EP6: Navigating Holiday Conversations, Version 2020

A group in deep thought during the Accelerator in 2019.

In this conversation with Ericka Hines and Heather Laine Talley, we are looking at Holidays 2020 as a new and different creature. We are approaching the holidays desperately needing connection and yet we are divided not only by our political beliefs but our differing boundaries around COVID social distancing and even our varying attachments to reality. It is tough terrain.

Obviously, we need to think this through and reexamine the tools we usually bring to navigate holiday gatherings. What isn’t working? What tools might work better at bridging divides at the holiday table?

For one, Ericka, Heather, and Nicole discuss the need to make our fluid and implicit boundaries clear and explicit. Will we gather in the same room with masks? Get tested prior to meeting? Skip in-person celebrations all together? We have to say out loud what we need to feel safe this season.

Second, we need to shift our understanding of boundaries. Ericka brilliantly suggests that we see boundaries as a form of cooperation, not separation. For example, how might we see one’s decision to wear a mask as a “tiny gesture of care” rather than a political statement? 

Third, how can we enter spaces in a way that invites our own and others’ humanity? Where “being right” isn’t as important as connecting and listening? This doesn’t mean that we avoid difficult topics, but instead, we employ curiosity, compassion, and empathy as tactics to create opportunities for transformation. No matter how righteous we feel in our beliefs, as Heather puts it, “How can I be a pleasant person that others want to be in conversation with?”

We move into a fascinating exploration of “cancel culture.” We look at what “cancel culture” as a solution actually accomplishes. For example, what happens to the Amy Coopers of the world after their social media takedowns fade? Are they more or less open to antiracist practices? How is “cancel culture” supported by Black queer feminist pedagogy with its teaching “All of us or none of us”? 

This holiday season, no matter how exhausted and stressed we might be, it’s so important to soften to one another’s humanity.

After the bleakness of 2020, it’s medicinal to look at creative solutions for healing and thriving. Ericka Hines’ work provides us with an opportunity to do that. Black Womxn Thriving is a research and solution generating project that was born from Ericka’s own need in the workforce. Over the next decade, Ericka will be looking at what keeps Black womxn from thriving and then coming up with data-driven solutions to help Black womxn to thrive in their chosen work environments.

We are thrilled to support this work Ericka was born to do. Knowing how the country’s election results were determined by the strategizing, organizing, and work of Black womxn, the very least we can do is support their care and healing through this project. 

Support Black Womxn Thriving Fund:

Ericka, Heather, and I talked about:

  • Vigilance, introversion, and loneliness
  • The need for explicit boundaries
  • Navigating boundaries in a time where people can’t agree on what’s real
  • Wearing masks as a gesture of care
  • Entering conversations to create shift and possibility
  • Compassion and empathy as tactics rather than feelings
  • “Cancel Culture”
  • Black queer feminists: “It’s going to be all of us or none of us.”
  • Ericka’s new research project, Black Womxn Thriving, and its inherent optimism and vision
  • What it means to live an “inclusive life”


Ericka Hines

Ericka Hines, Principal of Every Level Leadership, is a consultant, advisor, strategist, and senior trainer who works with organizations to align their commitment to inclusion and equity with their everyday actions and operations. She has worked with government agencies, nonprofits and foundations across the country to help their staff and stakeholders learn how to work in more inclusive cultures. To date, she has trained over 8,000 individuals in skills that will help them be more inclusive , equitable, and skilled leaders for their teams and organizations. She has also served as a lead researcher and a contributing author to the national publication: Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture published in 2018 by Equity in the Center. Clients have included the Promise Venture Studios, The Climate Service, Join For Justice, ProInspire, Equity in the Center, Save The Children, National Human Services Assembly, Urban Institute, Friends Committee on National Legislation and the National Civilian Conservation Corps. 

Ericka holds a Juris Doctor from the University Of Georgia School Of Law and a B.A. Political Science from Wright State University.

Find Ericka here:

Website: Every Level Leads

Email: info@everylevelleads.com

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erickahines

Twitter: https://twitter.com/everylevelleads

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/socialchangediva

Heather Laine Talley

Heather grew up in South Louisiana, where she was first mobilized by queer, Cajun Catholic workers who organized for redistribution of wealth while building wildly inclusive community. Since that time she has found a political home with wide-ranging community organizations and grassroots projects organizing for queer justice, a transformed criminal justice system, the eradication of white supremacy, and a world where women and girls’ lives are valued and celebrated. 

She established her roots in Asheville in 1998, drawn there by vibrant queer and deeply Southern community. Heather has worked as a sociology and gender studies professor, editor at The Feminist Wire, facilitator, grrrl cheerleader, writer, and group fitness instructor.  Her writing explores wide-ranging questions about feminism, anti-racism, romance, food, activism, and pop culture. Her book, Saving Face: Disfigurement and the Politics of Appearance, illustrates how beauty culture and ableism collide to diminish our humanity. Outside of her work with Tzedek, the Jewish value of justice, Heather holds space for people at the end of life as a death doula.

Regardless of what her paid work is, Heather aims to use transformative hospitality, sincere words, delicious food, deep analysis, and honest storytelling to heal herself and her community. Her greatest joy is cooking for and feeding her partner Lee, their child Hollis, and her abundant and beloved chosen family.

You can find her and her offerings at http://www.heatherlainetalley.com/

The population of Washington, D.C. as of 2020 is 720,687.

“Relationships are primary. All else is derivative” is a quote from Harvard Kennedy School of Government Professor Ronald David. More information about the context can be found in this article by Troy Holt, How the Science Behind Human Connectedness Impacts Organizational Culture.

Thank you so much for joining us!

Our conversation continues on Facebook in our Inclusive Life Community. You can also follow us on Instagram and learn more at www.inclusivelife.co.

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