What there is to be said…

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     Sabrina Pratt

    Thank you for starting this thread, Brittany. I have read your post (and everyone’s posts multiple times). I am not sure what to write back right now. I wanted to share what I just sent out to my improv community. I think it really speaks to what’s going on in my heart and in my space right now. I will bring more later to this thread.



    To our dearest improv fans and family!!!!

    We love you all AND I have got your back with so much fierce love always.

    We will not be having improv shows tomorrow (Saturday 6/6/20) and will post-pone the improv-a-thon (which will be very fun and much more appropriate at a different time) and will not have a show next weekend on Saturday, 6/13/20.

    My name is Sabrina Pratt. As artistic director and founder of Central Coast Comedy Theater, I speak on behalf of our cast, instructors and students. We have decided that by choosing to not have our virtual improv shows we will be demonstrating our solidarity with the significant global civil rights movement happening at this moment. We are a theater which is proudly an important part of a community that stands for ALL people to have safety, joy, fun and freedom. We are a stand for significant action to make this so in our world.

    As such we will not jam the social media feeds with marketing for our shows and will use the time we have set aside to perform and play (when currently not everyone in our community, country, planet has the means or privilege to do so) to engage in productive dialogue with each other and to educate ourselves so that we can actively be part of the solution at this time and moving forward.

    This line will be open at 6:15pm tomorrow (Saturday 6/6/20) for us to gather, have conversation, discuss, share and decide next steps as a united, loving family. You are more than welcome to join tomorrow at 6:15pm.
    Meeting ID 188 422 038 Meeting Password comedy
    Invite Link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/188422038…

    I know that classes and shows are a very important way that we all have to blow off some steam, play and connect. Throughout this time when so much uncertainty is even more present than ever it has been our commitment to continue to share the joy through classes and shows. We will continue that commitment no matter what. The line above will be open tomorrow. Please feel free to invite whomever you would like to join us on that line. It will not be an improv comedy show but there will be safe space held for connection and civil discourse.

    Our request is that persons who join the conversation be prepared to contribute to a safe and productive space.

    We will continue to run classes as scheduled.

    I love you all with all my heart. I am long term committed to what we are building here in SLO and to each of you and our shared mission of spreading joy, love and peace.

    All my fiercely loyal and loving heart always;

    Founder, Owner & Artistic Director

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     Tiffany Turner

    Nichole, Jack will be your friend. Nichole male friend count is at least 1 now.

    Thanks everyone for sharing what you have. Jeff and I spent our weekly completion call yesterday processing out loud. It was really wonderful and powerful to be in conversation in such a safe place of this team and this work. I felt like I learned a lot about you, Jeff, the stuff I usually feel like I’m pulling teeth to learn about.

    Like the rest of team, I’m trying to find my place and my voice in all this. I trust that we’re all going to fuck up in figuring it out, and now feels like a really great time to be fucking up. There’s some comfort for me in trusting that everyone is doing it (fucking up).




    I spent much of yesterday with tears streaming down my face. First because my mom was leaving, and it had been such a gift to have her support in my home. Another heart to love my children and be loved by them. A supportive hand around that house and stand for my creating new biz opportunities. Then it was because Emory has spent the mornings yelling at me. I fully weaned him two weeks ago (until then he’d been comfort nursing in the mornings, as a sweet cuddly way to wake up together) and he’s finally getting it that now that’s over and he’s not happy. That’s a separate story I’ll share with you all, but it’s relevant to yesterday’s tears given that I felt really raw, exposed, vulnerable. With my mom gone, I spent the morning climbing out the bubble I’d been in last week and actually opened up news sources and pieced together the whats of the current state and I wanted to shut it down and retreat to my already vulnerable feeling and heavy enough heart and the big enough be with place of my home life with toddlers. Climbing out of that bubble was important, and my experience is I’ve landed in a messy soup that requires courage and a next level be with given all the dimensions of humanity – mine and all humans.

    I’m head over heels with cultural difference so much that I got my MA in International Education and my pre-Coaching career centered in Intercultural Learning and Communication. I designed and delivered trainings on effective (successful according to me) and appropriate (successful according to you, a person of another culture) communication with people who identify of another culture. Because of the nature of my organization my work looked mostly at cultural differences across nations more than within nations, but there was hot debate and regular attention on cultural stereotypes (limited and limiting) and cultural generalizations (starting points for conversations) and how our training content was inclusive to a diverse audience of culture. We dealt less in the cultures of gender and race, but in my travels to India, Malaysia, Egypt, Venzuela, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, Brazil, the DR, and all over Europe, I was often the white woman of a privileged race and nationality bringing training content to privileged people of the other countries my course was serving. But the privileged people I trained were volunteers who served the local families who hosted exchange students from other countries and many of the host families themselves were of a minority class or race within that country and were hosting an adolescent (a whole culture of it’s own!) of another nationality in their very humble homes. So……..we had uncomfortable conversations. I was uncomfortable all the time, and took pride in owning my privilege, in opening the conversation for us all to do so and then to hear what people had to say around theirs and what the stand was of this program I was bringing to them, designed to give them a simulated transformational experience so as to better connect and support the families and students living outside of their home (and familiar) culture where the rules of engagement were unknown and often uncomfortable.

    There are SO MANY amazing theorists and tools to expose people to and to discuss difference. One is Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model for Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), which is an inventory that many corporations and educational institutions committed to diversity conversations within teams will have their employees take and then get trained on. I was a qualified administrator of this tool and I’m thinking it’s time to re-up my credential there and bring it to us in AC, to my clients and it’s a way I see to integrate my passion, experience, my heart, my head, and be of greater service. That model highlights the stages of cultural sensitivity one can have and the contexts (to use our language) a person walks around in about difference. It explores how one can move from an ethnocentric to a more ethnorelative perspective and way of engaging to difference.  Spend 10 well-spent minutes with this video on it: https://youtu.be/6vKRFH2Wm6Y 

    I’ll be bringing this to the DEI working team to discuss relevance for us in AC, in addition to the other resources we’re collecting company wide.

    The other piece I see to share is who my dad is. This is who he is:  http://marklewistaylor.net/about/ My dad is an activist through and through. From the age of 2 we went to inner city churches even though we lived in privileged Princeton, NJ where he was a profession because he said the music was better, but I learned over the years that my dad couldn’t stay away from the people and the causes he felt passionate about standing for, and he’s built his life and his career as a tenured professor of theology and culture and he writes and speaks around the subjects of race, religion, justice, equity, and freedom. In the 90s growing up he took us to spoken word events in edgy bars in NYC when it was normal to see heroine addicts asleep on street corners, to peaceful marches I didn’t fully understand, but believed we were up to something good because of the energy I could sense. When I was 7 in the late 80s we spent 6 weeks in Guatemala and he took us to bomb shelters and hide-outs in in the jungle where indigenous people supported by an NGO my dad was interested in would hide out from military who would come to take them from their families. On the streets of Guatemala those days armed military and police officers stood guard – There was civil war in Nicaragua until ’89 or ’90 and my dad was learning something about the people who had exiled …when he moved out I was 10 and the house I stayed in every weekend had wall-size murals of detainees who’d been politically exiled he was somehow working with and standing for. In 1995 he founded a group of activists around the case of a journalist and taxi driver in Philly named Mumia Abu Jamal who my dad and many others believed received an unfair trial which put him on death row for 30 years.

    So where I find myself in this conversation in this moment is fucking angry, heart broken, and frankly a little jaded. That last piece I would attribute to my privilege. I get to ignore the fear and suffering in the world when I’m fed up and don’t want to be with it anymore. I can minimize difference of opportunity because it benefits me to do so. I get more peace of mind, to be right about my overwhelm, to surround myself in the comfort zone of other scared and right people. I’m also so fucking grateful for our work that demands I own how I am being about what I cannot or am unwilling to explain. The anger and the heartbreak are getting stirred and it’s touching my heartbreak around my relationship to my dad, what he exposed me to of the world that I absolutely cherish and that simultaneously feels laced with the heartbreak of his dramatic exile from our family. I am bringing it to my coach today and absolutely willing to stay in the work of it and in conversations around it.

    Thank you.

     Jeff Miller

    I love threads like this. These are the topics and discussions that bring us all together. Thank you Brittany, Juliana and Nichole for voicing where you are at.

    I am hanging in there. My experience has been a little rough the last few days, but now that I look back it has been rough for a while. I just haven’t let myself feel it. Last night I held my wife in bed and just listened to fears and concerns that half of me can relate to and the other half can’t. Hearing someone say that they have spend the majority of their life straightening their hair to avoid getting looked at is heartbreaking. That in certain places she has lived she wasn’t black enough, or she was too different, or never feeling like she has belonged. Or feeling so scared that as an adult in the suburbs not feeling safe to go to a grocery store. I couldn’t fix it, I couldn’t make it better. All I could do was listen and hold her. Last night was rough! This was after Steph talked to Sammy, our daughter about what was happening. After Steph told her, Sammy’s response was “Is Nanna and Grandad going to die?” Heartbreaking! There is nothing worse that I feel in the world then not being able to protect my family. And the fact is, that I cannot protect them from injustice or the feeling of not being safe.

    This is operating on top of my own history and experiences with race. A lot of people over the course of my life and now think that I am at least biracial. Most people thinking I am part black. For those that don’t know, I am white. Pretty much a mix between mostly Jewish and German. I have been pulled over by the police and harassed. I have been given a speeding ticket with the letter “B” in the ethnicity box. I have been called names like “Wigger.” But at the end of the day I am white. I have had a privileged life and have had advantages that people who are actually black do not get. I grew up with my best friend living in the same condo complex as me. He is half white/half black. We have had similar things happen to us and have not had similar things happen to us. I have seen the world though his eyes and through Steph’s eyes and I feel helpless. I feel like my experience and my voice won’t appeal to anyone since it doesn’t identify with either side. And I have made it justifiable for Steph and my best friend to feel this way since they are actually black/biracial. I had a great coaching call with my coach Mark Hunter today and he said that my voice is more impactful to his. Simply because I will get through certain people’s minds simply because I am not identified as a black man. So me being silent takes that opportunity to be heard and actually promote change.

    So I am educating myself. I am reading White Fragility. I am having conversations with a lot of people; white, black and everywhere in between. I am sharing stories from my past about how most of the influential people in my life were black and the imprint that made on me. How once when I was 13 I told by black basketball coach that he looked like a monkey. I didn’t know the racial history behind that term and I found myself choke slammed into the wall by a man twice my size. I certainly haven’t forgotten that day and what he shared.

    I am at the point now where I need to have this conversations and be uncomfortable if nothing else for my children’s future in this work. I will have to sons grow up in this world where one day they will go from cute cuddly kids to threats. I need to be able to have that conversation from an empowering place and hopefully one day I won’t have to have it all. I look forward to leaning on this team for the times I won’t want too. Thanks for the support and the call forth to be better for all humans.


    I have so much to say about this, so I might come in and out a few times so as to share and not overthink (i.e. might leave some stuff out and come back).

    Britt, I love what you said about uncomfortable versus dangerous. I was also tossing and turning last night thinking about something to post today. I noticed myself trying to soothe my uncomfortable feelings, and caught myself trying to “get over” something that is not “get over-able”. I think we all have a duty to sit in the uncomfortable-ness. And there is a part of me that is happy that white people are scared right now. I saw a lot of white friends posting about how terrified they were when the riots got close to their house and I was like, GOOD! Now maybe you know how it feels to be in a black community and feel afraid every single day. Maybe now that white people are scared, someone will listen. <– Sad truth. That is how I feel right now.

    I am committed to being uncomfortable. Because you’re right, as long as uncomfortable is as bad as it gets, your privilege is showing. I posted something on Facebook yesterday and I don’t know if any of y’all saw it, but it was super raw and scary for me to post. And people had some opinions. Some wished harm on me for speaking up. I wound up not taking it down, but changing the privacy settings so that nobody can see it unless they ask me for access because it was so intense. This is what caused me wondering in the middle of the night what’s next. Do I keep going or do I lean back? In this situation, I am following the lead of my black friends.

    My black friends are also showing up differently based on their generation. My millennial (and some Gen X) friends are very much about sit back and be quiet and don’t ask me how to be an ally, just do your own research and figure it out and if you do it wrong I will tell you and it’s up to you to try again. They are holding white women responsible for putting Trump in office and likewise holding white women responsible for doing something about it. The expectation is that WE fix this, not them or anyone else. And I get it. I am over here going in and out over and over wanting to be an ally and getting it wrong sometimes. I will keep going and I agree that it’s nobody’s responsibility to hand me a guide on how to be an ally.

    My black friends who are my age or older show up differently. They have more conversation about it. They are fine being asked questions about race and their experiences and how one can be supportive. I am not saying that this is a rule across the board and that everyone is having the same experience (it could just be the communities I’m in), and neither is right or wrong… it just took me a while to put my finger on why I had different sets of POC friends with different expectations and it came down to age. Interesting.

    My point in sharing all of that is to say that even as an ally, we have to be patient. Your good intentions might land super wrong on one person and be applauded by the next. And the thing I’ve had to really practice, to Britt’s point, is to NOT FILTER ANYTHING THROUGH I/ME/MY/MINE. Nothing.

    In my Emerge California training, it was similar to AC in that each module had a theme. One weekend was all about race. 70% of the women who were going through this training with me were black women, mostly my age or younger. I realized through this training and hearing all of their experiences how much energy I’ve wasted on trying to get people to see that white women aren’t all bad. Trying to defend yourself as a white woman who didn’t vote for Trump doesn’t matter. It’s like a guy saying, “But not all men are bad,” when you are speaking up about sexual assault. Like, yeah, no shit not all guys are bad. But choosing now to say that is the dumbest thing you can do. What you should really be saying is, “let me help you find the bad guys and make them better.” We expect men to be allies to women when it comes to women’s rights. And POC are expecting white women to be allies in the same way. Not to defend or explain. Just to support.

    The tricky part is that white women are divided. Massively divided. It took several conversations with several older friends of color (because again, the younger people don’t want to hear any of it, in my experience), to explain that white women are not connected the way black women are. I can’t go to my white female relatives and change their minds about racism or politics or Trump or anything else. THEY HATE ME. I am a black sheep, an outlier. My grandmother literally told me on her death bed that I caused a divide in the family. This is what she chose to share with me when I visited her when she was dying of ALS. So look, I’m trying, and it’s not like white women hear each other. So THAT is where I’ve been trying to figure out what to do and how to be. Being subtle isn’t effective. Being aggressive isn’t effective. I feel so freaking helpless.

    So again, I am practicing leaning back, listening, following the lead of my Emerge Sisters and speaking up when something feels really compelling no matter how uncomfortable I might feel. And it’s a practice because right now I feel like I’m failing.

    That’s what I got right now. I know I’m speaking so much about women and not men, and it’s just because that’s the world I’m in. I don’t really have male friends.

     Juliana Sih

    Thanks Britt for starting this.

    Mostly in this conversation I am left feeling lost, sad and frustrated. I haven’t thought about racism in a while. I went to a diverse university and was surrounded by all races, African American, asians, mid eastern white, hispanic, etc. I remember one day, as I walked out of the dorms with my friend, a black guy started trying to smooth talk us. We ignored him and walked away and he pulled the racist card saying we didn’t want to talk to him because we are racist. Does that make me racist? Is it racist when I see a man walking behind me at night, and if he happens to be black that I walk faster to get away. Would I do the same for a hispanic, asian man? There is something for me to look at around discomfort and unsafe. I think my default is to go to unsafe.

    I don’t know where I stand in the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe police brutality is real and injustices occur all the time due to race. I believe we should be treated equally but I don’t believe that the whole system needs to go up in flames and be torn down. The movement seems highly politicized and that has me skeptical about the intention behind the cause. It seems like a band wagon where people just virtue signal and get behind the cause because if they didn’t, they would be ostracized. To me (this is my opinion) these causes seem to perpetuate the very thing we want to solve. I saw someone on my InstaStories riding their bikes by cops and called them pigs. This just seems like the opposite side of the same coin.

    So where I sit is mostly in curiosity, a little confusion and frustration about racism. I’ve never considered myself to be white, but I would say I am privileged. Not by default, my parents worked really hard coming from poor upbringings and being immigrants. But I do believe that because of my privilege, it has me blind to seeing things that happen in the world. Or just ignoring them because they don’t relate to me.

    So what I am committed to is having conversations about race with people and being curious about how they view it. I want the people I talk to feel a safe, open and nonjudgemental space to have the conversation. I often find it so heated that its part of the reason the conversation has been suppressed or people don’t talk about it. And that’s not helping.

    Alright thats all I got for now. This whole things is taking up a lot of my mental space.



     Brittany Cotton

    Hey All,

    I have been going over this post in my head since I woke up, and as I was falling asleep last night. I get stopped at trying to say things perfect, ensuring I don’t mess up or sound ignorant. I do a lot of work in my head, instead of being out loud. This is true of my own personal writing, and especially when I want to speak of things I feel deeply about but don’t feel its my place, or don’t know how.

    Lets get real though. That shit has to stop. It has to stop on our team, and it has to stop in the world. Our work is to get messy, in service of transformation, in service of a new relationship and a new possibility, a new conversation. This to me what is happening in the world, and what WE need to continue to foster. The pain, fear, violence, danger and every emotion bursting at the seams out in the world, and inside you, IS REAL. And we are leaders and coaches. We have the uncommon conversation, we stand up for what we see, and support others in doing the same.

    So I’m curious- where do you find yourself in this conversation? What about it makes you uncomfortable? Where does your privilege put you, and how is it holding you back from speaking up?

    Im so present to discomfort versus danger. Being uncomfortable versus being unsafe. As a privileged white woman I can see situations or conversations I have avoided being uncomfortable, I have avoided saying the wrong thing or messing up because I don’t want to be uncomfortable or seen a certain way. This is my side of the conversation. The opposite side is people who literally can’t say, do, or be what they want because it is DANGEROUS. This is the conversation I see to be having. For white people to stop trying to be comfortable. This conversations will not be comfortable. They will not be clean, they will not be flat. But our discomfort, or attempt to not have it, costs lives, costs safety.

    Im posting this so that we all can use this thread to be out loud. And get clear what has us not want to be, or afraid to be. I am committed to us being willing to be with the discomfort and the mess so we can create something different.

    One of the ways I see I am covertly racist is when I hear someone telling a story or experience, and I find in my brain how it resonates with something I have been through. I think this is a human thing we do, but I also see how it has us be ignorant, and a population left completely unheard. If someone tells me they don’t feel accepted into any group because they are mixed ethnically, and I respond how I get it cause I was never accepted at school. That Is not the same. It steps over the other persons experience, and has me assuming I know what its like. I don’t. This is just an example. But I see how me looking for what resonates in my life is a way I play out covert racism with my privilege. And in not doing it, I often times don’t know what to say. So this is what I am practicing this week, not doing this, catching myself, and just listening and being with someone. And not making it about me.

    What are you practicing? What conversation are you in? What bias are you speaking or listening from? What are some ways your race has shaped your life? What has enabled you to not know about racism?

    Last year at our leader retreat we focused much of our conversations on Diversity and Inclusion, and we all stood for each other to read White Fragility. I take that stand here now with our team. Please if you haven’t, get and read this book. Not only is this our work- to be in conversation in service of transforming something, but we are leaders. We are the people on this planet who know how to enroll, who know how to create possibility, who know how to be a stand for something. We are also the group that teaches At Cause and At effect. I assert many of us are at effect of our own racism, and that it is painful and scary to acknowledge that, and then be at cause for it.

    Love you all.

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