Shame and Poverty in Family History (with Dr. LaShawn Williams)

Tue Oct 25 23:32:21 EDT 2022
Episode 1

Thanks to Encanto, everyone knows we don’t talk about Bruno. But there are other aspects of family history we don’t talk about, like poverty and shame. Our guest Dr. LaShawn Williams explains, “When we talk about shame, we’re talking about this felt sense of unworthiness to be in connection or relationship with other people despite desperately, desperately wanting to connect with other people.” And like we see in the Disney movie, this feeling of shame can be passed from one generation to the next. So how do we combat it? We talk about Bruno. We talk about poverty and shame within our family histories. And that’s exactly what hosts Miya and Michelle plan on doing with Dr. LaShawn as they address shame and poverty in this episode.

"The problem with pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is not everyone has working bootstraps"


Miya 0:00
So today's episode is really special. But we also need to offer this trigger warning because we will be mentioning sexual assault. Now we have created this podcast show in mind for all people, all ages, all races and all backgrounds. Yet we know that because of this topic, it may be very sensitive for some of you. And especially if you are a parent, we would advise that you listen to this episode first to see if this would be appropriate for your children to listen to.

Michelle 0:31
Miya. Can you guess what Disney movie this is from? I'm gonna sing you a song.

Miya 0:36
Okay, I'm ready.

Michelle 0:37
We don't talk about Bruno no, no, no, we don't talk about Bruno.

Miya 0:44
That's from Frozen! I'm just kidding. And we know it's all from Encanto right? That's like the best movie out right now.

Michelle 0:52
Okay, so yeah, that's from Encanto. Isn't it crazy how much that song just like blew up. It was like top of the charts. It's on T shirts, cups everywhere.

Miya 1:01
On the streets, in cars it with everybody in their homes on their TVs? Girl. I've been hearing it everywhere.

Michelle 1:08
Cuz it resonates. It resonates with people.

Miya 1:12
Yes. You know who we really don't talk about who? It's Abuelo Pedro. I want to know more about who he is. What happened to him? What's his life story? But we don't even talk about that in the movie.

Michelle 1:24
Who are those guys on the horses?

Miya 1:26
Yeah, why were they chasing him?

Michelle 1:28
Why did he have to die? And not talking about certain people in our family history is a perfect example of what not to do. And that's what we're going to be discussing today.

Miya 1:38
You're listening to the Love Your Lineage podcast by LDS Living a multi-faceted, shame-free approach to family history. I'm Miya.

Michelle 1:46
And I'm Michelle and we want to help you find your space and claim your place in your family history story. So Miya, how many times have you seen Encanto? Too many to count? I think that is all of America and beyond we have all seen listen bands are watching nowadays celebrated Encanto. But for those who haven't seen the movie yet, Miya, could you tell us what it's a little bit about?

Miya 2:11
So for those who may not have seen Encanto, it's a Disney movie, it features the main character Mirabel, who is a granddaughter to a woman named Alma, who has magical powers, and so do all of her descendants. But Mirabel is the only one in the family that doesn't. This movie goes through this journey of Mirabel, discovering more about who she is, and maybe why she doesn't have powers like everybody else in her family, and trying to bring about this peace. And this understanding of who her family really is. That's just a little bit about what the movies is.

Michelle 2:47
So today, we're going to talk about two characters from Encanto. Bruno who there's a song about, but Abuelo Pedro, we don't really know much about him. And we want to kind of discuss what shame and poverty have to do with his story. So Abuelo Pedro is the deceased husband of Alma. Alma is Mirabel's, Abuela, or grandmother. And we see him in the movie fleeing from their home. He's protecting Alma and the three little babies that she has with them. And as I have studied more about Colombian history, after colonization, a lot of Columbian people were chased off their lands and were sent up into the mountains. And that is where they experienced extreme poverty. And it was really difficult. Many times this would happen to families. And so in the movie, we're seeing them fleeing from their home, up into the mountains and Abuelo Pedro unfortunately had to give his life to save Alma's life and their three children. And the song Dos Oruguitas touches a little bit on their journey of how they found solace and comfort in each other, as they were hungry, searching for food, living through poverty. And then the time came where they had to separate and go their separate ways to do different things to both protect and help their family progress.

Miya 4:05
You know, I understand it, when it comes to making movies, you have to be pretty succinct and cut to the chase for certain parts of a story, because you only have a limited time and budget. But I really wish that what you just shared was more understood and explained in the movie, because I didn't know any of that. Nor would I have known that. Unless you brought that up right about the lyrics about the history. I mean, there's, that just proves to me that there's always so much more to the stories that we know or that we've heard than we can ever imagine. But all it takes is someone to just look at the little details just like you did

Michelle 4:48
to look back in history and unfortunately, shame and poverty is a huge part of family history for many people. And it is seen in this movie. This Disney movie that is so popular today. So

Miya 5:00
You know, as Michelle, you told the story of escaping these horsemen for safety to protect themselves and their families. There's just one scene where they come across a stream. That stream is symbolic and special in the movie, but we wanted to bring that stream into the episode today to explain the subject of poverty in family history to all of you and hopefully to help you better understand what this may mean for you. Even if you're not Colombian, just like the characters are Encanto. So, Mirabel and Abuela stand at the stream, and they talk about their family history together. And in the movie, we witnessed some sort of healing that happens because of that. And because of my heritage, I love water. It's something that I've always grown up around being from Oceania or from the Moana. So I want everybody here to imagine that they are there standing at the stream. And as we look up the river, there's boats coming down, and each boat is coming to us. And in these boats, we also have gifts. One of them for me is my melanated skin, which I love very much because I know I got this from my ancestors, I love, you know, the aspects of my family that has been passed down to me our love of music, sports, the bonds that we have with one another. But sometimes in those boats, they may contain things that may be very difficult and hard to look at. And one of those things that we want to bring up today is poverty, which is what Abuela Alma and Abuelo Pedro experience, and yes, understanding what's in our boats will help us to know what we want to and need to pass down the stream to our descendants, to our posterity. And it is our charge of all of us as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as covenant keepers, to pass down the best of the best to our posterity. And we are so blessed and thankful to have Dr. LaShawn here with us to discuss this subject. Because having her as a professional will help us and hopefully help all of you to better understand maybe this aspect of poverty that you may not have seen in your family history, because of shame, because of trauma. But we need to understand that these boats have these things in them and looking at them, understanding them and unpacking them is what we need to do to heal collectively, individually and as a human family.

Michelle 7:32
Beautiful. Okay, yeah. Dr. LaShawn, thank you so much for being here. And I just, I think this is an opportunity for anyone listening like we're going to do some unpacking today. So thank you for being here and guiding us through that.

LaShawn Williams 7:46
Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to participate and contribute to this conversation.

Michelle 7:50
Can you give us a little background about who you are and where you're from?

LaShawn Williams 7:55
I'm a LaShawn Williams. I am a military kid. So I've lived in a lot of different places. Utah is where I've lived the longest in my life. I am a clinically trained social worker. So I provide mental health therapy services to individuals, families, groups, couples, kids. I am a consultant and a trainer in all things justice, equity, diversity and inclusion oriented. And I like to come hang out with cool people and talk in microphones on podcasts and on TV screens.

Michelle 8:23
Would you mind giving us a little bit of your family history background?

LaShawn Williams 8:26
Yeah, I would I would, you know, we're coming up in the next couple of days, we're actually going to be honoring my mother, as the first full professor who is black at the university where she teaches, right? So she's the first right, and we come from the red dirt of South Carolina. We have enslaved history in my family. And there are a number of books that talk about things like the great migration, right, if you've read Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns, you know about the great migration and how many black families after the Civil War and after emancipation, left the south and went to the north to these other areas. For more work in industrial labor and industrialization in my family, we weren't able to migrate, we are from the dirt, we are the farmers. We are folks that have our hands in the dirt. And for my mother who grew up as a daughter of Jim Crow segregation, she integrated her high school in the 1960s. And so my family history is coming from enslavement and the ground and the agriculture and surviving segregation of Jim Crow and the hope of my parents, that the world would be different for me is the hope I have for my kids that I can create a world that's different for them. So we moved around moved into a lot of different places. My mother joined the church when we lived in Germany. It was two years after they had removed the ban on priesthood and temple ordinances for black families, which I think was absolutely of God but also because God knew my mom was investigating the church and if somebody didn't change something she was going to so I will be so glad. But you know, I joined the church when I was two years old. We have always brought all of us and all of our cultural pieces into the church. And there has always been a place for us, we've always made a place that helps us to be able to stay. Not everyone in my family is still active. And I mean, I think even myself, I don't know that I fall into the most active categories. But I maybe think that we should talk sometimes about what it means to be committed to the church and committed to the Gospel, right, inclusive of whatever your activity levels may or may not be. So that's a bit of my background, my family, and then our intersections.

Michelle 10:28
Thank you so much. And I just, I love the honesty and transparency you bring. And I think there's so many of us like that in the church, and just love and acceptance and making spaces for people to come and feel seen and connected. And that's, that's a big thing that we're trying to do here. And especially within family history, because family history is not it's not always welcoming to people of color. But yeah, there's so much here for us, in our own way. That's kind of what we're building here is our is our own way.

LaShawn Williams 11:01
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, my family on my mother's side, one of the like one of the most embarrassing, but kind of exciting pieces that I've had. My sister, she's like our family history person, right. And so the thing that like really ran into us was, do we want to marry these two people. So we come from the side of our family is from the enslaver and the enslaved. And so the enslaver was already married, had his own family, but also the enslaved one of my great grandmother's was also mothering, you know, children for her enslaved for the man who enslaved her. I actually push away from using words like my abuser, my attacker or my enslaver, that's the person who enslaved me that's not mine, I have no possession, I have no connection to any of that. Right. So the person who enslaved my great, great, great great grandmother had children by her. And we're deep South, where South Carolina, my hometown is the city that led the secession of South Carolina from the Union. I have KKK heritage, I have confederacy heritage in my family. So when we're doing family history, we have these questions of Do you know what? They don't need the temple? No, they don't need they don't need but they do, right? These Confederate soldiers deserve the access and the opportunity, right? It wasn't marriage that created my family. It was sexual assault, right?

Michelle 12:25
With so many people of color, especially within the United States, whether you're indigenous black, yes, bipoc, we can relate to the complexity that you're talking about and having to hold our multiracial, multi-ness in our souls. What do you always say Miya, you're like, multiracial means multi complexity. You did a post about it at one time, and I was like, yes.

Miya 12:50
Oh, yeah. Multi or being mixed means having mixed feelings. Yes. You know, absolutely. That's exactly what you are. And we are too as hosts here and talking about this. This is, and you bringing this up to is something that I know that many other people in our church in the world overall, feel left behind and out in the dark, because it's not talked about a lot.

Michelle 13:13
We see you and just want you to know that. Yeah, but I'm sorry I didn't mean to cut you off.

LaShawn Williams 13:17
It's our cultural Bruno. Right. Like, we don't talk about it. We don't bring it up. We don't say because we don't know how to hold it. And so for me, I think within communities of color we make we we can laughter about everything. And so we have to, we have to but I sit with the irony. I'm like, so you're telling me like my great great great like uncle's were klan members and like that's how they got off. And they didn't get in trouble for things because the klan save them. So I'm saying I'm wrestling like, well, am I a daughter of the klan? How does this work? Like what do I do with all of these complex feelings? And then you dial into and it's like, well do I need to hate these parts of myself? No one wants to do that. But you think about how complex identity is and the way shame and humiliation all these things play into hating a part of yourself that you had no control over. And then there's this this, you know, when you you get past that you have this wonderful opportunity to learn how to hold you have this this thing that that pushes and forces you to transcend so many parts that don't have language, they don't have name, they don't have connection. But in order to not break, you have to expand and you have to make space not to like only embrace the pain but to put enough space around the pain so that maybe it doesn't touch you as much you know what I mean? Yes, to my soul and give it space without it how I feel. You know, like, it's heavy and it's hard. And it's often asked of us in bipoc communities first. Because when we you know you talk about shame, as this is like this individual internal experience. We talk about external shame, we're talking about humiliation. That's what's done to you is humiliation. Versus it only being this idea of external shame because shame is a thing like I feel I am I did, right. That's a shame, humiliation, I actually don't think I deserve to be humiliated. But there are things that are set up in our structures, our histories or societies etc, that do humiliate us.

Michelle 15:14
Humiliation is such a huge part of family history that we don't talk about. I look back at my my ancestors, and there was so much they were ashamed and felt humiliated by and they just kept it locked up inside.

LaShawn Williams 15:30
That's the only way we knew how to stay safe. Yep, is if I can't control anything outside of me, then I will take control of it. And if I can control it, then it can't hurt me.

Michelle 15:41
And I tell you how many times within family history industry, family history, circles, even family history classes within the church, when I have brought my authentic self and my authentic family history, how many times I've been humiliated by the instructors or the people running? Yeah, and I don't know, I don't know if it's necessarily intentionally. But it's just complete lack of understanding which again, what we're trying to do here is like, show that there's these differences. So maybe there could be more empathy and compassion when you're talking to bipoc about family history

LaShawn Williams 16:16
Certainly, certainly, yeah.

Michelle 16:19
I think one of the biggest challenges we face and which you touched on Dr. LaShawn was just that. So many of us don't have the vocabulary. Yes. Especially in family history. We don't have the vocabulary to say what we feeling or what we mean, or what happened, or, I mean, when you know, your ancestors felt shame. What were their actions? Like, what did they do? They felt bad, and they wanted to hide it from society, or I don't know.

LaShawn Williams 16:46
So shame comes from a number of European words that literally mean to cover, to veil, or to hide, right. And so when you think about shame, as this individual experience, think about what people do when they feel shame, they cover themselves, they veil, they hide. And so specifically, when we're talking about shame, we're talking about this feeling this felt sense of unworthiness, to be in connection, or in relationship with other people, despite desperately, desperately wanting to connect with people, and that you have that ongoing awareness of how much you want to be connected, you want to be included, but you have this deep sense of I don't belong. I'm not worthy to show up. And so you cover you hide, you disconnect. It's a very internal individual experience, when we're talking about shame.

Miya 17:38
Wow. Well, that kind of reminds me. You know, we've been studying the Old Testament this year, Adam and Eve were when God came, the first thing they did was hide after they partook of the fruit. And part of the thing that shamed us was it makes us want to hide makes us want to run away and put things in the dark and just leave it there. Not hold on to it, let it go or just try to

Michelle 18:03
never look at an eye. You just push it away.

Miya 18:05
Just ignore it, even though it's there. And it just doesn't go away if you just ignore it either.

Michelle 18:11
So even though Bruno's literally hiding in the walls, watching them.

Miya 18:18
He is still there. He's still present.

Michelle 18:21
Okay, so I have a couple questions for you, Dr. LaShawn, so this might be a little change, but I think it's in the same vein of what we're talking about. When I go to the doctor. And part of my paperwork I have to fill out at the doctor is asking about my family history. Why is our family history connected to our health? Like, why is that a thing that they ask us at the doctors office?

LaShawn Williams 18:42
Oh absolutely. Okay, so for those of us who have histories of surviving poverty, right, you have this experience where you're structured into lacking the basic needs for like you think about like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, like your basic needs is like physiological and safety. So when you walk into a situation that was built before you even took your first breath, and the doctor's office is asking you for information that you actually may not have. But it's important in the doctor's office, they're not necessarily looking at the structural things that in fact that affected your health. They were talking about what are the social health determinants that are bringing that are walking into the room with you? We're bringing in our housing or lack thereof, how often we moved, how many people lived with us, and then what were their experiences with like the regular common cold, but then any sort of biological risk factors that my heart is how you says heart disease, especially if our heart disease and our high blood pressure are related from the stressors and the high cortisol in our bodies from having to survive oppression and structural and systemic racism that contributes to hypertension, high blood pressure, which then leads to cardiac disease and, you know, cardiac arrest or our comfort foods that lead to the high levels of insulin in our bodies. It's never something that just shows up. It's a recipe that's created based on the structures and the histories that our families have had to survive.

Michelle 20:00
So you're saying that the science is backing up that living in poverty is literally affecting our physical bodies?

LaShawn Williams 20:08
Literally, it affects our anticipated lifespan for people in all genders. And within all racial categories, you can trace it into the foods that we're eating the places where we're living, the access to fresh foods and types of foods that we have. And the sorts of bodily ailments that are overrepresented in certain populations. And a lot of black indigenous people of color communities, we have an overrepresentation of some health issues because of how it structurally and socially determined based on where we are able to live if we can or can't migrate from where we are. And then once you've migrated, it's no guarantee that you're actually in a better place, you're in a different place. But you may not be in a better place, and you're starting at square one, you're starting at square one again. And those bodies are picking up on the fight or flight response, those bodies are picking up on the anxiety, those bodies are picking up on the trauma. And now that's our baseline. Our baseline is responding to trauma, responding to the anxiety. And so of course, it's going to influence the ways we show up how we eat, how we experience comfort, and experiencing comfort is different from being able to create comfort. And so much of our genealogy work is about creating our stories based on the experiences that we're learning people have had, the genealogy work in our communities is so difficult, because we're doing the work of not just one generation, the one that we're living in, we're doing the work of generations that came before us. And we're preparing for the generations that we're raising, and that will come after us. And it's all happening in one person. It's heavy, heavy work. It's beautiful. It's blessed, it's concentrated, it's responsible, but it's so heavy.

Michelle 21:42
It's genealogical consciousness. Yes. I think another thing that's important when we talk about people living in poverty, I think there's this stigma or this idea in our head, like there's something wrong with them. They're lazy, they don't want to work. And I think the you know, science is showing that people that live in poverty is not has nothing to do with their work ethic or who they are as people has everything to do with resources. And we know that about our ancestors, we know that they were as hardworking and as honorable as anybody. They just didn't have the access to the right resources that we all need as human beings makes me think of like within family history, this idea of bootstraps, right pulling up your bootstraps, get your bootstraps on, and I think of both sides of my family lived in sometimes abject poverty, but most of the time, just under the poverty, not resource, you know, they didn't have access to resources. And I think about one of my great grandfathers who emigrated to the United States from Sweden, and a lot of people don't know, there was a lot of racial bias against Swedes at that time. And he, he wrote in his journal, those were the days of poverty and humiliation I would like to forget. And so in asking my family, I said, Well, how did they get out of poverty? How did they go, you know, from first-generation immigrants to where our family is now. And my relative was like, Oh, he, you know, kind of the bootstrap thing, he was able to do it. But then in researching, I realized, no people in his community gave him a chance, they gave him jobs through his connection with the LDS church, he had access to resources, he was able to get an education, he went to school, and then he became a teacher, and you know, our family, depending on the family line, you know, some of us did get all the way out of poverty, unfortunately, like my direct line, we did not. It's something to think about that, like, community and caring and empathy and these Christ-like values that we cherish. That is what gets us out of poverty.

LaShawn Williams 23:47
That's it, and it helps us rebuild, like the scene in Encanto. Spoiler alert. That's where the community comes, is it it's at the end, the community comes and says, we'll help you rebuild. And it's okay. Like, you know, they were heralded as like this magical, amazing family that could do all these very, very cool things. And even when they lost all their coolness, community said, we'll come we'll help you rebuild, because you've always been a part of us, we don't need you to produce and to be cool to be community. So looking at that, and, and seeking it. Like, we come from cultures and histories that have seen each other and have said, Hey, if you succeed, I succeed. And here's and there, and I think we come from communities to that say, Listen, I'm not going to make it out. But if I can help you get out, I've done my part. I think it's a desire that we all have for everyone to be successful. But I also feel like we have to be comfortable with the relative nature of what success means. I think we all have heard the stories of people, we go off, we serve our missions, we come back and they lived in poverty, but they were so happy. Yes, that is something that you notice. Have you wondered why? And what have you thought about doing so that they can be happy and not living in poverty, right? But we allow that to absolve us of doing any extra work. And I don't even know if we're bringing up and discussing like oral history traditions compared to written history traditions. And when we lose the voices of our communities that share things through story, not through writing, then how do we hold on to it? And what does it mean? And how does it matter, and we have indigenous ways of holding on to it. And we always name it, even if we don't write it. And there's just so much beautiful expansive room that we can be bringing into this work of genealogy. And I hope we're able to do more of that.

Miya 25:22
And you know, as a professional genealogist that specializes in oral histories, I've seen what happens when we don't make room for those oral traditions that are passed down. For example, My Somoan grandma passed away in December. And since she's passed, unfortunately, I've learned more about her than I have when she was alive, because a lot of things have come out from the dark. One of them being that when my grandma was a child, she went to a different family who had more resources in Samoa that can help her so her basically almost adoptive mother taught her how to dress well taught her how to present herself in society how to be ladylike, and basically have this social crown on her head that she didn't have in her biological family. And so when she went back to her biological family, though, as a teenager, she had all this learning and resources with her. But then she was back in this circumstance where her family was lacking. They were poor, they didn't have a lot. And so she left her family to come to the States to create a better, I guess you can say a better life for her where she could have resources and send them back home. And that's how she was able to bring her family one by one from Samoa to LA. And since then, I mean, I live here in the United States now I'm thriving, because of what my grandma did to help her family.

Michelle 26:54
Tell them, tell them about your degrees Miya.

Miya 26:57
I have my degree in family history genealogy of BYU, and I'm, I'm hoping, and I have hope, because of what she did that I can still go to school, I can still achieve these things and do great things in my life. But you're right, it wasn't so much that she did this by herself. She had that community to help her get out of what she was experiencing, which was poverty and her own family. But you know, I'm not so much wanting to say this, because it's so like, it's great that she did that she was able to experience this, but some of us maybe don't have that in our family history. Some of us maybe have just have so much shame within ourselves, looking at what our circumstances are today, or what they have been in our families that it is, it's just crippling to even talk about.

Michelle 27:47
And with poverty, these things, they hold hands, because there's so much mental health issues and physical health issues within our families. That's why the doctors asking us, but then a lot of the times, we are ashamed to talk about mental health issues, we are ashamed to talk about that grandma that had hoarding issues, because of scarcity and poverty she lived in that was the result. And so Dr. LaShawn, you shared a little bit about like the physical effects of poverty on our physical bodies, but what about with our mental health?

LaShawn Williams 28:20
You know, the way that we make sense of the world is where our mental health comes into play. In a lot of the shame research is based in what's called relational cultural theory is one of the major researchers of shame. It's the foundation for a lot of Brene Brown's work around shame. Resilience theory comes from relational cultural theory. And in a short sentence, the antidote to shame is being willing to risk exposure. So there's a book that was written in 1958, on shame and the search for identity by Helen Lind, and she talks about shame, and she says, enlarging the possibilities of mutual love depends on risking exposure, because that's what we're trying to connect with our families, right is we're trying to expand and demonstrate what love looks like we love our family, because we do family history, and working through the mental health effects that are going to come to us simply from doing the family history, you know, am I doing it right? Is it worth digging all of this up? Should I be doing it? What do I do with this, now that I have it, everything is an is an exercise and holding. And that's it. It's not necessarily an exercise of doing it's an exercise of experiencing, and we are not socialized to experience things we're socialized to do something with, in many of our cultures, production and productivity is what is expected of us is not expected as wide or in a mainstream way to just sit and allow things to be and allow things to move and to work through you. So that maybe this lives undone. But it has been acknowledged, it has been exposed to the light, it has not been hidden. And maybe if I can't do anything with it, I can then do something because of it.

Michelle 30:12
I witnessed it. We know within the church, many, many religions witnessing is so powerful, even if nothing is produced by witnessing it. But then, like you said, what? Once we witnessed this, like when Mirabel sits by the river, and she witnesses what Abuela Alma went through, then what can we do? I love thank you so much for that.

Miya 30:38
Well, you were touching on how to basically ask me like answering the question of how to start healing generational poverty, and shame. I think that's something I'd like to ask you about Dr. LaShawn, do you have other thoughts about that? What can we do today? Because we know that we are the new ancestors, what can we do then? To help heal? What may be generational poverty in our family history?

Michelle 31:03
We're gonna talk about Bruno, right? We're gonna talk about Bruno. Yes.

LaShawn Williams 31:06
So here's one thing that I think is important for all of us to understand. In therapy, we'd say all feelings are valid, I think, individually and culturally, we all have responses to shame. In 1945, a psychiatrist Her name is Karen Horney. And this is discussed in the article that is going to be in the show notes, right? She talked about these three typologies of personality. And the folks with relational cultural theory, have applied her theory of personality types to how we respond to and interact with shame. There's three things we can do. We can move away from shame that as we experienced it individually, humiliation culturally, right, and you think about the ancestors, we know who move away, they disconnect, they separate, they withdraw, they silence themselves, they make themselves invisible. I'm just, it doesn't exist.

Michelle 31:55
There's many people in the church, you say the words family history, and they know that it's filled with shame. And so they are gone.

LaShawn Williams 32:00
They're gone. They're there, they were away from it, right? Their relationships with shame to move away to remove themselves from the process, right? Then there are some of us who move toward it. And this is like if you think about our people pleasing, we still keep secret, we still keep things away. But it's like, oh, I will show up. And I will do it. And I will just skip the parts where I can't figure out how to do the paternity or the maternity parts of this. But I'm going to show up because I want to do the right thing, I want to check the box, I want to be there. And I want to be included, I want to be safe, but I'm still not able to really be authentic, because the shame is still there, right? So you can move away, you can move toward to try and create some inauthentic connection. Or you can be angry and you move against and you fight and you're upset, and you're resentful, and you rage because it's not fair. I shouldn't have had to go through this. We shouldn't have had to experience this. And we'll even have to do family history. You're the reason my family history is this way. All three of those personalities exist within us individually. But even culturally, right? Who will tell us no, I'm not reading that I'm not doing that. Don't even go look at that. Because that person was an evil monster. We move against it, we fight it because none of it feels good. But if you can get to a place where you recognize that shame is a signal to come closer, and to move in towards connection and having somebody else hold it with you, away from silence away from secrecy away from judgment. If you can see shame as a signal to move towards deeper connection, rather than moving away from it. There's the healing. Some of us maybe we sit on the shore and it's like, you know what, leave this stuff behind you go forward, I'll watch this. I'll make sure it doesn't come after you. I'll make sure it doesn't come get you I'll guard this. We have guardians in our lines who said I will hold this and protect you from it right?

Well I think we have it, you know, we have those grannies, those aunties, we have those men in our family who will refuse to let any of that stuff come up. And it's like, I need to let you be a protector. I get it. I wish it was different. I wish I could help you heal this piece. But I'm okay. And I have had to learn and find ways to not be angry at somebody that needed to hold a secret because they wanted to try and protect me from something I've just been able to honor that that was the best they could do with what they had. Okay, okay, I get it. You can hold on to that I will continue to move forward. You know, I think my my answer is I'm like, I will sit I couldn't have been enslaved like but how did they do it? How did they do it? How did they know? And then I will sit at my at my altar with my ancestors. And I will be like just, you know, like, prostrate on the floor. Just bellowing like how did you do it? And how and then I feel guilty. And I'm like, here I am worried about this thing. And you went through so much. And they say yeah, we did. And we did it so that we could watch you and I'm like, okay, sorry. And it's just when you really get into your ancestor work, however it is you're doing right? You know what it sounds like to hear them. You know what it feels like to feel them. And in my lowest points, they show up. And I'm like, This is amazing. It's not even for or against whatever I have experienced in the temple, but being able to bring that temple experience into my home, and have that sacredness and a different kind of way, like, I am so grateful and the expansion that I'm able to have, which allows my uncles and the men in my family and the women in my family who had to survive so many things, I will let you hold it, I will honor what you had to survive, and that maybe I will never have words for I will continue to try and move and create and give this forward. Because that sounds like that's what you want me to do. So and I appreciate. And I say, okay, what can I do with what I have, because there might be some things that I'm also going to try and protect someone from too, because maybe I'm not ready. But if we can recognize that shame is a signal to move closer, and to find ways to risk exposure, create connection, and it's in connection that we heal, so that we can create something to help us continue to move.

Miya 35:59
Chills, wow.

Michelle 36:01
Amen to everything you said, you know, as you're talking made me think of Dia de los Muertos and when you build an ofrenda or an altar. It's an indigenous holiday with deep indigenous roots, which was then mixed together with Christianity. And within the temple, you're giving them you're offering them something, you're saying, I would like to offer you and so many of my ancestors, because we all have bad actors in our family, we all have those bad actors, it's so hard to know how to acknowledge them or connect with them, or do we even want to? And I just want to validate that that's okay, if you don't, but on the ofrenda I'm offering you, I'm just like, let go of the shame. I see you in your complexity of who you are. And I still love Yeah, and I see that you have held back that thing. And you know, I won't know all the reasons why. But I know the truth now. And I love you. Yeah. And I give that to so many of my women ancestors who just kind of were erased from history. I don't even know their names. But I know they held great shame because it got passed down in the boat. I know it came on the boat. But to read my great grandfather's words about being in poverty and being humiliated, to see it written out and words was really powerful. For me, it brought me curiosity because as a multiracial person, there is a huge difference between European family history and family history of black and indigenous peoples. So to see one of my European ancestors talk about humiliation and poverty and shame was so shocking to me. And I got curious about it. And that's where I found out about so many things such as, when Swedish, Irish and even Italian immigrants came to the United States, they weren't considered white. So I started to piece together what happened with him, my curiosity over this expanded my mind on not only my own family history, but World History. And I think that is just such a powerful thing that comes to us from family history. But then it also not is as expansive, but it also brings it in to where I saw what happened to my great grandfather and I have seen and felt within my own body the generational effects of poverty, and shame and humiliation. And then I can look at other people, recent immigrants, and want to help relieve their pain. And I think that's the power of family history is that it can span generations through history, but then it also can be very personal. And have you reached out to the person next door in your own community? Who seems so different from you, and yet not. Because somewhere in our family line, we have experienced the same thing as the other people have experienced? And knowing that gives us a greater well of compassion, and empathy for people around us.

Miya 39:01
Absolutely. Thank you, Michelle, and Dr. LaShawn, for everything that you shared, as we were all talking and as I was listening, it's brought me again to this story of the stream that we saw in Encanto and the stream that we are all spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally standing out today, as all of us receive our boats coming downstream. And again, this boat is a visualization of what our ancestors are passing down to us. We are inheriting everything from the good and the bad. We unpacked a lot today about poverty. But there may be other things too in your family history that you are still unpacking. And thinking about this, looking at my boat, you know, I have experienced so many different emotions, happiness, joy, but definitely I've experienced a lot of shame and externally humiliation. And for a brief moment, I thought I was standing there looking at my boat at this stream by myself, because that's what it feels like sometimes doing family history, you feel so alone and isolated. But the question that came up was, Do you really think you're standing there by yourself? And I realized that it really wasn't that there's so many others that are standing with me, my ancestors, their upstream. But as I look to them, they come to me. And as I call out to them, they come, and they helped me to look at what's in my boat. But more importantly, to the Savior, Jesus Christ is there with all of us. He's there standing with us. And you know, sometimes looking in these things in our family history, it can be not only hard to look at and unpack, but it's hard to even just start. And so with the Savior, though, I know that even if you can't get into, you know what me and Michelle and Dr. LaShawn have gone deep into our family history and learning about it. Sometimes you can't. And we just want to say to you that we hold space for all of you, that may be standing at the river and do not have the energy, the space or the time , or the resources to even acknowledge or look at your boats quite yet. But just know that this podcast, these resources, we listed in the show notes, and so many other things are available when you are ready. But more importantly, the greatest resource of healing and of hope, is our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His loving atonement. That's what makes it all possible. And also, Christ knew what he was doing when he came to this earth to heal everybody, he knew that everybody would be standing downstream to. All of us. So he took upon him everything so that he could pass down the best gifts to all of us. And now it's our charge to do the same, to pass down the best gifts, the best that we can do, sometimes, it's not going to heal everything that we do. And that's okay. Just simply acknowledging, simply starting and continuing maybe what the legacy we've been given from our ancestors is all that we can do. We're in a chain, we are in a line, you're not alone. This is a family work, not an individual work. It's a family effort.

Michelle 42:21
And I think of we are called the New Ancestors podcast. And it's sometimes hard to model something that you've never seen before. And one of the things I love and respect about Miya is she is modeling such beautiful new ancestor behavior, like I think about this boat analogy, and Miya is filling her boat with flowers and love letters, to the people that come after her and sending it downstream. And I'm so excited for your descendants to unpack there boat full of love that you have sent and the toxic things that you've taken off your boat so they don't have to deal with it in such an intense way. And I just hope all of you out there, you know, if you are the first person to, to take on this work, reach out and get help from your community reach out and get help from doctors, therapists, medication, your mental and physical health is so important. We talk about on this podcast, this is a multifaceted approach to family history. It is and we're so used to looking at family history in this one dimensional way check the boxes do the thing. We reject all of that because family history is multifaceted and and whether you are building an ofrenda or you are you are leaning into dancing or music or food or any other spiritual connection to the earth. I believe that the Holy Ghost and the spirit of Elijah and you know Jesus Christ Himself is infused in the earth with our ancestors, amen. And it's all for us. We get a we get to explore and take all of it

LaShawn Williams 44:00
Isn't it so beautiful to have that freedom and to know that wherever you go, you're meeting Christ, you're meeting the ancestors, you know, you're meeting your people, and whatever, whatever that medium is, even if you become that medium, like you get a chance to communicate and to transmute things to other people. Like it's so cool. It's so beautiful how big and expensive and amazing God and gospel and, and Christ and all those things really can be I love it. I love it. It rejuvenates me when I think about my ancestral work and my family history work in that sense. And I for me, I really had to be okay with I'm not going to get this answer. I'm just I'm not going to know where this starts, ends begins. And I'm not going to have this piece and it's serving some sort of a purpose. And I'm going to keep moving forward with what I do have. And I'm gonna get okay, I'm gonna get okay with it. So I'm so excited for this workout we're doing so excited. . Oh my gosh, I just love the people. So yes, thank you. Thank you.

Miya 44:58
Thank you.

Michelle 44:59
Thank you for Joining us for this episode of Love Your Lineage you can find all the references and full transcripts for this episode in our show notes at And if you love this episode please please please leave us a review or rating.

Miya 45:15
This episode was hosted by me Miya and the lovely Michelle. It was produced and edited by Erica Free and Katie Lambert and mixed by Mix It Six Studios. Thank you for being with us today and we hope you feel empowered to love your lineage and to embrace your authentic family history story.

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