told you before, you both before that I really believe in the importance of representation, so it’s exciting to me that we get to represent a lot of different perspectives through this podcast. I am looking forward to more great conversations.

[00:24:49] AL: What about you, Tia?

[00:24:50] TK: I think it was great and I — especially really appreciated the theme of this season, which really reflected on issues around diversity, equity, inclusion. That’s super important to me and I’m glad that we were able to highlight that. And particularly for me, talking to different folks and having conversations around that topic, I always love it and I love learning from others as well. That’s been really great.

[00:25:15] AL: You’re both folks that like to in general kind of stay behind the scenes. This isn’t always the thing that you love most, so I really appreciated what you brought into it, just genuine and delighted with the work. That’s been just a pleasure to witness. I’ve been so happy to have you with me along the season. So listeners, we’ll be back in your feeds later this year and we’ll have more conversations about addressing our world’s biggest challenges and how social-emotional learning plays a part in that.

[00:25:46] TK: In the meantime, head on over to Apple Podcast, SoundCloud, Spotify or Stitcher and make sure to follow us and leave a rating.

[00:25:56] SM: To listen to past episodes, visit growkinderpodcast.org, and while you’re there, be sure to fill out our listener survey. It helps us plan future episodes and select the topics that matter most to you.

[00:26:09] AL: Until next time, remember to be kind to yourselves and your community. It is a long journey ahead. Empathy and compassion, that can help carry us forward. Take care everyone.

[00:26:19] TK: Bye.

[00:26:20] SM: Bye, everybody.

[00:26:21] AL: Bye.

[00:26:22] SM: Bye.