“First we have to really think about what’s possible. Because the resistance revolution change starts in the imagination.” – Lutze B. Segu, MSW, Doctoral Student in The Institute for Gender, Race Sexuality and Social Justice at The University of British Columbia
In this episode
Join Lutze Segu and Vicki Saunders to chat about Lutze’s work in the social justice space. Lutze’s different roles as an activist, social worker, organizer, and racial justice facilitator have all collided in a beautiful role she describes as a social justice doula.
In her own words:
“I have been able to marry my knowledge, experience, and expertise into one seamless role. As a social justice doula, I facilitate racial justice workshops, provide strategic HR consulting for organizations, and offer feminist coaching to individuals. I create space for people to tell their stories and hear the stories of others so that they can be transformed. Social justice is my civic spiritual practice.”
Vicki and Lutze discuss:
- Systems and language surrounding “marginalized” and “victimized” groups.
- Disrupting notions of venture funding.
- Designing a revolutionary new world through imagination.
- The origins of intersectionality.
- How information gets translated through the language we use, and how to use this language to build a bridge in our relationships.
“Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.” -Audre Lorde
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Take action & engage with Lutze Segu.
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The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).
Lutze Segu 0:00
First we have to really think about what’s possible, because the resistance revolution change starts in the imagination.
Vicki Saunders 0:10
Welcome to SheEO.world, a podcast about redesigning the world. I’m your host, Vicki Saunders. In each episode, you’ll hear from SheEO Venture founders—women who are working on the World’s To-Do List. These innovative business leaders are solving some of the major challenges of our time. Please sit back and be prepared to be inspired.
Good morning Lutze, how are you today?
Lutze Segu 0:37
I’m really good, Vicki, how are you?
Vicki Saunders 0:39
Doing well, it’s a, it’s a wild and crazy time in the world, as we know. And it’s been amazing. Kind of weird circumstances to meet you under, like the racial reckoning that’s going on. And so delighted and happy to have your voice as part of the racial justice working group and your design brain. Our community is loving this so much. And, one of the things that I wanted to follow up with you on is the use of language in a lot of things that we’re doing. And then, you know, just obviously, our actions align with language, and maybe just a bit of background. So at SheEO, from the very beginning, we’ve been working towards building new models, new mindsets, so that we can get to a different world, which requires all kinds of decolonizing ourselves, shifting our thinking, it’s obviously deep, transformative work. And I think a lot of people that step into our community, are there, “Oh, this is great, because we’re dealing with the injustice of women only receiving 2% of venture capital globally,” and then it starts to unravel. It’s like the why of that is tied into so many deeper things. And everything’s rooted in the existing structures. So there’s a lot of stuff to unpack as you actually get into it. And so from the beginning, things like, you know, women aren’t writing checks to invest. And therefore, we changed the word that we use for your participation in our community. We don’t call you an investor, we call you an Activator. And then people are like, what’s that? Like? Great, okay, we get to start fresh. New behaviors around a new word. And, and then we don’t actually call you a business in our community, we call you a Venture, because we’re agnostic about the structure you come with. So one of your friends who introduced us, Wakumi, comes into the SheEO network with a charity, as she’s creating new models and solving, you know, deep injustices. And so we fund no matter what the structure you’re in. So there’s a lot of that’s a different kind of thing, too. It’s like, what, how can you change the world with a charity? Like, you can! Watch, you know. And, and so we’ve been very aware of language. And in the last few years, we’ve really been struggling with this. People use the word diversity, they use word equity, they use the word inclusion, and then we have some funding that requires us to, identify different racial and ethnic backgrounds. And there’s so much about it that just doesn’t feel right on our team, because we’re centering whiteness, and everybody else has to check a box. And so maybe we’ll just sort of start here with—you blew my mind with something beautiful—when we last talked, around, you know, people use the word “vulnerable populations” or “marginalized communities”, and you came back and you’re like, no, no, people made vulnerable. People placed at the margins. Can you talk a little bit about that language piece? And what you witness around this in the social justice space?
Lutze Segu 3:45
Yeah, so in the social justice space, the work that we’re all trying to do irrespective of your race and ethnicity in your class, if you come to social justice work, I hope the goal is that you can de-center white supremacy. And you could think about all the ways that you participate in white supremacy, you’ve colluded with white supremacy, and how white supremacy has socialized you to think about the world in a very specific way. Think about yourself, and think about difference. So I am always interested in thinking about in any situation in any context. Three things, I’m thinking: how can I disrupt white supremacy, dismantle, or divest from white supremacy. And a really big thing in regards to like you’re already doing this disruption in regards to the language that SheEO is using. And so when we think about marginalized communities, that when we’re when we hear that people are automatically you know, we’re talking about black people, Indigenous people, Afro-Indigenous people, people of color, which are the vast majority of the world globally. So how is—if the world is globally black, Indigenous, Afro-indigenous, people of color—how does that then becomes the margins? The margins of what specifically? And so what I like to think about is, as I guess, people place at the margins because someone is vying for a center, someone is trying to mass produce a center, they’ve decided that this is the center, and we’re gonna push these people to the margins. That’s number one. And also, people are made vulnerable. I think we forget that poverty, patriarchy, sexism, homophobia, transphobia—these are, these are things that are engineered and architected, that are codified and upheld by system structures, thinkings, laws, you name it. And so there’s nothing inherently vulnerable about being, or at risk about being an indigenous person, or being a black person. The problem is the society that is anti-black, anti-Indigenous, that puts these folks—makes them vulnerable. So I think it’s really important to if we’re going to disrupt power, if we’re going to train ourselves to pay attention to all the invisible power that could be in a context, we have to name and make present, what we’re being forced to not see. And what we’re being forced to not see is all the ways in which communities are being made vulnerable, being put at risk and being placed at the margins. So for me when I remix, and push the limits of that language, automatically, the person who’s listening to me is like, “Oh, you said that differently. What do you mean by that?” Exactly, I want you to really think about the fact that, like, there’s nothing inherently deficient about people, quote, unquote, who are “non-white”, even that language, right. So that language is as if to be—the default human position becomes whiteness, and everyone else has to be qualified, everyone else has to go through the Hunger Games and qualify for their humanity. And this is like, and I get what that language is trying to do. But that language is also trying to uphold white supremacy at the same time. And so I just try to reject—bell hooks teaches us that language is a place of struggle. How can we be an ethical struggle, in principle struggle around our language, to think about even how we describe people how that inadvertently maintains the cages that society puts around these communities? And so, yeah, that’s, that’s where I land. And whenever we can get—and people might think, oh, you’re, that’s being too creative, that’s being too whatever. Yeah, because what it’s asking us to do? How do we get the people who fund our ventures to think differently about how they’re thinking they’re going to solve the problem?
Vicki Saunders 7:49
Exactly. Yeah. I mean, I’m still deeply in a struggle around this personally, to share. As some kind of construct that people can understand the struggle to dismantle this. So I did an off the record session last night, as a test, with Australia and New Zealand Activators, to try and showcase the rules attached to funding that exist currently, and how they keep us the same or they tried to keep us the same. And so it’s great. You’ve got a new model here, and then retrofitted into the existing structures and processes, or there’s just literally no funding partners, which many people in our organization experience because we’re multi solving everything together. Because it’s the only way to do systems transformation. You can’t just do one thing. Women. Oh it’s all women? I’m like, no, it’s women working on the World’s To-Do List, with debt, that’s it, you know, and they’re like, oh, that’s too—that’s too big. Right? It’s too much to solve.
Lutze Segu 8:50
But you know, what’s interesting, Vicki, no one would tell Elon Musk that, who just partnered with NASA. A private company just partnered with NASA to get astronauts into the—like no one tells men that. No one tells white men, you’re thinking too big, you’re thinking unconventionally. No one says that. And so to me, it’s just like, whenever people are thinking about giving money to women, and femmes, and non-binary people, all of a sudden, the person giving the money, all of a sudden becomes the expert. Even though the people they’re giving the money to are the actual experts. What would it look like to radically think about funding women, femmes and gender non-conforming people the way we fund white men, which is we write them blank cheques, and we allow them to be as big, as bold, as zany, as out the box, and get people to the moon and back! Right? And get people to—so it’s just like, what possibilities if people trusted women and femmes, and non-binary people to do the same thing. And so this is where we have to push against. It’s just like, we have—first of all, we experienced the world in unique ways. Therefore we have unique ideas of how we can interrupt and how we could disrupt these notions. But no one trust us enough to just give us the money. And let us be the engineers and architects of the language, the metrics, the success stories, just add in a third. And let us just get to the World’s To-Do List. We can’t get to the World’s To-Do List if patriarchy, our power, is standing in our way, always telling, trying to mitigate like how much impact we can have. And so to me it’s just like, no one tells that to tech dude bros in Silicon Valley or anywhere. And they make good things, and a lot of those venture capitals, they flounder within one to three years.
Vicki Saunders 10:55
Oh yeah, they’re just—the success rate is not there. It’s all made up. It like, performs worse than municipal bonds, on average. So there’s not even a reality attached to that. It’s just very “PR it up” and makes it sound like it’s a thing.
Lutze Segu 11:11
So folks are burning through a lot of money. What would it look like to give people who are put at the margins, made vulnerable, given that kind of money, to think differently and to do differently? And I feel as if we would see a much better success rate than what we see in Silicon Valley right now.
Vicki Saunders 11:31
Well, yeah, and I mean, we have an example of that. We have 68 ventures we funded who are—can’t get funded in other places—who are outperforming any of their peers, and we have a lot of data on it over the last five years. But you know, the way that we started with this was, this is like, so classic, too, okay. So these are amazing ideas, and incredible women entrepreneurs who are solving major challenges or priorities for us starts with there. But the way to get people in the door, we said, You’re not getting your money back, we literally had to disrupt that. So you get you contribute $1,100 each, we crowdfund that together, and then we loan it out, it’s paid back, huge pay rack rates, and then it’s loaned out again. So we had to literally in order to disrupt your ability to like come in to try something different. We had to have you not expect to get your money back. Because then you could actually go on a journey of trying something new without controlling because there’s no control because you’re not getting back. Breathe. Right? Like I designed it that way. Now people are like, “Wow, this is amazing. Look at the community here. Look how we’re all working together. Look how incredible she’s doing.” However, if I had done it a normal way like most other people are doing, which is like create a fund for white women or black women to fund their ventures at the same market mindset exists. And so as I see, this is the “don’t add women and stir” thing. I think that’s what most people are doing. Yeah, like adding indigenous and stir, adding women and stir. And using exactly the same metrics, the same mindset, to fund those ventures is not going to work.
Lutze Segu 11:31
Vicki Saunders 11:31
But like how do you, do you—Have you seen people do a good job? You’re so articulate on this, and I’m still learning this language in a way because I’ve been part of this freaking system, struggling through it my whole life, wondering what’s wrong with me. And so part of this, how to frame all of this upfront, to someone that you want to get into relationship with as a potential funder, before you say, here’s, instead of leading with, hey, here’s what we’re doing, at SheEO, It’s like, here are the things that we can’t deal with, right? And go through your list of like, you’re centering this, we’re not that. You’re, you know, working for this kind of return. That’s not what we’re doing. And it’s almost like you have to say all the “nots” up front. And that are you still with me? Do you want to still talk? Are you done? And then don’t waste my time. Right? Like, but it’s also words, it’s not embodied? So people could nod and say yes, and then turn around and be completely different the next day.
Lutze Segu 13:03
Yeah, I think what I tried to do is ask adults to really tap into their imagination. What do you think is possible? Like, ’cause right now, the world we have is someone’s imagination. A very white, very male, a very violent, a very colonial settler imagination. And what I think and, I wanted to ask, because before we can even give people new language, new orientations, new way of being, first we have to really think about like what’s possible. Because the resistance revolution change starts in the imagination. So I want to know, are you the kind of person who believes the world we have is the only world we can have? We can make some cosmetic changes, but that’s it. Or I want to know, are you the kind of person who’s like, actually, when no one’s around when you give yourself full permission, I actually do believe these things are possible. And I actually, when I’m quietly washing the dishes, or driving the car, or walking the dog, I actually have some steps about how I think this particular problem could be solved. Because I’m really passionate about it. And so what I invite people to do is like, let me into your imagination. Show me what you’ve been thinking, show me what you’re passionate about. Tell me what really, like, keeps you up at night. What, really makes you sad? And I want to hear like, do you have any ideas about how you think we can intervene on that? And then from there, I see if this person can easily go to that place, then we can do something. And if that person is a little reluctant, I want to learn what’s the reluctance about. What have you been told as an adult person around imagination? What have you been told as an adult person about freedom, liberation, what have you? How has white supremacy so arrested your imagination, that you actually think it’s dangerous to even think differently inside of your head by yourself? Because I want to, I want to know that, because so many people, because the most insidious, violent thing that white supremacy does, is rob us of our imagination. And so if we can start there, what’s possible? What do you think? What are you thinking and feeling, and then I can bring you into the material world, because everything that has ever become started in someone’s imagination. From the can opener from the Tesla, from this laptop our powerful iPhones, someone gave themselves permission to go there in their mind, and brought that into the material world, and made that possible. The same way people have come up with eugenics projects, the Holocaust, chattel slavery, that came out of people’s imagination. So I want to know, where are you in your imagination? Can you radically and boldly be with that? And can my imagination connect with your imagination? And let me give you some language on how we can start to shape this world. And so that, to me, is where I think, and I don’t think it’s hokey. I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that one can’t bring into a very serious business meeting, one can’t bring into your family, one can’t bring into the classroom. We have got to encourage adults to tap into that space of creativity, if we’re going to do things differently and be different people.
Vicki Saunders 17:27
Yes, yes. So much, so. Imagination in everything in particular, like there’s almost no imagination and finance. Do it the same way over and over, you know, so when we came out 0% interest loan in this perpetual fund, people are like, what is that thing? That is not in my context, like, the economy has kind of become a religion. And we’re like, go double down. Yeah, it is. Yeah. And it’s just, you know, there’s this whole transactional piece that’s in it instead of a deepened relationship. And so I deeply love the word imagination, because this is all made up. Everything is made up.
Lutze Segu 18:05
Yes, it’s totally made up.
Vicki Saunders 18:08
And we seem to, certainly in North America, we’ve kind of forgotten history. And so we don’t realize that, you know, 400 years ago, there was a fork in the road. And we could have gone one way or the other, you could have had these totally different worlds. We chose one philosopher over another. And then, 200 years ago, we chose one philosophy over another. And it was just a choice in a moment, it has nothing to do with “this is the only way”. And so that’s a big thing to deconstruct, too, right. And then it becomes to this, you know, the existing system we’re in has us believe that there is obviously no other way to do this, and that we are not powerful, because we’ve been led under fear—this fear for a long time. And so it’s been amazing to me to go around the world with this model, and see people wake up to the fact that oh, my God, like we literally have everything we need. If we come together, this whole thing is over. Like we can transform anything in an instant. But we’ve been so separated, and put into such individualized philosophies. Like what’s in it for me, don’t care about my neighbor. It’s been fascinating to witness there are lots of societies around the world where there’s deep community. And the difference in how people react to each other in a community based environment versus not, I mean, it’s on display every day now. Mm hmm. We just see it.
Lutze Segu 19:28
I think it’s interesting that we’re here we are living through a global pandemic, that essentially forces us to reckon with the reality like these borders, we think we have between us are not real, because what happens in one part of the world, it might travel slowly, but eventually it will reach my doorstep and I too, will have to wear a mask. I too will have to quarantine. I too—it doesn’t matter where the thing started. And so if we know that, if Capital, if there’s no borders, in capital, right, we’re in a global demand, I bought a refrigerator, a month ago, it still has not been delivered because of how COVID-19 has disrupted global change, right? I’m still waiting for my refrigerator. I still can’t have freedom of movement in a very specific kind of way, because of COVID-19. So if we know those kinds of things already, why can’t we bring that to, to our other understandings of the world? Because we know, social media shows us indeed, and she sees me, I know what’s going on in my own community. And simultaneously, I know what’s going on somewhere else. Why can’t we take that kind of thinking into other aspects of our life, these borders are not real. And if they’re not real, let’s dissolve them. And let’s get to the hard work of building with each other across the globe. Because what ails my sister elsewhere, will eventually ail me, especially as North Americans and North American women and femmes. There is a way in which we are, unbeknownst to us, not that I purposely did this, but our nation states are responsible for the suffering of, of globally of other women and femmes globally. And so if I know this in a very acute way, what do I do as a citizen in North America, sitting on this side of Turtle Island, you’re sitting on the other. How do we take seriously that responsibility? And how can we make this world better? Since borders are not even technically as real and as fixed as we think they are? So there’s a lot, there’s already a lot of room there to play and think differently. If capital is global, if our cultures can be imported and exported, what else can we do? Can our consciousness can our sister good? Can our, can our feminism, whatever the thing we need that animates us, can that too be global?
Vicki Saunders 22:00
And certainly we witness yes to that. Especially with Zoom, right, and technology that we have. And so it’s not getting on a plane anymore. It’s not, we are in our community have tomorrow, Canada, the UK, and the US are on a call last night Australia, New Zealand we travel, you know, around the world to meet each other on these calls, and deepen relationships and recognize difference and similarities and how we can all help each other. And that you’re really sort of one step removed from what you need. And yeah, the border is just completely gone. Now, in a way, this is another gift of the pandemic, getting us to recognize how close. I mean, it is not hard to schedule anyone for anything anymore. Really, because we’re all at home. It’s like, No, I’ll be in—Oh, I can’t say that anymore. Right? I’m right here. You got me, no problem! Yeah, this is fascinating. Okay. Let me take a little turn first. I want to go to this word, which is so used these days, and I feel it’s—what is the root of intersectionality? And what does intersectionality mean to you? I hear it thrown around an awful lot. I think it’s absolutely critical because it’s, anyway, over to you. Intersectionality.
Lutze Segu 23:16
So intersectionality is, is a gift we were given from black feminist thought. So when enslaved Africans were trafficked and stolen and brought to the Americas, we have a situation in which black women were forced to really think about, “What does it look like when race intersects with gender? And what are the sufferings, the new categories of suffering that gets created when those two intersect?” And so I okay, so obviously, I’m from the United States. I am a, for real, for real, card carrying, very proud feminists right. And I like to say, you know, I’m rooted in black feminist thought, and my black feminism is very much animated by women of color feminism and indigenous feminism. And so which means, I don’t necess—in North America, we tend to think about feminism in terms of waves. I don’t actually believe in, in the concept of feminism in waves, because it does center whiteness. Because it gives us the impression that the feminist movement in North America didn’t start until bourgeois middle class white women decided, “Oh, perhaps I’m oppressed. Perhaps I should have the vote.” And in 1492, when Christopher Columbus comes to Turtle Island, indigenous women, indigenous folks have been fighting against settler colonialism, which is a very gendered project. And then you have enslaved African, who are brought over to the New World who are having to think very critically about what does it mean? To have your body be taken over, essentially by a nation state, to being asked to breed and to uphold a dehumanizing system. Like, what does it mean to think about your body and yourself in that way and so, so I think it’s really important to start there. Because intersectionality has always existed. We have in 1840, I believe, or 1804. I’m really bad with numbers, I will like mix them up. We have Sojourner Truth, who gives a talk at Seneca Falls during a women’s movement, a women’s gathering, and she’s talking about well, ain’t I a woman? Right? Because in that moment, you have these bourgeois white women talking about all these things. And she’s like, hold up, hold up, hold up. I’m a woman. I’ve had children, I’ve been enslaved. How come these sensibilities that where we’re thinking about women and womanhood, it does not apply to people like me, who look like me, and who are in my condition. So intersectionality is something that black women have been theorizing about for the past 180 years. So it’s gone from, “Ain’t I a woman?”, it’s gone from “Double Jeopardy” that concept, intersecting oppressions. And then in the 1980s, Kimberle Crenshaw, a black legal scholar, coins the term intersectionality. Essentially, it means when we think about all the social categories: race, class, gender, ability, status, citizenship, nationalism, you name it, when they intersect with each other, for certain bodies, it creates new forms of suffering and oppression. So intersectionally asks us to think about what are the different powers at play that is making this person more vulnerable, being put at risk, right? And so, so literally, that’s it. How do systems come together and create new forms of suffering? Because again, we’re never just talking about race. We’re never just talking about gender. We’re never just talking about class. These things are not distinct by themselves. They are animated by one another. And so we have to think about how do we look at that. So again, when a white woman is thinking about, there’s a way in which white women, if that white woman is practicing hegemonic, white feminism?
They’re thinking—they’re just thinking about gender. Gender, gender, gender. How is my gender being impacted in the situation? However, comma, for those of us who do not have racial privilege, we’re always thinking about, how is my race interacting with my gender expression? What’s going on with my citizenship? Is there a class dynamic here? Is there all those kinds of things? So literally, how do we pay attention and train ourselves to think about the simultaneity of these different social categories? And so I understand why some feminists say they want to, they call themselves intersectional. feminists. Feminism is not an i— is not an identity. It is an analytical tool, it is a way of looking at power. I get it like some people they want, they want to signal and virt—and want to signal that, oh, I am an anti racist feminists, I’m thinking of, my feminism honors trans people, gender non-conforming people. We don’t have to use that word in that way. There’s no such thing as an intersectional. feminist. It’s an analytical tool. How do we use this tool to analyze what’s going on? Because that tool allows us to think about who are we centering right now? And how can we make whatever programming, whatever Venture, whatever Activation, whatever thing that we’re building? Who are we centering? And what are all the things we have to take seriously, if we’re going to center these particular people, this particular identity to ensure that this program benefits them the most, because if we can, if we can center people at the most who are made mar— who are put at the margin, it makes whatever we’re building better for everyone. So design theory says, when people create something for left handed people, it ends up really being that much more better for right handed folks. Why? Because you decentered the starting point, and it made whatever you were creating better for everyone else, even those who are dominant. And so that is what intersectionality forces us to think about. It’s not an identity. It’s really important. It’s a tool that all feminists should use, but we should never forget that black feminism is what gave us that because of what black feminists have to survive under chattel slavery. And the beautiful thing about intersectionality is like once you understand the groundwork of it, we can take an international approach. It can be used, it does travel to other places. And other cultures, but we don’t, we could still be be faithful to its starting point. We don’t have to obscure in a race of black people, black women at the center to make it more internationalist. So that is something I’m really, really passionate about. Because this is the thing that—this thing already exists, has already been gifted to us by black feminist thinkers to disrupt and think about power differently.
Vicki Saunders 30:29
Yeah, I mean, to me, it’s very, that’s fascinating, because I feel like, as you’re sharing that and taking us on a journey through where it’s evolved, for me, intersectionality is kind of the doorway to help us think about, like, even when I think about the World’s To-Do List, people have it all decontextualized, 17 different goals all separated, pulled out from each other, but it’s actually the power is in the relationships between things, which is the intersectionality of it.
Lutze Segu 30:59
Exactly. So you’re using an intersectional lens to think about the World’s To-Do List, because you understand these 17 things impact each other. There’s no way to solve one thing and isolate this one thing. And then okay, when we’re done with this one thing, we’ll get to number two, we’ll get to number three, we get to number four. No, people who are living at these intersecting oppression, that is not how we experience oppression. In this moment, when I walk into someplace, and someone treats me wrong, I can’t like, oh it’s because I’m black, oh it’s because I’m a woman, oh maybe think I’m—they can sense that I’m queer. No, in that moment, it’s all of those things interacting together. And so if, if my if my oppression is subjugation is being experienced that way, the problem solving also has to mirror that.
Vicki Saunders 31:48
Right, which is and like, deconstruct that, right. It’s just like all entangled, everything tangled. And I think this, this is just a fascinating challenge. Because we’ve—everything has gotten so complex, everything is interconnected and interdependent, nothing can be pulled out and not influence the whole. And so you know, when, when I started to, I’ve been thinking about this for 25 years, this sort of model that we’ve come up with, with SheEO, like trying all different angles and experimenting, and it’s you have to do— get capital into women’s hands, you have to like, create some kind of environment where it’s different. So we call it Radical Generosity, and you come in with a different way of being with each other. And then we look at what is the power with instead of power over and so every single person who contributes capital has one vote, it’s no expert in finance decides over some, a grandmother of a 14 year old who maybe doesn’t have the financial chops, but it’s the collective intelligence that does it. And then it’s being in the right relationship with each other. And it’s then the commitment to transform yourself, because you have no control over these Ventures, you show up and you support them on their own terms, like all these pieces, and people like oh my god, like, Can I just write a check? Like, why do you have to tell me all this stuff? It’s like, way too much. But I was kind of hoping we could just do that. Right? Underneath this model is a ton of intention and design, it’s very intersectional. And like, to literally unweave that for everybody and show all of the initial—I’ve been like, it’s just too much for people’s brains. And now I’m like, no, we have to do it. Like, it’s the only way to get where we need to go, we have to deeply—like we have to go deep into ourselves to embody all these things. Because otherwise you can participate, but if you’re not embodying it, it shows up fast. Someone’s grumpy to somebody else, someone tries to put control over someone’s—they don’t like what they’re doing. Like, you have to actually expose all of this stuff, or interrogate it, maybe to use some of your words. And, yeah, it’s interesting.
Lutze Segu 33:55
Yeah we do have to, we do have to interrogate because the, the systems that got us to this place, is also complex. So if we think we’re going to intervene, patriarchy, and how patriarchy dictates how women, femmes and gender expansive people get funded or become leaders, we’re going to have to have a complex set of problem solving tools to intervene against that. And so although it looks like there’s not a lot of thought, because these power structures have been up for so long, so it just looks like you know, we don’t even see how all the hands that are upholding them. But those systems are equally as complex. And so we have to meet that complexity with our own level of complexity to if we’re going to flatten power, if we’re going to make this more circular, and if we’re going to divest from the hierarchies and treating difference as if it’s a deficiency. And so I just think what, the difference is, there’s other people making those complex white supremacist decisions for you. And what you’re inviting people to do here is just like, No, no, no, the power is in your hand. It’s like the Wizard of Oz, it’s you. There’s no wizard, you know, you had it all along, you just now have to—now that you have it, you have to think about, well what are you going to do with this power? How are you going to shape it? How are you going to be with it in a way that’s radically different the blueprint you’ve been given? And so as North Americans, because we love our easy, we love to outsource everything if possible, now, we’re asking people, no, no, no, you’re not going to outsource that there’s no app for that, you actually have to be mindful and present. And you have to ask yourself, okay, so what am I going to do different? Am I going to go right? Or am I going to go left? And so, which is a, that’s a hard orientation for we North Americans to get back into. Because you know, if it can be outsourced, we will do that. If there’s an app for that, I will pay the exorbitant amount of service fees, just so I can avoid doing that thing.
Vicki Saunders 36:08
Right, totally. Oh, absolutely. And I mean, it is interesting, too, that this is seems to be really rising up during the pandemic, right? Racial reckoning, all of these things, the curtain is being pulled back, and unveiling everything. And we have time. Right. We are not over scheduled like normal, maybe some people are. But we have time to actually do that. And to show up, and to our moment of technology that allows us to connect with those who have it. That’s still a big issue in some places. And so as we are working through this, one of the challenges that we’ve been having is, so, I talked to you about this a little bit before, naming all of the identities. Like I’ve got my hands all like lined up, right? Naming all of the identities to, in order to really articulate “everyone is welcome”. Or, these groups are welcome here. So you have interesting language around this. And each time I talk to you, I feel like you’re using different words too. Because we’re evolving right? Yes. Like, each week, you’re like, Okay, I’m not gonna say that anymore. I’m changing it to this. Last week, you said “don’t say BIPOC, say, black, Indigenous, afro-indigenous, people of color.” And at the end of the sentence, you said, “This week”. And I laughed, and I thought, okay, so get your editing pen out, like you’re changing as you learn more, as you pay more attention to things, right, we’re adding to these and so this, thought you had such a great line, you’re like be specific, without homogenizing. I really love that.
Lutze Segu 37:50
Yeah, it’s really important for us to be specific without homogenizing. So BIPOC, people of color, beautiful terms when we’re thinking about spaces, right. But when we’re thinking about if I’m writing a white paper, if I’m writing something specific, if I’m writing a report for someone, I think in those spaces, it’s just better to think about, well, who who does this thing that I’m talking about? What identities does it seek to center? And for me, BIPOC doesn’t quite land for me. Now for some people, they love it, it works really well. But as I’m thinking about it, especially from a North American context, there is a way sometimes we like to do is like black people over here, Indigenous people over here. And I sometimes I think BIPOC is inadvertently making making it seem like there’s a border between those two, and forgetting that there are, first of all, there are Indigenous people wherever there have been people, right and right now, we’re just talking about Indigenous folks to North America. But like, black people are indigenous to a place. There are all sorts of Indigenous people. So just even our concept of indigeneity we have to be really careful that we’re not like, when we think of indigeneity that we’re not only thinking about one kind of person, one kind of body. So that’s number one. Number two, forgetting that, especially, like I’m here in South Florida. The Seminole tribe came to be of Indigenous people partnering with black folk. And so that is how that tribe came to be. So that’s really powerful. So right there. There’s no border. There’s no fixed border between black people and Indigenous people in that way. And so for me, I think BIPOC, I see what it’s trying to do, but it misses—but what if you’re Afro Indigenous? What about those people? And so for me when I’m thinking, how do I think okay, I’m thinking about black people, Indigenous people, Afro indigenous people and people of color, for me—it’s not a sexy acronym, right? But it works. For me, because I’m not actually trying to be sexy or efficient in my language, what I’m trying to be is effective, and what I’m trying to be as clear in my language. And this is where I would say my ancestral mentor Audre Lorde, becomes really important in this way, is just like thinking about, how do we talk about difference in a way that doesn’t ask any one group to obscure themselves or make themselves smaller for our benefit, whatever that benefit is. And so, in a world of acronyms, in a world of efficiency, in the world of, we’re trying to fit everything within these characters, I am actually rejecting the impulse to cut corners. And I’m actually, Okay, let’s list the people out, let’s list their identities, comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, because that’s important. And that is how I be—and that is how I ensure that I keep myself honest, and engaged in a feminist ethic of who do I need? Who am I talking to? And again, intersectionality does ask us to be specific, when we’re talking about colonialism. We’re talking about colonialism. When we’re talking about nationalism, we’re talking about nationalism. When we’re talking about race, we’re talking about racial and class work, like, we can’t use these words as umbrella terms and switch them out when you want. Because it actually causes harm, we need to be we need to be clear about what is the harm that we’re talking to? What’s the thing that we’re trying to disrupt? Who are the people that we’re trying to center in those kinds of ways? And so for me, that’s important to my feminist ethic, like I said, like I can’t, I’m not, I don’t have no alternative acronyms to BIPOC. But what I do have is, who are we talking about? Even when we’re talking about LGBTQIA? Right, which is, I sometimes I get a little annoyed when that’s being spoken about, because if you’re talking about gay men, you’re talking about lesbians, or if you’re talking about cis-queer folks, just say that. Because there are times when we’re only talking about cis-queer folks, and people will haphazardly throw in the tea, but we’re actually not talking about the tea. We’re actually not talking about that. So if we’re fancy people with our fancy English language, fancy degrees and everything, let’s take the time to be clear. Who and what are we talking about? And so I end up this—the pandemic has been forcing me to really slow down and be like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, Lutze. This is internet speak? What do you mean? And how do I move away from internet speak? And really be clear about, ethically, who am I talking about? What am I talking about? What’s my golden objective here? And let’s get clear, and what language do I need to use? And if there’s no fancy acronym, that’s fine. Just use the words, that we whatever? And can I bring other ideas to animate the thing that I’m trying to say, to get my reader to understand where my impulse. where my intellectual impulse is coming from? So that’s my long answer.
Vicki Saunders 43:16
Great. Yeah. I mean, it’s quite fascinating, because you’re clearly, you know, deeply in the work of all of these words. This is your, your academic background, right? I mean, you really have a deep deep rooting in it. And as we were starting to talk more about women, gender-expansive, gender non-binary being welcome to apply at SheEO, like who’s welcome to apply at SheEO? And so we started to—we’ve been working on the language and what we want to say, and it’s been evolving over the last couple of years. And so we put this out to one of the countries that just had voting. And we said, cis, trans, I can’t remember exactly all of the pieces that we used, and because I’m still working om all this in my brain, and one of the one of the women wrote back and said, I don’t know what cis is, are women allowed to apply? Like in her term? And it was just, it’s one of these like, there’s, these terms are so new for so many people. And depending on where you are in the world, this is just not a conversation.
Lutze Segu 44:24
Exactly. Until that as, okay, so I’m glad that you say that because I am obviously operating in a very particular kind of bubble. I’m constant—for the most part, I am talking to people who have a very social justice orientation. People in academia, whether it be a student or professors is that in a third. And so there is a way I get socialized to speak and just throw out this jargon. And even in those terms, even when I use the acronym, I know that those people are going to do the intellectual heavy work and deconstruct that. But actually, what about everyone else who’s not in that bubble? How do I get them to understand what I’m talking about? And so that is why I’m trying to move away from these things. Because ideas travel, like my ideas in a very specific way., and the reach I’m having on the internet is traveling. And I want people, yes, people can Google. But like, if you don’t have the proper structures and frameworks, Googling might create more of a mess, not making less of a mess. And so, to me, it’s like I’m thinking about how can my language be more inviting to everyone? And to be more democratized? Like you didn’t have to, you don’t have to be part of the fancy schmancy social justice in crowd to understand what I’m talking about, because what I’m talking about is way more important than the acronyms and those kinds of things. And so how do we remember that there are still so many people to invite into this way of thinking into this way of being. And if language is going to be their first reception in their welcome? We need to do a lot of work around: how clear is this language?
Vicki Saunders 46:08
Yeah, yeah, I mean, and that’s a real struggle with us. We have people ages 14 to 96. Like just a total range of age, stage, experience, background. And we’re always, I mean, on our Venture applications, our big thing is, you know, only 10 questions, no pitch decks, no jargon, and no attachments. And people, and so you have speak from the heart, about what you’re doing.
Lutze Segu 46:34
Oh, my goodness, that sounds so hard.
Vicki Saunders 46:36
It is, it is. Well, exactly. That’s the point, right? Like literally no jargon. So someone has to understand what you’re saying no matter where they’re coming from. And that’s really tough to do. And so if you know, people go cut and paste their bio, or use, you know, my go to market strategy’s, blah, blah, blah, and people are like, what’s that? I don’t know what that means. And so you don’t get voted for. If you come in with that. And if you’re deeply understandable, and you know—how do you make money? Who are you in the world? And why are you the person to solve this problem? If you can say that in a, like a deeply moving way you get voted for. And if you’re like, la, la, la, all in your head not embodied, you’re toast. You know, and you may have the best business idea in the world, but like, hey, if you can’t communicate that it doesn’t work here.
Lutze Segu 47:17
Right? Right. If you could only communicate it to your in group. What—how does that serve of the overall project? And I think sometimes for those of us who are very justice oriented, yes, our language is beautiful, and it does speak, our language is powerful. And sometimes it creates—it doesn’t create more opening for more people to want to come in and join us in this radical imagination and thinking about the world differently.
Vicki Saunders 47:48
Yeah, it’s interesting, because it like, personally, I’m sitting here thinking, man, like, I better not say the wrong word. Like a little bit, right? I have a bit of that in me. And I, because there’s, there’s a lot more learning, I need to do that. Understand that the soup I’m living in, for sure. And I live in the imagination side. I can dream up new shit every single day. That’s what I do. I love coming up. And I don’t think in a traditional way, but I don’t have the words for what those things are. You know what I mean? So I’m like, Oh, Lutze’s giving me a whole new dictionary. I’m really learning different words. Like I—just this phrase, it’s like, you know, decolonization is not a metaphor, you said to me last week, and I like, deconstructed the crap out of that, trying to understand what that meant. Right. It didn’t it didn’t flow to me immediately into a, “oh, yeah, I get that”. I had to think about that. What did she mean by metaphor? And what do you mean by—you know? It’s—because it’s, it is to your point, it’s a—we’re living in different bubbles. And how do we—yeah.
Lutze Segu 48:46
And so, so if we know, we live in a very interdependent world, there are not a lot of borders, borders are not real and fixed the way we think. What does it look like, that even when I’m using all of these different words, how can I, how can we set up a parameter that we can be in right relationship with each other? That even if you did use the wrong word, I would just be like, no, no, Vicki, not that word, but this word or, let’s think about it differently. Let’s do those kind of things. Like how do we change like, I guess what I’m trying to say ,we’ve all been socialized in this white supremacist world. I am a little, maybe far ahead on my journey. That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly having to deconstruct. And the reason why I, if you talk to me week to week, month to month, you might hear different shifting is because I’m taking seriously. I am in a, in a practice of self reflecting about, “Am I clear? Am I as clear as I can be right now in this moment?” Right. And so because I understand how deeply I am swimming in the waters of white supremacy, and how that’s dictated my language. However, in thinking about how I want my language to be open and clear, I also want to think about how do I invite people to ask actually ask me questions. It’s like you use this word, why? Why are you—why? You use this phrase? Like, I’ve never heard that phrase? What do you think and feel about that phrase? Not that I’m trying to create some difference or hierarchy, or like, I’m over here, you’re over here. I actually want people to do mental gymnastics when they’re talking to me, so that I leave impressions upon them, so that they’re thinking about things differently. And I do want people to be like, Lutze, girl, what are you talking about? What do you mean by that? And because, um, because we’re building, so if we’re gonna build a new world, I have—you have to ask me, your imagination—invite me into your imagination, and I’ll invite you into mine. Invite me into your lexicon, and I’ll invite you into mine and let’s see, what can we make together? Because I don’t, because that’s, that’s the hard thing about this social justice thing. Because for some of us who are a little bit more adept at this language, I’m not trying to create a distance between myself and my audience in my, in the people I want to build with. I genuinely want to build with people, and how do we all call on our courage to be like, I don’t understand that word you just used because no matter how clear I’m trying to be, I’m also like, operating from here. I don’t know what’s clear for other people. And so I hope we all can like, really call on our courage to ask people, this, your language in this moment is probably creating a border, when you’re probably trying to create a bridge. I want to people to be like, girl, let the bridge down. Like explain that a little bit more for me, because I don’t want to recreating—I don’t want to recreate these borders with, like this. Because again, I—as someone who’s getting closer to becoming “Dr. Segu”, I’m not really interested in being that pretentious and that ridiculous.
Vicki Saunders 51:57
Yeah, well, and for me, like this is the underlying piece of this concept of Radical Generosity that we have at SheEO, like if you assume like when you come into our network, you’re signing on to practice that. And so if we are in relationship together, in the spirit of Radical Generosity, I feel way safer saying stuff. Yeah, you know what I mean? And so that’s, that’s the thinking underneath the philosophy that we use. And youe used the word, which is absolutely the beautiful word courage. You know, know that it’s like, if you step into that you will be deeply rewarded in a deeper relationship with Lutze. Learning more about our intersectionality and how we can together, that ripple that out to the collective communities that we’re working with and have a bigger impact. And so, you know, like, every day, I do exactly the same thing that’s why I noticed with you, the changing of words, it’s like last week, we said this, and we, our one-liner changed again, did we just change our one-liner? Saunders, what are you doing? Because I know that I’m putting it out there to see what gets impact. What comes back? Where does, where do I get a feedback loop? Oh, okay. That’s resonating. That thing isn’t, like it’s just not resonating. Which is why the change of it because it’s about the transformation. Right. And it’s about understanding. All of this is about the transformation, understanding and getting into relationship. And if people aren’t resonating, you have to shift yourself, shift your language, try and figure out what that is to unlock that deeper relationship. I mean, that for me, is everything. It’s like if we can get into deep relationship, and we can create these spaces that, you know, Radically Generous spaces I’ll use instead of state because I know that’s not a word that works for a lot of people. Then we can actually show up a little bit differently. Yes, there’s permission to actually bring out the imagination that isn’t safe to say sometimes, or bring out the question mark. I had no idea what you just said. But yeah, it requires, it requires some relationship building. This is our second call. I’m like, into you. Really, I’m really, I’m stretched in our conversations, which I really love. And it leaves me with lots of questions. And it leaves me with lots of things to explore.
Lutze Segu 54:11
Well, I mean, that’s why I’m the social justice doula, right? I’m really literally trying to doula folks into new ways and being transformed. And again, whenever I can be in these conversation, it forces me to be like, ha, before I pick up this word. Is this the most clear I can be is in this moment? Because again, I’m married to my transformation and my evolution, not my ideas. Ideas come and go. And if I am a really—if I’m serious about engaging with active learning, ideas are supposed to come and go. So I don’t take it personally when an idea I had last week has outgrown itself this week. I don’t take that personally at all. So I’m okay with letting stuff go and trying on new things and practicing new ways of being. Like I’m totally okay with that.
Vicki Saunders 55:03
Awesome. Okay, well on that note, to be continued. Thank you so much. This was awesome. It’s amazing—how can people find you?
Lutze Segu 55:13
You can find me on LutzeSegu.com. You can find me @thesocialjusticedoula on Instagram. I am pretty much any and everywhere on the internet, you can follow my public stuff on Facebook under Lutze Segu, that’s L-U-T-Z-E S-E-G-U. I’m pretty accessible. So find me. And let’s talk and let’s learn together and let’s unearn together.
Vicki Saunders 55:39
Thanks. Thank you so much, Lutze.
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