58. Disrupting Racism With Deep Connection - Interview with Aaron Johnson, Porsha Beed and Jennie Pearl of Holistic Resistance


When your neighbor comes to you in a panic and tells you that her house is burning — how will you respond?

For episode 58 of the Good Life Revival Podcast, I ventured up to Oakland, CA to meet with Aaron Johnson, Porsha Beed, and Jennie Pearl, three of the individuals who form the core of a group called Holistic Resistance, which aims to combat racism by fostering deep personal connections.

Their work is at once profound and subversive, both in its goals and in the methods they employ in their efforts to meaningfully reach out to people.

Though they are of African heritage, Aaron and Porsha make it a point to specifically focus much of their efforts with HR on reaching white folks, and helping white people come together to hash out some of the more difficult and painful questions they might have about race in an atmosphere of mutual honesty, vulnerability, and trust — where you don't have to be afraid of saying the wrong thing or making the wrong move in your genuine efforts to better understand your place in the world relative to the lived experiences of people of color.

This is of course extremely exhausting work, involving an enormous amount of emotional labor, but all three of them shine with a level of confidence and satisfaction that makes it clear that there's nothing else they'd rather invest their energy in.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to sit down with these three in person for an immensely insightful discussion about:

  • how and why they do what they do;

  • the power of intimacy to combat racism;

  • the need to replace internet conversations with direct action;

  • and how nature connection plays into the broader struggle for compassion, trust, and understanding across (perceived) divisions of race, class, gender, and all the rest.

This serves as an excellent followup, I think, to the conversation that Ev'Yan Whitney and I had last time around about sexuality and sexual liberation as a means of dismantling oppression. 

In this case the question is not about sex, but about intimacy in all its forms: how do we foster deep connections and build trust with individuals whose life experiences might dramatically differ from our own?

And why is not okay to simply "opt out" of the struggle by deciding that "we" (you) have moved "beyond" race, or by concluding that focusing on issues of race only serves to perpetuate racism?

Ultimately, as you'll hear Aaron describe, we will *all* (yes, white people included) continue to suffer as long as white folks don't put in the work on themselves to examine these questions.

I hope this conversation encourages you to do just that, and I hope that the example set by the folks here at Holistic Resistance will empower you not to shy away from whatever painful, shameful, or otherwise difficult answers that arise as you venture down the path of dismantling all of the racism you inherited from the dominant Culture of No-Place — whether you wanted to or not.

And stick around after our conversation where I take some time to examine my own whiteness and how it relates to my heritage as the great-grandchild of Sicilian immigrants in the United States.

Don’t miss Reaching For Blackness, the three-day workshop hosted by Holistic Resistance in Chico, CA, taking place from May 18 - 20, 2019. Click here for more info.

The theme song for today’s episode is “Trillium Hymnal”, written and recorded especially for this installment. The sound bed behind the housekeeping section is “Half Moon Earth Night”, recorded in spring 2018. The final tag at the end of the show is “Mountain Lion Medicine”. Subscribers on Patreon at any tier can stream and download all of my music that I create for the podcast. Click here for more info.

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I am an earth builder, a teacher of closeness, and an activist. I graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 2007 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts. I use intimacy to dismantle racism; I have made a lifelong commitment to use the skills I possess to end racism. The tools I frequently use for that end are speaking, teaching, closeness to blackness, and minimalism. Deep connection is one of the most powerful tools one can use in dismantling racism.
My goal is to help white people slow down their reality enough to see blackness, primarily through the use of deep questions. I also use questions as a lens that white people can use to look at themselves and see how their own wounds and trauma from racism are stopping them from being close to black people. I am a firm believer that if you cannot get close to black people, you cannot be a true advocate for them. Being close to blackness is the revolution. https://www.facebook.com/Turnitupnow1982/

Porsha Beed is a twenty-four year old African American woman from Phelan, California. As an intimate activist and mentor, she specializes in teaching young people and adults about the importance of deep human connection, holistic resistance, and the importance of self-love and resiliency. Porsha is passionate about dismantling racism and oppression. As an earth builder and integrator of race, she strives to build a lifelong community to end racism. Her love for the Earth and for intentional community is the nest in which Porsha has chosen to fight systems of oppression.

Jennie Pearl is a facilitator, yoga teacher, and bodyworker bridging the gap between social justice and healing work. She is an anti-racist facilitator who offers trainings and workshops in yoga, wellness, and healing communities. She founded and facilitates Wake Up: a group for white-identified people who want to unlearn their racism, unpack their privilege, and untangle white supremacy from the inside out. They explore how yoga and meditation can help them wake up without spiritual bypassing or diminishing racial justice.