Max Garrone, PREFund board member and local parent interviews Micia Mosely
Can you give me a sense of your background?
I am originally from Brooklyn, New York, and I came to San Francisco to teach at Thurgood Marshall in 1995 when the school itself was in its second year. I went to UC Berkeley for my PhD and in that process moved to Oakland and have been living here in one form or another since then.
I understand that you bring comedy into your discussion, where does that come from?
I started out as the class comedian in high school. I've always been the jokester - I did improv in college as an undergrad and then when I was teaching in Grad School I was also involved in theater. I can't imagine my life not being in education and I can't imagine not doing comedy. So rather than have them competing I have become a social justice comedian and now I tour around the country doing stand up and education based work.
How do you bring comedy into your presentations on race?
As a teacher, anytime I have people's attention, I want them to walk away with something that they can find useful, either new information or an experience that allows them to grow. And as a comedian, I want to make people laugh.
If you were to ask my old students, they would tell you that I joke around a lot. I'm not always joking but I recognize that bringing a humorous style can allow people to relax enough to be able to do some of the hard work. And it comes very naturally for me. So if anything, I have to hold myself back when I see opportunities for jokes. Plus, when I'm doing stand up, most of my setup has to do with race, class, gender, economics. So, you know, I'm not telling fart jokes.
Can you break down your format? What can people expect?
It's a three hour experience and a good chunk of the time with people being reflective, um, around their own experiences and understanding of race. Uh, it'll be interactive. For the folks who want specific language, I will provide some specific language, but that really comes at the very end and it's something that I discourage people from leaning on.
Because what I really want to work on is helping folks clarify their own understanding and stances around race. That’s why they have trouble figuring out what to say to their kids. A lot of people have a sense of where they stand on something and can articulate that in a simplistic way, but I want to dig into the arguments underneath that.
In many ways this is the issue of our time: Have you found that things have changed a lot in the past few years?
The biggest change is that so many people are drawing examples from today's news and asking ‘how do I think about this,’ and ‘how can I talk to my kids about it?’ It’s in the news all of the time so people are thinking about it all of the time. This is happening now.
Do your audiences tend to have the same questions? What do they tend to start with as questions?
Many people come for sentence starters, they’re looking for specific language to start a conversation. But the language doesn't work if you're not clear on how you think about race. You didn't just wake up as an adult at some point with these ideas in your head, you had experiences as a child. Are you tapped into those? Do you remember them? Is that what's holding up your tongue?
Getting clear for yourself is the house cleaning. The first thing you need to do is clean up your own stuff and be OK with the fact that it's messy. We spend a lot of time talking about that. Everybody wants a quick answer to a really long, complex, historical set of issues. You need to look at you construct these ideas of race and racism and what’s important about them.
I say if you're not clear for yourself, then that's why you can't talk to your kid because you haven't sorted it out. It's not the kid needs some extra special framing, but we need to unpack our relationship to these concepts so that we can actually talk about it.
Because you're not going to keep your kids from the impact of racism. What you can do is influence how they're impacted by it. I'm not going to give a seven-year-old a deep history of racial oppression in this country. But letting them understand how people feel when a kid says that he’s not going to play with you because of your skin color, a seven-year-old can handle that.
What do you want people to take with them when they leave your presentations?
I want to help parents find the why and what: Why they can't talk to their kids about it, or what they’re having trouble talking to their kids about. Then I can help them locate areas of growth, for lack of a better term. Opportunities to actually unpack some things so that you can have a better relationship with race yourself and know what you need to talk about. It’s a process, I want to get you started on that process.
As you can tell Micia is a fascinating person and has incredible insights into this important topic so please join us on January 18th. Get your tickets today before they sell out!