Welcome to the Revolutionary Rompereglas podcast where we converge at the intersection of ancestral inheritance, spirituality, trauma healing, pleasure, intimacy, magic and leadership. I’m Isha Vela, somatic expressive Alchemist for new era healers, change agents and bridge builders. I believe that unraveling fractured concepts of ourselves that live in our emotional, spiritual and mental systems, while moving towards sovereignty and devotion is the real work towards our personal and collective liberation. In this first season of the podcast, I’m interviewing New Era leaders who are sharing their personal journeys, and how it’s brought them to the purpose-led work they do now. Occasionally, I’ll chime in with my own inspired episodes. But my intention is that the conversations and tools shared in the podcast, will inspire and support you on your own magical human journey to owning yourself fully.
Hi Dr. Kemp, it is so good to be with you here today.
Dr. Kemp 1:03
Hi, Isha. Thank you for having me.
Absolutely, it is really my pleasure to have you here. For those of you listening, I just want to – Amanda, Dr. Kemp, is a dear mentor of mine, and she is the founder of racial justice from the heart. She is a racial justice and mindfulness mentor, who helps leaders be effective and have a strong voice for racial justice and equity. And she completed her undergraduate studies at Stanford University, and earned a PhD from Northwestern University. And you also do other things, Dr. Kemp, right? You do theater, poetry…
Dr. Kemp 1:42
Yes. Yes. I’m the founder of theater for transformation.
Yes, yes. Amazing. Yeah. So what I would love to get into with you is talking a little bit about what brought you to the work of uniting mindfulness and racial justice. I feel like that’s really important.
Dr. Kemp 2:03
100%, I mean, that was when I made a left turn. So I’m 54. And I would say, I’ve been doing racial justice work consciously, probably since I was 16. But it wasn’t until 2015 when I started doing compassionate self care, and self compassion, mindfulness work, that I experienced a huge shift in the way in which I did racial justice work. And what I mean to say is that in 2014, when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, and that kicked off the sustained movement, you know, that made Black Lives Matter, it was like a slap. Honestly, like the details of that. I mean, I could still cry about it, how they left his body in the street for five hours to traumatize everybody else in that neighborhood. The ongoing, the sustained protests from the young people, primarily young people in Ferguson, really, like said, Amanda, what are you doing? You know, how, who are you? Where are you directing yourself? How much impact am I really having? That combined with getting an email from my son in 2015, like a year later, I got an email from my son when he was 16, basically telling me how he was crying, that he found himself punching a tree because of the way he was taking in the social media about how black lives, especially the lives of black boys, and men did not matter. So it was like emotional, it was a lot. You know what I mean? And I just took myself over to this little – it was a self compassion book group. I felt like, I need help. You know what I mean? I just felt like my mind is running, you know, I’m upset. I’m in an interracial marriage. In fact, that was the first year of us being an interracial marriage together. My husband’s European American, he brought in three European American children, I have two black kids. And then America is like getting more and more racially polarized. And of course, Donald Trump won in 2016. So all of that meant that girl, I was like tight, you know, and upset, a lot. So I took myself to, it was called mindful self compassion. I was the only person of color in it, but it introduced me to some key concepts that helped me to stop my suffering. You know, it helped me to stop extending the pain into suffering. That’s what I want to say, I became conscious of how am I extending pain into suffering, and what are some things I can do to extend compassion over here, so I didn’t just have pain. And those self compassion processes, which involve me being very present, increasing my present and coming to distance myself from my thoughts started to open up some space for me. I just got calmer, and honestly more green on the inside because I was burning up.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it’s like you’re describing this process of like pulling back from the suffering, like not needing to suffer but then also like not soothing yourself in the painful stuff that is part of life. And that is, especially for people of color, more painful, especially when like the world is burning up, the United States is burning up. And so being able to soothe yourself and take care of yourself within that as well.
Dr. Kemp 5:32
Yeah, like there’s a couple things that hit me. One of them was – one of the first things this teacher said was, your mind is not here to make you happy. And all of the sudden I was like, true. And then I started thinking, what the heck goes on in here? Mostly it does not – she was right. But I was like, but what I had to deal with was, well, why should it make me happy? Because we live in the midst of injustice, people are suffering. And so I could stay there with people are suffering, it’s unjust, I’m unhappy. Okay, I could really stay there. But do I want to live there? Even if I only live there, do I want my child to live there? You know what I’m saying? I didn’t bring him in the world so he could just be unhappy. Right? So, so when she put that out there, I started to think about when she said the mind was built for defense. I just started thinking about how you know what, truth is multi level. And it is not quite true that this planet is h e double hockey sticks. You know what I’m saying? That is true to an extent. And it’s true. But it’s also true that it is a paradise. It’s also true that I could experience joy. And joy doesn’t have to come from what Donald Trump did. You know what I mean? I just started thinking like, wait a minute, I don’t want someone else to own me and own my reactions and my emotions. I only want my ego to own my reactions and my emotions. I needed something more compassionate, something wiser, something deeper to be in charge.
When you were talking just now, it just sounded like so much more space was created.
Dr. Kemp 7:12
Yes, that’s to me, when I think about racial justice and mindfulness and bringing them together, I’m talking about approaching racial justice from a spaciousness, from a tightness.
Yes, yeah, you just said it right now, I think that is the biggest lesson that I learned from you, was because I was coming into those conversations already with some tightness, and then it would pop – and you, through those five steps that you teach, it’s just like it slowed everything down. And it made me like, not be like, hooked into an outcome. That was huge. That just changed everything for me. So if you could talk a little bit about those steps and maybe how you came up with them, that would be so valuable.
Dr. Kemp 7:59
Yes, yes, yes. And I offer this, you know, something that has been helpful to me. Yes. And by no means is it the only thing, right? Everyone does what works for them. But what worked for me was after I had been doing this mindful self compassion, literally, I wrote a love letter to myself, I was saying things in the mirror, I was, you know, doing a metta love and kindness meditation for me and for people who I have problems with, so I’m just telling you, I did, I had to invest over here.
We did all the things.
Dr. Kemp 8:31
Before I could do these steps.
Because that is what gives you the capacity and the spaciousness –
Unknown Speaker 8:40
Yes, yes. So here are the five steps that I evolved to how do you have a difficult conversation about racism. And so the first step is to check in with your wise self. Am I available? Can I be present for this conversation? Am I hurting? Do I need my attention? Can I use a bathroom? Girl? Do you know I’ve had conversations about, I’ve been waylaid on the way to the bathroom. And then I’ve got a pee. And I’m trying to be polite. And I’m also you know, getting triggered by you know, someone’s remarks. You know what I’m saying, about what they read in the newspaper? Oh, no, no, no. So consciously choose, and it is 100% okay to say, not now, read this first, or no, I don’t want to talk with you about this. You do have choice. Or you can say yes. But before you say that yes, really check in with your wise self to make sure that you are physically and emotionally stable. Okay.
Yeah. And then integrity with your systems, like whatever’s happening with them.
Dr. Kemp 9:46
Yes, ’cause what I found was that I was responding to these conversations to people rolling up on me, whatever, and not even acknowledging myself first. So that’s the first thing is to check in with your wise self to make sure that you have the capacity at the moment and if you don’t, like I said you can delay it and say, give me a few minutes I’ll meet you, give me a day, next week is good, whatever, right? Or you could say, based on what you’re hearing from the person, they’re really not ready for you yet until they’ve actually read a little bit more, because you’re not going to be presenting mass incarceration one on one. It’s unfair to yourself to say, I’ve got to you know present the research that someone spent years organizing and now I’m going to take it on myself to give the cliffnotes to this person. I’m just saying, it’s okay to say to someone, I hear what you’re asking for, and I’d be willing to have a conversation with you, but I want you to check out these two resources first, because they really helped me understand this issue. Do you know what I mean? And then if they’ve done some work, then okay, I’m willing to meet them, but if they’ve done no work and they just want to roll up and have me pour into them, that’s me filling used. You know? And then of course I’m feeling tight and I’m upset and voice is getting raised, and emotions are flowing, and someone just rolled up, why should they get all of that juice from you? Why should you give them all of that when they have done nothing to prepare for this conversation? So as people of color I feel it’s very important for us to ask people to come into it with some level of preparation and responsibility, not just say Amanda, what are your thoughts about – you know? And then the second step is like, so once they’ve done that or you’re like yeah I’m ready to roll with you, hold space for transformation. And Isha, whenever I don’t do it, it doesn’t go well. And when I do do it, I’m like amazed. So all I can say is god please somehow help me, give me a sign when I forget and I stop holding space for transformation because holding space for transformation – it’s like me taking a moment to ground myself into receiving and being unconditional love and unconditional acceptance. So I’m just letting myself be part of that flow, letting myself be poured into by the universe, you know the divine, whatever works for you, your language, and it just helps me to you know, to drop out of that tight mind, clinging mind, grasping mind. So we have a whole process for how you can do it, you know, we have an eight minute version, we’ve got a five minute version so I’d be happy to share that with you all. And then the third step once you have gotten yourself into that flow, you drop down, you’ve said to yourself that I’m willing to be where I am unconditional love and unconditional acceptance, the third step is to actually lean in and to listen to the other person first. This is why I say you need to do that step one first, you need to pour into yourself first, so that you have that spaciousness to lean in, to hear somebody without letting yourself get hooked or triggered by what someone else says in their ignorance or their well meaningness or you know, I’m assuming if you’ve chosen to talk to them you must think they’re worthy of your time. If you thought they were just being plain mean and evil you would decline the conversation. But I’m just saying it’s a leaning in and we don’t have a lot of practice in that.
No and I’m shaking my head because you know, what you’re talking about is, you are cultivating this capacity to hold and that is huge because that is a whole practice in and of itself, and then to bring it to difficult conversations around race is just another level of it.
Dr. Kemp 13:43
Yes. And I know from when I’ve done it and from like, when you’ve done it, and other women, women of color, european americans have done it, they literally write me back and they say wow it works. So I know when you think about leaning into somebody who you disagree with or leaning into someone who’s really ignorant or you know the same things that kind of just reflect the white script, you could say why would I give that any time, Amanda? And I’m just saying to you, well if you chose to be in the conversation for some reason, you chose to be in conversation with them, then trust yourself, know that your turn to speak is going to come, know that what you need to say to them is going to come, but before you do your saying, just practice leaning in to listen to them and listen with your heart, you know? Listen with your heart. After you’ve given them a chance to say their thing, to really express themselves, be with it, thenm, ask them. Step four is to ask, would you like to hear what it’s like for me? Because it’s reminding them they have power in the conversation, you’re not just going to share something with them if they don’t want to hear, but it’s also reminding you, do you really want to share something valuable with someone who hasn’t first said yes, I’m listening, you know what I mean?
Dr. Kemp 15:06
Right, it’s like going for consent. It’s giving them the right to say yes or no just like you gave yourself the right to say yes or no at the beginning of the conversation. So you see sure why this is countercultural on so many levels, you know patriarchal culture, white supremacy culture, capitalist culture, I mean when did capitalism ask for permission to go and extract somebody’s wealth, right? It is a non consensual model. And so what I’m saying is, build consent. And that is why if you’re hurting, like when I got that email from my son about what he was feeling, I couldn’t hold space for someone else. I was in the middle of my pain, right? So that’s time for me to decline the conversation, you know I can knit this, knit me together again, so I’m not coming to the conversation with my fragmented self
Dr. Kemp 16:01
And I’m just saying this out loud, this is asking for a lot of self care and it’s not like you did your mindfulness series a year ago or you did it three months ago, you’re good. Honestly it’s ongoing and I think that’s why we need to schedule, you know, when we’re going to be doing our retreats, make sure we have a mentor or a coach who is going to incorporate that into your work together. Because if you don’t build it into your life it’s going to gradually become very very small and it will be something that I used to do, you know, like I used to run the marathon. If you stopped training, you know, you can’t just run the marathon because you ran it a year ago. And then finally step five is to reflect on yourself at the end of the conversation. Ask yourself, what do I need? And give it to yourself. If you need a bath, give yourself a bath. A glass of water, give yourself a glass of water. So it’s – a lot of it is about you. You control or you’re responsible, you have power in all of these steps.
Yes. A word that I’ve been using a lot is sovereignty. Or when you talked about like triggers and sort of like noticing those triggers and not looking into them, right, and having those boundaries at the beginning of this, in step one checking in with your wise self, like all of those pieces fit into what I consider sovereignty. And so sovereignty is power, it’s like coming into this conversation from a place of of personal power.
Dr. Kemp 17:32
Yeah, I like that word, sovereignty. Especially from people who in our lineage we have a lineage of being owned, where our sovereignty has been taken, where our lands have been colonized, stripped from us, reclaiming our sovereignty, seeing this as part of your expression of sovereignty, is countercultural, even inside our movements and inside our communities. Because you know, I have a lot of models of black women sacrificing and not a lot of models of pouring in, creating spaciousness and presence, pausing, slowing down. I have been exposed to black woman who use prayer, but I didn’t have anybody who was modeling self compassion. Sometimes people use religion or prayer to really put themselves down, I’m not worthy, you know I shouldn’t be able to kiss your feet. This is actually different.
Dr. Kemp 18:29
Yeah, it is another level. And it’s hard to stay committed to it by yourself, you need community, affirmation, reminders.
Yeah, yeah that’s right, that’s really important. The piece around community is really crucial,m we all need each other. This is wonderful, thank you for sharing that. I wanted to also ask you, you have this business now and you know, I just want you to share a little bit of your story in creating this, like you, you had this personal experience in 2015 with your son, all of these pieces, and you created a whole business around it, like a business that was like on a passion and through the love of your son and wanting to create a better world for your son, you created this enterprise, this endeavor. So I want you to share a little bit of how you came to trust yourself and what you know and all of those pieces.
Dr. Kemp 19:27
So a couple of things. Number one is that some of us out here have a tendency to start up. I don’t know, because I started a theater company during the great recession. I didn’t know it was going to become a great recession when I started it truth be told, but there it was there and it became it was my primary source of income for about six years and that was, that was hard. So I have to admit I do have a willingness to take a risk for something that I feel 100% alive in. And then over time, I invested in a lot of training because I have a PhD in performance studies and performance of race. I had no background in business, or sales, which I started to understand is the lifeblood of an enterprise. But I didn’t know all that, I thought the lifeblood was, you know, the content that you share with people. And I made a turn when I invested in sales, when I invested in how do I learn how to sell things, how to create things in a way that you can sell them, right, like packaging, and things like that. So I invested a little bit at a time and then I made a big leap of an investment over the course of between 2015 and now we’re in 2021. You know, I started with a $1,000 course, to help me as a mission-centered business, it was just like giving me some basic stuff. And we, we created a mastermind, it was me and some other women, you know, we’re trying to get all the juice we could out of this $1,000 course. And it did get us to another level. Because I wrote a book, someone in my mastermind edited it for me so I could believe myself that I did have a book. What I’m saying is that each step along the way I invested, I ended up having to invest more and more of my money, my nest egg, to grow the business to grow my skill.
Yeah, you have a service or a course.
Dr. Kemp 21:29
Yeah, I have a free masterclass called how white women can talk with women of color about racism. And that free master class, we give people the option after they register to pay something forward, any amount they want, but just to chip in to help us keep offering this free thing. Because what I realized as a very, very micro enterprise, without a lot of capital, I didn’t have enough to only offer something for free. And something that was super high priced. Because people weren’t investing in a super high price, because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, and the things I was giving way for free. So yeah, so that giving people an opportunity to pay it forward, to chip in, meant that instead of it just being a free thing, it became something that started to pay for itself. And as it went on, it became something that starts to generate, you know, a little bit of a profit, you know, I mean, besides paying for itself, it covered like that. And so that became a real driver in our business.
Yeah, that’s amazing. And coming back to the piece around self compassion, because this is really what – your gift to the conversation, to the movement. Maybe share a little bit about connection between burnout and self care, and sort of a little bit of what you’re noticing in the women of color that you serve, and your passionate message for these women and what supported you.
Dr. Kemp 23:00
Self compassion and burnout. So that is definitely something that obviously I experienced, kind of like a breakdown kind of moment. And I hear it a lot from especially black women. You just, I don’t know, you asked a certain question which you get is I’m exhausted.
Dr. Kemp 23:18
And I think it’s right there on the surface for black woman. But I think to a lesser extent is probably right there for women of different backgrounds. And what I mean is that if you’re doing something that’s countercultural, if you are a changemaker, you know, you’re expending emotional energy, physical energy, spiritual energy every day, and resting and restoring, in the midst of suffering seems like you’re being self indulgent. Or you’re taking advantage of your privilege. So this is what I say to everybody, people color, people of European descent, is that self care, cultivating self love, is the foundation. It creates, as you were saying Isha, the spaciousness from which to engage the work for change. It’s not over here, and the word is over here. It’s like your container, your vessel. Based from which the work to change the world comes. And if your vessel is full of these thoughts that are likes condemning of you, sap your energy, that question your authenticity, or your rights, or you know what our thoughts are. If you live in that soup, then your ability to engage externally could be compromised. And I say could be because I don’t want to say I know what everybody’s interior is like and what’s working for you or what’s not working for you. But I ask you to check, just to check, check on your joy level, take a gas gauge, check on your joy level, check on your energy level, you know, and if those things are low, if it’s below halfway, I recommend you fill up, right? Pause, stop driving. And Isha, I’m talking to me. I’m talking to Amanda right now, stop driving, Amanda. Can I stop driving? Yes. Because then, you know what, this car is gonna run out of gas if you don’t stop driving and fill it up. So this is where you know, our egos like, you know, I don’t know what your ego says, but I can’t, I shouldn’t, what will happen if I don’t, as if you’re not just one of a piece. We are just one of a piece.
Yeah. And I think the piece around, you know what you taught me about letting go of the outcome. Sometimes we’re so invested in the work, and we’re so invested in the outcome, we just sort of attack it, right? We attack the work with that, like, no, it has to happen now and this way, and we get caught, we get hooked. And if we can see ourselves as just a piece, and that the long term process, and that we are contributing in our own unique way, it just creates a little bit more like healthy detachment, like pouring in with passion of seeing the bigger picture of it.
Dr. Kemp 26:10
Yeah. And I think that’s something that older women can pass, communicate with younger women about, we can model to our kids. And I also noticed that like there’s this whole thing called the napping ministry.
Oh, I love the nap ministry.
Dr. Kemp 26:24
Exactly, you know, black napping, and you know, rest is revolutionary. And I have two kids, one of whom is a little bit like me, which is the go go go, and really have to work to pull it in. And then I have one who’s like, why do we need to go? I love her because she like, sort of like, makes me pause and realize the pace. What is the hurry? Like, I know the house is burning. It’s been burning centuries. I mean, honestly, living with that urgency of suffering. And what do I want to bring to it? You know, and the other thing is that I also heard this Isha, and maybe you have too, that we can be in different seasons of our lives. So if you have a family member who has COVID or if you’re doing caring for small children, you’re recovering from cancer, you’re in a season where the emphasis of the external giving and the internal giving needs to be adjusted.
That’s right. That’s right. Very important. Yeah.
Dr. Kemp 27:22
You know what I mean, we were not all running. We can’t all be running at the same pace, doing the same thing. Some of us, if we find ourselves getting enlivened, energized, sparked, you know, empowered by what we’re doing, keep doing that. Yeah. You know, if that’s what you get from being on the front line, for standing your ground, meeting a line of police, if that’s what happens for you in that moment, I think you probably should be there.
Dr. Kemp 27:51
Right? Last time I went to a march, Isha, I’m just telling you, you know, we did this solemn vigil thing, you know, in my town, I was good with that. When you’re out in the public, you’re holding a sign. And then we were going to march to the police station. So we start marching. This is a march that was, there was some conflict, honestly, but whatever, it was, primarily people of color, there was some conflict, but whatever. We follow, I followed, that was what I said I was gonna do. But while we were marching, I was like, and the slogans we were saying, you know what people were saying? They were saying, I can’t breathe. And I know the importance of those words, I want to tell myself that. You know what I’m saying, I want to breathe, I want to tell myself, I can breathe. And there’s some other kinds of statements that we were doing call and response with. And you know, what was their crime? Being black, talking about people being killed, you know, what was their crime? They were black. I 100% understand that. But then part of me is like, what is the state of me? What does it say to my subconscious, that it’s a crime to be black? I know that’s what the dominant culture’s message is. But that’s not what I want to tell myself. And also that I watched a young black woman kind of dysregulate, you know, in that same march, and I was like, okay, it’s time for me to go. You know, this is not my place. Yeah. I’m feeling like energetically, I’m not liking the energy. You know what I’m saying? You know, when I was 16, 17, maybe I wouldn’t even notice the energy. I don’t know. But I’m 54 now, I know what I know today, and I know, wow, this is not the right place for me, you know, I found my hubby and I was like, it’s time to go babe. I gotta go. And he was like, okay.
And even that, right? Like, our minds can say something like, oh, but you should be here or – right? There can be an expectation of, well, this is how it’s done. This is how we bring justice. And that also takes self compassion to be like, well, maybe this is not my way, I have this other way where I really thrive and where I love to do my work. And that’s good. Right? That is just my way.
Dr. Kemp 30:09
That’s also self compassion.
Dr. Kemp 30:12
Yes. 100%. And I am very compassionate and admiring of people who take that rebel, front line, direct confrontation approach. You know, the woman who climbed up the flagpole and just pulled down a confederate flag, right? The people who, they say disperse, and they say, no, we’re going to sit down. I mean, wow, I feel the adrenaline rush, just telling those two stories out loud. I admire them, I feel protective of them. I’m grateful. I know they’re putting their bodies on the line. It’s not my place to put my body in those spaces, from a space of guilt. That is not an empowering place to come from. If I’m going to be on the front line. There’s a lot of ways that you can show support to people who you feel are on the front line doing, who are in their right path. You can, you know, there’s a lot of ways you can support, you can give money. I had somebody, someone who I’ve never met, she sent me a whole bunch of herbs. Because, you know, she really respected the work that I’m doing for racial justice. She’s like, can I send you some herbs? You know? And I was like, yes. So you know, give support to those people who you feel are taking on the work that needs to be done. Even if it’s not your work, you can still support them.
Absolutely. I love that. Thank you, Dr. Kemp. And where can people find you online? I’m going to include links in the show notes.
Dr. Kemp 31:42
Let me see, they can find me at Dr. Amanda Kemp dot com, on my website. And I want to encourage people to check out my album called Black Girl Magic. Poems, prayers and spells for liberation and self care. It’s a toolkit that I recommend you all check out whether you’re a black girl or not.
Awesome, awesome. And you also did a TED talk, which I’ll include in the show notes too. Thank you so much, Dr. Kemp, again. Such a pleasure to have you here. And I’m just really grateful that you and I crossed paths when we did, it felt very serendipitous. Thank you.
Dr. Kemp 32:19
You are welcome.
Unknown Speaker 32:21
That’s it for today’s episode. I hope this conversation supported you in accessing more of your truth and more of your energy. Remember to hit the subscribe button to get notified of new episodes dropping on the new and full moons of each month. And if you haven’t already, leave us a five star review on iTunes. Make sure that everyone who needs this transmission gets it. See you next time, Rompereglas.