Ep#13 Stay Woke: Ending Racism in Our Lifetime with Justin Michael Williams
In this episode of Your Story Medicine, I welcome Justin Michael Williams, author, transformational speaker, and recording artist who has become a pioneering voice for diversity and inclusion in the wellness space. Justin has recently birthed his book, Stay Woke: A meditation guide for the rest of us, and he gives us thought-provoking insight into who this book is really for and what he considers his medicine to be.
Justin speaks about the potential for toxicity in the worlds of self-help and personal development, why he has been practicing celibacy for the past few years, and how his complicated ancestral history has impacted his life experience, offering powerful insights on racism, equality, and inclusion in the modern world.
How often do you take time to celebrate yourself?
2020 has taught us that it’s okay to celebrate whatever the f*ck your life is. Celebrating myself has looked a lot different than it has in the past, but it’s really just being present with myself and telling myself that I’m showing up and doing it. That’s something we all need to celebrate often!
How would you describe your medicine?
My medicine is authenticity. It’s about the journey I’ve been on, from bringing light and liberation into the shadow of a closeted little boy in the hood. I show up as me and hold space for others to show up as themselves, asking them questions that let them see that. I am a mirror for other people.
What is your ancestral lineage and how has that influenced your medicine today?
My dad is African-American, my mom is Persian and Italian, but she’s adopted into an Italian and Spanish, very Catholic, family. My mom and dad got engaged and my mom’s family disowned her. My dad’s side was extremely open and compassionate, taking in my mom. Half of my mom’s family welcomed her back into the family, the other half did not, so it created a huge split in the family, that’s how deep the racism was.
This has given me something that I didn’t even recognize as a privilege until recently, which is a comfort around white people and an ability to connect with them. I was the only black boy in my family growing up and I wasn’t uncomfortable. I listen to white teachers and bring their spiritual teachings back home into my community, translating them into teachings that relate to the context of my people.
Regarding your book title, who is “the rest of us”?
I was scared of leaving people out, but I needed to get honest with defining who this book is for. Since George Floyd’s death, I don’t think “us” needs to be defines anymore, I think we know. [Page 3 describes who this book is for, which is read out loud in the episode.]
What are the signs of toxicity in relationships and experiences?
In the self-help and personal growth worlds, we have to be so careful about taking a memeable, quotable two-sentence or one-sentence line and embodying that as our truth, repeating it over and over as a mantra, and then letting that become our truth. There is no research that’s been done that says you have to love yourself first before you love someone else or that you can only love someone as much as you love yourself.
Why did you practice celibacy?
What I was really practicing was a redirection of my creative energy. In every spiritual tradition, creative energy and sexual energy are considered the same thing. I got a tarot card reading from Brenda Rose and she called me out on the fact that I had been doing all these things to harness my energy for this book, yet I had missed the most distracting thing of them all… boys and sex. I knew she was right because I felt myself working my creative energy, the fire of my creative spirit being stoked by my creative practices, and I had this leak in my sexuality that is causing distraction in my life, not allowing my fire to grow to its potential. I did a cleanse of my creative energy and I’m still involuntarily cleansing.
As a result, I have my sexual energy now, it doesn’t have me anymore. I have a greater agency over my sexuality and I was able to do so much healing in my sexuality.
What are you doing to stay grounded and what have you learned or are learning to release?
My morning practice and the addition of an evening practice. If I don’t do that, I’m a hot mess. 4-5 days per week, I do a 15-minute evening meditation/journaling session. Sleep has also been something that if I don’t get enough of, it affects my ability to show up, stay grounded, and stay emotionally healthy. Giving myself permission to rest and sleep is essential.
As a future ancestor in the making, how would you answer the question, “How do I end racism in my lifetime?”?
We created this, so we’re the only ones who can end it. The biggest thing right now is to get people to even consider the idea that racism could end, because it’s a modern invention that was created by white colonizers that came to the United States. Using skin color to decide who’s in the ‘in group’ and who’s in the ‘out group’ is something we can overcome if we choose to. The only way it will ever end is if we say it can.
Conclusion: The word liberation is a word we throw around so much these days. The word means both becoming free and setting free. Each of us are more comfortable on one of those sides… the true power is in truly liberating ourselves so we can become free and set others free, doing the work it takes to do both, so that we can actually have the real impact we want to make. True liberation starts on the inside.
Action Integration: Look deep inside to find any leaks in your energy flow. Where are there distractions or feelings of toxicity in your life? Figure out how you can seal those cracks in order to retain your energy and grow to your highest potential.
Learn more about Justin and his offerings:
Visit him website: www.justinmichaelwilliams.com
Follow him on Instagram: www.instagram.com/wejustwill
Connect with him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/wejustwill
Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wejustwill
Get his book, Stay Woke: www.justinmichaelwilliams.com/stay-woke-give-back
Join The Liberation Experience: www.wecandreambigger.org/liberation-experience
Join The Kingdom: www.justinmichaelwilliams.com/thekingdom
Dr. Sará King: www.mindheartconsulting.com
Brenda Rose: www.brenda-rose.com/product-category/tarot