Melinda Briana Epler, Founder & CEO of Change Catalyst, and Two Eagles Marcus, Founder of MPWRDX, talk about “Centering BIPOC Voices In Business & Social Justice.” They explore what it means to embrace your heritage, reimagine business and social justice to center Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific, and Indigenous Native American experiences, and bridge our siloed communities through solidarity work.
- Learn more about Two Eagles and MPWRDX
- “7 Anti-Racism Educators Your Company Needs Now” by Janice Gassam Asare
- About Netta Jenkins
- Leading With Empathy & Allyship EP3: “Supporting Indigenous Power, Leadership & Community” with Vanessa Roanhorse
Our live show and YouTube video include captioning and ASL interpretation.
- “Advocate for people of color to be put into positions of power in organizations. Not just titles that can’t get anything done – but put them in positions of power that can really make significant change. At a bigger level in an organization, you have to make sure it starts with the top, the leader and the organization is ready to make these changes. When you have the organization that’s not ready to make those changes when it comes to anti-racism specifically, you are going to have a culture, and a work culture, that is not conducive to the advancement of people of color in the organization.”
- “If you have people of color in our organization, you know, make sure they know the path to move up the ranks and move them up the ranks. Clear the pathway. If somebody isn’t moving up the ranks, why aren’t they moving up the ranks? Is it because they don’t have a Master’s Degree or additional education? OK. Invest in that education.”
Two Eagles Marcus
Founder of MPWRDX
MELINDA EPLER: Welcome. I will go ahead and describe the slides for anyone listening who is blind or on the phone. Anyone in the chat, please let us know where you are from and what you are up to. This is centering BIPOC voices and centering justice by Two Eagles Marcus created by Change Catalyst. The slide has the Change Catalyst logo and changecatalyst.co. We have ASL interpretation by Holly, Kaylee and Sarah today sponsored by Interpreter Now. Interpreter-now.com. And our code of conduct, please, be kind, practice radical inclusion and we don’t tolerate harassment in any form. More information at tcin.co/COC. And next week, coming up with Jeremy Sussman, “An Allyship Journey As A Straight, White Man,” and it is a photo of Jeremy who is White with black hair. This slide is the many diverse faces of the folks that have joined us over the last year. Leading With Empathy & Allyship with Melinda Briana Epler and also has my face and logos of all the different places you can find the podcast. You can learn more at tcin.co/allyshippodcast and the hashtag is AllyshipPodcast. Let’s get started. Hello, everyone.
TWO EAGLES: Hello!
MELINDA EPLER: Welcome, everyone to Leading With Empathy & Allyship. I am your host, Melinda Briana Epler, the Founder & CEO of Change Catalyst. At Change Catalyst we build inclusive innovation through training, consulting and events. Leading With Empathy & Allyship is a place where we have deep, real conversations about how we can be more inclusive leaders in our workplaces and communities. It is a safe space to learn, build empathy for each other and understand tangible actions we can all take to make a difference in each other’s lives, workplaces and in our communities. As I mentioned last week, we have been doing this show for a year. Our audience has been steadily growing. Thank you for joining us each week. We have 42 episodes, over 17,000 listeners across 89 countries. Please keep sharing and help us grow the audience and glad this is helpful and you are joining each week. Today I am excited to have with me Two Eagles Marcus, the Founder of MPWRDX and we will be talking about centering the voices of Black, Hispanic, Asian and Indigenous in social justice.
TWO EAGLES: Thank you, Melinda. I am excited to be here to talk more about what it is I am up to and get to get my message.
MELINDA EPLER: I am excited too. Two Eagles invited me to his podcast and joined him on his podcast a few weeks ago. We had such a great conversation and I wanted to continue the conversation and have it here. I am excited to have that conversation with you all. Two Eagles, we have been starting lately trying to do this more to describe ourselves to anyone who is listening and blind or low vision on the live show and for anybody who is listening on the podcast. I am a White woman with long hair wearing a green shirt and black and white glasses.
TWO EAGLES: My internet connection missed out on a lot of stuff you said. I am sorry. I am not sure. All of a sudden we started out and then I heard I am wearing a white shirt.
MELINDA EPLER: We describe ourselves so anyone who is blind, low vision, on the phone or who is listening to the podcast just knows what we look like. I am a White woman with long red hair wearing a green shirt and black and white glasses.
TWO EAGLES: I am a Native American male, my head is shaved bald, I have a very handsome face and I am wearing glasses that I customized myself and I have a peppery beard and I am also wearing Native American jewelry that consist of a turquoise stones strung on to a necklace.
MELINDA EPLER: Thank you. On screen, just a few logistics. On screen, we have two ASL interpreters today and one behind the scene as well. We have Sarah Young Bear Brown, Kaylee and Holly all interpreting for us today.
This is also being captioned by Maggie at White Coat Captioning. If you want to turn that on, go to the bottom of the screen and click on closed captions. You might have to click the three dots and more. Our team is behind the scenes doing lots of amazing things. Juliette, Renzo, Ariyah, Emily and Darlene. Among other things as they are also in the chat. If you have any questions, they are moderating the chat and making sure everybody adheres to the code of conduct. Engage with us in the chat. Share who you are and what you are learning and thinking during the conversation. If you have specific questions, we will spend time at the end on the Q&A so use the Q&A function at the bottom of the screen. Thank you for introducing yourself, Andrea, Kelly and Michelle. Appreciate you all introducing yourselves and appreciate you being here. Two Eagles, if you could tell us about your identity journey and how you came to do the work you do.
TWO EAGLES: I have to take a back and explain kind of the history of my people as well as my roots. My name is Two Eagles Marcus. I am a cisgender male and my pronouns are he and him. I didn’t put that on my name. My tribe that my father, his father’s father and father before that, my reservation is — I am a Taos Red People. There are 19 Pueblo tribes in New Mexico. On our reservation there are the Adobes my people lived in for generations and hundreds of years. It is known throughout or known as one of the longest continuously or oldest continuously inhabited dwellings in the world which is still inhabited today. For over a 1,000 years. That is where one part of my bloodline and heritage comes from. That’s a really rich history and legacy that I think about all of the time. And my name Two Eagles was given to me by my mother and father when they were traveling near Taos. My mother was pregnant with me at the time and they pulled over to see the view of the mountains and mountain rage and saw two bald eagles flying overhead. — range. At the time, they didn’t know that’s what my name would be. But they saw these two eagles and the eagle to Native Americans — they are very respected animals and they are a symbol of leadership but also they fly the highest and they are believed to be the most sacred but they also deliver the prayers of us to the creator on the wings. It was a very good thing for them to see and then later on when they came to naming me they realized I was a boy and decided then they were going to name me Two Eagles. That was the history of my name. When I started school, I was born in Warren county which is in Detroit. We moved to Oklahoma and when I was around first grade, my mother registered me as Two Eagles Marcus to begin enrolling in school. It came close to the time when they were supposed to be being sent registration forms or whatever it was for the first day of school. We didn’t get one so my mother went to the school and said we are expecting this information. What’s going on? Why didn’t we receive it? And then the lady pulled her to the side and said we disposed of that registration because we didn’t think that that was a real person. That started off at that point, my mother made a decision she was going to give me a pseudonym and convenience identity to use throughout school to have me more blend in as far as an American name and she named me after my grandmother who was Benito but she named me Benji. That’s the name I went by throughout high school. When I was 17, it was my senior year of high school and I had been throughout school, you know, I want to say I was indoctrinated — I don’t know what the term is but I had internalized racism which I still have to this day but I didn’t know what it was then. I was embarrassed to be a Native American. I just wanted to be White. I wanted to fit in with everyone. When I was in high school, let me back it up. We moved back to Michigan. I started school here in third grade so I was nine years old. I just wanted to be White like everyone else. I wanted to bury my ancestry and didn’t want to recognize it. There were incidents. One time my gym teacher in junior high, we were in a group huddle and formulating plans for soccer or whatever it was, and all of a sudden Mr. Smith, that was his name, he turns to me and says something and the only thing I really remember about what he had is he called me Sergeant Garcia. I am the only brown kid. And he called me Sergeant Garcia and I was like what does that mean? Why is he calling me that? And I said what is Sergeant Garcia and he said, you know, he was the Mexican sergeant in the lone ranger. I don’t remember the reference. But everything I remember from school, that’s one thing that still carries with me today. There was another time when I was in high school and the assistant principal, I don’t know, I can’t remember exactly what happened, but the principal had yelled out to me, from like in a packed — wasn’t a lunch room but filled with kids. It wasn’t recess because it was high school but everybody was hanging out in the room. He yelled out and called me chief and that was another time where I was like wow. What the? You know, is it just by coincidence? Why is he calling me chief? Why is that? And again, one of the things that really made me not feel like I was a part of what was going on in the school. When I was 17, I finally started coming around to being more — I wanted to live my true identity. You know, my name is Two Eagles. I am proud of my heritage and where I come from. This is going to be my transition to manhood and standing up for myself so the first day of school for senior year, I said I am Two Eagles. That’s how I registered and that was my big stand for myself. But still, after that, I dealt with a lot of, again, still, we are in a White society which has been built around muting your heritage and the erasure of Harambe — heritage and cultural identity. That’s what our country is founded on. Making everyone assimilate or be exterminated.
MELINDA EPLER: And I suspect your journey didn’t stop there and that you have continued to work through that internalized racism and move past the covering — covering of your identity and reclaim it too.
TWO EAGLES: Even after that, I still as much as my mother would insist to have me go to powwows and reconnect with my culture, I was resistant because it was like I would go reluctantly and still feel awkward because I didn’t feel like I fit in with the Native Americans because they were really connected to their culture and heritage and I wasn’t. But then I felt like I didn’t fit in with White people at the same time because I was Native American and I wasn’t White. That’s something and has been oppressed for a long time. I was ashamed of my own people and identity. That was something that was ingrained in me. We learned about Native Americans in school and it was hey, yeah, America is so great. All these White people escaped tyranny. Then they came to this land and they encountered hostile savages. When it is put on you like that and I am the only Native American in class and hearing this history and hearing my heritage was these savage people but the reality was the Native American — we are all on stolen Native American land right now and Native American’s are literally prisoners of war to this day. This was our land. We lived here and we were invaded. The reframing of history to be something where the White people were encountering these hostile people. If you are living in your house and people barge in, are you going to be like come on in or are you going to fight and survive to protect your family? That’s what was happening. Our people were fighting to exist. When you are bombarded with this information that pates a negative picture of your people and everybody looks at you and it is like savage Native Americans.
MELINDA EPLER: You know, I think a lot of people think of Native Americans has living off on reservations and I think it is important for people to understand just how many Indigenous people live in, you know, are like you and may have, through generations, covered their identity and are living in cities doing so. It is a continued effect of colonization. I think that that’s important to talk about and to relearn that history. All of us. I think all of this kind of points to the topic today which is around how do we center the voices of BIPOC people of Black and Indigenous and people of color in all of our work. In our civil justice work and diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Can you talk about that? About how you have approached that?
I am —
TWO EAGLES: I am going to get into that after I talk about what started for me to get into informing MPWRDX. The pandemic had happened — this was around August. It was August. I am still on a journey of discovering my own heritage and people and what we have done and been a part of. The more I find out about it, the more that it creates a self-awareness of my obligations to my people in helping lift them or helping — not only my people but all the people of color that have been persecuted and having genocidal actions taken on them or whatever it may be. But in August of last year, I found out it was the 340th anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt. August 12th would have been the second day. It lasted 10 days. I had learned about a medicine man who had been in prisoned by their Spanish colonizers. At the time this happened, several of the holy men had been executed, tortured, and put in prison. Some were executed and some tortured and then put in prison. He had been in prison for five years. At the time also just practicing our own religions was considered by the Catholics to be witchcraft. That was their own, you know, they were the ones that deemed it witchcraft just because it wasn’t part of their power system. He got out of prison and went into hiding in Taos. You see the ancestors spoke to him while in prison and said you must recover our history and you must release us from this. So he made the plan and he had to coordinate amongst the 19 Pueblos that were hundreds of miles away from each other. No communication and not to mention all are occupied by the oppressors and kept under control. His plan was to have young boys that would run to each Pueblo. The instruction was to untie the knots every sunrise. It was like intense sunrises and we will all do this together. He coordinated that and made it happen. They were able to overthrow the colonizers and drive them out. It is known as the most successful Native American revolt in history. That went on for 10 years. They ended up coming back but that was one thing that, you know, when I realized that — if you protect the culture, you are going to protect the people. He had put the whole culture in front of his own personal safety. He knew he could die and be murdered or executed or tortured but he knew this had to be done. If he had not done that, I might not be here today talking to you. If he had not done that, dev howland might not be here today and be the Secretary Interior of the United States. When I think about that, to think of this one action that he instustituted then to make sure we were still alive today that spoke to me. The ancestors spoke to me and they said you have an obligation now too to talk about everything you have learned and everything you know and use that to help protect and preserve not only the Native American cultures but help other people of color be protected and continue on. That was like the catalyst for me. The moment of realization and inspiration. Then I said, you know, one of the biggest problems that we have, I mean there are many big problems but one of the big problems we don’t have is that people of color do not own or control media companies. And in order to connect people that are, you know, in order to connect people and bring them together and to be able to communicate messages to them you have to have control of the media in order to, you know, set your agenda and rally people together. That is what — that is what my idea was for MPWRDX. Was to be able to center the populations in one place and amplify their voices. When it comes to media companies, typically what happens is the person of color, if they are Black or Hispanic or Asian Pacific or whatever it is, they will focus on their own people and collaborating with the people like them which is good. They should. But at the same time, there needs to be something that connects, that links together all of those groups because until we have the unity of all people of color, we will never be able to achieve a collective outcome that benefits everyone.
MELINDA EPLER: Like all the different tribes.
TWO EAGLES: Exactly. They pulled the leaves out and made knots and coordinated that. I look at it and say here I am in 2021. We have fiber optic cable which is like the cord and the knots are like social media and everything that we have to use over that to connect and communicate with everyone. That’s something that I always think of. Then bringing it into 2021 and the invasion at the capitol on January 6th. Another thing that really was ironic to me was that there was a photo and it showed all these soldiers sleeping in Monument Hall. They are sleeping at the foot of the sculptures and one of them standing there was Popé. He was standing there looking over the protectors of the democracy and to have that circle of he is still like watching over the people today and they are protecting the democracy the same way he is protecting the culture in 1680.
MELINDA EPLER: You used the phrase systemic unracism. Can you talk about what that means and what that looks like?
TWO EAGLES: Well, I think, I don’t think everyone is completely sure of what systemic racism is in the first place. [Laughter]
MELINDA EPLER: We have talked about that to some degree on this show over the last year. Hopefully folks who are tuning in will have some idea but yes, agreed.
TWO EAGLES: So systemic racism is the institutional and structural racism that’s embedded in all systems in the United States whether it is government, capitalism, education, and health care, judicial systems, and workplaces. They were designed to advantage White men. And also designed to disadvantage people of color because when this country was founded, you know, it was founded on the genocide of erase that was in the lands they invaded and then it was also built on the backs of black skin and enslaving other people. And then after the slaves or were so-called freed which they were not but that’s a longer explanation. After the slaves were freed, they created systems still to keep people of color from accessing power, from accessing education. They created laws to imprison them. They could legally imprison people of color for not having jobs or houses. They were not given anything in order to build their own economies or sustain themselves. They were actively prevented from achieving any sort of power or achieving any type of way to sustain themselves. When I think of the term systemic unracism, we have to — I think first of all, everyone has been conditioned to be racist. They have been conditioned to be racist — I want to say more like bias against people of color. They have been indoctrinated in the system. That’s what I was saying earlier my own internal racism to not look upon people as people that were not savages. That’s the picture that was painted even in the constitution. The reference is merciless Indian savages. When you have that embedded in a document that lives on to this day that everyone looks at and they are describing people like that — you look at that and you say this nation was founded by slave owners. All the rules were written by slave owners to keep benefiting them. The first 12 presidents owned slaves. 50 the 70 signers of the declaration of independence and most owned slaves when they signed that document. They never wanted people of color to achieve any power. They always wanted to keep them out of power and also use coded language so it didn’t look like they were allowing them to have power. Systemic unracism, the first step in that, is for people to set a system for people to find out the truth in history. When we were in school it was a glorified story of people that escaped England to tame the wild west or tame this savage land. They prevented savages from doing that in the manner they wanted to. With systemic unracism, we need to be able to create systems and also to help unify the people. Until we get people of color in positions of actual power and not just put into organizations. For most companies they just do that.
MELINDA EPLER: We just lost you for two sentences. Could you go back a bit?
TWO EAGLES: There needs to be a power shift. In order to have the power shift, because we are in a system that was created by White people, to sustain White people, there needs to be a transfer of power in order for real change to happen in the policies. That needs to be led by people of color. We have the live experience and we have the knowledge to help our people the most. We can’t rely on a racist system to help us through that. We have to have our own power and financial capital to be able to achieve those things. We have systemic unracism and that’s finding out the truth about these power systems and they need to be undone. They need to be rethought and input. And not just input but actual power to change these systems. Let’s talk about it on a company level. A lot of companies will say how we can better support the people of color in our community. They will get ideas from people and go back and it is still the White people that are coming up with the ideas instead of actually investing in the people of color to come out and say instead of this. Instead of us questioning you and figuring out what you will do, how about we bring you in and give you the power to do stuff and the power to make these changes instead of us trying to figure out instead of giving you the money and power to dictate what happens. Everything still has to have the approval of White people ultimately in order to transfer power. Any power people of color have in this country now was only because it was allowed for them to have it by White people. We have no power. We do not have power to control or change anything for people of color. We can host diversity and inclusion classes or we can say let’s donate money back to this organization that’s helping Black or Hispanic people or whatever it is that are in poverty. That’s not a solution. That just keeps the people in poverty in poverty. It is not empowering those communities to be able to rise out of those situations. It just keeps it going along. It is like when you have cancer or you don’t remove all the cancer you will never get healthy if it is still there. I don’t think that’s the right description but you have to do more than just diversity and inclusion classes ever donating a few dollars here. When you have all these organizations that benefit people of color but you don’t invest in them getting out of those situations the power will not shift. Those people will still be in those situations a hundred years from now.
MELINDA EPLER: Just the very beginning of change that the Secretary of Interior, 500 years finally. That’s such a huge and important thing. I don’t think a lot of people really understand the significance of that. It is really powerful and much more needs to happen like that. Can you maybe talk a little bit about practically speaking, do you have some suggestions for how people can rethink business? How people can rethink their workplaces to center Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific, and Indigenous and Native American experiences? How would you suggest people take this into their workplaces? What are your suggestions?
TWO EAGLES: On an individual level for people to take action, I think parts of it is when you have the opportunity to first of all, if you see something happening — let’s say you are in a group meeting and a person of color is trying to speak and somebody is speaking over them or trying to, you know, not let them have a voice. You need to address stuff like that. Whether it is men or women or people of color. You need to make sure people of color are allowed to say what they have to say. Also, like, if you are in a situation to get feedback, you know, and you are leading the conversation, people of color aren’t necessarily always going to be the first ones to speak up or speak out about whatever it is that they want to have input on. Instead of going for the first person that raises their hand in the room, you know, find a person of color and wait for somebody who raises their hand and then pick them. You know, you have to be able to give people a platform and make sure they are heard and also, you know, have the people of color leading the conversations and controlling the agenda. But also, advocate for people of color to be put into positions of power in organizations. Not just titles that can’t get anything done but put them in positions of power that can really make significant change. At a bigger level in an organization, you have to make sure it starts with the top, the leader and the organization is ready to make these changes. When you have the organization that’s not ready to make those changes when it comes to anti-racism specifically, you are going to have a culture, and a work culture that is not conducive to the advancement of people of color in the organization. And when that happens, it is, you know, they will find another place that’s going to be more accommodating. Whether that’s another company in your city or they are going to go to a different city completely that’s more advanced. Then what happens is that tykeal keeps happening. People realize that their community isn’t changing their city and so they will go somewhere elsewhere it is more progressive. A lot of people are losing out on talent that could help the community. We have to invest, collectively, we have to invest in the development of Black leaders and leaders of color to not only lead organizations to help them become more anti-racist but also to create companies that are founded by Black founders. Those are the ones that are going to create the new jobs for people of color to work at. You know, as the population — by 2045, the population will be over 50% global majority in the United States being Hispanic, Black, Asian Pacific, and Native American. There needs to be jobs for those people. There needs to be jobs. It is not happening fast enough.
MELINDA EPLER: Yeah. And in terms of social justice work, do you have some specific suggestions for how people can better center diversity, equity and inclusion and social justice work specifically around Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific, Indigenous and Native American experiences? I want to say why Two Eagles is answering that question, if you have questions for us, please put it in a Q&A so we can jump to those in a little bit.
TWO EAGLES: Sociology justice work in a community or?
MELINDA EPLER: I think a lot of people are approaching allyship as, you know, a continuum of working in our communities and workplaces both. So how do we do that in our communities as well as we are advocating, as we are approaching activism how do we do that better?
TWO EAGLES: So when it comes to social justice, or working in the community, you have to. Our communities are filled with organizations that serve people of color but they are founded by White people. We need to have support for non-profit organizations that were founded by people of color because they have the lived experience. They are the ones that will make the change. They are, if you look at the research, they are underfunded because they do not have the social capital, they do not have the access, they do not have the power basis. We need to make sure that if you are, you know, if you are donating, find organizations that are founded by people of color and divert your funds there. If you work for an organization, and, you know, every year everybody, I don’t know how it works in an organization but let’s say they pick five places and donate a certain amount of money to, divert that money to people of color founded nonprofits. Make sure that the money, if you have any way to sway that direction of the money that goes into those organizations. They are the ones going to lead the change in their communities. It is not going to be White people going into the communities and helping make this happen. It has to be people of color funded organizations. Divert your own money to those organizations. Seek them out. And offer any help you can. Connect, you know? I have found myself, in my community, I am really well connected. I am always connecting people. If I talk to somebody and they are having trouble with their marketing for their nonprofit, I will find somebody that can help them at a cheap price, or I have built websites for nonprofits in my community and hosted them on my servers just so I can reduce their expense and add any insight I can to help them setup Facebook pixels and get more money out of donors. If I can give them any strategies and tactics in order to help them I will do it because, you know, these people are typically coming out of a place of their own lived experience and they don’t know what they are doing. I mean they know what they are doing but don’t have the nonprofit business sense. They don’t know marketing. They are just trying to help. I try to help empower them by helping them create more revenue opportunities so they have more funding. We need to invest in sustainability of the nonprofit organizations and empower them to be sustainable.
MELINDA EPLER: We have a question from Andrea on how allies can gather support for Indigenous Native American communities. Any thoughts there?
TWO EAGLES: I would say right now one of the biggest problems with the Native American communities is the missing murdered and — I can’t remember. Missing murdered Indigenous women and girls. It is a really huge, huge problem. They are going to be devoting government resources to finding out what is happening. When it comes to Native American women and even Native American people it is like we are invisible. They are not tracking the data to identify the different cultures and how it has been impacting these communities. There is so much wrong with it. If there had been money devoted towards those organizations and also invested into the education of Indigenous children but the education of Indigenous children by Indigenous teachers. The children need to learn their history. They need to be supported.
MELINDA EPLER: Just to go back to Indigenous women, girls and women, this is an issue in the United States, in Canada, in South America as well. It is a real problem that needs to be solved. Also Indigenous cultures in Africa as well. Agreed, we have talked about education in quite a few episodes here to advocate in what history is told and by whom.
MELINDA EPLER: We have another question around how organizations can develop diverse BIPOC talent. If you have any thoughts about, you know, you talked about hiring. There is also a need to, I think, we talked a couple episodes ago we talked with Rita about the work she is doing in computer science education and the need to center computer science programs specifically on a gender perspective and lens and from a cultural lens. This is kind of the education piece if you have any thoughts about how companies can develop diverse BIPOC talent?
TWO EAGLES: So develop them that are already in there and give them the reins? They have to be deliberate in those efforts. With everything, everything has to be top-down. Again, you have to put the people in power to have them be able to do the work to encourage it. If you don’t have those people in power, manying in the c-suite to be able to have that lived experience and know the challenges that are faced, it is just not going to happen effectively. If you have people of color in our organization, you know, make sure they know the path to move up the ranks and move them up the ranks. Clear the pathway. If somebody isn’t moving up the ranks, why aren’t they moving up the ranks? Is it because they don’t have a Master’s Degree or additional education? OK. Invest in that education. They know the path for this. They have to invest in this. It is something that has to be done. It is essential it is done.
MELINDA EPLER: You have talked about the silos between people of color. Can you talk a little bit about how you see those silos can be bridged? What’s the path to kind of moving forward together? How are you thinking about this? And how might other people — could other people think about this? I am thinking about people who are activists, people who are working internally ERGs — employee resource groups and they are siloed often in organizations as well. What is that path to bridging those silos because, like you said, there is more power when working together and moving forward together?
TWO EAGLES: Yeah, so, I interviewed Netta Jenkins a few days ago. I have to apologize, I haven’t published your podcast episode yet. I am really behind. I have been speaking with so many amazing people and I am such a small organization, or we are such a small organization, that we are backlogged and I am sitting on some tremendous content. Netta Jenkins is — Forbes has her as one of the top-7 anti-racist educators. She went into a company and was talking about ERGs and how the ERGs need to come together. Like you have kind of the Black ERG and the Asian Pacific and the Hispanic and they are all kept apart. How do you keep people from organizing and getting collective power? You keep them apart. You make them so they are all on their own. They need to be brought together into one place and they all need to talk about what it is they are experiencing and what are the solutions for this. But they also need to know the history of how all this is happening. None of us were taught the real history because it was all controlled by the gatekeepers of White supremacy. They wanted to keep us from accessing the truth about it. If everybody knew the truth we wouldn’t be in this situation right now because people would understand the insidiousness of covert systemic racism. That’s the thing with systemic racism. It is covert. We all participate in systemic racism regardless of whether we want to or not because that’s the system we are in. We have to work within that system in order to help bridge, or actually, yeah, in order to bridge and link those groups together, they need to be brought together into one place to talk about their experience so people can humanize and make connections. It is like well, those people have those problems. We have our problems and those people have those problems. They are all thought of separately. If you bring them all together, they will start to realize they are coming from one place and that is White supremacy and systemic racism. They need to be brought together. They need to talk about — they need to break down the barriers and that’s one thing that happens. When you don’t know about something, you are afraid of it or reluctant. If you are going into a black room, a dark room with no lights on, you are scared because you don’t know what’s in there. If you walk into the same room and the lights are on you are like it is a room. It is that fear of the unknown and it is also biased and you are never going to break down those biases that have been ingrained in you if you don’t take the time to educate and learn about other people and have conversations. All people of color can come together on the one fact that systemic racism has done something to negatively impact them whether that’s health care, the ability to get a job, whatever it is. Everyone.
MELINDA EPLER: Criminal justice. Education. Workplace. Yeah. We could talk for hours, I know. We are out of time. Where can people learn more about your work?
TWO EAGLES: There are two places to find out would be mpwrdx.com and also, please, connect with me on LinkedIn. Just search Two Eagles Marcus. T-w-o-e-a-g-le-s. Remember, everyone, my first name is Two Eagles so please don’t message me and address me as Marcus. That’s another way I am reminded every single day that I am Native American. I get five messages a day and every single person calls me Marcus.
MELINDA EPLER: Wow.
TWO EAGLES: That’s my five times a day dose of microaggressions.
MELINDA EPLER: Wow. I am sorry about that.
TWO EAGLES: My cousin is named Benito and I had explained to him my frustration. He lives in Taos still. I talk to him and I said it is so frustrating. I get so annoyed. Some people I just lash out at them. He said, Two Eagles, you have to find out are they coming to you from a place of love? Or are they coming to you from a place of hate? Like are they trying to make fun of you? Or are they sincere and want to know more? What are they doing? How are they approaching you? So, when we told me that, you can figure — you know, it is really an opportunity — it might be something I have to do. Every since that conversation, I am much more — I want to say happy to explain it or much more interested in it unless somebody is really being disrespectful but typically they are not. Most say I am sorry and I tell them the story and they are like that’s so amazing.
MELINDA EPLER: That’s awesome. Thank you for joining me today and having this conversation and for sharing your story and your wisdom and appreciate you.
TWO EAGLES: Thank you so much, Melinda. I really appreciate you, your work and your allyship and giving me a platform to reach a new audience and, hopefully, people will have learned something from what I had to say and hopefully they will take some more time to learn about their own biases. I need to admit to everyone which I did earlier that I am still dealing and working through my own internalized racism and dealing with my own bias, and sexism. None of us are immune. Every day we are exposed to racist and sexist visuals and we have to actively, systemically unracism ourselves.
MELINDA EPLER: Yeah, agreed. Agreed. Well, thank you, everybody, for going on that path and doing the work of change. My question is how will you rethink work on doing systemic racism? Perhaps giving power to BIPOC people to redesign those systems we have been talking about. Join us each week and please share this with your colleagues. You can find the previous episode as changecatalyst.co/allyshipseries. Find this episode on your favorite podcast platform or YouTube and like it and subscribe to it and help us grow our audience. Appreciate you all and see you next week.
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.
Watch Melinda’s TED Talk
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.
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.
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.
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.