Our first guest on Causecasts, The Get InPowered Podcast’s Judithe Registre, has a main goal with her podcast to bridge cultural gaps and bring about more understanding through the use of narratives that challenge the simplified cultural myths we are so often told. For Judithe the exercise of stepping out of these comfortable, unchallenged spaces into a more empathetic realm is the test that really faces our current society and one that she believes her podcast and others like it can help to address. She also tells us about her work and the potential for change that podcasts offer us. Originating from Haiti, before moving to the US, Judithe cites her upbringing in a culture of strong oral traditions as the building block in her inclination towards podcasting. She also chats about how the low cost and pressure of podcasts facilitate a more open and honest conversation with guests.
During our discussion, we cover Judithe’s background and how she ended up hosting a podcast before moving onto a meditation on the medium. Judithe goes on to assert that contact with cultures other than our own, actually reinforces and strengthens our sense of where we come from, rather than the nationalist myth of dilution and decay. We also discuss the role of fear and security in an increasingly conservative and regulated first world and Judithe gives her perspective on what this means in terms of laws and identity. We finish off the episode with some thoughts on the practice of kindness and just how important that can be in today’s climate. For a fascinating chat with a wonderful guest, be sure to tune in!
• The limiting nature of single story narratives. (01:23)
• How Judithe became involved in podcasting. (03:23)
• How the medium of podcasts lends itself to effective social change. (04:57)
• The joys of audio recording compared to video. (08:45)
• Getting out of our comfort zone and opening ourselves to the experience of others. (11:07)
• The affirmation of culture through contact with others. (15:35)
• The effects of fear and a need for security on cultural exchange. (17:05)
• Legality and identity. (20:04)
• The American experiment around co-existing. (21:28)
• Judithe’s goals with her podcast and her work in general. (25:33)
• The importance of a practice of kindness. (28:07)
• How to get involved with Causecasts! (31:23)
Judithe Registre, host of The Get InPowered Podcast
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[0:00:02.6] MP: Hi and welcome to Causecasts. I'm your host, Mathew Passy. Here at Causecasts, we have one simple mission: To highlight the amazing folks who are using podcasts as a way to raise awareness for good causes. Whether that's a non-profit they work with, a charity they support, a social justice campaign they are championing for, a medical condition they are battling or someone who is just looking to make a positive impact on their local community, state, country or the world. These are podcasters with a positive mission.
Along with raising awareness for our guest's favorite causes, we're also going to see if we can raise some money to support their efforts. So make sure you check out the show notes for each episode at causecasts.org to learn more about what they're doing and how to help them achieve their goals.
[0:00:50.4] MP: We are delighted here to be chatting with Judithe Registre of the Get InPowered Podcast, they strive to achieve story and equity and narrative justice as a central component of the work on social justice and the needed investment accordingly.
Judithe, thank you so much for joining us here on Causecasts.
[0:01:08.9] JR: Thank you, it's a real pleasure to be on your show Mathew. I am delighted to be here today.
[0:01:14.9] MP: In your own words, tell me a little bit how you use your podcast to improve our world, create social change, how are you using this for your cause?
[0:01:23.8] JR: Well, let me sort of give you a little brief context and background how I go into not only podcasting but the role of story as a mean of proximity for change. I was born in Haiti, I grew up in New Jersey, did junior high, high school, graduate schools in the US, after graduate school, I started working internationally across Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean. I worked in great deal of post conflict countries on issues of economic development, human rights, women, survivors of war. Also worked with men on issues of leadership.
Growing up in the US in the early 80s was a very strange time because HIV-AIDS became part of the national discourse and globally, this health crisis was centrally linked to Haiti and as a young Haitian, there was this idea that if you were Haitian, you therefore had AIDS and it was my first exposure around how narrative and the belief, how a story about a thing is then linked to a group of people because others do not know enough about that population.
Imagine for example, if all we knew about the US was what happened in Ferguson. The global population would not have any understanding that New York exists or San Francisco exists. If only - if you have one story by the place hold population, you're limited in understanding of where and what exists in that place. That first exposure, one way or another, took me around the world, I begin to see that same consistency how narratives in frame, when it's kind of one dimensional does not allow the people with stories that the one dimensional story is about to be understood.
And the person who actually likes, say you, if you have a story, if you believe one story about me, it limits your imagination about what you know about me because you don't know the full story and it limits how we engage with each other.
I got into podcasting because I had been looking for way to connect people to the range of stories that exists around the world that is now just one, the one dimensional story that is told. Particularly, for groups in populations, that are impacted by inequities, whether it's poverty or gender or race or economics.
This was the journey and so to the extent that when we think about a problem, we think about the narrative of the problem as a central part to solving the problem. I tackle issues in looking at the role of stories, the role of narrative and the frame around these stories, how they can be a main for transformation.
You think about it in a way to sort of say that the stories and the belief you have has shaped in terms of where you are today and what's possible for you but it's also shaped what is possible for you in your relationship with others. For me, podcasting is coming from an oral tradition was a great tool to be used to be used to begin my movement, begin to contribute, what I believe is the next frontier of social change.
That in brief is my answer to your question and I hope I've been sort of clear in terms of why I got into podcasting and what I'm hoping to achieve with it.
[0:04:41.2] MP: Yeah, very clear and a fascinating story that you have there. I definitely want to come back to that but I want to just dive a little bit deeper into the podcasting. What was it about this medium that you thought would be the most effective tool for accomplishing your goals?
[0:04:57.6] JR: Well, I think the fact that it's audio. I touched briefly on the fact that from an aura tradition. I think audio has a way of expanding our imagination and it also has a way if you can't read and write, you can still understand, I think for me, audio is a tool that can connect people on so many levels that while I think videos have a way of making changes, I think audio for me is that tool.
But also, the costs to production of podcasting compared to videos and writing is completely different and the exposure and the expansion of audio offers a great deal more than I think other tools. This isn't to say other tools are not useful and I think when using compliment with video and other ways, you can be even more effective. Personally for me it was the fact that I could tap into the groups and populations of people I wanted to tap into without having to do the interpretation. Without having to speak for them and to write or like, it's a different.
The power of audio cannot be underestimated for me. And I think it has largely the fact to do with the fact that I'm from an oral tradition and the fact that orally, I think we could not in ways that we connect deeper to people, we can hear their voices, we can bond with them.
[0:06:21.6] MP: That's so interesting that it's not just that it's a useful platform that it's got obvious benefits in terms of production and ease and cost but the fact that it goes to your tradition, I think it's so fascinating and so beautiful.
Do you also find that when you're speaking to people, potentially other experts in the field or possibly when you're talking to folks that are impacted by these social issues that they're just a little bit more open to audio versus possibly having a camera shoved in their face?
[0:06:53.0] JR: Yeah, I mean, you know, even that for me personally, to be honest with you. I think I find it personally doing podcasting, I'm able to be fully myself because there's no camera in front of me, there is no [inaudible] like, you get deep into yourself when you actually have to speak, you don't have the gaze of the camera or the camera man.
When I speak to people, the fact that you know, the fact that you know, they get to be in their own comfort zone so the comfort zone is deep. They get to articulate what they are really feeling and want to articulate without the additional elements, you know? The microphone, you can get over that quickly but when you have to deal with lighting, when you have to deal with videos and the cameramen behind the videos, I find that my guest wants to get over the fact that they are being recorded and they can get into the conversation, they find it to be therapeutic.
Because we all love to talk, right? We don't mind being recorded if that being recorded is not a visible, it's not dead gaze, right? I think when you're in front of the camera the gaze of the camera can really create a certain level of discomfort, if you are not trained for it and I think audio for me in the context of my work is an extremely powerful tool to get people into the comfort of who they are, so they can express the deep desire and the vision they have for themselves.
[0:08:13.3] MP: I think it's also fascinating what you pointed out that we always talk about podcasting being such an intimate medium, we typically consume this content on our own, driving in headphones, things of that nature and so, to produce that content, with just you and whoever it is you're talking to, it's a much more intimate experience and like you said, having a whole production crew or even if it's just another, a camera person, just that third person sort of could take away the intimacy of the conversation and maybe keep people from really opening up about what it is you want to discuss with them.
[0:08:45.8] JR: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know., I say being in conversation, I think there are three ways people create intimacy obviously, you know, we talk, the sexual intimacy is one form, laughing with someone is another form of intimacy, but being in conversation with them is a third level of intimacy that allows and when that can be done without intrusion, it creates, not only a deeper understanding but for the person that gets to listen later on in the conversation, it helps you to connect to them to a deeper sense of who they are.
I think for me, I am such a fan of audio and podcasting, I don't think there is any way to describe like what I think is the power of audio in podcasting. And again, it's quite possibly has to do with the fact that I'm from an oral tradition, and I'm from people, stories have been transferred orally so the opportunity to actually capture that through podcasting is a great historical tool.
I'm hoping that the community will build the platform and the technology so that we can store these things so that historically, we can go back to them in a way that we go back to history books and journals.
[0:10:01.6] MP: Wow.
[0:10:02.0] JR: That's my hope.
[0:10:02.5] MP: It would be a nice thing for us to accomplish. I want to go back a little bit to what you try to accomplish and I think it's so interesting, especially in the world that we're living in today, where we have access to so much information, we have access to so much data, to so many people telling real life stories about who they are, what their community is like, what their country is like and yet we still, so many of us - I'm sure I'm guilty of this whether it's a conscious thing or unconscious thing but we do create these perceptions of people and places and so I want to go back, how do we get folks who aren't already open minded, who aren't already informed to learn more?
You started by talking about Haiti and the perception that we have of Haiti, how do we get people to want to listen to the real stories of the people of Haiti and change our perception of what that country is like?
[0:11:00.7] JR: You know, I think there's two levels to it, right? Because I think what's popular, we assume less popular is what's right and we assume what's popular is what we should listen to. Very few of us, have the time, to actually go outside what's the dominant discourse.
I see myself growing up, having most of my education in the US. I had to go outside the mainstream education system to get a full understanding of non American, European history, right?
The question becomes, "What world are you wanting to create? What world do you want for yourself and for your children? What is it do you want to understand? What is your commitment to the world as a citizen but as a citizen in a bigger world," right? Outside yourself and your respective tribe, what is it that would make you be more - what would make you better as a citizen, right?
What is your commitment to understand things outside of your respective community? Now, I'm bias because I'm a third culture citizen and so I haven't had the luxury since the age of 12 to live in an environment where I'm the dominant person, even if I'm the dominant in race or gender, culturally, I bring in a completely different perspective.
I'm always appropriating the other's perspective because that's been my - it's almost like my frame of existence, it's kind of like how I move into the world. If I step into a place, I see myself as like, "I need to understand where I am." I think a big part, the kind of work that you are doing as an example, we're comfortable where we are, right? Who has the mic?
One of the biggest things that I am working on is to demystify the whole idea of needing to be the voice for the voiceless. There is no such thing as the voiceless. The moment you may find yourself wanting to be an interpreter for someone, ask yourself, is that what the situation is calling for, right? I think there is this need for us to think that all there is, is what we have and what we know.
What if we started to think that what I know - what if there was a different perspective or different set of experience from my experience? How responsibility or how exciting would it be for me to go on a journey to understand a different set of experience? I think, that for me is a question that can get you to - how do I get to know about, if I hear that says, you know, right now, on topic in the US is immigration, right?
Immigrants are illegals, they are animals, they are criminals, is that really true? Is that really true, right?
[0:13:42.6] MP: No.
[0:13:43.0] JR: When you hear things like that, all of us have to stop and sort of say, "What does that mean?" Right? Even when you believe in it, I want you to stop to think about what it means and take a step back and consider, is there a different experience to my understanding and could I go take a minute to understand that different experience and living in a time with technology and social media so much is available for us to do that but yet, we can't get outside of our comfort zone and I get it, right?
Even when we want something, we don't want to leave our comfort zone and I get it, right? Even when we want something, we don't want to live our comfort zone. I think the biggest challenge of our time is citizens living in the world is to get out of our comfort zone and that comfort zone is really one of seeking to understand the experience of others.
That would be my one recommendation. How do we step out of our comfort zone just to get a sense and understanding of other people's experience in our world. Other people different form ourselves.
[0:14:42.6] MP: It's funny you bring that up. I've been thinking a lot about obviously, you know, when we're speaking, there's a lot going on with the immigration debate in this country, there's atrocities taking place, there's arguments about what to do, how do we do this compassionately, who is at fault, but what seems to underline the narrative is this protectionism, this idea that by letting more people into your life, into this country, it can erase who you are and I wonder, as someone who has lived in so many different places, has worked in so many place, has experienced so many different cultures, is there something to be said about the fact that learning about other cultures can sometimes even strengthen or reaffirm your own culture, your own identity? Can it give you an appreciation of who you are and it's not something to be feared?
[0:15:35.8] JR: Absolutely. I mean, I think that's the beauty of learning different cultures, it makes you better in who you are. Saying that isn't to say, there was anything wrong with you and I think, if you look at this current climate that you have just laid out, the challenge and the articulation is not just that this idea that is going to make you different, it's been framed around the sense of you are unsafe, right?
Is that being in my presence as an immigrant, as a woman, as a black woman, you are unsafe. It's this idea that your security, like the sense of getting to know who I am in my experience that my desires are no different than your desires, we both have for example, we both have a love for podcasting.
If we could even stay in that sense of what we both have a love for, how does that diminish who you are? But if you've been made to believe that I am somehow a criminal, that being in my presence, you therefore are insecure or in my case, you're white male, your privilege, means that you know, you're making things impossible for me. What if that wasn't the case?
Who would we be if we didn't have this sense of belief that I am endanger to you, you are an endanger to me just because of who I am? These are myths, these are things that have been created. I think that sense of security, the conversation that I was talking to a friend earlier who works with organization and he was sharing with me this friend who is doing some work in a post-conflict environment, if you look at this conversation globally there has been a move. If you look at World War Two, there was a lot of talk about peace in the world, creating a peaceful world and we moved to a peace and security and now we're just purely in security mode.
And this idea of security is to justify that immigrants are criminals and so all of us as average citizens even those who are immigrants themselves are started to made believe that these people are somehow criminals they are illegals.
And so the conversation around security, we need to reconsider what is it that is being said. Is this really true? Are these people criminal? Not just one person who are a part of this group who happens to have committed a crime. But when you start criminalizing an entire population as a result of few people who may have committed a crime and I think that's the danger when we're saying that if we accept immigrants then it is going to change who we are.
The question is not even about changing who we are. It is a conversation about saying that these people are dangerous, that these people are going to hurt you and that hurt is not a change of your identity. It is a physical sense of security that's been kind of imposed on people.
So we are all living in this fear, fear of being chained and fear of being that these people will somehow make life insecure for us and I think this conversation around security is a bigger one than a conversation around identity.
[0:18:42.2] MP: It's funny you say that because as you are talking I'm thinking sure, the conversation has been framed around personal safety in terms of integration and the melting pot that this country is supposed to be but I think that is just the low hanging fruit that is the easy target for people to use when truthfully what it is that they're afraid of is the security of their identity.
[0:19:08.2] JR: Ooh, very nice.
[0:19:10.3] MP: Yeah because if you look at statistics, if you look at the numbers, every population, every group, dissect it however you want, male, female, Latin, Middle Eastern, American, North American, European. Like if you break down those numbers there is a pretty constant pattern of extremism, of criminality, of fraudsters, it doesn't really change that much from group to group to group but we love to claim that the other groups are scarier, are more nefarious than our's.
Possibly because we are just looking to protect our own self-interest, our own identity and it's easy to say, protect your home, protect your children because MS13 is coming when the fact is there's probably more dangers in your community from someone who looks like you than from someone who doesn't.
[0:20:04.3] JR: Well I think it's a very powerful point you've just articulated around this security of our identity but I think where the issues get a little bit shaky is the fact that not every identity has the privilege of power in changing the policy to sort of create this dynamic, right? I think this is where things get a little dicy in the way that well I may be concerned. I want to live in a world where I can be a global citizen because I love to travel. I love to experience new cultures. That is my form of identity.
For someone who doesn't, it may be a problem, right? But that's okay, when it becomes a problem which is what we have now is that we start instituting the law to sort of say, "The identity that you want to have is not a valid identity." We're going to illegalize or made illegal your identity. I mean up until recently, you know let's take LGBTQ as an example. It's when we start making it illegal for us to have the identity that we have and I think that is the danger in which we are in.
It's not the sense of security of identity that, "Oh I want to be a global citizen, I want to travel the world or you want to be like a cool podcaster or a hipster, I am calling you a name right now but you get the idea right?
[0:21:25.4] MP: I wish I was cool enough to be a hipster.
[0:21:28.4] JR: You know the idea is if we can be, if these challenges of identity didn't have the legal implication as they do now as they're being pushed to, it wouldn't be so much of an issue. We could work within the context and we could negotiate, even disagree with our differences of identity. It is now all of a sudden that it's illegal for me to be the human that I am and when you have the power, when those who actually manage the law, when your government has made it illegal for some human to not be human, that's where I think we are - that is the danger and that's the anxiety. That's the stress, that's the national stress that we are feeling. It's a global stress in some ways right?
And I think the US have always stood to be the example of what is possible for a nation and society to actually co-mingle different sets of ethnic identity. And because it had a law that is built - was even slavery, the end of slavery was we were able to use the constitution that says all men, the woman wasn't in there, but let's just say all people were created equal right?
And you do not have a nation in history quite in the way I think the US has kind of dealt with the experiment of human co-existing in the way that we've had. We are starting to lose some of that but I think the hope and the vision and dream of what the US as a nation is, is something worth fighting because you don't have another nation that's experimented in the mix of co-existing of different set of identities in the way the US has made success out of it.
I am not saying it's perfect. I've lived in enough places as a black woman to tell you that identity politics exist everywhere but I think we have safeguarded some kind of legal framework or at least an illusion that we could come into spaces or had a story and narrative that it was possible that we all - it is a nation of immigrants and that the space is all of us, right?
Now that's being changed and I think that's the danger around what you willingly described as the security of identity. I think this space was a place where we had this - whether you call it illusion or whatever you want to call it, there was this core belief that we were secure in our identity but we didn't have a law to now dictate that my humanity was no longer legal but your humanity is legal or vice-versa. And I think that that's the place that is dangerous for us to be in and I think this is where stories and the power of stories and human connection and human understanding and the ability to actually use story as a frame of proximity for us to understand the set of human experiences and the set of values that we share can be powerful.
And in some way, why I am excited about the growth and expansion of podcasting as a tool to actually get the kind of stories about people in communities where we can all share together in the common experience of what it means to be human so that my humanity is no less or no more legal than your humanity.
Obviously, I am quite a philosopher and this may sound philosophical but that's our existence right? That is what we all want. We all want to live in that world whether what I am saying maybe too philosophical but I think that's why we exists, we exists in that space where we want to be seen, we want to be heard, we want to be recognized, we want to exist because we want to breathe that air that says, "You know what? That oxygen you are deserving it as much as I am deserving of that oxygen." How can create a space where we can all enjoy it?
[0:25:11.6] MP: And I think on top of that and what is outlined in your podcast is everybody wants to feel empowered to be able to make these change. So with the Get InPowered Podcast, what is it that you want someone who checks it out, listen to, what is it that you want them to take away from it or what is it that you want them to do next upon listening?
[0:25:33.1] JR: Well, I think two levels for me. One is I am going to create a space where I'm from an environment where too much about the work in the social sector is about people from the outside coming in to basically save the poor. There is always an external protagonist. My mission that we are the protagonist of our own stories, that we are the change maker in our own lives and our communities and that that can be done in different ways.
And so I feature people who are working with issues that is relevant to them and their communities like let's say for example, I love to have a conversation about racism where white people are working with white people on racism because black people can't be - we can't do enough to actually end racism. The problem don't exists purely on the end of black people needing to actually behave better, show up differently, dress differently, sound differently. We can't be enough to end racism.
So I love to have conversation where identify white people who understand what racism in the context of the communities and are working to transform those issues. Same thing when it comes to men, you can't empower enough women to end violence against women. The work that needs to be done with toxic masculinity, focusing on men who are working with other men, who themselves have been victim of violence.
You know a man who perpetrate violence is a man whose experience violence himself and how can we begin the healing at the source, so that we can actually heal society at large. And so I am really committed to these kind of stories so that we can all begin to see ourselves not just as like if I am a man I want to be a benevolent patriarch by being ally for whom is rights. How can I start to actually be active bystander when these things are happening in my space I stand up and make changes?
How can I begin to do that? If we each in our own respect these spaces begin to stand up for integrity of what's right and to begin to create that world we want to live in and a way that is one of dignity respect for people. I think we can begin to make shifts. Change doesn't just happen, things don't get just better. People make them better and I think each one of us in our respective communities have the power to actually make that difference.
The other piece for me is I believe kindness is an ingredient that we all need in our lives and so I love this idea I want to explore. One question I ask all of my guests at the end of the show is how do you practice kindness to yourself because I think that reflects ways that we can extend kindness to the world, right? And so whoever you are, wherever you are, what are the simple things you do to engage in the world and the way you would treat yourself?
These are usually people who are activists or really ambitious people working to some kind of change, whether they are running a business that's profitable but the business is about a change in their communities, right? And so I want to engage with people to think about what does practicing kindness means to us, when we are actually seeking to change in the world? So we want change because we want a world that is little kinder and when I say kind it's a soft word but it is actually a very powerful word.
If you can find the space to be kind to yourself, I think you show up with greater awareness and we are more mindful of yourself and the world around you. So this is something I want to create, a little bit of list of like tapped in responses that I have gotten from people. People talk about play being playful. Laughter for example, drinking champagne as a way to create kindness. Luxury, getting a moment of luxury as a way to create kindness.
To connect these things, there is no contradiction between doing good in the world and doing good to yourself because too many social activists and I was one of them, who just felt that we needed to go on and do and do but didn't really care for ourselves. And so for me, I want to support a movement where we can create a greater kindness in the world. So yeah, those are the two things.
[0:29:49.1] MP: I absolutely love that response and I think sometimes kindness to some folks, this probably goes back to the idea of toxic masculinity but I think to some folks, kindness feels a little too frou-frou and so maybe just to rephrase that with empathy. It's the world, a much better place. We would all be smarter, we would all be more enlightened if we could just practice empathy. I have even heard in business, you would just be more successful if you could empathize with whether it's your clients, your customers, your partners, your bosses, I mean just to take a moment to try to understand each other.
[0:30:31.8] JR: I agree.
[0:30:32.5] MP: This has been a delightful conversation. We want to help Judithe empower more people to create a more inclusive, a better narrative around what we can do for others but more importantly, what we can do for ourselves and our own communities to make this world a better place and so there will be a link in the show notes for this episode and we'll have one on the website but there will be a donation link to give directly to Inclusivus.
If you think this is a noble cause and it sounds like an incredibly noble one, you can make a donation directly, you can support the work that Judithe is doing and we can go out there and make this world a better place.
Judithe, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me here on Causecasts and just wish you the best of luck and continued success with what you are doing.
[0:31:20.7] JR: Mathew thank you, it's been a pleasure being on your show.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:31:23.8] JR: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Causecasts. Again, if you've been inspired by the work of our guest, please check out the show notes in your podcast app or head to causecasts.org. There you will find links to the work of our guest and a special donation link set up to support their favorite cause. All the proceeds are going directly to that cause minus any administration fee on the platform that they set up. None of the money is coming here to the Causecasts production.
Also while you're at causecasts.org, make sure you follow and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you enjoy your podcast show and follow us on social media as we'll try to provide updates on what is going on with our guests and some other folks who we'll be featuring on the show and any other efforts that we have to support the community of Causecasters that are out there.
Now there is also going to be a special Facebook group dedicated to Causecasters. So if you already have a podcast for a cause or you're thinking about launching one, join the group. It will be dedicated to providing resources and answering questions specifically for Causecasters. Hopefully we can do things like arrange some special non-profit pricing of various podcast services to help you with your venture and keep you under budget because we know a lot of people doing Causecasts are not going to be reaping in the money. So we want to see what we can do to help you produce a high quality product, get your story out there, get people inspired and not break the bank.
Lastly, if you are a Causecaster and you want to join me here on the show for an interview, please head to causecasts.org and fill out the interview request form. We'll take a quick look at it and if approved, we'll schedule you for chat and show the amazing work that you are doing with Causecasts, raise some awareness for what you're doing and ideally, raise some money as well.
Thank you so much again for staying with me and we will see you next time on Causecasts.