Facilitators & Trainers

Shakti Butler, PhD

Founder & President

Bring Dr. Shakti Butler to your organization or conference

Shakti Butler, PhD, is Founder and President of World Trust Educational Services. Shakti is an inspirational facilitator, trainer and lecturer who is sought after by schools, universities, public and private organizations, and faith-based institutions. Dr. Butler has produced four documentaries: The Way Home; Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible; Light in the Shadows and Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity. These films form the core of World Trust’s teaching tools, and have experienced increased exposure — 23 million views of one clip alone — generating national dialogue and critical thinking that is impacting institutions and communities across the country. Most recently, Dr. Butler served as diversity consultant and advisor on the Disney animated film, Zootopia, which focuses on challenging bias and systemic inequity. Shakti’s work incorporates whole body learning through stories, art, movement and dialogue. Her current film/dialogue project, Healing Justice: Cultivating a World of Belonging, is intended to popularize a national conversation about justice, responsibility and healing.

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Seminars, Keynotes & Presentations

Dr. Butler is an inspirational facilitator, trainer, lecturer and Jefferson Award recipient. Her work emerges from years of self-exploration and her commitment to social justice. Dr. Butler’s services are sought after by schools, universities, public and private organizations, and faith-based institutions. More on workshops and presentations.
Dr. Butler invites her audience to grapple with both the intellectual and emotional complexities of race. She conveys the interconnection between internal and external/structural components of racial inequity, and reveals how self-perpetuating systems reinforce disparities in institutions. This framing, along with the use of Butler’s films, set the context for constructive conversation. Dr. Butler inspires a collective will and develops deeper, cohesive understanding that can be directly applied to analysis and action.

A warm and compassionate person, Butler uses her ability to listen deeply while asking critical questions that support self-directed learning in others. Her speaking and teaching styles enrich people’s abilities to expand their capacities for building community, an important first step in effecting change. Group dialogue, self-inquiry, reflection and whole body learning by participants are some of the strategies she employs in diversity and inclusion events.

Dr. Butler received her doctorate from the California Institute of Integral Studies in the School of Transformative Learning and Change. She holds an MA in Guidance and Counseling from Bank Street College of New York and graduated magna cum laude from City College of New York.

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Ginny Berson

Director of Outreach

Ginny Z Berson runs Justice and Community, an independent consultng company working to further social justice and build community. She spent 30 years working in public/community radio including Vice President & Director of Federation Services for the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. She is a founder of Olivia Records, the first national women’s recording company. And she is committed to making the world a better place by confronting and challenging prevailing power relationships.

Dia Penning

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Facilitator

Dia Penning, in addition to being a facilitator, designed Racial Equity Learning Modules, which offer transformative and creative ways for educators to engage people in community building and learning about systemic racism.

As a diversity workshop facilitator, Dia brings the following strengths:

  • She knows how to challenge assumptions without evoking guilt or shame.
  • She asks questions that lead to transformative thinking.
  • She is a calm and inviting presence that makes people feel okay with confronting difficult or unpleasant ideas about themselves.
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“Dia is a brilliant educator,” says Shakti Butler, Founder of World Trust. “Her background in the arts brings creativity to her style of workshop facilitation, and tremendous depth to the Racial Equity Learning Modules we design together. “

Recommendation from a World Trust Client

“Dia has been a wonderful partner in helping us explore different ways to approach the subjects of oppression and institutional racism!” says Laurie Lober, Clinical Director for the Ann Martin Center in Oakland, California. Dia has facilitated three training sessions with the staff at Ann Martin and is helping them to coordinate a yearlong diversity initiative.

“She is able not only to focus on individual experiences and big picture dynamics but also to move fluidly between these two ends of the spectrum,” Lober continues. “She shows great flexibility, creativity, and knowledge about the best ways to work with a large staff group, and we appreciate her guidance in approaching staff training.

“She’s been so helpful in guiding the pace of our conversation about white privilege and race. She is respectful, inviting, non-judgmental and open. She makes people feel safe in difficult territory.”

Dia’s Work with World Trust

Dia has conducted single day workshops for the Lincoln Child Center and the Oakland Unified School District. She is engaged in an ongoing initiative to build awareness about racial issues to the 75-member staff of the Ann Martin Center, an organization that provides psychotherapy and both clinical and educational assessment for at-risk youths.

“Building a longer term relationship with an organization lets everyone go deeper into the issues,” Dia explains.

In this case, white and staff members of color are learning to have authentic conversations, a process that will ultimately help the white staff to work more effectively with the youths in their programs. Dia is engaged in ongoing assessment of the Center’s needs in order to develop an effective plan for continuing the conversation.

“Holding the Paradox”: A Closer Look at Dia’s Methodology

At the Ann Martin Center, Dia is working with a staff that has considerable awareness about racism but doesn’t feel comfortable with day-to-day discussions about race. “People like this,” she says, “tend to believe they are not affected. When they are able to make the leap [to seeing that they are part of system], they feel some shame.”

She explains how one of the social workers had a “yucky” insight during a workshop. She realized that she benefited from systemic racism. It paid her bills. She wondered how she could reconcile her desire to change the world with that personal benefit.

“This is the paradox,” Dia says.

“I let people hold the paradox,” Dia says, likening this process to yoga practice. “It’s like that middle point between hard work and relaxation when you are holding a pose.” Using breath work to relieve tension, Dia encourages people to examine their role in institutional racism without distancing themselves emotionally — to make them “comfortable with the discomfort of the situation.”

Finding that balance — between comfort and discomfort, margin and center — has been a lifelong process for Dia.

“Growing up a child of color in a white household with two moms,” she says, “I learned early on that points of difference invoke a crazy amount of injustice. Thus, I have a commitment to the belief that we are all one. [My goal] is to remove the blinders that divide us so that we can see that we are in the same boat. What pulls one down pulls everyone down.”

More About Dia

Dia has over 15 years of experience as a facilitator and a long career in the field of education, developing curricula at institutions like the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs in Chicago. She is a certified yoga instructor who founded My Prana Project, a group that offers sliding scale and community yoga for start-ups, non-profits, and the self-employed.

 

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Yvette Murrell

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Trainer & Consultant

Yvette Murrell is a powerfully gifted facilitator and dynamic change agent with a gentle, nurturing, encompassing and direct style. She delves deeply into systemic issues that contribute to the call for restorative justice and opens a team’s vision of what is possible when elevated to a space of healing. Yvette has a unique and warm ability to guide each person toward accessing and expanding their best selves so that they can do their most purposeful work in the world. These critical times we are in implore us to bring our highest and best selves to the global table.

Yvette has a multifaceted background in business, education, nonprofits and the creative arts. She is the co-founder and director of three companies: Professional Development Inc., a corporate consulting firm; Peer Solutions, an educational consulting firm; and Creative Authors of Shared Humanity, a nonprofit and performing arts consulting firm.

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At Professional Development, Inc., Ms. Murrell prepared and conducted highly engaging six-day transformational seminars on diversity in the workplace to clients such as Motorola, Dow Chemical, Hewlett Packard, NYNEX, Westinghouse, Mobil, DuPont, SBC Communications, and Corestate Financial. She designed and delivered training programs on topics such as aligning your vision with your work and understanding the dynamics of power for numerous clients including SC Johnson Wax, Marquette University, MANPOWER, The Milwaukee Women’s Center, and Wisconsin Dept. of Youth Corrective Sanctions.

At Peer Solutions, Yvette Murrell designed a restorative justice program that was delivered in nearly 30 high schools and community centers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Over the course of five years, more than 3,500 participants engaged in her restorative practices and conflict resolution programming. Due to the curriculum that she designed and implemented and the student-led Restorative Practices circles that she established and facilitated, schools saw reduced suspensions and an improvement in the school culture. Her learning and practices continue to be successfully implemented and expanded throughout the Milwaukee school system.

At Creative Authors for Shared Humanity, Yvette was a co-founder, co-organizer, and performer in Playback Milwaukee Theatre Company, a performing arts company. She organized theatre productions for community-building and produced workshops and residencies in storytelling for schools, churches, neighborhood groups, and non-profit organizations. Also while at Creative Authors, she delivered anti-oppression and liberation workshops for nonprofits across the nation. Her work in this area is based on the work of Dr. Leticia Nieto, and specifically her book “Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment, a Developmental Strategy for the Liberation of Everyone.”

On the personal front, Yvette believes in laughter, organic Fair-Trade, extra-dark chocolate with sea salt, and Oneness! She plays with these identities: twin, mother, facilitator, artist, alchemist, and writer. She recently relocated to Seattle, WA.

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Amikaeyla Gaston

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Facilitator

Amikaeyla Gaston is a force for change. She creates environments that support people in exploring themselves and uses creativity and strategic questioning to support people in addressing their fears, developing a place where everyone has an equal voice. She has led corporations, universities, government and nonprofit organizations through cultural competency & racial equity training. She has done expansive work in the health arena for over the past 20 years and travels the world extensively as a cultural arts ambassador for the state department bringing together artists and healers of all forms and from all specialties to promote healing and wellness through the arts & activism. Her programming and work with refugees and at-risk children, youth and families has been utilized and implemented by the Department of Health & Human Services, The American Psychological Association and US Consulate General’s Cultural Affairs office, taking her around the world to Israel, Beirut, Amman, Damascus, Palestine, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Nigeria & Sierra Leone just to name a few.

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“What drew me to diversity work,” she says, “is the deep desire to be part of change, to be part of the solution-making process, the conversation-making process. I’ve always been an activist, and I’ve always been outspoken. My nickname in high school was ‘the bridge’ because I was comfortable with everyone. It was a mosh pit at my house. Everybody was there, and everyone was going to share what they were feeling. It was just the thing.”

In 1992, Amikaeyla survived a hate crime that killed her, and luckily she came back to life.  She was targeted and intentionally run over by a truck while walking through a field of flowers and spent a year and a half in the ICU and burn ward healing herself and alleviating her pain by discovering the power of music.  She brings this experience of personal restoration to her work as a World Trust facilitator.

WHAT AMI BRINGS TO THE CONVERSATION

Her use of meditation and music is a perfect match for the creative diversity workshop activities she uses to engage participants and spur community building among them. Beyond that, she is highly in tune with the dynamics of the group.

“The skill that I try to bring to the table is extreme awareness,” Ami says. “As a speaker, performer, and facilitator, I have to have my eyes, ears, and feelers out. I’ve got to be able to hold the room, watch everybody and know what’s going on so that I can help steer this humongous ship through rough water.”

Amikaeyla is the Founder and Executive Director of the International Cultural Arts & Healing Sciences Institute (ICAHSI). As a musician, she uses her voice as a catalyst for the voices of those that are not often heard. Due to her work and studies with traditional healers and cultural artists, coupled with her interest in the biological and psychological healing effects of music, she was invited to perform in India at the request and invitation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Inaugural Festival of Sacred Chanting and Singing for the commemoration of the Golden Buddha.

She is a nuanced thought-leader and a sought-after public speaker and performer and has appeared internationally on numerous radio and television programs performing and speaking and her continued work in radio, tv, & film has led to appearances on PBS, HBO, and in the Sundance Film Festival.  She is the proud recipient of the Voss Foundation Emerging Leaders Women Helping Women Award, Global Woman Award, the CIBA-GEIGY Outstanding Community Service Award, the Pioneer Award for Exemplary Leadership and Outstanding Service in Social Justice and Advocacy Award, the Nation’s Capital Mayoral Arts Award for Innovation in the Arts, the Hero for Peace and Forgiveness award, and 12 Washington Area Music Awards. She is a featured presenter and trainer on Conflict Management, Resolution, and Cultural Competency in nonprofit and health organizations throughout the nation.

WHAT CLIENTS SAY ABOUT AMI

“Amikaeyla doesn’t hesitate to go to the place that moves you. In a training designed to educate and bring awareness to health care providers about LGBT health care needs, she led hundreds of trainings with professionals. Her “team approach” and healthy ability to create a respectful place for all individuals allows for deeper understanding of difficult concepts,” says Amari Sokoya Pearson-Fields of the District of Columbia Department of Health.

“Ami sheds light on ways to heal and reignite life,” says Kristi Rendahl, Director of Prairie Talks. “She transforms places and spaces through song, sound and expression. I’d say she brings a joyful way to talk about hard topics such as race and gender equality.”

“Ami is phenomenal!” says Marci Alboher, Vice President of Marketing and Communications of Encore.org. “She brought energy, passion and wisdom to this work and to our group. We feel like we accomplished our goals and were especially appreciative that she took the time to understand our group and tailor the program to what we needed. Thank you!”    

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Ericka Huggins

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Facilitator

Ericka Huggins wants to explore hearts. As a former Black Panther Party member, political prisoner, and human rights advocate, she brings a legacy of spiritual activism and social justice to her teaching. For 30 years, Ericka has lectured throughout the United States. She opens minds by tuning participants into their own families and love relationships. She values non-verbal communication and watches the room insightfully. Ericka has supported thousands of people in dialogues around human rights, whole child education, family reunification, restorative justice and spiritual practice in activism and social change. She is currently a professor of Sociology at Laney College in Oakland, Ca. Ericka intentionally invites the voices of youth as well as other underrepresented demographics into conversations. She holds a space for equity and partnership.

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Ericka Huggins, the activist, educator, and poet, begins her class at Merritt College “The Black Panther Party: Strategies for Organizing the People” by having students gather their desks around in a circle. She reminds them to turn in their extra credit on this final day of lecture.

Though review of course material was on the agenda, the class instead falls into a powerful group discussion on the recent killings by police of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Some students share their own stories of violence committed by police. Some tears are shed. “We talk about our lives in that class, not in a disconnected, abstracted, cerebral ‘somebody else’s history’ or ‘somebody else’s current experience’ way,” Huggins said later.

After one student shares a particularly harrowing story of his aunt who lost her son to police violence, Huggins asks him to send her a message: “Tell her that I send her all my love. And that young people are going to do something.”

Ericka Huggins’ name may be familiar. She was a founding member of the Black Panther Party chapters in Los Angeles and New Haven, Connecticut. She was also director of the Oakland Community School, the forerunner of modern-day charter schools, from 1973-1981. She has lectured and traveled extensively, is a published poet, and was the first woman and person of color on the Alameda County Board of Education.

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She was also widowed, at 19, when her husband was assassinated on the UCLA campus in 1969 by members of the US Organization, who were likely spurred on by an FBI agenda to fuel rivalry between US and the Black Panther Party (BPP). She traveled to her husband’s home in New Haven, Connecticut with her newborn daughter to bury him. There she started the New Haven chapter of the BPP, but was arrested and incarcerated on charges of conspiracy and murder along with party leader Bobby Seale. The resulting “New Haven Trial” was the longest to date in Connecticut history, sparking a public outcry across the country about the impossibility of a fair trial for the Panthers. Ultimately in 1971, the charges were dropped and the case was thrown out.

Huggins said so many of her students can identify with her experience, “because their parent was incarcerated, or they had gone through becoming an immediate single mom, or had been widowed themselves.” She maintains that in order to inspire students, one must be inspired by them as well. What do Huggins’ students teach her? “My students teach me connection. They’re fun, they’re funny, they’re fiery in a certain way, and they’re compassionate,” she said. Many of them live in East Oakland, in the same communities where Huggins has lived and worked for decades. It’s clear that she treasures this connection with all her students, neighbors, and allies.

Activism runs strong in Huggins’ DNA, but with a personal and political history that could undo even the strongest-willed person, she is notably grounded and centered. The key, she said, is meditation, a practice she taught herself while imprisoned. “Meditation helps me take a pause so I can be strong enough to meet whatever is there. Be equal to. Not less than, not more than, feeling inferior or superior to the moment. I’m equal to that moment.”

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Huggins taught meditation to her students throughout her career. One student from Oakland Community School came up to her 40 years later and said “Thank you so much for teaching me the tree pose.” She pointed to this example to show that teaching and service to others has “an exponential life in the distance.”

One of her students remembers the Oakland Community School. He didn’t attend, but he remembers how the school and the BPP were always doing something for the community, from the free breakfast program to clothing drives. “Oh, we all knew Miss Huggins there!” he recalled. He feels that then and now, Huggins presses the concept of service to the community.

Oakland Community School took a different approach to helping children, and that approach is something that Huggins would like to see in present day school reform. “It was tuition free, student-centered, community- based,” she explained. “Three meals a day, and the best people you could find anywhere. And it was a precursor to charter schools in terms of it’s principals. But we weren’t teaching money. If the money was funny, too many strings, we’d say, ‘No thank you, bye!’ And if a teacher came in wanting to employ antique tactics of educating and punishment? No. We had no detention, nothing like that. They had already had enough detention.”

Huggins was the first woman and first person of color to be on the Alameda County Board of Education in 1976. She was appointed by then State Assemblyman Tom Bates, currently the mayor of Berkeley. “He said, ‘Ericka, this is a bunch of old white men. We got to do something.” The Alameda Country School Board served 19 cities at the time. One of the tasks of the board was to preside over hearings for children with special needs, or as she says: “children with different learning styles or ways of navigating the world.”

Huggins quietly changed the way the Alameda County Board of Education interacted with the families who showed up to hearings about truancy or behavior issues. She would simply ask the mothers, “How are you doing today?”

“You could just see their shoulders relax,” she said. ” And when I asked them what was going on, they would give me a completely different story than the teacher or the principal who expelled them gave the board of education.”

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All images courtesy Ericka Huggins’ personal collection.

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Linda Handy

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Facilitator

Linda Handy connects local issues with international movements. Whether it’s in Detroit, Tuscaloosa, or Portland, she can draw a parallel between local challenges and those around the globe. Linda seeks to transform unjust conditions into new opportunities for social, racial, and economic change. She is comfortable with discomfort and encourages participants to engage in hard conversations; ‘walking the talk,” she motivates people to follow her. Developing a common ground through story telling and conscious listening, she supports communication across social and economic strata. As a facilitator she builds bridges, allowing disparate worlds to merge. Whether it is across continents, county lines, or across the street, Linda supports the examination of what is right, just and fair. With an M.S. from Case Western Reserve University and as a public official, Linda uses her position to support people who desire access and equity. She is accessible and straightforward, while being worldly and savvy.

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Linda brings 30 years of community building and diversity work with her to World Trust. She combines the following qualities that make a great facilitator:

Calm and warm demeanor.
Keen insight into the nature of social dynamics.
Compassion.
Understanding of who she is and acceptance of others.
Genuine curiosity about people.

We are most impressed by Linda’s intuitive nature, her ability not only to step in and provide guidance when necessary but also simply to observe and let situations play out. She understands that if a participant challenges the material or acts defensively, “it is because they’re hurting or they’re confused or the information is [something they] just can’t handle.” Her compassion lets her lead without alienating or shaming participants.

An Enthusiastic Client Endorsement

“Linda was fantastic,” said Mark Code, Director of the Program of Nurse Anesthesia at Samuel Merritt University, where Linda facilitated two recent World Trust diversity workshops. “She started conversations that are difficult, that need to be had, and that will help everyone. She has a warm persona and was completely neutral and open to dialogue. She made it okay for people to stick up for themselves when labels are inappropriate.”

Thanks to her work at Samuel Merritt, the nurses have begun a number of outreach projects that engage underserved members of the community. The workshops “validated the administration’s commitment to diversity and spurred internal awareness,” Code adds.

What Motivates Linda

“I try to find the good in everyone and everything,” Linda told World Trust. “I am always going to move and operate in this world from a sense of where I am in this universe from what my beliefs are. That is loving my fellow man.”

Linda also operates from a strong conviction that transformative learning has to come from within a given person, not be imposed on or preached to them.

“That’s why I love this work so much,” she said. “It gives you an opportunity to connect to people and let them have those epiphanies, not tell them, but let them have those epiphanies about their behaviors or actions — how what they do impacts other people’s lives and well-being.”

Linda’s Work in Action

Linda has facilitated several World Trust diversity training workshops, including ones at the UCSF Department of Reproductive Services and the Community Action Network for Northampton, Massachusetts.

During the UCSF workshop, she had to deal with interruptions from doctors exiting and entering as well as a toxic waste emergency evacuation alert. Linda kept the groups focused and actively engaged in a discussion of the diversity training film Cracking the Codes — even during the time they spent in the parking lot.

She said the doctors were engrossed in the material and continued coming back to see more of the film, which not only opened their eyes to differences between their cultural values and those of their patients but also showed them how to discuss medical options more effectively.

She also explains how she handled the awkwardness felt by a group of white women during discussion of the film.

“I came to ask if I could help them, and they said, ‘We absolutely do not have any idea of what we’re supposed to be talking about.’ That was very interesting. Their willingness to admit that and to listen and to hear and then to try to step out of their comfort zone.

“I respected them, that’s okay. That’s what this is about,” Linda went on. “What we’re going to talk about is what you didn’t know, what surprises were there for you. They were okay with that, and then they were able to latch on to that and start talking. They were able to step past, ‘Oh my God, we’re so white and we don’t know and everybody is going to be mad at us and they’re not going to want to talk to us.’ The reality is is this is new information and the fact that you are here and that you’re engaged and willing to learn is where we’re starting.”

Connections with Shakti Butler and World Trust

Linda met Shakti Butler at the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) more than a decade ago. She found herself gravitating toward Shakti’s presentations both at that and in subsequent NCORE conferences until finally Shakti expressed the desire to work with her. “I’ve known Linda for years and have admired the way she moves through the world. When we decided to expand our pool of facilitators, she was one of the first people I called,” says Shakti Butler. “Challenging entrenched patterns of inequity is difficult work. Linda is an educator who is grounded and present. People are receptive to new perspectives and new relationships in the environment of trust that she creates.”

About Linda Handy

Linda currently represents Area 3 on the Board of Trustees at Peralta Community Colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area. For the last 13 years, she was the Community Liaison Coordinator for a behavioral health organization in Oakland. She is a California native who graduated from Laney College with a degree in Fashion Arts and M.S. degree in Organizational Development and Analysis from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

She has a long and impressive history of community building and education work. She developed the first teen pregnancy program in San Leandro for Girls Inc. almost 30 years ago. As Chair of the Oakland Coalition of Congregations, she pushed for improvements to student education and safety in Oakland schools and enjoyed bringing “to the table” people from all religions, cultures, and ethnicities to find effective solutions. She has worked extensively on behalf of the mentally ill and unemployed of her community, helping them transition into meaningful work and lives.

Now in her sixties, Linda has experienced “a lot of firsts” in her life. She and her family moved to the first planned black community in Parchester Village in Richmond, California. “Then in 1960,” she says, “we moved to Oakland and were the first blacks on our block. First black campfire girl, first black flight attendant, first black everything — and with that, a lot of hell and a lot of pain. Integrating is not fun, trust me. My life has always been fight for what you believe in.”

But in spite of those challenges, Linda developed an open mind and heart. “I think I was always curious,” she told us. “When you’re curious, people always want to share their lives and you’re enriched by what they choose to share with you.”

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Tammy Johnson

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Facilitator

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.

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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.

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