Podcast Ep24: Nation, Citizenship, + Place TRANSCRIPT

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Chanté Thurmond 

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our new ish live stream series. This is Chanté Martínez Thurmond today representing The Darkest Horse. We are a minority and women owned next gen dei consulting firm based out of Chicago. We’re really obsessed with helping the workforce and organizations explore the intersections of radical inclusion, emerging technology, the future of work, health, well being and human potential. 

Want to just say thank you all again for sharing your time with us. If you’re taking lunch, thank you so much for maybe listening and learning today. The goal for today’s livestream session is to explore some concepts of nation, citizenship, our sense of space and belonging, and how these things impact our identities in our lived experiences at work and in our communities. 

So I already said my name Chanté Martínez Thurmond but I’m joined today by one of our new collaborators, Hanna Kim and our TDH teammate fahad punjwani. 

Wanted to just give a quick high level overview and some housekeeping items. One Rada Yovovich, my awesome co founder is here today and will be on tech. We have Zaiden Sowle who’s also here and is our TDH intern, we’re going to make sure that we keep an organic vibe going today, we want to make sure that we’re sort of showing up as like Red Table Talk hosts, starting with some introductions, and we’ll transition into a few questions and prompts. And we’ll just let the conversation go from there. It doesn’t mean that we are going to go off the rails and have tangential conversations or anything like that. But we just want to leave space for us to sort of think and if you have a question, don’t be afraid to send it over in the chat, but you can also email us and then we can tag along and put it into our follow-up blog post that will be sent out to everyone afterwards. 

So enough with all of that, let’s get to the fun stuff. I really want to introduce you first to Hanna Kim. And then we’ll pass it over to fahad. And I wanted to say that here at The Darkest Horse, we try our best not to introduce ourselves by credentials and titles first, we leave that kind of for the end, if anybody’s even curious, you can always just Google our names or look us up on LinkedIn. But we try to tell you who we are without telling you what we do. So Hanna, take it away.

Hanna Kim  

Hello, everyone. My name is Hanna Kim and I just want to thank Rada and Chanté for having me and for fahad, to really initiate this collaboration. It’s truly an honor to be able to share my story on this wonderful platform. Yeah, so you know, my name is Hanna, and I use she/her pronouns. And I am a 30 year old woman with curly hair and round glasses wearing a gray top standing against a gray background. And I am joining you all from the Sana, Atakapa, and Karankawa land colonially known as Houston, Texas. So yeah, that’s me in a nutshell. And I think I pass it on to fahad now?

fahad punjwani   

I want to acknowledge just I love shantay what you said about sharing who we are without saying what we do. So often it’s easier to say what we do as a way to substitute for who we are, and I love that challenge. My name is fahad punjwani I use he/him they/them pronouns interchangeably. I am also as Hanna is on the unceded Land of the Sana, Atakapa, and Karankawa people, collonially known as Houston, Texas. I am male-presenting in my 30s with a thick beard, round glasses, short hair, wearing a green shirt in front of a floral background. Really excited to be here.

Chanté Thurmond  

Thank you y’all did great. I know I introduce myself again, but to follow form. My name is Chanté Martinez Thurmond, I use she/her or ella pronouns. I’m coming from the unceded territory of the Council of Three Fires, that’s colonially known as Chicago. I am a mixed race millennial woman with curly hair glasses and wearing a purple and black top. 

I’d love to, you know, also just sort of start with this prompt, right for both Hanna and fahad and just ask how are you showing up to the conversation? How are you arriving to the space? 

Hanna Kim 

Yeah, that’s a that’s such a interesting and important question that I think we don’t really ask as often as we should. So I’ll just begin by talking about where I’m at today, which is Houston, but I think I’ll have to kind of go back and talk about where I’ve been so far, in order to really talk about where I am showing up today, and I’ll do that by briefly summarizing the places I have lived in the past. 

I have I’ve lived in Houston for the past two years. But I’ve also lived in the US for over 15 years now. And that’s since my family immigrated here in 2005. So going even further, when I was from when I was six to 14, I lived in South Korea. And before that, I lived in Vienna, Austria. So, so I guess I’m something like an Austrian-born Korean American. But that just it is true, but it doesn’t really capture who I feel or, you know, I think there’s a gap. And I think we will be exploring this in our conversation. 

But in terms of my identity papers, you know, which says who I am in the system, right, I hold a South Korean passport, and I also hold a United States permanent residency card, which is also known as green card. And, you know, I’m so fortunate to be able to identify myself this way, especially because I did not earn neither of these identities with my own effort. So, you know, I’d say most of my journey so far, and how I’m showing up has been shaped by my parents journey, especially their musical and spiritual journey. My parents are classical musicians, you know, who studied in Vienna, and my dad came to the US to get his master’s in divinity degree when he was in his mid 40s, both of my parents got their doctoral degrees in the US, and then abruptly left to Cambodia to pursue being missionaries. So I think they’re, you know, they’re really spirit-led and purpose-seeking people. And because of that, I think I have always been surrounded by this creative and soulful, existential buzz around the household. And I think I’ve become that kind of person too. And that’s how I show up to my friends and to my community, to my workplaces. Yeah. 

So you know, talking about work briefly, I in terms of what I do, I am an artist and designer who is super interested in the intersection of design and policy. And that may sound odd or kind of nerdy. But what that means is that I really find joy in exploring how the complex and often broken system that we live in can be reimagined, and even be healed by art and design. And what that looks like is that I collaborate with nonprofits and inspirational people in sort of translating what they are thinking and what needs to be communicated with sort of illustrations and graphic design, mostly focusing on awareness raising and civic education. So yeah, I’m really passionate about, you know, what I do and how I show up. And I think it’s really important that I always like, check myself as well, because I think, you know, my work really helps me feel belong. And really ask myself, like how to, you know, untangle some of these really important and difficult questions and really unlearn from what I have been sort of taught growing up.

Chanté Thurmond  

I have a big, huge smile on my face. I’m loving all this, and I am purposely trying to reserve myself in my joy so we could get to fahad I would love for fahad to answer the same question. So tell us how you’re showing up and how you’re arriving to the space today, fahad.

fahad punjwani 

Taking a deep breath to recognize, I am feeling pretty grounded today. And I’m showing up as grounded, and I’m feeling centered. And I’m also showing up as a queer person in America who is on a visa, who, you know, very much like everybody else is still sort of making sense of the pandemic. 

I loved, though how Hanna you sort of tied, showing up with the places that you’ve lived. And I particularly like that because I think belonging to a place has been sort of this quest that I’ve been on. And I feel like I’m probably sort of sounding a lot like Brenee Brown right now or Glennon Doyle, or Susan Fiske, you know, talking about like belonging of a deep human need. But I, I think, very more and more recently, especially as I’m like, leaning more into like Buddhist teachings, I’m also recognizing the sort of quest for belonging being a very ego-driven thing. And recognizing that, perhaps there’s no quest. It is inherently there, and just need to find it or to claim it, or to think that I deserve it or that I need to receive it is perhaps another way that ego is showing up. And it’s just sort of accepted by society, but it’s still ego driven. And so why have this quest when to be human is to belong? I am just holding that tension in me right now. 

I came to the US from Pakistan to study I was born in Pakistan. I lived there for the first 18 years, I was born in Hyderabad, and then moved to Karachi, Karachi to a much bigger city, and then moved to the US to study for undergrad. And it’s been 13 years that I’ve been in the US, actually, August 8, will be my 13 year anniversary here. I’m on a visa right now. So when I came to the US, I was on an f1 student visa. And I want to share these titles just so you can sort of come along the journey with me a little bit I’ve on an f1 student visa, which allows you to only study in the US. And then I transitioned into an Optional Practical Training, which allowed me to work after I graduated for a year, I got an h1, B and started working for an employer and I could only work for the employer. And until unless I had a stamp on my passport, that I could only get a country outside of the US, I couldn’t travel outside of the US, then I went back on an f1 visa because I wanted to go to grad school, and then went back on an OBT, which allowed me to work in the US, I finished three years, almost three years on OBT. And now I’m back on an h1 B. I’m not a permanent resident, I’m not a citizen. And what that means is that there are a lot of restrictions on how I can be in this country.

I want to acknowledge that there’s a lot of privilege in having a legally recognized designation in this country in this world, really. And so I am able to work, I am able to make a living, I am able to move freely, even within the United States without the burden of feeling like ICE is on my back. And at the same time, you know, I’m missing a dear friend’s wedding in France, because I don’t have a stamp on my passport, I’m potentially missing weddings have to do cousins who are getting married outside of the US. I’m unable to pursue jobs that are outside of my H1B scope, or you know freelance as a poet as my heart desires. So also sort of holding that tension within me of the privilege and the restrictions that come with being on a visa in the US. And I love what you said about you know that you didn’t earn the credential these identities, and I really feel that no one deserves those. And everyone deserves those identities and those credentials, really, really excited and thankful.

Chanté Thurmond  

Wow, I mean, I could just let you both keep talking. Because I just want to recognize that you did an excellent job of you know, showing up and sharing those parts about yourselves that maybe I think a lot of us just like forget about when we’re having like networking dinners and lunches and stuff like that, like we just don’t talk about those technicalities and the ways in which our identity and our citizenship or our current place actually can impact like our well being. So if you’re thinking about all these things, right, you know, just in terms of like your h1 visa, and just the things that like you mentioned, you want to do freelancing and be a poet. That’s what your heart really desires. I can’t imagine what that feels like. But I empathize because I have friends and family that have shared their experiences with me. So I just want to say I’m very grateful that you were brave enough and vulnerable enough to share that with everyone today. So thank you to both you and Hanna. 

I think I already mentioned this, but I’m going to say it again, just to sort of again, follow the form. I am a mixed race multicultural woman, I identify as a Black Latina, I’m cis I’m able-bodied, I’m a mother of twins, I consider myself not first generation probably like 1.5 generation, my mother was an immigrant, so I’m the daughter of an immigrant family. I’m also a proud descendant of Black slave ancestors, who during the Great Migration moved from Mississippi to the Midwest, like so many folks did. And I laugh when I say the great migration, like as if it was great. Like, it’s actually like a fleeing, of being, you know, oppressed. So I show up today, with ambivalence, right, I’m holding space for multiple truths, and that I recognize are complex, and they’re very nuanced. And as I get older, and more mature, I am okay with that. I think in my past, the younger me would have just skated right past that, you know, just like why are we getting into so many of these like complexities, but I think there’s something beautiful about just holding those two things like as you’re sharing behind. So on the one hand, I think I want to express, you know, my my gratitude and reverence for my mother and her family who made a conscious decision, a conscious decision to leave their beloved Mexico, and to immigrate to a country that was foreign to them at the time that to learn a new language to get, you know, embedded into a culture that probably wasn’t very welcoming to them. You know, they gave up so much in their search of the American dream. And they really believed it probably at that time, it was in the 50s and 60s that, hey, there’s all these great possibilities. So marketing worked. 

On the other hand, I feel deeply humbled by the experiences that my brilliant African ancestors, who literally had to fight for their lives to survive slavery had to endure they endured the brutalities of white body supremacy and enslaved to systems that they didn’t create systems that they didn’t control and recognizing that literally their resistance to that, to that oppression is my resilience. Like, I’m so humbled and grateful for that, because if they had given up, I wouldn’t be here today. So I’m right here right now because of them. And I have to give thanks and show honor to them. And, you know, I think that again, as I was saying, there’s just so much wisdom and actually embracing and sort of holding both truths, or multiple truths doesn’t have to be one or the other. And despite the difference in terms of the familial ancestral stories of how my people got here, the commonality is one me and my siblings, like, I think it’s beautiful. And there’s just something really amazing in that for me. So I’m still exploring that right now. But with lots of intention, and just staying open, curious, humble, and, you know, being brave enough to ask the questions that maybe some of the younger folks in my family haven’t asked they’ve been skating by. 

So, I want to lead us to the next question, if that’s okay, unless you all want to tag on to anything else we just talked about? So, I want to ask, and this is another kind of deep question. How have you developed a sense of belonging with respect to place? And I know we heard from Hanna first by can we can we hear from you first on this question, if you don’t mind?

fahad punjwani  

Yeah, I’ve had some time, obviously, to reflect on this question. It’s definitely something that I’m very, very intentionally been sort of finding the question that I like, very, very much sort of prioritized. You know, growing up in Karachi when, you know, as a queer person, and I didn’t want to fit into any sort of gender or sexual orientation buckets, I had a tough time growing up, there was a lot of internal chaos. And really, when I moved from Karachi to Euston, I feel like I fled that place. I left it behind. When I was in Houston, and I lived in Houston for almost eight years before I moved to Boston. And I very much remember having that same feeling that I went to see used it, I wanted to get out of here. And you know, I got to Boston, I was clinically depressed. I was graduating, and I did not want to work. Nothing, no job. No opportunity was exciting to me. And it was only one of my you know, best friends, Elena, she, you know, was aware of my situation. And she said this generously to me. She just said, Just come stay with me. She was living in Houston, she just said, come stay with me. And you can figure it out. And that invitation was so generous, because I was looking for familiarity. Even though I had sort of left Houston, I was still yearning for that familiarity. And I needed that comfort that Elena was sort of offering to me. So I now I’m back in Houston, and I’m working sort of rooting in place and using place as a way to build community and community as a way to have belonging, while also recognizing that belonging is truly, truly inherent and truly internal. 

I want to share sort of two things. One is sort of this idea of queerness. And I really want to bring in this idea of queerness and place because I do think it makes sense. And people talk about coming out as queer. And I know and it’s more and more about, you’re coming in to being queer, you’re sort of you’re coming into your true identity, there’s no coming out and professing it’s really about like finding true home. And sort of recognizing that no, there was never a box you fit in. The only box that you fit in was this. And so that’s very much how I feel about now place as well. And I’m thinking about a beautiful sort of Maya Angelou quote that she said in an interview, where she said you are only free when you realize that you belong no place you belong every place no place at all. The price is high, the reward is great. And yeah, I think that quote really resonates with me, it oftentimes doesn’t make sense. Oftentimes, it makes sense. It’s just something that I’m constantly grappling with. But I know there’s such wisdom in it. In my most grounded moments. That’s a quote that resonates with me.

Chanté Thurmond  

Wow. Wow, that was so beautiful. And leave it to you to make such a, you know, interesting, profound question that could go one way like to turn it back into something really beautiful. Thank you so much. That was amazing. Amazing. I want to hear from you, Hanna, please share it we we don’t have to like put periods at the end of these things like, you know, finitely, we can come back to this question because it is such a big one. So please, if you have any other thoughts as Hannah’s talking, like, let’s come back until we’re done sort of exploring this question together. 

Hanna Kim 

Yeah, there’s just so much like that I’m resonating with and I feel almost kind of at home talking to both of you, you know, which is a great reward for me just being part of this conversation. And thinking back to your original question Chanté about like how I have developed a sense of belonging with respect to place, I think I’ve always, you know, and you’ve both said the word ambivalence, and I really resonate with that and I would even further to say, like, I’ve always had this kind of feeling of disorientation with everywhere I went, because I’ve moved a few times in my life. And each of the time I’ve moved, you know, from Austria to Korea to Korea to the US, it was like a complete, uprooting, you know, I was just kind of tagging along with my parents. And I had really no say, You know why or where I was going. So I had to really adjust to new cultures and languages and landscapes, and I have to build relationships from the ground up. And same goes for my parents as well, of course. And I think that’s why I can so easily tap back into the feeling of disorientation. And I think if I were to draw some kind of a metaphor, it’s like when you repeat a word over and over again, at one point, it starts to sound strange. And I think that’s kind of the experience that I have with my day to day. And sometimes, I would even, like catch a glimpse of myself reflected on like a storefront. And I’m like, Who is that? You know? So, I think that’s kind of how I have developed the sense of belonging, a strange one. 

But you know, it is also coupled by other truths. One, for example, is sort of encapsulated in this episode, right? When I lived in Korea, I never felt like I truly belong there, even if I am a Korean citizen, because when I was going to school, my friends always made fun of me for my hair. So a lot of East Asian folks have really straight, thick hair, and my hair is very thin, and frizzy and curly. So, you know, I stood out in all the wrong ways when I was growing up. Yeah. And it was only when I kind of came to the US that I realized that no one really took any problem with my hair, because there are hundreds of hair textures and colors. And I could see hair products that I’ve never seen before in my life on the shelves, you know. So I think that’s when I really experienced that feeling of both being so free from judgment, and also being embraced for my uniqueness. And I think that’s when I really kind of would put my flag down and say this is when I felt belonged in a place. And it’s so counterintuitive, or I should say it’s interesting or ironic that you can totally feel like an outsider in a place that you are supposed to fit right in. And on the other side, you can feel welcomed in completely unlikely places. And what’s unfortunate is that sometimes we are cast it out by the very people that are supposed to accept us and protect us as our kin. So yeah, and I think that brings me to kind of respond to fahads point earlier. I totally echo what Farhad said in terms of like, thinking about belonging as an inherently philosophical and even spiritual topic, because while belonging, it is tied to a physical place, because we do live a embodied life, we are living in a place, but I think we are or I should say, I am, you know, aware that I never really chose who I am, and where I was born, and all of those things in the first place. And I think that’s what compels me personally to be in search of this sense of belonging all of the time, and I know it will last for all of my life. So I think that sense of place doesn’t really seem to exist in real physical world. 

And what helps me what grounds me like what grounded fahad with the Maya Angelou quote is one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Philippians, where Paul talks about how our citizenship is in heaven, and it doesn’t exist in this world. And I think this helps me sort of identify myself with some place somewhere beyond myself, which helps me sort of transcend the visible outlines of where I should cross or should not and helps me be in community with all people.

fahad punjwani  

Yeah. And I’m holding there two things inside me. One is that we are exactly where we need to be. And we’re always on a journey. 

Hanna Kim  

Totally. 

fahad punjwani  

And especially when you’re talking about you know, your hair and how that sort of signaled belonging or not belonging or being cast it out, or being accepted. I was thinking about that while we do inherently belong to ourselves as artists, as leaders as activists. Our role perhaps is to create the causes and conditions that allow people to fully belong to themselves 

Hanna Kim  

Totally 

fahad punjwani  

feed into the doubt that is also a part of our body.

Chanté Thurmond   

Gosh, my heart is swelling. I keep touching my heart while Y’all are talking. And I’ve done a lot of embodied practices. And one of my favorite sort of meditations is saying, like, I have a body, but I’m not my body. I’m more than my body. Because I am spirit. I am God. I felt compelled to kind of share that right now. But I want to invite you to continue on what you were saying both of you. So if there’s anything else, because I know that when we were talking before all this and sort of prepping for this day, we all had so many thoughts. And so I’m just inviting you to kind of scan again, you know, if you have anything else that’s emerging for you, as we’re hearing from one another right now. 

Hanna Kim  

Yeah thank you. One thing that I do want to kind of continue on probing is with the fahads point about, you know, artists and leaders, being the ones that shape and design the kind of processes and systems in which we explore these things and define ourselves with and as much as the sense of belonging is, you know, within ourselves, and it is spiritual, I think it is really critical to think and talk about our systems and structures that are in place already. Right. And these two things may seem contradictory, but they really aren’t, if you think about it, and this idea that we don’t belong on this earth, or I’m just kind of using myself my words here, the idea that we don’t belong here, within the kind of physical borders of some nations, is actually real. This became very clear to me when I learned about statelessness, and I learned this in grad school. So statelessness as some people may be hearing for the first time on this conversation describes when someone is not recognized as a national by any state under the operation of its law. So that is the international human rights definition of statelessness. It’s basically in simpler terms, a stateless person actually doesn’t belong to any nation, and does not have a flag that they could identify themselves with, doesn’t have an embassy they could go to most of the time they don’t have any travel document issued by a government because they don’t have a government. I, you know, bring this up, because I am so fortunate to have worked with a grassroots organization led by stateless people in the United States. And this organization is called United Stateless, they exist in every corner of the world. And they really, for me, lift this veil on how nations citizenships and even the sense of belonging are constructed, and are even fantasized about. And as an artist and designer, I have collaborated on a few creative projects with stateless activists and other organizations advocating for their protection and recognition. So at this time, I think it would be great to share a short video that I worked on with some stateless folks and explains what statelessness is.

SHAPELESS SHAPES VIDEO  

The world was full of shapes. shapes belonged with their own guide, the same kind, and the different kind, but they did not live happily ever after. Some shapes are deemed to be shapeless shapes. They were forced to live in the shadows in fear, but a few of them refused to stay silent. They organized themselves. Some shapes joined them too their movement grew. Together they fought for their rights. Would they be successful? Shapeless Shapes is a book about identity, belonging, history for freedom, discrimination, injustice, activism, and statelessness. Shapeless Shapes is a call to action to shape our future. Come join us. Let’s build our movement together.

Chanté Thurmond  

Thank you so much for sharing that. Hanna I think it’s an amazing body of work that you’ve had an opportunity to contribute to. And I know that you know, you don’t do it alone. You have a whole community of folks that you’re partnering with and collaborating with constantly on that. So do you have any other kind of follow up thoughts in terms of like, you actually designing that video and maybe like, give us a little bit more context on how that came to be. 

Hanna Kim  

Yeah, sure. Thank you for that question. So the video that you just watched and the voice that you heard, it’s actually a stateless person. And this is actually a trailer video for a book I co-wrote with another stateless activist, it kind of stemmed from me trying to understand what statelessness was right? And like, what is it that is at the essence of statelessness, and which really kind of revealed itself when we worked on this book together, and really let art and our visual communication kind of lead us into exploring what is at the heart of this issue. And, you know, I think it was about problematizing, what it means to belong, like what it means to have a nation that you identify with, and what does it mean, to not have a nation that you can identify with, and why those things happen. And what is at the heart of it is really, our human nature to want to delineate a place and sort of identify ourselves, and then call those who are outside of that as others, and really sort of weaponizing that to be able to, you know, take away somebody’s citizenship, and further discriminating them on the basis of not having a citizenship. So it all kind of feeds into that system that perhaps we really take for granted. And so the point of this book, and the point of having a book named shapeless shapes, is to really think about our human rights. And, you know, why is that so tied to our nationality, And why is that so tied to place like, how did that come to be, And if we do have those identities that protect us and shields us from violence or for discrimination, What are our roles for those who may not have those sort of sense of security and comfort? So that is sort of why we worked on this book together?

Chanté Thurmond 

Wow, we probably should have like a whole show dedicated to this. I had so many thought bubbles, as you were talking just now. And I want to go back to something that you all said, and I kind of touched on a little bit. It’s just like, for me in terms of this question, I think of it in terms of belonging, and in respect to place in space right now. I used to think of it in this like, physical mundane sense. And I went through a deep spiritual evolution, as I got a little older and started to mature, I would say like, right around that 28, 29, 30 years of age milestone, and just started to like, question a lot of things around me. Not that I wasn’t a questioning teenager, I’ve always been like one that sort of challenges paradigms and stuff. But I came to the realization that, you know, belongingness, or, you know, my sense of self, and being grounded in relation to a space or a place was actually through a transpersonal, like, spiritual, embodied experience, not so much like, you know, I grew up in the Midwest. And I’m like, I started to realize, yes, my race and my ethnicity, and my cultural upbringing does influence me. But I’m literally a spirit having a human embodied experience. Just for right now. Like, it just so happens that in this body in this time, I live here, and I get to call myself a millennial. And maybe I’ll come back again. And it’s another form of sentient being, hopefully. And so behind you mentioned Buddhism, and I’ve explored so many different kind of spirituality or traditions and philosophies and stuff. And so I don’t claim one as my like, anchor, but I take a lot of inspiration from Buddhism, and just like the non attachments of life, and I learned that I was overly attached to my identity. And it was through the relationship of white supremacy. Because that’s imperialism right? That is the whole point in relation to place and space through geopolitical power and oppression, make sense to control people, you know, if you can keep them tribal, if you can keep people just only focused on those identities that are very mundane and like, you know, 3D physicalities but not thinking spiritually and not kind of having those transpersonal experiences, you know, you can control them all day long. I think the opportunity is to get more people to focus on that. And that is a gift that is something that I would like to see for thinking about the future of work, I want to see more people hone in on that emotional intelligence, that spiritual intelligence and have those embodied, you know, experiences alone, you know, in separate and but also together in community because I think that’s how we’re going to change the future. So Again, I felt compelled to share that because it’s just coming up so strongly for me right now. And I often journal about this. I don’t always share it publicly, but I just think it’s worth it for based on the conversation we’re having right now.

fahad punjwani  

Yeah, Chanté, the question that’s like, popped in my head, as you’re saying that is like, so often we talk about your identity as related to where you are. And so perhaps the question that we need to be asking is, how is your national identity preventing your self awareness? How is it preventing you from really, truly belonging to yourself?

Chanté Thurmond  

Oh, that’s a good question. That is like, a very good question. Because who would you be without that is another one? 

Hanna Kim  

Exactly

Chanté Thurmond  

Who can we be together? You know, and I know that there are people who are developing technologies to allow us to explore that, which I’m really excited for. But in this moment in time, you know, we need to have the manual labor, trying to figure this out. And it makes me think I did put a note here, so I wouldn’t forget, but I used to be a big kind of follower and you know, appreciator of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs concept. And then I read recently, it’s been Now a couple of years, but people have repeated this kind of message again, that Maslow was inspired by the Blackfoot Indians in their ancestral teachings, there’s multiple blogs on this, we can drop a link on this, but like, one of the elders in that community came back and said that they don’t necessarily think about like you said fahad, like, belonging, in the sense of like, physical safety, and sort of all those things that Maslow puts us, like, the very kind of base of his structure are things that we are inherently supposed to have, we should be coming into this world born, feeling like we belong, because we’re in community, like in the Blackfoot tradition, you’re lucky enough to be born into that community to that tribe. And so that’s a given, right? And so we’re not really thinking about individualism, we’re thinking about communal experiences, and community actualization versus individual self actualization. That’s one example. There’s got to be lots more that we don’t even know about. And the reason why we don’t know about them, is because predominantly white spaces, talk about their white experience and center that to be the default truth. And that’s not necessarily true. If you go and just take a trip around the world, you’ll find other folks who have never even really been a community in relation with white folks. There’s a lot of indigenous peoples who have protected their wisdom and their essence that way. So I don’t know if you all have any other thoughts about that? Because I know it’s a lot.

Hanna Kim

Um, I think one small thought I have was about the last point that you made is, when I study statelessness, a lot of the times we talk about the history of humankind, and how there still nomadic people out there, and the systems that now we have with biometrics and all these new systems that are coming up to control human movement, they don’t fit in with how we used to be. And so there are Roma people, there are nomadic people, there are people whose countries used to exist now they don’t, people who’ve become strangers in their own homes, you know, there’s just so many examples if we just broaden our perspectives, and it’s not difficult to really start to problematize borders, and border technologies and the origin of borders, why they have to be in the first place, you know, and so many times the origins of borders have racist and discriminatory beginnings. And, you know, for me, you know, I don’t really necessarily have to ponder about borders every day, but there are people that are concerned about their very safety and their very livelihood because of the technologies that are constructed at our borders. So that’s what’s coming up for me when you talk about other modes of community and belonging, and movement, and the need to control those kinds of movement with racist motives.

Chanté Thurmond

Yeah, and I always have more questions than I do answers to these things. And I just like advocating right now that we have a conversation about this. It’s so rich, there’s so much I don’t know. And it makes me think about this final kind of question. I know, we all talked about, which is why does this topic even matter at all? Like why are we spending time talking about this today? And, and why now? You know, because I think that I have my own assumptions and my own personal selfish reasons for wanting to explore this, but I’m wondering, and I’m assuming that a lot of people would probably be curious about that. So why does this topic matter? And why now?

fahad punjwani

Yeah, I’m tying in queerness. Again, here, I think one of the best gifts of being queer in this hetero patriarchal world, is that you have to actively reject the binary of gender and the stereotype of masculinity you have to define yourself outside of the system, and then you have to define yourself again. And then you have to define yourself again, you never have the false sense of reality of this is who I am. Because you know, change is what is real, you know, or as Octavia Butler would say, “God is change.” And that’s what being an immigrant is as well, right? Like you’re really intentionally defining and choosing place and the role of nationality and citizenship and not taking it as it is given to you, questioning it and choosing it. And I think that sort of critical lens is what is needed. You know, as a designer, that is what my work is all about, as someone who’s thinking about human centered design, when it comes to building new programs, new products, new strategies, that is sort of the critical lens that I’m bringing to my work around innovation around Human Centered Design, thinking critically about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and really believing truly in the inherent nature of change, and not giving it to the false sense of reality, or comfort of fixed reality.

Chanté Thurmond

Thank you for that, fahad. I mean, yes. I love it all. 

Hanna how about you? Why does this topic matter, and why now?

Hanna Kim

Yeah, I mean, when will this topic not matter? I think we’ll be wrestling with a question all of our lives, whether we consciously do it or not. I think it is truly a topic that stretches from individual to global, you know, from material things like a piece of plastic card that I have. It is really important, but it is so much more than that so it is stretching from material to spiritual. You know it is all of that and I really think about how relevant it is because, you know, first of all, I am currently working with stateless people and helping them, you know, pass the Stateless Protection Act. You know it is so real and I am dreaming of the time when we will all be crying together, you know, celebrating that they will have their safe pathway to become protected, people in this country.

And also it’s relevant especially I think in the time of the pandemic because we are sort of forced to ask these difficult questions, you know, when these sort of hate crimes and other ugly things that kind of surface to the top. So I think in some ways, I find that we, or I am hardwired to sort of start to point fingers at things that you know I’m not to blame or I think I’m not to blame. But also, I am hardwired to like seek deep connection with people that may not have obvious things in common with me like I love that sense of like finding that we are just one human race, one Earth citizen, you know. I think that is relevant because all of us have an opportunity to exercise our moral courage because we do have those sort of innate human desires to sort of like do either one. So, kind of in a global sense to just thinking about the exponentially growing number of refugees and expert say that a stateless child is born every 10 minutes. So just thinking about, like, the very personal things in the very global things and they all somehow are connected together and they are intertwined. I think that is how I find relevancy in this topic and sometimes it keeps me up at night. I’m going to be honest.

Chanté Thurmond

For sure, I mean right it’s one worth exploring and consistently coming back to. I’m recognizing that the unique roles and like you know positions and I didn’t know whether it be because of my identity and experience and luck. But as like a leader as a business owner as a parent as a community partner, all these various roles that I hold, I think it is my responsibility to be you know more than a global citizen to be a universal citizen. And to understand that, you know, yes, if my story can be so complex or the friends that I know have complexities and nuances us to their backstory that make you who you are, I have an obligation to try to make sure that the future we’re building together, whether it be literally in the community that I’m contributing to or in the workspaces that I weave in and out of, that we consider this when we’re hiring new people that we consider this when were looking for vendors or for global partners and things like that because if I don’t do it, who will? I can’t leave it up to folks so I think there’s a little bit of individual responsibility but also communally, and the only way we can do that is if we talk about it actively, you know. 

That’s why I’m gonna go back to just saying, again, thank you so much for sharing more about the Green Card experience because like this comes up every day for me, in terms of the workplace, you know, are we gonna hire folks who are immigrants did not legally here in this country? Can be hire them, should we hire them? If we don’t hire them who will? Like these are all things that, of course I want to be true because my family are immigants. I want somebody to give other folks an opportunity, but who’s going to change what that system experience looks like it’s up to us. Like we have two designers who can actually help us contribute to a new framework. So that’s one way. And I think that another insight…

fahad punjwani

Chanté

Chanté Thurmond

Go ahead

fahad punjwani

I want to say I think what Chanté’s saying also requires time, energy and resources. Like you have to give up some time, energy and resources to make those decisions. I am now working with The Darkest Horse, and that was not an easy decision for them. And The Darkest Horse showed up and said that you as a person are valuable, and we are willing to jump through hoops of the system that is created, recognizing that it is what it is. Versus saying, well, we have to find a designer who is able to work here, which when you read job descriptions, most companies have. So I want to recognize that it does take a lot of time, energy and resources and willpower to do these things.

Chanté Thurmond

That’s a great point. I think too, what we were thinking about in that, just kind of on a personal note here, is like that was our form of mutual aid for somebody in our community. And the more you spoke about that truth and your experience, the more we were feeling called to do something like who would we be? And how can I be proud of myself as a leader if I was hearing this need, and it’s something I actually have resource for in the moment. It’s not that I can fix all the problems, but in that moment, I had enough to share. And I think that’s something that we can think about just to kind of replicate in our personal lives, you know it doesn’t have to be that you give somebody $5,000 but what if you help them, opening the door for them or you made the connection to somebody else who did have that money. So again staying in community and talking is really, really important.

It’s been so lovely having this conversation with both of you. You’re brilliant, amazing people. Looking forward to more of these. Want to give us all an opportunity to plug ourselves on social so I’ll let Hanna and fahad do that and I’ll share The Darkest Horse and mine, and we’ll wrap up. 

Hanna Kim

So you can find me on Instagram user ID @whereisyoursting. And also you can email me, [email protected] 

fahad punjwani

Email is really the best way to reach me it’s [email protected], if you want to reach me on Instagram which I am not active too much it’s @punjwanifahad 

Chanté Thurmond

Thank you so much. Y’all want to follow us reach out to us for The Darkest Horse, our Twitter and Instagram handle is @TDHcast, and our email is [email protected]

My personal handle is @namastechante on both Twitter and Instagram, and my email is [email protected]

Thank you again for sharing your time with us, we’re looking forward to more conversations. Have a great day, everyone.

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About the Author(s)

Rada Yovovich, MBA

Co-Founder of The Darkest Horse™