Crystal Whiteaker (pronouns: she/her) is the Founder and CEO of Crystal Lily Creative, and the Author of Brave Leadership is a Choice: An Inclusive Guide to Creating Belonging. Crystal is an Inclusive Branding and Leadership Development Consultant who helps mission-driven brands and leaders create human-focused messaging and environments rooted in core values.
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David: Crystal, welcome to this restorative justice Life. Who are you? Hi
Crystal: David. My name is Crystal Whitaker pronouns she, her. I am an inclusive branding and leadership development consultant.
David: Mm-hmm. , who are you?
Crystal: I am a queer, black biracial woman living in Los Angeles.
David: Who are you?
Crystal: I am, I am very woowoo little bit of a intuitive witch , if you will.
David: Who are you?
Crystal: I am very much my mother's daughter, fiery in nature. Grounded in spirit. Mm-hmm. ,
David: who are you?
Crystal: I'm a plant mom.
David: who are.
Crystal: I am a creative at heart. Mm-hmm. ,
David: who are you?
Crystal: I am a joyful nature lover.
David: Awesome. Thank you so much, crystal, for being here. We're gonna get to the intersections of so many of those things throughout the course of our conversation. But as we start, it's always good to start with a check-in.
So to the fullest extent that you want to answer the question right now. How are you?
Crystal: I am good today. Today. Today I am good. It's been a rough start to the week, but today is
We're finishing strong, finishing strong. And for those of you who are listening to this on Day of release, hope you are. Hope your week has been good, or maybe at least today has been good.
And, you know, over the next couple of days and into the weekend, you will find more goodness, rest, joy and relaxation. But, you know, I'm so glad that you and your team reached out to have this conversation on this podcast because, you know, as you talked about your work, I think a lot of, I think there's a lot of intersection with the work of restorative justice.
And while we might not use the same terms the, this work of inclusivity is an important value in the way that we go about doing life and doing business within the way of, within the realm of us trying to build a world. where people have the ability to build, strengthen, and repair relationships rooted in equity and trust.
And so, you know, I'm not gonna ask you, you know, where did this work with restorative justice start for you? Because I know that was like, you know, through our work at Amplify rj, but on this broader question of equity and inclusion and belonging, how did this journey manifest or start for you?
Crystal: It's, it's so interesting because.
In a lot of ways this has been a lifelong buildup. But I started edging into this work as a profession through my photography business. Before I had my consulting brand, I was a photographer and I had spent prior to that over a decade in corporate roles, got really burnt out if anyone's ever been in corporate, know what that can do to our spirits.
And I started a photography business because I really wanted to lean into that creativity and I dove headfirst into the wedding industry. If anyone is familiar with the wedding industry, especially on the vendor side it historically, in terms of the mainstream publications and the way that things were marketed to couples it skewed very heteronormative.
Very whitewashed. And that was something that immediately frustrated me as a photographer because I, being a queer woman of color, I, I know that lots of people with many different expressions get married. And so I built this really inclusive photography business where straight white couples were actually my minority clients, so to speak.
And other people started asking me like, how are you able to do this? Both on the client side and the industry side. Couples were like, you know, I chose you because of the range of diversity in your portfolio. And other vendor vendors were like, how do you have such a diverse portfolio? So I started working with people in the wedding and event industry.
on helping them incorporate more inclusive practices into their business to make more people feel welcome, heard, and understood. And it became this ripple effect where it was, it expanded beyond industry professionals to other creatives and then coaches and consultants. And it's just grown from there.
And as I was doing that work, it came so naturally to me, and in part it was a little bit of a healing process in the beginning too, because I was recognizing all of the things that I had been internalizing and harboring from, you know, childhood into adulthood. And it was like, oh no, we, there's work to be done here.
So it ended up feeling like the most aligned work I've ever done and started phasing out photography and now I just do consulting in this space.
David: Yeah. Yeah. And before we like dive into like that, Transition from corporate to photography to this, like you talked about it being like a lifelong thing.
Right? And so many of us, like it wasn't corporate for me, it was healthcare, right? But so many of us do work or find jobs or go to school for things that we think that will bring us stability, safety you know, at least the salary and health insurance. Right. And, you know, I'm curious what was present for you as you were making those decisions, but still, like in the back of your mind, thinking about these ideas of equity, inclusion, belonging as a young person growing up and as you were making those initial career decisions.
Crystal: So this is the interesting thing about my experience, because I, I am biracial and the world, like I identify as a black woman, even though I'm half white, I present as a black woman. But I grew up with a white side of my family. and I didn't have access to the black side of my heritage, my family, or any of that.
So the, these weren't glaring questions in my mind. Growing up, the, the one thing that was very clear to me as a child and as a teenager was, you know, I am the only person of color in my family. And often feeling othered, but not having a full range of language or understanding as to why some things felt off.
Because I also grew up in predominantly white, heteronormative communities where these conversations weren't happening. I didn't even really know what to, to look for in terms of resources, language, books, any of those things. It was just what I had access to was what I had access to. And it wasn't until I became an adult and started getting exposed to different cultures and traveling and understanding.
different experiences and having all of that, that it started to click in. I mean it, I was in my twenties when these things started to make sense for me. And then it was that thing of hindsight of, oh, that's why I felt this way during X time .
David: Yeah. Yeah. And so like, I'm curious if there were any of those experiences that you can name that, like were turning points for you or like aha moments?
Crystal: I, this is, this is a vulnerable answer, but it's the absolute truth. I mean, dating white men, and some, okay. Some of the things that I can remember. Hearing and things that were said to me or in my presence that felt a little off, but I was like, I don't, I don't have language for this, but hindsight being what it is of like, oh, that's, that's just, you know, microaggressions, co covert racism that nobody wanted to call, racism, things of that nature that now I, I can call it out immediately.
David: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, you're experiencing this in the dating world, right? It's present in corporate, right? It's corp, it's present in the wedding industry. And like, as you're starting to be able to identify those things, right? Like you see the ways that, like you want to do things differently. You see the ways that things have been done differently.
You're able to like, give name to these issues. What did it look like for you to start naming those problems? And what was the response that you receiv.
Crystal: Well, when I started naming those problems, I had already begun cultivating more aligned relationships, mm-hmm. and the people that were aligned were very receptive and opened.
Having those conversations open to learning and understanding how they could be more supportive. People who were not on that side of the fence were very defensive. There are relationships that I no longer have as a result which in, in a lot of ways was really hurtful. Which is why I really appreciate the work that you do around restorative justice
Cause, you know finding ways to engage in conversations that can be restorative to repair is important. But I, I think, yeah, the results were, were very divided and there I didn't experience a lot of in between. It was either, yes, we hear you, we see you, we understand, or you're making way too much out of something that's not that big of a deal.
David: Yeah, yeah. And you know, whether it is, quote unquote restorative justice, inclusion, equity, belonging, right? We are going to encounter people who are like, very much opposed to having these types of conversations, very much opposed to being or to have like problematic behavior identified. And you're gonna have varying different responses to that.
Right. And it is not the. , the goal of restorative justice right, is not to have everyone believe what you believe. Right, right. Although like that might be helpful in some circumstances, but you know, it's not about like belief alignment. It is about like acknowledging harm caused mm-hmm. . And like if we want to continue or if we want to be in relationship together in a good way, this is what I need from you.
And like, if people aren't willing to participate in that process, are willing to change behaviors, like then we're not able to like proceed in a restorative way. And then that's where you set boundaries about like, Hey, these are the people who I have in my life who are gonna support me and the way that I want to be.
And so like, I'm gonna spend time with them and not you. There's a difference between that and saying, f you, you're canceled. Go away, fall in a hole and die. But it's like, these are the ways that I want to. live my values and spending time with you is not something that's conducive to that. And I know like you've had conversations with people along the way, and so much of what I want to have our conversation about is those values.
And so when you talk about the way that you are doing consulting now, and even in like the way that you were handling the initial questions from people who were like, Hey, what are you doing that's different? What were those conversations around values like and how have, how have those manifested in the life?
the life and business of your clients and in the way that you've continued to do your work?
Crystal: Well, I, I think it's probably fair and helpful to give perspective on where the values came into play as far as my business is concerned. Sure. So, transparency. It was a conversation with my therapist. I, I was experiencing a lot of different shifts and it was just a question that she had asked me.
She was like, what are, what are your values? Like, what do you value? And that was the question. And I was able to rattle them off pretty quickly at the time. And then it became this thing of, okay, if these are the things that I value, I need to make sure that I'm actually honoring it so that I don't end up in this similar position where I'm like questioning everything in my.
And so I started doing that, just kind of checking in with myself periodically. At first it was a few times a week, then a few times a month. And you know, now it's just kind of ingrained of, all right, well these are the values and what have I done in the last day, week, couple of weeks that are in alignment with those values.
And I started to notice shifts in my behavior and in my own decision making and how I was showing up for myself first, and then for other people. And then I started incorporating it with clients and they started sharing with me like, oh, this is. , this is really helpful, and it's a matter of like, all right, here are my values.
Here's why they're important to me. Here's how I define them. Here is the commitments that I'm making to my community through the lens of the values, including how I'm going to be inclusive through the lens of those values and the feedback from people. Yeah. Was very like, this is incredibly helpful.
David: Let's stick with inclusivity. Yeah. As a value. What did that look like for you as some, as a person and as a, as a person in the world and as a person who was running a business? Like how do you know that you were being inclusive? , I guess before that, how did you define inclusivity and then like how do you know that you were being inclusive?
Crystal: Well, for me being inclusive is about making sure that people feel seen, heard, and understood. So I, I look at it on a, in a few different ways. Diversity just, it, it gives people a seat at the table. It's a start. Representation gives them a voice and it, you know, allows them to be heard. But true inclusion or inclusivity is where they, they not only feel welcome seen, heard and understood, like it's, it's that like they feel seen, welcome, heard, understood, all of those things.
It's all encompassing and it's done in a way that people feel like they can be their whole selves in their whole humanity, all of their identity. They can show up as they are and be honored in that in a way that isn't judgmental. , you know, it's more a thing of if you're asking questions about them and their experience or what they need, it comes from the space of curiosity and wanting to connect rather than wanting to tell them what you think and how they should be instead.
David: Hmm. Yeah. So what did that look like for you as a person and as a small business owner?
Crystal: I love this question. So for me, it required me to get really honest about who I am and what I believe, and the things that I had been kind of harboring for myself. And maybe just my immediate circle of like, this is, this is stuff that I just don't wanna share with the world per, even, particularly around sexuality, you know?
Mm-hmm. , people that were close to me were aware, but it wasn't something that I was open about. So starting there was a big thing for me. and then just living in, in that truth and that honesty of my own humanity and lived experience and modeling it for people and creating a space where it's like, okay, some of these things in, in, depending on where you are and what part of the country you're in can, can be really brave and vulnerable to share and setting that example of being brave enough and vulnerable enough to.
All of who I was, allowed people to access their own internal safety. To be honest, I've, I've worked with clients actually one I was just speaking with not too long ago who shared things with me during our work together that they had come to realize about themselves and they were so afraid to, but they felt safe enough to share it with me first.
And having that level of trust where I was able to work with them and get them grounded in themselves so that they could mm-hmm. be who they were in the world and begin to build their own business around that and feel really good about it. That's like, I, I think that that's so powerful because the more from my perspective, the more people are able to be who they are without fear of judgment or even if they are being judged.
they, they're, I think that it just creates more opportunities for people to feel aligned and have a sense of peace in their lives because there's less anxiety about what might come
David: at them. Yeah. I'm th so many thoughts spinning, right? That was a long wind when . No, no, it was perfect. And I think a couple things that I want to pull out of there.
One that, like, if you're somebody who in your life or business, or like with the people that you are doing life with, doing work with, want to do something or be about something, uphold a specific value, right. , there has to be this acknowledgement that like, values are aspirational and we're not necessarily there 100% of the time, and there might be significant work that we need to do on ourselves internally in order to uphold that value.
Right? It might, it looks different in every scenario when it comes to like upholding a value, but like, as you were sharing about sharing about your sexuality, right? Like having that conversation and revealing that part of yourself, whether it's in conversation or the way that you, like, advertise out to the world, right?
Like that is a vulnerable thing that like, you know, crystal from 10 years ago probably wouldn't have done. And like the journey that you had to do to the, the work that you had to do to come to that place where like, yeah, this is okay, this is actually beautiful. This is who I am and this is how I want to be in relationship with people.
that was a journey. And like, we can't necessarily expect people to like, reach those things overnight. The other thing that like really stood out to me though was when you said you know, people are able to be who they are and in current discourse around diversity, inclusion, belonging, especially like in corporate spaces, I think like my antennas go up when I hear that because when people say like, oh, I'm trying to create this environment where people can, you know, be their whole selves, it's like, I don't want to be my whole self with you because like, you're not safe.
This place is not safe enough for me. Or like, I'm, I as a person have a boundary here that like, I don't wanna let down. And like, that's okay for people to uphold for themselves. And like, we need to build containers where the expectations are clear that like these things are okay to be revealed. Mm-hmm.
And that looks like a lot of modeling, like as you were saying for, you know, People in your own life and people whose businesses and projects that you were working with. There's one more thing I want to tag back on, but like, now I'm going on and on and on and like I see you like ready to respond.
So go . No, I love it. . Go ahead, . Oh, well, okay. Then the other thing, like in line with that, right? When we're thinking about different aspects of people's identity, right? Like as a queer black woman, right? You know, like, and you know, for people who have been listening to this podcast, the framework of intersectionality probably isn't new, but like, just to reintroduce it, right?
P people, everyone has multiple aspects to who they are. And within the context of our. Ableist cis hetero, patriarchal white supremacist, capitalistic society, right? Like all of those identities play a role. And so like as as a black woman, right? You suffer or you're marginalized, oppressed by white supremacy and racism, but also as a woman, right?
Like we have patriarchy. And as a queer woman, like hetero patriarchy and people who understand, people who live in bodies like yourself or people who have multiple oppressed identities understand intersectionality and. The need to be able to show up as they are on a very deep level. People who have fewer marginalized or oppressed identities often feel shame because like, oh, because like I benefit from the way that these systems are.
Like, it's not okay for me to be this. Right. And we, when I'm having this conversation, I imagine we're all thinking about like straight white men , right? And straight white men being defensive about us naming these problems. And we want you to be who you are too. We just want you to be who you are in a space where that is not what is considered good, right?
Holy. And the objective that everyone should be striving to. Everybody's perspectives need to be included and belong and celebrated. And yours do too. Just like tone it down a bit, , you know, not tone it down and, and maybe it's not even tone it down. as I'm thinking that through. And because like, I think it's important to hear people like struggle in articulating this make space, right?
Mm-hmm. sometimes that logistically means backing up, but like we're not always dealing in scarcity and finite resources, including other people from other marginalized backgrounds and identities does not necessarily, it can be, but does not necessarily mean like there is less for you. Yes. Those are lots of things that came up in your responses and now I.
Hand it back over to you,
Crystal: Yes. To all of that. one of the things that comes to mind, and this is a conversation that I had with somebody recently on two, same, same person, same conversation on two different occasions where it's, it's that what about us? Not, not so much like the, the scarcity mindset of like, you know, losing resources, but like, what about us?
And even in that, I find that perspective to be really harmful. Because if a, if a person who has any or multiple marginalized identities is in a conversation with someone who does have more social power and privilege, like a, like a cishetb white man. to, to be sharing the perspectives about the lived experiences of marginalized people and then be met with Well, yeah, but also what about us?
You know, think about the things that we are experiencing and suffering because of the, you know, the, the swinging pendulum of social justice. It immediately, almost dismisses and even diminishes the experience that I'm trying to put forth of like, you, you're, it's, it's this recentering of whiteness of like, yeah, I hear you, but mm-hmm.
you know, we're still really important. Nobody's saying that you're not important. We're saying that we also need support here, and you have the power and privilege to
David: do so. Yeah. And I think the narrative around what about us, like is in some ways like rooted in scarcity, right? Because like, when you've known something to be like, when you've been centered all of your life to like have anything different.
is like, like that's like something being taken, taken away from me. And like, I guess like in some ways like yes, there is not as much attention like put towards you in like, you know, we have a 60 minute meeting to talk about X, Y, Z things. And just because we're not talking about the things that you want to you think are important doesn't mean that you're not important.
There are just like other people who are important and don't be mad that other people's perspectives are being uplifted. . Mm-hmm. . And that yours is not the only one now being considered. Right. And I. I'm wary, I, I'm reflecting on us having this conversation and me bringing up like, yeah, and this is like what white people are experiencing, not, and I'm thinking about the perception of like, yeah, and like you're continuing to center white narratives and like, I think that's very true.
Like, that is what's happening right now and doing it for the sake of, let's talk about this and like be able to identify when that's happening. How do you as a person who is doing this work professionally as a consultant or even like in your personal life with I I we can say white people, but like with people with centered or privileged identities, how do you encourage them to see things differently?
Crystal: it's always about questions, asking questions to get them to, you know, get curious. So if, if you, if you had been a client asking, asking me that question, my fir I probably would've asked you, you know, okay, well why, why is that a question in your mind? Where does that come from? And give them time, them time and space to think about it, because usually it is, it is a narrative that has been absorbed through a lifetime of conditioning and, and what have been the, the standard social norms.
So it's, it's always about asking questions and expanding on that curiosity. And from, depending on whatever their answers are, it opens up a dialogue and we start uncovering things and it gets them to consider how they can think about things differently.
David: Yeah. , those, those questions are so important. And when you were talking about you know, forces of socialization, right?
A lot of times people feel like they're individually being blamed for their behaviors. And I think, like, I'm not absolving people of individual choices that they're making, but like, there does have to be this acknowledgement that like, this is systemic mm-hmm. And inviting people to see, like, it, like in those questions, like even questioning like, Hey, why do you think that like marriage is only between a man and a woman?
Because that's the home that I was raised in. That's what I saw on tv. That's what my pastor said. That's what X, Y, Z, right? Oh, like, so that's why, right. , but like, don't you see like the way that those things are, like, not about like you and your choices, mm-hmm. about like the things that you've been told all of your life and like to challenge those narratives and like to give examples of like why those things.
I think giving context to like why those things have like historically been created and why those things don't necessarily serve the interests of everybody. Mm-hmm. Is important. I'm thinking really deeply. what's been in my mind recently is the TV show, Romi. It's on Hulu and I don't know if you've watched it, but this is a spoiler for Romi.
So if you don't want to hear anything about Romi , if you're, if you're before season two, episode nine in Rami skip forward, you know, probably two or three minutes. But there's this character this uncle who is bigoted. Homophobic racist and like pretty misogynistic. And he and himself is a gay man who's struggling with his sexuality and as a Muslim, right?
Like being to and being both, being a Muslim, culturally, being Palestinian, culturally living and being like of middle aged. Like he has been socialized a certain way. And so like in his struggle to repress his sexuality, be who he is, like the anger comes out in like so many different ways. And you know, that's one example of the way.
not being able to be yourself is detrimental to all of us. Mm-hmm. , right? But like, when you are not even allowing that for yourself to come out, like, how do we expect you to be that way for others? .
Crystal: Yeah. Oh yeah. You're touching on the conversation that I have with clients where, you know, they, they're usually coming to me because they want to create that sense of belonging.
And I, I, early in our work, it's, it's this conversation of like, okay, well, do you understand what you need in order to feel a sense of belonging from within yourself? First and foremost? Because if, if we know what makes us feel like we belong, that work is done through self connection and self-reflection.
So there's different things that it's like, you know, how do you connect to yourself and how do you acknowledge what comes up? What does that work look like, whether it's journaling or mirror work or singing to yourself, whatever those things look like. And then understanding how you connect with yourself will help you better connect to other people and ask them, Hey, what do you need to feel a sense of belonging?
What, what helps you connect? And in identifying that, learning how to honor that for each other, even if the ways in which you connect are different. When you're aware of how you connect and how other people connect, then you can honor that and create that sense of belonging for other people, because you understand how to do it for yourself.
Ev all of this work, you know, this, David, all of this work starts from within .
David: Yeah. Yeah. so as you're doing this individual work with folks, so where they're interrogating their values, like identifying ideas of belonging for themselves, how has that impacted the people who they've worked with, the people that they're in community with?
Crystal: I love this question. So , I feel like it's a little challenging to answer because I don't get direct feedback on how, how it impacts on a, on a deeper scale as far as everybody that they're working with. But what I can tell you is that the feedback I do receive is people feel much more grounded, certain and aligned in the ways in which they're showing up and making decisions to support people that they're working with.
And this, honestly, it goes beyond just workplace because the way that I focus with people, even though a lot of my people are, they're in leadership roles the way that I focus the work is what is your role? What roles do you hold in life? You have your personal roles, your professional roles, and the way that we go through my framework is very much set up in a way that they.
are able to do the work for themselves and show up in a way that is consistent regardless of what environment they're in. Yeah. That answer your question?
David: Yeah. I th No No. Okay. it, it was, it was the answer to my question, and I think, like, what I'm getting at is people and this is something that I struggle with too, when like articulating like why you need restorative justice, like, because it's hard to quote, unquote sell or like convince people that, like you need like value alignment.
So like you feel a sense of peace as you move throughout the different rules that you have. The, like, it's hard to put like a dollar. Like it's, it's hard to say like, this is where I was before and this is like why this was like a good business decision. Right? And like within the context of education, like, this is where we were before and this is like how we have increased attendance, better test scores and fewer suspensions.
Right? There is a need for a lot of people when quote unquote selling restorative justice work. D e I work equity inclusion, belonging justice work to make the business case. And I think like what both you and I like, what I articulate is like, it's hard to make that business case. I'm curious like if there are business outcomes mm-hmm.
that like you have seen or witnessed that are helpful for people who need or want to hear some of those things. Because like, like like you did, you totally answered the question. in the way that like it was authentically for you. And like, I deeply resonate with that. And for those who were like skeptical about like, why would I do this when like, I have these deadlines to meet these goals that I'm trying to set.
Like, why should I slow down, do this work for myself? Mm-hmm. Like how will it benefit me and my team, my business, et cetera, et cetera. Of
Crystal: course. Well, the first thing I can say in terms of the, the benefit to the team. First question I would have is, is your team diverse? And if it is, do, are you aware of how impactful it is for people who are on diverse teams to be able to show up and feel psychologically safe?
and feel emotionally, you know, emotionally safe. Like, because going back to our earlier part of conversation where we're talking about being able to show up as being whole in your humanity, when people have that sense of psychological and emotional safety, especially at work, they perform better, they are less worried about whether or not they are going to be judged because of their experience or who they, you know what they believe, who they are.
If they're actually really welcome or if they're just there to meet a quote unquote quota, they can redirect all of that energy to actually being creative and thoughtful and contributing to the team, being collaborative in a way that is you know, at, at their full capacity. And the same is it goes for people who, even if you're just a solo entrepreneur, , the way that your vendors work with you, the way that your clients work with you, if you are creating spaces where people can access that sense of, you know, Psychological safety, emotional safety, and they are more willing to show up for you, support you, refer you, that matters.
I even had I had a really big client project that I was working on all last year, and we, we continue to work together, but it was they were revamping their entire website and they hired me specifically to work with them and make sure that all of their messaging, the language, their nurture sequences as far as emails were concerned was clear, consistent, and connected.
And the overall experience for anyone visiting their website or clients that were going through engagements, that that journey was very nurturing in an alignment with their values of being inclusive, trauma informed, and equity minded. , I would say it was less than a week after that website launched and those nurture sequences started going out, the c e o came to me and let me know that they had gotten several responses from people that were familiar with their company, familiar with their team, and just saying how genuine the, the language and the presentation of everything felt, and it did make a difference in their business.
You know, it was no longer this, like, it was no longer a canned series of emails or language that was just kind of put together. It was very thoughtful and in alignment with their values, and that came through and it, it creates more connectivity between what you say and how you actually show up.
David: Yeah, this is me. Hearing what you're saying and thinking about parallels to people that I've worked with and like when we're spending time to do these things what didn't get articulated probably from your client is like all the people who like saw this change and unsubscribed. Right. And going back to like what we were talking about at the beginning of like, hey, there are people in your life who aren't values aligned and.
if you want to continue to be in line with your values, like you probably shouldn't be spending time with them and like, that's okay, right? Des Moines Wesley, someone who we've collaborated with a lot before, talks about this idea of like, acceptable loss, , right? In doing organizational change work or like really internal change work about like, Hey, if we're trying to be this way and there are people who don't want to come along for the journey, grace, good luck, blessings to you.
And we're gonna continue to be this way, like, attracting the people that like we want to attract from a business perspective or like within the context of your relationships or the people that you're doing work with every day. Like being on the same page allows you more spaciousness to do your work, to be creative and not have to fight.
Misaligned values. Yes.
Crystal: Yes, a hundred percent. I love it when people unsubscribe for my mailing list. I'm like, you know, , I'm glad that the freebie was helpful for you, but hey, if this language doesn't continue to support you, then that's okay. I'll be here. When you c when you are ready to take the journey,
David: right, like you were talking about like in your, who are you statements, right?
Like you're kind of woo-hoo and like, that's not for everybody and like, that's okay. And I think like when I am hearing this personally at this point in the life cycle of Amplify RJ initially thinking about like restorative justice for everyone at all times and like very presently understanding that like I'm talking about restorative justice in a very specific way.
That like some people who would might, who might just Google restorative justice. and are looking for like alternatives to the punitive criminal legal system might not necessarily align with like, hey, like what about a reformist approach? Instead of an abolitionist approach, right? Because like, we still need cops to keep us safe.
Like we can, like that's not the conversation that you and I are gonna have right now, but like, if I'm very explicitly saying like, this is the way that I want to be and like, this is the way that we're gonna engage and this is the way that we're gonna talk about doing this work with integrity. You don't have to be here If that's not what aligned with you, that's okay.
No harm. But I think like I've struggled with trying to, I mean, I, I think this is like business marketing 1 0 1. Like if you're trying to serve everybody, you're serving nobody, but like, be who you are, stand in your values and you'll work with the people you were meant to work with. .
Crystal: Oh yeah, absolutely.
I, I, here's another thing that I can say that is probably another part to your question in terms of the benefits of doing this work after working with me, clients, they, they messaged me a year, six months, six months, a year, two years later, I've gotten messages where they have told me, wow, like the work that we did is, it's still applicable because I set it up that way on purpose.
I, I want it to be something that they can continue to revisit. But they're, they'll tell me things like, you know, everything feels so much more automatic now that I've been doing this for a while, or I have more clients that feel aligned to me because I'm, you know, they're outwardly sharing what they support, what they believe, how they work with people and you know, who is welcome.
And they have less, quote unquote, nightmare clients than they did before. And that's a direct result of being values aligned and honoring their commitments to inclusivity as well. .
David: Yeah. And I think like when I make the connection to restorative justice, right? Like, we're gonna take time to do this right now.
So we're building and strengthening these relationships we did in equity and trust and having clear expectations of how we want to be together. So when there are problems in the future, we know what's expected. Everybody consented to being together this way, right? And we're just calling them back into alignment.
We're not saying, Hey, stop doing that. That's bad. You're bad. Mm-hmm. , it's like, Hey, you agreed to be this way. What can we do to support you in being this way? How can you make up or make right the things that like you did and cause harm? Like, and when we know that process, when we're very quickly and when that language is common and very quickly able to like redirect people it goes a lot easier when people know that that's what's expected of them within the context of, you know, interpersonal relationships, classrooms, workplaces.
It go, it goes on and on. You know, you talked a little bit about. being trauma informed and like I didn't want. We've had people like Joe Bremmer on this podcast talk about like trauma informed approaches to restorative justice. But I'm curious what you think about when you're talking about trauma being trauma informed in the way that you go about working with clients and the way that people are messaging.
Crystal: Yeah. So I will first state the disclaimer. I am, you know, I'm not a therapist, I'm not an expert in trauma work. I, I have to give credit to Katie Kurtz. She has a program called Cultivate, and it is a trauma-informed training program for space holders. And she talks about the different levels of being, being trauma.
You have, you have trauma aware, which is, you know, most of us are aware that people have experienced trauma. That, that's like on its most basic level of being trauma informed is, you know, like I am in, I'm aware that people have had trauma and I can hold space for it and honor people's experiences in humanity, but I will not operate outside my scope of work.
So I'll tell a lot of clients, you know, if this work gets really uncomfortable, I always advise them if it's accessible to you. I recommend having a therapist in conjunction with the work that we do together but honoring people's experiences and being able to recognize and identify when someone may be triggered in a space, when someone may be going through a, a healing time in their life and not pushing them through things that they may not be ready for.
Sometimes it's a matter of like, all right, I can recognize that this is very activating to you. , would it be helpful if we take a pause here and give you the time and space that you need to regroup so that we can come back when, when you feel a little more grounded and balanced, like taking that approach versus just pushing people through stuff, you're just gonna make it worse.
It, it doesn't actually help them get through the work specifically in relation to the type of work that we are doing. So being aware of that and honoring people in that
David: way. I think even within the context of like naming harm with people I'm never gonna be one to criticize the way that people who have been harmed are naming harm. But I do think that there are more effective ways to name harm with folks that will like, will help them hear the message. Mm-hmm. I'm thinking about a time, not within the work context, but with a friend who made an, who made a racially insensitive comment and my response was like, what did you mean by that?
What did you mean by that? Yeah, but what did you mean by that? Like, not in a, like not in a very nice way. In a like pretty aggressive, like no, like really I know what you meant, but like, tell me like the thing that you did and why that was like mm-hmm. harmful kind of way. And like, I'm not wrong for like pushing them to name that harm, but like it also wasn't the most impactful way for them to receive that.
Right. Because of trauma they've experienced with people like yelling at them, which essentially I was doing. Right. And while that well, like some people like might say that I was justified in that approach. It's like, but are we getting to the result that I want? Right? Like, I'm not on speaking terms with that person anymore.
Not because of that incident, because of other things that happened like down the line from that. But like that was a point where it's like, oh, I've identified ways that I want to be with you and you are not going to make those changes. Okay. Like, we're going on diverging paths, but the way that I went about that could have been a little bit more gentle.
And might have yielded different results. Who knows?
Crystal: Yeah. I also. , even people who do this work professionally, like we are still humans and we still Yeah. Will make mistakes, right? Mm-hmm. , and even like you acknowledging that says something about who you are as a person, where you're like, Hmm, maybe I could have gone about this a different way.
You learned something from that experience. Am I wrong?
No. Maybe .
David: I, I mean, I, I learned something like I don't, I learned something. I don't think, like, I don't regret my actions. . Like I'm not sorry that I did that mm-hmm. , right? I learned about that person and like my partner and I as a result of that conversation like we gained more understanding, but like, I didn't learn.
Like, does that make sense? Like I wouldn't have done it anything different, like in retrospect. Oh yeah. No, but like there was learning.
Crystal: Yeah, I totally get it. But, but the point is like, even, even being in this space, like we will find ourselves, I have found myself in situations with people where I'm like, well, maybe I could have handled it a differently, maybe it would've come out the same way and similar to you.
Like I don't regret calling it what it was. But there's also to, to be fair, there's also a time and a place like sometimes things just need to be called. and, and it is what it is that there's, there's no way around that. I, I think that there's a difference between calling things out and calling people in to examine their words and behaviors is, in the way that we are in those spaces is going to be a little bit different than how we are in spaces where it's a controlled environment with clients who have come in for support in those, in those specific areas as opposed to being out in the wild and being, being met with different experiences where it's like, yeah, even though I do this for a living, my response is just a little bit different.
I'm still a human. I'm, you know, I'm not in quote unquote work mode because Yeah, it's, it's still a job.
David: for sure. I. To like, maybe like circle back to, you know, that values conversation. What I, what I hear in this, and like specifically within the context of the situation that I shared is like, you know, when values are in conflict, right?
When I value like
well, let's just put like values and loyalty sorry. Integrity and loyalty. Mm-hmm. in conflict with each other, right? Like, you want to be loyal to a person who, like you've been in relationship with for a long time, you've done work together, you value them and like you have other values that they're not upholding in this case, you know, the microaggressions and be ideas and behaviors that like, went along with those microaggressions with someone like who I did have a relationship with.
And like, you know, loyalty, friendship, relationships are like something that are very important to me in that case, like standing in line with like my values of equity, belonging, inclusion. And I think like, in my sense it, like, in that specific sense, like not fetishizing a person because of like their ethnic background, right?
Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. Was more important than like, let's continue to be friends in that loyalty. Loyalty and integrity are two examples, but like, what are other ways that you've thought about coaching people through conflicting values or making those choices in your own life? Mm. Ooh,
Crystal: that is a good question.
let's consider the example of values of trust and wellbeing, right? So, mm-hmm. Being, being people, being in relationships where, you know, trust is really, really important and so is their wellbeing and being in spaces where trust is broken and it becomes detrimental to the wellbeing of the person whose trust was broken of like, all right, well I'm gonna remain in this relationship with you.
But you've completely broken the trust and how, how can I, how, how can the value of wellbeing also be honored? It becomes this thing of sometimes we have to create a hierarchy within our values, which is really hard to do because we can have multiple values where like you're saying they're opposing. But if it becomes a thing of like your, your wellbeing is now being sacrificed and compromised because you're going against this value of trust being broken, which is more important.
Someone, someone had said something that I thought was really powerful actually in relation to this conversation about the values of trust and wellbeing, that your, your mental health and wellbeing isn't a bargaining chip.
David: mental wellness not being a bargaining chip. Set my antennas off because I think it comes back to, again, like what we talked about in the beginning, like being really clear about what we mean when we say those things and making sure that like, those things don't get weaponized, right?
And so like having really explicit conversations about what things mean to people is really important because I think about lots of times when like mental health, mental wellness, mental wellbeing, like is sacrificed is compromised like because of other superseding values. Like obviously for reasons that like most people would agree with when it comes to you know, taking care of , a very young child who has needs at all hours of the night.
And so you're gonna sacrifice your sleep and therefore mental wellness to make sure that those things get taken care of. There's sometimes there are causes in organizing spaces and activism spaces where like you are believing in a movement to cause a project so greatly that you are going to put additional stresses on yourself because like those other things are superseding.
I don't think that's what you were saying. And so like, I want to turn it back to you to make sure that we're, we're clear about what you meant by like mental wellness not being a bargaining chip. So we're not using it in a way that like can be weaponized by white people being like, oh, I'm uncomfortable.
Like like it's too much for me to like, hear all this anti-racism rhetoric. I'm not a white supremacist, et cetera, et cetera. Like, what did you mean when you like talked about like mental wellbeing not being a bargaining chip?
Crystal: Yeah, more so in, in, in relation to like if, you are continuously stating a, a value or a boundary, because if you really think about it, like your, your values are also in relation to your boundaries and people have been informed of what those values and boundaries are and they continue to violate it, then it becomes a conversation of, okay, how can I.
make sure that I am honoring myself in this value, and do I need to reevaluate with, reevaluate this relationship? Now, I'm certainly not saying like, ignore the needs of young children . Like that's completely different. Yeah. Yeah. And I also, I definitely don't want people to, to weaponize this idea of, oh, well this is just too hard for me and it's not good for my mental health in those contexts, you know, pe especially white people doing this work, if you are feeling challenged as you go through it, first of all, just know that that's, that's a part of it.
So what other things can you put in place for yourself to support that value? So like, if, if it is a matter of like you, you know, protecting and taking care of your wellbeing, what can you put in place to support that while you go through this work? So I'll give you an example. , when I'm working with clients, I, I have a six step process and step number four is disrupt.
And that is where we get into the whole work of disrupting and identifying bias on multiple levels. And I let my clients know this is, this is gonna be challenging. There are gonna be things that may come up that will feel hard, they may upset you. I always advise them if it's accessible to you. You know, I recommend having a therapist through this work.
And at the very least before, before we go through modules together, because they have pre-recorded modules, they're able to go through and then we do live sessions together. Make sure that they are in a head space where they're able to engage with the material. If the, if it starts to feel like it is too much, there is a pause button.
It's, it's not a quit button. Mm-hmm. , it's a pause button, , because yeah. That, that feeling, those feelings of discomfort that come up. are actually an invitation to explore why you feel the way you do. Where are those narratives coming from that make you feel uncomfortable? It might not necessarily be about, oh, this is damaging to my mental health.
It may be a thing of, oh, this is going back to what you were saying earlier. It might be something that they're recognizing is actually in opposition with one of the things that they say they value when they're going through that bias work. Mm-hmm. .
David: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yeah. transparently. That's the second time we recorded that piece of the conversation because like some things got jumbled, but Crystal, you did like an amazing job responding to like my first and then second more refined questions there.
So kudos to you. You've earned your way towards the questions that everybody answers when they come on this restorative justice life . You know, this hasn't totally been a conversation about restorative justice, but you are familiar with the framework and you practice in some ways. So how would you, in your own words, define restorative justice?
Crystal: I would define restorative justice as something that we engage with, with curiosity where it is this experience that you recognize there. Opportunity for growth and understand like a, a meeting of the minds to understand one another, whether it's just two people in a space or multiple people in a space.
Understanding people's perspectives and experiences and communicating in a way that you can develop solutions to work together and move forward together.
David: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yeah. Relationship centered all the way. As you've been doing this work, however you choose to define it, what's been an oh shit moment and what did you learn from it?
And I'll say that, oh shit. Could be like a mistake and like, I should have done something different. Or like, ah, shit. Yeah, I did that and it was awesome. .
Crystal: you know, an oh shit moment for me was when I realized who I was originally creating and communicating to through, as far as my content was concerned. And I, it was, it was the moment when I realized that I was actually speaking to my mom through a lot of my content where I was like, oh, okay. We need to have some conversations here.
David: Who, and what were those conversations like? ,
Crystal: ? I, it was, it was definitely, it was it came up first in a phone call. So I just had this realization and I would like to talk to you about it. And it was a series of subsequent conversations because it, it was actually, and, and I am totally comfortable sharing this because we have had a conversation around it.
My, my mom is a white woman. I love her. She's amazing. But she had told me in 2020, that she never realized that I would have a different experience in the world because of the color of my skin. And it floored me, . I was like, wait, what? So those subsequent conversations were, you know, just, I mean, even now sometimes we'll still have them of like kinda informing her about, you know, how my perspective is different for reasons X, Y, and Z on any given topic.
Cuz sometimes, you know, it's, it's a matter of like sending me a news article, asking for my advice or thoughts on it. You know, what do I think is going on in the world? And it's just been a series of continuous conversations, . So that was realizing who I was creating content in for in the beginning.
It was like, oh my gosh. Okay. . Yeah. It's been very restorative for us though. .
David: Yeah. I, I want to like, Give you kudos and also like highlight the ability, like to do that within the context of like, your family is like some of the hardest work sometimes. And like knowing what I know about you from the little time that we spent together. Like I can see that there is like a not perfect but like beautiful relationship there that like you have like levels of trust in, right? It's harder to do with people who, like, you don't have that, but like I'm really glad that you were able to do that.
I also wanna say like, this is not licensed for any white people listening to this to like send your friends of color, . News articles and ask them for their thoughts. Didn't think I needed, don't think I really need to say that, but wanna make sure that that is stated very clearly. With, if you're not having these conversations explicitly about like, yeah, these are ways that we want to engage.
Don't put that emotional labor on people to not only like decide whether or not they're going to respond, but like then put the pressure on them for being the voice for their representative. Oh, a
Crystal: hundred percent. And I will say, just as a disclaimer, my mom has gotten so much better about that. She usually comes with like, information first.
Now it's great .
David: Yeah. You know, helpful things that, you know, hopefully don't need to say, but like I say them because if, if it was applicable for someone, we've done our work here, . This hard, this question is hard in a different way. You get to sit in circle with four people living or dead. Who are they?
and what is the one question you asked? That circle.
Crystal: Okay. I feel like I can name the four, but that question. Okay. Living or dead? I would definitely, I would want to sit in a circle with my nana who is no longer with us. Oprah, cuz Oprah . I would also, hmm, Barack Obama. I'd be so, so curious. So many questions for that man.
And the fourth person who would be the fourth person.
Marsha p Johnson.
David: Mm-hmm. . And what is the one question you ask that circle?
Crystal: if you knew that you had the attention of the world to make a significant impact based on your lived experience, what would you want people to know so that they could honor humanity as a whole?
David: I don't think I'm gonna be able to say that back verbatim, but what is your answer to that question?
Crystal: Oh, for me? believe. that people are always learning about themselves and what they share with you in any given moment is true. And it, and it deserves to be heard, it deserves to be honored. They deserve to be heard. Mm-hmm.
David: Cool. I really like that. two more questions. These should be a little bit easier of who's one person that I should have on this podcast, and you have to help me get them.
Crystal: Oh, okay. Let me think about this cuz I, I know quite a few people. Have you, are you familiar with Monique Melton?
I'm not. I feel like y'all would be able to have a really great conversation. , her and I are doing a, an Instagram live next Wednesday. But Monique Melton is, she's been an anti-racism educator and she focuses on black liberation and joy, and she's fantastic. .
David: Beautiful. Well then I'll look forward to that DM or that email.
And then finally, how can people support you in your work in the ways that you wanna be?
Crystal: Yeah, so you can, I I'm always open to referrals. You can learn about my work on my website at crystallilly.co and that's c r y s t a l l i l y.co and you can purchase my book that is out now. It's called Brave Leadership is a Choice, an Inclusive Guide to Creating Belonging.
David: Beautiful. And of course, all of those things will be linked down in the show notes or description, wherever you are watching, listening. Thank you so much, crystal, for your time, your stories, your wisdom will be back next week with somebody living this restorative justice life. Until then, take care.
Crystal: Thank you so much for having me.