This blog has been selected from the My Moon Landing weekend training session, Be the Ally, and is part of a five issue blog series sharing a small snippet of learnings from different training sessions. This session featured talks from change leaders about advocacy and how our community can take action to foster a supportive and inclusive atmosphere for Black women, LGBTQ+ and non-binary people in society.
Last year, we sat down with Kimmy Soko, Founder and Podcaster of Dope, Black, Disabled and CEO of her own diversity, equity and inclusion company. This session explored the topic of allyship and Kimmy opened the session defining allyship off the bat. She described allyship as the deliberate act of 'intersecting one’s privilege with another person’s oppression or struggle [to] help them out of their pit.' She also put it another way and described it as ‘offering one’s privilege’ in service to a person who is in need of it.
Our chat discussed the highs and lows of being in Kimmy’s body, particularly of people with bodies that share her characteristics - mainly being Black, woman and disabled. But she ultimately lefts us with three lessons to be able to receive allyship:
On the topic of pivoting, Kimmy reflected on the challenge of adjusting to change. She said 'divorcing yourself from the familiarity that no longer serves you and pain that is nestled in stagnation takes sacrifice.' These powerful words lay in the memories of where she came from and where she is now. She spoke of being previously enrolled in culinary school, learning from the likes of Jamie Oliver and Raymond Blanc before her illness changed things for her. She also spoke about the opportunity to lead Dope, Black, Disabled - an initiative of Dope, Black, and how this opportunity was patiently waiting for her via a second-degree contact she stumbled upon in a Clubhouse room. Between leaving culinary school and being recruited to lead Dope, Black, Disabled, she credits this distance between focuses for giving her ample time to pivot.
EMBRACE THE CHANGE
She took us beyond the traditional definition as pivoting as we know it in business, to pivoting mentally and embracing the change. She spoke so candidly about the multiple operations and diagnoses she’s had and how she has relearned to walk 20 times. We learnt about how challenging this is both mentally and physically as an adult. As a result, she runs her affairs, and practically the world, from her bed. She encouraged those in her training session to recognise such 'setbacks' as opportunities (circa 19:07). Kimmy embodied this when she said, 'I could not travel in my 20s so I read my way around the world'. In doing this, she was able to amass a multi-cultural literacy and familiarity with many languages. She, in turn, leveraged this knowledge to advocate for herself in medical settings and especially in instances of medical racism.
GIVE IT TIME
She spoke passionately about the journey and how, if we wanted to quantify it, it has taken her 7 years to mentally adjust to where she is now and accept the responsibilities she now has as a change-agent. She humbly, but honestly states, 'I couldn’t run a company at 24.' She encouraged those in attendance to do the 'in-house cleaning' for the new season they’re in, and let it take its course (17:10). Then, when ready, it will be easier to recognise that, all the while, 'your purpose lay in your biggest adversary'.
Kimmy reminded us that she has a steely support network made up of family members who have journeyed with her to this point and given themselves to improve her health and wellbeing. She left the audience with a lot to think about but one thing is for sure, anyone listening, was able to see the real importance of 'offering one’s privilege' in service to another person who is in need of it.
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