I invited educator, writer, artist and activist Tema Okun (she/her) to talk with us about holiday traditions, rituals, and cultural appropriation. What she offered was deep wisdom from her personal life and decades of work as a DEI facilitator, author and professor. I hope this episode prompts reflection and provides encouragement to keep healing and growing.
Tema Okun has spent over 35 years working with and for organizations, schools, and community-based institutions as a trainer, facilitator, teacher, and mentor focused on issues of racial justice and equity. She got her start at Grassroots Leadership. For 12 years she worked with the late and beloved Kenneth Jones at ChangeWork and then for another decade with Michelle Johnson and many brilliant colleagues at Dismantling Racism Works.
She recently completed 6 years of co-leading the Teaching for Equity Fellows Program at Duke University, which works with faculty seeking to develop stronger skills both teaching about race and racism and across lines of race, class, and gender. She also facilitates and support leaders and organizations with colleagues at Teach.Equity.Now., housed at the Pauli Murray Center in Durham, NC. She was a member of the Educational Leadership faculty at National Louis University in Chicago and has taught undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral level students in educational leadership and education.
She is the author of the award-winning The Emperor Has No Clothes: Teaching About Race and Racism to People Who Don’t Want to Know (2010, IAP) and the widely used article White Supremacy Culture, which she is asking people to stop using and instead reference a website based on a revision and update of the article in May 2021: www.whitesupremacyculture.info. She publishes regularly on the pedagogy of racial and social justice.
She is a member of the Bhumisphara Sangha under the leadership of Lama Rod Owens and a participant in The Infinite Circle at Breadloaf Mountain Zen Center. She is an artist, a poet, and a writer. She lives in Carrboro, NC where she is fortunate to reside among beloved community. Her current project is deepening her ability to love her neighbor as herself. She is finding the instruction easy and the follow through challenging, given how we live in a culture that is afraid to help us do either or both.
White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race by Ian Haney Lopez
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Song Credit: In Another Place by Isaac Elliott