Leading With Empathy & Allyship Show

Understanding The Effects Of Racism On Black Boys & Men with Dr. Kevin Simon

Leading With Empathy & Allyship promo with the Change Catalyst logo and photos of host Melinda Briana Epler, a White woman with red hair and glasses, and Kevin M. Simon, a Black man with short hair, black beard, and moustache.

Understanding The Effects Of Racism On Black Boys & Men

Join Change Catalyst Founder & CEO Melinda Briana Epler with Dr. Kevin Simon on Understanding the Effects of Racism on Black Boys & Men.

We talked about Dr. Kevin Simon’s journey to becoming a force for good and his work during COVID-19, helping Black and Brown kids and their families understand intergenerational trauma and historical trauma, and how the effects can manifest through depression and addiction.

We learned:

  • What ally can do to support this community
  • What are intergenerational trauma and historical trauma and their impact on mental and physical health
  • How important is to communicate with teenagers in a time of Covid-19 and social justice protest
  • How Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) like trauma are the roots of addiction and depression in teenage years

Learn more about Dr. Kevin Simon: www.kevinsimonmd.com/.

Additional resources:



“If you’re an ally, particularly to Black and Brown boys, particularly to the persons of color, you should be trying to promote institutions and environments policies that would be protective of that community.”

“ Whether we’re talking about mental health outcomes, depression, anxiety, suicidality, trauma or substance use, adverse childhood experiences are (ACEs) as are classically labeled. The more aces, you have, the worse your physical outcomes. So, hypertension, diabetes, like you’re talking about the worst mental health outcomes. So it is hugely important to try as best as we can to create an environment that can be responsive to what happened in my past, yet at the same time, shift, so that my future will look a little bit different”.


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Guest Speaker
Kevin M. Simon, a Black man with short hair, black beard, and moustache.

Dr. Kevin Simon
Board-Certified Adult Psychiatrist / Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow / Addiction Medicine Fellow

Dr. Simon graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (Springfield, IL) and completed his Psychiatry residency at Morehouse School of Medicine / Grady Hospital (Atlanta, Ga). He is currently completing dual fellowships in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard School of Medicine. He is a thought leader, has been featured on NPR and in FORBES, winner of many academic awards, publishes widely, and speaks nationally on issues related to Mental Health, Substance Use, Racism, Equity, and Health Policy.


MELINDA EPLER: Welcome to Leading with Empathy & Allyship, a live event and podcast series. I am your host, Melinda Briana Epler, and Founder & CEO of Change Catalyst where we build inclusive innovation through training, consulting and events. In this series, we go deep, get real, build empathy and explore tangible and actionable steps we can take to be better allies. Hey, Lisa and Tiara and Shane. My chest is tight waiting for the election results. Eagerly. Good. Today I am excited to welcome Dr. Kevin Simon who is a board certified adult psychiatrist. He is addiction medicine fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Harvard medical school and he is joining us today to talk about racism on Black boys and men and how we can show up to be better allies. Welcome, Kevin. 

KEVIN SIMON: Pleasure to be here. Interesting to see folks describing what they are feeling with regards to today. Yeah. I believe there is probably a lot of anxiety. Yet, if we remember four years ago, or three and a half years go, there is a good chance that results don’t get finalized today, right? I remember waking up the last election, or the day after recognizing what it was, but yeah, I am glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me and sharing this space. 

MELINDA EPLER: What is one word to describe how you are feeling today? 

KEVIN SIMON: You know, I am probably feeling oddly I am feeling fairly calm. Partly because I suspect we may not know something at the end of the evening, so I remember what it felt like several years ago, feeling very anxious. Just calm, recognizing that there are other things that I can try to focus my attention on including family and so forth. So that’s how I am feeling right now. 

MELINDA EPLER: Awesome. And thanks, Shane, Lore and Victoria. Anxious, calm, unplugged. That’s not a bad idea. — Laure. Just a few logistics, Kalina is on screen. She is our ASL interpreter today and they are sponsored by Interpreter Now which is a Deaf-owned company we are proud to partner with. This is also being live captioned by Maggie at White Coat Captioning so you can turn on closed captions down at the bottom of the screen. Just click on the closed captioning. They are actually being typed live by CART captioning. Thanks to our to our team, Renzo, Sally, and Juliet who are monitoring the chat. Be inclusive in the chat. We have a code of conduct at tcin.co/COC. We will definitely have time for discussion and questions so put your Q&A in the Q&A function at the bottom of the screen so we can find them easily. And also, please, share in the chat the entire time. It is very helpful to hear what you are thinking and continue to introduce yourself and talk about what’s going on with you. This is definitely a year that will go down in history for a lot of reasons. The pandemic, the economic crisis, the deep spotlight on racial injustice for Black people in particular and protests around the world and a divisive election in the United States like we have never seen. It is impacting us all and also impacting Black, Indigenous and Latinx people disproportionately. It is not easy stuff but we have to understand so and be kind and supportive and take explicit action to change our collective future which affects us all. That’s what we are going to be talking about today; how to be an ally for Black people in this moment and the effects of racism on Black boys and men as well. Dr. Simon, could you tell us a little bit about what you do and also, why you do it and how your journey began and how did you get here? 

KEVIN SIMON: Yeah, yeah. Big first question. 

MELINDA EPLER: Yeah. [Laughter] 

KEVIN SIMON: As you noted, I am a board certified psychiatrist living in Boston working for Boston Children’s Hospital. I did my adult training in Atlanta and currently am doing child and adolescent and addiction fellowship at Boston fellowship and a clinical fellow at the Harvard medical school. I am originally from Brooklyn New York. Parents are Haitian. In reverence to my transition to the Boston area, undergrad in Baltimore, Maryland and transitioned to the Midwest for Illinois and clinical training in Atlanta, Georgia and have research in Pittsburgh, research in Madison, Wisconsin. I have been in a number of different states and cities and currently in Boston. Why do I do what I do? I think for a long time I have thought about just generally trying to figure out how to help people. My dad, I guess, my dad is a deacon, so having seen him since, you know, I probably could crawl talk to people, shepherd/pastor people whether that’s on a Sunday or every other day of the week, you don’t turn off when you are part of the clergy. I think that’s kind of where my vision of what it meant to be helping people at all times came from. And health care is just something that really, I guess, beyond adulthood I figured out I wanted to be a physician and then the type of physician, mental health, was the area and Speciality that most people actually don’t necessarily talk about and then when we are talking about, you know, African-American, Black, Latinx, any of the diaspora, earlier, you talked about if persons are visually impaired, sign language. I don’t know if it encompasses all parts of our life and — mental health — and it was really working with pretty disadvantaged persons that I recognized there is really a need because it generally can get really bad care, actually. So that’s what funnels me to mental health and what funnels me to children, a lot of times we are looking at where did the problems people are presenting with as an adult start, most can tell you it is in adolescents. I can say that means I need to do adolescent training. Being at this particular children’s hospital, I see a wide spectrum, at least in my outpatient setting from four years old and all the way up. Particularly need substance abuse. Over 90% of adults that have a substance abuse disorder when you ask when it began undoubtedly it is before 18 so that’s where my desire is to understand more. That’s why I work with kids. That’s why I work in mental health/substance health field and that’s trying to help change trajectory or at least make the trajectory not so challenging because, you know, when we look at different demographics, whatever the condition — if you have any Black or Brown in America, you get care that may not necessarily be the best and then when we are talking about substances in adolescence, I can say in my clinical expertise but also within the literature, if you are Black or Brown you get funneled towards like the justice system and some call it the injustice system, so, yeah. That’s why I do what I do or what I am trying to make a change in. I guess I could stop there. 

MELINDA EPLER: Awesome. Yeah. So what are you seeing this year that’s different? Are you seeing different things come up? 


MELINDA EPLER: How is your work different? 

KEVIN SIMON: We adapted pretty quickly with regard to transitioning to virtual care. Before the pandemic, full throttle, February-March I had 25% of patients I would see virtually and by February, March, April it was a 100% seen virtually and we are only now beginning to think about having in-person and in-office as long as social distance can occur. What has changed is, obviously, the concerns that I hear from my patients, as well as from the parents of my patients. In the beginning it was a matter of like, you know, how can I get my kids, or what are the strategies that you have for my kids to, you know, remain calm, not as anxious, because classically when change that’s very abrupt is stressed upon kids they can regress emotionally. If you have friends that have kids, you know, your 10 year old is acting like they used to act when they were eight and subsequently the six year old is acting younger, so recognizing that was occurring for my patients. When we talk about those with development disabilities, for a number of them, their whole kind of like protective mechanisms were all shifted. So, for instance, if you had someone that had a neurodevelopmental disorder, let’s say like a severe form of autism. That person was maybe getting 40 hours, let’s say, if they were in a specialized schooling but school is closed so now that person is now home with parents that they love them but they are not specially trained in applied behavioral analysis or specially trained as the school would be. We had a number of uptick in terms of admissions in terms of our neural development patients. There is increase in suicidality or ideations so manying the thoughts in the patients we were seeing. The stress of the pandemic, and the stress of social distancing and isolation was something that was very strong in the first, I would say half of the summer. As that has shifted, there have been shifts in the country and society. We went from COVID to racial tensions because of, you know, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and I can continue saying names. There was just a gentlemen shot in Philadelphia. What was stress related to the pandemic became stress related to how do I be a part of change, right? I had a number of kids who are, you know, teenagers, you know, soft sophomore/juniors wanting be apart of rallies and the community and on one end they have this fire to be engaged and then on the other end their parents are like you are not leaving the house because COVID still exists. So, yeah, there are a lot of conversations that I have with regards to how can both things be met appropriately? How can you, as a parent, vet the organization that your child wants to, you know, be a part of? How can they actually attend a rally safely? Having conversations with patients, or the kids, about you know, what does it look like to, you know — be out, wear a mask, communicate regularly are parents, if something goes astray coming home and having a plan to civically engage. There are a lot of conversations about that during July and August. June, July and August. And now, we are in school and so there is conversations about, really the flucuating changes of what school systems have to do to adapt to whether cases are rising or not rising, if someone is suspected to have COVID quarantineing. I have had a number of patients who are attending schools all in a virtual form. I have a subset that are attending in a hybrid format. The hybrid format is varied so some people are going in for a week on and off or just Monday-Tuesday. And then I have a subset that said I am not even going to enroll my kids in school and we are going to just do home schooling. With each set of those school characteristics challenges are going to come up like is the school doing enough to provide the educational platform? Suppose their child had a 504 plan or an IEP, an individualized education plan. There is a lot of stress that parents and kids are under during this summer and now, fall into winter. So those are some of the things that I am seeing that there is no shortage of stress on the household of a lot of people. 

MELINDA EPLER: Yeah, yeah. And I am also seeing some articles about how the election on top of that is also adding to stress for kids too in lots of different ways from teenagers that understand what’s going on but still can’t vote and feel kind of a lack of power to do anything to also being around parents that are very anxious in this moment too. Are there — do you have any recommendations, in the last episode we talked about parenthood. Do you have any recommendations for parents and what they can do to help their kids right now? 

KEVIN SIMON: Yeah, so, you know, for today specifically, as much as we would probably want to, you know, turn the news on, and kind of watch on the various news networks like state by state, this might be a very good day to, as one of the participants, audience members mentioned, to unplug and really just key in on, you know, how are we doing as a household. Today would be a great day to, you know, if you haven’t tried to bake bread, try to bake bread. Try to make pizza. Do things to keep the mood and the atmosphere light because, yeah, undoubtedly, one way or the other there are going to be people that are frustrated by the outcomes of the next day and a half. I would definitely say, you know, try and unplug. Depending on where you are. There are people across the country, if it is nice outside where you are, go outside. Wear a mask but go outside and get fresh air. Make a picnic. All this stuff could be ad hoc. Pick up and say we are doing this today. If you have young kids they will probably be happy about it. If you have older kid they will bow like why is mom or dad acting weird and that’s OK. But, yeah. The idea of just sitting in your house and just waiting and creating anxiety watching the TV, you know, maybe not today. The news will let you know who won one way or the other. You don’t have to be the first person to know because there is no first person to know. We all learn at the same time so why not just take an opportunity to really focus on yourself, you know, there are folks who don’t have kids. Focus on yourself. Read a book. Just disconnect. Go outside. Someone said they haven’t ridden a bike in a while, good day to try and get back on.

Workout. I would say honestly for a day like today, yeah, just try to engage in things that really bring your mindfulness for the forefront. 

MELINDA EPLER: I went on a motorcycle ride and I haven’t done that in a while. I didn’t realize that I needed it but I did when I got back it was like my anxiety is so much lower. There was a poll by the American psychological association released just a few days ago or in October that said that 68% of adults find the election to be a significant source of stress and that that doesn’t go away the day after the election. How can we — how can we heal from this? How can we show up for each other to get through the next couple of weeks, next couple of months, regardless of the outcome? 

KEVIN SIMON: It is a good question, because, again, undoubtedly whoever is elected, there is going to be a subset that are happy and a subset that is not happy and the reality is whoever is elected there are going to be pieces to them, their administration, to the laws they propose that some people will like even if you did vote for them and some people won’t like even if you voted for them. I think the way I would frame how to look at the response post-election is just like athletics. Folks here, you know, some people probably like certain teams, right? And your team may get very close to the world series, or to the NBA finals, or the NHL finals and then they don’t win. You probably will be upset the day after. It might even linger on past through the weekend. If you are still upset, right, so we just had, I think, the major league baseball in America world series, if you are still upset that your team did not win, two weeks later, and it is really impacting you where you are irritable and having challenges sleeping, it is affecting your appetite, you know, that may be a cue to say I might need to take an assessment and see what’s going on and Julied I would say the same thing for the elections. It is not that you shouldn’t be upset if the ticket you are vying for doesn’t win but if that becomes a distressing factor and really impacts your ability to do parenting, to do your job, to relax, to go to sleep, to have a good appetite it is worth at that time really saying, you know, what, I think I need to talk to someone about it because generally, yes, this does impact who you are, and can impact our community, but at the same time, there have always been ebbs and flows of which party is in leadership. Some would argue it is worse now, some would say it is worse in the ’80s, worse in the ’70s, the fact of the matter is the pendulum always shifts so even amongst chaos we have to find balance. That’s why I would say if the feelings of distress seem to linger on multiple weeks, it would be worth considering, you know, let me talk to someone or let me see if other people are still feeling as I am feeling. That’s what I would say with regard what to do in the days after. And disconnecting, again. Particularly if the ticket you want to win doesn’t win, just disconnect for a few days. You know, check in with folks who care about you, but the news, you don’t necessarily need to watch the news, you know, 24/7. 

MELINDA EPLER: Yeah, and I think the other piece of it is that, you know, there is this kind of a lack of feeling like you have to power to create change after the election and that reality is that we do have there power to create change regardless of the outcome of the election that each of us has a role to play in healing and changing the way the world works right now. 

KEVIN SIMON: Yeah, no, it is true. I think it can feel like why just one person and so, you know, how much can I do but the reality isia always have a sphere of influence and — you always — that’s whether it is your local community — your house, your local community, your network of friends, your school district. There is always avenues for increased civic engagement. I would say from that end, if something is occurring now that you didn’t want to, start planning. Again, although this is the big ticket, and the presidential election, in two years, it is going to be local elections again. I think, because of our new system, we do tend to like focus on every four years and so that’s why turnout gets bigger every fur — four years, however, the midterm is just as important because those are the people who put in the legislation you want to pass. Today is not an end all, be all. It is just a continuation in the journey of what is American history. 

MELINDA EPLER: Well said. Yeah. So I am going to kind of jump from the into some other things going on. So you mentioned that some of the things that adolescents and young adults go through as Black children. You know, statistically, just to let everybody know, in case you don’t, that statistically Black children are more likely to be charged with a crime, they are more likely to be stopped, and then they are more likely to be charged once they are stopped and more likely to go to juvenile detention and to go to juvenile detention for longer so there is a real systemic injustice happening there. Christian Welker in the second presidential debate asked the question about the talk and that is the talk that Black parents have to have around the police and not giving them a reason, and don’t talk back and the fear parents instill in their kids. I guess my question is how does that show up in different ways and maybe we can also go deeper into some other things that kids are going through but it seems like right in this moment in time when there is police brutality so much in the news right now, it is not that it hasn’t happened before but it is really heightened in our social media. How is that affecting kids? 

KEVIN SIMON: It is a good point to bring up. A couple of just quick factoids for folks. Not only do Black and Brown children end up having more contact with police force, being engaged with juvenile detention services, but there is evidence when law enforcement persons, and this is specific to African-American men or Black boys, with regards to age perception, there tends to be at or around 10 years old for Black boys this perception from police officers that they are much older than 10 years old. You can see this in other cases that are well known from Ohio and Baltimore and St. Louis. The fact of the matter is when a Black boy is just a young adolescent so 11-12, 13, I encourage my own sets of patients and parents to have this conversation because the reality is when we are talking about 10-12 we are talking about middle school, right? So when you frame it in school you are like that’s so young. But you frame age and you look at who police are seeing, then the police are not seeing a 7th grader. The police are seeing someone who they presume is 16, 17, so it is important for parents of children of color to have this conversation because they have to understand that. I have to be able to communicate the reason your grandmother is so worried is because — because classically in a development sense it is appropriate a teenager thinks that they can do anything. That’s where they learn their limit setting. Like let me try this. So for adolescent boys, I do say, you know, when you are wearing exactly what you are wearing, normal clothing, the police are going to have a perception that you are older and so what comes with that? They are going to expect you to communicate with them a certain way. I am not saying that that’s right. It just happens to be what it is; right? I inform parents here are the things that, you know, your child should be knowledgeable about in the event that they do get stopped. What is your number? A lot of us just carry cellphones and don’t memorize numbers but they should memorize what your number is and they should be able to say please, call my parent, right? Because just like in medical care, in the exceptions of emergency, I really can’t be having a conversation with a kid without the consent of their parents and it is the same thing in law enforcement. Now, if a child provides me information, I can utilize that information how I feel and the same thing happens in law enforcement. You get stopped, and if you are not confident in the where that wait a minute. Wait? I don’t have to say something or can I say call my mom, dad, our lawyer? And I just start saying stuff, well, yes, they can use whatever it is that you are saying but if you happen to be knowledgeable and say wait. I really can’t answer that question. Can you — it may be a buffer enough to say wait a minute, this kid knows a little bit more than we anticipated. That being said, all of the other things you hear about cooperate, don’t move too fast, those are all true too because we see too often really unarmed persons can be shot because of the flinch of a hand, or the perception that you are holding something but again, oftentimes they are young kids so they really don’t have a weapon on them. That conversation, yeah. I am providing clinical guidance on, you know, how to have it, when to have it, what books kids should be reading or parents should be reading with their children, and I definitely am having that clinical interaction much earlier than I am for my non-Black patients. To this point, in the summertime, yeah, I had a couple of parents who have 8-year-old black boys and we are like is it too early? And really, it isn’t too early because once you can recognize your color which is really, very, very young, you can be having engaged conversations that plant the seed and the idea of wait a minute. There are some subtle differences in how I get treated or how someone else gets treated. What I tell a lot of parents is they have to what I would call fortify the resilience and belief in their kid that their kid is smart, their kid is beautiful, because society will do enough for Black and Brown kids to try counteract that. So before you truly send your kid into the world you have to do all that you can to just nourishing them, unconditionally which a lot of parents do but, you know there is a fear and a monquer that is like I am going to be the person that sets the lines that the police don’t. I try to help them understand in addition to being the disciplineian you want your kids to have confidence that they can trust you and you trust them because I think in what is most scary for parents is getting a phone call and wondering what happened to their child. The way you can mitigate that is having this like free-flowing fluid conversation with your kids and letting them know if anything happens, I have your back a 110% and you need to know that and be reminded of that. That way if a cop stops you and you are somewhere where you are in trouble you think first to contact the caregiver before contacting your friend or someone else that may not have your best interest at heart. 

MELINDA EPLER: And I think a lot of what you said can translate into allyship between adults too. 

KEVIN SIMON: Oh, yeah. 

MELINDA EPLER: How can we create those supportive relationships? How can managers think through building confidence? You know, we are talking about the effects of racism so I want to make sure we touch on two things. One is intergenerational trauma which we talked about in episode 8 with Michael Thomas and episode 14 with Angel Acosta. There is a body of research showing that trauma can be passed from parent to child from fetal cells and socio culture. It can affect self-esteem and a lot of outcomes from hypertension and lower life expectancy, ultimately. There is a lot it can do. And on top of that there is also historical trauma which is essentially the same thing but for groups that have been colonized, enslaved, held captive in enslavement camps. There is research that groups who face these historically traumatic events there is collective trauma that can be passed on as well. It is a lot. How do we, for people who are not Black, how do we acknowledge, support, and advocate for Black men and boys? How do we be better allies? 

KEVIN SIMON: All of what you said is true. I think what I would — how I would frame this is in terms of the concept of intergenerational trauma, history classically is passed down through word. So there are things that all of us know about our family, or about our culture, not because we experienced it but because someone told us about it. We have a strong connection to that story. Trauma can be a story that is passed and the same emotive feeling that you have reading a book you can have hearing a story. When a parent or a grandparent is describing what they have experienced, because I love that person, or know that person, I can then feel that, right? So that’s what we are talking about empathy. I may not have gone through what you went through but I can conceptualize how you are are describing it to me and because I value who you are, I can understand wait a minute, this must mean something to you, and so let me take time to understand what it means. When we are talking about trauma, the intergenerational piece is particularly interesting when you think about cross-culture, let’s say adoption, or cross-culture fostering and I have parents and patients in this setting where you will have a Black or Brown child, right, non-Black or Brown parent and the parent is like, man, we have had them since, you know, two months old, like we just don’t understand how come they are having some emotional disregulation, and you know, let’s say they are 8 years old. The parents in theory have been doing quote-unquote all they believe they are supposed to do as parents. The proper school, the proper home setting, et cetera, yet when I start to inquire about what do you know about the family that the person came from? If they know something, generally, the reason there is some fostering involved is somehow, someplace there was some disconnection of safety potentially. One has to think about wait a minute. What is the, like, interuterine, going back to in utero, what was that environment like? If the interuterine environment was stressful, what about the environment for that mother or those sets of parents? When we start to unpack how trauma can exist from a very young age and who it came from, and who it was transitioning parent to child to grandparent you start to see wait a minute. Despite all of the things I am doing now, there is this historical thing, like a tie, or a rope, that is still attached to my son or daughter despite I removed them from that environment. I have that with foster parents and adoptive parents and biological parents have the same understanding and can have that same challenge and I start to them ask them about their own history, right? We all are an amalgamation of all the historical pieces of our families. We are all actively at the same time trying to understand how do we fit in this particular environment, how do we navigate this particular environment. So you really can’t, you know, it is interesting when people say oh, well that was just civil rights, that was the ’60s. It’s like, well, yeah, but my grandmother is 96 so I know someone who was in the ’60s. It is not as though this is some period of time where I don’t know people. It is like wait. My mother was there. My father commin 1968. I am like wait a minute. You came to America a year when anassation of MLK and how did that impact who you were and how you became to be my father? These are generally things that people are not necessarily thinking about so it helps to talk to a psychiatrist or talk to a psychologist but when you start to unlayer the onion per se you start to recognize wait a minute. There are pieces to me that I don’t know about but they really came from the ’90s or the ’60s because that was my parent’s experience and that impacted how they treated me, how they talked to me, how they, you know, raised me to be the person that I am, right? And so that’s going to be impacting me and how I communicate with my friends, communicate with my significant other, right? So intergenerational trauma it’s hard in terms of a concept to really understand in the present-day moment but if we take time, it can be understood and you then understand why some of, if we are talking about kids, some of the behaviors that we may see happen. Yeah, intergenerational trauma is hugely important with regards to the outcomes that we see whether we are talking about mental health with depression, anxiety, suicidality or substance abuse, because you know, adverse childhood experiences or ACES as they are classically labeled, the higher the ACE and what’s included in that is things like safe home, parents in the home, viewing trauma, viewing domestic violence, the more ACES you have the worse your physical outcome. Hypertension, diabetes, mental health outcomes. It is hugely important to try as best as we can to create an environment that can be, you know, responseable to what happened in my past — responsive — yet at the same time shift so that way my future look as little bit different. 

MELINDA EPLER: How would you recommend allies show up? What can allies do? 

KEVIN SIMON: Yeah, so, the concept of an ally is one can think of like a friend. As a friend, if I am, you know, Melinda’s friend, and you said you went on a motorcycle ride, right? I would be supportive of that ride. I would be like oh, you should do another ride because it made you feel good. If you are an ally, particularly to Black and Brown boys, particular apply to persons of color, you should be trying to promote institutions, environments, policies, that would be protective of that community. You should be a friend, generally to that community. What a friend does not do, or a friend, I guess some friends do, but what a friend should not do is try to say, oh, wait, Melinda, you liked that bike ride? Let me go get my own bike and see if I can ride better. That’s not being friendly. An ally should not be look what I am doing promoting this other group. Look what I am doing promoting this other group. It should be no, no, let me use my platform and my voice to promote that group, right? I should not be the attention. I think a lot of times, unfortunately, depending on who the person is, depending on who the ally is, they can get a lot of attention and really the cause that they are to be supportive of gets no attention because that person has clout but they should be using their voice and platform to promote the ideas, policy, institutions that are really affecting change and trying to be the catalyst. An ally really should be like a true catalyst for persons of color in terms of promoting them and promoting the platforms that would keep them in better health, right? More equitable health and finance and housing. What are you doing as an ally to promote those kinds of policies and institutions which will undoubtedly have immediate and lasting impact. When we were just talking about that intergenerational trauma, part of that is because there is policies in place, that again, despite the policy being in place in 1940, it is still having ramifications now. If you talk about red lining, right? That law, from FDR and The New Deal was in the ’40s but still today there is red lining which is why certain communities live in certain pockets. That’s a policy and needs to change. As an ally, what are you doing to say wait a minute. Let’s change this policy so it will change not just 2020 but 2050 we are seeing continued change because of the relationship that you had to promoting things that would be beneficial for communities of color with regard to equitability. 

MELINDA EPLER: Absolutely. Just for anybody who doesn’t know what red lining is banks, loan companies, insurance companies, real estate agents literally drew a red line around the map and valued some properties higher than others and allowed some people within the red lines — did not allow them to get loans on their houses, to move outside of those neighborhoods, and it has affected intergenerational wealth as well and, it is continuing to effect because, you know, with wealth comes education and comes so many other opportunities that were not available. I want to jump to some good questions from the audience. Laore asks any suggestions for helping white kids support better allies that are Black and Brown fellow students and friends. 

KEVIN SIMON: It is a good question. I would say the way woe help non-kids of color support their friends and classmates is really creating environments where they actually like communicate, our friends, and so classically when we are talking about babies or toddlers and talking about play dates. If you are a family and you identify as white, think to yourself, wait a minute. Do my kids hangout with Black kids? Brown kids? Is that happening? Are you cultivating a relationship with those parents? Just like classically they organically happen if they are engaged in sports but suppose your kid is not a sporty kid. You have to say why don’t you invite such and such over. In the era of COVID, right, that might be a Zoom call or that might be a safety pod. If you know of a family that’s around your block that you haven’t necessarily hung out with but you can start to get to know who they’re, whether that’s leaving them a message in their mailbox, writing down your number so that way they can call you, if you create environments where kids hangout, kids will then understand, wait a minute. He likes what I like. The more we actually are social together, the more we recognize wait a minute, we have a lot of things that are in common. So it is classically why you will see interracial friendships on to sports team but if your kid is not, you know, sporty, then, you know, board game/video games, just create environments where they actually can hangout and it is not stressful. If you just pop the idea we are going to invite such and such over it is like why are they coming over? You have to create an environment where it is engaging. That’s what I would recommend for parents. 

MELINDA EPLER: Awesome. Fabian asks multiple questions. Given the time I am going to go through one. I too am Haitian. Born in Boston and living in Atlanta. How can I speak to my child about the truth of race in America while nurturing his sense of self? I want him to know the truth but not influence his personal value in himself. 

KEVIN SIMON: It is a good question, so thank you, Fabian for asking this. The way you do this and I don’t know how old the kid is but I will put it in developmental stages. If we are talking about grade school, again, this is you have to just fortify as much as possible. We have, Haitian Americans, have a great culture. 1904, first independent country. Explain that to him. Explain the positive attributes of being Haitian. A lot of times I grew up in the ’90s in New York, and a lot of times it was not popular to be Haitian. You have to explain to them all the positive attributes. In your household, does he see the Haitian flag and see the culture in that I should be proud of this? In shifting to teaching about American culture, again, the same can be said. There is a lot of positive Black culture in America that’s not only in terms of athletics and entertainment. Those folks are the most prominent. Beyoncé is the most prominent person. LeBron James is the most prominent person but you can get books that highlight Maya Gemmason the first African-American astronaut. You can get Booker T. Washington. You can get historical books that are age-appropriate that are teaching about who it is that we are. If we are talking about a teenager, there is a great book Stamped. Stamped the book is like an encyclopedia but there is a version for kids. Stamps Remix and highlights Black culture and all of the things Black culture has to offer. In America, there is a propensity for Black culture to be demonized and you do explain that but after providing the nourishment and planting the seeds of how good it is to be Haitian, how good it is to be Black but yes, you be honest in explaining these are negative things that can happen if we have poor interactions with the police. I wouldn’t be shying away from it but I would mock sure when I am informing them, I am informing them of all the positive first. 

MELINDA EPLER: Awesome. We are getting close to time here so I do want to mention to everyone that my husband Wayne Sutton has been working to bring greater awareness of mental health for Black and Brown men and the project we are working on is called the icon project. You can find out more at iconproject.co. Dr. Simon, where can people learn more about you and your work? 

KEVIN SIMON: I guess multiple places. Twitter is drkmsimon. And Instagram same thing. You can go to my website. Kevinsimonmd.com. Often if there is an article I have written, it is posted there. So, those are the places that folks can, you know, keep up with me. And I would love to, you know, engage with anyone that’s been an audience member here to keep the conversation going. 

MELINDA EPLER: Awesome. And there were a few questions that we didn’t get to. Apologize we didn’t get to answer all of the questions. Appreciate everybody for being here and being present on this day. For interacting with us. Take care of yourselves. Take care of your families, your colleagues, be kind and courageous and supportive and remember allyship is about being active and really taking action. Part of that is voting so if you haven’t voted yet today vote but not just today, also, not just in the presidential election, but the midterm and off elections too. Those are really important as well for local issues. Thank you, Dr. Simon, for being with us. 

KEVIN SIMON: All righty. Thank you for having me. 

MELINDA EPLER: And join us each week for Leading with Empathy & Allyship. You can RSVP for future sessions and sign up for our newsletter at changecatalyst.co/allyshipseries and subscribe to the podcast channel and give us review or thumbs up and share this with colleagues that could use this. Spread the word and let this be a ripple here. All right. Take care. Thanks.

About the Host

Host: Melinda Briana Epler

Melinda Briana Epler has over 25 years of experience developing business innovation and inclusion strategies for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and global NGOs.

As CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda currently works with the tech industry to solve diversity and inclusion together. Using her background in storytelling and large-scale culture change, she is a strategic advisor for tech companies, tech hubs, and governments around the world. She co-leads a series of global solutions-focused conferences called Tech Inclusion, where she has partnered with over 450 tech companies and community organizations and hosted 43 solutions-focused diversity and inclusion events around the world.

Previously, Melinda was a Marketing and Culture Executive and award-winning documentary filmmaker – her film and television work includes projects that exposed the AIDS crisis in South Africa, explored women’s rights in Turkey, and prepared communities for the effects of climate change. She has worked on several television shows, including NBC’s The West Wing.

Melinda is a TED speaker. She speaks, mentors and writes about diversity and inclusion in tech, allyship, social entrepreneurship, underrepresented entrepreneurs and investing. She has spoken on hundreds of stages around the world, including SXSW, Grace Hopper, Wisdom 2.0, the World Bank, Obama White House, Clinton Foundation, Black Enterprise, Google, Indeed, Capital One and McKinsey.

In The Press

Watch Melinda’s TED Talk

Speaking Engagements

Change Catalyst Co-Founder Melinda Briana Epler has spoken across the globe in hundreds of venues and virtual events. Empathy, Allyship, Advocacy, Microaggressions, Inclusive Leadership, and Building Inclusive Teams are just some of the topics Melinda has spoken on. Let us know about your next speaking engagement needs! Melinda has also spoken on how to build organizational capacity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as how to lead behavior change or how to build allies and advocates.


The show shaped my scope of reasoning on the dynamics in the corporate world, brand building, harmony across board with team mates. Your series has helped me feel less alone and less daunted by the challenges I face as a leader at a company that is used to moving fast with decisions and making swift progress across the board. I so earnestly want to grow and deepen my perspective when it comes to diversity and allyship; it’s not always clear how to do it. This series has felt like a path I can follow and revisit and draw strength and insight from. Thank you.

This show has given me clear opportunities to learn in the midst of 2020’s numerous social and personal challenges, including engaging remote content. I’ve learned new terms, heard new voices, diversified my interests and internalized personal narratives that have inspired me to get more active.

I watched many of your live shows in 2020, and I learned something from every discussion. They were inspiring on many levels. Early on during the pandemic (especially), the show also provided me with a sense of community that I was sorely needing. Thank you.

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If you’re looking for a way for remote teams to continue their learning and professional development, we’re now offering virtual allyship, inclusion and leadership trainings. We’ve also continued our consulting practice virtually. AND we now offer hourly coaching. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more!
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