May 29, 2021 26 min read

Creating Community Conversations - with Davelyn Hill

Image of Guest, Davelyn Hill, with quote from transcript.

Episode 12, 38 min listen

In this episode we explore the role that community conversation has in ending oppression and creating equity for all. Our conversation is with Davelyn Hill, Executive Director of Speaking Down Barriers (SDB). SBD is a nonprofit located in Spartanburg, SC. that "provides encounters that transform our life together across human difference for healing and justice."


Listen on Apple Podcasts   or    Listen on Spotify


You can check out the website for Speaking Down Barriers which includes schedules for upcoming events.

Here are links to two of the books that were mentioned during our discussion.

Freedom is a Constant Struggle:  Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement, by Angela Y Davis.

Parable of the Talents, by Octavie E Butler


Davelyn Athena Hill is the Executive Director for Speaking Down Barriers. SDB is an organization whose mission is Equity for all. SDB seeks to build community across all that seeks to divide us by ending oppression and valuing everyone. She has a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Converse College. Davelyn is working on a Masters in Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry. Alongside providing counseling services, she has led support groups, presented research, and conducted university presentations around racial trauma and oppression. She enjoys facilitating groups and retreats around grief and wholeness.Davelyn is a Mindset Life Coach and Level II Reiki Practitioner of the Usui method. Davelyn Hill, also known as Davelyn Athena is an author, poet, and intuitive painter.



Ame Sanders  00:00

This is the State of Inclusion podcast, where we explore topics at the intersection of equity, inclusion, and community. In each episode, we meet people who are changing their communities for the better and we discover actions that each of us can take to improve our own communities. I’m Ame Sanders. Welcome.  Today our focus is on the role that community conversation has in ending oppression and creating equity for all. Today, I’m interviewing Davelyn Hill, the Executive Director of Speaking Down Barriers in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Good morning, Davelyn Hill. Welcome to the State of Inclusion podcast. I’ve followed the work of your organization and your team for several years now, I have to admit, and I really want to hear what you have going on right now. First, I’m just going to say your name is already quite a statement: Speaking Down Barriers. That’s a very strong statement, and you guys say that you provide encounters that transform our life together across human difference for healing and justice. So tell us a little bit about your work.

-About Speaking Down Barriers

Davelyn Hill  01:09

Yes. So we’re really, really grateful to be here. Thank you so much. Our name is a big statement. Originally, we were called Poetry and Conversation. Speaking Down Barriers was started by Marlanda Dekine and a team of Black poets right alongside a white church in Spartanburg–First Presbyterian. They started to have Poetry and Conversation in the chapel. That’s the first time I was introduced to Speaking Down Barriers. Poets would share really deep personal poems–spoken word–which has its roots in an African oral tradition. These poems are very impactful and powerful. So you’d hear this poem and it’s about this issue, whether it’s racism or homophobia or any of the kinds of things that people title “hot button issues.” It was that and then we would discuss them. I was really surprised that people were having these kinds of conversations. Then Marlanda decided to move forward with making Poetry and Conversation a nonprofit. She was having a conversation with Max Flint, who actually gave the suggestion of changing the name to Speaking Down Barriers. That’s where it came from.

Ame Sanders  02:23

Tell me a little bit about what you want to accomplish through the conversations, encounters, and learning sessions that you guys do. What do you hope to accomplish in the community?

Davelyn Hill  02:35

Our mission is equity for all, and we really mean that. We have two strategic imperatives, one of which is to end oppression. When I say end oppression, I don’t just mean racism. Though, we will focus on that a lot because specifically in this area, racism is kind of entrenched in our everyday interactions. So we want to end that. We also want to end homophobia and xenophobia, we want there to be immigrant justice, we want trans lives to be valued. We want all of that. Ending gender violence. So, end all forms of oppression, but we also want to value everyone. I guess I should say “and.” So, and we want to value everyone. So whether I agree with someone’s point of view or not, in the end, they’re human. I want to see people’s dignity. That’s what we want to do–carry both of those things together. Otherwise, when we are free, we’re not going to know each other. We’re never going to be able to build a community because we have not been working on that. So it is about what we’re fighting against, but it’s more about, in my mind, what we’re building. What kind of community, what kind of world are we going to have together?

-The Role of Conversation in Racial Equity

Ame Sanders  03:46

How does conversation contribute to changing that?

Davelyn Hill  03:50

I think conversation puts us in proximity to each other and gives us the opportunity to not only ask people to come to a consensus, but to actually celebrate another person’s differences. So I don’t want to just be like, “I accept you because you’re you.” It’s more like, “I celebrate you because you’re you.” You can’t do that without conversation and proximity. There’s no way. I can read all the books I want to about living in Asia, but until I live in Asia and am in contact with those people then I don’t really know what it’s like. I could read about people who are different from me, but until I meet them and have conversations, nothing really changes.

Ame Sanders  04:30

Whether we talk about difficult subjects or simple subjects, just having conversations can be important. You mentioned that you got started with poetry. Tell me a little bit about the kind of the origin story of Speaking Down Barriers, because you’re also a poet too.

Davelyn Hill  04:47

I am.

-Using the Arts, Poetry, and Relentless Questioning

Ame Sanders  04:48

You guys have a lot of artists and poets in your mix.

Davelyn Hill  04:52

We do, because poetry and visual arts are not just side things that we add to spice up our dialogues. We believe that the arts are integral, that they push us forward. If I’m doing a poem about my life and growing up and it’s telling my personal story, it’s hard for you to argue with that. You might be able to argue with some of the logic of why I see things the way I do. But my story? All you can do is hear it and hopefully empathize. In that empathy, we’re able to move closer to each other.

So Marlanda was doing a poem at a conference and Scott Neely was there and heard her do that poem. I wasn’t there, but I guess the poem was really moving and powerful and transformative for everybody that was at this conference. So I think they met again a little bit later at another conference or speaking engagement, and from there had a conversation about what we could do in Spartanburg. How could we use poetry and conversation to cause the way we live together to be different? To provide this transformative experience of hearing this poetry and being moved? And then hopefully making little steps towards each other? How could that happen? That’s when they started to have Poetry and Conversation in the chapel. It was not only Marlanda Dekine. There was also Johnny C. Weaver–that is his poetry name. He was a part of that as well.  I remember meeting them both in my class.

I have a Master’s in marriage and family therapy and went to Converse. I was taking a cultural competency class and Dr. Dominique Vedrine was my professor. She brought in a group of people–Antonio was there as well as Marlanda, and they did poetry. I was like, oh my goodness, this poetry is something else. It was very raw and also pointed out lots of my life experience. I was like, I share some of these experiences of being looked over and of experiencing microaggressions. The way they were able to tell them in such a creative way, you didn’t even realize what you heard until your heart was feeling it. And so I was like, I’m gonna do this. So from that class, I went to Poetry and Conversation and I decided I’m going to write poetry. That’s when I actually got involved with Speaking Down Barriers.

Ame Sanders  07:23

I’ve heard Marlanda speak several times. The year I did TEDx in Greenville she also was a speaker at TEDx. She’s a very powerful poet. You’re right. She has some ways of seeing the world and bringing that to life in her words that touch your heart. Making changes in our community is not just about head work. We need to do that. It’s not just about changing systems and processes. That’s important, but it’s also about changing hearts and touching hearts and motivating hearts. Your art and your poetry really help. I should probably disclose at this point that I attended one of your all day sessions in 2015, so a number of years ago. I will say that when I experienced some of the poetry and art in that session, it opened me. It created a more open space for that conversation to take place. It was an all day session. It was really a great session. I think everybody who was there was touched by it and opened by it. And then somehow we were given permission with that to go more deeply and to speak more freely about things that had touched us or affected us.

I’m a corporate facilitator by background. I was very impressed that those sessions were so well thought out and so well constructed and so professionally facilitated. We can take for granted when we’re going through an event that what we’re experiencing is just organically happening. But I know that’s not the case. There is a lot of organic work that happens, but there was a lot of preparing the ground to make that be able to happen. We did a lot of fun things in the session I was in. We did a privilege walk. We had some poetry. The facilitator told us some of their own personal stories. Scott Neely was one of the facilitators. We had some discussion about how people might perceive our personal styles and what they might assume about us, and we also sent ourselves a list of how we were going to speak down barriers. We wrote that in the class and then you guys sent it to us. Those are just examples of some of the techniques that were in the class I attended. What are some of the ways that you make the ground right for this kind of conversation?

Davelyn Hill  09:57

First of all, let me say I also did an intensive. I think that’s what they were called then. That’s when I decided I really wanted to get more involved with Speaking Down Barriers. So I appreciate that we have that in common. We use some of those same techniques now, although with COVID, everything has been virtual which was a challenge in the beginning. But, we’ve kind of learned a little bit about how to move forward. We might use short videos that maybe make a point or are of other poets or stories of people actually doing the work. A little bit of brain science, stories help to rewire our brain because it’s about meaning making. So when I get to hear a story or tell my own story in a way that changes the way I experienced it–so if I was the victim in some way, but I get to tell the story in a way that pulls back my power, something happens in my brain that allows me to move past that. We really believe in storytelling. We still very much believe in the poetry, but we’ve added visual art. This visual art can also have that same kind of opening. You look at something and somebody is telling you about it and it’s powerful and hits you in a wave. Realizing that not everybody is moved by the spoken word, but maybe they’ll be moved by images. So we use those as well.  We also use relentless questioning–little pieces of the Socratic method where you’re just constantly questioning, questioning, questioning, and believing that that will kind of open and expand. And believing that there’s wisdom in the room. Although we’re facilitating it, there is wisdom among the participants. We don’t know everything. I think that “not knowing” stance is very powerful when you’re facilitating. We want people to know that we’re all on the journey together. When you’re not expecting a “gotcha” moment, it opens up space for people to be safe and feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can feel brave, because we can’t make it safe for everyone. We can make it as safe as possible, but then people have to choose to be brave. So, we try to make a space for people to feel comfortable when they can make those steps of bravery.

Ame Sanders  12:14

When I experienced that intensive day with you guys, I didn’t know what to expect when I went in. I didn’t know anything about the organization, but I wanted to take a chance and do it. I was a little bit nervous about having these kinds of deep conversations with people that I didn’t know about subjects that are very intensely personal and sometimes a little anxiety provoking for people. I think that’s probably true for most of the folks that come to your sessions. Talk a minute about what people bring to the sessions, how they come, and what their expectations are. Do you see the same people over and over again or do you get different people?

-Speaking Down Barrier's Approach and Services

Davelyn Hill  13:01

There are several events we offer. The first thing we offer is our most open event, which is the community gathering. That’s monthly. It’s what most looks like Poetry and Conversation. We’ll have a topic and discuss that, and have a poet who will share and they will ask questions and interact along with that topic as well. There are people that come over and over again. I feel like those people are interested in building community and interested in the work of, as Scott says, “letting it churn.” So just letting these things churn week after week, month after month, year after year, so that you can see your arc turning towards justice over time.  There are people that come and just ask what are you doing here? They want to know what a community gathering is. What are these conversations about? I don’t really know what I’m coming into. So I have no expectations. I think there are other people who come to engage and debate and want to have conversations. Like, I want to talk about this thing that has been happening. Especially after some of the big events that have happened in South Carolina: the murder of Alton Sterling or all of the uprisings. Some people want to talk about those things. So there comes with that a certain kind of energy.

We always start with a basic program. It’s an introduction to who we are. We have a community agreement that helps, because it sets out what we’re going to do and be together. Like, show up and be present and have unconditional positive regard for each other. I’m going to be equitable in my communication so that everybody gets a chance to share. I’m going to hold things sacred and respect people’s pronouns. There’s a list of community agreements. Then we ground together with breathing. I think that may be something that’s different. We decided that it’s really important to be present. It’s important to breathe and be aware that you have breath and that you are a person  who has feelings and thoughts and a body. And that we’re all connected. Trying to be connected in that is another way we try to enter the conversation together, even with all the different expectations that enter the room.

Ame Sanders  15:19

That’s a powerful gift that you give the community with what you do, because having a safe place for people to come together and process things that are going on around them, that may reignite trauma or trigger them in some ways, or that they’re just trying to make sense of and process and bring into their lives and understand what it means. Having that safe space with skilled facilitators–you guys have a lot of counselors in your group–so very skilled facilitators and people who are respectful and have given deliberative thought about how to make those conversations come to life, that’s really a gift to the community. So do you guys work outside of South Carolina and for people who are listening in who may be in other places, are there sister organizations or other organizations out there?

Davelyn Hill  16:09

I think right now “equity” is a buzzword. So I think many places around are trying to do these conversations and calling them community talks or community chats, or let’s talk about racial equity. I think that’s happening all over right now. We do have the Community Gathering Initiative in Muskegon, Michigan that just started. They’re not necessarily directly connected, but as they’ve grown and built they have sought us out to see our model of doing things. So, we’ve been able to go and visit and offer trainings for them. We also have worked with Philadelphia Fight. It’s an HIV prevention and services organization. We have been able to be a part of trainings on anti-Blackness and equity beyond diversity and inclusion. That was really great. I’ve enjoyed working with Philadelphia Fight and in Muskegon.

We’ve also done some trainings in Columbia and in the lower part of the state as well as in Greenville. So we’ve been able to kind of go all over. Our team is really big. We have around 10 facilitators and our board and our executive team, which consists of myself, Scott Neely and Dr. Dominique Vedrine. I just want to make sure that, although I am the Executive Director, I bring all these people with me into the room. We do this together. I could not do this by myself. I don’t know how people do it. I don’t know how people say I’m the CEO and I do it all. I need a team. And we don’t want to replicate systems of inequality or inequity. I think the way we do that is there’s not a person who is the total face in that they have all of the responsibility. I don’t even want all of it, so I’m so glad that I get to share it with Dr. Vidrine and Scott Neely and the board. We have a really active board, a working board. I’m thankful for all of them as well. Our facilitators make everything happen. Without our facilitators we don’t have dialogues or the trainings. We couldn’t do it. So just wanted to state that we’re definitely a team.

Ame Sanders  18:26

It takes a diverse team to reach out into the community and to make this happen. It’s not a single person kind of job. I respect what you’re saying completely. You have grown a lot and expanded a lot, both geographically but also on your offerings. We talked about community gatherings. I know you have done book clubs, too.

Davelyn Hill  18:46

Yes, we have Reading for Transformation. That started about five years ago mainly because people wanted to have an undergirding to all the things that we were talking about. They wanted to have some ways to critically think about some of the issues we were talking about. It started originally for our team to get together to read and talk about what we were reading, but then people in the community were like, “Hey, we want to read too!” It’s once a month and just an hour so that it’s accessible to even more people. We read anything from poetry to nonfiction. Things that may resemble textbooks to some people, but it’s the range. So we read the Parable of Talents by Octavia Butler and then we read Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Davis.

Ame Sanders  19:47

You are also doing an educational program?

Davelyn Hill  19:52

We are. We’re doing Equity School. It started this year, so it’s the inaugural season.We are on the fifth class. So the objective for Equity School is to make equity real in our lives and in our work. We wanted to move beyond the buzzwords. As I said, our mission is equity for all, but we wanted to actually make it a lived reality. Our classes have gone from, what is equity? What is equality? How are they different? What is the power analysis and why is that important when talking about equity? We’re gonna have a project to kind of bring equity to Spartanburg. How do we do that? What kind of project would be meaningful? What kind of project gets at the structural racism and structural oppression of all kinds in the area? We’re really excited about where this is going. It’s been really good for us. It has brought up some real things. You start with what is equity. Oh, it’s making sure everybody has access to the resources and the ability to thrive. And then you’re like, but actually, what is equity? Do I get to decide? Is it a top down discussion, where somebody at the top says we’re gonna focus on equity, and they just decide what equity is, or do you actually have to have conversations with the people who are impacted? Probably conversations with people who are directly impacted. But how often does that really happen? So it’s just really exciting, important work.

Ame Sanders  21:25

Have you gotten to your projects? yet? Have you gotten to that phase of the work?

Davelyn Hill  21:29

No we haven’t.

Ame Sanders  21:29

That’s going to be exciting.

Davelyn Hill  21:31

Yes. Lots of ideas.

-Funding for This Work

Ame Sanders  21:35

I was part of the Diversity Leadership Initiative in Greenville that’s part of Furman’s program. State of Inclusion grew out of our project work. I think the projects can be very impactful when you engage people over time in a discussion in a very structured way. But then when you also ask them to live it out in the community through their projects, and in trying to find the project that they want to focus their time and talents on, that’s an important part of the discussion. Actually delivering that makes a difference in the community and in many cases puts a lasting change into the community. I’m very excited about that program for you. This cannot be free, right? This must be a little bit of a challenge to fund. Talk a little bit about how you get funding to do the kind of work you do.

Davelyn Hill  22:35

We are a 501(c)(3), so we do have nonprofit status. So, we’re able to apply for grants. We have been given grants from South Carolina Commission of the Arts, Queer Mobilization Fund, the Campaign for Southern Equality. I could go on and on. There are people who give $15 a month, every month for the past three or four years. I’m so thankful for those dollars. They mean a lot to me, specifically, for individuals to want to give and to do it in a sustained way. We have a lot of supporters in the area of people in Spartanburg who give monthly or yearly to our campaigns. It’s not necessarily the amount for me. It’s the energy behind it and the willingness to be a participant in this work, and to believe that it’s mutual aid. It’s not charity, you’re not just looking down at me and saying, “Okay, let me give to you.” You’re coming every week, coming every month, and you’re also adding your dollars in addition to being supportive in the community. I’m really thankful for that. Also, we do trainings. Some of our trainings, the overage goes into the organization, so we’re able to support the work through trainings also.

-Access for Everyone

Ame Sanders  23:51

How do you make sure that everybody has access to the sessions that you do? That it’s not just somebody who can afford the training? How do you make sure it’s available to everybody?

Davelyn Hill  24:02

The community gatherings are free, Reading for Transformation is also free and open to the public. We also have Healing Us, which is a space for Black people of the diaspora to heal and come together apart from the white gaze. We have Learning Us for white folks to go and learn and be with each other and also find healing. All of those are free and open and they are spaces where you can learn and get training. So I think the thing is to have tiered, equitable, opportunities. There’s no like, “If you can’t pay for Equity School, you can’t come.” That’s not how we do Equity School.

Ame Sanders  24:42

You find ways to fund scholarships for people so that you end up with all of the voices at the table when you’re doing training sessions, as well as having these free events that people can come to and just walk in without having to make a commitment. How do you know what you’re doing is having an effect on the community?

-Community Impact

Davelyn Hill  25:04

Well, when I hear stories like yours, when it goes back to 2015, I know we are having an effect. I know what it’s done in my life and how I’ve been able to impact my home community, my family, and my friends. That started with Speaking Down Barriers. Then to hear people share the work they’re doing, I can see that it’s having an impact in the community. To see other organizations also come and also want to do the things. There’s the Racial Equity Collaborative in Spartanburg, and they’ve started and they’re doing work in the community. There’s Spartanburg Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation, and they’re doing racial healing circles. We’ve been doing this work for almost eight years, so as these things come up and other organizations are doing the work, we know that we have an impact. If you’re focused on healing and ending oppression and bringing equity, we’re for it.

Ame Sanders  26:09

So it’s a big ripple effect that you have in the community. It requires a constancy of purpose, though. You guys have been at this for a long time. These changes don’t come overnight. You don’t feel them or see them in the community the next week necessarily, although some of the projects that you do from your school may yield some immediate results that you will see in the community. But still, it takes some time to build this sort of momentum and movement into a community. So are there any areas where you feel like you’re still struggling? Where this is harder than you thought it would be?

Davelyn Hill  26:53

I think that there are lots of areas where, because we’ve been working for racial equity and racial justice longer, that things are just slower. Christian supremacy is a real issue, especially in this area. How do we open up to allow people to believe differently? And not only just allow, but to celebrate? Like, you know what, I don’t believe that, but you do, and I can value you as a person regardless. But I think there’s a devaluing and a less than kind of thing that comes through with that. Transphobia is really a problem, right? Black trans women are dying and being murdered in it feels like the community doesn’t care. My shirt today says, “Stop killing Black trans women” because I just want to always lift that up and lift them up because I value them as people.  We have Healing Us for Black folks. We have Learning Us for white folks. We’re trying to start reaching out to the Latinx community as well. How do we get involved with immigrant justice? If all oppression is connected, then I’m connected to the lack of justice for immigrants also. We want to grow in that area, too. There’s all kinds of places where the light needs to come and shine brighter.

Ame Sanders  28:16

Wow, that’s great. Thank you. We touched on this a minute ago. So I know the work that I do has changed me. And in fact, I’m the only person I can change. I can’t change anybody else. I can only change me and how I react to the world and how I relate to the world. You talked a little bit about how this work has affected you, but there has to be something powerful that happens when you’re in this many conversations with people and when you facilitate this many sessions. Tell me a little bit about the impact that it’s had on you personally.

-Personal Impact: "Dedicated to Spiritual Growth of Myself and Others"

Davelyn Hill  28:51

Oh, wow. You hear my lack of words, because that’s what the work has done. It’s shown me at the same time how little I know and yet how profound my growth has been in the work of equity for all, in the work of really being rooted in love–and not the romantic sense or romanticized view of love or the love of pizza. This is just so different, right? This is bell hooks’ version of love, where I’m dedicated to the spiritual growth of myself and others. Where there’s respect, commitment, and trust. I want that to be the basis of my life. For the love of myself, but also love the community and for that to be my goal to see that spread.

Particularly for me right now, that’s looking like being an abolitionist. I remember the first time I read Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Davis I was like, “Whatever. Abolition? That’s a joke.” I literally was so mad. I was like, what is she talking about? I read it for Reading for Transformation. That book has worked on me and my ideas of where did we even get the idea of prisons from? Slave patrols. And just the idea that retribution is the answer to the crimes committed. Is that actually the answer? It has worked on my thinking and has worked on my heart. It has worked on me seeing people unjustly killed by the justice system. That’s just one example of what it looks like for love to lead. You know, if love leads, then of course I want harm reduction. Of course, I want justice, but I want transformative justice, not justice that is not really justice. Then people are like, “Well, what does that look like?” Well, I don’t know. That’s what we do together. We are very creative people, we created the system. So of course, we can do something else. So that’s just kind of one little example of how something comes into my vision and because of community I have to think through it and work on it and let it work on me and see where I’m going to land. I could have landed in another place. I could have landed at “prisons are a good idea.” But that’s not where I landed.

Ame Sanders  31:21

There are a couple of things that I just want to tease out for a minute and call out. This notion of leading with love, and the kind of love that you described, which transforms me and the community. Also this notion of letting the work that we do work on me. Those are both two concepts that I just want to restate again, because I think they’re very powerful concepts for us to consider. What kind of love do you want to see in the world and do you want to be part of making in the world? And then to realize that as you move forward with this work, the work will work on you.

-Grounded in Love that's about Trust, Respect, and Commitment

Davelyn Hill  32:06

It really will. Thank you for pointing that out. When I thought about love, for so long it was focused on sentimentality. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sentimentality, of course. I like to feel romantic love, love to feel sentimental. I like the feeling. But that feeling comes and goes just like any other feeling, right? It’s just based on my thoughts or what’s happening that day or what I ate for dinner. It’s just gonna move. But that other kind of love that’s about trust and respect and commitment and being devoted to seeing somebody else’s spiritual essence and growth? That’s not going to change with necessarily how I feel. I think that’s important for the long haul for us as people.

Ame Sanders  32:55

Indeed. Do you have anything that you wished I had asked you about or you wanted to talk about that we haven’t covered today?

-Sharing Power and Resources

Davelyn Hill  33:10

Actually, I just want to tell a story. So I graduated from Converse with my Masters in 2016 and I was working as Resident Director through the summer. When I graduated, I didn’t really want to move back home with the parentals. They lived in Greenville but I wanted to stay in Spartanburg. With Speaking Down Barriers, there was a group that was always coming and was our core group. One of those people, her name was Ann, and she’s an older white lady. Ann was like, “You know what? You can come live with me.”  And I was like, “Umm, really?” And she said, “Sure, you can live with me as you build up your income so that you can get your own place and be able to stay where you want to stay and not have to move in with your parents. You can have a room and the house is yours, do what you want. It’s okay.” I thought about it and I was like, “Okay, well, why not? I mean, might as well give it a try.”  So I moved into Ann’s house in Spartanburg and we shared space for some months while I was able to save some money. We would watch TV together some nights and be in the kitchen sometimes, go to some Speaking Down Barriers events and see each other. Just kind of living around each other in proximity, right? Growing in trust and love and care for each other. Eventually, I was able to save enough money and move out.

I tell that story as an example of what community can do, what shared power looks like. So Ann didn’t view what she was doing as charity. She viewed what she was doing as mutual aid. So I live with her. I share who I am with her. She shares who she is with me and eventually, because at that time her power was in resources. But my power was in knowing who I am and sharing love for Ann. That’s what I would love for the community to look like. It might not mean opening your house to someone you barely know. Or it might not mean moving in with someone you barely know. But, it could mean sharing resources. It’s kind of the cold water, you know? I have a cup of water and I can offer you some of it. That’s what I really want to leave listeners with: what power can you share? How can you share your power to be equitable and to not see what you have as yours? Nothing is really mine. I’m going to die one day and leave it all. It’s not mine. So if I don’t see it as mine, how can I be like, “Okay, well, I have temporary ownership.” What does it mean to share that power and share my resources with other people?

Ame Sanders  35:54

Davelyn, thank you for sharing that story and thank you for sharing your time with us this afternoon. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you and to get to know you and to hear more about Speaking Down Barriers. Again, thank you for joining us.

Davelyn Hill  36:08

Thank you.


Ame Sanders  36:10

Earlier in the session, I mentioned that I had attended a session by Speaking Down Barriers. It’s hard for me to realize that it was back in August of 2015, nearly six years ago. One of the things we did in that session was write a note to ourselves. We were given a piece of paper with a big title across the top: “I speak down barriers.” We were asked to write five ways we intended to speak down barriers. What we wrote was totally private. We folded it and sealed it into an envelope and addressed it to ourselves. The facilitators waited a few weeks and then mailed the envelopes to us. I love to visualize all of those letters being mailed from Speaking Down Barrier sessions going out through our mail system, out into our community, finding people with shared intent. It was a powerful way to remind us of the intentions we formed during the session, to refresh and bring back the feelings of the day, and to check ourselves. I have to admit I hadn’t looked at that note for several years. I dug it up before my conversation with Davelyn. The items that I listed were written long before I even considered doing a podcast. I was surprised how relevant my points still are to myself and for my work.

Here were the five ways that I intended to speak down barriers: Number one was building State of Inclusion. Number two was continuing my personal internal work. Number three was stretching and encouraging my family and close friends. Number four was to help water and feed others’ positive actions. And number five was to not get distracted by my own ambitions. This is a simple step that anybody can do to focus their intention–the intention to change themselves and their community. I’m going to ask you, what are the five ways that you will speak down barriers? Write them down, post them on your wall, put them in a folder, look at them later. Have a friend mail them to you sometime in a few weeks. But most importantly, just do them. For those of you who are on this journey to make your communities more inclusive and equitable, there’s also a section of my website where I’ve mapped out a framework for change. The things we’ve discussed today are great examples of how community conversations help build the foundation of trust, dialogue, and respect, which are so needed for moving our communities forward. This has been the State of Inclusion podcast. Join us again next time, and if you enjoyed this episode the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share these ideas with others. Leave us a review. We’d love your comments. Thanks so much for listening.


Guest: Davelyn Hill

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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