The Leadership Center for Social Justice Podcast

What’s My Part?: A Conversation with Jamil Stamschror-Lott

March 20, 2024 Season 2 Episode 12
What’s My Part?: A Conversation with Jamil Stamschror-Lott
The Leadership Center for Social Justice Podcast
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The Leadership Center for Social Justice Podcast
What’s My Part?: A Conversation with Jamil Stamschror-Lott
Mar 20, 2024 Season 2 Episode 12

This episode is a re-release of the Soul of Social Transformation Podcast hosted by Rev. Dr. Gary Green II and Rev. Dr. Justin Sabia-Tanis.

How do the unique vocational gifts of each of us within the collaborative, collective, and necessarily ongoing nature of social justice work? How might our contributions relate to the wider community that is seeking wholeness? What is our responsibility to one another to create a better world? How do we find meaning and purpose in our part of the work, trusting others to do theirs?

We're speaking with Jamil Stamschror-Lott. He and his wife are the founders of Creative Kuponya, a mental health practice in Minneapolis. In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, mental health experts have seen a rise in Black people seeking therapy and Creative Kuponya looks to create a place for Black people to connect with Black therapists. His work has been featured in the New York Times.

-Creative Kuponya

Episode Transcription available here

Host: Gary F. Green II, Justin Sabia-Tanis

Producer: Adam Pfuhl

Podcast Engineer: Michael Moua

You can find out more about the Leadership Center for Social Justice on our website and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Show Notes Transcript

This episode is a re-release of the Soul of Social Transformation Podcast hosted by Rev. Dr. Gary Green II and Rev. Dr. Justin Sabia-Tanis.

How do the unique vocational gifts of each of us within the collaborative, collective, and necessarily ongoing nature of social justice work? How might our contributions relate to the wider community that is seeking wholeness? What is our responsibility to one another to create a better world? How do we find meaning and purpose in our part of the work, trusting others to do theirs?

We're speaking with Jamil Stamschror-Lott. He and his wife are the founders of Creative Kuponya, a mental health practice in Minneapolis. In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, mental health experts have seen a rise in Black people seeking therapy and Creative Kuponya looks to create a place for Black people to connect with Black therapists. His work has been featured in the New York Times.

-Creative Kuponya

Episode Transcription available here

Host: Gary F. Green II, Justin Sabia-Tanis

Producer: Adam Pfuhl

Podcast Engineer: Michael Moua

You can find out more about the Leadership Center for Social Justice on our website and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

What’s My Part? with Jamil Stamschror-Lott

Gary Green [00:00:01] Are you passionate about social justice and ready to bring about real change as part of your life's work? Have you ever wondered how to bridge the gap between your unique gifts and the world's deepest needs? If so, then I want to welcome you to the Soul of Social Transformation, a podcast designed to help young adults explore vocational possibilities that bring to life our deepest hopes for healing our world. 

I'm your host, Gary Green, along with my co-host Justin Sabia-Tanis, and we are excited to journey with you in this series of conversations that feature six leaders who have discovered and created ways to make meaningful change in their communities. They each bring a wealth of experience and expertise in addressing some of the most critical issues of our time, including racial and economic justice, mental health in marginalized communities, and justice related to native lands and indigenous communities. By highlighting their stories, we hope you will be inspired to find creative ways to translate your passions into concrete action for a better world. 

Gary Green [00:01:11] We are here with Jamil Stamschror-Lott. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:01:16] There it is. 

Gary Green [00:01:17] Okay. Make sure I get it right. Who I actually connected with when Monica and I first moved to the Twin Cities. Shortly after we got settled, I was learning about the work that is happening at All Square and met you indirectly, kind of second hand, after having a conversation with Sarah, your partner. And we're excited for this conversation. Thank you for being with us. 

Your work has been featured in New York Times, USA Today, Rolling Stone magazine, Women's Health magazine, among others. Particularly after some major events that happened recently, both related to the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd. We'll get into some of that in a little bit, because I definitely want to invite you to say more about the specifics of what your work is doing in that context. But if you could, could you just kind of tell us a little bit about you, your current work at Creative Kuponya? And, yeah, I just want to hear about what it is, how it's unique, you know, what you're doing in the world.


Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:02:25]  So yeah, our organization is Creative Kuponya. It's a mental health agency my wife and I founded some years ago. Really out of our own personal and professional experience, in particular just having worked with orgs that seemed to not fill a void that needed to be addressed. And, you know, oftentimes we exist in different institutions and settings, and we see the fire, and then we get used to the fire, and then we just keep on going about our day. And we just like that's just how it is, right? And my wife and I, the way we function, we just can't settle. And so we decided it takes a tremendous amount of energy to go out there and do your own deal and your worth. We felt it was worth, you know, the struggle, if you will. 

So we have proceeded into creating our org, and, you know, a big thing for us is just having no barriers. We know barriers prevent folks from accessing the healing in various different ways. And some of those barriers look like cost, right? Some people just can't afford to pay the fee. Even myself. I have a mental health clinician, and I would see them every week if I could, you know, maybe twice a week. Right. But financially, that's just not going to work out. So I do what I can, and we don't want that to prevent someone from coming to the door. In addition to that, we don't take insurance. Insurance tends to get in the way, they're like a third party person who doesn't have the expertise. They're just not there. But they're there, right? And they're dictating how many sessions you may or may not get. They, you know, require oftentimes, some sort of diagnosis. So the clinician is confronted with ahh you're not really this but I need to give you something. Right. Schizophrenic. And so we can get enough sessions but then that carries with you. So we just want to do away with all that. We're not about you coming in, getting diagnosed and getting some sort of disorder that then sort of kind of dictates your life and how you navigate it. We want to get that out the way. 

And then third, representation is critical. So it's hard to find a black male therapist. It was very difficult. And this, these previous, past two years, it was critical for me to have a black male therapist. I wanted a guy that was a little bit older, you know, just have some of that wise wisdom, but also brought the clinical background. And that was terribly hard. And there's a lot of folks who don't show up for that reason.  And so I feel like we are addressing that need in a way, just by providing those opportunities for someone to say, oh, I don't even have to break down the struggle. You know what it is, right? So let's do this dance. Right. And so a big part of that too is centering on the margins, understanding that there's a difference, there's a different experience being had for folks who have been pushed to the margins. Right. Okay. So like, women have a different experience to men, right? Why? Folks of color, folks with less ability, LGBTQ plus population. Right. So there are things that are happening, are manifesting in their lives and oftentimes our society is structured in a way that says it's you, right. You need to get that together. You need to work on that. And losing account of the fourth element of wellness, you know, we often think of mind, body and spirit. We often lose sight of the environment and the magnitude of what happens when your city has, when you have military walking your streets, with guns and tanks. You see smoke burning. You know that you can't get to the grocery store. What does that do to your nervous system when you walk into a space, you're the only one. Like, what does that do to your nervous system? I'm not safe. And so we carry that insight into every one of our sessions, knowing that, like, this is a real deal and we're not going to negate that and we're not going to put the onus completely on you. 

Gary Green [00:06:10]  What would you say the gap Creative Kuponya is filling as you think about the uniqueness of what you offer in relation to all of those other avenues where people often meet those barriers or just don't feel like they belong?  

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:06:29] Yeah, absolutely. So as you mentioned, you know, the representation is huge. Oftentimes it's not about access. You know, it's the experience that marginalized populations are having when they enter the medical system, the school system, you know what I mean? What happens when I walk in there and the administrative person at the front desk doesn't even greet me, but then greets the person behind me who carries these features that are more valued in our society. And my nervous system knows this and you may not honor it. Your nervous system knows it too. And that's how we operate, right? We carry these biases. Our body keeps the score. And so recognizing that and bringing that into the space is refreshing. 

In addition to that, I think what's unique for us is partnering with orgs. So when I worked in a school setting, I often would say like, good god, these teachers, they need some additional support. They need the opportunity to just tap out and go talk to somebody. Tap in and tap out.  Hey I'm having a rough day today, therapist. This student did X, Y, and Z. I'm having no support in the classroom. I don't know what to do. Yeah, I've been thinking about leaving this field for so long, but I, you know, the golden handcuffs on my pension, and so I'm struggling. What should I do? And sometimes just having that moment to express that. Right. And so I thought having a direct service on site would be critical for many because there's a lot of folks shouldering a lot right now. The medical industry, my mother's a nurse. You know, there are medical professionals. There's a lot of people who are frontline workers, and we say we value them. Right. Why are many of the folks that I go to when I get the vaccination or not the vaccination, but when I go get a test, I am concerned about those frontline workers who are there with all these sick people entering. And when I look at the makeup of my experience here in the Twin Cities at two different, three different sites I've gone to, they've been mostly black women. Yeah. Why is it that folks of marginalized identity get, you know, confined to those positions and then don't get the praise and respect. 

So another unique piece, I would say, outside of just honoring that experience is partnering with orgs to provide the direct service. And so you mentioned All Square, so that was one of our first partnerships where employees on site, who are working on the clock can take time off to access our therapeutic services and have that paid for. And still be paid and then go back to go back to work. And so when you're dealing with groups who are, say, experiencing poverty or time poverty, I work three jobs. I don't have time to go check on my kid at school. I don't have time to go pay this bill or this parking violation. Right, right. And then it compounds. And so we have done something revolutionary in a sense, where it's like we're going to pay you and you're going to get paid. We're going to pay for your services, too, and you can access the healing that you might need to express and explore and progress in your life. Yeah. And so we've been partnering with various organizations, as such, because I, we just identified that is critical to have that access.

Gary Green [00:09:29] Yeah. The word that comes to my mind as I'm listening to you talk about this is restorative and redemptive. And as I was, you know, doing my research and reading and learning a little bit more about what you do and how you do it. I identified with when you talk about experience, you know, your experience previously working in behavior centered therapies or focused therapy. I worked in social work. I worked in youth development, juvenile justice. It was the young black man that wanted to work with other at risk young black men. Right. And knowing how that system really polices people who are in it with a behaviorist lens. And then you also talk about how you wanted a deeper understanding of mental health and the challenges families face. And I was intrigued by your work, in the school system, as a social worker, where you were actually doing restorative justice practices. 

I'm curious if you can talk a little bit about the difference and the significance of shifting from that behavior focused therapy to something more restorative and more redemptive, because as you were talking about, even offering services on the clock to workers at All Square, that illustrates what a kind of restorative model would do, as opposed to one that's like, well nah you are you on the clock so we don't have time for that right now. So yeah, I'm just kind of curious to hear you expound on the difference between and the significance, especially for our listeners who are going to be young adults who have questions of vocation and who are intrigued themselves about how can I cultivate attention to this in not a behavior centered way but maybe one that's more redemptive. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:11:14] Yeah. I mean, you took me back and I didn't realize your background was as such, so very similar trajectories which as I look at you in physical,  you're buttoned up, cleaned up. 

Gary Green [00:11:28] It hasn't always been that way. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:11:28] You seem like you can navigate different terrain, if  you will. And so I know in exiting the school system after some years, I was very excited to go in there because I was able to beat the odds, right? Which is so unfortunate that that's a thing we carry. And when I say we, I'm talking like black folks and the so-called black culture. When you look at black films, it's always like, how did he make it? Can he make it? And it's like, why is that always the thing? Yeah. And so for me to make it, if you will, graduate from college, play some sports, I was able to see much of the world that many of our peers don’t. Right. In fact, one of my closest friends, when we came back home, we sat down in a neighboring neighborhood in Saint Paul and had some food. And he was like, I've never been over here before. And I'm like, bro, you grew up in Saint Paul. Like East Side Saint Paul, this is literally like three miles away and he was like I've never left the vicinity of these confinements. And so I was like, how? Why? 

So with restorative peace, what I also realize is I just started assessing, like, what was happening. I always question things. A lot of times you will get crucified for questioning. What's going on with things? Why are they doing it? How come they ask me to do that? I should probably just be quiet and just follow. You know what I mean? So I always did that. And it put me in a position where it was isolating sometimes or lonely, but it also caused me to really wrestle with some of this. And because of being a black male and usually one of the only, I was already there. I was already used to that space of like, why am I getting treated differently than them, right? And why am I the only and why am I struggling? Why? You know, so I was already wrestling with it. Yeah. And so putting that in the application, working in the juvenile justice system or lack of justice, it seemed, they would implement what we call restorative justice mechanisms in place. And so they reduced the numbers of juveniles being detained. But what happened, oddly, was that because they wanted to address the racial component, the number of students of color, youth of color went up. And so it went from like, you know, there being 80% to 90%, even though most of the numbers of kids came down. So we went from 90 kids being detained every day, to like maybe ten. But ten of those or ninety percent of those are black.

And so I've shifted from the restorative piece because what I notice is folks who seem to navigate particularly like, say, like black men, to navigate sort of both realms, if you will, tend to get pushed into this policing sort of position. Black up, as one of my peers called me. So, you know, they'll call us in to black them up, you know, see this student, get them out of here. They will puff their chest out when I show up. And then I have to deal with all the hard work. And I just started realizing, like, they would praise me, like, oh, my God, Jamil, he's so great. He dealt with that kid and he did it. And they would love it if you were vicious and cruel and rude to the students and gave it back to them. And not that that was my way. But sometimes you would have to get firm like, that's inappropriate, that's unacceptable. And so on and so forth. And it just felt weird that you would get praise. And so it's almost like you're conditioned to reinforce the mechanisms of the larger system that reinforce these disparities and this harmful treatment. 

So I did away with restorative, that being said, and I've been talking about transformative like how do we transform what's in place. And so when I sit down with folks and I do my work in the group setting, I'll say it's a transformative circle. They want to transform, there's nothing to restore because the foundation of the mental health system, the foundation or many of our institutions have been built on the backs of the marginalized bodies. And then you're made to feel a certain way, like, well, what if you're not good enough? You didn't meet the standard. Well, actually those who are graduating, oftentimes there's a pay to play. So if I made it to college it's usually because I can pay for this. And those who have more money actually graduate at a higher rate. It's very simple. Right. And in fact, I read in Bettina Love's book, only 9% of those in low income homes graduate from college. So if you're in poverty and you go off to college thinking, I'm about to make it, really you have a 9% chance, you know what I mean? And so that's not what, we're not really looking at the problem. Right. We often point, our culture tends to point at the people as opposed to what the real systemic problem is. 

Gary Green [00:15:53] I appreciate you talking about restorative in that way because this well-meaning attempt towards something better, but it really just restores, it reinforces the foundations of what has been. And so moving into transformation, and obviously this is a social transformation program. And so I appreciate that. 

One of the cultural pockets that I see your work existing in and that society unfortunately seems to only just be beginning to pay attention to is mental health in the black community. And I don't mean that just as a catch all thing, but specifically here post George Floyd and the kinds of cultural trauma that many experience on a daily basis. And as I think about the transformative healing that you're doing, I'm just curious to hear from you, because this is a vocational discernment, a resource that we're trying to provide for people. How did you share a little bit of your story? And again, you already have been, but in terms of your own discernment to arrive at the decision, the awareness, even the imagination, in the midst of all the mess that we're raised up in to get to this work. In other words, how did you get to this point as a vocation? 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:17:16] Yeah. Yeah. It's a good question. It's a journey. Of course. I was a young scholar, so I also work in a program where we assure black men graduate from college on time.  Nationally, the rate is approximately 19%, for black men graduating within four years. In our program, we're roughly about 80% with all the private schools here in Minnesota. And one of the scholars asked, he was just like after we had talked to him, I did a presentation on mental health. And he had said like, how do you decide? Like, I got these great options. I'm in the social work program as well, and I got these great options. And how do I decide which one? And I'm just like, you can't really lose. If they are all great options and they're all in your field, you have everything to gain really, right? So don't let that angst dictate your maneuvers or it just takes so much of your time. 

Sometimes we operate in that analysis paralysis phase, and we're just stuck, and then we find ourselves, like, stuck in the friction for an hour, and then we find ourselves exhausted. We haven't even moved a muscle. Right? But it's all been internal and exhausting our internal resources. And so sometimes you just have to move and let the environment speak to you and let the experience speak to you. You have to pause as well and just really reflect, and be critical of what's happening. Find critical spaces that have energy that protects you as well, it has your best interests at hand.  And so when talking about , just because I find a black therapist doesn't mean that's great. You know, I mean, I was doing a presentation the other day and a woman said all skin folk aren't kinfolk, right? But she was really saying, you know,  just because you're black doesn't mean you don't carry biases. Right? You know, that doesn't mean you're not harboring something about women. Women are as valuable or folks with less ability aren't as valuable. So you could be dangerous? 

And so it is appropriate to pause and examine what's transpiring in your life and just know that you can't do it on your own. You do need a team. You need an energy source to plug into. And I think that's what was hard for a lot of folks, over these last two years, particularly folks of color who have moved from out of region. There were a lot of institutions I was working with where people were like, I'm from Georgia. Yeah, I'm from here. And I got people calling me from all over the world. And they were like, international folks, like, are you okay? What's happening in Minneapolis?  You gotta get out of there. They were genuinely concerned about their well-being, and they felt it, too. Like I just don't even feel safe at work. I don't know who to trust. I'm an attorney here and one of the only. And they say they're here for me and that I'm just conflicted. And so some folks have moved back home, you know, they arrange with their jobs to protect their safety. And so I think it's critical, you know, to examine what you have going on, but also find a supportive community for you. And that's going to look funny sometimes, it's going to look like that dudes’ kind of different. 

Gary Green [00:20:12] Especially when you're a transplant. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:20:15] Absolutely. Because you know the rules of engagement for where you're from. And then your nervous system is tapped. You're in a new environment, right? It's overworked. And so you're entering the threat realm. And depending on your history, you might have a trauma of folks that I just can't trust. You know what I mean? That's your go to. So yeah, I would offer all of that, just try to find a space that gives you life, you know what I mean? And helps you to make those decisions. It's important to process that with other people. 

And then just going through the journey, you're going to find great options. And that's really what I did. I was in a school system and I had seen the disparities there. And I realized, you know what, the next step for graduate school is to become a therapist and to ensure that I can obstruct this consistent,  80%, 90% of kids in detention centers. 80%, 90% of black kids are in special education. And I'm like, okay, I got to get in there. I got to be one of the ones who do the evaluations to determine whether or not that kid comes back. And then, going through that, I realized, oh my God, this is a tsunami, right? This one black man is not going to weather this storm. And I felt my spirit just feeling like it was ruptured. I had to tap out, and it was hard because me being there sometimes meant kids weren't getting sent home and they were more engaged in school. But again my body couldn't weather that. 

Gary Green [00:21:33] Yeah. I think it just speaks to the weight of what we're up against in school systems. And I mean, in every social system in this country, virtually. So, I'm gonna step back now because I can, this can go on for days, because you're calling out a lot of my own experience. But, I want to invite Justin because Justin has some really good questions that are more specific to even vocational discernment and really this idea of what's my part in trying to figure out how do I fit into the work of social justice more broadly? You know, and so anyway, Justin, I'm gonna kick it to you and let you kind of. Yeah. 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:22:17] Thank you. Gary.  I was thinking about what you're saying that when people sort of face that paralysis around vocation of like, which is the right path, you know, and I think part of what I hear you saying is there could be more than one right path and there's more than one way our life could go, and they could all be right on the work of justice. And I think it's so valuable that you name that and lift that up. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:22:42] Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, just to add, I would just say in the experience, sometimes you have environments or institutions that make you feel some sort of way. Right? They can determine like, oh, your evaluation says you didn't perform so well, or you get no evaluation which really is conflicting because you're like, I have no idea what I'm doing. Right? And people are walking around here. I think they're judging me, but I don't know. So what am I working from? And oftentimes what I would tell my clients to do is really you've gotta look at it like a thermostat in a place that might have a broken mechanism in it. Right? It's not reading the temperature right. And so oftentimes we all carry a negative bias and we rate ourselves lower than what we really are. And so it's really just knowing that you are more in that regard because knowing that, okay, all of us have a negative bias. 

Oftentimes our institutions are strapped with resources. They don't have the ability to really inform me how well I am doing or not. They don't really have a resource to uplift me if I need uplifting. And then stepping through that or just like, I'm not going to settle for this anymore, right? I need something more. I can't exist in this. I'm not going to be handcuffed to the pension. And to all these other beautiful things that seem essential and allow that to hinder my exploration into what the world has to offer. And so every time I've done that, there's been two important times that I've done that where I thought I was going to take a deduction and pay by like five grand, and I ended up coming out on the better end, where I feel like God was like, yeah, here you go. I'm going to reward you for taking a step into the unknown. And it was like, oh, I'm getting like ten grand plus and I get my summers off, right? So I can't lose. What was I thinking? Why did I wait so long? 

And then again, I was just like, in those moments, I feel like they give you momentum because you step through the fire and you're like oh, that wasn't so bad. I can do this again. And then every time you get stronger. And the last time was leaving a school setting and I was just like, I just can't keep doing this. And it was a sweet deal. I got my master's degree, pay increased by 15,000, and had, like, virtually no responsibility. But I am really social justice oriented. I wanted things to change. I wanted to bring about some stuff. And oftentimes you have institutions that are just trying to maintain the status quo. And you almost get penalized for having innovative thoughts and notions right? And so I was just like, I'm being suffocated. I'm not doing anything. I have great resources. And I'm like, I can't. So I stepped through that and I found so many unique experiences, sitting down with you guys like this today. Right. I worked with Allina Health. We did a film together with young kids. Like, I’ve just been all over doing unique things that I didn't even know these jobs existed. Institutions of course are making you do therapy. Can you do therapy for our business? I'm like, I've never heard of you. Like, what organization is this? Right. Oh, we're corporate, we'll take care of everything. It's about 350 for you, maybe. And usually my corporate- We got the corporate rate. We'll take care of you, a thousand dollars an hour. I'm like a thousand an hour, like. Unbelievable things. You know what I mean? And you will never know until you take that leap of faith. 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:25:33] How do we know what our part is in the larger system? Because not only do we need a team for ourselves in order to be able to do this work, but we're also fitting into a larger picture. I was thinking about this in terms of something I'm teaching in one of my classes, talking about, you know, adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategy, where she talks about fractals. And the things that we do on this really small scale actually can resonate on a much larger scale. So I wonder if you could comment about, like, you know, how does that small fit into the larger group? Or, you know, how do we know where we fit into the bigger picture of social justice when the work we're doing is here?  

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:26:13] Right. It's very difficult because I think many of us, you know, come out very ambitious, with limited experience and so don't really know. You know, schools can hype us up, making us think like we can take on the world. And then we get out and start dealing with the practical. Dealing with practical as opposed to theoretical. And, we get out in the world and we're like, woah, like, you know, my boss is incompetent to a degree, like he just survived the system and they just put him in the place and he just manages things, and you know what I mean? Like, he doesn't really know how to work with kids or whatever the case might be. And so, you know, I was thinking about this actually just last night. I struggle in a personal facet sometimes with the family. I think we all do. Right. And so I got this aunt who is very giving and caring and also annoyed, like, you know, she just does a lot. I asked you not to bring all this stuff to my house for Thanksgiving. Like why? Like, please take this with you. And in having to do constant cognitive reframing of just like, look, she's trying to help, right? It might be a call for help, you know, to a degree. 

And so I had this realization the other night, like, so she's in the process of, like, she tries to find crafty ways to be involved with my daughter who is four. But it's like I, you know, I don't talk to my mom every day. Like, I don't even have the time and energy and capacity to, like, really be to give you that and realizing that, you know, her wanting to be present, her making food for you on a regular basis, like that's how you might be saving her life, you know what I mean? Like, it seems like it's a small thing. It's very obnoxious, it seems. But when I reframe it and look at it like, wow, just accepting some food from my mom, right? Or taking a call, don't hit the decline button, but, like, actually just five minutes is like, you know, she just likes to go. Yeah, she's the type that if she doesn't give you an opportunity to speak cause she's afraid that you might say, all right, I gotta go. So she'll just keep talking. But sometimes just giving them that outlet because that's really what they're saying I need. Right. And so I think those little moments are critical. And sometimes we just have to reframe and take a step back, pause, breathe and just say, what are they needing right now? I feel like they need something. Right. And so what bucket are they coming from? Is it from love or are they just calling for help? Yeah. So just really examining that. 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:28:33] Yeah. And also wondering how do you see the work that you do as a therapist impacting within the larger systems in which we, in which folks function? 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:28:41] Yeah. It's often in my experience, just personally going to therapy, what I notice is it gives you greater capacity. Sitting down with a therapist, particularly one that really meshes with you well. If they understand your marginalized sort of experience. I think it's helpful for them to process with you. And like I said, it can grow your internal and external capacity to take on more and you'll feel happier with yourself.  

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:29:09] Yeah, I've certainly experienced that as a queer person. Yeah. Someone you don't have to explain that to. We can start at a different spot in the conversation for sure. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:29:17] And on top of that, then you begin to challenge your system, right? You begin to say, you know what queer person like black person like who? You are not meeting our needs here at this point. You keep speaking over me. Or every time x, y and Z happens, I get taken advantage of. Every time a person who is of this status, you want me to come speak because I speak the language. So you begin to speak for yourself. And then the system around you begins to shift. So it's not just you, right? You know, it's the environment too. Yeah, absolutely. 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:29:49] You know, one of the aspects I talk about around white supremacy culture is this notion of individualism. Both a pull myself up by my bootstraps but also like I got to do it all myself, right? And, you know, we know this arises as a feature of white culture, but it's also not limited to white people. We are all sort of stewing in the same mess. Right. You know, so that and on the other hand, there can be the pressure in the community, like you're a good social justice activist, if you ignore your needs yourself. You know, you throw everything into the community, on the other hand. Both of those sort of forms of, like, have to do it all myself, right? If I'm going to be a good social justice activist. How do we move it beyond this place of sort of either letting go of ourselves or thinking only in individual terms, moving into a way that's more healthy and sustainable ways of working for the common good. You know, how do we move to that place of sort of deep service, but also caring for self and community? 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:30:47] Yeah, it's a difficult question in the sense of we're wrestling with so much. So much is pulling at us, you know, so much, you know, social media, and just so many people pulling for your energy and your attention, your resource. And it's just, you know, I pause partially because as I hear you speak, so many things run through my head and how we take on these narratives, like you said, right? We've been conditioned to believe this is true. Like I feel it in my system. You have to step up for yourself. I see it show up in my relationship. Like, stop babying me. I got my daughter this morning. Like she's crying, like I'm sorry. Don't be sorry. Like I got it. Stop trying to help me. Stop trying to take care of me. My wife, literally, like, I remember like her trying to rub my back and console me as I'm almost shedding tears in grad school because, again, I'm entering this new space where I feel like I can't take it off. You know, she's like, it's okay. And then I get like, my reaction was like, get off of me, right? That's the magnitude of the condition, right? And in addition to that, we have experiences. 

When I hear you speak, I'm hearing like she's from farm country Minnesota. Right. So in a rural environment where we have some of those, you work hard and there's this alignment with like liberals don't work hard enough. Like what? What is this. And also that sort of mentality or the conditioning cripples us too. So then now we have folks who are like, I'm not going to get vaccinated because, you know, this is what is said. And like, literally there's folks who work in my wife's father's farming industry who have died because they're like, what's the OSHA policy? I'm not getting vaccinated. If I have to get vaccinated, I'm quitting. Right. And they don't get vaccinated. And literally like one gentleman 35 years old died, had three children left behind, a wife with no work, two special needs kids. Another gentleman also didn't want to get vaccinated and his lungs were fried. So he's in his 30s or mid 30s and he's carrying around like the respirator deal. Because we take on these principles. And the same happens with guns and adoption of not taking on universal health care. I don't need that. Right. I'm not going to support that. It's associated with supporting people who are in marginalized communities, and I'm not going to support them. Yeah, they need to take care of themselves. And literally there was a quote, from a gentleman, in this rural environment that said, he said, I don't want to support welfare queens and Mexicans. Right. And so I'm not voting for universal health care. And what they found is in those pockets of places where folks didn't vote for those things, that your lifespan was shortened by three weeks, like, literally. Right. And so when we take on these notions that we don't really critically examine and then try to ensure that it's true. So if you believe that if you pull yourselves up by your bootstraps, don't you have the obligation to ensure that's true? Don't you have the obligation to ensure that everybody has an opportunity to make that happen, or are you just, you know, blowing smoke? Yeah. And so that's what I think. 

Gary Green [00:33:57] But how do you balance, how do you keep the balance between ambition? And I'm asking you this as someone who is also a young black man in this country, and is conditioned in some of the same ways that you described and is trying to actually continually work out of that conditioning from feeling like you, you know, my dad always used to say, you gotta work twice as hard to get the same job. He would say, son, you gotta know how to play the game, right? All these things that I know you've heard. 

And so how do you balance the ambition that you feel when you finally begin to value yourself and finally begin to make sense of the world and start to identify these niches in these creative ideas or these creative spaces in society where we can actually make a change and step into that without inadvertently going headlong into this kind of this neoliberal capitalist fantasy that you can just do it all, you know? I'm just, especially for those listeners who might come from marginalized experience and who might also actively be working on owning their voice, owning their body, owning their position in public. And you know, how do we take caution not to try to do too much? 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:35:25] Yeah. No, I mean, yeah, you're right. It is a lot to take on too, especially young folks, not to take on too much. We often find ourselves taking on too much, and we get burnt up and we fry ourselves. And that's a part of the process, right? You have to go in and explore what's going on. You have to explore these different avenues. And I think you have to do your own research and you have to be critical of the messages that you're receiving, which is hard when you have, if you're conditioned in an environment that is really hard on you, putting that on you. And while our family and our friends have our best interest in some cases, like my mom and them used to tell me the same thing. Like, you got to work a thousand times harder just to get an opportunity. You know, you may not even get the job, but you just get the opportunity, right? And or having harsh experiences of not being able to be a child either. Whereas like they would smack you because and say like you can't do that. You can't do that, right?  They'll arrest, they'll kill you, they'll do this to you. And or I better give you a whopping because of that. If I don't get you, they'll get, you know what? So that's kind of our conditioning and what it does to your nervous system. And so I just truly believe you have to be critical of a lot of things and do your research because we are just taking things for face value, a lot of times. 

I think it was, goodness, Cornel West that said, we are like the most anti academic sort of society. Like we don't want to like, dig much further than a quote on Instagram or like, you know, like, oh, that sounds good. Yep. That's true. That's right. And we believe things to be a certain way. And we don't really, you know, back it and prove it and disprove it. And even when it's our face. And so I remember conversing with someone from my wife's community that, you know, tried to ask about, like, you know, why do black folks, they got to be brave and courageous. A lot of black folks vote so, why are they so devoted to the Liberal Party? And later in that conversation, after exploring some of that nonsense, what came up was like, I think I asked like, well, why do folks in this industry support so many folks in this way? And they got to like, why, they don't want to vote for folks. It was something about not supporting black folks. They believe that black folks aren't working hard in the community, not working at all. And I'm like, well, why don't you take the experience that you're having? You know my family, like you've seen every one of my family having master's degrees or degrees and working. Like, you know that. So you can dispel that myth. Right. 

And so we have to really address our biases that are so strong, right? And oftentimes reinforced by our environments. And it's hard because many of us are scared to step out of having no support. Right. And so, culture gives you belonging. And so culture often can bring us to a state that's not healthy for us. I will die for this, right? I will not get vaccinated. I will not, because I'm honoring this institution. Right. Honoring what supports me and same in the other sense. Right. This is a poor example but I'm not going to snitch on somebody in my community for doing some harm in this community, because this is the community. This is all I have.  And so, again, it's the bravery of stepping through it and being like, that's not true and challenging and finding other people to support you in that narrative too. So you're not isolated, not alone. Because that's really what it comes down to. We don't want to be by ourselves, right? 

Gary Green [00:38:53] Right. At a fundamental human level. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:38:57] Yeah. And you hear it all the time in like domestic situations, you know, which are at an all time high with Covid. People are stuck at home. You know, I don't have anywhere else to go. Nobody loves me. You're the only one. You know what I mean? We hear that narrative. And so we all want belonging. 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:39:14] What advice would you give for folks who are, you know, they're passionate about social justice and doing social justice work, right?  I mean, part of our thing is, you know, we need people to embark on a lifetime of fulfilling social justice activism. So you gain experience and apply that experience to a movement. That we should thrive in the movements. What advice would you give for listeners who are passionate about social justice? What sets people up for, you know, for a long time, meaningful, fulfilling life in doing the work that we're doing right? I mean, I know many of us have gotten this. We're all still working on how to do that, just like we can. 

Gary Green [00:39:54] Collect the wisdom. 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:39:56] Together. That's right. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:39:58] Well, I just think it's just not pretty. I mean, saying the word social justice sounds sweet. You know what I mean? Just like a lot of the lingo that we utilize just sounds real pretty and smooth and is really this far from the truth. And so I think part of that balance, like I often carry and I think that the way you talk about your narrative, you carry as well in trying to balance multiple different narratives and experiences and settings. I think it's really important to get that balance for yourself. And so, like, so my wife and I, we own a couple properties. We, I should say we're paying our mortgage. Like, I don't like when people say owning. Right. And so we have a couple mortgages, and we're fortunate enough to have a tenant in each. And we've always, for our whole marriage, always had people stay with us and help pay the mortgage and things of that nature. And I just always notice the experience of when you don't own it, you don't care for it as much. And I think that's also what's dangerous sometimes with existing in certain institutions and jobs to take care of these things, you don't have to think about. You talked about sports. When I was an athlete, they had the rent taken care of for you. You don't have to worry about a bill. You didn't see one piece of paper. I didn't even know how to apply. I'm working with an NFL player right now in therapy. And it's just like, I'm like an infant. Like I'm out of that world now, right? And now I'm in the real world, and I am at that stage one, which is hard if you've been a professional. 

Gary Green [00:41:22] Especially if everybody just bends to you while you're on the team. Don't get me started. Right. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:41:29]  And my grandfather kind of conditioned me from an early stage to is just like, you know, a pat on the back is inches away from a kick in the A double letters. Like he was always like you just gotta stay, you know, in the middle for the most part. And so, like, even after games, I would like, pick up, make sure I pick up after the other guys. I wouldn't let the managers do it. I'd be like I'll pick up the other guys' clothing. You know, just always try to have a balanced perspective. And like I said, with the ownership, I just see like folks who were just careless with things. I just think, so who's going to take responsibility for when you spill this or your dog pees on the carpet like you just think that, oh, like somebody has to pay the price, right? You know what I mean? 

And so I think it's critical that we get into the middle, into the balance and challenge some of this like thinking it's so sweet because it's really not sweet. There's always a price to be paid. And that's what capitalism is. It's always- someone is going to pay. And so when I talk about the history of marginalized populations bearing the brunt of much of this, you know what I mean? That's what I was, that's where you have two unhealthy populations, people who have been on the receiving end of trauma, people who've also been getting secondary trauma from watching it and thinking they're reaping benefits. But really, you're setting up a life that's not sustainable. Yeah, right. 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:42:40] Can I ask one more question?

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:42:42] Yeah. 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:42:48] If it's not sustainable. You know, you talked about the importance of transformative work. Can you articulate what your vision of that transformed space looks like? What is a space in which we're thriving?

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:43:02] Yeah I mean I think it's wrestling through the mud. You know what I mean. Really coming to the table and setting down, you know, armor to really process through things on a human level. But I think it's difficult when you operate a game. Like I said, if your trauma is being triggered or if you've been conditioned in a certain way, I think those are the two biggest components that prevent us from really connecting with one another. Because if I walk into a space and my nervous system is activated, it's going to be really hard for me to engage. And that's often what happens in various different settings. I walk in and then, you know, my preconceived notions are coming up. Right. It's going to some of my scholars, institutions and I'm grown and I've been through a lot of, you know, I've healed, and I walk in and I'm like, man, I don't feel like I belong here. I start to feel like I can't walk right. Am I walking right? Am I speaking good? You know what I mean? And so, yeah. Again, I lost my train of thought in the question, but I think it's wrestling through the minutiae. 

But we have to figure out how to settle our bodies and really process through our stuff. And we really have to honor the reality of things. And I think that's what's really difficult, because many of us don't have to face the reality. Many of us don't even put ourselves in a position and that's part of the privilege, you know? Yeah. So, as a male, I didn't. As a black man, I used to often lean into the black experience, which has been hard, for most folks in the nation. And I lost sight of the multifaceted aspect of my being, where I also am a male. And so I don't have to worry about whether I should sleep on the first floor. I like, can I get on a higher floor in a hotel because I don't want somebody breaking through my window and doing something? Or I can walk up to, you know, to the corner store and grab some candy at 2:00 in the morning. And I'm not really like, oh, somebody's going to come in and sexually assault me, right? I mean, and so we have to really take ownership of what we have, and can really balance the scales, if you will. Yeah. 

Gary Green [00:45:01] So I'll ask one more question to riff off of that one. But, I just deeply appreciate this conversation. This has been good. It's taking me back also. So thank you so much for being willing to share some of your story with us, for allowing the listeners into your story as well, in terms of where you are fulfilling your part in this grand work. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:45:27] For sure. You got something? 

Justin Sabia-Tanis [00:45:29] I was going to say we have such respect for the ways in which the work, the healing work that you're doing in communities and the transformative possibilities for human life in this space here. So, you know, I just wanted to thank you for the work you're doing in sharing it with us today. 

Jamil Stamschror-Lott [00:45:43] Yeah. One other piece I would add with the whole balancing thing. So, like, owning a business also has given me a new perspective, too. And so, like, where I look at, it's hard having a business that seems social justice oriented, which it is. We care deeply about people. We want them to be healed, to be well, right. So then we can all just be better with one another in our presence, right? So I could be around my aunt and not be frustrated and yell at her, snap on her, and then just be regretting my interactions, right? And when owning a business, you also see, like, again, somebody has to pay the costs. Like who's going to pay the price? It costs a price for me to do therapy with somebody. Right. Some people charge up to $400, which is insane. And, you know, down to 70 and so on. And if I have an employee, right, and they have so many clients or don't have so many clients, like how is that going to get paid for? If I'm going to do therapy for you, how's it going to get paid for? And so we experienced, this is hard with offering free therapy. A lot of people suggest you don't offer anything for free because people don't value it as much. So we have some clients that just missed sessions, right? Yeah. Okay. So who's going to pay for that? Right. If you have, if you're a therapist and you start seeing, you know, enough clientele to pay for your position, then I got to cut you. So I got to cut your role because we can't take on this bleeding. And so how does that look? So how do you balance that? I think that's what we're talking about, wellness and these two different realms of reality is like I can't afford to pay $5,000 extra every month because you're not bringing it in. Yeah. Or how are we going to pay for or get the healing for folks when there's no resources? 

Gary Green [00:47:20] So I think that's super helpful too. Just because when, you know, as you talk about how social justice sounds pretty. Yeah. And it's very near to a lot of people's hearts, like it's born from a place of deep desire for how you envision and hope to see the world. And oftentimes, because a lot of that work comes through nonprofit and specific avenues of non profit. I just appreciate the invitation to learn business. You know what I mean? Because unfortunately, the world, the reality we live in in this country, it is very business center and capitalism is around it. So, I would just add on to that. And just from hearing you is just appreciating the value of learning the businesses, learning how things work and fit together, especially economically. Because that's so central to the interworking of this social reality as a whole. Right. So I just yeah, I want to lift it up for listeners. And what resonated with me is that you just appreciate it. Well, this concludes our conversation. Thank you again, Jamil. And, yeah, this has been rich. Yeah.