S2 – Episode 5 – Friends For Life

Seeds Of Healing: Friendship And Reparations With Konda Mason

What are the seeds of healing between friends, communities, and generations? Konda Mason, Buddhist, farmer, and long-time friend of Macky (and new friend to Lisa!) joins us to explore the importance of reparations–not just in communities, but also between friends. Other discussions include the call to bring healing in spaces with a legacy of harm, and the importance of both truth-telling in friendships, and the necessity of compassion in the truth. We also discuss the gifts of spring and the beauty of Black farming. Be sure to follow our ‘Friends For Life: Songs Getting Us Through’ Playlist!

 

FFLS2E5

 

LISA ANDERSON: Welcome to the Friends for Life Podcast.  My name is Lisa Anderson.

MACKY ALSTON:  And I’m Macky Alston.

LA:  And we are beloved friends and co-conspirators interviewing other friends and co-conspirators.

MA:  Thanks for being with us as we explore the ways in which friendship helps us create a world of love and justice.

LA:  So welcome, beloveds, to episode five, season two of Friends for Life.  Today, we are happy to welcome Konda Mason to be with us.  Konda is a social entrepreneur, earth and social justice activist, and mindfulness teacher.  Konda is the founder and president of Jubilee Justice, Incorporated, which is a nonprofit working to bring climate-resilient farming and economic equity to BIPOC farmers in the rural South in order to restore and accelerate Black land ownership and stewardship [00:01:00] and create thriving Black farming communities.  Konda’s work is fueled by a passion to tirelessly work to help create a world that is environmentally-regenerative, spiritually-fulfilling, socially-just, and economically-equitable.  As a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, Konda understands all life on Earth as interconnected and longs for the day when humanity wakes up to this truth and builds a world based on interdependence, compassion, and belonging, where all life is valued equally.  I love everything about that bio.  So, welcome, Konda.  Welcome.

KONDA MASON:   Thank you.  So wonderful to be here with you.  Thank you for having me on your podcast.

LA:  Yes.  Macky, do you have a word to say before we launch in with Konda?

MA:  You know this show is called Friends for Life.  [00:02:00]  And Lisa, you and I have been friends for over 20 years, and sometimes we’re interviewing friends that we’ve both known for that long.  Sometimes we’re interviewing friends who bring friends.  But what I love about this particular episode is that Konda is a friend of mine who I am just dying for you to know.  I’m dying for the listeners to know, but Lisa, I just can’t wait for you to get to know Konda.  So Konda, welcome.  I can’t wait for you all to know each other, and so let’s dive in.

LA:  Yeah, I love.

KM:  Well, this is what I can say.  Anybody who’s been a friend to Macky for that long, I know that you’re good people.

LA:  Yeah, oh, see, that makes me happy.  That makes me so happy.  So Konda, we always start out sort of trying to get into our bodies a little bit.  So just, you know, close your eyes if you feel so inclined, and think about and answer this question.  [00:03:00] What is delighting your senses these days?

KM:  So much.  There’s so much that’s delighting my senses these days.  First of all, it’s spring.  And the work that I do with soil and plants and food and farming, it is just the best time.  It’s when the seeds — it’s like you put a seed in the ground and you put a seed in to make a transplant, and you just trust that it’s going to come up and be a plant.  And you do take on this care, and I love seeds.  And I’m with them all day [00:04:00] now.  We’re making thousands of transplants, and taking care of them, understanding that in that one little seed, I do rice primarily, and that one seed is going to be a huge plant that’s going to reproduce thousands of itself.  That’s a miracle.  It’s crazy.  It’s crazy how the world works.  And so I’m loving it.  I’m just loving seeds, and that’s what time of the year it is right now for me, so I’m super into this time when we are starting to just have that relationship.  And I just want it to be happy and healthy.  Happy and healthy.  And then there’s times when it grows and disease comes and all these things and you just worry.  But at this moment, it’s not.  It’s just happy and healthy and it’s fun, and it delights me.

LA:  Ooh, I love that answer.  [00:05:00] I love everything about it.  Oh my God, I’ve said, “I love everything,” about twice, and we’ve only just started.  (laughs) But that’s a powerful, powerful answer.  I was just listening to one of your podcasts earlier, and I’m excited for this conversation, because I realize that this world of Black farming and this real depth of relationship with the land as a completely urban girl with cement all around me my whole entire life, and just finally moving to the South, and so there’s a little patch outside.  I’m just beginning to just like imagine my hands inside of the earth, and so yeah, I’m thinking there’s a new relationship to the world that’s about to unfold.

KM:  Yes, yes.  Good.  Go out there in that little patch, no matter how big or small it is.  It’s just magical.

MA:  Konda, you just moved south, [00:06:00] relatively recently, isn’t that true?

KM:  Yeah.  I’ve only been here two years.  I’ve only been here two years.  I’m in Louisiana, in central Louisiana.  I’m looking out my window right now and I’m a 3600-acre organic farm, and there’s cows in front of me across the pasture, and, you know, alligators in the bayou behind me.  But I’m good.  I’m cool.  And I’m new to the South, and I freaking love it.  And it’s someplace — I’m from California, and I never thought that I would live here.  I never wanted to live in the south.  I just thought, you know, all the harm that happened here was too much to bear, and yet, you know, because of all that happened here this is also the place where the healing, I feel, needs to really be centered, and my work brought me here.  But prior to that, even in Oakland, I always had land and a garden and permaculture going on.  It’s been my path for a long time.  Most people who [00:07:00] know me in the urban environment of Oakland didn’t know that I’m really, inside my heart I’ve always been a farmer.  So I’m living my true, fullest life right now, being here.

MA:  What you say about the harm and the healing.

KM:  Yeah.

MA:  Today’s conversation, each episode for this season has had a different theme.  We’ve talked about laughter in regard to friendship, and how that’s, again, all of these conversations are, how can friendship and queer friendship, how can what we know up inside good friendship that can help our movements flourish, help us flourish, help all folks flourish, [00:08:00] and so we’ve talked about laughter.  We’ve talked about grief.  We’ve talked about accountability.  We’ve talked about making new friends in this season.  But today, we’re talking about friendship and reparations.  Friendship and repair.  And so of course, when Lisa, Courtney, and I were talking about who do we want to talk to, I just said, “Well, Konda Mason has combined a commitment to reparations in the United States with a commitment to friendship.”  You invited me into this circle of folks, reparationists all, very different folks, some who’ve worked together for a long time, some who are getting to know each other for the first time.  So I just bring this set of [00:09:00] questions to you, and it’s not just about what does friendship have to do with reparations, because our friendships also sometimes need some reparation.  Need some in so many ways.  It’s a lot to think and talk about, but I wonder what comes up for you.

KM:  You know, I had no idea what we were going to be talking about today.  I didn’t prepare anything.  But off the top where I’m feeling is, I love what you’re asking, I love what you’re doing on this podcast.  So the thing that comes up for me, in answering your questions, Macky, I think at the core — the seed of all of this, you know — [00:10:00] is the idea of truth-telling.  I think that friendships, true friendships, are truth-telling.  Okay?  And that means sometimes it’s hard to tell the truth to a friend, but if you’re a friend, you tell the truth.  Now there’s ways to tell the truth and there’s right speech, or wise speech, I would say.  Not being harmful in speech.  How do you do wise speech?  There’s many different parts to that.  But telling the truth is at the core of a friendship.  And telling the truth is at the core of reparations.  Right now, I’m thinking about the TRC, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and that truth-telling.  [00:11:00] The depth of that process.  The world saw something for the first time that was just unimaginable.  It was unimaginable that a country like South Africa that had such a repressive regime of one group over another, and the end of it, the end of apartheid could see a process that wasn’t just going to be pure bloodshed all over the country.  And it was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Was it perfect?  No.  But boy was it really a model.  And those people, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, the videos of any of it.  But they had to sit there and say, “I’m going to tell the truth of what happened,” and the people who were harmed, their family members dead and gone and murdered or whatever, they wanted to hear the truth.  [00:12:00] And once they told the truth, they had the chance of, at least you can possibly be forgiven.  But if you didn’t tell the truth, you couldn’t be forgiven at all.  So I think truth-telling, and that’s what I think about this country, about the United States.  You know, what happened here, you know, this whole thing that is prevalent now around critical race theory, and getting rid of the truth, it’s almost like saying our truth is so embarrassing that we cannot tell it.  It’s so deplorable we cannot tell it.  We have not told the truth.  And until we do, we will not have a relationship to the truth or to each other.  And I think that that is at the core, that is the seed, going back to the seed.  That is the seed.  [00:13:00] And I believe that another thing is that, and because we haven’t told the truth about chattel slavery in this country and the extermination of indigenous people and all the things that — what is the name of the organization?  Forgive me.  Out of Montgomery.  Not EJI, but — they did a survey about young people, and it was found out that something like — I think it was like 70 percent of high school students didn’t know that the civil war had anything to do with slavery.  I mean, this revisionist history, this non-truth-telling is just deplorable.  And so, until we get to that place with each other and with our country, and individually, and it starts with friendships.  [00:14:00] I mean, it starts with ourself.  Can I tell the truth to myself?  Can I accept the fact that I’m not perfect?  Can I accept the fact that I make mistakes?  What about self-compassion?  I’m on a big thing right now about self-compassion, and I think at the core of all of this is self-compassion.  And once we understand that that is a thing, first of all, that I can actually be kind to myself, that I can actually say, “I’m not perfect, I made a mistake.”  I’m learning life.  I’m learning life.  And until I can be good with myself, tell the truth, not try to hide and put up all these things that I do, that get in the way of friendship, that get in the way of my own friendship with myself and they certainly get in the way of friendship with someone else.  So it begins here and then it goes outward.  You know, it goes outward and outward and outward into, [00:15:00] you know, the whole society.  And so I work personally on, first, self-compassion.  I’m on this intense thing of self-compassion for the last about four or five years when I discovered that that was what I needed to focus on.  And I’ve been on this path for a while.  And with that, so once we do that, okay, then the next piece is going back to — I mentioned EJI, and Bryan Stevenson, who is just so brilliant, one of the things he talks about is being proximate.  And that, I just love it, because we don’t tell the truth so we separate ourselves, literally distancing ourselves.  But when we start to tell the truth and we start to learn the truth, [00:16:00] we can get closer to each other, even as painful as it is.  We can actually get closer.  And as we get more proximate, literally, our communities come closer together.  I get to know who that white face is, that white male face, and you get to know this Black female face, and that’s what we’re doing in the work that we’re doing together, Macky.  That’s what we’re doing with our ancestor journey is putting everybody into this cauldron that’s based on compassion, that’s based on our mutuality, and looking at the truth.  And the truth is hard.  And taking it all in together and being proximate, you know, being proximate with each other.  And so I think that reparations, that those are two of the main keys to that, and friendship, and how coming together works.  [00:17:00] And I would have to say, of course, adding restorative justice into the mix, because as the hurt comes up, we need a process, and restorative justice, I think is the process.  So that’s kind of my answer to your question.

LA:  (laughs) I’m rarely speechless, but that was a word.  And it just brought up so many pieces.  We were recently in Montgomery, the Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle that I run at Auburn.  We were recently in Montgomery, and we were recently visiting — it’s called the Mothers of Gynecology Tour there.  And there’s an activist, Black woman activist there named Michelle Browder, and this is to your point of truth-telling.  She recently purchased the hospital that Marion Sims performed torture on Black women [00:18:00] in the service, in the name of gynecology.

KM:  She purchased the hospital?

LA:  She purchased the hospital, and is converting it into a birthing center for Black and brown women, but for all women who need that service, those services.  And then, apropos of your work, a community garden and respite center.  And the idea also for, you know, birthing people of all races, and there are monuments to the women who were tortured there, beautiful, 15-foot monuments.  And all of it is inside of what you were talking about, like, if we can tell the truth and continue to tell the truth, there is a possibility in that for also building and planting and being able to [00:19:00] truly rest, because I would content that, when you’re talking, that part of that restlessness, the inability to really rest, has to do with the space of not truth-telling, being on edge with yourself and one another, and I think not really being able to even befriend yourself.  You’re talking, and every time I hear Buddhists talk about compassion or these words that we just kind of use, I’m always eager for some definition, because I know that there’s teaching underneath when you’re talking about self-compassion that folks need to know about, I think.  Can you say a little bit more about compassion?

KM:  I’m happy to.  You know, compassion is something that [00:20:00] the heart just has this capability.  It’s a quality, it’s a quality of when we turn towards harm, when we turn towards suffering, when we see something that’s harmful, it’s our heart’s reaction, is compassion.  It’s what the heart automatically does.  And so when it doesn’t do that, that’s because we have all these layers, we have all these layers.  But think about it.  When children, when they see things that harm — “Oh, Mommy,” you know, they respond, and that’s who our hearts are.  And so when I think about compassion, it’s about — and we can cultivate that.  We can get it back.  And that’s, like, letting go of all the layers that are living our lives in this society has built up all of our walls, all these wall of distance.  [00:21:00] Again, not being proximate.  Not being proximate to our own hearts.  We have created this distance from our hearts, okay?  I work with people — I’ve been with people and sat with people who say, “I don’t feel it.  I don’t feel anything.”  They come to retreat practice saying, “I don’t feel anything.”  And the fact that they are they, they are there because they want to feel it, and they do feel something, okay?  And they’re also aware of the walls in between themselves and their heart, and so compassion is when we clear those layers and we allow ourselves to face harm and the truth — again, going back to the truth, and face that which is suffering.  And go into it instead of going around it.  We’ll see something, but the man on the street, the woman on the street, I think, you know, how many times do we pass those people [00:22:00] and don’t even recognize, these are human beings.  These are human beings.  And we don’t give them any recognition of decency.  And we build up this way.  But then really underneath that is this compassion that goes out, and so because we don’t want to feel that, we build these walls.  And so compassion is who we actually are.  And what we do is, like I said, we can recultivate it and understand that it is turning towards — and not just turning towards but then the propensity to do something about it.  You know, whether it’s an action or just an internal doing something about it.  You know?  That is what compassion is.  And so when we look at self-compassion — I mean, sometimes it’s harder for people to be kinder to themselves than other people.  [00:23:00] They don’t like themselves.  We’ve got these stories in our head that we’ve been saying over and over about, you know, unworthiness and all these things.  And what’s interesting, one of my teachers, Jack [Corvo?] has this story that he talks about, and I love it.  He was in a conversation with a group of practitioners with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  And they were talking about things, and they started talking about, asking His Holiness, well, “How do we deal with this self-hatred and this unworthiness that we have?”  And His Holiness was going, “Huh?”  He didn’t understand the words.  And so his translator was trying to translate it.  And he was like, “I still don’t understand,” because there’s no word in Tibetan for any of that, right?  And he just kept trying to interpret what they’re trying to say to him.  And His Holiness finally got it and said, “No, you’re wrong.  That doesn’t exist.”  [00:24:00] To self-hate or feel like you’re unworthy, he couldn’t even relate to that, and that is such a major part of who we are.  And so if we feel that about ourselves, how do we relate to each other?  How do we befriend others?  Friendship goes so far.  But then we don’t really reveal the truth.  Again, we don’t really reveal our own truths.  And so it’s really self-compassion is when we start to allow ourselves to be truthful and to go underneath the pain, to go underneath the experiences, the stories that I continue to talk about what happened.  And it did happen, and it’s horrible, but when we go beyond the story and we go underneath all of those things and we get to [00:25:00] a place of what’s really underneath all of that.  And we bring this loving kindness to ourselves.  You know, “I am sorry that happened to me.”  Not you, you know?  “I’m so sorry.”  You know?  And we just are able to hold ourselves in a way that is really — and allow it to be.  Because it happened, or whatever.  We’re not, you know, doing the spiritual bypass thing.  We’re accepting it, we’re allowing it, and we’re freeing ourselves from it by bringing compassion to it.

MA:  Konda, I have a question for you.  My whole spirit is resonating.  I know it.  [00:26:00] And I have seen you with folk, and that just makes me want to ask, can you tell a specific story of friendship that has been a place of teaching in regard to this set of principles — truth-telling, self-compassion, being proximate, and restorative justice.  How did you learn this, or where have you learned this, specifically?

KM:  I have a love story with my brother who is no longer on this side of existence.  Mr. Larry Mason.  He [00:27:00] brought so much to me.  He’s seven years older — he was seven years older than I, and just wise beyond his time, because he had a body that didn’t work.  He was disabled, and all these things happened to him, and he had a mind, though, that was beyond, and a spirit.  And I was his little sister.  He saw in me something that I was going to do and become, and he put so much into me.  And he was a Boddhisatva, wise man.  And I learned how to let go of the falsehood of personality.  How to let go of that which separates me from me and from others, because he just bore down [00:28:00] to the truth and taught me — he wasn’t a Buddhist, but Lord did I learn Buddhism from him and everything else.  And his experience as a person who was always ill and spent most of his life in a bed or in a hospital, and holding court with everybody.  (laughs) You know?  Everybody came to him, and he held court with his wisdom.  And he was filled with book everywhere.  And he went from a Black separatist to a Communist to a Socialist to a Spiritualist, and he did this whole thing in the 60s, 70s, and I followed him.  And in the end, he was this spiritualist, and had all of this wealth of knowledge that he brought, and he and I were like this, you know?  And those of you who can’t see me, I’ve got the fingers [00:29:00] going together back and forth, right?  So that said, I had to learn.  He would not not let me learn.  He was like brutal to make sure I understood what existence was and what it wasn’t.  Who we are and who we’re not.  And my relationship with him was profound.  Absolutely profound.  And I would not be who I am without Larry Mason.  Even in letting him go, he taught me how to let him go.  He taught me how to let him die.  And yeah.  There was nothing that wasn’t a part of our relationship that was real.  Yeah.  So fortunate.  I was so, so fortunate to have him.

LA:  How beautiful.  How gorgeous.  [00:30:00] How fortunate.

KM:  Yeah.  How blessed I have been.

LA:  There’s something about brothers and sisters, too.  I live with my brother.  And yes, and so, you know, I have two, but I live with the youngest.  He’s 12 years younger than me, and this whole experience of, first of all, saying yes to relationships, you know, when people are paired in some way, it’s usually thought romantic pairing is the pairing, and every other pairing is not the pairing.

KM:  Is less than that.

LA:  Less than that.  But what does it mean that we pair, that we triple, that we find these spaces with our people?

KM:  That’s right.

LA:  And there’s a lot of different ones [00:31:00] of them.  I mean, it kind of — yes, it speaks into what you’re even saying, because yes, you were siblings, but even the pairing is atypical to —

KM:  It’s not — that’s right.  And right now, I live with my sister.  You know?  And I have for the last, I don’t know, now almost ten years we’ve been living together, since the boys died, since Larry passed away.  Yeah, my sister and I are a pair.  Oh my God, the Mason Sisters, it’s crazy.  So that relationship, like you said, people think that the romantic relationship is like the highest, exalted relationship.  And, oh, it’s so not true.  It’s so not true.

LA:  When you were talking about reparations, and I think about [00:32:00] all of the Black family separation that happened during the domestic slave trade, all of it.  And so to see siblings, pairings, folks who are saying — I think we’ve always had atypical family structures anyway.  But the idea that, you know, what is that healing that we’re doing in our communities when we say, “These pairings matter.  We’re together.”  And then have that be a part of the truth-telling that we even tell about how we be together.  And what is repaired.  That may not even have been broken in our particular line but is broken in the line writ large that our pairings and couplings and triplings [00:33:00] and whatever it is speak into.  And then the other thing I’m thinking is friendship, like, the two of us have this friendship with Macky, and so across race, and relationships that aren’t supposed to be.  What is the repair that’s being played out right here because you got on the phone, I got on the phone, we looked into Macky’s eyes and said, “Oh, you’re so beautiful, we love you so much,” and he did the same.  (laughs)

KM:  Macky is just so adorable.  I can’t even imagine anybody not falling in love with him.  I mean, jeez, come on.  But yeah, I love what you’re saying, Lisa, because, you know, I always think, you know how Black folks will pass each other and say, “Hey, sister, hey, brother,” you know, we just speak to each other, right?  And we call each other brothers and sisters.  I mean, that’s just a part of our language.  [00:34:00] And it’s like, I think we’re still looking for each other from that auction block when we were separated.  I think we’re still looking for each other.  And that’s why, you know, we salute each other as we see folks that we don’t really know but there’s some common experience that we absolutely do know.  And so I love that part of, you know, slavery was horrible and chattel slavery was just terrible.  Like anything that’s terrible, there’s certain wins that come out of it, right, because the human spirit is alive and the human spirit can’t be enslaved.  It can’t be exterminated.  And so it continues to just morph and transition into what is needed now.  And what is needed now is for us to find each [00:35:00] other.  What is needed now is for us to recognize each other.  And I think that that’s a real important part.  And what is needed right now-now is that place that you just pointed to around the cross-race.  This is what is needed now-now.  I feel like my work — and sometimes I think, I always wonder, why my work to work with white people, to get them, you know — because sometimes it’s like, I don’t want to just work with white people.  Somebody else can do that.  I need to work with my people, right?  But yet, my work is to do this — I keep coming back to it, you know?  My work is to do this thing of what is needed now-now and what is needed, what I think is, because our liberation is tied.  Come on, now.  Our liberation is tied, and we have to do this work together.  We have to have our separate spaces, we have to have our spaces coming together, and so I think what we’re doing right now [00:36:00] where I’m working with Macky, on the Jubilee Justice and our ancestral journey, that we’re on this two-year journey together with this mixed-race group of people, 50 people for two years together, it is a grand experiment.  As we trace our lineage and the harm that all the things that happened in our lineage, and we’re doing that — white folks doing their lineage, Black folks doing their lineage — people coming together and talking about it and being in the same space around it.  It’s difficult work, but we’re doing that, and so far, so good.  You know, we haven’t had any major bad spaces, but people’s hearts are opening and realizing that we have to do this together, I think.  [00:37:00]  And that’s why I love you all being in a 30-year relationship.  It just makes me smile, because I feel like I can see it.  I can just see it in your eyes, and even the way you spoke about your friendship.  I can see it.  It’s beautiful.

MA:  You know what’s interesting is all the different — I love how you say couplings and triplings and quadruplings — the way we are meant to be interconnected is endless.  And so sometimes it’s cross-race, and sometimes it’s not, and something I’m really learning in this work is that I’m in a circle of practice with a handful of white folk who have these lineages from enslavers and colonizers, and we’re working hard together to be accountable, to be both supported but also [00:38:00] challenged.  And just yesterday, I was on a call, because people, there was just a worry, right, an anxiety of, what does it mean to be completely out about this with all our folk?  Does it mean exile?  Does it mean loss of some of the people who we’ve always known as kin and family?  And right at that moment, when that was, you know, that fear, that monster, was just taking its death grip, hold on the conversation.  My mother came by, because I was with my mother in South Carolina yesterday, and I said, “Mom, I need to ask you a question.”  I said, you know, “We’re doing all this reparations work, and I’ve asked you questions about a lynching that happened [00:39:00] in your hometown, and you’ve told truths about knowledge of — not you but people in your generations that came before you of knowing what happened and not saying something.  You said that to me, and you put that on the record, and I’m making a film.  IT’s going to be on the film.  How is that not something that makes you feel like you can’t handle it?”  And she said, “Macky, we’ve got to live.  It’s just the truth.  We’ve got to be honest.”  And then, you know, my grandparents — she was talking about her grandparents and her parents when they were children.  She said, “There’s other stories, and that was, you know, 1930s, and then let me tell you what they did in the 1950s.  They grew.”  That doesn’t mean that there’s not the need for restorative justice, but it’s not the whole story in any case.  [00:40:00] And she was saying it directly into the conversation to people who were a generation younger than her.  We don’t have a choice.  You want to live with something other than that restlessness, you want your soul to be free?  This is not an option.  And it’s just one of the things that you name, restorative justice being the other.  But we yearn.  It’s like what you said about the people who don’t feel, and yet they feel.  We year for this liberation that we also imagine will somehow depress us, will kill us.  In fact, it’ll bring us to life, but there’s something about getting from here to there that feels — what?  [00:41:00] That feels impossible, and yet it won’t let go of us.  Thank God, it won’t let go of us.

KM:  It’s that urge to actually — you know, it’s really something I think that — I just lost my thought.  But it’s fear that stops us, because we think we’re going to — I think people think they’re going to lose something.  And it’s topsy-turvy, because actually what you do is you gain.  You gain freedom.  You gain a freedom from this unfulfilled life of holding the space small.  [00:42:00] When you allow the space to open, you don’t even know — you’re not even aware that you’ve been clenching until you release it.  And you open up the space.  And people are afraid they’re going to lose something, and they are.  They’re going to lose that which is imprisoning their hearts and their minds.  You know, I used to work with people.  I worked with this organization, I was a volunteer with a nonprofit.  And, you know, of course (audio glitch).  I worked with this nonprofit back in the day, and of course, I, you know, started the social justice committee.  [00:43:00] And it was an all-white organization, doing great work in the world but all white.  You know, some of us folks of color came in and were like, “This is ridiculous.” And I looked at them and I think, “Don’t you get tired of just you?  Don’t you understand what you’re missing?  You have no idea how much richer your conversations, everything you’re doing, would be with a whole bunch of other people in the room.”  And it never ceases to amaze me how it feels like whiteness doesn’t get tired of whiteness.  Or maybe it does and doesn’t know what to do about it.  I have no idea.  Anyway.  That’s something that I find just, yeah.  It blows me away.  And it’s because we don’t know what’s on the other side.  We don’t know the freedom.  We don’t know the richness.  We don’t know.  We just have a fear of going through that door and not understanding that, [00:44:00] “Wow, why did I waste all these years not doing this?”

LA:  Yeah.  Oh, Konda, we could go on, but we have one last question.

KM:  Okay.

LA:  What song is getting you through?  We’re music people and we’ve been kind of collecting a playlist, but we also see the question about song as a resource for people.  A way to resource them with music.  And so we ask everyone that question.  Song, songs, sound, artist that — it’s a little on the order of the delight question, I think.

KM:  Oh, my goodness.  I love music.  I love it so much that I stopped listening to it.  When I was in the music industry, [00:45:00] I was in the music industry and it just ruined music for me.  But I love music.  I come from a very musical background, and years in the music industry.  I was in the music industry for a long time.  I was saying — two of my favorite artists.  And I would say it’s Joni Mitchell.  I love Joni.  “People’s Parties” — lyrics — can’t nobody tell a story like Joni.  Joni is so profound.  She is so profound.  Her lyrics are so beyond.  As a matter of fact, I was just looking at an interview that my — I have a dear friend that passed away named Greg Tate.  Boy, Greg, oh my God.  Yeah.  And I just saw an interview that he did with Joni yesterday online.  [00:46:00] And he starts the whole article saying — it’s so funny — the only people he knows who loves Joni Mitchell are Black people.  And Joni says, “Black people and white women are my audience.”

MA:  And white gay men.

KM:  And white gay men.  There you go.  But Joni is — I don’t think anybody can touch.  She’s number one, along with Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On.  Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On.  I’m on a deserted island, what song do I take?  What album do I take? What’s Going On.

LA:  You know what, Macky, I almost want to amend, “We’re on the desert island.  What music — what album do you take?”  I love that as the hook in.  Because I’m going to take anything by Freddie Mercury.  Yes.  [00:47:00] I love Freddie Mercury.  He gives me so much joy.  There’s a song by Queen, “Somebody to Love.”  And the line — “Can anybody find me/Somebody to love” — I can’t believe my voice.  But that is the beginning of the song, and it just gets me every time.  You take Joni Mitchell, which now I’m going to have to go listen to her, because I’m not familiar.

KM:  And Marvin Gaye.

LA:  Marvin Gaye goes without saying.  (laughs)

KM:  Yeah.  Yeah.  What’s Going On and Court and Spark are two of my favorite, and then there’s John Coltrane.  Is the third one.  I have to say, you know.  Yeah.  Anyway.  I love John Coltrane.  [00:48:00] Joni, John, and Marvin.

LA:  Excellent, excellent.  Do you have something, Macky, to close this out, that you love?

MA:  Well, there’s one song — I throw new songs — I was just in the toilet in an airplane last night as I was trying to get home, and there was a fabulous song that I didn’t know what it was, so I Shazam’d in the toilet, you know, and I throw all these new songs in a playlist, and then when I’m sick of the playlist, I start a new one.  But there’s one song on this playlist that when it starts, I just think, “Oh, thank God it’s this one.  Oh, right this is the beat of my spirit right now.”  And it’s by Mitski, and it’s called, “Working for the Knife,” and the opening lyric is something like, “I cry at the start of every movie because I want to be making things too.”  [00:49:00] We didn’t even get there, Konda, but you’re an artist.  You’re an artist as an organizer.  You’re an artist as a spirit.  You’re a creative being.  I have seen it in action.  That’s how I feel you, so maybe that’s a conversation for another time.

KM:  That’s right.  Let’s meet in New Orleans sometime.  I have a place now.

MA:  Come on.  I just know the time too, right?  It’s coming.  It’s coming.

LA:  Thanks, Konda.  Thanks for being with us today.  We’ll see you next month as we continue to explore the ways in which friendship helps us to create a world of love and justice.

MA:  We want to send you out with the words of Winnie-The-Pooh.

LA:  “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together …”

MA:  “There’s something you must always remember.”

LA:  “You are braver than you believe.”

MA:  “Stronger than you seem.”

LA:  “And smarter than you think.”

MA:  “But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart …”

LA:  “I’ll always be with you.”

MA:  “I’ll always be with you.”

LA:  “We’ll always be with you.”  (laughs)

MA:  We’ll always be together.

LA:  Something like that.  [00:50:00] (laughs)

 

END OF AUDIO FILE

Seeds Of Healing: Friendship And Reparations With Konda Mason

What are the seeds of healing between friends, communities, and generations? Konda Mason, Buddhist, farmer, and long-time friend of Macky (and new friend to Lisa!) joins us to explore the importance of reparations–not just in communities, but also between friends. Other discussions include the call to bring healing in spaces with a legacy of harm, and the importance of both truth-telling in friendships, and the necessity of compassion in the truth. We also discuss the gifts of spring and the beauty of Black farming. Be sure to follow our ‘Friends For Life: Songs Getting Us Through’ Playlist!

 

FFLS2E5

 

LISA ANDERSON: Welcome to the Friends for Life Podcast.  My name is Lisa Anderson.

MACKY ALSTON:  And I’m Macky Alston.

LA:  And we are beloved friends and co-conspirators interviewing other friends and co-conspirators.

MA:  Thanks for being with us as we explore the ways in which friendship helps us create a world of love and justice.

LA:  So welcome, beloveds, to episode five, season two of Friends for Life.  Today, we are happy to welcome Konda Mason to be with us.  Konda is a social entrepreneur, earth and social justice activist, and mindfulness teacher.  Konda is the founder and president of Jubilee Justice, Incorporated, which is a nonprofit working to bring climate-resilient farming and economic equity to BIPOC farmers in the rural South in order to restore and accelerate Black land ownership and stewardship [00:01:00] and create thriving Black farming communities.  Konda’s work is fueled by a passion to tirelessly work to help create a world that is environmentally-regenerative, spiritually-fulfilling, socially-just, and economically-equitable.  As a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, Konda understands all life on Earth as interconnected and longs for the day when humanity wakes up to this truth and builds a world based on interdependence, compassion, and belonging, where all life is valued equally.  I love everything about that bio.  So, welcome, Konda.  Welcome.

KONDA MASON:   Thank you.  So wonderful to be here with you.  Thank you for having me on your podcast.

LA:  Yes.  Macky, do you have a word to say before we launch in with Konda?

MA:  You know this show is called Friends for Life.  [00:02:00]  And Lisa, you and I have been friends for over 20 years, and sometimes we’re interviewing friends that we’ve both known for that long.  Sometimes we’re interviewing friends who bring friends.  But what I love about this particular episode is that Konda is a friend of mine who I am just dying for you to know.  I’m dying for the listeners to know, but Lisa, I just can’t wait for you to get to know Konda.  So Konda, welcome.  I can’t wait for you all to know each other, and so let’s dive in.

LA:  Yeah, I love.

KM:  Well, this is what I can say.  Anybody who’s been a friend to Macky for that long, I know that you’re good people.

LA:  Yeah, oh, see, that makes me happy.  That makes me so happy.  So Konda, we always start out sort of trying to get into our bodies a little bit.  So just, you know, close your eyes if you feel so inclined, and think about and answer this question.  [00:03:00] What is delighting your senses these days?

KM:  So much.  There’s so much that’s delighting my senses these days.  First of all, it’s spring.  And the work that I do with soil and plants and food and farming, it is just the best time.  It’s when the seeds — it’s like you put a seed in the ground and you put a seed in to make a transplant, and you just trust that it’s going to come up and be a plant.  And you do take on this care, and I love seeds.  And I’m with them all day [00:04:00] now.  We’re making thousands of transplants, and taking care of them, understanding that in that one little seed, I do rice primarily, and that one seed is going to be a huge plant that’s going to reproduce thousands of itself.  That’s a miracle.  It’s crazy.  It’s crazy how the world works.  And so I’m loving it.  I’m just loving seeds, and that’s what time of the year it is right now for me, so I’m super into this time when we are starting to just have that relationship.  And I just want it to be happy and healthy.  Happy and healthy.  And then there’s times when it grows and disease comes and all these things and you just worry.  But at this moment, it’s not.  It’s just happy and healthy and it’s fun, and it delights me.

LA:  Ooh, I love that answer.  [00:05:00] I love everything about it.  Oh my God, I’ve said, “I love everything,” about twice, and we’ve only just started.  (laughs) But that’s a powerful, powerful answer.  I was just listening to one of your podcasts earlier, and I’m excited for this conversation, because I realize that this world of Black farming and this real depth of relationship with the land as a completely urban girl with cement all around me my whole entire life, and just finally moving to the South, and so there’s a little patch outside.  I’m just beginning to just like imagine my hands inside of the earth, and so yeah, I’m thinking there’s a new relationship to the world that’s about to unfold.

KM:  Yes, yes.  Good.  Go out there in that little patch, no matter how big or small it is.  It’s just magical.

MA:  Konda, you just moved south, [00:06:00] relatively recently, isn’t that true?

KM:  Yeah.  I’ve only been here two years.  I’ve only been here two years.  I’m in Louisiana, in central Louisiana.  I’m looking out my window right now and I’m a 3600-acre organic farm, and there’s cows in front of me across the pasture, and, you know, alligators in the bayou behind me.  But I’m good.  I’m cool.  And I’m new to the South, and I freaking love it.  And it’s someplace — I’m from California, and I never thought that I would live here.  I never wanted to live in the south.  I just thought, you know, all the harm that happened here was too much to bear, and yet, you know, because of all that happened here this is also the place where the healing, I feel, needs to really be centered, and my work brought me here.  But prior to that, even in Oakland, I always had land and a garden and permaculture going on.  It’s been my path for a long time.  Most people who [00:07:00] know me in the urban environment of Oakland didn’t know that I’m really, inside my heart I’ve always been a farmer.  So I’m living my true, fullest life right now, being here.

MA:  What you say about the harm and the healing.

KM:  Yeah.

MA:  Today’s conversation, each episode for this season has had a different theme.  We’ve talked about laughter in regard to friendship, and how that’s, again, all of these conversations are, how can friendship and queer friendship, how can what we know up inside good friendship that can help our movements flourish, help us flourish, help all folks flourish, [00:08:00] and so we’ve talked about laughter.  We’ve talked about grief.  We’ve talked about accountability.  We’ve talked about making new friends in this season.  But today, we’re talking about friendship and reparations.  Friendship and repair.  And so of course, when Lisa, Courtney, and I were talking about who do we want to talk to, I just said, “Well, Konda Mason has combined a commitment to reparations in the United States with a commitment to friendship.”  You invited me into this circle of folks, reparationists all, very different folks, some who’ve worked together for a long time, some who are getting to know each other for the first time.  So I just bring this set of [00:09:00] questions to you, and it’s not just about what does friendship have to do with reparations, because our friendships also sometimes need some reparation.  Need some in so many ways.  It’s a lot to think and talk about, but I wonder what comes up for you.

KM:  You know, I had no idea what we were going to be talking about today.  I didn’t prepare anything.  But off the top where I’m feeling is, I love what you’re asking, I love what you’re doing on this podcast.  So the thing that comes up for me, in answering your questions, Macky, I think at the core — the seed of all of this, you know — [00:10:00] is the idea of truth-telling.  I think that friendships, true friendships, are truth-telling.  Okay?  And that means sometimes it’s hard to tell the truth to a friend, but if you’re a friend, you tell the truth.  Now there’s ways to tell the truth and there’s right speech, or wise speech, I would say.  Not being harmful in speech.  How do you do wise speech?  There’s many different parts to that.  But telling the truth is at the core of a friendship.  And telling the truth is at the core of reparations.  Right now, I’m thinking about the TRC, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and that truth-telling.  [00:11:00] The depth of that process.  The world saw something for the first time that was just unimaginable.  It was unimaginable that a country like South Africa that had such a repressive regime of one group over another, and the end of it, the end of apartheid could see a process that wasn’t just going to be pure bloodshed all over the country.  And it was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Was it perfect?  No.  But boy was it really a model.  And those people, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, the videos of any of it.  But they had to sit there and say, “I’m going to tell the truth of what happened,” and the people who were harmed, their family members dead and gone and murdered or whatever, they wanted to hear the truth.  [00:12:00] And once they told the truth, they had the chance of, at least you can possibly be forgiven.  But if you didn’t tell the truth, you couldn’t be forgiven at all.  So I think truth-telling, and that’s what I think about this country, about the United States.  You know, what happened here, you know, this whole thing that is prevalent now around critical race theory, and getting rid of the truth, it’s almost like saying our truth is so embarrassing that we cannot tell it.  It’s so deplorable we cannot tell it.  We have not told the truth.  And until we do, we will not have a relationship to the truth or to each other.  And I think that that is at the core, that is the seed, going back to the seed.  That is the seed.  [00:13:00] And I believe that another thing is that, and because we haven’t told the truth about chattel slavery in this country and the extermination of indigenous people and all the things that — what is the name of the organization?  Forgive me.  Out of Montgomery.  Not EJI, but — they did a survey about young people, and it was found out that something like — I think it was like 70 percent of high school students didn’t know that the civil war had anything to do with slavery.  I mean, this revisionist history, this non-truth-telling is just deplorable.  And so, until we get to that place with each other and with our country, and individually, and it starts with friendships.  [00:14:00] I mean, it starts with ourself.  Can I tell the truth to myself?  Can I accept the fact that I’m not perfect?  Can I accept the fact that I make mistakes?  What about self-compassion?  I’m on a big thing right now about self-compassion, and I think at the core of all of this is self-compassion.  And once we understand that that is a thing, first of all, that I can actually be kind to myself, that I can actually say, “I’m not perfect, I made a mistake.”  I’m learning life.  I’m learning life.  And until I can be good with myself, tell the truth, not try to hide and put up all these things that I do, that get in the way of friendship, that get in the way of my own friendship with myself and they certainly get in the way of friendship with someone else.  So it begins here and then it goes outward.  You know, it goes outward and outward and outward into, [00:15:00] you know, the whole society.  And so I work personally on, first, self-compassion.  I’m on this intense thing of self-compassion for the last about four or five years when I discovered that that was what I needed to focus on.  And I’ve been on this path for a while.  And with that, so once we do that, okay, then the next piece is going back to — I mentioned EJI, and Bryan Stevenson, who is just so brilliant, one of the things he talks about is being proximate.  And that, I just love it, because we don’t tell the truth so we separate ourselves, literally distancing ourselves.  But when we start to tell the truth and we start to learn the truth, [00:16:00] we can get closer to each other, even as painful as it is.  We can actually get closer.  And as we get more proximate, literally, our communities come closer together.  I get to know who that white face is, that white male face, and you get to know this Black female face, and that’s what we’re doing in the work that we’re doing together, Macky.  That’s what we’re doing with our ancestor journey is putting everybody into this cauldron that’s based on compassion, that’s based on our mutuality, and looking at the truth.  And the truth is hard.  And taking it all in together and being proximate, you know, being proximate with each other.  And so I think that reparations, that those are two of the main keys to that, and friendship, and how coming together works.  [00:17:00] And I would have to say, of course, adding restorative justice into the mix, because as the hurt comes up, we need a process, and restorative justice, I think is the process.  So that’s kind of my answer to your question.

LA:  (laughs) I’m rarely speechless, but that was a word.  And it just brought up so many pieces.  We were recently in Montgomery, the Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle that I run at Auburn.  We were recently in Montgomery, and we were recently visiting — it’s called the Mothers of Gynecology Tour there.  And there’s an activist, Black woman activist there named Michelle Browder, and this is to your point of truth-telling.  She recently purchased the hospital that Marion Sims performed torture on Black women [00:18:00] in the service, in the name of gynecology.

KM:  She purchased the hospital?

LA:  She purchased the hospital, and is converting it into a birthing center for Black and brown women, but for all women who need that service, those services.  And then, apropos of your work, a community garden and respite center.  And the idea also for, you know, birthing people of all races, and there are monuments to the women who were tortured there, beautiful, 15-foot monuments.  And all of it is inside of what you were talking about, like, if we can tell the truth and continue to tell the truth, there is a possibility in that for also building and planting and being able to [00:19:00] truly rest, because I would content that, when you’re talking, that part of that restlessness, the inability to really rest, has to do with the space of not truth-telling, being on edge with yourself and one another, and I think not really being able to even befriend yourself.  You’re talking, and every time I hear Buddhists talk about compassion or these words that we just kind of use, I’m always eager for some definition, because I know that there’s teaching underneath when you’re talking about self-compassion that folks need to know about, I think.  Can you say a little bit more about compassion?

KM:  I’m happy to.  You know, compassion is something that [00:20:00] the heart just has this capability.  It’s a quality, it’s a quality of when we turn towards harm, when we turn towards suffering, when we see something that’s harmful, it’s our heart’s reaction, is compassion.  It’s what the heart automatically does.  And so when it doesn’t do that, that’s because we have all these layers, we have all these layers.  But think about it.  When children, when they see things that harm — “Oh, Mommy,” you know, they respond, and that’s who our hearts are.  And so when I think about compassion, it’s about — and we can cultivate that.  We can get it back.  And that’s, like, letting go of all the layers that are living our lives in this society has built up all of our walls, all these wall of distance.  [00:21:00] Again, not being proximate.  Not being proximate to our own hearts.  We have created this distance from our hearts, okay?  I work with people — I’ve been with people and sat with people who say, “I don’t feel it.  I don’t feel anything.”  They come to retreat practice saying, “I don’t feel anything.”  And the fact that they are they, they are there because they want to feel it, and they do feel something, okay?  And they’re also aware of the walls in between themselves and their heart, and so compassion is when we clear those layers and we allow ourselves to face harm and the truth — again, going back to the truth, and face that which is suffering.  And go into it instead of going around it.  We’ll see something, but the man on the street, the woman on the street, I think, you know, how many times do we pass those people [00:22:00] and don’t even recognize, these are human beings.  These are human beings.  And we don’t give them any recognition of decency.  And we build up this way.  But then really underneath that is this compassion that goes out, and so because we don’t want to feel that, we build these walls.  And so compassion is who we actually are.  And what we do is, like I said, we can recultivate it and understand that it is turning towards — and not just turning towards but then the propensity to do something about it.  You know, whether it’s an action or just an internal doing something about it.  You know?  That is what compassion is.  And so when we look at self-compassion — I mean, sometimes it’s harder for people to be kinder to themselves than other people.  [00:23:00] They don’t like themselves.  We’ve got these stories in our head that we’ve been saying over and over about, you know, unworthiness and all these things.  And what’s interesting, one of my teachers, Jack [Corvo?] has this story that he talks about, and I love it.  He was in a conversation with a group of practitioners with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  And they were talking about things, and they started talking about, asking His Holiness, well, “How do we deal with this self-hatred and this unworthiness that we have?”  And His Holiness was going, “Huh?”  He didn’t understand the words.  And so his translator was trying to translate it.  And he was like, “I still don’t understand,” because there’s no word in Tibetan for any of that, right?  And he just kept trying to interpret what they’re trying to say to him.  And His Holiness finally got it and said, “No, you’re wrong.  That doesn’t exist.”  [00:24:00] To self-hate or feel like you’re unworthy, he couldn’t even relate to that, and that is such a major part of who we are.  And so if we feel that about ourselves, how do we relate to each other?  How do we befriend others?  Friendship goes so far.  But then we don’t really reveal the truth.  Again, we don’t really reveal our own truths.  And so it’s really self-compassion is when we start to allow ourselves to be truthful and to go underneath the pain, to go underneath the experiences, the stories that I continue to talk about what happened.  And it did happen, and it’s horrible, but when we go beyond the story and we go underneath all of those things and we get to [00:25:00] a place of what’s really underneath all of that.  And we bring this loving kindness to ourselves.  You know, “I am sorry that happened to me.”  Not you, you know?  “I’m so sorry.”  You know?  And we just are able to hold ourselves in a way that is really — and allow it to be.  Because it happened, or whatever.  We’re not, you know, doing the spiritual bypass thing.  We’re accepting it, we’re allowing it, and we’re freeing ourselves from it by bringing compassion to it.

MA:  Konda, I have a question for you.  My whole spirit is resonating.  I know it.  [00:26:00] And I have seen you with folk, and that just makes me want to ask, can you tell a specific story of friendship that has been a place of teaching in regard to this set of principles — truth-telling, self-compassion, being proximate, and restorative justice.  How did you learn this, or where have you learned this, specifically?

KM:  I have a love story with my brother who is no longer on this side of existence.  Mr. Larry Mason.  He [00:27:00] brought so much to me.  He’s seven years older — he was seven years older than I, and just wise beyond his time, because he had a body that didn’t work.  He was disabled, and all these things happened to him, and he had a mind, though, that was beyond, and a spirit.  And I was his little sister.  He saw in me something that I was going to do and become, and he put so much into me.  And he was a Boddhisatva, wise man.  And I learned how to let go of the falsehood of personality.  How to let go of that which separates me from me and from others, because he just bore down [00:28:00] to the truth and taught me — he wasn’t a Buddhist, but Lord did I learn Buddhism from him and everything else.  And his experience as a person who was always ill and spent most of his life in a bed or in a hospital, and holding court with everybody.  (laughs) You know?  Everybody came to him, and he held court with his wisdom.  And he was filled with book everywhere.  And he went from a Black separatist to a Communist to a Socialist to a Spiritualist, and he did this whole thing in the 60s, 70s, and I followed him.  And in the end, he was this spiritualist, and had all of this wealth of knowledge that he brought, and he and I were like this, you know?  And those of you who can’t see me, I’ve got the fingers [00:29:00] going together back and forth, right?  So that said, I had to learn.  He would not not let me learn.  He was like brutal to make sure I understood what existence was and what it wasn’t.  Who we are and who we’re not.  And my relationship with him was profound.  Absolutely profound.  And I would not be who I am without Larry Mason.  Even in letting him go, he taught me how to let him go.  He taught me how to let him die.  And yeah.  There was nothing that wasn’t a part of our relationship that was real.  Yeah.  So fortunate.  I was so, so fortunate to have him.

LA:  How beautiful.  How gorgeous.  [00:30:00] How fortunate.

KM:  Yeah.  How blessed I have been.

LA:  There’s something about brothers and sisters, too.  I live with my brother.  And yes, and so, you know, I have two, but I live with the youngest.  He’s 12 years younger than me, and this whole experience of, first of all, saying yes to relationships, you know, when people are paired in some way, it’s usually thought romantic pairing is the pairing, and every other pairing is not the pairing.

KM:  Is less than that.

LA:  Less than that.  But what does it mean that we pair, that we triple, that we find these spaces with our people?

KM:  That’s right.

LA:  And there’s a lot of different ones [00:31:00] of them.  I mean, it kind of — yes, it speaks into what you’re even saying, because yes, you were siblings, but even the pairing is atypical to —

KM:  It’s not — that’s right.  And right now, I live with my sister.  You know?  And I have for the last, I don’t know, now almost ten years we’ve been living together, since the boys died, since Larry passed away.  Yeah, my sister and I are a pair.  Oh my God, the Mason Sisters, it’s crazy.  So that relationship, like you said, people think that the romantic relationship is like the highest, exalted relationship.  And, oh, it’s so not true.  It’s so not true.

LA:  When you were talking about reparations, and I think about [00:32:00] all of the Black family separation that happened during the domestic slave trade, all of it.  And so to see siblings, pairings, folks who are saying — I think we’ve always had atypical family structures anyway.  But the idea that, you know, what is that healing that we’re doing in our communities when we say, “These pairings matter.  We’re together.”  And then have that be a part of the truth-telling that we even tell about how we be together.  And what is repaired.  That may not even have been broken in our particular line but is broken in the line writ large that our pairings and couplings and triplings [00:33:00] and whatever it is speak into.  And then the other thing I’m thinking is friendship, like, the two of us have this friendship with Macky, and so across race, and relationships that aren’t supposed to be.  What is the repair that’s being played out right here because you got on the phone, I got on the phone, we looked into Macky’s eyes and said, “Oh, you’re so beautiful, we love you so much,” and he did the same.  (laughs)

KM:  Macky is just so adorable.  I can’t even imagine anybody not falling in love with him.  I mean, jeez, come on.  But yeah, I love what you’re saying, Lisa, because, you know, I always think, you know how Black folks will pass each other and say, “Hey, sister, hey, brother,” you know, we just speak to each other, right?  And we call each other brothers and sisters.  I mean, that’s just a part of our language.  [00:34:00] And it’s like, I think we’re still looking for each other from that auction block when we were separated.  I think we’re still looking for each other.  And that’s why, you know, we salute each other as we see folks that we don’t really know but there’s some common experience that we absolutely do know.  And so I love that part of, you know, slavery was horrible and chattel slavery was just terrible.  Like anything that’s terrible, there’s certain wins that come out of it, right, because the human spirit is alive and the human spirit can’t be enslaved.  It can’t be exterminated.  And so it continues to just morph and transition into what is needed now.  And what is needed now is for us to find each [00:35:00] other.  What is needed now is for us to recognize each other.  And I think that that’s a real important part.  And what is needed right now-now is that place that you just pointed to around the cross-race.  This is what is needed now-now.  I feel like my work — and sometimes I think, I always wonder, why my work to work with white people, to get them, you know — because sometimes it’s like, I don’t want to just work with white people.  Somebody else can do that.  I need to work with my people, right?  But yet, my work is to do this — I keep coming back to it, you know?  My work is to do this thing of what is needed now-now and what is needed, what I think is, because our liberation is tied.  Come on, now.  Our liberation is tied, and we have to do this work together.  We have to have our separate spaces, we have to have our spaces coming together, and so I think what we’re doing right now [00:36:00] where I’m working with Macky, on the Jubilee Justice and our ancestral journey, that we’re on this two-year journey together with this mixed-race group of people, 50 people for two years together, it is a grand experiment.  As we trace our lineage and the harm that all the things that happened in our lineage, and we’re doing that — white folks doing their lineage, Black folks doing their lineage — people coming together and talking about it and being in the same space around it.  It’s difficult work, but we’re doing that, and so far, so good.  You know, we haven’t had any major bad spaces, but people’s hearts are opening and realizing that we have to do this together, I think.  [00:37:00]  And that’s why I love you all being in a 30-year relationship.  It just makes me smile, because I feel like I can see it.  I can just see it in your eyes, and even the way you spoke about your friendship.  I can see it.  It’s beautiful.

MA:  You know what’s interesting is all the different — I love how you say couplings and triplings and quadruplings — the way we are meant to be interconnected is endless.  And so sometimes it’s cross-race, and sometimes it’s not, and something I’m really learning in this work is that I’m in a circle of practice with a handful of white folk who have these lineages from enslavers and colonizers, and we’re working hard together to be accountable, to be both supported but also [00:38:00] challenged.  And just yesterday, I was on a call, because people, there was just a worry, right, an anxiety of, what does it mean to be completely out about this with all our folk?  Does it mean exile?  Does it mean loss of some of the people who we’ve always known as kin and family?  And right at that moment, when that was, you know, that fear, that monster, was just taking its death grip, hold on the conversation.  My mother came by, because I was with my mother in South Carolina yesterday, and I said, “Mom, I need to ask you a question.”  I said, you know, “We’re doing all this reparations work, and I’ve asked you questions about a lynching that happened [00:39:00] in your hometown, and you’ve told truths about knowledge of — not you but people in your generations that came before you of knowing what happened and not saying something.  You said that to me, and you put that on the record, and I’m making a film.  IT’s going to be on the film.  How is that not something that makes you feel like you can’t handle it?”  And she said, “Macky, we’ve got to live.  It’s just the truth.  We’ve got to be honest.”  And then, you know, my grandparents — she was talking about her grandparents and her parents when they were children.  She said, “There’s other stories, and that was, you know, 1930s, and then let me tell you what they did in the 1950s.  They grew.”  That doesn’t mean that there’s not the need for restorative justice, but it’s not the whole story in any case.  [00:40:00] And she was saying it directly into the conversation to people who were a generation younger than her.  We don’t have a choice.  You want to live with something other than that restlessness, you want your soul to be free?  This is not an option.  And it’s just one of the things that you name, restorative justice being the other.  But we yearn.  It’s like what you said about the people who don’t feel, and yet they feel.  We year for this liberation that we also imagine will somehow depress us, will kill us.  In fact, it’ll bring us to life, but there’s something about getting from here to there that feels — what?  [00:41:00] That feels impossible, and yet it won’t let go of us.  Thank God, it won’t let go of us.

KM:  It’s that urge to actually — you know, it’s really something I think that — I just lost my thought.  But it’s fear that stops us, because we think we’re going to — I think people think they’re going to lose something.  And it’s topsy-turvy, because actually what you do is you gain.  You gain freedom.  You gain a freedom from this unfulfilled life of holding the space small.  [00:42:00] When you allow the space to open, you don’t even know — you’re not even aware that you’ve been clenching until you release it.  And you open up the space.  And people are afraid they’re going to lose something, and they are.  They’re going to lose that which is imprisoning their hearts and their minds.  You know, I used to work with people.  I worked with this organization, I was a volunteer with a nonprofit.  And, you know, of course (audio glitch).  I worked with this nonprofit back in the day, and of course, I, you know, started the social justice committee.  [00:43:00] And it was an all-white organization, doing great work in the world but all white.  You know, some of us folks of color came in and were like, “This is ridiculous.” And I looked at them and I think, “Don’t you get tired of just you?  Don’t you understand what you’re missing?  You have no idea how much richer your conversations, everything you’re doing, would be with a whole bunch of other people in the room.”  And it never ceases to amaze me how it feels like whiteness doesn’t get tired of whiteness.  Or maybe it does and doesn’t know what to do about it.  I have no idea.  Anyway.  That’s something that I find just, yeah.  It blows me away.  And it’s because we don’t know what’s on the other side.  We don’t know the freedom.  We don’t know the richness.  We don’t know.  We just have a fear of going through that door and not understanding that, [00:44:00] “Wow, why did I waste all these years not doing this?”

LA:  Yeah.  Oh, Konda, we could go on, but we have one last question.

KM:  Okay.

LA:  What song is getting you through?  We’re music people and we’ve been kind of collecting a playlist, but we also see the question about song as a resource for people.  A way to resource them with music.  And so we ask everyone that question.  Song, songs, sound, artist that — it’s a little on the order of the delight question, I think.

KM:  Oh, my goodness.  I love music.  I love it so much that I stopped listening to it.  When I was in the music industry, [00:45:00] I was in the music industry and it just ruined music for me.  But I love music.  I come from a very musical background, and years in the music industry.  I was in the music industry for a long time.  I was saying — two of my favorite artists.  And I would say it’s Joni Mitchell.  I love Joni.  “People’s Parties” — lyrics — can’t nobody tell a story like Joni.  Joni is so profound.  She is so profound.  Her lyrics are so beyond.  As a matter of fact, I was just looking at an interview that my — I have a dear friend that passed away named Greg Tate.  Boy, Greg, oh my God.  Yeah.  And I just saw an interview that he did with Joni yesterday online.  [00:46:00] And he starts the whole article saying — it’s so funny — the only people he knows who loves Joni Mitchell are Black people.  And Joni says, “Black people and white women are my audience.”

MA:  And white gay men.

KM:  And white gay men.  There you go.  But Joni is — I don’t think anybody can touch.  She’s number one, along with Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On.  Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On.  I’m on a deserted island, what song do I take?  What album do I take? What’s Going On.

LA:  You know what, Macky, I almost want to amend, “We’re on the desert island.  What music — what album do you take?”  I love that as the hook in.  Because I’m going to take anything by Freddie Mercury.  Yes.  [00:47:00] I love Freddie Mercury.  He gives me so much joy.  There’s a song by Queen, “Somebody to Love.”  And the line — “Can anybody find me/Somebody to love” — I can’t believe my voice.  But that is the beginning of the song, and it just gets me every time.  You take Joni Mitchell, which now I’m going to have to go listen to her, because I’m not familiar.

KM:  And Marvin Gaye.

LA:  Marvin Gaye goes without saying.  (laughs)

KM:  Yeah.  Yeah.  What’s Going On and Court and Spark are two of my favorite, and then there’s John Coltrane.  Is the third one.  I have to say, you know.  Yeah.  Anyway.  I love John Coltrane.  [00:48:00] Joni, John, and Marvin.

LA:  Excellent, excellent.  Do you have something, Macky, to close this out, that you love?

MA:  Well, there’s one song — I throw new songs — I was just in the toilet in an airplane last night as I was trying to get home, and there was a fabulous song that I didn’t know what it was, so I Shazam’d in the toilet, you know, and I throw all these new songs in a playlist, and then when I’m sick of the playlist, I start a new one.  But there’s one song on this playlist that when it starts, I just think, “Oh, thank God it’s this one.  Oh, right this is the beat of my spirit right now.”  And it’s by Mitski, and it’s called, “Working for the Knife,” and the opening lyric is something like, “I cry at the start of every movie because I want to be making things too.”  [00:49:00] We didn’t even get there, Konda, but you’re an artist.  You’re an artist as an organizer.  You’re an artist as a spirit.  You’re a creative being.  I have seen it in action.  That’s how I feel you, so maybe that’s a conversation for another time.

KM:  That’s right.  Let’s meet in New Orleans sometime.  I have a place now.

MA:  Come on.  I just know the time too, right?  It’s coming.  It’s coming.

LA:  Thanks, Konda.  Thanks for being with us today.  We’ll see you next month as we continue to explore the ways in which friendship helps us to create a world of love and justice.

MA:  We want to send you out with the words of Winnie-The-Pooh.

LA:  “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together …”

MA:  “There’s something you must always remember.”

LA:  “You are braver than you believe.”

MA:  “Stronger than you seem.”

LA:  “And smarter than you think.”

MA:  “But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart …”

LA:  “I’ll always be with you.”

MA:  “I’ll always be with you.”

LA:  “We’ll always be with you.”  (laughs)

MA:  We’ll always be together.

LA:  Something like that.  [00:50:00] (laughs)

 

END OF AUDIO FILE

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