Transcript Season 1 Episode 2
Let's Humanize the Workplace
with Vivian Acquah
workplace wellness, racism, amplify DEI, let’s humanize the workplace, Ghana, motherhood, grandmother, Sankofa, women, DEI
Every color is beautiful, every color is powerful, every color is worthy. They tried to bury us, they didn’t realize we were seeds, they didn’t realize we were seeds. We open doors so others can walk through them. Your legacy is every life you have ever touched. I’m Stella Saliari and this is Salt the Podcast, a series of encounters with inspiring women, they are healers, activists, mothers, educators and world changers. Together we create community, share knowledge, amplify voices, heal and break narratives by elevating a new generation.
Stella: Welcome to Salt The Podcast. My guest today is Vivian Acquah. Vivian is the workplace wellness advocate who helps organizations with keeping their team members happy, healthy and safe. The host of Let’s Humanize the Workplace, and the organizer of the Amplify DEI Diversity Equity and Inclusion Summit, which took place at the end of September. But Vivian is also the mom of Orlando and partner to Jan. I met her in December 2019. Never in person though, always via Zoom due to COVID even though we live in the same city. Vivian became my podcast coach, challenged me from our first encounter, believed in my project and inspired me all the way. Our 30-minute conversations on Friday morning turned into one hour ones and then suddenly we were spending two hours talking. We always have a lot to talk about and today we will speak about Amplify DEI, Orlando, Sankofa and Let’s Humanize the Workplace, which is also our topic for today and part of the overall topic elevating a new generation. Welcome, Vivian. So nice that you’re here. I’m looking forward to talking to you.
Vivian: Thank you, Stella. So nice to have finally this conversation with you.
Stella: Yes. So who’s Vivian? Tell us about you?
Vivian: Wow, who am I not. So one thing that Stella doesn’t know yet, but I think that after all the conversation that I had with her, she knows now: I’m very tall. I’m like a unicorn. So my hair is sometimes purple or pinkish. I’m very kind. I’m just like that tall giant who has a chocolate heart. I’m a mom, I am also a multi-passionate woman. And that’s why I supported Stella with her podcast as well, which I’m so proud of. I am a person that wants to amplify other voices. And the reason why, is because I was kept quiet for a very long time. I wanted to speak up but didn’t know how. And I wanted to speak up but I wasn’t allowed to speak up. So me showcasing me in the work that I’m doing as a workplace advocate or as a host for the different live broadcasts that I do. It’s also a way of me honoring those times that I could not speak up, but also amplifying others, engaging others, supporting others to speak up and use their voice because we have so many lovely voices that we need to hear in this world. But they are maybe afraid, maybe not in the right environment to share it or maybe they are just you know, questioning themselves about if it’s the right time. Do they have the right voice? And that’s something that I support others with as well.
Stella: Thank you Vivian. Beautiful, beautiful. What is Let’s Humanize the Workplace and what is workplace wellness? Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Vivian: Yeah, so Let’s Humanize the Workplace started last year. I was working somewhere part-time where I felt I was being dehumanized and me as being dehumanized is facing a situation where somebody was not only critiquing me, but also leaving me less human, or devaluing my own value, and I wanted to speak up, and I did, I did do that. I did do that to the managers. I did do that to HR, but the way the situation took it was draining. It went on too long. And I was just like, I can’t do this anymore, because the way that people are attacking me, it’s making me think less of myself. And I’ve been in that situation before where I almost lost my own life. And I was just like, okay, I’m 39 now, I’m not in a position. I’m not going to let somebody who thinks that maybe it’s because me being a woman, or maybe it’s because me being a black woman or maybe it’s generally because me being black. I don’t know the reason why somebody feels like they wanted to dehumanize me. But I did have a feeling like, the person didn’t want to honor me because it had to do with me being black. And I wanted to say something about that. But when you tell somebody that they are racist, I know that they won’t listen. So I start with you are dehumanizing me and you’re devaluing me, and I am not here for it. I’m all for the support. I’m all for having the conversation. But here we’re finding out that somebody is still, you know, backstabbing me along the way. In not even backstabbing me but stabbing me in front of my face, while I’m standing in front of them, that’s like, Okay, I don’t know what to do anymore. Because if I already addressed it to so many important people that could have done something, but they could not because the company was too big to do something. That’s where, that’s then and there, I used my voice. I have podcasting experience. And I have experience, of course, to be respectful to not name the company, what I’m addressing and the people that know, really, really know me, they know where it is. But I was still wanted to be respectful and still wanted to have you know, conversation about am I the only one? Apparently, I’m not. And apparently there are so many experts that really wanted to speak up about what’s happening in the workplace because I, there was so much of the human factor missing in the workplace as I needed to do something about that. So that’s the part of Let’s Humanize the Workplace.
And workplace wellness is a holistic way of looking at the employee wellbeing. So you’re not looking only at the physical wellbeing, you’re looking at their mental health, you’re looking also at their career, are they advancing in the career? Or what tools are you providing your employees to advance or to create promotion. So I will look into mentoring. Another thing that you also have to know that when somebody is financial unhealthy, it also affects their physical and their mental health, wellness. So there are also tools to look into that the social wellbeing and the environmental wellbeing, and all these six pillars, these are the foundation for the total wellbeing because Stella what you need for your wellbeing can be totally different to what I need for my wellbeing. And that’s something that a lot of companies are not offering towards their employees, giving them a palette to choose so that they can choose on whatever type of wellbeing they want to work on so that they can create that resiliency that the companies want. Because when people are more resilient, they become more productive, they become more engaged. And that’s where I want to. That’s what I’ve been doing to advise managers and companies as well to increase that engagement even now from working from home.
Stella: Yeah, so you have workshops, you have presentations that you gave, and you have your live shows, right that you did twice a week once one is in Dutch and one is in English, correct? Yeah,
Vivian: I did do that twice a week. But then again, you know, working from home, there’s a different lifestyle right now and balancing, you know, the mom, balancing the teacher balancing, balancing so many other things I decided to downsize my talk shows to primarily English. And after December, I’m going live twice a month because I want to, you know, I also need some time to recharge with all the activities that I’m doing on the side.
Stella: Yeah, I mean, I was like, twice a week and then not only one speaker, you have three, four people on the panel and new people and new people I’m like, where’s she getting these people from?
Vivian: I know people and they know people and I challenge my audience to invite others as well. And also there is a lot to talk about. There is a lot when it comes to humanizing the workplace it’s not only about you know, about maybe the bad culture that is there but it’s also about the managers it’s also about you know, the workplace design if people are working in a space where they are not getting any natural daylight that affects their productivity or their whole wellbeing. So I wanted to address the different pillars that we have within workplace wellness, to have a conversation about that and just plant thought seeds in people’s mind. People themselves, the listeners, the attendees, they have to, you know, give it some sunlight and nurture whatever thoughts this planted in their minds, to you know, let it grow. But at least I want to open up the door to plant the thought because we are missing those thought seeds. We don’t have to take everything in as a given. We also need to raise more awareness when it comes to wellbeing in general.
Stella: Yeah, totally. I have a friend, she’s in HR. And I told her about you and she follows you as well now, and she’s like, I want to meet this woman. Like she got already really impressed with what you do. Thank you. So I’m sure you guys will meet in the future. I also know that Let’s Humanize the Workplace, everything that you’re doing. And of course, we will go more into depth throughout the interview. It has, on the one hand, something to do with the experiences you had at work. But there’s also a promise attached to it a promise that you made in 2013. So can you tell us about your promise?
Vivian: Yeah, by the time that I became pregnant, I, instead of telling my family and friends about the fact that I’m pregnant at five weeks, I told my managers. At that time, I’m working, I was working for a small company, 36 people with five bosses, men, primarily men, and I had to, I felt like I had to explain to them that I’m pregnant because I was getting sick. And I didn’t want them to bully me away as they did with a previous employee. So I told them, the reactions were different. But what started, something started and that something was pregnancy discrimination. I really felt lost like an employee, like a woman, like becoming you know, a new mom because I was not only dealing with you know, my body growing and there’s a child within me but there was also this hostility outside of outside in my environment, which I thought that was safe.
And when the Pregnancy Discrimination started, I called in sick because I knew that I had to save my energy for my son. People don’t realize that when you know, when you bully pregnant women in such a way, it can be a huge impact into their mental health. But also it can jeopardize not only the health of the mom, but it can also jeopardize the health of the unborn child. And in a way it effected my child in a certain way. And I when I started to realize that, I said NO! I had to leave the workplace, I had to say goodbye. And doing that, was the best decision that I ever did. Because I set myself free from a job that wasn’t serving me, from a job that was draining me and my son really caused that effect within me. And not realizing that ever since you know, I found out about him, I found out about the fact that I was pregnant, he was always, I see him as my guide, I see him as my life coach. So by the time that my son was about four months, I made a commitment to him is that I’m choosing life, for love, and I want to make the world a better place for him. So with Amplify DEI, with Let’s Humanize the Workplace, with everything that I’m doing, I am advocating for something that is not easy to do. I mean, I’m an introvert or sometimes an ambivert and I’ve cried for so many times, because of the fact that the work is sometimes hard or can be sometimes lonely. But luckily, I have my tribe now. So I’m crying a little bit less now I’m crying over the fact that I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed with so much love and so much understanding. It’s not easy to do. But I always turned back to my son and then look into his beautiful brown eyes. And I know why I’m doing it. So my heartbeat is my son.
Stella: Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it. You already mentioned Amplify DEI, this is your latest project and a huge one actually, which when I met you, you were kind of in the process, right? And then you had the idea and you started working on it. So I got a few sneak peeks into your work. What is Amplify DEI? When I posted about it, I got messages from friends, what’s DEI, what is that about? So I was explaining. Yeah, so tell us what it is. And tell us what happened last month and is actually still happening.
Vivian: So Amplify DEI and DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion and it’s merely my message or my gift for my son and his generation to move the needle because we have done so much talking. Looking back to what Martin Luther King did, what so many other people did before our generation, I’m just like, okay, but we are playing, we’re still playing that same song over and over again. And I’m just like, we have to lift up the needle and move it towards words, a new song, a new way of looking at our people. Because when Orlando, that’s the name of my son, when he started asking me about is somebody going to hurt you, whilst explaining to him why George Floyd died. I was just like crying from the inside, because I had to reassure to him that nothing is going to happen not based on my color, but from the inside, I was just like, I cannot make this promise. And I cannot sit back and do nothing, or sit back so that other people are doing something. I have to, in my way, participate in this demonstration. And with demonstration, there are so many ways that you can demonstrate you can, you know, literally go outside and demonstrate or you can use your platform, your voice, or you can ask other people to join you in this crusade. So, talking to so many people through, Let’s humanize the Workplace. All I did was ask them, I am starting this movement, I need your support, because it takes a village to raise a child and I need us to do something about it. You don’t have to worry about the technicality. Only worry about your topic, the content, 20 minutes. And I did it. It really was a marathon and it really was a labor of love. But know that 69 people in total, including myself, 69 people joined me in this crusade. We have about 130 plus talks of 20 minutes. And these talks contain action. It’s not about the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and you can check off the fact that you have done a presentation or you joined the workshop. No, these talks are actionable talks, and they are there for everybody who feels like they want to begin this journey. For everybody who wants, who is maybe in the middle of this journey, or for everybody who feels like they are advanced, but they want to look into how other people are using these challenges to amplify diversity, equity and inclusion. And that’s it. What’s happening now as we are recording it. Well, I have just launched Amplify DEI last week, I’m still recovering. I’m still recovering from the love that I got. I’m still recovering from the fact that so many people found this valuable, because I know that I did something. I made a promise, I bungee jumped and then after the bungee jump, I was just like, Okay, what did I do? What? What did I do
Stella: Maybe it is better this, otherwise you don’t do nothing.
Vivian: That’s how I operate. That’s how I operate. So what what is still happening? A lot of people are asking me what’s next? Definitely next year, there will be you know, a part two of Amplify DEI but I also want to work with organizations that are ready to provide materials for their employees, because that’s where it needs to be. That’s where I want it to be. So it’s a Netflix for diversity, equity and inclusion. Am I there? Do I have a lot? No, but I at least, I have 19 topics that I can provide, thanks to all these amazing speakers. And it’s just the beginning. It’s just the beginning.
Stella: And I mean, it happened last week but can people still like register for it? Because I know I mean, I also recorded one presentation, but somebody maybe who missed it or is listening to conversations wants to hear this talk.
Vivian: Definitely. The content will still be available till next year. So till 2021, September 2021. So definitely, and if you feel like you want to use it longer, maybe I’ll extend it. So like I said, I said in my quote on DEI or implementing DEI strategies, it’s not a one night stand. It’s a marathon. And we need to run that marathon in a good way so that everybody feels safe and everybody feels heard and everybody feels like they don’t have to hide themselves because I’ve been one of the persons that used to hide themselves and I’m trying not to get emotional, but it is looking back in a way that I face racism or discrimination or so many other isms that make me feel less. It’s not easy and looking towards the future where I see my son, beautiful boy. I don’t want him to deal with that same because if he does, I’m afraid that I will be losing my son before he can show his magic. So I don’t want that to happen to him.
Stella: I understand you. I understand. I totally understand it. And I think, yeah, experiencing racism, sexism, these are things that stay with you for life. Yeah. So I know how you feel. And I know that we have to do something for the next generation. For our kids. There are certain things, I don’t want to hear them anymore in 10 years. And I know even to be honest, in two or three years. I’m sick and tired of talking about certain topics. People still have to explain things to others. We’re still being put in boxes. Like, yes, I’m sick and tired of it.
Vivian: I’m there with you.
Stella: To me it’s also one of the reasons why I launched the podcast, you know this very well. Because yeah, I just want our kids to just be different.
Vivian: They are going to be different.
Stella: Yeah, yeah. And you’re doing a great job. Vivian. Thank you. And I thank you already a lot for everything you’ve shared. We’ve just started with, I mean, the interview and I don’t like the word interview, I mean our encounter. And, yes, thank you so much. You’ve already kind of said it. But maybe it’s good to go a little bit more in depth. Because you said also during our conversation, you felt like you couldn’t say certain things, you were scared or people were dehumanizing you. And I know that you said once we need to have some real conversations so that we can get to know the people we are working with. Can you tell us what you mean with that? Exactly.
Vivian: I mean, one story that I can tell it’s about micro-aggression. So when you’re working in a workplace with 30 people, and these 30 people are looking more or less alike, so I’m just saying it white, and they start to ask you questions, or they start to share jokes. These jokes to these 30 people may seem harmless, but to me, it’s like every time you’re being attacked by a killer bee and know that a killer bee doesn’t attack alone, they attack with their whole family. So being stung by 30 people, being stung by 30 bees, it’s deadly. Its deadly because it almost killed me, literally killed me. When I was younger, I had to deal with a manager that was very, very toxic towards me and I he made me feel so much less less than less than I thought, well, if I’m that less or if I’m not valued, I might as well disappear. I’m glad that it didn’t go through. But that part of my life, it’s something that I don’t wish upon anybody, I don’t wish upon anybody now.
Stella: Wow, so you’ve really been through a lot in the workplace.
Vivian: Yeah, and this with George Floyd it opened wounds, wounds that even my family, my parents don’t know that I’ve done this and now I’m sharing it with all the on the podcast that I did it. But I want my son to know me, the real me and to really know why I am advocating for this. I’m advocating for humanity. That’s it sounds silly. No, that’s what I want.
Stella: I remember when we first met, our first encounter you were really tough and like okay, I have 10 minutes. But to be honest, you really challenged me with this you know. Who’s this woman that she’s not showing herself to me you know. And you were like You can do that. Then you messaged me and come on the lady, challenge yourself, challenge yourself that you can do that in six months. And then when we started our journey together for me really every Friday was like Okay, another step towards getting to know you and learning from you and you were always so you challenged me but you were also extremely kind as you described yourself at the beginning very respectful, very loving. And yeah, getting to know you like this has been very very beautiful and today right now you’re sharing another part of yourself with me that I didn’t know about. Wow. Yes,
Vivian: I know it’s a lot but see me as an onion or a flower. I can open up to those who are, you know, when we are at the same energy, or it’s the words that you say. But if you type in the wrong PIN code, that’s when you see the Chinese wall. I have to protect myself because of the experiences that I had in the past. And I learned through my son to open myself up to more people again. So it’s a learning experience, because I did shut down to protect my heart.
Stella: But it’s also like, when we’re younger, we, you know, we have our parents, and then we go out into the world. And suddenly, other people say things about us or to us or behind us. And that can cause a lot of damage if you don’t know your value, then anything can happen. Yeah, and now, we know who we are. So we don’t care anymore. We can speak our truth and we can take our actions and we can make the change that we want to make.
Vivian: Definitely. I’m there with you. And again, like last year, when I was 39, I was just like, okay, when I’m 40, I want to accomplish something and I want to stand for something and I want to be able to share that with my son. It’s not that I want to, you know, become the Nobel Prize winner or something, but I want to do something impactful. Boy, what did I do this year? A lot of impact was created this Year. A lot of impact.
Stella: Yeah. Yeah. On an individual level and on a larger level. Yes.
Stella: Yes. Both. Yeah. I need to have a moment of silence.
Vivian: I know, I understand. It’s a lot. I know.
Stella: Let me ask you the following. I know that your grandmother has been a very important part of your life. And you sometimes post about her, you’ve told me about her. And there is a saying, an expression that has something to do with your roots, your Ghanaian roots, which is Sankofa and I would like you to tell us what does it mean, and what does it mean for you? I also know you have a tattoo that represents the same. So can you share with us what does Sankofa mean?
Vivian: One of the things when I grew up was the word Sankofa and literally it means go back and get it. So knowing what it stands for, and we in Ghana, we honor our ancestors, but we also look towards our future and the way that I see Sankofa is respecting my past and using whatever I learned from my past, using that to my advantage for my future. So when I look back to who played an important role in my upbringing in the past, it’s my gran. My, my, the way that I am or my aura or the way that I am with people, she has the same, she is like that. I did not see her that often because a trip to Ghana, you know, especially when you are taking your child and you have to vaccine them for going to Ghana, it’s a lot. But the times that I did see her there was something magical when we sat next to each other or when she was cooking and I was standing next to her in the kitchen. She has this magical vibe. So when she died in 2009 a piece of my heart left. But I knew two years later I in 2011, I was in New York and I was just like I’m ready to honor my gran and put a tattoo on my wrist. So I have a tattoo of Sankofa. It looks like a heart. But there is also a different version as in a duck passing eggs on the back. And when I became a mom or when I became pregnant, the first person that I wanted to tell but wasn’t there was my gran and when Orlando was born, the first person that I wanted to tell was my grandma, but she wasn’t there. But seeing how Orlando is, seeing what an amazing boy he is I know that he has the soul of my grandmother or in a way we are both similar. I know that a lot of people love to be around him. Likewise like me, but we also have our moments that we don’t tolerate people around us and we need that time to recharge. And he is showcasing so much of what I see in my gran, what people see in me. So Orlando is my future and my grandma is my past, and I’m in between. And I just want to pay forward and also in a way for Orlando to learn more about his great gran.
Stella: Has he ever been to Ghana?
Stella: No, not yet. The plan was when he was about, you know, eight years because again, I don’t like the fact that we have to take a vaccine and medicine to go to Ghana, but we have to protect ourselves with now with this whole COVID thing. When he’s 10. When he’s 10, then when we are ready to move around and about, that’s totally fine. Yeah, but I tell him, I tell him a lot about Ghana. And I tell him that we come from, my grandmother was a queen. And we come from royalty. So I sometimes forget that when people treat me badly. And then I look at her or look at an image and I know that I come from royalty. So I have to treat myself as royal. That’s it!
Stella: Good, good. I like that. You said that you have your tribe, that you built your tribe. And I know that there are also a lot of women that are part of your tribe. I also know there are a lot of men, that support you a lot actually. But I want to focus more on the female part. What is female solidarity for you?
Vivian: Everything. To me, it’s I have seen as a woman, and I’ve also witnessed as a woman that when you don’t have a tribe, or when you are the only one who’s reinventing the wheel, it can be so challenging, and so hard and so frustrating and so like you just want to give up. But being in certain tribes, I have to say Lean in, but also knowing you, also knowing you, so many amazing power woman, I feel empowered, I feel supported, but I also can support those who really need me. So when people reach out to me, they know I will go the extra mile for them, because I don’t think about quid pro quo. I know I think about karma. That’s how I see it being played. And it does me, it’s an honor to support another woman in their career or in the podcasting or in whatever it is that whatever challenge they are facing. And we sometimes forget that another woman paved the way, another woman supported us. And yeah, that’s all I have to say we need to support women more often, doesn’t mean that we have to support all women, because not all women are like minded or my kind of women. But I’m doing my best for those who vibrate on the same energy, mind, space. Is that a good way to say it? I think so. Yeah, we have a similar energy. That’s where I got heart for.
Stella: Yes. I mean, as I said, already, the way you’ve supported me has been incredible. I learned so much from you. And I mean, you know already what I think about supporting women and female more solidarity, but it’s really true. If other people believe in you and they’re there and they carry you and they believe in your vision and they speak life into you so many things can happen, like so many good things.
Vivian: Yeah, absolutely.
Stella: You have a quote that you like by Maya Angelou. I also have another one that we will talk about later hopefully. And this quote says, I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Can you elaborate on that? Was
Vivian: What is there to elaborate? Hahaha.
Stella: I mean, we’ve already actually kind of said it, but
Vivian: I mean, with everything that I’m doing at the moment with Amplify DEI, Let’s humanize or the person that I am today. It’s about providing people a better experience when they engage with me, then I have had with previous managers or previous colleagues because the way that they have treated me I mean, I could have turned very bitter. I could have turned in their worst nightmare, but I started to channel that energy towards something positive. And when you look at Amplify DEI it’s literally this quote by Maya Angelou because people are raving about me, and I am just being myself, I’m just being me. But they also raving about the fact that I gave them a stage so that other people can hear their voice. And that’s all I want. So I want you to remember that you need to treat other people the way that you would like to be treated, because you never know what they can do to you positively or negatively. I mean, I’m always expecting the best and expecting you know, something positive comes out of it. That’s me. That’s me. So Maya Angelou, she’s like, everybody’s auntie, the best auntie that you could ever have because she has so much knowledge and so much wisdom in her that I wish that she was here. But then again, there is so much of her that I can read and can listen to and can look at, because she’s just an amazing woman. So I’m glad that you brought her up.
Stella: I mean, she said, right, your legacy is every life that you’ve ever touched, and it’s something also that I have in the intro of my podcast on my website. And I truly believe in it and Maya Angelou has been amazing and to me, she has been such an amazing role model. She actually inspired me to take certain decisions just by reading about her life.
And who has been your Salt, Vivian? Who inspired you? I guess your grandmother, but maybe there has been somebody else as well.
Vivian: If I would say, current day mentor, who is here in the Netherlands, I would say Sandra Williams, because she is up to this day, five years ago, we met during a mentorship and it was about me putting up my business or becoming a freelancer and she helped me see how I could turn my hurt into power. And I could open my heart, so that I could let other people in and Sandra up to this day has been such an impactful woman. There are more women but I know that Sandra is that teacher you know, you have that coach that even though she’s not there, you can still hear her voice. Even though she is not there you can still feel her warmth. Even though she’s not there, you can still hear the words that she would say when he would be standing next to you. And to me that is Sandra Williams. So once this podcast comes out, I will also share that with her because she would love to hear this.
Stella: Well. Wonderful. And she’s a coach?
Vivian: She at the moment is a teacher, a teacher or lecturer in a school of art, high School. But she played a huge role in a program that they were setting up for women here in Amsterdam, and up to this day, we are still in touch. I’m even, you know, supporting her to amplify her voice in a way. And she is still a huge impact to me, but also a huge impact to so many other amazing women. So I would say my modern day SALT is Sandra.
Stella: Wow, beautiful. And to whom do you want to pass the SALT? What do you want to say to the next generation that you have not already said? Actually. But yes. What do you want to say? To whom do you want to pass the SALT?
Vivian I want to pass the SALT to my, I call her my daughter-in-law, but I shouldn’t. But it’s the daughter of a dear friend, Rachel Snip. Her daughter is Rosalie and she now, Rosalie also has a sister and I want to pass the SALT to both of these ladies or girls. Because in a way, I don’t have a daughter, but they both mean the world to me. And I see them as my daughters and I want to pass the SALT to them because I can already see what courageous women they are going to be. Especially with the mother that they have. And especially with the aunties or the extra auntie’s like me that they have, they are going to be amazing women. So I want to pass the SALT to them. And I want to say speak your voice, speak your truth. Find your tribe and the rest will definitely be yours. Especially with you know, these amazing woman surrounding you The world is your oyster and never think that you are too small to start a ripple effect internationally, like me.
Stella: Absolutely. I love it, Vivian. And is there something that you want to ask me?
Vivian: I want to ask you, what would you tell your children about Amplifying DEI. Not specifically what you did for Amplify DEI but more what would you tell them to amplify diversity, equity and inclusion? Because I know that for you it’s also important to have these conversations at home. And I would like to know, what is the one question or what would you tell them?
Stella: I try, not I try, me and my partner, we raise our children in a certain way. So we are already having certain conversations. And we are telling them things that they shouldn’t do, they shouldn’t say. So we are kind of, I don’t know, if you want to say living Amplify DEI. We have our own backgrounds, the things we’ve been through in our lives, the racism that we’ve experienced, sexism, things we’ve seen in our environment, people experiencing. So for me, raising my kids as feminists, as anti-racists, it’s very important. And it’s, of course, a learning process. Because when I was younger, I also didn’t know I can speak up, I can say things, I did not know the words. That’s why also my presentation at your event was about certain words like institutional racism, structural racism, intersectionality, so on and so forth. Because if I had known those words, when I was younger, I would have been able to encounter certain things in a different way. But I didn’t know the words. So I became aggressive, or I was closing up or I was moving away, whatever. So for me, it’s important that my kids, if we look at diversity, equity and inclusion, that they, from a very young age become aware of certain things that they become aware that, like, every color is beautiful, right? How it is in the intro to my podcast. But we speak very openly about things, very openly. We speak about, let’s say, the whole Black Pete debate in the Netherlands. So we try at least, as much as you can explain to young kids that we don’t use the word, why we don’t use it. If you hear other people saying that word, tell them about it, that this is not the right thing to do. We talk about the skin color of their grandmother, of their father. The things that happen, of course, also with George Floyd. I explained it to them in my poor, yeah, I don’t know. I mean, how do you explain this to a child? You have to be very careful, because it can be quite shocking. Yeah. Um, so there are a lot of things that we discuss, and certain words that we use, also towards women, certain behaviors. The other day, one of my kids was like, vagina haha. And I was like What is so funny about it? I mean, you keep saying penis and nobody’s laughing. And the moment you say vagina, you’re all laughing. And I say to them, this is where you all came from. So these are things that, you know, we are trying to do in our house and the way we live, the people we are surrounding ourselves with, the things we do, even the podcast that I’m doing right now, it has also something to do with my kids. So when you say Orlando inspired you on so many levels, I can say that, especially the birth of my daughter, which was my last kid, really made a huge impact on me, because it really reminded me what does it mean to be a woman and there are certain things that I don’t want my daughter to experience. Like, just remembering stuff, I get angry, you know. And it’s not only things that I’ve experienced, it’s also what other people have experienced, the things you’ve shared today with me. It’s not just about me, it’s about collectivity, it’s about being together, making a change. So this is how I see it. This is what amplify DEI means for me. And this is how I implement in my household and it’s a learning process. It’s, we’re learning every day.
Vivian: Yeah, I am, I am in awe. I am proud and honored that you are leading the way with your children. So I just have to say that I’m proud that’s it.
Stella: Thank you, Vivian. Thank you. Actually, I have to mention one more thing, just because we were talking about it. This year, when we were in Greece, one of my kids, there was a boy and they were playing together and then the boy moved a little bit further away. And then my son started screaming Hey, fatty, fatty. So the whole beach heard it and people were like laughing and I just got so upset, you know, and I called him to myself and said, don’t you ever call this boy this word again. Nobody! You’re not gonna tell people these words. And there were people next to me saying, come on. He didn’t mean it like this, it was just funny. No, it was not funny. You don’t speak like this, you know! And then the boy came and he told me that he didn’t like this. So I confronted him and I say, apologize to the kid and don’t you ever say that again! So we have to take responsibility. And also, yeah, put our kids in place. Right?
Vivian: Definitely, definitely.
Stella: But thank you, Vivian, for your very encouraging and nice words, it means a lot to me, of course. And thank you for your honesty. I’m actually, you know, I started a master in gender studies. And I’m learning so many new things. But I’m also learning things that I’ve kind of already done with my podcast without knowing the words, again, as we discussed earlier, and there’s one thing about unexpected openings. So when you, like this moment that we had today, there were so many unexpected openings, right? So many unexpected things that happened. And that’s also the beauty. And that’s also what SALT is about, what we’re doing here, it is a collective endeavor. It’s not just me sitting here asking you questions. And that’s what you have to say and don’t say something different. And this is also very beautiful. And I thank you very much for your honesty and for being so open.
Vivian: You’re welcome. For you I do a lot. So you’re welcome.
Stella: So, as you all know, I always honor a woman at the end of my podcast, and today I want to honor Ava DuVernay, whom Vivian loves a lot. Ava is a US filmmaker who has won and been nominated for several awards for her work. She’s the woman behind the movie Selma, the documentary, The 13th, which is about the 13th amendment in the US documenting the prison system in the US actually, and how the nation’s history is based on racial inequality. And it’s a documentary that I highly, highly recommend. So I want to finish with a quote by Ava DuVernay that Vivian actually told me about during one of our conversations, and the quote says, I’m not going to continue knocking on that old door that doesn’t open for me. I’m going to create my own door and walk through that.
So I want to encourage my listeners. Sometimes we have to open our own door, we should not just be sitting waiting for others, we should not just keep knocking. Sometimes we have to open our own door and we have to walk through that. And while we are creating those doors for ourselves, we have to keep them open so others can also walk through them. So we have to take people with us. And this is how I want to finish today. And I thank you so much, Vivian for taking the time to speak to us to share your wisdom share your truth. I will upload all your information on my website. And I thank you everyone for listening. Feel free to visit my website www.salt-thepodcast.com for more conversations. Follow us on Instagram under @salt_thepodcast and of course, I’m always looking forward to hearing from people if you have questions, comments if you want to speak on the show. I’m here. So thank you everybody. Thank you Vivian. Thank you so so much
Something that is loved is never lost. I’m Stella Saliari and this is Salt The Podcast.