We are Divine /ˈwē ˈär də-ˈvīn/ phrase. – 1. a group of individuals that are supremely good. 2. People relating to, or proceeding directly from God.
Glory: So, my name is Glory Kathurima I am 30 years old. I currently live in Omaha, Nebraska and have lived in Nebraska for… 20 years now. Before we were in Nebraska and the U.S., I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Myself and my family — so my parents and my little sister Joy — We moved to the US in 1997 for, you know, the “gold paved streets of America” with…really not much. Just our suitcases…my parents sold off and packed up everything We initially thought we were going to be in the States for two years for my dad to get his master’s degree at Southern Methodist University. And that two years has, obviously, turned into two decades. My dad enrolled in a PhD program, my mom started nursing school, me and my sister got far enough into our education, especially within the American school system, that going back to Kenya was really going to do us a disservice because of the way the testing and everything works there at the eighth grade year. So, I know there’s probably a lot of reasons, but after all the paperwork got started, in terms of immigration, we were just here and we’ve been here since then. We’ve moved from Dallas, Texas to Nebraska and have lived all over Nebraska — from Western Nebraska, as close to as seven miles away from the Wyoming border, to Northeast Nebraska and now the Omaha Metro area.
Now, I am an independent health insurance agent. I work with a local independent agency here in Omaha. We specialize in the individual health insurance market, so that includes….under 65, that’s your Obamacare plans…short term health plans as well as Medicare. And over 65 Medicare supplements and advantage and prescription drug plan. So all things, health insurance is what I specialize in.
Joy: So I think Glory has the background pretty good. I was five when we moved to the US. Now, I’m a lawyer but I’m not in practice. I work in higher education in admissions at my alma mater, currently, before I go into private practice. So I’ve been helping recruit students to come to law school.
Joy: So the way naming works, names are incredibly important in our community and in our culture, so Glory and I each have another name. So my other name is Mwendwa and Glory’s other name is Karimi. The way that naming works for children is that the oldest child is named after the paternal grandparents. So because Glory was the oldest daughter, she’s named after my dad’s mother. Her friends get together and pick a name that describes Glory’s grandmother. And that is the word that is given to the child. So Karimi is someone who is good with land. And then that creates a special relationship between the child and that grandparent. Their name for you, that becomes your ntagu. That means that you are their namesake. The way we think of it is when your grandparents have lots of ntagus, lots of people who have been named for them…Once they pass, you are now embodying their spirit here on earth. So my name, Mwendwa, means loved or to be a loved one. So that means that my mother’s mother, my maternal grandmother, that is what her friends think of her. She is loved by them. And so that is the name Mwenda…where my mom loves the name Glory, and always wanted her name to be Glory, and then I think that Joy worked well with that package.
Glory: Beauty to me I would define as…I guess, light. My definition for beauty has changed a lot over the last probably 10 years. If you’d asked me that same question when I was graduating high school the answer would have been, straight hair, light eyes and skinny. And that’s all changed a little bit as I learned how to love my skin color and my hair. Side note: I was the Black girl who had relaxed hair with blue contacts for several years. It was embarrassing and there are pictures. But, since then, as I’ve grown as a woman and as a mother, I really think that beauty means light…that light that shines within you. Not really in a religious way, but really thinking about…Do you bring a positive presence around you? Are people drawn to you in different ways? Whether it’s your conversation or you’re fun to hang around with, you’re fun to just be around in silence with. That is a really beautiful thing. And lots of people embody that in different ways.
Joy: So I think, like Glory, a lot of what I think of beauty has also changed and evolved as I’ve grown more comfortable in my skin. I think that when I think of people who are beautiful, I also think of the light and the spirit and kind of…what significance did they bring themselves…like, the way they carry themselves. Most of the people who I think are beautiful are people who carry themselves with power. It doesn’t have to be a loud power or anything…just It feels like they know themselves, they’re okay with themselves. It’s not necessarily loving every part of your body, but knowing that your body is there to carry your spirit. And then having a spirit that people are drawn to, that people want to be around because they feel good when they’re around you. And very much like my sister, like I think that there’s a light that people who are beautiful have. And it isn’t necessarily just coming from physical beauty, a lot of that is the inner work that they’ve done on their own that kind of shines through.
Joy: As far as for Black beauty and Black culture, again, I think that I have a more nuanced understanding as I’ve grown older, as I’ve had more life experiences. Before, I think I would have always described Black beauty, particularly for Black womanhood as, “strength”. But I think that is a disservice…cause I think that Black women are always expected to be strong in a way that never allows us to be vulnerable. And I think that I would now describe Black beauty as vulnerability. As being able to occupy every space and every feeling and being content with it. Not always having to feel like you have to be the fixer…or you have to get people together, you are the one who has to gather your friends or gather your family…You can also be able to break down and break apart and be vulnerable and still be incredibly beautiful. I don’t think that American culture, or really White culture, allows Black people to be vulnerable. So I think when I see vulnerability in Black people, that is what I consider beautiful…because it’s letting someone see you. And I mean see you in the sense that they are actually seeing you fully. Not just your Blackness, not just your womanhood or femininity, or anything. They are fully seeing all of the parts of you.
Glory: I would say revolutionary, show-stopping, inquisitive, heartwarming, powerful. Gosh…I have been watching Rhythm + Flow and every single artist that I’ve seen…their flow is different. Their style is a little bit different, especially like physical style…Different hair…different…you know, from looking a little raggedy to three piece suits…and every single one….when they get up there they just have a flow to them. There’s this innate, like you can feel it in your DNA that their vibe is there. I know that the “good vibes only” and all of that has been pretty overused, especially the last few years, but you just feel it. It’s like a kinetic energy.
Joy: I think that the experience that Glory and I have had…and you know, part of our experience is very shared, but part of it is very different as well…We were African immigrant children and when we first came to the US we had very strong accents, we dressed differently than the children at school, and that created a lot of pressure for us to fit in. We had come from a very well loved environment, we had always been supported when we were back home.
So it was very strange to be made fun of for the way that we talked and the way that we dressed. So Glory and I very quickly stopped speaking our mother tongue with our parents and started sounding more like our classmates, which were all White. And then, when we moved to different towns in Nebraska, we were made fun of for sounding White. So, when we first moved we sounded too African or too foreign…and then we sounded too White for the White people who we were around or we didn’t sound like their idea of what Black people sounded like. It was always this pressure to kind of conform to the surroundings.
My sister and I both played a lot of sports, we were always very involved, we were just trying to achieve what was expected for “being a good Black person”. We were trying to be high achieving in our academics…both because we were being raised in an immigrant household where that is expected of you, but also because you don’t want to be the bad example, you don’t want to be that stereotype. If you are going to be the only Black person that these people interact with, you want to be at the top of your game. And I think that that affected and impacted Glory and I in different ways. Every school I’ve gone to has been predominantly White, all the way through law school. And I think that I’ve always felt sort of like a pressure to always be…kind of what my name is… Always be very happy, to be very welcoming, to be a people pleaser, so that I don’t come off as an angry Black woman. And I think that this year’s where I’m realizing how there are times that I should obviously be a kind person, but there’s also times where I need to be more firm in standing for myself and for what I believe in.
But I think a lot of the societal pressures have always just been to make ourselves smaller and more palatable for White people. Whether that means speaking quieter, speaking without using AAVE (African American Vernacular English), speaking in English and not speaking in our mother tongue or in a different language. It’s always been about being more palatable for everyone else around us. Particularly for me, it’s being more palatable for everyone around me because there’s only so few people who can see all of me and I know that they will accept all of it.
Glory: I think that what Joy said is all so true. The code switching, you know, that goes with trying to navigate those spaces. I’m always very aware, especially out in public…or really any settings where it’s not close friends or family who have seen me and know me and love me, despite what my moods may be…You know, there’s the “resting face” that everybody talks about.
It’s just my face but oftentimes people will think that I look aggressive when I’m just being neutral. In interactions, especially as a professional Black woman in a predominantly White space, you have to be very, very chipper. I’m very good at small talk, I’m very good at letting people tell me their life story. We joke about it often, me and Joy, about how we can be in an elevator with somebody for five minutes and know everything about them, but they know literally nothing about you because you put off such a welcoming persona…in terms of asking followup questions, having good eye contact, all of the things that make most people a good communicator…a lot of people lack that. So when you’re being so aware of how you’re coming off and how you’re carrying yourself and presenting yourself…in small day to day interactions, but especially when it’s on a big, grander scale in a sale setting or a customer service setting…there’s definitely that consciousness. And at the end of the day, it is freaking exhausting. Like, you are drained at the end of the day cause you feel like you’ve used all of your social energy and patience energy and people energy and you don’t have much left for yourself at the end of the day. It’s hard balancing that and that’s still something I’m trying to learn, how to do better.
Glory: Oh boy, did you look me up on Google? Goodness, living in Nebraska there’s always the day to day, everyday microaggressions that are going happen. The being followed around the store, the having people look at you with the side eye. But, I would say the most notable things on my “racism resume” would be at workplaces — not where I work now, this has been the best experience I’ve had as a professional– but I’ve worked in large corporations, always being the only Black employee and oftentimes having to deal with the power dynamics that go with that.
They bring you on because…I interview great, I’m a hard worker, I’m going to get things done. But then as soon as I start realizing there’s some issues that are happening within the company, most often they’re HR issues with their employees, and I can’t just shut up and be happy with it. I say something and then they realize, Oh, you’re one of those Black people that’s always going to cause a stink and say something. I worked for a large insurance marketing firm for about three and a half, four years. It was awful. It was literally the worst job experience I’ve had.The work part…I was really good at it, but dealing with the HR person, she micromanaged…she tried to micromanage my hair, how I wore my hair. The first time I wrapped my hair in a head wrap, she told me to go home and change because it was distracting. I then started wearing my hair naturally…I had just had my big chop, started wearing my hair naturally. I’d put on the cute little flowers and barrettes and all that kind of stuff.
The first day I wore a flower, within 24 hours an email was sent out company wide — this is over 120 employees — company-wide email with an updated handbook saying, no head wraps, no flowers, nothing can be worn in hair at any time because it’s against dress code. I was the only Black woman in the whole office and everybody knew it was about me. I refused to sign the handbook, I tried to stand my ground on it for a few days, but she essentially cornered me like, Either you sign this hand book or you don’t have a job. It was a good job, 8-5 with some benefits. I ended up having to sign the handbook. My team did try to stand with me but she just would not back down. Like, she really made my life an actual living hell for the three years I worked there. She tried to change the handbook about nose rings, even though I was hired and interviewed with a nose ring in, all of a sudden it became a problem after that…They Photoshopped our company Christmas photos where I wore a flower in my hair, they Photoshopped that out of my hair with, like, a patch of my own hair. It looked weird and terrible. I can’t even think of all the other stuff.
Oh my God…the parade float….So the community we were living in had an annual 4th of July parade with floats, candy, all the works. We went with the family and this parade float comes around the corner and it’s a big blue truck with like a wood house on it…and on the house, it’s an outhouse, like a bathroom outhouse, with “Obama’s Presidential Library” printed on there and a caricature of Barack Obama hanging off of this outhouse. I don’t really remember the sequence of events, but it included a Facebook post that went viral. And from that point there were a lot of interviews like, Oh, the racist float in Norfolk, Nebraska, what’s happening? The NAACP showed up, all these people showed up immediately. Norfork as a community was nationally shamed for allowing this float to happen. A secondary issue with that was that I was the only face of that whole story, really. Real quickly it got picked up that I was an immigrant, single mother, from Kenya. I got hella hate mail and Facebook messages. I had to shut down my Twitter, I actually just got back up on it like a year ago, and this happened back in 2011, 2012 (2014). Yeah, I mean it was awful. The things that people called me, called my daughter were just vile, truly awful things. I got mail at my house. People found my address and were sending me hate mail through the postal mail. Like, you really got to hate somebody to put a stamp on it, you know? That was probably peak racism. I moved from that community about nine months later.
Joy: I think Glory has had much more significant acts of racism happen to her….One of the ones that was most significant, that I remember most vividly, is a summer when I think I would have been like 10 and Glory was like 13. We were at the pool and one of my classmates called me a n****r and Glory punched him in the face. Like we’re at the pool and Glory punched him in the face, gave him a bloody nose. And then we were the ones who got kicked out. For the rest of the summer. For the rest of the rest of the summer, we couldn’t come back to the pool. And that kid is still an asshole to this day, I think. That is one of the most predominant acts of racism.
A lot of the racism that I’ve experienced hasn’t been like outward naming or anything like that. It’s been a lot of…particularly that I experienced during my education…was people not wanting to sit near me. Like, people…their presence would kind of change when you’re in the room or near them…The way that they would smile and interact with you…you know how you can sense that some people don’t want to be around you…don’t want to have anything…I think most of what I’ve experienced is just existing in spaces where people don’t want me to be there or don’t want me to be near them and just having to deal with that or dealing with people….Like the way people’s heads turn when you go into a restaurant that has predominantly White people in it and they way they turn and kind of look at you funny when you’re there. A lot of it has been these more subtle acts, not necessarily major things like Glory has gone through.
Glory: I have an incredible support system. My inner circle is a strong AF. You know my parents, my sister, my best friends support me entirely through every single one of those interactions. So they’ve been able to debrief with me, help me find the words, co-sign all of it, and then help research. And so I feel like when I do have to face something it’s always backed up by something, whether it’s an article, whether it’s statistics, whatever it might be. But also just the feeling…
Me and Joy were talking about how the first time we were called n****r was here, in America. We didn’t even realize we were Black until we moved here because everybody was Black back home. So we looked like everybody. And so here we are, you hear this word, I had never heard the word before, but in my gut, into my bones, every cell in my body knew it was not a good word and it was hateful. Like, how do we know that? How do we as Black people, how do we know that word without ever knowing the word? And from that moment I remember kids were picking on me and my sister all the time and my mom, she does not take shit from literally anybody, and she got tired of us coming home all the time crying and saying, so-and-so did this, so-and-so did that. And she was like, Well, what are you going to do about it? And, for me what I heard was, Well, you need to fight back. And some of that was with fists. I used to get in a lot of fights, especially in middle school, I slapped a lot of boys. But also with words. It’s like, Well, if you think you can be mean to me, I can show you mean. I’ll be mean back and I’ll hurt your feelings. And I think that’s where the power of words really touched me. And I found the ability to be able to say what you needed to say but also try to hurt people like they hurt you. And that thankfully, that has shifted for me here in the last, maybe, 10 years, and learning like, Okay, you don’t have to hurt somebody’s feelings, but you can tell somebody off or correct them in a way that…eh, shames them a little bit, but also educates them. It’s not Black people’s jobs to educate anybody. Like, Google is free. Do it yourself. But if you’re gonna not do right by me or people who look like me, I am not going to be the silent one in the room, ever. It eats away at me, I think about it at the end of the day or on my drive home. So, it’s just better just to say it right then and there and then deal with whatever those consequences are going to look like.
Joy: Equally the same thing. Like, we are so incredibly blessed with the parents that we have. They are incredibly kind and incredibly strong people. And I think that they raised us pretty well…I think, you know, that Glory and I turned out pretty well.
But I think…just the endless support that we’ve had literally from birth of always being surrounded by people who loved and cared for us. And then my friends are really great. You know, I have a good therapist. I’ve been taking a lot of time to myself, particularly after going through the rigors of a graduate school program. And just kind of now taking time to really connect back with myself after also leaving an abusive relationship and just really feeling good about myself. So it’s really just the people around us. We have both been blessed to have great friends and have a great family that we can talk to about really anything and know that we will at least have someone who cares enough to listen, which not a lot of people have.
Joy: I’m going to start crying talking about her. I think for me particularly, cause like I’m the baby sister, she’s literally been a presence in my life since I entered this world. And I won’t pretend that our relationship has always been great cause it like it hasn’t, but in the last 10 years, I think post high school, we both just got really close. But she’s really my everything. She has loved me, supported me, been there through the worst of times. Like through that abusive relationship she protected me, even though I didn’t listen for a long time, until I finally got out of it and realized how bad it was.
I called her when there was a crisis happening and she dropped everything to come to my side. I’ve done the same for her. I don’t think there’s enough words to describe how much I love her. She has always been there for me…in every good moment and every bad moment. She was the first I was with when I found out I got into law school, she was the first person I called when I found out I passed the bar. She’s the first person I want to share good news with. She’s the first person I call when something shitty happens and I just need someone to listen to me vent. She’s my world. And I know she and I talk often about what life would be like without our parents, when they pass, but I don’t think we’ve ever once talked about what our lives would be without each other because I can’t even imagine. That is a world I would never want to experience because she’s so good. She’s so good to the people around her, to her friends, to her family, to her clients. I don’t even have enough adjectives anymore. I just…I love her. I love her to the ends of the earth, to the ends of the universe, until time stops and we no longer exist I will love her. Even when I am dead, my grandchildren are dead…I love her and they will speak about her.
Glory: My sister is love. She was gone for like six weeks to Kenya a couple months ago and…I didn’t realize how often I called her and texted her throughout the day until I couldn’t reach her. She is the best Aunt and she is such a good listener. She’s great at finding things for me when I’m like, Oh my gosh. Do you remember this thing that we talked about or this thing that mom and dad mentioned? She brightens so many people’s lives every single day.
And none more than mine. I remember every single happy moment with her. We’ve shared so many special moments, just me and her. We’re the only ones who know what it’s like in our little circle to have the parents that we have. Our background is the same. Our genetics are the same. And so much of our thought process is similar but different in a way that it really bounces off of each other. As you can tell from everything, I’m definitely the hothead, I’m aggressive, I’m quick to anger, sometimes. And Joy will sit and think and process things and will help me do that. And when she’s hot…one of us is hot, one of us is cold usually…Or we’re both hot and it’s a mess for everybody….But she’s the best. Like, I have really the best little sister in the world.
Joy: So, I had wanted to be a lawyer since I was, like, in third grade, before I even knew what it meant to be a lawyer. I think mainly because, like, African immigrants…your choices are doctor, lawyer, engineer. I actually had always wanted to be a doctor and then anatomy and physiology happened and I was like, Okay, I can’t actually do that. So in high school I was involved in a lot of speech and debate and theater. And I’d always known that I wanted to help people, that’s always been what I’ve wanted to do. And then when I was in college, I took a lot of social justice oriented classes. I took immigration and the law and just classes that were kind of oriented to get me to law school, but also to kind of see how the law works. I was still kind of unsure because I had a lot of different, wonderful experiences in college. I was like, maybe I want to go into higher ed and do my masters in that… And then I took time off and decided that law school, a JD (Juris Doctor), would be the most versatile degree that I could use. Law school was…A lot.
I don’t think there’s really a way to describe the type of stress that that type of program creates. Particularly I think, like most graduate programs, the law attracts high achievers and people who have done well often with their academics. But now you’re putting all of us in one room and saying there’s only going to be one of you at the top or in the top 10%, when almost all of us were in the top 10% of our high school class and the vast majority were in the top half of their college class. And then all of a sudden you’re like, jokes on you. You guys are all getting graded on a bell curve and then it’s going to suck. And that is exactly what happened. Like, it sucks. And, at least for me and I know particularly for my friends of color, we’re already existing in a space that was not intended for us. The law was never really intended for people of color. And we’re reading cases that call into question our humanity that you have to analyze where you’re just looking at the facts of the case. We would often have discussions with my classmates and with some of my professors about how these cases are real people’s lives.
One of the cases that I remember that happened before I was even in law school, was the Supreme court case that kind of gutted the Voting Rights Act. And I remember when we finally got to that case in my constitutional law class, like when we were discussing it — my constitutional law professor was amazing — and we were discussing people’s lives, like this is literally affecting the way our country is going to go if this is how the Voting Rights Act is going to be implemented now, if this is what the Supreme court thinks the Voting Rights Act should look like…And it was interesting to see the viewpoint from a legal point, instead of being just outraged about what had happened, I was now outraged because I was able to look at it and be like, literally the legal reasoning behind it does not make sense, at least to me.
So, law school was a trip. The fact that I graduated in May…and May was this year…it feels like it was so long ago already cause I think I’m trying to remove the trauma. Bar prep was significantly worse. I don’t think that I have a single friend who would say that you can enjoy that time in your life. I think that that was the lowest I’ve ever been mentally in my life. Just because everything that we had all worked for from freshman year of college, through all of the things that we had been through, was being determined by this exam about how we would actually be able to help the people and the communities that we wanted to help with our degrees. And it’s exhausting. You’re memorizing over 17 different subjects, little minute things that might make a difference. You don’t know what essays are going to be tested so you don’t know where you should be spending your time. It was truly the worst summer I’ve ever had in my life. I was crying all the time, I lost a bunch of weight, it was awful. And it was great for me because right after I took the bar exam, I went back home to Kenya for almost six weeks and was able to just be surrounded by like people who I loved dearly, who loved me, who looked like me. Where in law school, I was the only Black woman in my class so it was such a great moment to go from that.
I really just kind of forgot, like I didn’t forget about my bar exam, but the stress of it went away. I knew that I would be getting my results when we came back. They actually popped up on my phone that Friday that we had just gotten back to the States. I was home, unpacking, when the email came in. I ran outside to find my mom and I was just crying. I was bawling…cause I think a lot of us had been convinced we had failed. The exam was really hard. The second day after I left, with the multiple choice, I was convinced I had failed. And so to see “pass”, I was crying. I cried in my mom’s arms. I think my mom teared up a little bit, but she might not admit to that, but I was. I literally fell to my knees just crying because not a lot of people get to experience that. The privilege that I’ve had in my life to even let me get to this position. One of my friends said it best right after she found out her results…There’s so much gratitude for the people around us. Like…my third grade teacher who wrote me such kind notes and who passed away when I was in fourth grade. I’ve had so many wonderful people in my life who have poured into me. Who have told me like how kind I was or whatever or have seen goodness in me and told me that I had goodness in me and that they could feel it like it. It really was like a culmination of like, this is everything I’ve been working for for like the last 15 years of my education, and it was so surreal. It was incredibly surreal.
Being sworn in, having a bar license…I’m already getting the emails about my continuing ed credits that I have to do. It is surreal to know that I have this license and the ability to like hopefully make change. Though I think that law school also kind of dampered my big dream, like my big changemaker dreams, not because I don’t think that big change can happen…but I think that a lot of the systems that we are entrenched in will not fall without something massive happening. And so I think that all I can do and my friends who are attorneys who help people, all we can do is try and help individual people and hope that we can make a change in their life, even if it’s not this big systemic change that I had dreamed of when I was in high school. If I can help individual people’s lives be better, that is enough for me.
Glory: So our agency, Prime Choice Insurance, we work heavily with low income communities. That was one of the biggest goals when Courtney started the agency and has stayed with what we are doing day in and day out. A lot of what we do is education, truly. So many people, and especially in this case speaking to marginalized communities — whether it is people of color, low income, maybe low primary or college education or otherwise — all of that compounded together makes a situation for healthcare and making healthcare decisions that can be dangerous. Not only for health conditions, but also financial outcomes. So a lot of my days, day in and day out, are spent explaining to people insurance basics. Most people, even knowledgeable college educated adults, couldn’t explain to you what a co-insurance or a maximum out of pocket or deductible is.
Because insurance, it’s a foreign language to people who don’t have to work with it day in and day out. And when you have all of the barriers in place systematically– educational barriers, healthcare barriers in terms of How do I find a doctor that looks like me? How do I get there in terms of transportation? How do I even find the language for what’s going on with my body? Once all of those things are there, it’s really hard to know where to start and a lot of that good health care, good financial decision, comes with knowing what it looks like and what the words mean. So I spend a lot of time explaining the vocabulary. Once we get past that, it’s helping people make a decision that makes the most financial sense for their family. With Obamacare and Marketplace coverage, it’s all income-based. So we have an opportunity to take a look at pricing that is this fair, based on the size of your tax household and how much income your tax household brings in. And then from there, there’s different layers to it. Which doctors are you comfortable doctoring with? Which hospital network? And then we look at what’s most important to you…how much you pay each month, or how much you’ll pay over the course of the year in terms of your deductible and max out of pocket. So we help break those down.
Here in the last year, I have been really heavily focusing on getting into marginalized communities specifically in Nebraska, looking at the immigrant communities. I’ve started and I’m fostering –it’s a very early baby relationship– with OPS, Omaha Public School, as well as the African community. Attending and being a participant in the Afro-Omaha festival, has opened up a lot of doors in terms of people within our community who I look like, who look like me, and who need help understanding insurance. In fostering those relationships has come the realization that there’s a lot of people who don’t even go to the doctor at all because they don’t know where to start or they don’t have health insurance. Taking care of your health, taking care of your finances is the first step to any type of freedom and if you don’t know where to start finding or learning about that freedom, people will stay entrenched in bad health, stay in poverty. It has to start somewhere. So, I take that as a big responsibility as a health insurance agent.
Joy: It’s one of those things where it feels weird for me because I know that this degree and the legal system have been used to oppress marginalized people for decades. That is what happens in the legal system…marginalized people do not get a say, do not have their voices heard. So I think for me, knowing that I have marginalized identities and then also hold this legal license, it creates a weird sense of purpose but also sadness because I know that there are people who have this degree who, in the work that they do, they are not thinking about marginalized people. And that is scary to me.
But then I also know and have met so many wonderful people who do have legal degrees, who might be working in a firm that doesn’t necessarily work with marginalized people, but the pro bono work that they do does that or the community service work that they do helps marginalized people. And so I think for me, I know that I have been incredibly blessed to be able to have access to the halls that I now do because of this education and I just want to do my best with it. Like, I want to help as many people as I can with it without burning myself out but while also respecting people’s autonomy and trying to respect knowing that I don’t know everything. Like that there are experiences that I have not lived that I do not know anything about that might be impacting someone’s life. And how can I help them within the legal system or whatever legal way that I could with the education that I have. So I think a lot of it is just trying to balance …I don’t want to say that it’s guilt, but it almost is….because I know that there’s so many smart people who want to do work that I couldn’t possibly do, who do not have the ability to do it because they don’t have the ability to go to law school or they don’t have the ability to study whatever field that they would like to go into. And I just don’t want to take for granted or to forget that all of the things that I have access to now are because of privilege and because what doors have been open to me. So it’s really trying to balance not feeling guilty but also acknowledging that privilege and also wanting to help people at the same time while also wanting to make sure that like I’m paying off my student loans and making sure that my financial life is also going to be okay..because like I also want to do all the things that people do…have kids and all that. And so there’s a lot of things that I want to be able to balance with the, with this new part of my identity. And it’s been an interesting realization. I still sometimes forget that I’m a lawyer…until like I get an email that’s like, Oh we need mandatory due money or something like that, And then I’m like, Oh yeah, that is a thing that happened…
Glory: Being seen is important. Feeling heard is important. Having somebody who outwardly, you can see, looks like you makes you — as a consumer and as a patient — feel like they will take any concern that you have seriously because it may be something that they faced.
Joy: I would agree, literally exactly to that point. I think that being able to see someone who looks like you, even if you don’t know if you have the same lived experience, knowing that someone is also walking through this country with the same skin color or the same gender identity and expression…that can make a significant difference in knowing that they know at least a part of what you’ve been through and will hopefully listen and take you seriously. Not to say that people always do. Like, not all skin folk are your kinfolk…but the hope is that someone who looks like you will understand what you’ve been through or are going through.
Joy: I’m proud of getting done with school. I think that was what I’d been working towards for so long that I’m proud to be in this moment. I’m also proud of the friendships that I’ve made up until now. I have such a wonderful group of friends and it’s such a supportive community that I sometimes, honestly sometimes, I forget and take for granted how much they care for me and how much that they’re there for me. So I’m proud of my educational accomplishments, but I’m also really proud of how I’ve grown a lot as a person, honestly, just even in the last like three or four years. Just going through school, I feel like I’ve grown a lot in who I am and being able to express who I am. I’m just proud of the journey that I’ve taken to get here. It’s been rough, but I’m really truly learning to love like every part of myself, even the mistakes that I’ve made and being comfortable and like looking forward to the future to see what happens next.
Glory: I am proud of my voice and being able to know how to use it. It’s been a long road in learning how to listen, I’m still learning, and learning how to be able to voice my own personal feelings. Whether it’s “I feel” statements or whether it’s, I feel this way… You make me feel…when you did this. And I’m really, really, really proud of the support system that I have. I feel like that’s been huge in my adult years. Being able to talk to somebody and being able to really genuinely make good human connections. Sometimes it’s brief, quick. You know, this person was just in my life and in my orbit for a second. But they were important in that moment. And then bringing in those circles and those lights a little bit closer to me. I’m really, really proud of the friendships and the support systems that I’ve built over the last few years.
Glory: Financial freedom. First and foremost, that is the foundation. The last two years have been huge, just like leaps and bounds, of learning about finances and financial literacy. And I can only credit, my best friend Courtney with being able to teach me how bills work, what is your credit score, what would you need to do to be able to go day-to-day, week after week between paychecks without stressing and staying up at night and thinking about it.
All of that. Being able to take care of my finances, whether it’s making more money or learning how to actually budget also came with just learning how to take care of stuff — opening my mail, calling people back, doing all kinds of adulting that don’t sound really hard, but when you are really anxious and are worried about what the problem may be, it’s really easy to just get all comfy and ignore the issue. So yeah, my goal is just financial freedom and all of the joy that that will bring.
Joy: I think that I would also say that like financial stability. Obviously I’m just coming out of school so I have a lot of student loans. Just being able to pay those back within an acceptable amount of time. I’m not trying to be in debt until I’m 50. I have a personal goal of paying my loans off before 32, which would give me four years.
I also have goals for my career…I want to go into private practice, I want to be good at my job, but I also want to be able to help. Personally, I want to be able to help to increase the diversity of the legal field, specifically in Nebraska. Like I don’t really see myself leaving Nebraska, I always thought I would, but for now I don’t see myself leaving. And so in ways that I can help like increase the diversity of the legal field or even just help increase the conversations about what it can we do to make sure that people who are marginalized, who are seeking legal assistance are actually being heard. And, there’s lots of organizations that are doing that work. And so my goal is to just be able to help and work with those people who are already doing that type of work and help in any way that I can.
Joy: Oh man. I think that one major problem that is kind of forefront of my mind…just because Kamala Harris just dropped out of the political presidential races….Really the lack of political power and not even just voice, but the lack…Like now for the December debate, there’s not going to be a single person of color on that stage who’s a presidential candidate, because Andrew Yang hasn’t qualified yet, and now what had started as one of the most diverse fields for the democratic presidential nomination is now going to be an all White stage.
And I think that the lack of people listening to Black and Brown voices in politics and just assuming that we’ll vote Democrat –it’s not to say that we’re gonna vote for Trump –but like saying that we’re going to vote blue regardless of who that blue candidate is. I think that there are a lot of nuances that are going on in democratic politics that a lot of these current candidates do not have the best interest at heart for people of color, specifically for Black and Brown folks. And so I think…even just talking about it, I have no solution. I’m really just out here giving like an informational speech, I do not have a solution. But I think that there needs to be more conversation, particularly by people who are at those upper echelons of power whether they’ll listen to us or not, in terms of what actually is being heard to make sure that candidates who have the best interests at heart of Black and Brown people are actually being able to run for office and represent us to the highest levels of government.
Glory: I think the biggest problem facing Black people is…is everything an answer?…There’s so many systematic issues and barriers. I’ve always pictured it kind of like a domino. Like, what is that first domino that needs to go down for all of it to go down?
And I don’t know what that first piece is, whether it’s education, lack of access to the same education as White people, lack of healthcare access, you have food deserts, you have this, you have that. I think the biggest problem is finding “patient zero “and taking care of that issue and knocking down the rest.
Glory: Oh, my dreams are, they’re not fantastical…world peace or whatever it might be. I just want people to have equal access. And I don’t want whatever equal is to be defined by White people or colonizers.
I want it to be defined on a human basic human level. That includes agreeing that being able to eat and have access to warm and safe shelter and health care and education being a basic right and not a privilege. That, that is that is it.
Joy: For actual change…I dunno…I feel like there’s so many things that are happening. One of the first things is climate change. I think that obviously people are sounding the alarm and raising the alarm, but when we consider that us, who are already alive, at our age are going to be impacted and then the children that are still being born and are going to be impacted…
I think that my dream is for when people warn of a problem, I wish that people in power would actually listen or that the people in power would be people who are actually compassionate and empathetic and were thinking longterm about the wellness of humans instead of just the monetary amount of money that they can get from doing whatever that they’re doing. I think that there’s this video that was going out around with AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) talking about how people aren’t commodities. Like, human lives aren’t commodities. And I think that there’s lots of people in power who have forgotten that like the decisions that they are making are impacting human lives. Like human lives are being lost because of these decisions. And I think that my dream would be that all of those people get thrown out and that people were empathetic and sympathetic and do have knowledge, can help. Who actually listens to the people and can be empowered to help make things better. Because I think that the way that it is, or the way that a lot of these people are, obviously has not helped make the world a better place for people. So we need something to happen to make it better. I feel like it starts with politics, but I don’t know, cause I don’t think that the political system in the US works that well, but it’s like what other political forms exist? What else do we look at? What other countries do we model it after? So I think that there’s just a lot of stuff that could happen. But primarily I wish that people who are compassionate and understand that human lives are at stake with just about every major decision that is being made currently by anyone in power. I wish that people who knew who cared about human lives are the ones who are making those decisions. That would be my dream.
Joy: I think that the starting points are, honestly, already happening. I hope that I haven’t created a bubble for myself, but I think that there are lots of people already sounding the alarm. There’s lots of young people who are already actively trying to change things. You know, the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting is going to be this month and that particular shooting always resonates in my mind because the day that the shooting happened was a day after my niece’s Christmas concert and she was the same age as the first graders, she was a first grader, and so when the news was coming in that first graders are dead, all I could think about was my niece’s school. But then I think about the kids from Stoneman Douglas in Florida, like all of the March for Our Lives protest. They created this at the ages of like 15 and 16 years old.
I think that there’s already a lot of people doing great things and I hope to be someone who’s doing great things. But I think all of these grassroots movements are happening, but it feels like no one at the top is listening. And I don’t know…like AOC got elected, there was a new wave in the midterms, and a lot of progressive people got elected, and we’ve seen a lot of great stuff being done. All I can hope is that that continues to happen. Cause again, a lot of it is having access to political power, to lawmaking power, because that’s what changes things. So I think that if we have more progressive people running, particularly in competitive seats, And running at every level of political power from city council, school board elections, local mayors, local legislators, all the way up to Congress people, and the president. I think that if we are taking seriously what it would mean to be a progressive party, as a democratic party and even maybe leaving the democratic party and forming a new one, whatever the case may be, I think a lot of it starts with giving marginalized people access to the power to actually have the ability to change the law. And I think that that is starting to happen. Not at the pace that we would all love it to be happening and obviously I wish it was happening quicker, but I think it is already happening and hopefully that means that this wave will continue to carry with us in the coming years.
Glory: I think it starts with believing people. Specifically when a marginalized person, a Black person, tells somebody who is not that they are being hurt or that they are facing an issue…taking them at their word and not finding excuses around, Well…you know…I’m poor too….I’m this…you know, all of the usual White responses.
There’s always a comeback to whenever somebody says that they’re being hurt, especially systematically with racism, microaggressions, whatever it may be…Somebody’s always real quick to explain how it’s not. Instead of just listening to the person or the people who are saying it. And I think until people, specifically not Black or people of color, start actually just hearing it…just hear it and do your own research, it’s not going to work. It’s just not going to work. We can keep getting all of the people in positions of power who look like us, who get us, but if they don’t get us and they’re just trying to keep up the status quo with their White counterparts, then what sense does that make? If those White counterparts aren’t checking them and they’re not checking each other…There can’t just be one big voice in the room. If there were 10 little voices in the room compared to one big voice, it’s much easier to take down something. You know, there cannot just be one strong person in every single situation. Everybody needs to be able to say something.
Glory: Find your people. Whether it is other Black people..that’s. A really great start. People who share similar interests similar passions, whatever those may be. And other White people, honestly. I don’t have a ton of White people who I would genuinely call good close friends, but the ones that I do have done and continue to do the work that it takes to be friends with a Black person.
They have stayed in their lane but also gone out of their comfort zone, their normal comfort zone to learn what the hardships look like for their friend. And they never evoke my name as their Black friend”. That’s my biggest rule with all of my White friends…to not hear that you said, My Black friend…No, you are saying this as a nice human being, not because you have a Black friend. So I really think that finding your people, whatever that may be — whether it’s a close coworker, whether it’s friends from college that you clicked with that you just haven’t rekindled things with, whether it’s people on the internet — finding people who you feel comfortable and safe with that can help you go out into the world and use your voice and let your light shine.
Joy: We all are experiencing pain in different ways, whether that’s physical pain, emotional pain, or mental pain. My advice would be to seek whatever resources, whatever help you can, to make sure that you are healthy in all ways.
I know there’s accessibility issues to that and what all of that means, but in the best ways that you can seek to be the healthiest person that you can be, that way you can hopefully be happy. Whatever happiness would mean individually to that person. But just seeking out things that will make you a healthy whole person so that you will be your best and be able to do the work or live the life that you are able that you would like to live.
Joy: I would tell them to listen and to really listen and to listen again. I think that obviously the Black experience is not monolithic, but I think that if the goal for a non-Black person is to legitimately be an ally, I think that they need to listen and then they need to put into action.
So I think that if they are occupying spaces where they hear anti-Blackness, where they hear something, they need to speak up about it. The first time it happens. And do it publicly. Like if it’s happening in a board meeting or if it’s happening in a space with other people, you have to call that out when it happens. So that way other people know that it is unacceptable. I think that they have to be willing to actually do the work. And that will often times mean that they will not be well-liked and they have to be content with that and okay with that because if what they seek to be is legitimately to be an ally to the Black community, they have to listen and they have to do the work even when that work is difficult.
Glory: I would say a good first step is reading. Educating yourself. One of the books that I really have enjoyed, I read this year or last year, is called “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”. It’s by Robin DiAngelo and I listened to it on audible…As a Black person, a lot of it was like, Yes, you’re saying it.
But I’ve listened to it like three times now and the second time I listened to it was like, How would somebody who does not have my skin color and does not have my experiences hear this book? And initially I could see how often times you know, White people are very quick to be like, Well, I’m not a bad person….I’m not this… But it’s not about being a bad person. It’s about the privileges that you have and the things that you don’t even think about on a daily basis that are racist, inherently. And you need to be able to listen without the, I need a good White person certificate or I need to be validated by the people of color in my life that I am indeed not a bad person…You need to be comfortable in that, I am genuinely a good person, but there are things that I need to unlearn that do make me inherently racist, even though I’m not out here calling people the n-word. I’m not out here holding up roadblocks purposefully…But you are, even if you don’t realize you are, and until you do and you start actively doing something about it, then you’re just as culpable in perpetuating those issues.
Joy: I think one thing that always strikes me…and I think it is present in a vast majority of cultures…is kind of the closeness of family and community. Like, the meaningfulness of community and what community means there. You give back and you support your family in whatever ways that you can.
Particularly there, multigenerational living happens in a different way because there you own your land so you can just build multiple houses on it and you have multigenerational housing, everyone’s living in a different house on the same plot of land. You know, so that you always have somewhere to go. Even though there’s a lot of social safety net here, in the US, and maybe you consider Kenya to be a developing country, I don’t think that you would find as many homeless people in Kenya just because everyone has somewhere to go, like they can go home. They own the land so they cannot be taken off the land. Like you own your land, there’s no mortgage on the house. Once you’re building your house, you can’t lose it. I think that here everything, like basic living is precarious because, you know, you miss a payment, a couple of payments, on your mortgage and it’s foreclosed and you have nowhere to go. But I think that the way that land — not to say that land ownership is perfect in Kenya, because it absolutely isn’t– but I think that the ability that you own your land and when you’re building your building based on the money that you have available to you at that time and that there’s not a huge loan on your home, I think that that is something that I would bring here. I think that that allows the community to develop in a better way because people are able to make permanent homes. Like, my grandparents have lived in the same place for years, decades, and I’m sure that’s the case for some people here, but I don’t often think that is. And I think that knowing that there’s land, knowing that my parents have a plot of land, that if I needed…There is a home there that I could live in and that kind of net is there for me and there’s people there for me and there’s a community that knows me and would support me and would help me and would feed me. I think that in the US it’s very, it’s like there’s not enough pie for everyone. And I don’t want to make a stereotype of like, Africans…and Kenyans are so generous, they’ll give you the shirt off their back… Cause again, not a monolith, but I think that there’s something to be said about being compassionate and caring in a way that you’re always looking out for other people. You’re looking out for people’s kids, you’re looking out for their siblings, for their family…You know, making sure that everyone is well taken care of. And I think that that type of thinking of communal thinking can really make a difference. I think in the US, you can often feel very siloed in a way that makes people feel like they’re very alone and very lonely. And I think that that creates a lot of issues for a lot of different people.
And I think it’s one of those things…like, when you’re there if you go to someone’s home, they will feed you. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, they will at least get you a cup of tea or some fruit. Regardless of what time of day it is, regardless if that means that they just went and bought it at the kiosk and had to have someone go grab it. And I think that that type of like welcoming, just true openness is rare here because, I think again, people don’t like to be vulnerable. People still have gates, it’s not that we’re stupid, we’re not opening our doors to everyone, but if the doors are open to you and you’re welcome in someone home, you are truly welcomed into that home. Like you don’t feel out of place.
Glory: In looking at the big picture, a real small piece of that is community funding. I know that here we have Go Fund Me and Kickstarter and those types of things, but there’s a lot of systems within families and within friendships.
They call it “koinonia”, where the basic premise of it is….let’s say you have a group of six people, everybody is supposed to give, let’s say, $100 a piece…$100 across six people, $600. That $600 each month goes to one member of that six people. And then the next month it goes to the next member of the six people. Everybody’s always giving that same hundred dollars and then when it comes around to you, you get the $600. The pot can be as big or as little as everybody can afford. And, that money is not policed in any way. It’s not a loan, there’s no interest associated with it, it’s just that we as a group together have decided to do this and you use that money for whatever it may be. My parents have used the money for remodeling their kitchen, for tickets back home. People in his group have weddings for children, babies, or grandchildren are being born, all kinds of things. In that community funded process everybody has a stake in the game, but also you’re giving within that group and you feel like a responsibility each month. And it’s part of your bills. You know, it’s not like, Oh no, I was short, I’m not throwing in. No, that’s, that’s part of my dad’s budget, it’s built in with the house payment and the car note and everything. So I think there’s the huge picture that Joy of course mentioned, But I think that’s one small piece that I’ve really enjoyed learning about. And seeing grow with my dad…where it used to be, I think, like a couple hundred bucks to now…I think it’s over a thousand dollars a month that each person is putting it into that pot that’s going to somebody.
Joy: SSo, first off, Black women are just the best. Like always. I think that Gloria and I and our Black girl magic group, we’ve all talked about how if there’s such a thing as reincarnation, like, I better come back in my next life as a Black woman. Cause, even with all of the hardships that we go through, I wouldn’t change my experience.
When it comes to why Black women are put on the back burner and then why we shouldn’t be…I think that Black women are put on the back burner because we are the convenient scapegoat for people. Obviously we know sexism exists and obviously we know racism exists…So, like, White women experience sexism, Black men experience racism. And then we experienced both. And in ways that are incredible…like…misogynoir is real. And I think that people forget that that intersection exists when they’re talking just about sexism or just about racism. They forget that there is a group of people who are out here experiencing both of those in a way that is incredibly hurtful, incredibly painful. And again, I hate talking about Black women being strong because I think that that makes it seems that we can bear and shoulder this weight and this pain and all of this for other people.
But I think that Black women…I truly think Black women are always thinking of others in a way that other groups don’t. I think that Black women are always looking out for people in a way that other groups don’t. I think that when you center Black women in your language and your discourse and your academia, that you are doing a great service to everyone. I mean, even again looking at politics…like Black women were like, F*** Trump, and said it loudly and clearly. Black women are the ones who have helped shape different people’s political parties and political aspirations. You can count on us. We’re dependable. But I think that dependability and the stereotypes that exist around that, make it incredibly difficult for Black women to be vulnerable in public spaces. I think that when you think of any powerful Black woman, like when you think of Michelle Obama, when you think of Kamala Harris, when you think of Oprah, and Gabrielle Union…They’ve created these pockets of vulnerability in ways that I think that are now allowing Black women to be seen as multidimensional in a way that we had not been allowed to be seen. I think, again, the stereotypes are always that Black women are strong, we’re sassy, we’re whatever. Like, we can’t be the leads in movies, we can’t be the romantic lead, we can’t be anything other than like the best friend who just exists as a sidekick or the person who deserves the abuse that they’re getting, or whatever. But it’s like Black women should be centered in the vast majority of these conversations, because Black women are the ones who are making the world go round. We’re the ones who are inventing Black culture.
You know, memes make fun of Black women and Black men will dress up as Black women as caricatures, but Black women are the ones that they’re getting their humor from…like Black grandmas…like all of these people who are the matriarchs of their family…like Black women are the foundation that they’ve built it on and then stepped all over. And like now it’s like Black women need to be able to stand in the light, the forefront, that spotlight and be seen in all their multidimensionality and all of their flaws and all of their beauty and be able to exist in that space and be respected. Like ,you know, Malcolm X said, Black women are the most disrespected people in the world. And it’s true. And I think that once there’s an actual level of respect for the discourse that Black women in every genre are creating…from sex workers to, people with high political aspirations, to teachers, whatever type of field you’re in or whatever type of work you’re doing…When you see every single one of those people with respect, particularly Black women, I think that’s when you’ll see major changes happening. Again, what is the catalyst for that? I don’t know.
Glory: I think that Black women are seeing each other more than ever before. I think we’ve always known, you’ve known that you are the bedrock for your families, oftentimes you’re the bedrock for that community. Things don’t pop off unless the Black woman is doing it.
But now, other Black women are seeing…we’re seeing each other and all of the layers that go into it. I like to think of the metaphor of an onion. You know, that hard, crusty outside edge that a lot of people just stop at because they think that we’re abrasive or aggressive or whatever it might be. And you start peeling all those layers back and there’s so many layers from sensitive, to nurturing, to sexy, to beautiful, to humorous, to serious, nerdy and anxious…All of those layers. And once Black women see those other layers within other Black women, we lift each other up. My favorite thing is Gabrielle Union’s hashtag that she always uses on her Instagram posts is let’s let us lift them in light. And I know we’ve used the word “light”quite a bit today, but it’s true. It’s just seeing somebody and truly seeing them. It is such a wholesome feeling and you feel pretty unstoppable once you have that validation outwardly, you start feeling it inside, and then it starts just a tumble effect where people can see your light. Other Black women can see your light and they see it as a reflection of themselves and, man, it could really change, continue to change, the world.
Interview Date: January 4, 2020
Day 18 — Story posted on February 17, 2020