C4 Innovations

Racial Equity & Recovery

An episode of “Changing the Conversation” podcast

Daryl McGraw, Livia Davis, and host Kristen Paquette discuss the need for equitable access to treatment and recovery supports and share strategies for addressing racism and racial equity in the recovery community.

September 28, 2020


Kristen Paquette, Host: [00:05] Hello, and welcome to Changing the Conversation. I’m your host for today, Kristen Paquette, CEO at C4 Innovations. I’m so grateful to be here today with Daryl McGraw and Livia Davis, two colleagues who are deeply committed to making recovery more accessible to those who need it. Our conversation today will focus on racial equity and recovery, and what needs to change in order to ensure that Black and Brown people, and others who are marginalized by racism and discrimination have equitable access to treatment and recovery supports.

Kristen: [00:36] To share a little bit more about our guests, Daryl McGraw is a certified addictions counselor, recovery support specialist and criminal justice professional who focuses on supporting people experiencing addiction and overcoming obstacles upon release from prison. He was previously a program director for the Yale University Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Office of Recovery Community Affairs for Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Daryl, welcome.

Daryl McGraw, Guest: [1:02] Thank you. Thank you, thank you for having me. Awesome, I’m glad to be here.

Kristen: [1:06] Livia Davis is the Chief Learning Officer at C4, and brings more than 25 years of leadership, management and social work experience, working in homeless services, supportive housing, recovery communities, primary and behavioral healthcare, and residential treatment. At C4, she has led many of C4’s recovery support initiatives, including SAMHSA’s Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Strategy, our work on SAMHSA’s Opioid Response Network, and the Together In Recovery Initiative with RIZE Massachusetts, among others. Livia, thanks for joining us today.

Livia Davis, Guest: [1:37] Thank you so much, it’s a pleasure.

Kristen: [1:39] For our conversation today, we find ourselves in Recovery Month 2020, in the midst of an incredibly difficult year for our country, from COVID to racial injustice, political unrest. Daryl, as a person in long term recovery, what does Recovery Month usually mean to you and others in the recovery community, and maybe how is it different this year?

Daryl: [2:01] Recovery Month is usually something that I celebrate. We go all out, we do the walks, we do everything. Everything’s about recovery, I’m invited to numerous events. But 2020 for everybody, has been a difficult year, and especially those of us that are in recovery. We’re asked to stay in the house, me being a person in long term recovery, staying in the house is probably difficult for me and many other people actually, because I was a person that got high by myself. So being alone, I’m probably in bad company.

Daryl: [2:32] But from looking at the landscape between COVID and the racial injustices that are happening in the country, you’re seeing more and more Black and Brown people killed every day on live TV, it’s a real struggle. It’s hard to celebrate success in recovery, when we’re seeing people that look like me killed every day. So it’s a difficult time to be in a celebratory mood. More so it’s a time of sadness, it’ll probably be one of the Recovery Months I remember the most.

Kristen: [3:00] Thank you so much for sharing that Daryl. Livia, any other observations to add about Recovery Month this year?

Livia: [3:07] I think Recovery Month has taken on an additional significance this year because of the national activities and happenings that you just discussed. We are hearing that many communities have taken additional steps to be more inclusive in their celebrations, but also to look at how do we make sure that if we can’t meet in person, how do we do it online?

Kristen: [3:39] So you’ve both mentioned how central the conversation and the focus has become around racial injustice. And some of the anti-racist efforts that are happening across the country and even in the recovery community right now, which I find encouraging and worth celebrating during Recovery Month, despite all the hard stuff that you both mentioned.

Kristen: [4:02] It’s encouraging, but it’s also long overdue. Really no system or community in the US has been immune to racism in recent decades and centuries, including the substance use treatment and recovery systems. I’m curious if you both could talk a little bit more about what you’ve observed over the years, in recent conversations about how systemic and interpersonal racism have played out for people who are in recovery, or maybe would like to be in recovery, but haven’t had access. What does that look like, how does it play out?

Livia: [4:34] From research, we know that Black and Latino persons in particular, are found to encounter greater barriers to accessing and completing, and having satisfactory experiences with substance use treatment than white persons. For example, research shows that Latino persons using heroin were only 75% as likely as White Americans to complete a treatment episode. And research shows that Black Americans were 69% as likely as White Americans to complete substance use treatment across all types of all substances.

Livia: [5:07] This research has also been confirmed by treatment and recovery providers that we have worked with, along with information and stories that confirm that Black, Indigenous and Latino persons are disproportionately vulnerable to the negative consequences associated with a substance misuse. Which really includes involvement with the criminal justice system, greater morbidity and mortality, and violence. So the message that we are getting is that to limit the negative consequences associated with substance misuse, we must change our behavior health systems to ensure that Black and Latino persons can access and complete substance abuse treatment.

Daryl: [5:48] Right. I agree. I agree with a lot of what Livia said, but also number one, Black and Brown people have been an afterthought when it comes to recovery services for a long time. I grew up in the crack epidemic, I’m a survivor of mass incarceration. There was a period and a time when I was going through my cycle, before I got to recovery, programs weren’t being offered, prison was being offered. So we were being offered prison sentences over recovery.

Daryl: [6:20] Then when I got into recovery field, I’m a certified addiction counselor, and I started going to treatment facilities and I was seeing them 80, 90% white. So I was like, “Wow,” and personally I started to personalize this, because I was like, “Man, I remember being in front of a judge, begging for treatment, begging for a program.” So a lot of times we don’t even have… the programs aren’t even an option. It starts with the criminal justice system.

Daryl: [6:43] We talk about economics, we’ve only to a short amount of time, we’re going to open this up. I’m hoping we have this conversation again because we need to talk about it from the economic perspective, we don’t have the insurance. I just tried to get a guy into treatment the other day, and basically he was a PCP user, but we had to… Many of the people who are listening will know about, you had to say that his alcohol use was more prevalent. That was primary, where PCP was, but they wouldn’t take him unless it was alcohol or heroin. And that’s discriminatory, because crack and PCP are more inner city, more urban drug use. That is not identified as a way to get into treatment, that’s not a pathway into treatment.

Daryl: [7:28] So I think we need to look at the whole scope, especially starting with criminal justice. Talk about how do you engage urban people, how do you get people with lack of resources into treatment?

Kristen: [7:39] Livia and Daryl, you’ve both named so much in just a couple of minutes that you’re right Daryl, it would take a long time to unpack. I do hope you’ll come back for more podcast conversations so we can keep going on some of these threads, but I just want to underline a few things that came up in your comments. One is you’re pointing back Daryl to the so-called war on drugs, which in many ways set up the current situation that we find ourselves in with mass incarceration, which was extremely disproportionately aimed at communities of color, and continues to be so.

Kristen: [8:11] Also just recognizing the impact of all the systems and sources of oppression that contribute to this lack of access to recovery support. I think it’s got to be incredibly frustrating for you and other recovery advocates of color to see this awakening around, “Oh, there’s racism happening here.” But it didn’t start today, and it didn’t start in treatment and recovery systems, it’s in all these systems, and that’s all of what needs to be addressed systematically.

Kristen: [8:38] Just for our listeners who may be newer to the conversation around racial equity and anti-racism efforts. Livia, you mentioned some really staggering statistics that point to disproportionality in terms of access to treatment and recovery and positive outcomes. Could you just describe briefly, what are we talking about when we say disproportionality in the context of a racial equity initiative?

Livia: [9:00] Disproportionality to me means that if you look at all people that would like to access treatment, behavior health support, recovery support, across all communities, people of color and Black communities are less likely to be able to access treatment, access recovery supports, access community resources than White Americans. Not only are they not able to access the same types of services, but they’re also less likely to be able to complete treatment or receive supports when they are able to access them. That has to do with some of the institutional racism, the foundation of many of our institutions and our structures that are racist in their structure. They are built, they were founded on really the need of White people, and so communities and people of color and Black Americans are less likely to feel welcome in those systems, or less likely to be able to access services in a way that respects their background and their cultural identity and the racial identity that they have.

Livia: [10:30] So that’s when we talk about the disproportionality in Black communities and communities of color being able to access and complete treatment.

Kristen: [10:40] Thanks Livia. It also brings to mind a conversation that we’ve heard a lot in recent years around the opioid crisis and the opioid response, and the reason that there’s been billions of federal dollars poured into addressing opioid abuse disorders. Because it’s known to be more of a white problem than perhaps some issues like Daryl was naming, like the crack epidemic in the ’80’s. That is certainly true. Even so, when we dig into the data in a lot of communities, there’s the disproportionality that you’re naming where for the number of people of color in any given community, more will be negatively affected by opioid use disorder than should be if we’re just looking at street distribution of demographics and things like that. So it’s kind of even hidden in some ways in terms of how folks talk about it and think about it, and that’s why it’s so critical to have these conversations.

Kristen: [11:35] As we recognize, and begin to reckon with these different types of racism in the recovery community, how are you seeing the conversation change?

Livia: [11:47] Previous to 2020, most of the health and behavior health and recovery stakeholders that we would talk to agreed that implicit beliefs, those beliefs that we have internally that are implicit, really frame white identities as the norm, and in many ways frame white identities as superior. Those implicit beliefs were persistent in many of the conversations that we had. What that means is that for many White people, the fact that the US society generally expect explicit forms of racial discrimination meant that they didn’t look at other forms of oppression and racism, that we didn’t have to look at that as much because we agreed that as long as explicit forms of racism weren’t occurring, then in a way we had “done our job” as White Americans, as White people.

Livia: [12:45] In 2020, we are seeing a seismic shift in people wanting to understand systemic racism, institution racism, and the mental models, and the implicit beliefs that serve as the foundation of systemic racism. That’s a really positive thing that’s coming out of 2020, which has been so challenging, in so many ways, for so many people. So people are starting to read and learn, and having conversations to understand definitions, and what is racism, how’s it different than racial equity, what is systemic racism, what is white privilege, and what exactly does racial identity really mean.

Livia: [13:25] People are starting to really want to know how to engage in productive conversations around racism, and they’re asking how to develop a roadmap to meet the needs of Black, Indigenous and Latino people served in the agencies. So that’s extremely positive to see this change, and what people are struggling with a lot as I said is how do I have these conversations.

Daryl: [13:47] Yeah, I agree Livia, thank you. I’m happy to be a part of this conversation. Coming from my lens though, the change is happening but it’s been small. It’s not something that we should be patting ourselves on the back about, it’s not something that we should be super… I mean happy that we’re having it, but what we don’t look at is that there’s a lot of things that coincide with this. Number one, I’d be remiss not to mention trauma. The effects of trauma. So when Black and Brown people who come from urban environments enter facilities, they’re not only just struggling with drug addition, they’re also struggling with trauma. Lingering in urban environments where a lot of things, violence and poverty and being poor.

Daryl: [14:28] That poverty plays into getting a ride to treatment. Just getting a ride. The expectation that that person can get a ride to treatment. Or they can… one of the guys, a particular individual I was working with. He finished detox, so they called me, which I’m not a family member, and said, “Hey, can you get him to this treatment facility now, because he doesn’t have transportation and there is no transportation set up.” So if I don’t bring him, and someone doesn’t, like his family members don’t drive two hours to bring him across the bridge, he doesn’t get the further treatment that he needs. So that’s one thing, whereas other people with means can, “Oh yeah, I’ll bring Joey wherever you want. I can fly Joey to Florida, I can do this,” because they have the means. So that’s one thing.

Daryl: [15:12] But when we start to talk about, it’s interesting to see the shift that you asked about, is having organizations have these conversations. But it’s more than just having the conversations, it’s more than just having a meal during Black History Month. It’s about inviting people of color to the table, Indigenous people, inviting them to the table and saying, “What are your needs?” We need to stop trying to address the needs of people and we’re not those people that are in need. The people that are closest to the problem are closest to the solution. It’s simple math. But we continuously allow the top down, this is what we need, we’re going to be culturally competent, when you don’t have any Black people on your executive board. You don’t even have one Black councilor, and now all of the sudden your organization is culturally competent. That’s not the way it works. It doesn’t work like that.

Daryl: [15:59:] Even when we look at from the state level, where I worked in the state system, because of the criminal record and background checks, and I’m sure people appreciate this, is that that prevents a lot of people of color, like myself, who were in this mass incarceration, crack epidemic and all that, degrees and all, prevents them from getting into that kind of system. I had to come through the back door, and there were many doors that were opened for me so it wasn’t really state service, and a whole different conversation. And then when I, someone like me, it’s almost like tokenism because you’re the only one there. So there’s not even someone that I can bounce stuff off. So all the Black people want to talk to you, all the Black and Brown people want to talk to you because you can “relate.”

Daryl: [16:50] Why aren’t we, we’re not addressing those issues, and there’s so much more. But I think that you know, I just want to make sure that we acknowledge the fact that when you come through those doors from an urban environment versus a suburban environment, your Black and Brown issues are a lot different. Trauma’s a major issue that we’re not focusing on, so if we’re only focusing on the drugs, alcohol, all the behavior addiction, we’re only touching the surface and we’re really not helping those individuals that need true help. Why am I using? Stop asking me what’s wrong with me, and ask me what happened to me.

Livia: [17:26] I think so much of what you’re saying Daryl is just spot on and so right. A lot of the conversations we’ve been having with folks, especially White Americans or people who are white who are in leadership positions, having the uncomfortable conversations is one important step. We’re also really encouraging people to say, at the same time, you really need to think about taking action. For a lot of the recovery community stakeholders we’re talking to, recovery principle, one of the foundational ones is, “Nothing about us without us.” Extending that key principle to really look at addressing racism is in a way a natural next step.

Livia: [18:15] But because the conversation is so tough, people are not always having it. So one way to leapfrog, if you will, some of these conversations, is just what you’re saying, is making the commitment to have people most affected by the problem be at the table where the decisions are made about solutions and policies and resources. And we are seeing natural resistance to some of that to begin with, because it also means that people who are white who are in leadership positions may have to look at themselves and saying, “Should I step off the board, should I not be in these leadership position in order to make room for somebody else?” Those are hard conversations, and it’s important to have them, and it’s important to take action.

Livia: [19:04] Again, what I love about the recovery movement is that that’s a foundational principle, and we really hope that people will build on that, truly extend it to include Black Americans and communities of color, and Latino and Indigenous people.

Daryl: [19:20] Just to add. You know it’s interesting. And one of the things I’m hearing are a common theme from Black and Brown people, is what we would like our White counterparts to do is listen. We don’t want you to try to compare, we don’t want you to try to figure this out for us. Just listen. Just listen. We want you to listen. It’s interesting, it brings me back to I’m a 12 Stepper. Of course we believe in multiple pathways, but I’m a 12 Stepper, that’s what worked for me. So in early 12 Step, they would tell people shut up, get a seat and be quiet. And if this movement is to really move in a way that we’re all culturally competent… sometimes we need to shut up, get a seat and listen. Because then you’ll hear.

Daryl: [20:09] It’s not a fix. Like sometimes in relationships, you just want your partner to hear you. You don’t want them to fix it, you just want them to hear you. I think that a lot of times what we’re having a problem with is we’re not being heard. As soon as we start talking, people just say, “Oh, well we need to…” No, just chill. Let me tell you, let me tell you what the problem is, and then let’s together, figure out what the issues are. Man, I love this conversation, and thank you for inviting me, it’s always a pleasure to be on with Livia anyways, so thank you.

Kristen: [20:43] It’s so interesting to me that you both named some pillars in the recovery community, recovery traditions that could be both strengths and I think potential liabilities in how some of this initial interest in driving racial equity forward could play out. It seems that there should be a lot of strengths within the recovery community to build on, given the roots of anti-oppression, self-determination, mutuality and inclusion and things like that, that could be built upon with a very explicit anti-racism and racial equity framework.

Kristen: [21:21] I’m curious if anything else comes to mind along those lines. Daryl, thinking about the recovery support work that you’ve done for so long, what else can we build upon that’s been present in recovery spaces, that could further the conversation now towards racial equity?

Daryl: [21:38] Great question. You know what I’m going to tell you? Trust. We don’t trust the system, we don’t trust people, we don’t… that’s one of the things. Trust, respect and dignity, but trust leading the conversation. Where do we get the trust from? It’s like if you’re a recovery coach, you’re working in addiction, you’re even in a meeting. When we come in, as people that are using, that have been beat up, we don’t trust anybody. So we need to build that foundation of trust that you’re not going to screw us over, you’re not trying to get something from me for nothing.

Daryl: [22:15] Even in the peer movement, we kind of messed that trust up, because many of us have been asked to tell our story, our worst nightmare, the worst days of our life. You give us a slice of pizza, and you tell us, “Great thing,” you go get a grant and you don’t even include us in on that. So you want us to keep telling this story of our worst day of our lives, we get invited to all these panels, and tell our worst stories, but then you just give us pizza, you don’t invite us to the table for solutions. Because you get the money, and then you say, “Okay thanks, thanks for telling your story. Here’s $100 and a slice of pizza,” and keep it going. So that’s where a lot of the trust has been broken.

Daryl: [22:57] We need trust, but we also need to treat people with dignity. We’re not saying… Especially where there’s always that, “Well you haven’t smoked crack, so you don’t know where I’ve come from.” But empathy. You could have empathy. “Wow, that must have been terrible to spend so many years in prison Daryl. That must have been…” Just checking in. Even with the… when you see something tragic happen on TV to a Black and Brown person, are you checking in with your co-worker and say, “Wow, you know what? How are you doing today? Man, that was tragic, I never… How are you doing, what’s going on today? I’m just checking on you, I’m not trying to fix it, I’m just checking on you.” Nobody’s checking on us, everybody’s going through business saying, “Oh that’s terrible, I went to the march yesterday, but I’m still going through business as usual.”

Daryl: [23:41] If we want change, we really need to check on each other. How are you doing? Empathy. But first, before you can be empathetic to me, I’ve got to trust you. I’ve got to know that your efforts are sincere.

Livia: [23:56] And I think that one of the things that both you Daryl and Kristen talked about earlier and touched on, is that recovery is supported by addressing trauma. We know that. But until now, the focus has been more on kind of understanding the experiences of physical or sexual abuse, or domestic violence, and incarceration as precursors to, or associated with, alcohol use and mental health issues. That is the training that a lot of behavior health authorities and communities thought were to ensure that the services and supports are trauma informed. That has been the prevalent training focus, with a goal of fostering safety, and promoting choice and shared decision making.

Livia: [24:38] If we look at expanding again that foundational principle within recovery movement, what do we need to know about the trauma of racism? About the daily experience of living in a body with black or brown skin, and what can we learn about the racial factors and substance misuse of serious mental illnesses. So expanding on the commitment to learn about the trauma of racism would be a great natural next step, and we’re really hoping that people and the systems and the programs will take that step. It’s doable, and it’s a natural next step. We need to really understand the trauma of racism.

Livia: [25:16] Equally important, we also need to learn about some of the protective factors, such as supporting high levels of racial identity development, because we know from research that it’s found to protect against some of the negative effects we talk about of race-based stigma and discrimination.

Livia: [25:33] And I think the last thing I want to talk about some of the foundational principles for the recovery movement is the power of connection. The role of peers working with people in recovery have, at its core, focusing on the development of a relationship first and foremost. You have to develop trust, you have to develop rapport, and the peer workers really have an incredible ability to do that in many systems where conditions or administrators can’t do it in the same way. The peer role is, at its core, about developing relationship and trust. They can also help folks to connect to communities that people identify with for the purpose of supporting recovery. Again, that’s a foundational step to support the person, making sure there’s an individual choice, and also to understand the recovery pathway the person wants to take. So I want to just mention those two values and principles that also can be extended to make sure that we support racial identity development for Black, Indigenous, Latino and Brown people in recovery as one of the things that you can look at as a protective factor.

Kristen: [26:45] I’m really glad you brought the conversation back to these threads around some potential next steps Livia, and also explicitly around things like expanding our notion of trauma and trauma informed care to explicitly include the racism trauma, how it might show up, and how to respond to it in a fully inclusive, safe, equitable way. It strikes me that a lot of the things that you both have named, we’ve kind of gone right up to the line and then missed the boat on being explicit. Trauma informed care training, cultural competence training, the inclusion of consumers, or people with lived experience as that token level advisory role, instead of as co-leaders, and developers and deliverers of solutions and things like that. I think these are the hard truths that a lot of folks are beginning to recognize, and hopefully take action around.

Kristen: [27:35] I’m also curious what you both might share around some additional next steps. Obviously this phase of education, listening, learning, introspection is critical to real change. It’s also slow and overdue, and we don’t want that to stand in the way of real change and action. So what are some potential additional steps forward for individuals, agencies, communities that are wanting, maybe for the first time, to take steps to truly dismantle racism and begin to implement solutions that are equitable? What else would you add? Daryl?

Daryl: [28:10] Well, I appreciate that, what Livia said, and it made me think about… A lot of times we overlook the importance or understanding of slavery. KP, when you talked about coming to the line, we start to mention slavery in the conversation, everybody freezes out, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about that.” White people say, “Well I wasn’t a slave,” and they don’t understand I wasn’t a slave either. But I’m still affected by slavery. Slavery is traumatic, and it’s still invested in us. That’s a trauma that I’ve experienced, that has culturally, we all as a country have.

Daryl: [28:41] One of the things that when you start to talk about recovery, in order to get to a level of recovery, there has to be a sense of healing. One of the things we haven’t done in this country is heal. We haven’t healed from slavery. No one even talks about it, so there’s no healing process. This is an ongoing, open wound that’s happened. Everything else that happens after that, if we know about criminal justice system, disenfranchised communities, all are a direct result from slavery when we do the research. You start to study, you can drill back.

Daryl: [29:12] When you sit and talk about organizations and what they can do, one of the interesting things is what I’ve been thinking, and we’ve been in conversations about. How about like some days, you’re the teacher, some days you’re the student. Many organizations, their peer workers look like me, Black and Brown. How about elevating them to teach the rest of the organization, CEOs and everyone, about racial equity, about their traumas. And at that point, they’re in a different role. They’re leading that group of everyone. Everyone’s learning from them. It would be empowering, number one, and then you’re be listening, number two. And you’d hear some things that you never even thought about.

Daryl: [29:57] Because you know why? Because the peer workers are down there doing the work in the field and on the streets, but they’re never within the organization. And they bring so much value, that’s why the value of lived experience is so important. How about utilizing that lived experience tool from a racial equity lens. Let’s bring them in and say you know what… I’ve been in many rooms where there’s been diversity and equity and inclusion groups. It’s usually all us Black people in the room talking about what’s wrong with the organization. We get mad, we’re all mad in the room, but the people that need to hear why we’re mad are not there. They’re not there, so that really powerful, impactful meeting goes unheard, because the people that need to hear it are not there. Yes, there are a few White people in those groups, but they already get it, so it’s almost preaching to the choir.

Daryl: [30:50] How do we get impacted people to be in a leadership role in that conversation? Joe the driver is now teaching what his experience was like. Joe might be 60 years old. 60 years of experience of a Black and Brown person, that dude is powerful, but he’s just the driver. So how do we encourage you to bring those people up, let the cream rise to the top if you will, for that particular conversation.

Livia: [31:19] And I would add some ideas just to that, but that was so powerful. I agree wholeheartedly with making sure that communities you serve are proportionately represented in all leadership positions within your agency. It is so critically important, and it’s such an important first step in many ways. I would say if you’re a White leader, make a commitment to dismantle racism, and start with your own agency to figure out what would that look like within your own agency. Share that commitment with close allies, so that people can hold you accountable for your commitments, because it helps when we share our commitment with others.

Livia: [32:06] Implement a racial equity team within your agency, to say okay, how do we actually start having conversations about racism, to start asking what is my role in addressing and dismantling racism within the recovery community and within my agency? What internal assessment do I need to put in place and do I need to put resources towards to make sure that I understand what is the systemic racism that’s happening within my agency, and what resources can I put towards that? So again, as a leader, you have influence over resources and assets, and over decision making about who is at the table to make those decisions. So if you make a commitment to doing this work, and you build in accountability, those are critical first steps. And then a secondary, you need to add resources as part of that commitment.

Livia: [33:01] There are lots of specific things we could also suggest. You could look at how do you do a racial equity review of your policies and procedures. That is something that’s a step that you could take. How could you look to the community, and to people that are served by your agency to say, “Who should be part of the racial equity team that works on this? How does this racial equity team report to the board? Who is it? Is it part of the board, is it an ad hoc?” So all those kinds of decisions about how to do that work are very specific next steps that leaders can take.

Livia: [33:39] It’s also I think important just to learn about the history of racism and white privilege, and figure out how to have these sometimes uncomfortable conversations, and what’s the structure and what’s the forum to do that. So those are just a couple of recommendations that I have.

Daryl: [33:56] I would just add to that, it’s been my experience that some organizational leadership are color blind. And when I say that, I say that… we’ve been in a lot of… we’ve done some work and people have said, “Well we don’t have that problem here.” See if you don’t acknowledge the problem, then you’re not going to do that. All what you just said Livia was great, we’re giving real great tools. But if I’m a leader, and I’m a White leader, well we don’t have that problem here. Why? Because no one’s ever said anything to me, I don’t see it because my lens doesn’t see that. So I would encourage you to have these surveys or something that are anonymous, and just put it out there. Maybe even an incentive, whoever gets the most surveys in. But the surveys are directly focused on what’s going on. What does my organization look like?

Daryl: [34:49] Going forward, you’re going to want to know what your organization’s vibe is from a cultural perspective, because that’s going to be how you last in this organization. Because there’s a change coming, whether you like it or not, there’s going to be a change. You want to be ahead of that change, instead of behind it.

Daryl: [35:06] The other thing is that I’ve had a couple of requests when we’ve done these Recovery Lives. People have emailed me and said, “Can you teach us, meaning people of color, how to open a door for the uncomfortable conversation?” Because they’ve tried it in meetings, and then they get shut down. So they really want to be able to have… like if you get the stage, how do I make sure I capitalize off the moment, because a lot of people aren’t skilled in that. So there’s that piece too. We want to make sure when Black and Brown people do get the opportunity that they’re well versed, and they’re not just complaining about the White people at work. We want to make sure that we have a dialogue, because maybe the White people you’re complaining about at work don’t even know that they’re offending you. So we want to make sure that those individuals are skilled in this dialogue, that they can have open conversation that everybody learns from.

Daryl: [35:58] Because many people say, “I grew up in a white neighborhood, and the only Black person I ever met was when I got to college.” How many people say that? And it was Joe, and Joe grew up in a suburban area, so he was cool. But when you start to meet urban Black people who didn’t go to college, or didn’t go to college till later in life, their experience is a lot different. We say in our community, “When you meet a real Black person you’ll know it.” You know what I mean? Because they’re very vocal, respect is the number one thing that they’re looking for. And you need to be able to identify that number one, like okay, this dude is serious about what he’s talking about. And how do I engage him? How do I engage him without being fear, because fear is the number one factor that we’re not having these conversations now. People are fearful of losing their job, upsetting someone. So we’ll just act like this problem doesn’t exist.

Kristen: [36:52] Wow, Livia and Daryl, thank you so much for everything that you just shared. These are some incredible first steps, strategies, ideas. I think Daryl your words of caution throughout this conversation are ringing true for me around how much potential there is right now in this moment of the conversation, and the collective just angst that’s happening as we face racism in all the parts of our lives. And also the fear that that will start to fade away as it has before. So there’s a lot at stake, there’s a lot that has to change culturally and personally, especially among leaders and white leaders especially to be able to make space for change that’s real and lasting and equitable. I appreciate you voicing that, even among all these ways that folks are eager to step ahead.

Kristen: [37:40] The last question on my mind for both of you, because we started today acknowledging Recovery Month, which happens every September. In light of this conversation, thinking ahead to Recovery Month 2021, and even beyond, what is your vision for a Recovery Month that’s inclusive and equitable? How might that look different in the years ahead?

Daryl: [38:01] You know what? I think that based off our conversation, and I’ve been saying this for a few months now, maybe a year, that the recovery community needs to be a recovery system. The systems need to be a recovery. There’s so much recovery, the system needs to get a white key tag. That change needs to happen. But what I’d like to see is more open dialogue where people of color are… I’ve been blessed, the opportunity to work with you KP, and Livia, and C4’s been very good to me in giving me a national platform. But I’m not unique. There are many people like me out there who have a voice that should be heard in their communities. I’d like to see more of the me’s and the she’s, and the he’s, and all them rise to the top and be part of the conversation more so than just having these conversations in a back room or at home.

Daryl: [38:58] My mom used to come home and say, “Man, White people are crazy.” And she wasn’t a racist, she’s just experiencing crazy stuff at work. And she was in a pretty good position, but her experience was White people are crazy. Never was she a racist, but she just was her experience. So how do we get to past that White people are crazy, Black people are this, and get to, “Man, I had a really good connection with guy. I really like what he said.” Or, “I can engage with him.” And start engaging on the human things. He’s a dad, she’s a mom, we’re all in recovery.

Daryl: [39:36] One of the things, and I’ll close with this, is that recovery really has been inclusive for me. Because when I got into recovery it wasn’t about being Black, it wasn’t about being White, it was about being a person that had been through something. Here we are together and all of us have been through something, and been excluded from the world, but here we are together striving and just trying to get another day clean in, or another day substance free, for those that are being politically correct.

Livia: [40:04] I think I would add two things. My hope is that there are many more Black Americans, Indigenous and Latino leaders of recovery community organizations in the years to come, and that they are helping to really shape the agenda for the recovery movement. I’m also really hoping that the recovery movement understands the power it could have to influence how policy making and resources… If it could galvanize in a more unified way, it is an incredible amount of people who are in recovery, and if they can coalesce, if we can coalesce and really say, “We are a constituency of consequence,” using that term, “And we are going to really yield the influence that we can have in a concerted way,” then there’s not much that this movement couldn’t influence. I think part of that starts with a commitment to making sure that the leadership of the recovery movement is much more diverse in terms of Black and Brown people also being in leadership positions.

Daryl: [41:26] We’re 26, 25, 26 million strong in the recovery community. We can be the example, we can be that leadership to show the country that Black, Brown, White, green, whatever you are, we can show people that we can basically take over and make this movement possible. But we’ll have to… we’ve got some stuff to take.

Kristen: [41:48] Beautiful. Thank you both for sharing those visions, I’m going to carry them with me after this conversation and into next year. Thank you both so much for taking the time to be here with me today for this conversation. For all that you do to make recovery supports more available and accessible for everyone who needs them, thank you, I’m deeply grateful. Daryl, thank you for how you show up to these conversations, bringing all your experience, it’s just really, really powerful. Thank you.

Daryl: [42:16] Thank you, thank you, thank you again for the opportunity. It’s always cool to always be here, thanks again.

Kristen: [42:22] And Livia, thank you so much for the leadership that you’ve provided for years now, with and for and side by side with folks in the recovery community. This is an important point in the conversation, I’m glad you’re a part of it.

Livia: [42:34] Thank you so much for the opportunity to be part of this conversation, and I hope that our listeners will reach out to us. I know all of us hope to continue these conversations with as many people as would like to have it, and so please reach out to us, we’d love to have these courageous conversations. Thank you.

Kristen: [42:54] And to our listeners, thank you for spending some time with us today, and please join us next time on Changing the Conversation.

Erika Simon, Producer: [43:01] Visit C4innovates.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for more resources to grow your impact. Thank you for joining us. This episode was produced by Erika Simon and Christina Murphy. Our theme song was written and performed by Peter Hanlon. Join us next time on Changing the Conversation.


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