Taking the Middle Seat next Kendra McNeil and We Are Lit

On episode 34, I’m talking to Kendra McNeil, owner of the online bookstore We Are Lit (Facebook, Instagram). Kendra is an avid reader and an incredible resource for all things books. We Are Lit is a stunning and carefully curated collection of multicultural books. Kendra highlights books from young adult, to sci-fi, to historical fiction, to nonfiction and everywhere in between. Her love of books is apparent in every aspect of her business.

Kendra talked about how she jump started her business after a conversation with Linda Otterbridge with HASU (Hook a Sister Up). Since then she has gotten out of her introvert ways to do many events and pop up shops. You can find her regularly at the Downtown Market.

Another way to connect to We Are Lit is through Libro.fm. This is an audiobook service that you can subscribe to AND support a local bookstore. I love this so much. Be sure to choose We Are Lit as your local book shop! If you’re local to GR and looking for a book club, check out Women Who Read. Kendra and Toresa Blakely from In Life Now Talk Media started the group and it is going strong.

Kendra talked about one of her favorite book shops, Source Booksellers in Detroit. On her last visit, she picked up My Ideal Bookshelf (If you order, make sure you order from We Are Lit!).

Kendra is doing a story time at the Dream Big Fair that is put on by the Dream Big Sister Circle. This event is May 4.

Kendra loves purchasing special things from women business owners. She loves Rock Candy Earrings & Things by Della Marie Levi. Della made her a personalized wine tumbler that says “bookish” on it. So cute! Kendra also loves wine, and live music especially if said wine and music are on vacation, travelling with her friends or family.

Kendra McNeil with We Are Lit

Kendra McNeil with We Are Lit

Taking the Middle Seat next to Nichole Beiner

On Episode 26 I’m talking to Nichole Beiner, an attorney, diversity consultant and community builder. She has a gorgeous presence online at Nichole Gabrielle (Instagram, Facebook) and at Melanin and Moxie (Web, Instagram, Facebook ) which is a space specifically for women of color.

Nichole is navigating living with a chronic neurological disorder and we talk a lot about how having an “invisible” illness can be so challenging. I know many listeners will resonate with her story of strength and struggle. She talks honestly about how privilege, community, vulnerability, and connection impact her journey.

I mention another woman I follow that has informed the way I see my own privilege, Rachel Cargle. Other women I love learning from in the online space are Vilissa Thompson, Leesa Renee Hall, and Layla Saad.

Nichole’s favorite things include Reina Pomeroy (lots of guests have raved to me about Reina’s programs!), movies, baking, The Great British Baking Show, tea, cozy blankets, books (memoirs!) and her husband.

She has a great gift guide up right now so check that out! Remember to check out our Taking the Middle Seat Gift Guide too.

I am 100% certain Nichole is going to change the world. She speaks truth to power. She shines light where it is needed. She is incredible and I want you all to follow her right this minute.

I’ll be back soon with another episode but until then, take the middle seat! I promise you’ll find some holiday magic there.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Steffanie Rosalez

On episode 13 of Taking the Middle Seat, I'm talking to Steffanie Rosalez, Director at the Cook Arts Center which is part of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities.  She is a visual artist, a musician, a leader in her community and she has a machete tattoo.  Basically, she's the freaking best. I know her from her leadership at Girls Rock Grand Rapids which is the transformative summer rock and roll camp my daughter has been involved in for the past few years.  Steffanie and a group of other totally rad and powerful women run the camp.  We talk about community and joy.  We talk about tokenism and privilege.  We talk about art and self care.  

The Audre Lorde quote Steffanie mentions is this... "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."  Powerful.

Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association page gives you lots of great information about things happening along the whole Grandville Avenue corridor.

Steffanie has also been involved in the Cultura Collective.  We didn't talk about this during the interview but you should check it out! 

Steffanie loves contemporary art and she's loving the PBS series Art 21

She also loves the UICA.  You should go there on family day or catch a movie.  It is such a cool space.  You get a gold star if you can find the picture of my family and I on their website.

Follow Steffanie's band How to Live Together on their Facebook page.  You'll hear her light up when she talks about her music.  She's a multi-tasking musician.  T-shirts coming soon. ; )

If you're wondering how to help or get involved in protecting immigrant families, I love the organization Together Rising.  

Thank you for listening and I hope you'll spend time Taking the Middle Seat this week.  

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Jennifer Stewart

On episode 13 of Taking the Middle Seat, I'm talking to Jennifer Stewart, associate professor of sociology at Grand Valley State University.  She founded an organization called Act on Racism in 2005.  Since then it has evolved and changed but it has always been a powerful force for connection and change both for the participants and the observers.  Like so many of us, Jennifer never thought she'd be a leader in this particular way but life leads us to spaces that will use our gifts and teach us what we need to learn.  

I get a little emotional in this one because I very recently lost a friend way too soon.  I encourage each one of you to reach out to your people and tell them what you love about them.  This episode is dedicated to my friend because she was always taking the middle seat and lighting up those around her.  

Check out the latest happenings of Act on Racism here.

Jennifer's favorite band is called My Morning Jacket.

Follow the adorable Fiona the Hippo on Facebook here

The other Fiona, Jennifer's sweet rescue dog is on Instagram here

Are you following Ludwik the hairless guinea pig yet?  You should be!!!  Find him here in all his hairless glory.

Jennifer and I talk about the incredible cuisine of the 1950's and 60's.  This is an actual salad I constructed as a child.  We called it a Candle Salad.  An. Actual. Childhood. Chore. I. Was. Assigned. 

And if no one has told you that you are loved today.  You are.  

I'll be back soon to explore the magic in the middle seat.

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This Seat's Taken: Podcastery

I'm starting a new occasional series of little pods called This Seat's Taken.  I just couldn't help myself with that name.  Cracks me up every time.  The little pods will be just that: little.  Snippets of things I love, things I want to share, people I want to laugh with.  Could be anything.  

This time I'm talking PODCASTS!  Why I love them.  Why you should love them.  All of it.  I talk about a bunch of my faves and I'll list their details below so you can find them too.  I've linked to all of the websites for these pods but you'll want to go to iTunes or your podcast player to Subscribe!

Wild Mystic Woman Podcast by Layla Saad.  Episode 18 with Catrice Jackson taught me SO much.  You can also find Catrice Jackson's work and books here.

The Red Couch Podcast with rapper and activist Propaganda and his wife Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty.  They have taught me so much on a whole range of topics and I particularly love their segment called Hood Politics.

On Being with Krista Tippett.  Ta-Nehisi Coates' episode is #52, I think.  : )  Search it out on iTunes because Krista Tippett can teach me anything and Ta-Nehisi Coates can wake me up every time.

Another Round with Tracy Clayton and Heben Nagatu.  You'll laugh and learn and fall in love.  These amazing women talk about pop culture, mental health, surviving white culture, bad jokes.  Everything.

Mogul with Reggie Ossé.  Tells the life and death of hip hop music executive Chris Lighty.  A beautifully done documentary about hip hop, addiction, mental health and striving.  

Ear Hustle with Nigel Poor, a prison volunteer and visual artist and Earlonne Woods, a man currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.  This is one of my tippy tip top faves!  They cover all aspects of incarceration and I love how it humanizes incarcerated individuals.

Crimes in Color with Keyerra.  She tells true crime stories involving victims who are people of color since these stories are underrepresented in media.  

Caught.  This one highlights youth in the criminal justice system.

Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom.  As I said on the little pod, I think exonerated people are some of the most incredible people you will ever hear speak.  They are forgiving and grateful and wise and hopeful.  They have taught me and I'm sure they'll teach you.

Selfie with Kristen Howerton and Sarah James.  They talk about all aspects of self care.  Makeup to relationships.  Personality types to purses.  It is girly in the best way.

The New Activist.  Tells the stories of change makers all over the world. This one is from what I would call a social justice Christian perspective.

Everything Happens with Kate Bowler.  She's in her thirties and has been through. some. things.  She knows that it might not all work out with a bow on top but we still can find connection and beauty.  

Terrible, Thanks for Asking with Nora McInerny.  When you lose your father and husband within a few weeks, you can gain some perspective in a hurry.  Nora is the most hilarious and quirky host.  We could be best friends.  I'm certain.  This is another tippity toppity fave!

Kid podcasts!  Tumble, Brains On and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls Podcast

S-Town - I can't even begin to explain this one.  All I can say is start at the beginning and buckle up for the story ride.

The Black Tapes - This one is like a creepy novel, a podcast documentary, and an old-timey radio drama all rolled in one.  You can get your binge-listen on because there's a whole heap of episodes already recorded.  Start at the beginning and lose yourself in it.

And if you've never experienced SNL's Delicious Dish, here's probably their most famous episode.

I hope you love these podcasts and I'll be back soon to take the middle seat.


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Taking the Middle Seat next to Julius Hight

On episode 8 of Taking the Middle Seat, I talk to Julius Hight, founder of Reset GR.  He is a father, vocalist, and community activist.  He loves his city of Grand Rapids, MI but he also recognizes the change that needs to happen here.  He has walked through the criminal justice system and knows the disparity and injustice that exists there first hand.  I know you'll hear his passion and I hope you listen intently to his truth and his perspective.  

Follow Rest GR on Facebook

Reset GR needs our support!  You can give financially to the organization at their GoFundMe campaign.  Reset GR is currently working on getting their 501c3 status which costs money so any little donation helps.  Julius also said that they would love donations of computers or iPads or cell phones.  He does all of the coordination for Reset GR on his phone and he could use a computer.  So, if you have one to donate, email him directly at hightjulius@gmail.com.

Julius encouraged us all to learn, learn, learn and I love that!  A great place to start is the documentary film, The 13th.  You need to watch this film.  You can see the trailer here.  If you don't have Netflix, find someone who does and watch it together.  It is an experience we all need to have. 

Julius mentions GRABB which is Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses.  They have a great directory of African American owned businesses. 

He also mentions a bunch of news stories, local and national.  If you're like me, you might not be informed about those so I've gathered some links to get you up to speed.  You can learn about rapper Meek Mill's story here.  

You can learn more about NFL footbal player and activist, Colin Kaepernick at his website.  

We talked about several local Grand Rapids stories involving racism and racial injustice.  The story Julius mentions that happened in Forest Hills Schools is written about here.  

Grab a copy of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  This one is high on my list and I need to jump into it.  I hope Julius and Reset GR start that book club!

Have a comment about this episode?  Let's start a discussion!  You can connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.  I'd love for you to share the podcast with your friends.  The more the merrier. 

Oh, and I mention Citizen, the cool parrot glass restaurant that my husband I went to recently for our "C" alpha date.  If you're local, you should go!

I'll be back soon with another episode but until then, keep taking the middle seat.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Val Cobbs - Episode 6

On episode 6 of Taking the Middle Seat, I talk to Val Cobbs, Senior Regional Manager at the National Kidney Foundation.  She shares about how NKF is addressing diabetes and high blood pressure, chronic conditions that are the major causes of kidney failure and disproportionately affect communities of color.  Val is a staunch advocate for wellness and community and breaking down barriers.  She teaches me with her every word and I hope you will listen to her wisdom.

Check out the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and the Diabetes Improvement Program (DIP) at the National Kidney Foundation website.  You can get involved as a facilitator or a participant.  Share this resource with your people who may need it!

If you want to donate to the 2018 Kidney Walk that benefits NKF and happens on April 22, go here.  I'll be walking in honor of the living kidney donors I work with each and every day.

Val mentions her precious pit bull, King.  Speaking of animals, have you ever watched Pit Bulls and Parolees?  You should.  Do you follow Ludwik_guinea_pig on Instagram?  You should.  There, I made your life better.

Val shows up every single day in her life and makes this world a better place.  She continuously teaches me to do. the. work.  Even when I doubt my place in the work.  Even when I second guess if I know what to do.  She wisely tells us to do our work.  

I'll be back soon with another episode but until then, keep taking the middle seat.

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