I was initially “introduced” to Lucretia Berry, Ph.D, on The Global Mom Show Podcast. I was drawn to her message and heart immediately! Not only because I’m a mother to two biracial girls, but because I’m passionate about building global community, one that surpasses skin tone.
I’ve personally felt a great struggle as I navigate creating a diverse community online. So often social media rhetoric, popular hashtags, and trending topics add fuel to an already blazing fire.
I see so much division and fist pumping, but very few people stepping across the aisle to offer a gentle embrace for solidarity and inclusive instruction on how to reconcile. I think that’s mainly because there is great hurt and those who feel misunderstood. So when I listened to Lucretia share about her movement Brownicity, I almost wept with relief. Here was someone saying so many of the things I wish I had the expertise and finesse to share with all of you.
So instead of trying to come up with the words to articulate her message, I figured I’d give her the stage and let her do all the explaining. She does it so well!
This interview is just a tiny peek into her massive movement and radical life change. My hope is to dive even deeper with this amazing woman in the future and bring you a more intimate look at what racial reconciliation can look like in your own life, especially if you believe it’s an issue only for those people.
The truth is, we all could use a better understanding of the history of race and racial constructs.
AM: Please introduce yourself.
LB: I am Lucretia Berry—wife to Nathan, mom to three amazing girls, and former college professor of Education (Curriculum and Instruction) and English.
AM: Please share with us about how you met your husband and began reconciling your own personal struggle with race ideas.
LB: Nathan’s and my friendship was solidified at Iowa State University while we attended a historically black church/college ministry in transition to becoming a multi-ethnic/muti-racial church. The lone white parishioner for at least a semester, Nathan attended the church, not because the ministry or the people were so great, but because he had promised his parents that he would attend church weekly and this church’s noon start time was convenient for him to (in his own words) “recover from the activities of Saturday night and still make it to church on time.”
Besides the Pastor and his wife, no one spoke to Nathan for that first semester—not even me. I had never shared a worship space with white people and wasn’t looking forward to the church ‘becoming interracially one’—BIO. My black church served as an oasis from what I considered to be the hard edges of doing life with white people—where I could take a break from swimming upstream in cultural dissonance. But my resistance was overshadowed by God’s love for me and my desire to reflect God’s love in every area of my life.
I committed to the hard work of love and change. Where I had once saw ‘white’ people as antagonists in the story of black people, I now began to see that we all are God’s image bearers. We are family. I was transformed!
AM: What is Brownicity and what is its purpose?
LB: Brownicity (pronounced like ‘ethnicity’) is family focused and dedicated to education, advocacy and support for racial healing and antiracism. It is an extension of our quest to disrupt the race narrative and its polarizing effects on the human family. Before Nathan and I had children, we had intentional conversations about how we would talk with our multi-ethnic children about their identities as it relates to race. We new that there was no way that we were sticking with the traditional narrow, erroneous and confusing race ideology and framework. Race just doesn’t work for families like ours.
One day, while eating dinner, our four year old enlightened us with an observation. She said, “we are all hues of brown — Daddy is light brown, mommy is dark brown and I am middle brown.” It was exactly the cornerstone we needed to lay the foundation for building a more holistic, inclusive framework for our conversations with her. We taught her about melanin and ancestry, and as she got a little older we taught her about the construct of race and the atrocities of racism.
The ‘we all are hues of brown’ framework was adopted by family and friends searching for a way to consciously and confidently engage in age appropriate conversations about skin tone and race with their children. In 2015, Brownicity became official, offering family friendly resources, a race education series, workshops, professional development sessions, coaching and consulting.
AM: Please share about your latest work, What Lies Between Us. Who is this book and training meant for?
LB: I created this guide and journal for people who need a healthy and secure on-ramp to engaging in informed race dialogue; for those who want to be a part of the solution but don’t know where to begin; for those who may have only had race conversations in an unhealthy context; and for those who want to believe, think and live beyond the lies that we’ve been told and internalized through race ideology.
AM: What’s it like to work alongside your spouse?
LB: Nathan is my best friend. We work well together. Each of our strengths compliment each other’s weaknesses. I can only recall a couple of instances where we disagreed on an approach or strategy. But we are really patient with each other and practice giving a lot of grace to each other when doing this work.
It seems that the work of Brownicity is a strength for us both. We are very comfortable talking about race—academically, socially and personally—which seems to put our audience or students at ease when we are engaging them.
AM: What are you hoping Brownicity and What Lies Between Us accomplishes?
LB: We are here for those who want transformation and change. We want to help equip and empower them, to grow their capacity to engage in courageous conversations and to advocate and strive for what they know is possible. We want to provide support for their growth, cheer them on and encourage them on their journey. We hope to be an inspiration, a tool, and a friend.
AM: What (if any) topics regularly come up within your home—pertaining to marriage, race relations, parenting?
LB: Because it is so normalized in our family, its difficult to distinguish skin tone and race conversations as a topic that arises in our home. I mean, we even make up songs about our skin tones. When we are outside of our home and around people for whom race conversations are taboo or uncomfortable, I am reminded that for most people, it is a compartmentalized ‘topic.’ I feel we are fortunate to be beyond the stigma associated with conversations around race.
As parents, Nathan and I give much attention to helping our children navigate our hyper-racialized society. Even though we place more focus on cultivating their inner-beings, we understand the power of the strong socializing agent of race that can push or pull them in predetermined directions. We are trying to empower them to push back and stand in their identity on their own terms.
AM: I know you’re a very active and involved speaker and mother. What do you do to relax and care for yourself?
LB: Urban cardio dance is my favorite way to relax! The loud, thumping, rhythmic, bass-driven music seems to tell my brain to chill and let my body have a party. I know that sounds crazy, but I need that type of distraction to quiet my brain from thinking, processing, analyzing, strategizing, working!! Although it seems like they would be opposites on a spectrum, practicing yoga gives me a similar experience—the quiet, calm flow takes me out of my brain space. Either way, being active physically is essential for me.
AM: What books are you reading and would recommend to the Tribe?
LB: I have started reading about six books this year and haven’t managed to finish one of them! The book I am enjoying the most is Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. I am intrigued and stirred by reading ancient texts and writings through perspectives that are new to me. Yep, I am a nerd.
I would recommend that everyone read The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art by Erwin McManus. He describes how the divine process must inform our process.
“…if we realize that our lives are to reflect the nature and essence of God, then we will choose to expand those things that reflect the heart and character of God. When we choose to create as an act of love, we join forces with the Creator of the universe and become givers of life.”
AM: If you could travel anywhere in the world—money was no issue, where would you go?
LB: Everywhere! I have the world in my heart. I am disappointed in how little I have traveled internationally since becoming a mom. So, I look forward to exploring the globe with my family.
AM: Where can we get your resources and training?
LB: What LIES Between Us Journal and Guide is available on Amazon. It can be a personal or group study. For those wanting to facilitate a group study, I am available for coaching.
To hear Lucretia share more details about her transition to race reconciliation in her own life, listen to Episode 29 of The Global Mom Show Podcast.
Follow Lucretia and her amazing movement Brownicity on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.