Episode 63: About conversation in America, with Jim St. Germain
Nov 19, 2020
I met Jim St. Germain on a bus in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Immediately I realized I had a lot to learn from his inspiring story and his knowledge of American history. And this episode is a history lesson, indeed. I relish the way Jim challenges me and calls my thinking to task in this conversation.
So often we choose to talk to people with whom we can simply go back and forth in a “bubble of agreement.” This episode is not that. It’s a real conversation about the real America. We talk about race and class and America’s true history. We expound about Amy Cooper and Harvey Weinstein. We interrupt each other and our nervous systems get charged. Real conversation is messy my friends, but that’s no reason not to dive in. Join us.
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- 0:00 - Welcome to Jim St. Germain
- 7:15 - Jim shares his story, which is catalogued in his memoir, A Stone of Hope. How he moved from Haiti to Crown Heights, Brooklyn at age 10 and quickly got swept up into the juvenile justice system. Through the support of some magnificent individuals, he was able to turn things around and now works to reform the system and mentor at-risk youth.
- 11:55 - A discussion of how the GI Bill was denied to Black veterans after World War II. Elissa’s grandfather Fred, who grew up in the same neighborhood in Crown Heights that Jim moved to many years later, benefited from the GI Bill after his service.
- 16:46 - Jim shares what conversation means to him, and also his thoughts about the #ConversationCulture structure. We must talk about things that have not been addressed. In the U.S., that means talking about the racial divide and economic disparity on which the country was built. We also bring up the idea of cancel culture.
- 23:30 - Elissa speaks about the privilege of her position, and Jim and Elissa share their different views of cancel culture.
- 26:05 - Elissa brings up Amy Cooper as an example of someone who was cancelled. Could it have gone differently? What could the internet mob have done? What could she have done?
- 31:00 - Jim calls Elissa on calling on respectability politics. Black people should not have to be twice as educated to succeed. And further, many of the people who commit incredible harm in our society are very well educated.
- 34:05 - Jim and Elissa disagree about Amy Cooper’s level of consciousness during the event in Central Park.
- 39:16 - Jim outlines different cultures’ experiences coming to the United States. People have very different experiences in this country.
- 47:58 - More on Amy Cooper.... Elissa calls on the oppressor to be the one to step back into Conversation Culture, instead of cancelling themselves or anyone else. And if you’re part of the internet mob, can you be curious about a path to repair instead of immediately cancelling someone who’s done something wrong?
- 53:48 - The Voice Body Connection Process check in. Elissa feels fragile and like she wants to ground. Jim feels anxious and like he wants to escape.
- 58:58 - Jim says “I do these talks often, and lately I’ve been wondering if they even matter.”
- 1:00:49 - Jim answers what it means to him to have a voice and speak his truth. Speak truth to power.
- 1:07:13 - How to get in touch with Jim.
To learn more about Jim, read his memoir A Stone of Hope. And you can follow him on instagram @stgermain_
This article from History.com is a good overview of how Black veterans were denied the benefits of the GI Bill.
This is Elissa’s article about Conversation Culture that was discussed.
Here’s an overview from the NY Times of what happened with Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper in Central Park in May.
Resmaa Menakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands is an incredible resource for understanding and healing racial trauma.
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Our Editor is Sean Brennan
Our Photographer and Graphic Designer is Laura Sills
Our Videographer is Miguel Garzón Martínez
And our theme song is “Waters of Body” by Strange Weather
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