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Episode 195: The Realities and Direction of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Consulting—with Dr. Amie "Breeze" Harper

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. So, this podcast, we are going to dive in again to talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice work. And I have somebody on who I am a huge fan of and have been following for quite some time. Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper is going to join us and talk about the work that she does, what she sees, where she thinks things are headed, and what it means for all of us as consultants. So, let's get started. I want to welcome to the show today, Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper. Welcome to the show.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Thank you for inviting me. I'm really excited to talk about the good stuff.

Deb Zahn: Let's start off, tell my listeners what you do.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: OK. Well, for the past, I guess 15 years now, I've been deeply engaged in consulting work with a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. And central to that work is primarily racial and ethnic inclusion and equity, but of course, those are not untouched by other identities and factors. So, a more intersectional approach to that and focusing on the workplace, but also how that impacts the external communities that the organization is in. And then also how to create equity inclusion at the state, regional, and federal level. So, those three tiers of what I focus on.

Deb Zahn: Fabulous. And you mentioned intersectionality as one of the ways that you approach the work. What else would you say sort of grounds the work that you do?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Really getting my clients who are mostly white leadership to understand that it's important to transform in a way that is discomforting or uncomfortable and that that's actually normal. So, I think what really is significant about my work is working with leadership to go through what often feels like they're unsafe, but this is the natural process of conscientization that if you're going to be transformed and go toward more equitable way of being, then you need to go through that discomfort, be accountable. And that's basically the center of my work is helping to guide and coach, not solve the problems but have people be accountable and realize that you are what you've been looking for. You just need a little guidance.

Deb Zahn: I love that, you're what you've been looking for. That's one of my favorite phrases. And obviously, I would imagine when you first meet with an organization, you're also assessing whether or not they're a good fit for working with you. So, what tends to tell you if they're a fit for you?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Basically, if they just want to do something and then be done with it after a few hours. So, "We've been having problems for the last few decades, can you please come in and give us a micro workshop for about four hours about unconscious bias and other issues? And then I think that's all we need. And then that's it." And then my thing is, "Well, this is a lifelong work so if we're going to work together. It's not going to be a checkbox. When we're done with the workshop, we're going to work in collaboration probably for the next few years and start looking beyond the cosmetic but do that deep systemic work." And those changes need to be done with accountability, with auditing. So, those are the things that I'm looking for. So, if someone just says, "No, we're not interested," then I'm not interested in doing just the one workshop. It's a deep responsibility to engage in DEI and J in my personal perspective. So, it's part of our values is that you have to be in it for the long run.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And one thing that I've noticed in all the clients that I work with who in various degrees are engaged in this work is there's a whole continuum of what their expectations are in terms of both what the process is and what the outcomes are. So, how do you help them understand the lifelong work part of it, but also at the beginning and throughout set the expectations for what they can expect this work is going to be like and produce?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: And that's a really important question. So, let me just kind of step back a bit. So, most of the leadership I work with good intentions, mostly white, and we have to start talking about supremacy or white supremacy culture. So, it takes some work and coaching for them to really start unpacking how that's affected how they perceive DEI and I will be. So, we talk about that this is not about perfection or supremacy, and that this is a continuum and that you have to make mistakes in order to grow and that you need some type of metrics in order to figure out if you're actually working toward progress. But one of the biggest things we get from our clients is that they're scared they're going to make a mistake. And then I ask them, well then what type of culture are we living in? This is what a supremacist culture does, is that we're in a culture of discipline and punish.

So, for you, most of your experiences have been with making a mistake as punitive in response. So, you need to figure out how to create a leadership culture or a workplace culture where making a mistake there is compassion, but there's accountability. So, we have to start unpacking and actually decolonizing the ways they even think how they're going to do DEI and J. Are they going to be guilty and have fear? Are they going to be punished because of mistakes made? So, that's one of the first things that we really have to start working on if we're then going to understand what success looks like. So, that's one of the things that we do is really working through those tenets of white supremacy culture and that you may have unconscious biases that generate fall expectations and what this outcome will be. So, that's very major. And leadership I work with really have to be gentle with themselves, like I said, accountable and create a culture where you can make mistakes and that there's compassion around it.

Deb Zahn: And you mentioned metrics, which I think are helpful because then it keeps people focused on what are we actually trying to do and not how do I feel at this given moment? What kind of things, as you're shaping it with them, do you help them think through? What are the ultimate outcomes they're trying to achieve? What are some of those metrics look like?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: And it just depends on the organization. A lot of times probably the number one request is, "We're trying to recruit and retain." OK, "So, who are you trying to recruit and retain and why?" So, maybe we'll start off with a very basic metric of if maybe they're in a sector where there's a lower representation of Black and Indigenous people. OK, "So, what do you want to have by the end of the year?" "We would like to have at least 40% Black and Indigenous candidates in our pipeline." "So, that's the metric you're using is kind of this racial ethnic identification. Then what type of philosophies and perceptions are you expecting from this demographic? And will they be a cultural add, or will they be assimilating into this?" So, really breaking down how we're going to define these metrics beyond just you want color, but what are they going to add to this?

So, at the end of the year, are we going to have more Black and Indigenous employees? And then how are they going to affect the way we maybe develop our products, create our services? Will their particular frameworks, their embodied experiences help to shape that? And how will they shape that? So, really asking these questions because we've had clients who want to have... "We want 40% Black people in C-suites by the end of the second year working with you." But then what will they be adding? So, why are you asking? So, there's the quantitative metrics, but then there's more the qualitative. What are you expecting philosophically from these embodied experiences from these colors? And is it going to add to an assimilationist point of view or is it really going to truly be more heterogeneous and create actual deep innovation to solve problems?

And that sometimes those metrics can be hard if you just use quantitative, so we do a lot of qualitative, where at the end of working together, having focus groups and talking and then generating themes where we see what some of the outcomes actually are. So, it seems maybe a little abstract the way I'm talking about it, but it's very, very important to have both the quantitative but also more qualitative and discursively analyze what's actually going on. And have you reached what you're truly seeking? Are you getting equity and justice or is it kind of just cosmetic diversity? Though you have a lot more color, is it really adding to what you need? Does that make sense? And do people feel like they literally belong? Can they be themselves?

Deb Zahn: Yeah, it makes perfect sense because otherwise if it's all quantitative then it could easily be treated as a check-the-box exercise rather than what's the actual experience once you check that box, and what experiences are you really going for? I love that. And I hadn't actually heard of the qualitative piece of it, so I think that's fabulous. So, when you start working, so you figure out they're a fit, you make sure you sort of set some expectations at the beginning, recognizing that all your engagements might be a little bit different. What do you typically start with, including some of what you talked about in terms of helping them understand that this isn't about replicating supremacy?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Yes. So, first of all, we usually just talk with the leadership. And the leadership interestingly, like I said, it's usually almost always white leadership. They have their perceptions, and we say that's great. But we're going to do an audit and we're going to do surveys. Because even though you say this and you have this perception, the surveys and the auditing will actually tell us systemically and structurally what's really going on. So, we start off with that. We'll do auditing, which basically we ask them to, "If you have these, send us three or four job descriptions. Do you have documents about how you do performance reviews? Send us your website so we go through it." And then our auditing is, I'm a critical race feminist, so that means I really try to understand how race and ethnicity are these factors or used within a systemically oppressive society.

But then also there's gender, there's socioeconomic class, and ability. So, we're going through these documents to really start seeing themes that tell us a story. And then we also have surveys that are deployed. And the surveys are not just a linear scale or yes or no, more qualitative questions. So, we'll ask them questions like, "How do you feel about your career development? How was on onboarding for you?" And then we can start seeing certain themes that come up. So, commonly maybe we'll get an organization that's predominantly white with formerly educated people and many of them say, "We don't really have a diversity problem here. I think everyone feels like they belong. Everyone feels like they belong." And we'll also ask them, do you know the difference between equity and equality on the survey? How do you define racism? So, there's no wrong or right answer, but a pattern usually occurs where if there's a few Black, Indigenous, or Brown people there, they'll have a different experience and they'll say what they say, and we focus more on that.

So, it doesn't matter if 97% of the employees who are mostly white say, "We don't think there's a problem, we think things are fine," we look at the more marginalized voices and what they're saying and what that story actually tells. So, we tell the leadership, start off with the most marginalized to actually tell you how things are. And then when we get back the audit materials, we've noticed when you have things like maternity leave, did you realize that more than just moms can go on leave? Or when you talk about more than pregnancy as a way you can have adoption to have someone in your life. So, all these different things tell a story where they may say, "We are pro-people having children and supporting that." However, you have constructed a parent as a mother. You've constructed having a child in life through pregnancy. So, that tells a lot about the leadership and their biases that go around what is family. So, just things like that, that come up to tell that story.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. You did a fabulous post that I saw on LinkedIn once where you described something and then you asked, "What did you see when I said that? Did you see somebody who has these experiences looked like this?" It was extraordinarily powerful and it reminded me of what you just said in terms of being able to unlock and uncover what biases are really driving the ship.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: It's very powerful because I think it's like just a flashcard or I think it was a couple moving down the street with their baby.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: It was that one. And then most of the people who are in the United States that I work with, they will actually conceive of someone who is as a man and a woman together, cisgender man and woman together walking down the street or the sidewalk. And in that card, I don't say walk, I say moving. So, we know there are many ways to move including the use of a wheelchair. And people were surprised when they thought, "Yeah, why do I think that way? And why did I think that it's a cisgender heterosexual couple with a baby that I imagine they birthed not necessarily adopted." So, we've got about five or six flashcards like that in the workshops that I give, which is a great segue to say that after we do the auditing and the surveys, then we see the themes and what needs to be tackled and then we create a tailored workshop for the leadership. So, that's what we do.

So, taking all that data and then we create our own like DEI workshop that's interactive with their breakout rooms. It's solution-oriented activities for the leadership to engage in. So, we do things like unconscious bias testing with these flashcards that come up. People are really surprised because they think, "Well, I know that people exist who use wheelchairs. And I know that the couple next door are two men living together. So, why is it, the first thing I came up still with when you talk about a family is this white heteronormative, able-bodied couple walking down the street?"

Deb Zahn: That's right. Yeah. Which is exactly what I pictured when I heard that example and I was like, "Damn, I see what I did."

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: Now at a certain point, and again I know because I work with all kinds of different organizations, it often happens where the sort of white discomfort bubbles up to a boil and there's discomfort with moving forward. And this is where I've seen unfortunately things can either regress or go off the rails completely or whatever version. And I imagine you've experienced that too. What are some of the things that you do to either prevent that or to try and help them stay true to what they said they actually wanted to accomplish?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: OK, this is a fantastic question and I think it's multi-layered. So, there's the discomfort that is just coming out of someone naturally because most white people in the United States have not grown up in a household or mainstream culture where it's OK to talk about this. And when the feelings come up, they have not been given the tools yet to work through it productively. So, that's one of the things that have been a challenge. And then the second part is a lot of white leadership can't just do what they want in terms of equity, inclusion and diversity work. Sometimes their board members, if I work with nonprofits are their major donors are not necessarily on board with being anti-racist or understanding the significance of me too.

So, for me, we have to really get back to the value statement, "This is what your workplace is trying to do." And I have workbooks for some of my leadership to really get them to unpack. There are workbooks like, what's it called? Me and White Supremacy. We have just kind of unpacking exercises for me to really just ask deep down, what is it that you're fearing? What do you think you're going to lose? I've got a wonderful resource about white supremacy culture or their tenets of it. And one of them is there's fear. There's another one of hoarding power and privilege, what would happen if we lost that? So, really just talking about that. And with some leadership. They want to go through it. They want to do it. They've been able to do it. And I've worked very well, and it's been hard and difficult.

So, I recall two clients where at first it was hard, especially in 2020 when they decided they were going to definitely take a stance on anti-racism and the murder of George Floyd and make it clear that they're going to really try to be more intentional about being racially equitable. And they got a lot of negative feedback from their current patrons and donors. So, I worked with them, and I worked through that fear. I said, "If you just stick to your values and ethics and human rights, you're going to also gain a lot of people who normally would not have been on board with you because you were totally "post-racial". Just working through that with them and the discomforts they had with us analyzing the ways in which they led some of their chapters.

Their headquarters are in the United States, but they had chapters in several parts of the global south, and they were uncomfortable with our assessment first when we said that, "You have a very missionary approach to the people who work here and that's why they don't feel like they belong and they can't thrive." And they were really uncomfortable with what to do. Should they change their model? And it was hard work, and they were silent for a bit, but then they came back to us with a long email really realizing that it is a colonialistic framework, it has been for some time and the sector that they're engaged in, it's known for being more colonialistic. And that they decided that they would take the plunge and allow those chapters and the global self to have their own agency and just trust them and do what they need to do, which is regional-specific.

The model in the United States is not going to work for these regions for various reasons. So, that was really amazing but was hard. It was challenging but not impossible. And we had a similar client too where they got back their audit from us and the surveys, and they said they were crying, it was hard because they thought they were doing such good work because they were in the eco-sustainable sector where they just had these good ways of doing things, but it's majority white middle-class perspective of eco-sustainability. And then we work with them, and it was hard. But we were there trying to explain that this is normal, the discomfort is normal. It's the chaos before the calm, so just being with them, not shaming them, and letting them know that this is normal.

But I've also had a client who didn't like it. They said, "You made us feel unsafe," and they didn't want to work with us anymore when we came up with the report and what our suggestions were. And I can't change everyone. I can do my best. I can show the data and I can't control what one is going to do with what I share with them and what our suggestions are. So, for consultants out there, just focus on those that you were able to work with and collaborate with. I've had people maybe 5, 10 years later actually come back and say after they were initially disgusted, somehow, they went through their own awareness. "You know that time where I thought you were just making me feel bad as a white person or how you thought what we were doing it was not working out, and we just disagreed." And I had people come back and say, "Now that I think about it, I realize what we were doing wasn't actually on the better path of equity and inclusion."

So, people are also on their own timelines too. Some of us would like to go faster than slower, but that's who I work with and how I work. But I don't let go of my values, if it comes to where it's obvious maybe after a one-week relationship or a one-year relationship that it's just not working out because they can't stick with it, I just have to stop for my own mental and emotional health because it's not just work as a Black woman, it's a lot to work with mostly white leadership who can't take seriously the importance of racial equity and inclusion work, is just because it affects me and my children, my family, and anyone else who's Black, Indigenous, Asian, non-white in the United States.

Deb Zahn: How have you seen your work change over time since you've been doing this such a long time? And I've certainly read some things that you've talked about in terms of changes that you've made. What have you seen that path has been for you?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Until 2020, it was basically French. And what I was doing was not accepted because I don't do cosmetic diversity because I really question an entire 500-year history and system that a majority of white people have benefited from whether they wanted or maybe not. And then 2020 came and suddenly those who I had heard crickets from, those who would never even talk about this were suddenly doing it or trying to do it. So, it was kind of more performative. So, I felt like that was a great way for me to experience those who were fully committed to doing this work, but were scared because maybe it wasn't necessarily the time and then also experienced that many were just kind of doing the cosmetic diversity approach, and that didn't really come to... See, I didn't really start understanding that until probably early this year where those who had made those commitments, many of them basically have ghosted me and had made excuses.

And this is way before the obvious recession, and this started in January of 2022. So, I think the pendulum swings and this work isn't necessarily going to always be supported. I do it because it's the just work to do, whether it's popular or not. So, right now things are quite slow. I think a lot of organizations have used the recession as an excuse. I don't think it's an excuse, especially because if you want to be as productive and innovative as possible, you need to make sure that your employees feel like they belong, that they can thrive. And it's so expensive to have to retrain anybody if they leave because they're unhappy.

So, I just try to present these arguments, if it's not for the moral reason, let's look at the loss of revenue reason as a reason to actually just really focus on that importance. So, it swings. I expect it to swing, but I still have a few clients that are still committed, and they'll say that we've been hit hard because of the recession, but instead of just saying we're not going to do anything, we'll pull out. So, what can we still do? What is still possible versus just ghosting us or just making excuses that we just can't do anything anymore and then they're out. And I think that's what I'm seeing.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And it's sad because if they truly believed it was mission-critical, they would hire you the same way they would hire a financial consultant who would help them with other things that matter to them. Now, in any of the organizations or companies, there are often other consultants who aren't doing this work involved in the organization, and particularly those like myself who have the ear of the leadership and are able to influence them. And my contention is, we play an important role in this work. You shouldn't just say, "Oh no, no, go talk to that person. That's who got hired to do that." What would you like to see the other consultants, particularly those who can get the attention and influence the leaders be doing to support this work?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Just to make it clear that this is not just something that can just be put on the back burner, that this isn't work that actually one person should be doing. That everyone has a role in this. You may not know what the role is yet, that everyone has a role in it that you shouldn't expect a one person hired to do this, whether a contractor or in-house employee to solve the problems surrounding lack of inclusion and lack of equity. So, I think that's one of the things that consultants can let leadership know and that this is not going to happen overnight. I know many people throughout the world are listening to this, but most of my experience is the United States. So, the United States it's inequitable system, it took over 400 years to build. So, letting leadership know that as we start your DEIJ initiatives, you're not going to solve these problems overnight or in a week.

So, to kind of let go of that, that this is a continuous journey and that a quick fix culture framework needs to be kind of just dismantled. You have to focus more on what are our long-term goals and patience and humility in this work. And now the work isn't going to be easy. And that's the point. If you're going to go through any transformation, like if you've done anything in your life, if you don't push yourself through the discomfort and try to step up your game, then you're never going to get better at your craft. Whether you're a pianist, if you're learning baseball, we've all gone through these things that are so difficult. And if you've had a coach, they'll tell you, you have to go through, you have to work through it. It's going to be difficult, but then you'll come back even stronger.

The same approach with leadership. If they are having these challenges or they think this isn't working out or this is too hard, you have to push yourself and then you'll look back and realize that when you went through it, did that challenge, face the fear, face the discomfort, actually it's made you much stronger, and that's the important part that a lot of leadership may not know or they may not have as a guide to remind them that it's supposed to be challenging. It's not impossible, but it's going to be challenging for a reason. So, that's really important. And just to make sure that people really engage in the work of allyship, that if it's not going to mean your lack of safety, usually doesn't, to approach leadership and tell them that this is very important and why.

Or if something happens in the workplace and that was racist or sexist ableist, that you check in with a person that happened to, you check in with leadership at the appropriate time. You can't just be silent, neutrality is the worst thing. And that's what so many activists and philosophers have spoken about. It's not necessarily the less than 10% are who are the active colonizers, it's those that were silent and did nothing. And it's so easy when people think, "Well, I don't want to get political, I just want to be neutral." No, you cannot do that. There's no neutrality. You can't.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, because Switzerland was in Switzerland, so there is no such thing.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Yeah. And it frustrates me because when I try to remind people, if you are not a white man and you have employment, you have to understand all the things that happened to get you there, not a white straight able-bodied man. OK? Because there are people who were not silent, who worked really hard for you to literally not just be working there. Like the other day I was running in an all-white neighborhood. I live in mostly white area, and I was thinking someone worked hard for me to be able to just go on a run, hopefully in a certain part of the country where I will not get shot. But still, we know that still happens. But I can still feel relatively safe that I will not get lynched, relatively. Yes, we know that still happens in many parts of the United States, but I was just thinking about those things, that I was able to go to Dartmouth College because someone fought really hard to allow women to also go, and then also Black, Indigenous people to attend as well.

So, that's why I try to remind people not to forget that because you're so comfortable that you can't be silent. And we're already seeing it right now. We're seeing people with high political positions try to reverse all that work that's been done, and you can't be silent about it. People don't understand those comforts came at a lot of suffering and a lot of pain from people who knew, mostly those who are most marginalized, who knew if you let it fall apart that it's going to screw over everyone. So, that's why I try to just instill, this isn't just a little thing, this is a microcosm of a bigger thing that has happened throughout history when people are assuming.

Deb Zahn: And that's why also when I think about consultants who are in institutions or in companies, we can't be silent either then because you got to continuously learn because this is also a lifelong process for me, for anybody else that I work with. But often I find that I have clients who will be vulnerable with me in ways that they have a hard time being vulnerable if they're in a session or if they're being confronted with some of the things that are happening within their organization. What a perfect opportunity to hold that vulnerability but not let them stop there and have that reverse course. And if we can influence that, and particularly me as a white woman, if I'm working with a white leader, particularly another white woman, I have an opportunity to do something about that.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Yeah, and that's what's funny because you brought up vulnerability, and I was thinking about that 30 seconds ago, is that once again, we're in a culture where the mainstream culture does punish you if you show vulnerability. Especially if you're a certain social identity, like white men are definitely like, "You're not supposed to show vulnerability, you're at the top of the hierarchy." So, I think there needs to be consultants really understanding the sacredness of vulnerability and what we do with that. Not to exploit it, but I think a lot of us don't know the power of vulnerability and that that's the heart work. That you can rationalize as much as you want in your head that the sacredness of vulnerability and what we do with it, how we guide it, especially within the context of how traumatizing it's been in a racial caste system for everyone, I think that is so important to have consultants that understand that along with other identities that have been marginalized.

And those who have been part of those privileged identities when they feel like all these emotions going on, the fear, the vulnerability, what to do with it, to have support in-house to work through that, to understand the sacredness of showing that vulnerability as a really important part of leadership. Maybe it's not necessarily something that you were taught back in the day, like I'm Gen X or... I think it's more acceptable now for the younger generation to understand vulnerability and what to do with it and how to show that with accountability, with humility, and how to be productive.

That it's OK to have these other emotions around fear and maybe even anger because you're finally learning something that no one ever taught you. And wow because I've been ignorant, I probably have caused a lot of harm. How do you have consultants and other people in that organization to help you understand the sacredness of vulnerability and as an important tenant of true leadership? And I think that's really important. If we can take away the taboo around vulnerability and who's allowed to show it and what it means and actually use it as the sacred tool that it is to actually re-remember what it means to be fully human, then I think that's something that will allow leadership to blossom.

But it would be really important for not just consultants, but others in the workplace to be that support. And I think that's really important. Because that's what I hear a lot of white men like, "I don't want to be vulnerable because since childhood I was taught that that's not what real men do."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Yeah, so those layers. So, I think that's important. And as an ally, we're talking about that as a white woman, to be there to understand the sacredness of that vulnerability and how you can be there to guide, not necessarily have the answers, but be that guide to positively help them work through that transformation.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. I love the sacredness of vulnerability. I'm going to carry that with me for sure. Now, I also know that one of the ways that you help heal the world is through other types of writing. And I just had the privilege of listening to you read a prologue to a book that you're working on. I'm going to put a link to that in the show notes, but tell folks really quickly what that is.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: OK. So, as much as I love doing this work professionally as a consultant, I also am a novelist. And I think many ways that people are inspired to go through transformations, not necessarily through dissertations or theory, but through the creative arts. Many people I've met have watched a movie or read a novel and they finally opened their heart and they got it. And so I'm exploring these concepts through the art of Afrofuturism and through the medium of novel writing where I'm talking about regenerative possibilities for the future that really focus on healing, admitting the trauma of the violence of colonizing the United States, colonizing the soil, grabbing and taking away land from indigenous people, enslaving people from nations in Africa to build this country, which is basically the fabric of and build up all of the systemic inequities that we have now in 2022.

So, I'm using Afrofuturism, if you're familiar with Black Panther movie, that's Afrofuturism, is what a future of liberation and equity looks like, really focusing on Afrocentric ways of being and doing. A lot of that's also unraveled in Indigenous ways of being that are kind of often looking for alternatives away from extractive capitalism, looking away from alternatives away from supremacy. And what would it look like for not just Black folk, but all folk from an Afrocentric perspective? And that book that I'm writing is a novel that's very intersectional because I love intersectional approaches. How can we understand the workplace as this place where many people don't thrive? It feels like it's exclusive. How is that a reflection of, go back 500 years ago when the United States was violently colonized, the soil was colonized.

So, I focus a lot on the colonization of the soil microbiome, the theft of that land, the enslavement of Africans to build the wealth of white people, and monocultural systems industrialized farming as an extension of the agenda of capitalism and colonialism. And what does that do? If you're actually stripping away the authentic way that the soil should be and then we're eating food that has been stripped of that, and it's connected to our gut health. And our gut health is connected to our emotional, mental health and other physical issues going in our body. How can we really understand how toxic colonization has been through that? But also when we look at the food system, food justice, food sovereignty, who's the most impacted?

Are those who are the descendants of Indigenous folk and Africans in the Americas. So, that's what I'm really looking at in that book and trying to understand that what's happening in the workplace, what's happening in people's lives in society and politics, economics, the inequities, racism, sexism, ecocidal behaviors, climate crisis. How do we go back to understanding the effects of colonization? And how can we actually find creative and innovation solutions for the future? How do we create an equitable and just future using more principles of Indigenous and Afrofuturistic philosophies to rebuild that, versus this dystopic future that's always been told to us through mainstream media, that the future is bleak. We're all going to have a future of no abundance, how can we create a future of equity and justice and inclusion with a more Afrofuturistic, Indigenous, futuristic perspective?

Deb Zahn: If anybody wants to do themselves a favor in life, I'm going to put in the show notes, listen to the prologue, the metaphors, particularly the metaphor that you used for colonizing the soil was just breathtaking, is the word I would use. And it left me hungry for more, pun intended, but it's worth taking a listen to. So, anybody who's listening to this, if they're smart, they're going to want to follow you and find out more, where can they find you?

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: OK. So, I do a lot of this amazing wisdom-giving on LinkedIn. So, my LinkedIn profile, I don't remember the name, but maybe you can put that in the show notes. And then I've got my business page, which is And then there's my writer's page, Afrofuturistic storytelling merged with equity, inclusion and Justice, which is And that's where you can find out about my new novel called Seeds of Sankofa. Sankofa, meaning you can't move forward unless you acknowledge your ancestors in the past. And you'll find that in a few talks that I have given that really connect this work to food justice, climate justice, racial justice.

Deb Zahn: Fabulous. Well, let me ask you my last question because I know you have to go into a few moments, but with all the work that you're doing in the world, how is it you bring balance to your life? Whatever that looks like for you, or however you define that.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: OK, and that's a great question. So, to let people know, I'm a mom of four kids ranging from 6 to 13. Those teen years, damn. For me, I think self-care is a radical act of activism that in a capitalist economy you're told you're not productive unless you're basically burning out. So, I'm all into self-care, and the way I do it is I've been doing intense cardio kickboxing and step aerobics since I was 23. So, I do that, I posted it on LinkedIn, I think of me doing that, and I love running. I'm an avid hill runner. So, just that type of exercise. And then I'll sing. I love singing. I think the power of sound, I just really enjoy just singing, even if nobody's listening, that's really important. And just breathing.

And I think what's really most important to me is that I can only do my best. I can't control the outcomes. I can't control what people think about me and what they'll do. But knowing that I'm doing what I do with dignity, pride, and heavy sense of morality is what grounds me. And that it does cause a lot of frustration for a lot of people I talk to that, "I worked so hard to do this and I told them that, and they still didn't do it," but you're not going to ever find happiness if you expect people to do what you say or you expect them to like you a certain way. So, that's how I stay grounded. You should see the stuff people have sent me. It's like vitriolic, mean, nasty, but that's not me. It's them. Right? And why have a reactive response, so I talk about don't engage in the drama triangle, just don't do it.

You can choose to respond by not responding at all, and that's what I do because I could spend days responding to the vitriolic messages or posts that I get from people who are clearly just going through a lot of stuff, have been deeply toxified by a racial caste system, it's mostly white people, but I don't, right? So, you can't control that. I know it can hurt deeply, but find your people, make your village, breathe, and know it's going to be OK because that's life. Life is not going to be this easy joy ride. It never will be. But how do you ground yourself in your authentic self? Your breath and knowing that you're doing your best and you can't control the outcome and that joy is within is how I basically move through life. With lots of exercises to combat the physical stresses that come from this work.

Deb Zahn: Wow, that's amazing. Well, I am so delighted that you were on. I have been following you for a long time. I think the first thing I ever saw was you singing,

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: OK. Yeah, that's me singing. Yep.

Deb Zahn: It was fabulous. But thank you so much for coming on the show and again, sharing your wisdom and your awesomeness.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper: Thank you, Deb. I really appreciated just talking and letting people just know how I do my thing. So, with that said, I'm hoping anyone who's listening, if you want to contact me, just be sure to contact me at my email address,, which I'm sure Deb will provide for you.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up in a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything.

But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those. And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it. Share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

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