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My Body is a Confederate Monument

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The call to remove Confederate monuments is growing. What is our responsibility in examining history?

“I am proud of every one of my black ancestors who survived slavery. They earned that pride, by any decent person’s reckoning. But I am not proud of the white ancestors whom I know, by virtue of my very existence, to be bad actors.”

So wrote poet Caroline Randall Williams in a widely-read opinion column for the New York Times. As a Black southern woman with white ancestors, her view of the debate over how America remembers its past is deeply personal.

This episode is the latest in our podcast series on race where we work to bring light, not heat to the issue. Recent protests across the country have sparked renewed controversy over confederate statues and the naming of military bases and public buildings that celebrate men who fought in the Civil War against the government of the United States.

Should the monuments be repurposed or removed? We discuss ways to find common ground and expand our understanding of American history.

Caroline Randall Williams is a writer in residence at Vanderbilt University. She is a resident and native of Tennessee. Some of her ancestors were enslaved. She is the great-great grand-daughter of Edmund Pettus, for whom is named the bridge in Selma, Alabama where the March, 1965 civil rights march known as “Bloody Sunday” took place. Pettus was an officer in the Confederate army, a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan and U.S. Senator from Alabama.

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Ep. 9 – My Body Is a Confederate Monument

Caroline Randall Williams

Born and raised in Nashville Tennessee, Harvard graduate Caroline Randall Williams is an award-winning poet, young adult novelist, and cookbook author as well as an activist, public intellectual, performance artist, and scholar. She joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in the Fall of 2019 as a Writer-in-Residence in Medicine, Health, and Society while she continues to work and speak to the places where art, business, and scholarship intersect, moving people closer to their best lives and corporations closer to their ideal identities.

She has spoken in twenty states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and West Virginia, in venues that range from as small as a classroom in a neighborhood school to as large as the Superdome mainstage during Essence Fest. To every speaking engagement Caroline brings a fierce intelligence, disarming charm, a touch of glamour, and a depth of lived experience that belies her thirty-two years. She has taught in two of the poorest states in the union — Mississippi and West Virginia — and she has been educated at two of the richest universities on the globe — Harvard and Oxford.

Named by Southern Living as “One of the 50 People Changing the South,” the Cave Canem fellow has been published and featured in multiple journals, essay collections and news outlets, including The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, CherryBombe, Garden and Gun, Essence and the New York Times.

WATCH: Donna Brazile and Michael Steele on Race and Governance

In April 2018, eight months after white supremacist protests in the city ended in tragedy, Donna Brazile and Michael Steele came together in Charlottesville for a Common Ground Committee forum. As the first Black chairs of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee, respectively, their views represented different ends of the political spectrum. But in tackling essential questions of race and governance, they found many points of agreement.

On Dealing With Hate Speech

On the Role of Policing in Communities

On Profiling as a Law Enforcement Tool

Navigating these questions is more important than ever to move our country forward. And Brazile and Steele’s discussion remains a master class in the art of making connections through personal stories and listening to understand, so we can find a common path to progress in this polarized time.

Learning From an Interracial Couple in a Time of Racial Awakening

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It’s urgent that we find common ground on how to improve race relations. What lessons can be learned from an interracial couple?

The need to find common ground for improving race relations has taken on new urgency with recent protests, and demands for profound change in America.

In this episode, we gain insight from the deeply personal perspective of an interracial couple. Errol Toulon is the first African-American Sheriff of Suffolk County, New York. Tina MacNichols Toulon is a physician liaison and business development executive. She tells us what she’s learned since their marriage in 2016 about racism, “driving while Black,” and other indignities that are often part of a Black person’s daily life.

Both Tina and Errol believe that education is a crucial ingredient in reaching a much better understanding about widespread racism. By speaking out publicly about their own experiences, they wish to contribute to a vital discussion aimed at improving public understanding of a painful part of American life.

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Ep. 8 – Learning from an Interracial Couple in a Time of Racial Awakening

Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr., Ed.D.

On January 1, 2018, Errol D. Toulon, Jr., Ed.D., became Suffolk County, New York’s 67th Sheriff and the County’s first African-American to be elected to a non-judicial countywide office. As Suffolk’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, he works to serve and protect 1.5 million residents through innovative programs to reduce crime and recidivism, and the implementation of sound fiscal policies.

Sheriff Toulon launched the Sandy Hook Promise School Safety Initiative, which has taught more than 22,000 students how to recognize the signs of a peer in distress and report concerning information to a trusted adult. He has also made it a priority to get to the root causes of youthful delinquency and inter-generational crime. His work in this area includes launching the Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline Task Force; Choose Your Path for young adults; Choose to Thrive for incarcerated women; a Senior Citizen Program POD;  and the nation’s first jail-based Human Trafficking Initiative, which assesses all county inmates for signs of victimization. He has also expanded correctional rehabilitation programming aimed to reduce recidivism, and made significant improvements to the Sheriff’s Addiction Treatment Program, with programming offered to both pre-trial and sentenced individuals.

Sheriff Toulon has more than 30 years of criminal-justice experience, centered upon corrections intelligence and combating gang violence. Prior to serving as Suffolk County Sheriff, he worked for the New York City Department of Correction. He received his Master’s degree in Business Administration and Doctorate in Educational Administration from Dowling College; an advanced certificate in Homeland Security Management from Long Island University; and attended leadership courses at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University.

Tina Toulon

Tina Toulon is an accomplished expert in sales, marketing and relationship building. She founded and was President of The Catamount Group, a successful marketing and list brokerage agency serving numerous corporate clients which she sold to Eway Direct.

She has also held senior positions with Epsilon Data Solutions and LSC Digital managing key client campaigns. Currently she works with New York Cancer & Blood Specialists.

Reforming The Police

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Can a police chief and a critic of policing find common ground on how to make change in law enforcement?

Outrage, grief, and despair over cases of police brutality and racism erupted nationwide, with growing demands for major reforms. The protests appeared to sway public opinion. A Washington Post poll in June found that 69% of Americans agreed that the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis suggests a broader problem within law enforcement.

This podcast episode brings together a police chief and a critic of policing. Both discuss their hopes for better policing in the future, and find some areas of agreement on proposed changes, including greater diversity, better training, and firmer action against officers who step over the line.

Art Acevedo is Chief of Police for the Houston Police Department. He now serves as President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley is a civil rights activist, former board chair of New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, and senior vice president for Social Justice at The New School.

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Ep. 7 – Reforming the Police

Chief Art Acevedo

Art Acevedo was sworn-in as Chief of the Houston Police Department (HPD) on November 30, 2016.

Chief Acevedo leads a department of 5,200 sworn law enforcement officers and 1,200 civilian support personnel with an annual general fund budget of $825 million in the fourth largest city in the United States.

Chief Acevedo believes good communication is vital for a successful community and steadily works to strengthen the bond between the community and its police department. A proponent of community policing, Chief Acevedo refers to the proven practice as “Relational Policing,” an opportunity to forge a relationship with each citizen an officer comes in contact with.

The first Hispanic to lead the HPD, Acevedo brings a unique understanding to the concerns of the diverse communities in the City of Houston. Born in Cuba, he was 4 years old when he migrated to the United States with his family in 1968. Acevedo grew up in California and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration from the University of La Verne in California. Acevedo began his law enforcement career in 1986 as field patrol officer in East Los Angeles with the California Highway Patrol. He rose through the ranks and was named Chief of the California Highway Patrol in 2005. Acevedo most recently served nine years as Chief of the Austin Police Department.

Chief Acevedo holds various leadership positions with the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He is married with three children.

Maya Wiley

Maya Wiley is a nationally renowned expert on racial justice and equity. She has litigated, lobbied the U.S. Congress, and developed programs to transform structural racism in the U.S. and in South Africa. Ms. Wiley is currently a University Professor at the New School University. She previously served as the Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New School University and the Henry Cohen Professor of Public and Urban Policy at The New School’s Milano School of Management, Policy & Environment. She is an expert on Digital Equity and founded and Co-Directs the New School’s Digital Equity Laboratory. Ms. Wiley is also a Legal Analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

Prior to the New School she was Counsel to New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. As the Mayor’s chief legal advisor and a member of his Senior Cabinet, Ms. Wiley was placed at the helm of the Mayor’s commitment to expanding affordable broadband access across New York City, advancing civil and human rights and gender equity, and increasing the effectiveness of the City’s support for Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprises. She also served as the Mayor’s liaison to the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary.

Among her awards, in 2018 and 2019, Ms. Wiley was been named one of the world’s top 100 leaders in Digital Government by Apolitical. In 2017 Good Housekeeping Magazine honored Ms. Wiley as one of its “50 over 50.” City and State Magazine named Ms. Wiley one of the 100 most powerful people in New York City in 2014 and in 2015. She was named one of 20 Leading Black Women Social Activists Advocating Change by The Root in 2011. She was also honored as a Moves Magazine Power Woman in 2009.

Ms. Wiley holds a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law and a B.A in psychology from Dartmouth College.

Introducing Our New Podcast: Let’s Find Common Ground

In these unprecedented times of crisis and division, can we find a healing path for moving forward? If you haven’t yet tuned in, check out our new podcast Let’s Find Common Ground to explore how we can seek points of agreement and make progress on critical and timely issues. Our hosts talk with smart thinkers with different points of view to examine ways we can bring light, not heat, to issues that matter including:

  • What racism means to two of our distinguished guests: professor, community activist and lawyer Ilyasah Shabazz, and trauma care surgeon Brian Williams, MD
  • How we can effectively dismantle racism with Daryl Davis, a Black musician and race reconciliator who helped more than 200 KKK members renounce their ideology.
  • What history can teach us about creative strategies for emerging from a global pandemic with Admiral James Stavridis, (Ret.).
  • How we can all rise to the challenge of a shared national sacrifice with Dr. Paul C. Light, Professor of Public Service.
  • How emerging models of leadership in times of crisis hold lessons for America’s future with General Wesley K. Clark, (Ret.).
  • How we can save both lives and the economy with Jared Bernstein, economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

With society’s future in the balance, come along as we shine a light on how to solve the challenges of incivility and polarization. Subscribe now to get new episodes as they are released, and hear from top leaders in policy, finance, academe and more as they provide illuminating insights on today’s most vital issues.

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What Racism Means to Me

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The debate over racism has shifted dramatically. What are the prospects for lasting change?

Nationwide protests against racism, police violence and racial inequality have shaken the nation to its core. Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and anger over police treatment of African-Americans grew dramatically in recent weeks.

Outrage over the graphic deaths of George Floyd and other Black men and women changed the debate over racism. We look at the prospects for lasting change and whether we can find common ground in response to recent events.

Our guests are author, activist and professor Ilyasah Shabazz, and trauma care surgeon Brian Williams, MD. Professor Shabazz often speaks about the legacy of her father, Malcolm X. She promotes higher education for at-risk youth and interfaith dialogue to build bridges between cultures for young leaders of the world. Doctor Williams led the trauma team that treated police officers ambushed by a sniper in Dallas in 2016 – the largest loss of life for US law enforcement since 9/11.

READ THE EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Ep. 6 – What Racism Means to Me

Professor Ilyasah Shabazz

Professor Ilyasah Shabazz promotes higher education for at-risk youth, interfaith dialogue to build bridges between cultures for young leaders of the world, and she participates on international humanitarian delegations. She served as a member of the U.S. Delegation that accompanied President Bill Clinton to South Africa to commemorate election of President Nelson Mandela and the Education & Economic Development initiatives. She was a member of the U.S. Interfaith Leadership Delegation to Mali, West Africa with Malaria No More, and she received a personal letter of acknowledgement for preserving her “father’s proud legacy by working to secure equality in our time and for generations to come,” from President Barack Obama.

She is an inspirational role model and advocate for “youth” and “women and girl” empowerment. Her lifework is devoted to helping others find inner strength and purpose. While she is frequently asked to speak about the Legacy of Malcolm X, she shares that it is her mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz’s wisdom, courage and compassion that guide her.

More than six years experience as college professor; More than twenty years experience as administrator and implementer of cultural and community outreach initiatives, serving diverse populations; Key advisor to public and private organizations, developing diversity and community-focused programs that align with business, academic and organizational goals; Author, artist, mentor, educator, motivational speaker and citizen of the world, connecting and activating networks and resources to create measurably positive outcomes. Published five multiple award-winning publications with outstanding novelists, currently working on the next…

For further information, please visit IlyasahShabazz.com.

Dr. Brian Williams

Dr. Brian Williams led the trauma team that treated police officers ambushed by a sniper on July 7, 2016 – the largest loss of life for US law enforcement since 9/11. At a press conference days later, his heartfelt comments about the tragedy touched thousands, and Huffington Post named it one of the most memorable television moments of 2016.

Dr. Williams now serves is an Associate Professor of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at the University of Chicago. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. After six years on active duty, he followed a different call to serve and enrolled at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine. After obtaining his medical degree, he completed a general surgery residency at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, and a fellowship in trauma and surgical critical care at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

In his remarks after the sniper attack, Dr. Williams lamented that we lack “open discussions about the impact of race relations in this country,” leading him to become an international spokesperson for racial justice.

Recognizing his many community contributions, in 2017 Mayor Rawlings appointed him as Chairman of the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board. His leadership helped unite the Dallas Police Department, community activists, police associations and City Council to revamp the role Dallas civilians play in police oversight.

In addition to his role as an academic surgeon, Dr. Williams is a renowned keynote speaker, the Vice-Chair of the One America Movement, a guest opinion writer featured in the Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News, and hosts the podcast Race, Violence & Medicine.

To learn more, Dr. Williams invites you to contact him at BrianWilliamsMD.com, Twitter, or LinkedIn.