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Episode 34: Allyship and the Black Community with Akua Konadu

In this episode, Akua Konadu joins us to discuss how you can become a better ally and provides insight on this important topic. Listen in to hear her perspective as well as actionable advice .

Akua is an Instagram Coach who helps entrepreneurs feel confident and empowered to share their story through Instagram. She does this by providing Instagram marketing education and content creation. What drives Akua is people; she loves making intentional, tangible, and organic relationships with others.

Connect with Akua here:
akuakonadu.com
instagram.com/akuakonadu_

RESOURCES MENTIONED:

Red Table Talks (VIDEOS):
Unpacking White Privilege and Prejudice
The Racial Divide: Women of Color & White Women

Donation Links:
George Floyd Memorial Fund
Minnesota Freedom Fund
I Run with Maud
National Bail Out

Books:
“White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo
“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
“Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Laylee (00:01): Okay. Hey friends. Welcome back. We have decided to scratch the episode that was supposed to come out this week. And instead I am being joined by one of my really good friends, Akua Konadu. She is a social media strategist and Instagram coach in particular, and she is just amazing. And we have had really good conversations privately that I thought would be really helpful for some of you out there who are wanting to really step into the position of allyship or becoming an ally in the Black Lives Matter movement. And so I’m really excited to have her join us here with us today and to just kind of like put a lot of good content out there for you guys, so that as you’re doing your research, hopefully this will be one of those resources that you can lean on. So, first of all, I’d just love to welcome to the show Akua and to just also like, hear about your feelings right now, I know that you being in Minneapolis, seeing your city’s response holds its own direct impact for you in addition to what you’re experiencing like daily as a Black woman.

Akua (01:07): Thank you so much for having me lately. Like I’m thankful to be here. I’m just, I, you know, it’s hard because it’s been a very somber week, and so it was good to just to see you and, and chat and laugh a little bit. Cause, um, we it’s, it’s been hard to have joy these past couple of days, so I appreciate that, but yeah. Um, you know, Minneapolis, it’s, it’s been very, very intense. Last week when everything initially happened, um, immediately and upward, you know, because it was caught on camera and so people instantly were like, what can we do? How do we move forward? Um, you know, so protests just started happening and, um, once the protest started happening, that’s when things started to get intense. I personally, went on Saturday to the protest, but before then that’s when, we had people who started rioting, you know, um, they burned the fifth and third precinct.

The post office was also set on fire. I mean various important areas in South Minneapolis. Black owned businesses too were also attacked. And so when it first initially happened, um, you know, I will be honest. I was like, it’s about time. Like this is necessary because this is the third police brutality case in Minnesota that we know of. We had Jamar Clark in 2015, we had Philando Castile in 2016 and both of those led to nothing. police officers being acquitted. We had protests, Black Lives Matter was there as well, like stepping up and still nothing. And so George Floyd was, it has been the turning point. And so we had this as well. And so you can feel it here in Minnesota, it’s the air is different. Like it’s, it’s starting to shift. So when it first happened, I was like burn it.

You know, I’m just going to be very, very, um, honest. And so not in a, not in a way of like to see people suffer, but it was like we were tired. We are tired because police brutality has been going on for decades. I remember when I was six years old and I heard about Rodney King. I was living in, Bronx, New York at the time. And so that was all over the news and that was my first exposure to police brutality. And so, you know, people were exhausted. So I was like, this just has to be necessary. And then as soon as other things, then I found out it was black owned businesses that were being hit. And then, obviously hearing about outsiders coming in and then that to me was just very quickly like, okay, these are people here who are not attached at all to the cause, taking away from our protestors.

(03:47): And so like, what can we do? And it’s been amazing to see so many people come together in the Minneapolis community, to help rebuild. I, like I mentioned before, I went to the protest, last week, Saturday, and I also wanted to walk through Minneapolis and just see the damage myself. And, um, I realized I was coming from such a place of anger, which I feel like is very valid right now, but it was heartbreaking to see walking through, the community just shattered, but also too the strength and the resilience that people of color that we have and how we are. So many people were there to protect the community, um, protect buildings, the protests were peaceful. People were out there handing out water and snacks. Of course people are angry, but also too, like we are here to finally, figure out how to, how to make change.

And so it was a beautiful thing. It was, I definitely was emotional out there as I’m yelling and chanting. And, and like I said, we then started to walk around through South Minneapolis and buildings were still on fire, still smoldering. Um, I, when I got home, I smelled like a bonfire. I mean, it was very intense, but again, you can see how people were coming together and support each other and uplift each other, certain businesses that were burned down. Were like, “yes, our business was burned down. We’ll, rebuild, get justice for George Floyd.” They weren’t taking away from the reason why this all started in the, in the first place. And so, um, it’s been, it’s been hard and it’s been exhausting. Um, but there’s also those little pockets of joy that we’re holding onto. And it’s now sparking a conversation, which is something that we have been desperately asking for for a very, very long time. And so there’s no turning back, like we are ready to move forward and we are ready to fight for change. So that’s kind of how it’s been here. And some people have reached out to me, um, out of love and just checking in which I appreciate so much like you yourself and, um, just checking in on our city. And that’s something that we really appreciate. So yeah.

Laylee (06:02): Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. And like that firsthand account is just, I think so moving for people to hear who are nowhere near your city and who would not otherwise have the opportunity to get that insight. So I really appreciate that. You mentioned, I love that you mentioned when, how moving it was for you and how beautiful it was for you when people are not taking away from the moment from the movement and they’re really truly being allies. And so I, I want to kind of dive into that with you. Like what does being an ally or allyship mean mean or look like to you right now? Like how can people, how can non-Black people support and really push forward? Like you said, in this moment, in this movement.

Akua (06:45): Yeah. Um, so, you know, when we think of allyship, I think a lot of people just aren’t sure what that means or what that looks like. So I know in my mind what that meant, but I actually looked up the definition, which I thought was really, really good that I wanted to share. And so allyship is an active, consistent practice of unlearning and reevaluating in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group. And it is not an identity, but a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with a marginalized community. And so what I take from that is that you need to show up, show up and get ready to be uncomfortable, because that is our reality reality. I grew up, I’ve been in Minnesota since I was nine. I went to a predominantly white high school.

I went to a predominantly white college and the constant microaggressions that I have experienced where I am constantly uncomfortable. So you also have to get ready to be uncomfortable and you need to show up, you need to be ready to receive and you need to be ready to learn. Um, you know, because being an ally, it is a, you’re not doing it out of guilt. You’re doing it because you know, it is your responsibility. And so I even want to say that people right now, because they’re in it because they’re so outraged, where are you going to be six months from now? Where are you going to be a year from now? This is a life long thing. That is what we need. And it starts with having those conversations with people in your life, those inner circles, when you’re with your family, your friends, and they’re making those types of ignorant comments, you’re checking them.

Laylee (10:15): Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, I feel like I found that the reason for people not taking action, you know, when people, people who do care, it usually boils down to like either being afraid to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, or they get overwhelmed or they’re just like just living in their own ignorance. And so, um, I just, I want to kind of harp on that point that you made. I want to encourage anyone listening. Um, don’t bombard your Black friends, your friends who are people of color with the, what can I do question? I love that you said like Google does work wonders. Like, let me Google that for you in this situation, it’s it, that’s on you to do the research. And if you’re listening to this props to you for actually like taking the, the, um, resources, like listening to this podcast and utilizing this as a resource, you don’t want to utilize every person of color that, you know, as a resource in a time like this, when people are exhausted. So, um, continuing on this conversation, what are a few steps that people can take to be true allies today and moving forward, I love that you mentioned where are you going to be in six months? Where are you going to be in a year? Like we can not, this, this can not be like a one week social media frenzy, and then like people just stop moving forward. Um, so beyond sharing on social, like how else can people take action to be true allies?

Akua (11:33): Yeah, absolutely. I think number one, the most important step, especially for white people is acknowledging your privilege. I think that’s going to be, I think that’s the hardest part for a lot of people because a lot of people are coming from a place of defense and that is not the case. I do not think all white people are racist. I have an amazing group of friends. Um, you know, I, that’s not the case at all, and it’s not for you to feel ashamed or, you know, just like I can’t help that I’m black, just like you can’t help that you’re white. So it’s just acknowledging that and using it and using it in a way to uplift and create space for people of color. And so learn what it means to have privilege really educate yourself on white privilege, I think is, is a really big one. Also too, read – there have been resources out there everywhere.

(12:29): Even before this happened. One of my dear friends, she lives in Duluth and Duluth is two hours North of the twin cities. And that town as well has had major issues, um, regarding race and, a year ago her and her husband decided to take that step. And so they signed up for a workshop called Whiteness 101, which was an in person workshop where white people got together and they were taught about white privilege and white fragility and what they can do, um, to help regarding racism. And she said it, it was tough. Like she, there was a lot of people who, um, stepped out of it, who dropped out of the course because it was so uncomfortable and her and her husband stayed with it. And so when she was walking and I didn’t even know she had signed up for it initially, like all of a sudden, you know, I always go up to for grandma’s weekend in Duluth, it’s a big running marathon. And so I went up there to hang out with all of our friends and her, and I all ended up having this really long conversation. And she told me all the work that she has been doing. And so, um, that was awesome to hear because she knew that it was like, I’m not looking for, you know, for recognition, like this is my, this is my responsibility that I need to do. And so now she is consciously checking herself. She’s always like, you know, what can I do? She speaks up. And she speaks out all the time and she holds people accountable because, you know, we, as Black people, that’s something that we it’s exhausting. We’ve constantly spoken out and it’s fallen so much on deaf ears. And so at this point where we’re at like white people need to step up. And so what I loved with her was is that, you know, once she started doing that and really, uh, making the effort and, um, educating herself, we were able to have such much more thought provoking convers ations and it really deepened our friendship and strengthen it because I know that girl is always in my corner, no matter what is going on.

And even now, you know, and this was a year ago, like she’s still actively doing the work. She read books like White Fragility. I had been recommending that one, people really, really need to read that one. And I know that’s been floating around Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. That’s talking about structural racism, white dominance politics, and the link between class and race. Like these are really important things to talk about. And I think, um, as you’re getting into white, uh, I mean, sorry, and to allyship people also to really need to know our history, because I’m really, really surprised when I see comments and people just have no idea. Um, you know, what Black people have gone through, you know, slavery, Civil Rights era, like people just know of it, but they really don’t know the details because when you’re able to connect those dots, you are finally able to realize why, like, where we are and why we are the way that we are.

So really educating yourself, and look back at our history because when you really look at it, not much has changed. Like we’ve seen a lot of, like, I’ve seen a lot of people, you know, talking about Martin Luther King and nonviolent protest is the way to go and this and that, but let’s not forget here that during that time he was still assassinated. I mean, you know what I mean? So if we were in that time, he would still be viewed as a person who was causing trouble and, you know what I mean? And so he would be viewed as an enemy. And so that right. It’s just, it’s very frustrating. So I think it’s because people just don’t know the history. And so again, really educating yourself and going and looking back at, unfortunately the hard parts of our history and we can’t shy away from that.

We have to talk about it. It’s not, I hate like, “well, just get over racism. Slavery was 400 years ago”. I’m like every single choice that has been made has been based off of that. So, I think that’s, if that’s helpful, that’s kind of where people can get started with, with allyship, acknowledging, you know, reading. And also too, again, like I mentioned before, like don’t expect people of color to just spoonfeed it to you, you know, because this is our everyday reality and it’s very exhausting. And then also too; listen, I think that’s the huge, huge thing as well. Um, listen, and just under, cause we all have, we all have our different stories and just understand and empathy. I think empathy is going to go such a long way empathy and that’s something, I, even myself, I carry with me because we’re all different.

We all have different experiences. Our stories are different, but our stories is what binds us together, right. When you’re able to find some common ground within that. So connect with people that are different than you and listen, like when you hear somebody don’t make it all about you. And I think that’s been a lot of what we’ve seen, not in all aspects, but there are some out there right now where it’s like, people are making it about them and not what the actual issue is at hand. So really just listening and be ready to be uncomfortable, be okay with that. Cause it’s hard at first, but, you know, and that was something that my friend said walking through the workshop and stuff, cause she would find herself getting defensive and sometimes getting angry. But once you walk through that, now she’s like, check me on my whiteness. Like now that’s what she says. And so, I hope that’s helpful and gives clarity for people.

Laylee (17:44): I think that’s incredibly helpful and I especially love just the concept of like recognizing that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and it’s important to be uncomfortable and to not let that discomfort push you away from actually taking action or becoming educated. Um, I see that so often and I think we’re all seeing it right now is, somebody will post something, especially people who are, you know, this, this podcast is for creative entrepreneurs. So if you’re following a lot of creative entrepreneurs on Instagram or social or wherever, somebody will inevitably and has posted something that was phrased incorrectly or that was slightly tone deaf and getting called out on that has resulted in people going one way or the other either they acknowledge that they did something, um, not in the best way. And they learn from it and they grow from it or they get defensive and they let that white fragility and that just like defensiveness stop them from growing and moving forward. And again, stepping into that role of “ally”. So I really appreciate those steps that you shared. I think there’s things that all of, all of us can very easily access, um, kind of those action steps really quickly. Yeah. Thank you. Do you have any advice for, um, for like our small business owners who are listening, who are trying to navigate the waters of running their business right now, especially those who run like you and I run our businesses online. I know a lot of our listeners do too, and we’re reliant on social media, but people also want to be cognizant and not be tone deaf. Like I, you know, um, I’ll use myself as an example because I, I don’t know if what I’m doing is right or wrong. I just know what feels right to me is, you know, I pushed back some launches so that I’m able to then amplify Black voices and I’m able to serve as an ally as best as I can. Um, do you have it just like any advice for people who are kind of navigating those waters and they don’t feel sure about themselves, they don’t feel like they know what’s right.

Akua (19:42): Yeah. You know, I think even from I know, I’ve had people also reach out to me because I was supposed to speak at a summit next week. But, um, the, uh, host of the summit reached out to me and decided to postpone as well. And I think, you know, because again, it’s things are shifting and this is a culture. And so I personally think it’s best to postpone, to give people of color that space and, you know, share there. And even beyond today and beyond this week, constantly as you’re preparing content, you know, in your business or whatever launches, you know, that you’re working on within your business, always being intentional about being inclusive. Um, I think from here on out and always creating that space for people to be valued, seen, and heard. That’s something too that I know as people are still navigating, they’re not entirely sure of what to do, create space. You know what I mean, create space and, um, be open to the hard conversations. I know there has been some backlash lately with major influencers have no problem taking black money, but also too won’t even allow in their community to have these hard conversations. And that was extremely disheartening to see these big influencers, these big platforms and, you know, are posting about it. Like, yeah, you know, I’m woke and this and that and my white privilege. Um, but at the end of the day, if you’re not even allowing people to have these conversations within your community, then what are you even then what’s the whole point of what even you’re saying. I mean, there’s no, it’s not genuine at all. You know? And so we have to get pushed past social media and at Minneapolis we’ve had no choice because our cities up in flames.

So, you know what I mean, everybody is stepping up and helping and also too, giving voices to the unheard. And so, as you’re trying to navigate, I would just say encourage, creating space for people, bring it up and, you know, and, and have some dialogue and let people talk about it so they can feel seen and heard and know that this is a safe space that they can talk about. Um, cause it’s a community, right? A lot of our online businesses we’re building, it’s more than customers. We’re building a community it’s like family. And so really just being able to facilitate that conversation no matter how hard or uncomfortable it may be, because that is how we’re going to move forward. That’s how perspectives get changed.

Laylee (22:03): Absolutely. And I think that it’s worth mentioning, you know, if you have an online community, if you, um, grow your platform in order to like create a livelihood, you are automatically whether you want to recognize it or not, you are automatically putting yourself in a leadership position. So it’s so important to lean into that leadership role and use it to support and to amplify the voices that need to be amplified. So I, I appreciate you sharing that. Um, are there any other resources that you personally would like to recommend or, um, or are there any other thoughts that you want to share with us before we sign off?

Akua (22:39): Yeah, no, I’m definitely. I’ve had, obviously we talked about a couple of books. Um, I don’t know if anybody ever listens to the Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett Smith. I love her. So good, she did an episode. I think it was last year, but it’s called “the racial divide: women of color and white women”. And I thought that was phenomenal. And she also did an episode called “unpacking your white privilege”. I think that might be a very good start for a lot of people just watching the video because I love the vulnerability and the honest, raw conversations, because those are the types of conversations that we need to be having. Donating, you know, donating to these causes, um, the Minnesota Freedom Fund right now, because like I said, Minnesota is, this is where it happened. Um, George Floyd Memorial Fund, um, as well, if you’re able to donate, Run with Mohd, um, you know, so that also happened a couple months ago. Um, what else? National bailout for protesters that are peacefully protesting because it’s been, it’s, it’s crazy to see, you know, when you see the news and then you finally see when it affects your life. Um, because you know, my brother was protesting the day on 35w the truck tried to plow through. So that was a very terrifying experience when he’s calling me panting about what just happened. And so for me, you know, it’s personal and it always has been, I have an uncle, who’s a victim of police brutality. I have a cousin who’s a victim of police brutality and it’s, it’s, it’s a big thing. And so we have work to do, that’s just what it is. And it’s now time for everybody to step up and play their part. It’s no longer okay to be silent. It’s no longer okay to be idle it’s time.

Laylee (24:21): I one hundred percent agree. And I so, so appreciate you listing out all of those resources. We will definitely link all of those in our show notes, um, and post them on our Instagram. Um, typically like, as you know, I leave each episode with asking our guests what their unpopular opinion is. But today I would really just like to end the episode by encouraging all of our listeners to take one of the steps that you’ve provided for us today. And to just say, thank you for spending your time here again, like it is such a fine line between asking you and you and I have such a beautiful relationship, but it’s such a fine line between asking for help and creating resources versus, um, bombarding people and relying on them to do the hard work for you. So I so appreciate your, your time and just your, um, amazing insight that you shared with us today.

Akua (25:10): Yeah. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

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