A Quick PSA on Diversity, Denial, and How Curiosity Will Save The World.

A Quick PSA on Diversity, Denial, and How Curiosity Will Save The World.

Community Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

I live in a city where I am PUMMELED by diversity the second I walk out the door. Diversity in race, diversity in religion, diversity in gender identity, diversity in age, class, body type, occupation — you name it, New York City’s got it. Bougie brownstones next to dirty bodegas. A multi-zillionaire riding the 1 train next to someone without a penny to their name.

I have never ever ever once in my life been exposed to so much diversity in my daily life. It has made me a better person because my eyes are opened wider. It has made my voice louder and stronger because I know it’s the only one of its kind in a sea of unique songs. Diversity has made me deeply internalize that the lens through which I view the world is neither right or wrong – no one’s is – because it is merely a single lens amidst COUNTLESS different prescriptions.

But. BUT. Here is the thing about diversity. Living amongst such radical diversity has also made it abundantly clear that while we all have different backgrounds and opinions and deep-seated beliefs about the way the world is, everything boils down to one of two buckets: GOOD or NOT.

We can all have different lenses on, but there are only two choices when it comes to what we condone when it comes down to the very basics of humanity.

 

I have noticed that sometimes the people around me can be harsh. They can sometimes be bitter or mean or maybe have different political views than I do. But at the end of the day, they (for the most part, don’t wanna generalize a whole city) believe in the notion that no matter who you are or where you come from, you deserve equal rights and you deserve to be here. Exactly as you are. The beauty of living in NYC is that while it’s maybe the most diverse city in the entire country, and the diversity is APPARENT on every street block, we’re all in this together. The majority is GOOD.

The majority of AMERICA is GOOD. I know it. But when we don’t own our stories or speak up or simply get curious as to why our story has favored certain races, religions, genders etc for so long – when we can’t even be proactive with our CURIOSITY – the GOOD gets weaker. And the NOT gets stronger.

As Queen of All Things Brené Brown said so eloquently in her FB Live this week (seriously, go watch it HERE), we need to own our own story in order to write our own ending. If we don’t, the story owns us. The ending gets written for us.

If we don't own our story, the story owns us. - @brenebrown Click To Tweet

The shame is that too many people think that owning your story means making yourself feel like an asshole. Or that owning your story means aligning yourself with things you don’t believe in. And neither of those could be farther from the truth.

We’ve been talking a lot about recovery and eating disorders on WANT lately, so to go with an analogy: owning that you once had an eating disorder does not mean it defines who you are. Owning the fact that an eating disorder was a part of your story does not mean it is anywhere near your entire narrative.

Owning that our country was built on white supremacy, that anti-semitism and racism and homophobia are woven deep in our fabric, does 👏not 👏mean 👏 that WE ourselves are any of those things. But to stay silent – to not even let your curiosity question GOOD vs NOT out loud – is to stay in denial of a NOT that has gone on for far too long.

To stay silent when it comes to GOOD vs NOT is to deny a NOT that has gone on far too long. Click To Tweet

Speak up. It matters. Oh my god does it matter. I’m not saying you have to be posting all the time on social media. But words have immense power. We learn from each other. Just like bonding over negativity, if we make silence our MO, others will follow suit. However, if we start thoughtful conversations or make at the very least offhand comments boosting the GOOD and admonishing the NOT, others will start to follow. Your words let others know where you stand and how you think we should write the rest of our story.

And if you are struggling right now at speaking your mind – if you are feeling like you’re maybe at risk of losing your community or someone you love because they’re afraid of what owning their story might mean and will disown you if you’re the one who brings it into the light, because I do recognize that that is a VERY REAL THING for some people – I urge you to at the very least weave curiosity into your conversations.

It can go something like this: “It’s funny: we were raised to believe that XYZ” or “We learned 123 in our textbooks or in Bible study”…”But my current, more enlightened self WONDERS: _______?”

Create your own script. Wonder deeply and with intention. But do it out loud.

Wondering out loud opens doors that blame or shame cannot, and can lead to taking ownership of your past and therefore creating a new future.

 

How To Activate Your Inner Activist: Jahan Mantin of Project Inkblot

How To Activate Your Inner Activist: Jahan Mantin of Project Inkblot

Community WANT Women

Activism doesn’t always need to be loud to be heard. What resonates with one person might fall on deaf ears with another. What might make one person fired up might make another person want to run for the hills. Activism can be portrayed as complicated or extreme – but it doesn’t have to be either.

After the election last year, I started to think about ways I could make a difference that were in alignment with who and where I was: sure I’d go to a protest or march here or there, but I was more intrigued by the ways I could make a big difference, every day, in small ways.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a powerful march. But I know that’s just ONE part of the equation. I think it does a disservice to whatever cause you’re fighting for to force one “form” of activism on everyone. It makes it seem like activism only looks one way – and can often lead to the kind of black-and-white thinking (You’re selfish if you don’t march! or How can you call yourself a feminist/activist/ally if you don’t XYZ?) that discourages newbie activists from taking that powerful first step of their own. Which is where it all starts: with those powerful first steps.

The more we can find ways to speak up in ways that are in alignment with who we are, the more comfortable we get with getting uncomfortable, the more we’ll cause a ripple effect within ourselves and others. We’ll eventually feel more comfortable with getting more and more uncomfortable. What once felt awkward and fearful will feel awakened and fearless.

And this is why I’m starting a new series on WANT called How To Activate Your Inner Activist. Inspired by the live event series we kicked off earlier this year in NYC, I’ll be talking to WANT Women who are making a huge difference…in ways of all shapes and sizes.

Through this series, you’ll get inspired, have epiphanies, and learn how to make a difference in a way that’s in alignment with who you are. Right here. Right now.

To kick off this series, I’m chatting with powerhouse strategist, artist, and activist Jahan Mantin.

project inkblot jahan mantin

Jahan Mantin is the co-founder of Project Inkblot, a media, service, and program design consultancy that uses their unique Design For Diversity approach to build inclusive campaigns for organizations and companies. She is also the co-creator/executive producer of Fit the Description, a video interview series between Black male civilians and Black male officers.

The coolest thing about Project Inkblot – and what makes it different than other strategic agencies or consulting firms – is their Design For Diversity” model. Instead of merely working with the perspectives already present, Jahan and her co-founder Boyuan Gao (who you may or may not meet soon on the WANTcast, hint hint) help brands expand their worldview by discovering overlooked touch-points and reframing them as breakthrough opportunities.

Start where you are. Make sure it’s rooted in something you really care about - @projectinkblot Click To Tweet

From what she loves about the world right now to her best advice when it comes to handling the haters, I’m so stoked to have Jahan here kicking off this important series. Here we go…

WANT Jahan

Name: Jahan Mantin


How you’d know me (occupation or role): Founder of Project Inkblot and Co-creator/Co-producer of Fit the Description


What I love about myself (and why): I have a good sense of humor and I’m able to laugh at, and make fun of myself.


What are some causes you feel strongly about? Women’s issues, racial equality, creating a code of ethics around technology development – way too many to list.


When did you start to identify as an “activist” – or just realize that you had something to say? Don’t’ know if I can pinpoint a “time.” I’ve always had a lot to say – being opinionated and outspoken runs in the family.


What was your first PDA – Public Display of Activism? I remember writing a letter to The Village Voice as a teenager. I grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the neighborhood had started descending into hipster/yuppie gentrification. This was during the late 90’s – I was walking into a new/gentrified bar, with all white folks listening to hip-hop with my then boyfriend and brother.

We weren’t allowed in.

There was no probable reason. I actually remember the bouncer, a Black man, apologizing. I can remember the frustration and resignation from my brother and boyfriend, both men of color. We felt rejected, as if we didn’t belong in our own home. It was a microcosm of what was happening, on a larger scale, in our neighborhood. I was frustrated and angry so I wrote this letter, and it was published. I remember feeling like I had been heard and had stood up for something.


I wish that people realized that activism… doesn’t have to be a scary word, it can take on many different definitions and forms.
I wish people realized 'activism' doesn’t have to be a scary word. -Jahan Mantin, @projectinkblot Click To Tweet


What I love about the world right now:
I love that historically identified marginalized people are making their voice heard. Truthfully, we never stopped – but I do love that folks are using their voice. It’s a weird time to be alive. I feel like something is bubbling to the surface, about to implode. It’s scary but also a bit exciting.


What I’d love to change about the world right now: Our dependence on technology and some of the insidious ways technology is being used to collect date and eradicate privacy. It’s gotten to a level I think is supremely unhealthy; for our nervous systems, state of mind, energetic levels etc.


The coolest thing about women is… women have some kinda profound well of innate strength that can be accessed at a moment’s notice.


Finish this sentence: Social media… is dos muchos.


My favorite way to shift a negative into a positive: Masssssssssages.


My top female role models: Basically all of the women in my family, Frida, Toni Morrison.


Favorite negativity-busting activity: Massages, massages, massages.


Fave self-love ritual: Massages!


If people want to activate their inner activist, they should read/watch/listen to… Read anything by James Baldwin. Watch Moonlight.


My best advice when it comes to haters or people who disagree: If you don’t like it, make it better.
If you don’t like it, make it better. -Jahan Mantin, @projectinkblot Click To Tweet


5 Things, personal or professional, on my bucket list: Having Fit the Description make a positive impact worldwide! Traveling to Iceland, Rwanda, South Africa, Italy, Cuba (all places I want to visit).


My best tip on activism: Just start with where you are. Make sure it’s rooted in something you really care about.


Right now, I am most excited about… summer being around the corner – meeeeh to the cold.


Three words to describe me: optimistic, curious, silly


What is your definition of “positivity?” Being around good people who really know you and lovingly call you on your bullshit, being kind to yourself and others, having enough self-awareness to not take things too personally.


Current mantra: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

project inkblot activist activism
WANT Yourself:

What is ONE way you “activate your inner activist” and make a difference in your own way? Nothing is too small – I want to hear! Leave a comment below and share your ideas…


photos by Seher Sikandar



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