#88 Storytellers I Admire: Prasanna Ranganathan
How to recognize every moment as a story unfolding in your life.
This month’s storyteller I admire is a true angel of a human being—in fact I often say that the people who work in his industry are doing the lord’s work every day. Prasanna Ranganathan is a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leader, a former human rights lawyer, a producer, published author, and my storytelling soulmate. I think he loves stories in all their forms and for all their magic as much as I do. We had a sweeping, heart-centred, eye-opening conversation about his life as a storyteller so far. He was generous in sharing his story with me and with us and I feel so lucky to have gotten to have this conversation and even luckier to share it with you.
I barely edited this because I just couldn’t cut anything. If you want to understand how our lives are stories unfolding, what was frustrating about the 2020 racial injustice awakening, learn a lesson from Oprah for great storytelling, know the invisible thread that connects us all, and so much more just start reading.
And I’d also love to hear from you, what ideas stood out in this one, what about this interview may have transformed your perspective or experience of the world (you’ll know what I mean by that when you read on)? Share in the comments below.
You can also listen to the full interview recording here and I actually encourage you to, we had such a fun time journeying into the world of storytelling and I think you’ll enjoy listening. So grab a cuppa and go on a journey with me and Pras into a world of storytelling.
Chantaie: So starting off, can you just tell me, what's your story?
Prasanna Ranganathan: My story. The story that I often tell is one of my career. And I think it's a pitfall that many of us fall into. But for me, I think so much of my career is an extension of what I believe in, what I stand for, who I want to be in the world. So my story is often told through the prism of being a human rights lawyer. Working in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, being a writer, being a storyteller, being a producer, working in social media. And so I say all of those things, and it feels like a series of bullet points that you might see at the top of a LinkedIn header.
As much as it feels clinical or divorced from a larger sense of what my story is or who I am, so much of who I became, so much of how I see the world was informed by the journey through my career. My story, I say, is definitively unfolding and continuously unfolding. But the story that's brought me to this moment is one of someone who's constantly trying to find his place in the world and then in the process of doing so, trying to figure out how he can use his voice, his platform, his skills, his experience to open up opportunities for others to find their places as well. So when I describe my story, it's a story of connecting to more of who I am. And in the process, hopefully using what I have to offer to the world to give people the space to do the same.
Oh my gosh. I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that because I think that's important for people to hear. Because what you said, that idea of starting off with your career story, sort of out of habit, I feel like a lot of people do that. I like that you challenge that a little bit, but also you understand the reason why and the tie to it. Can we go just a little bit deeper? You said that in a lot of ways, your career is a reflection of the things that matter most to you. What are some of those things?
PR: The things that matter most to me honestly, are understanding, sharing, and listening to the stories of others. And for a long time, I didn't know that, and it, like the best lessons in life, are discovered in hindsight through experience. It was very quickly understanding that I have a lived experience in the world as someone with all of my background and experience, but also as someone who is a member of a racialized community, a member of the LGBTQ2+ community, a person with a disability; Those lived experiences have informed not only how I have been or how I continue to become in the world, but how the world has been designed in ways that keep me out. Keep me out of places. Keep me out of opportunities. Keep me out of the stories that the collective consciousness wants to tell us about ourselves. And so for me, I think the story, the work of understanding, the work of connection, the work of empathy—that has been the consistent thread that has woven throughout all of those experiences. Wanting to understand others, wanting to see others, wanting to bear witness to lived experiences. And my hope is that as I continue to navigate these spaces, stories will be the vehicle that help me to do just that. To figure out not only what my purpose is, but figure out how I can go about the work of bringing that purpose to life.
Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that. I appreciate it. So I’d love for you to tell me a bit about the work you do that brings you joy and that can be in any arena in your life.
PR: I think the first body of work that brings me joy is working in the diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging space. And I think to even conceptualize that work as joy-giving, life-affirming work feels almost counterintuitive because so much of the work requires us to confront historical and current systemic oppression, and the individual oppression that exists. But for me, the joy emanates from the fact that these conversations are happening; that people are finally acknowledging the many ways in which what they heretofore were not willing to pay attention to actually has been playing a tangible role in how either their journey has unfolded or the journey around them in the world unfolded. So while there's continued reluctance to do this work by a number of people, I think the fact that the conversations are happening in places where the conversations didn't happen before—that brings me joy because it gives me hope that there's possibility for progress.
I think also for so long, I felt the need to exist outside of myself. That my career was something I did, but I didn't bring the fullness of who I am to it. And in many ways I didn't bring the fullness of who I am to it, to protect myself. Working as a human rights lawyer, it was like, how do you strike the balance between being empathetic, but being able to be a tireless advocate for others? How do you make sure you don't centre yourself in the stories of other people, but at the same time, bring the passion for the work that you're doing and your tireless advocacy for the needs of those who are facing disadvantage to inform how you're going to approach it. And so for me, for a long time, it was the divorcing of myself from my work to a place where I didn't even really understand why I was doing it anymore. And for me, joy happened when I discovered that the fullness of who I am, not just my skills or experience, but all the dimensions of my identity, the joy came up when I realized bringing that to my work every single day allowed me to be in alignment with both my purpose, but also allowed me to be the best of who I am in what I do in my career.
So for me, that's joy. The other thing that bring me joy is stories. And so whether it's watching films, live theatre, television, reading books, immersing myself in the worlds of other people, other storytellers, allows me to have a better understanding of my own human experience, but also it empowers me to understand how I can be of service to others. So those things bring me the most joy. And then most recently writing this cookbook with my mom has been a project filled with joy, and that's just been the perfect blend of telling stories and connecting to family, and shared history.
So we will definitely talk about the cookbook cause I want to dive into that. But I, I want to just ground us first in stories. What would you say makes a good story?
PR: A good story for me gives you a glimpse into an experience that you may not have lived directly, but transforms how you're going to move forward in the world. So an ideal story gives you insight into the experience of another so you [can] build empathy, you connect you engage, but it will no longer allow you to move forward in the world in the way that you would have before you connected to that story. You are transformed in some intangible ethereal way, whether it's how you react to a situation, whether it's what you pay attention to, whether it's who you will no longer allow to be ignored. A good story transforms you from within and changes how you operate without.
So I want to dive in there a little bit. What's a story that you've experienced that has transformed you. And what was the transformation? Sorry. I know, that's a hard one.
PR: That's a big one. So I have a tendency to allow every story that I interact with to make me think differently about something. Even if I despise a book or a television show, I always walk away being like, okay, I either know what I don't like or I know what I will no longer tolerate. Or I start thinking differently about something. In terms of the story that I think transformed me a lot. There's two, one was the book The God of Small Things written by Arundhati Roy. It was the first time I had seen or had experienced a book where the author transformed the English language to have the lyrical, melodic, phonetic rhythm of Malayalam, which is the language where the author is from in Kerala. To see English and other languages merged in that way to tell the story where for so many years growing up as a child, I would hear my parents or my grandparents also tell me stories in English, but then intersperse it with languages from our community, it felt so real. So for me, that was the first story where I was like, oh, I feel very represented in this book. And I feel like I can find a language that's unique to me to tell the stories I need to tell other people.
I think another story that transformed me profoundly as well was reading Simi Linton’s book, My Body Politic, which is about the author’s experience (as person using a wheelchair) navigating a world that's set up for nondisabled people. And as a person with a disability myself, I'm legally blind, consuming or reading that book reminded me that so much of what I internalize about things I need to overcome was actually the responsibility of society to create systems that were inclusive of everybody. So my disability wasn’t an inherent flaw in me, my disability arose because of my interaction with a world that was not designed for me. And so that book transformed how I approached not only understanding myself, but how I understood my work.
I love to hear that specifically around My Body Politic because that’s something I, for some reason, think about a lot in terms of how we shape our worlds by the choices we make and through policy, through governance, but also through community choices as well. And the impacts that they have and our ability to shape the world.
PR: That book transformed me in one way, because I think so much of what I do in my world is about dismantling the stories that people tell about members of underrepresented communities. And so often I forget about the harmful stories I'm telling myself about myself. And how much of that is due to my own internalized journey, how much of it is societal expectations about how people with disabilities should perceive themselves and how are those inextricably linked? Reading My Body Politic really asked me to confront, how am I telling my story to myself? Not just, how am I introducing myself to the world, how am I asking for accommodations? But also how am I making myself small when I ask for accommodations so that my experience is more palatable to other people, as opposed to showing up in the fullness of myself and saying the system as it is currently built does not include me? We have a shared responsibility. I'm telling you what needs to change. You have the responsibility now with that knowledge to actually make the change happen.
Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes. To all of that. So I want to talk a bit more about your connection to stories and storytelling, because it seems like something that is just in you. You mentioned it as being related to and part of your purpose. So when did you start to realize the important role that stories had in your life and storytelling specifically?
PR: You know, I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't telling myself stories. I describe my childhood as often being the first and the only in the my world. One of only a few racialized children in my elementary school; One of only a few members of the community that spoke other languages. So it always felt like I was sort of the one or the only in the spaces I occupied, especially throughout my childhood. Storytelling was the way in which I navigated a world where I felt alone a lot of the time. I was an only child so building friendships for me took some effort at the beginning and stories were my way to keep myself company. I would tell myself stories about the adventures I would go on during the day. I would tell myself stories about the places I wanted to travel. I was always very into fashion, so I would tell myself stories about a glamorous life beyond the life of a little boy in Saskatchewan in the eighties. Stories for me were always this vehicle to dreaming. It was my way of saying there's something bigger than me outside of my current experience and I'm excited to explore that in my life, but until I can, I'm going to tell myself the stories of the places I want to go, the people I want to see, the things I want to be.
So when you think about the power that stories have had in your life and the way that they have helped shape your experience of the world and forgive me for this question, because it is a big one, but what would you say to people who might not recognize the power and potential in of stories in their life, in terms of what they might be missing?
PR: I think about this a lot. I just did a guest lecture recently at the University of Southern California (USC) about DEI and storytelling and stories more generally to advance DEI work. And I think the one thing I would share with people that as they think about this relationship with storytelling is that every moment of our lives is a story unfolding. So this conversation right now is a story. It's a story in my life, but it's a story just contained in the confines of the time that we are devoting to this talk. Stories are the emails that we write to one another, they're the text messages; stories are the things that we say to one another in conversation; stories are these silent films of our lives when, especially over the last two years, so much of our lives has been being by ourselves. So for me, our lives are stories constantly unfolding and I think sometimes some of us share those experiences with others in story format in a way that we've described stories. But for me, the powerful thing is that we're surrounded by stories and we're actually just living a story out loud every day.
“Every moment of our lives is a story unfolding.”
Ugh, you're making me so happy. So when you think about the stories you share with the world and how you approach storytelling in your own life and in your work, who would you say you create for? Who's your audience?
PR: In my current life, I would say there's probably three core audiences. Doing DEI work, I think the stories that I tell in that space are for people who are going on their learning journeys around what it means to create more equitable and inclusive environments. So whether I share my own experiences of facing marginalization or exclusion with the view to sort of unlocking or engendering a sense of shared commitment to change. I also tell stories a lot on social media and I think we all do and we don't realize it. So what are the things we're sharing on Instagram? What does it say about what we believe in? What does it say about what we care about? What does it say about what makes us happy? Makes us joy-filled human beings?
So before we dive into the cookbook, which is where I want to go next, I’d love to just get your perspective on what role storytelling plays in DEI work and in making a change in the world.
PR: I think so much of the focus when it comes to the intersection of DEI and storytelling is why representation and storytelling is important. And the conversation tends to focus on the idea that it's important to have people across different lived dimensions of diversity represented in the stories that we tell; it's important for storytellers to come from different backgrounds and lived experiences; it's important for stories to be told in ways that are accessible, that feature different linguistic traditions, that remove barriers to people with disabilities when it comes to consuming stories and content. But I think the focus rarely is on, in doing DEI work, how do we actually leverage the power of storytelling to make a difference? And for me, I think the biggest, biggest thing is actually, first of all, determining that storytelling is an important tool to use. And I think so many people disregard the importance of storytelling.
So one of the things I talk about working in tech, is the work I have led around building a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. And for me, it was essential that one of the core pillars of teh strategy was actually sharing our stories. And it's the final pillar of the strategy. But the idea being, if you do all the systemic work, eventually every single person that works at an organization will feel empowered to share their stories and through sharing their stories, they'll create this sense of community and connection. But for me, sharing our stories also happens earlier in the journey where we share the stories of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, so that people understand that these things are happening, that they're not theoretical constructs, but that they're deeply impactful. They're deeply harmful things that happen on a daily basis that keep people out of and excluded from opportunities.
But one of the things about storytelling in the DEI space that's really problematic is that it requires or asks people in an organization to share their trauma before people will do something. So tell me about how you were excluded. Tell me about how you were harassed. Tell me about how you were not accommodated. And once you tell me that, then I'll do something about it. And what I tell people is that your organization is not a magical utopia free of all these harmful things. It is not free of all these toxic stories or of all these traumatic experiences. They exist everywhere.
Yeah. You're not the unicorn.
PR: You're not the unicorn. So you don't need to ask employees or people in the organization to share their trauma before you do something. There are stories that exist across all industries that you can leverage to know these problems exist because of what these people have shared. I now need you to do something to make a difference. So when I talk about the power of storytelling, so many times in the DEI space, it's limited to how can storytelling unlock empathy? And for me, that is harmful and it is also… it's just not enough. So I say, if you want storytelling to be used here so you'll do something, it's not going to do something, you're going to end up perpetuating harm because no matter what you do, it is insufficient to meet the magnitude of that story. It is insufficient to make the person who's endured that trauma feel like they were heard, they were validated, that sharing that experience with you was worth anything. You're never gonna do something that does that. But what you can do is proactively build those systems so that in the future, people don't have to experience those stories in the same way here. And so for me, storytelling is this constant vehicle of, let me get you to care, but make sure that once you care, you're not just in it for a minute. You're in it for the long term.
Yeah. Yeah. What you’re saying also reminds me a lot of something I get asked when I speak about storytelling a lot about. People who say, I don’t want to share my story or are private, and my answer is almost always, not everyone has a right to your story. And you get to choose because it is a vulnerable act to share your story and the place that you work, the person that you just met, et cetera, et cetera, are not places and people that deserve your story. Stories are earned. So I love that perspective.
PR: I love that. Yeah. I think about Brene Brown a lot, because I think she says that as well. One of the most misunderstood things she's talked about is vulnerability and she often says. ‘everyone assumes because I'm the person that's talked about vulnerability that I'm telling you to tell your story to everybody. And what I'm telling you is to figure out in what ways that vulnerability needs to show up, who has earned it, who has earned the trust that you're instilling in them, by sharing your story and determine at what point sharing your story is empowering and affirming for you and where you want to go and where it might cause harm and where it might hold you back from the future that you hope to build.’
Yeah. And you’re making me think of so many different things because I was having a conversation with somebody who works at a foundation about the role of storytelling and about how you convince people to change their minds. I found myself stumped because I’m one of those people who believes stories are the most powerful things we have as human beings to connect and engage others. And at the same time, I was like, I had this weird feeling around like, yeah, you can share your story for people to then understand a new perspective and that might give them new things to think about, but there was something itchy about it for me. And your point about empathy and sort of the forced empathy that might come of like making someone tell their story to change someone’s mind. I think that’s the point that was sticking with me and I couldn’t quite figure out.
PR: I love that. And you also raised for me this concept of when we talk about representation mattering, so many times the cultural conversation is just the fact that we exist on screen or we exist in the story. It's not how we're framed in the story. So as people from racialized communities or people with disabilities, we're always in a story where we're struggling is that the story that needs to be continued to be told about us? Are organizations, are storytellers, are corporations relying on those tropes of us being struggling for success or working so hard and overcoming all these obstacles that we made it, does that tell the full story? Does that share the fullness of our humanity with the world or does it also reduce our complexity to something that's easily digestible? Because that's the only way we've been presented in the past.
Yeah. That. Everything that you just said and it’s that idea of like, we need stories of joy just as much as we need those stories of struggle. And in fact, those stories of joy, at least right now for me are the most powerful things I want to engage with.
PR: Yes, yes. Me too.
Okay. So who is a storyteller that you admire?
PR: Oh, I mean, I think there's two that come to mind. One, I don't think will be a surprise to you at all. I would say Oprah Winfrey is a storyteller that I really admire. Shocker.
PR: And I think I really admire Oprah Winfrey, both because of the stories she's directly told through her work, whether it's her writing, whether it's through her performances in various films and television programs. But it's also about how she creates the space for the stories of others to come to life. So for me, the reason I admire her so much is she's often using her platform to shine a light on the stories of individuals who otherwise may not have had access to an audience, who may not have had access to a community. And one of the best storytelling lessons I think I've received from anyone is that she said she did 4,561 episodes of the Oprah show. And I think it ended up being like hundreds of thousands of interviews. And she said, a consistent thing at the end of every interview is she wanted the person to walk away from the interview answering yes to the following three questions. Did you see me? Did you hear me? Did what I say matter to you? And she said, regardless of whether she agreed with them, regardless of who they were, what they were talking about, she said the ultimate act of being present with someone is them leaving that interview saying, we may not have agreed, we may not have connected, but knowing at the very least that, did you see me? Did you hear me? Did what I say matter to you? And knowing that the answer was yes. For me it has been the consistent storytelling thread and how not only I tell stories, but how I make sure I listen to others when they're sharing their story with me.
Oh my gosh. I love that. I’ve never heard that but also not an Oprah for super fan. Oprah’s cool I’m just not at the super fan level. Thank you for sharing that. That was fantastic. You said there were two.
PR: The other person, I would say is a storyteller that I really admire is Michaela Coel and her series, “I May Destroy You,” for me is the one show that I think will be burrowed in my consciousness. And I am just so excited to read all of her future books and everything. That, for me, that series is the one I say is necessary viewing. It's very difficult to watch because it explores themes of sexual assault and trauma. But for me, the work she did in that show is unparalleled.
I agree 100%. I had to force myself to watch that show because I am also a Michaela Cole superfan. I love her like you love Oprah. And I also have difficulty watching anything with sexual assault so I had to force myself to watch it because I was like, there’s going to be something so potent in this I know for sure. And it was a hundred percent worth it. Cause I think with a theme, an idea like sexual assault almost often in the media, it’s portrayed in a way that is…not salacious salacious, isn’t the word, but it’s used in a way as opposed to explored, do you know what I mean? And I think what she did was explore it and explore the experience in a really, really profound way. So yeah I’m with you on both of those. So tell me a story you’ve created—I think I know which one you might go into—or shared that you’re especially proud of.
PR: I think there's two that I'm especially proud of. The first one is in 2017, I did a Walrus Talk. It was called Post Poster Inclusion in Action and it was about the idea that I no longer wanted to be put on the promotional poster for a workplace, but I actually wanted to be seen as a fully realized embodied person. And so I think it started off with this quote: How many times have you walked by posters in your office that celebrate diversity? How many times have you been put on these posters used for promotion, but not actually promoted? How many times has your difference been publicized, but your success not prioritized? How many times? And so that's how it started. It was the first time I brought my passion for my DEI work to a public space. I told my story and actually, that's how I publicly came out to the world. On a Walrus Talk. That is now on YouTube. So yeah. I mean, all my friends and family knew, but it was like the first time I said it publicly and that it formed part of my story and it was very powerful. So that's the one, the second one is a cookbook that I wrote with my mom.
I've already preordered it. I'm so excited.
PR: My gosh, you’re so wonderful. Thank you. Yeah, we started writing it in March, 2020. My mom has taught cooking classes for the last 50 years in Ottawa, Regina, and Saskatoon. She's now in Saskatoon and for her, it was really important to document the recipes that she had developed over the last 50 years in community with the other South Asian women in Canada that had also immigrated here, moving far away from their families. Food was the way they shared family stories, they connected with one another. She would tell me stories about how, when there were green beans at the grocery store in Saskatoon the 1970s, they would all phone each other or let each other know because it was so rare to get any vegetable other than potatoes. And so they would rush to the store because they could get green beans.
She had always said, ‘you know what? I really want to write my recipes down. Everybody wants them, they keep asking and I keep giving them to people on the phone, but I think I want to write it down.’ So I said, ‘okay, let's go about doing that.’ So my mom also experiences vision loss so she recorded a lot of the recipes on voice notes and then sent them to her friend in Saskatoon who typed them up or she would be on the landline with her friend and her friend would type. And so I got the first cut of the recipes and there were 308. And I said, mom, we need to actually build a book. Like, I thought it would be a few recipes and we would maybe make a blog and we would publish it that way.
And I said, mom, this is substantial. So I then took the project over from her, from the recipes, sort of crafted the narrative, the preface, all of those pieces, organized it into chapters and then developed a book proposal thinking self-publishing is going to be hard. So I sent a proposal around not thinking it would be easy because cookbooks are generally only published when the authors are very well known.
Yeah. For the most part.
PR: And my mom is not online. She doesn't have social media. So I submitted a proposal and Rupi Kaur and her manager Rakhi Mutta at the time were starting to think about starting a special project called Likhari Authors, which would focus on the stories of South Asian and racialized women who often don't get access to publishing platforms. And so they read the proposal and they're like, we'd actually like to publish the book that you and your mom wrote. And so that happened, which was stunning. And now it is available two years later for sale. It was a two-year process where we did the writing and editing, they came to Saskatoon to do photo shoots. It was involved, it was much more work than I anticipated, but in an interesting storytelling twist as much work as went into creating the book and getting it ready now for sale, it's also been a lot of work telling the story to people post-launch when they're buying the book. I’ve been sharing it through social media, doing interviews. I think there was an element of me that was naive about where the story would start and end. And it's almost like a separate series of stories that are now coming to life as we share what this project and its impact has been on us. So long answer. Sorry. But that is the second story I'm the most proud of telling.
Oh, that is so exciting. And I honestly, I can't wait for the cookbook. I ordered it the first day. I also love cooking and I love cookbooks so you got me on so many levels.
PR: Yes. Thank you. Yeah, for us, it was as much about sharing the recipes as telling the story of my mom. So a lot of the book in the preface has vintage photos of her as a child and her getting married. And it's also about the stories that she told with her friends in Saskatchewan and elsewhere to bring the story to life. So it really is a love letter. It's a love letter to food. It's a love letter to community. It's a love letter between me and mom and me and dad and mom. It's called, Made With Prema. Prema's the Sanskrit word for love. So it's made with love.
Oh . I love it. I can't wait. So I I'm assuming folks can get the book when this comes out or I'll have a link to pre-order (the book is available now!). So now that you finished that story or are coming to the end of sharing that story, are there any stories that you’re looking forward to starting? New projects, anything like that?
PR: Yeah. I mean, I've always wanted to write a book, but I also realize that I don't know if I'm in a space yet to write one narrative story. So I think my dream is to write a series of short stories or essays, similar to Mindy Kaling's collections. Where it's a combination of reflection on workplace dynamics, like conversations about identity conversations about dating and relationships. I want it to be an exploration of different things. I mean, I don't know who the audience would be for said book.
Me! So many people. What are you saying?
PR: I've always also had this dream of what would a television series similar to Abbot Elementary look like set in the DEI world?
Oh my gosh.
PR: Where each episode it's like a mockumentary, single-camera-style series, just exploring what a DEI team deals with on a daily basis.
Oh my God. I would watch that so fast. As you know, I say the work that you do, like DEI work, is the Lord's work. Only saints do it. Like I don't understand how people do it.
PR: So that is another dream one day I’m speaking into existence. And then in a dream world, one of the things I loved doing over the last two years was being a consulting producer on a docuseries on people with disabilities (Born for Business) while I've been working in tech. And then prior to that was a documentary on women entrepreneurs (Dream, Girl). So it would be really nice to actually dive into either more documentary storytelling or narrative storytelling about some of these topics too. Coda has given me life this year and my excitement for the fact that we can tell fully realized stories about people with disabilities that are not struggle stories. I'm very excited about a future that opens the door up to more opportunities.
Oh, amazing. So what are some of the important stories that you think are being told right now, just out in the world and why are they important?
PR: I think journalism has never been more vital than it is at the moment. Well resourced, well researched journalists who have the ability and scope to dive into deep stories. I think that is more vital than ever before. I think, especially in a world where everyone has a platform—and I think there's a lot of power in everyone having a platform because for so long information was kept by a select few—but in a world where everyone has a platform, it also becomes increasingly difficult to cut through the noise and determine what is true. I think the idea of truth being, or facts or data being an elusive topic that's open to debate has created fundamental misunderstanding that I think will take a long time to overcome.
I think the stories that people who've experienced racism, othering, and harm have shared have really allowed us to both understand howwhat many people viewed as solely historical construct, ‘racism like that has been solved!’
PR: It's like all of us who have experienced it know that that is not true. For so many people, 2020 was this big idea of like, oh my gosh, I didn't know. And for me I'm like, how did you not know?
Oh my God, that was the most frustrating part of 2020. It was just like the fact that this was an awakening for so many people drove me absolutely bonkers. I was just like, are you kidding me? This has literally been my life for the past three decades. And you're saying you didn't know? Wow.
PR: Yeah. I mean, when people would reach out and say things like, ‘I'm so sorry you're going through this, or so sorry that people are going through this’. And I had colleagues I worked with and others who I worked with, members of the Black community, who would say like, why are people reaching out to me?
Leave me alone.
PR: Yes, leave me alone. But also how do you think that this is only happening now?
Yeah. It didn't start in 2020, this is not new.
PR: Exactly. So I think for me, the stories that are being told where the responsibility is not simply on the shoulders of those experiencing harm to share the stories, but it's now gotten to a place where people are starting to share the stories in many spaces some more responsibly than others obviously. But I think those are the vital stories that are being told. And honestly, I think it is the responsibility of fiction and narrative storytellers to incorporate an inclusive mindset to the stories that they're telling.
So final question. What is your philosophy or what is your governing principle or wisdom right now?
PR: My governing philosophy, I think, is rooted in some of my faith traditions and my family relationships growing up. The idea of the concept of the divinity in me acknowledges the divinity in you. And so the idea being that we are all manifestations of a light and a love and love is the undercurrent that connects all. So when I think about the concept of community, community is the notion of making the invisible thread that connects us all visible. And for me, the invisible thread is love. And so what are the things that we can do every single day to make that spark of love that animates each of us that animates the connections between each of us visible and viscerally real. The philosophy that I most adhere to is: what can I do every single day to make love palpable and not make it illusory? What are things I can do to make sure that it's tangible, it's not invisible and hopefully day by day, there's something small I can do that makes that a bit more real.
Thank you. I just, I wanted to just hold that for a second. That is wonderful.
“Community is the notion of making the invisible thread that connects us all visible. And for me, the invisible thread is love.”
Thank you so much for sharing that. And thank you so much for choosing to do this interview and share with the readers of my newsletter. I think they’re going to get so much out of this, so thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you
PR: Thank you for having me. This was such a delight
And then quickly is there anything that you, you thought would come up or wanted to mention that we haven't talked about?
PR: No, I think your questions covered it. I was just happy to go on the journey with you. So if there were things that you feel like you wanted me to highlight more that I didn't let me know.
No. That was magical and I appreciate it so much. So thank you.
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Love love love this interview. So many insights into the power of storytelling and how that can lead to both connection and belonging. Thank you Chantaie and Prasanna for sharing it. I've shared the link in our Teams as I'm sure others at our company would love to listen or read.