Tammy Johnson

This week we’d like you to learn a bit more about Tammy Johnson, another of the great new diversity workshop facilitators here at World Trust.

Tammy has been a dedicated civil rights activist her entire life, inspired by the civil rights work of her family in Tennessee. She is recognized for her knowledge of equitable public policy practices. She also dances in the Oakland, California-based dance performance duo, Raks Africa.

World Trust Founder Shakti Butler adds: “Tammy’s expertise comes from years of cross cultural engagement, leadership and movement building. She spent a decade advancing racial equity at Race Forward in several capacities — as a trainer, writer, and public speaker. World Trust has collaborated with Race Forward over the years, and I have tremendous respect for her work challenging structural racism. I also love the fact that Tammy is a dancer. Artists bring a level of creativity and presence that is so valuable in equity & diversity education.”

What Clients Have to Say

Tammy recently incorporated two World Trust training resources in a workshop she led at the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB): the diversity video Cracking the Codes and the learning module Framing Issues with a Racial Equity Lens.

“My concern ahead of time had been how relevant this workshop would be for our faculty. Our day with Tammy was fabulous. Attention, engagement, give-me-moreness–the energy was palpable, alive. You could tell this was meaningful for people. One department chair grabbed me the next day and said ‘The workshop on Tuesday was unbelievable!,'” says Seth Pollack, faculty director of the Service Learning Institute at CSUMB.

“Tammy’s approach was really affirming and positive. Faculty came away with a common language for teaching about systemic oppression. They now see how to incorporate tools like Cracking the Codes in their own teaching.”

Kimberly Aceves, Co-Founder & Executive Director of the RYSE Center in Richmond, California says Tammy is a thoughtful, knowledgeable, fun and engaging trainer. “She helped our staff successfully navigate and deepen our racial justice work. Tammy created a space that allowed our staff to have difficult conversations while increasing trust and understanding between one another.”

Tammy’s Multifaceted Training Style

Tammy is a keen observer of group dynamics and can make meaningful connections that spur transformative learning. “A lot of the difficult conversation comes from people very much personalizing the issue,” she points out. “The focus becomes what I call the bigot hunt. ‘Let’s find the bigot, and hold that person accountable.’ That conversation is often insensitive, and may not even be correct. Instead of scapegoating, I focus on how we are all part of systemic racism, explaining to people that you can have racism without having a racist, because the situation is set up in a way that we all fail.”

Tammy works hard to diffuse tension in the room. “I try to be a calming presence,” Tammy observes. “I do have people stop and have an intentional moment of silence and breathing. I don’t believe that every second of our time has to be filled with action and motion and voices. Sometimes we need silence just to think and collect ourselves, especially if we’ve just come out of a heavy conversation of back-and-forth.” Her great sense of humor also is a powerful tool she has for lightening the mood after a particularly intense discussion.
Tammy is not afraid to admit that she doesn’t always know the answer, devoting some moments to the validation of authentic expression. She tells how she handled things the time a woman was on the verge of tears as she spoke to the other participants. “What I primarily did in that situation was to give some context and honor her feelings,” Tammy says. “I try to validate that this is a real feeling. This is what we deal with, experiencing racism in this country. Sometimes I literally say, ‘I don’t have the answer.” In a strange way, for a group, that can be reassuring, because it tells them that they don’t have to have all the answers, either.”

Tammy’s Work with World Trust

Tammy has facilitated several diversity workshops for us in addition to the work at USUMB. She led a workshop within the student orientation process at New Paltz State University of New York, meeting with resident advisors, faculty, and students. She also led a session about privilege at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

She also met with members of service groups and healthcare workers for the Marin County Health Department. Tammy really enjoyed the inclusivity of that session. Sensing the potential for alienation among two or three Latina participants, she incorporated examples about the social meaning of different Spanish dialects into the framework of the discussion. By acknowledging that racial equity is not just a black and white issue, she was successfully able to engage people who might otherwise have felt left out.

At World Trust, we believe that authentic conversation about racial inequity and systemic racism can build communities and institutions committed to positive change. Contact us if you would like to host a screening of one of World Trust’s diversity films or explore a workshop led by a skilled facilitator like Tammy Johnson.