in collaboration with connect.faithCourageous Voice
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DeShannon Bowens | “Courageous Voice” | connect.faith
“Someone has to do something. And so I started devoting all my time to try to understand what causes this, how prevalent is this, how do people heal from this? And most importantly, how can we stop this? So my entry before I even got to sacred sexuality, spirituality, and sexuality, I was actually focused primarily on the side of sexual abuse, awareness, and prevention…”
– DeShannon Bowens
Fall into this beautiful conversation with DeShannon Barnes-Bowens, author, psychotherapist, If a priestess, interfaith minister, and founder of ILERA, an organization that focuses on sexuality and spirituality, intimate partner violence, vicarious trauma, and wellness. Join us as we talk about how she found her life-work and how she brings all of herself to it’s expression.
In this episode we chat about:
- African indigenous wisdom
- Sacred sexuality
- Intimate partner violence
- Healing sexual trauma
- Revisiting and revising previously completed projects
- Interfaith dialogue
- Vicarious trauma
We also shouted out a few great books: Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, by Adrienne Maree Brown; Push, by Sapphire; and Hush Hush: An African American Family Breaks Their Silence on Sexuality & Sexual Abuse, by DeShannon Bowens
You can find DeShannon at www.ilera.com, on Facebook @ilera_ny or on Twitter @OmiFasina
Today is the day you vow to follow your heart and not your fear. If only it were that easy! The Courageous Voice podcast chronicles international artists, creatives, plus a handful of scientists, and their stories of fear, courageousness and creativity. Hosted by singer, storyteller and self-proclaimed joy spreader, Chanda Rule, The Courageous Voice inspires us to share our voices courageously in spite of our fears through courageous conversation and community.
Chanda: Hello, Hello, hello. Welcome back to The Courageous Voice Podcast. This is Chanda Rule, your host. I’m so happy to be here with you, and I’m so happy to introduce our guest for today, Deshannon Bowens.
Deshannon: Hello, I’m so excited to see you.
Chanda: Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. I’m about to introduce you. I hope that’s okay, but you can add.
You can add. DeShannon. DeShannon. There’s so much. She is an author, a psychotherapist, a priestess, an interfaith minister, and the founder of ILERA, which is a counseling and educational service, and she’s also serving as a co-director at One Spirit Learning Alliance of their Interfaith seminary program.
And she is an initiated priest of the Orisha Ifá spiritual tradition. And ILERA, ILERA is a beautiful organization that advocates for transformative healing, authenticity, spiritual freedom and liberation. Mm.
Deshannon: Yes. Yes.
Chanda: I love this statement. I got it off of Twitter. I love it. Ah, DeShannon, welcome, how are you?
Deshannon: I am wonderful. And good seeing you. It’s been a [00:02:00] while, so the opportunity to come together and talk about courage and whatever else Spirit has in store, I’m here for it.
Chanda: Oh, that’s beautiful. Thank you. You know, I have a basic question because I think we were talking about the organization that sponsors this podcast, connect.faith, and you are also working with an organization called, Connect Faith.
I don’t know if it’s, it’s around interfaith dialogue. What is Connect Faith and what are you doing with them? I’m just curious.
Deshannon: Okay, so Connect Faith is awesome. Connect Faith is actually a part of this organization called Connect in Harlem, New York.
Deshannon: And Connect is an organization that they advocate for peaceful communities, peaceful families, safe families and environments.
And they do that by educating people about preventing intimate partner violence.
Deshannon: So that really is their, like their purpose and they do great work. I think they’ve been doing it for like over 20 years.
Deshannon: So Connect Faith actually looks at [00:03:00] working with religious traditions, different spiritual communities who want to address intimate partner violence.
They help support seminarians. They also support people who are spiritual and faith leaders, religious leaders, and they also have worked on child sexual abuse. And they bring, they have this interfaith forum where they do have interfaith dialogue once a month and they have this round table and they choose different topics.
And so just last month we were talking about intimate partner violence and reproductive justice, and they invited someone representing Christianity, Islam, and Ifá, and I was on there as the Ifá rep. And I also say I’m on there as the interfaith rep, you know, ’cause I gotta rep that too.
Chanda: Yeah, that’s true.
Listen, I have so many questions for you, and this is actually leading to something else that I wanted to ask you about because I saw that you did a presentation at Harvard a few years ago and it stood out to me.
Deshannon: I know what you’re talking about. It’s the African [00:04:00] Diasporic Religious Studies Association.
Deshannon: The acronym is ADRSA.
Deshannon: And, yeah. Yeah, that’s a wonderful, I don’t know if I wanna say organization or collaborative.
Deshannon: But it was started by this sister named, Dr. Funlayo Woods Menzies.
Deshannon: And she’s, I think she’s originally from New York.
Deshannon: She went to Harvard, studying for her doctorate and while she was there, she gave birth to this.
And so once a year they invite scholars and practitioners of African indigenous spiritual traditions and religious traditions and folks just come together and present and talk about whatever the theme is for the year. And I had the good fortune to do that. When? 2013 and 2014.
Chanda: Yes. You were talking about the Ifá perspective on sexuality and connection, and I think the title of the article that was talking about this was, it was like a, it was a title of a Coltrane song or something, which, which is like, like, wait a minute. [00:05:00] So please tell me about this.
Because as this connects to Connect Faith, because these are some things that I have never put together: sexuality, Ifá, what the religious conversation is around intimacy consent. What, what was the term that you used?
Deshannon: I was looking at how Ifá is a spiritual tradition, has different ways, different actions, different methods to help people heal negative sexuality experiences.
Deshannon: So I put it that way in particular because sometimes people automatically go to the abuse.
Deshannon: But, we can have a negative experience and it doesn’t mean that somebody abused us. It could be something else.
Deshannon: So I wanted to enlarge it.
Deshannon: And now that we talking, the title’s coming back, Chanda.
Chanda: What is it?
Deshannon: It was called The Body Is Divine Space and Sacred Territory. That was the name of my presentation.
Chanda: Oh. I didn’t know that. That is gorgeous.
[00:06:00] Okay, so tell me about this presentation, and, I wanna get into this and you’re talking about healing and the terminologies that you’re using.
What are some of the ways that Ifá is addressing some of these issues?
Deshannon: Okay. So the approach that I took and that I still take even in my private practice, is really looking at what the Orisha Oshun has to offer us in terms of pathways to healing. All right. So just for listeners who don’t know.
Deshannon: Ifá Is a tradition that originates in Ilé Ifẹ̀, Southwest Nigeria, what people call "Yoruba land." And this tradition is thousands upon thousands upon thousands of years old. And because of this tradition, we have other traditions that people may be more familiar with, like Candomblé, in Brazil, or, Lucumí or Regla de Ocha, which comes from Cuba.
Also, some people say Santería depending on [00:07:00] how they identify with that tradition. And then, there’s also a connection in terms of the tradition in Benin because there we have Vodoun, and their deities, the Lwa, are there. And so Haitian Vodoun, you know, in the West also has a connection.
So we have all this rich African indigenous wisdom that’s available to us.
Deshannon: So in the Ifá tradition as well as Lucumí, there is an Orisha, which is for some people another word for deity called Oshun. And so Oshun is the Orisha of healing, of love. I personally say that Oshun is the Orisha of sacred sexuality, fertility, creativity, and the natural habitat of this particular Orisha is rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams.
And what Oshun offers is for people to really [00:08:00] look at themselves and figure out, how do I love myself?
Deshannon: I feel like Oshun personally helps people with self-worth and self-esteem and self regard. And so when a sexual experience has happened that is negative, that someone tried to force something upon us, something that we didn’t want to experience.
By doing rituals and connecting with this particular Orisha, we can embark in different things. And so sometimes people may assume that it has to be a specific Ifá based ritual. And so I have done that because Oshun is who I, one of the Orishas that I’m initiated to. I’m also initiated to Ọrunmila. But we are gonna focus this on Oshun.
Deshannon: And so there are rituals that can be done that may help a person in healing. And those are wonderful and those are great. And we have a form of divination that we can do [00:09:00] that will guide us in doing those type of rituals if we have the authority to do that as priests, but then also in connecting with Oshun in a more expansive way, we may be guided to the proper therapist.
Deshannon: We may be guided to a group, a support group. We may be guided to connect with people and activities that remind us of love.
Deshannon: And how to celebrate life again. If something’s happened in our family background, we also may be guided to embark on healing with our ancestors and family members.
Deshannon: And so there’s all kinds of ways to do this. But we call on this Orisha to really help us look in the mirror, see our true selves as the Divine sees us, and move in that reflection instead of somebody else.
Chanda: Okay, so is that the core of sacred sexuality? The self-love [00:10:00] and being able to see our reflection? Or is there more to that?
Deshannon: So in my view, was there more to just sacred sexuality in general?
Chanda: Yeah. Because this is another term. I mean, I, I hear a lot about that, like sexuality and the sacred. But just listening to what you’re saying now about, when you’re talking about Oshun, and about love. And it’s so interesting because a lot of the times when I think of Oshun, I think of, you know, a romantic love with someone else. But listening to what you’re saying about finding that self love in yourself, I’m just wondering if this is the core of the sacred sexuality or is there more to the definition for you, and how you’re using it in your work.
Deshannon: Okay. That’s an awesome question. So for me, when I’m using the word "sacred," for some people that can have a stigma.
Deshannon: Because they’re thinking if we’re tying sacred to religion, sometimes people are thinking of purity.
Deshannon: And how I have to be pure and I have to be pure in some other authority’s standard.
[00:11:00] And going by what they say that I should be. I’m talking about sacred in a way that says that we are venerable and worthy of respect.
Deshannon: And that our bodies are worthy of respect and sexuality encompasses more than just sex and sexual behavior. It also consists of the things that we are attracted to, who we are attracted to. It’s also sensuality.
Deshannon: So it’s all of that. I think that Western culture reduces sexuality to sexual behavior.
Deshannon: And sexual orientation. Usually it’s just balled up in that, but it’s so much more. And so for me, sacredness is the Spirit, the essence of who we are and sexuality is one of the ways that we get to express that.
So I like to expand it a bit more so that people can reclaim their space.
Deshannon: So that they can love their bodies [00:12:00] no matter what size it is. To me, body positivity
Deshannon: is a part of sacred sexuality. Whatever abilities that you have in your body, that’s a part of sacred sexuality as well.
What you can do, what you can’t do, it’s your self expression as a sexual being, whether you choose to engage in the act of sex or not.
Chanda: Mm. Okay. This is beautiful. This has reminded me of some things that I read in this book, Pleasure Activism. Are you familiar with this book?
Deshannon: No. Do tell, do tell!
Chanda: Oh gosh. I mean, it’s amazing. They used a lot of Audre Lord quotes. They talked to a lot about that, about like, body positivity in a way that I had never even imagined, I’ll say. And exactly what you’re saying about sensuality and sexuality.
Yes. It was great. I recommend it. I recommend it. So, I have so many questions, but like there was one I wanted to ask if you don’t mind answering. How [00:13:00] did you get into this work? Or how long have you been doing it? I don’t know if this has always maybe been a part of you even as a younger, a child, if this is something that you really advocated for.
But if you don’t mind talking about your journey into this work, because I do think this is a very courageous act to explicitly be really guiding people through this, especially with their families.
Deshannon: All right. Yeah, no, I don’t mind answering that at all.
Chanda: Okay, good.
Deshannon: This is very interesting. It’s, it’s a story though.
It’s a journey. So I’m gonna try to condense it.
Chanda: You don’t have to, I, I wanna know that All, all the goods. All the goods. .
Deshannon: Okay. Right. Here we go. Okay. So, I was working at a mental health research facility. Okay. That’s where I started in mental health research.
So I’m trying to figure out, what am I gonna study, what’s gonna be my area, ’cause I’m around all of these different social psychologists, and people are studying homelessness and cultural competency and HIV and all these different [00:14:00] things. And so it got me questioning, what is it that I wanna study ’cause I knew I wanted to go to grad school.
And when it boiled down to it, the grad school that I chose was in New York. So I said, okay, well what’s going to be my thing? And my roommate happened, uh, in, because I’m originally from St. Louis, so my roommate wasn’t home one day and I was looking for something to read, ’cause I guess I had read through all my books and I was like, I need something new.
So I came across this book called Push by Sapphire.
Deshannon: And people may be familiar with that book being turned into a movie called, I think, Precious?
Deshannon: was the movie, I forgot the year that it was released, but it was nominated for awards, won awards and stuff like that. I think Monique got the Oscar that year for her portrayal.
Chanda: Oh, did she? Okay.
Deshannon: Yeah. I think the comedian Monique got an Oscar for that. So I read that book well before it was a movie and I was so riveted by that book. It was a work of fiction. But the [00:15:00] author, uh, from my memory has worked in, maybe ACS like child welfare.
Deshannon: And had come across cases with real people who had been through abuse.
And this particular character had been through incestuous abuse by the parents. And I was, I couldn’t believe it in just the resiliency of that character. So in my mind I was like, This is it. This is it. Like, I wanna know how prevalent this is because I felt like this urge in me, like someone has to do something.
Someone has to do something. And so I started devoting all my time to try to understand what causes this, how prevalent is this, how do people heal from this? And most importantly, how can we stop this? So my entry before I even got to sacred sexuality, spirituality, and sexuality, I was actually [00:16:00] focused primarily on the side of sexual abuse, awareness, and prevention, or sexual trauma, as you may hear some people say.
Deshannon: After a while I said, Wow. I was like, I’m focusing a lot on the pain. I wanna explore the beauty of sexuality as well. There’s something to this, and I’m a very spiritual person that I always have been, even though I didn’t label myself as that. So I felt like that spirituality was like in this box, in this little corner.
in terms of how I express myself out in the world. So I spoke with a friend, and I’m gonna give her a shout out Reverend Dr. Carrie Jackson. And I tell her she’s my adopted big sister since I don’t have a big sister. So she’s it. And I was just talking to her about it one day and she was living in Brooklyn at the time.
And then she said, Well, you know, there’s this place called One Spirit.[00:17:00] And so I was like, Okay. And she was like, Just what you’re talking about, they need to have these conversations because anybody in the seminary program, she didn’t care what the religion was, in her opinion, people needed to start talking about sexuality.
Deshannon: Because as people serving in a clergy or ministerial role, regardless of the religious tradition that if we’re dealing with people, sexuality is always present. Hmm. And so I said, Okay, great. And so at that time I pursued looking at the organization and then just ended up being a student. So that was one journey.
So even though I didn’t teach that topic, at the same time, I was doing my own research. It was like just with me putting it out there, speaking the words, stuff started opening up.
Deshannon: I started seeing organizations, started seeing books. I went to a conference and I got an award from [00:18:00] the American Association of Sexuality Counselors and Therapists; Counselors, Education, and Therapists.
They’re called ASAC. And so I am, so I was like, this is what I wanna get more into. And I guess we can say the rest is herstory, because it was just, it was my journey. It was my own healing journey. Because people had a lot to say about what was right, what was not. I personally am a bisexual woman.
Deshannon: And so I was like, I don’t, I’m not buying what some religions are saying around sexual orientation. That doesn’t resonate for me. You know, there’s more than one expression of truth.
Deshannon: And who’s to say that that’s the truth? Like I didn’t accept what I was hearing is truth for me.
So it was somewhat personal as I got deeper into it. But it really started with I’m helping people with [00:19:00] a lot of pain.
Deshannon: And it’s good work. And I know that there’s another side, there’s some beauty in here and I wanna focus on that too.
Chanda: So, how does your writing tie into this? I remember when you graduated from One Spirit and I feel like my first introduction of hearing about you was you were writing a lot of poetry. I feel at the time. Weren’t you?
Deshannon: Actually, no, I am not the poet. That would be my lovely wife.
Chanda: But yes, I know Aquaila is also writing. But I thought that you wrote, you were writing, I thought you were writing poetry.
Deshannon: I do write. No, I’m not a poet. Okay. At all.
Chanda: But you are a writer though, and
Deshannon: Yes, I am a writer
Chanda: a wonderful book, Hush Hush.
Chanda: Yeah. So can you tell us about the book? And a lot of people who are writing are really using their writing as a part of this healing process or writing with other people. I don’t know if you’re doing [00:20:00] that, or using your writing for others to read is part of their healing process.
But if you could talk a little bit about your writing and about this book of interviews, it would be wonderful.
Deshannon: I sure will. And it’s right behind me, actually.
Chanda: I see it!
Deshannon: Do you see that little purple?
Chanda: I do. I see it.
Deshannon: It’s the second edition. So, it was time for really to go in deep cuz I saw some places where I just needed to really speak more boldly when we talk about courage.
So I compared the first edition and the second edition and I said, It’s time for a rewrite. I’m not gonna wait 10 years to say the 10th anniversary. No, I waited eight and did the rewrite. And the beautiful thing about that is that a play came from that, from Aquaila.
Deshannon: Yeah, so I’ll get back to that though.
So what basically, all the stuff that I was telling you before is what inspired me, like really wanting to look at, how [00:21:00] prevalent is this? How are people aware that it’s a problem? And if they are, do they know what to do? So these were the questions formulating in my own mind, and particularly because most abuse, particularly sexual abuse occurs with someone that you know, someone that a person knows, a child knows is usually the perpetrator. So I said I wanna talk to a family. And I instinctively and just intuitively knew from reading, from talking to people, that some of the teaching, some of the learning, some of the socialization that we receive around sexuality actually can be a benefit to helping arm us with information.
It can also be a detriment in terms of misinformation and if we don’t have the right information and if we have some harmful, inaccurate views about sexuality. We [00:22:00] can do damage to the people that we love should we find out that someone has been abused. We can continue to put people in harm’s way, especially young people, because of all of just the misinformation that we have because of some of the modeling, you know, some of the behavior that we have seen before. So we do what was done before us and then it doesn’t protect the next generation. So I was really interested, Chanda, in the link between, where are we picking up messages about sexuality? What are people saying? What are people doing? How are we internalizing that?
Deshannon: And then, is it helping? Or is it hindering us in preventing sexual abuse from happening? And then if it does happen, is it helping us or hindering us in helping people heal?
Deshannon: So I found a family, [00:23:00] and they were willing to answer some questions for me. And of course, I had to change everything up.
But I had a list of questions that I asked an extended family, ’cause I felt like this would be a good example. And I wanted to speak with a African American family.
Deshannon: ‘Cause when I was moving to New York and when I got to New York, people would ask me, What are you doing here? I said, Oh, I came for graduate school.
Oh, what are you studying? Oh, psychology. Oh, what in psychology? So I would tell ’em, It would always be so interesting.
Deshannon: Usually if you say psychology, people would stop. But folks would wanna ask another question and another question. So I end up telling them, and from Black people in particular, and in New York, I had a lot of preconceived notions about New York.
Like, Oh, New Yorkers are the smartest, you know, they’re exposed to everything. I had all these different things, and so I just expected people here to be more in the know, but that wasn’t the case. [00:24:00] From my folks in particularly, they would say, Oh, well that’s not really us. We don’t have that problem.
I heard it over. I kid you not. I heard it over and over again. So I said, Okay, okay. Well that’s not true. It happens in all communities. It don’t matter your race, or your culture background. It happens in all communities. But there was this assumption over 20 years ago, that, "not us." I don’t think that that myth exists anymore.
Chanda: Oh, good.
It’s funny how that happens. Yeah. Listen, tell me about, you use a term called vicarious trauma, which, that was, of course, it was a lot in Push/Precious. What about this story? This family that, that you interviewed. Can you talk about this term?
I’ve actually never heard this used in this way. Can we talk about what this is and this interplay of vicarious trauma and intergenerational healing I think is an interesting connection.
Deshannon: Yeah, it is. So [00:25:00] vicarious trauma, I didn’t even name that in the book at the time.
Deshannon: Because when I wrote the first edition, I think that I was just, and it was published that I was just discovering what that was, if memory serves me correct. Matter of fact, after the first edition came out in 2007 is when I learned what vicarious trauma was. So that work is separate. Not that it can’t exist, but I’ll define vicarious trauma.
So that’s a term I had never heard, never learned it in school, didn’t know nothing about it. Even when I was writing Hush Hush, that term was not in my awareness. What happened is some colleagues of mine, they had a collaborative, for lack of a better word, and they were offering support to agencies who were working in the field of domestic violence.
And what was unique about this is that they were bringing meditation, they were bringing mindfulness, and they were [00:26:00] bringing yoga because in their study, people who are working with people impacted by trauma. The workers experience vicarious trauma if they’re working with people impacted by trauma over long periods of time.
Deshannon: And so that’s how I was brought into it because there was a therapist who wasn’t available just because of other commitments. And so I was asked, Hey, can you come in and be and fill this therapist role because so and so can’t do it. And I said, Okay, sure. I don’t know a lot of what it’s about, but they started to teach me.
And so, I had tons of stuff to read and was sent to a training and just learned all sorts of stuff. And so after going through this with them, hearing people, mostly women, speak of what this was like, for me, since I already had my business going. I said, Oh, everybody needs this. [00:27:00] Not just people who work in domestic violence.
Child welfare and social services needs this, people who work in the fire department need this, or EMTs or hospitals need this, anywhere where there’s any kind of trauma that people are dealing with, even like in grief and loss professions, to be exposed to that over long periods of time, I was like, this is something that can help them.
And all vicarious trauma is that, let’s say it’s me, I would begin to experience symptoms of trauma because of my heartfelt connection and engagement with those people and communities that I’m serving who’s also been impacted by trauma.
Chanda: Okay. And this is interesting because I think when I initially saw this term, I was thinking about this cycle of what can happen in a family when generations ago, someone has experienced heavy trauma and [00:28:00] how it’s passed down.
And so that’s what I was thinking about or, or even, it was interesting to be here, you know, in 2016 there was so much happening in America and because there was just so much coming through the media, and I see it now from, there’s a lot of women students that I have from Iran and their now like experiences.
So that’s what I was thinking. And so then when I also saw that you were working with intergenerational healing, I thought it was connected in that way. Is the intergenerational healing, is this part of your training?
You’re doing a lot of trainings. I don’t know if it’s just for, or mainly for, corporations and organizations, or what are the trainings like?
Deshannon: Most of the trainings, so most of the trainings are for organizations, but then the pandemic brought a lot of loss, but one of the surprises was being able to connect just like we are now.
Even though of course people had been doing it already, but I started doing trainings in this way. And so individuals who have wanted to deal with what you’re talking about, the intergenerational trauma [00:29:00] as well as vicarious trauma, I started being able to offer that to individuals or groups.
There’s also been people who are like, Look, I’m being impacted by vicarious trauma from my job. I need some therapy specializing in that. And so our therapy sessions are really part education, just kind of like I would do at a group setting, except I’m tailoring it to one person.
Deshannon: And so that’s how that’s happened.
Also, there’s a lot of racial justice advocates out there, and they are like, okay, I need some help.
Deshannon: I heard that you do vicarious trauma and so I’ve worked with groups who are really like pushing to change things in the part of the world that they’re in and I take them through a specialized training just for them.
So if in those situations we’re looking at vicarious trauma as well as some of the impacts of racial trauma.
Chanda: Wow. Wow. [00:30:00] Yeah, this is beautiful. I’m so glad that you are doing more things online. I hope you continue to do that ’cause I really, when I moved, Oh man. I was like, Oh, I wish I could like, continue some classes and it’s just so wonderful just to sit and talk with you. Yeah. You just have such a healing presence. You do.
Deshannon: Well, thank you, Chanda.
Chanda: You know, I have one more question about your book, because you said in the second edition you said that you didn’t wanna wait 10 years because you had more to say and you wanted to be bolder about some of the things that, that you were talking about.
And I’m just curious about in what way? And what sorts of things that you feel like you had to shine more light on or, when you’re saying bolder, be more direct about… what were some of those things?
Deshannon: So one of the things that I noticed when I went back and did a read… One, I was really surprised at how nervous I was with the first edition.
Like I pushed myself past the nerves, but there was [00:31:00] so much I was just green about. Just the fact of what looking at the cover, like looking down at the cover of a book would do to someone, because I don’t know everyone’s history. Mm. So looking at people’s eyes and body language, it, it made me kind of go like, Oh.
You know, like maybe there was something that I missed here, but what, what it really was is it was the topic.
Deshannon: It was a topic and I think what it was reminding people of. And so because of those reactions, I didn’t pick it up for a long time. I was doing workshops, don’t get me wrong.
But in terms of really taking the time to go through it again, it’s like I wouldn’t do it. Like I was honestly scared to do it. But there was something like a little tap saying, Okay, it’s time to go through this again. And Aquaila was really inspired to write a play and because we have all these interviews that are compiled, like real people giving their answers to things.
And [00:32:00] so I was like, All right, if Aquaila wants to write a play inspired by this work, then I need to look at again. So that was the push. And so I sat down and I could see the places that I was holding back. And I believe I was holding back because having done interviews before with people when I was working on mental health research studies, there’s some, especially if I see a person more than once in a research project, at least for me, I had this connection that I felt and I had compassion and those things are great and for my roles that I played in research in the before times and in my before life. There was nothing for me to write. I just had to record.
And so I could feel what I was feeling. I could put the interview away and have conversation and that be it. Whereas with this project, I’m having interviews with people. They’re telling me personal things, and [00:33:00] I’m sure that they didn’t tell everything, but you know, with the questions that I asked, there were very few people who skimmed the surface.
Like they really answered the questions. And so having answered the questions because of that connection that was created, there was a part of me that I realized that would hold back from as Iyanla Vanzant would say, calling a thing a thing. So if somebody was biased and had a double standard, that needed to be named.
I think in the first edition I was trying to rely so much on the interviews that I felt like the reader could see it for themselves and so, that courage, that being bolder with the second edition was putting more of my voice in it and saying, this is an example of this. And it doesn’t mean that they’re not good people.
Deshannon: You know, the folks who I interviewed, like they’re good people and they have some views [00:34:00] that are harmful and some thoughts about things that are wrong. Not everybody, but some did. You know, some, when I would read ’em, I would like, Oh, okay. It would give me hope. Mm-hmm. and then some, I would be like, Oh wow, okay.
I don’t know that that’s not gonna be a real supportive, should something happen to one of your children and I pray that it does not. So I had to speak more directly in the second edition. And so I was really proud that I did that. I condensed some of the interviews also too, ’cause I realized that much didn’t need to be said that we needed to get to the point. And then I also expanded the resource section. So there is a plethora of resources and organizations for people to dive into.
Deshannon: And then of course we put an excerpt of Aquaila’s play.
Deshannon: Yeah, so we have a short play for the theater people who may wanna experiment with something.
Chanda: Oh, this is, [00:35:00] this is beautiful.
And I love that you said that, right? Because I guess being more honest about what you’re saying allows for a deeper healing. You’re really getting to it. And then also, I love that you’re adding this other aspect of creativity because I’m so into the creative and artistic intellect, especially when it comes to healing, right?
Dropping down and allowing other parts of us to work on this and to heal. So I think that’s awesome that you added that in and allowed for that play to happen. Yeah.
Deshannon: Yeah. It was wonderful. And I had to let the playwright be the playwright because at first I was in it, ’cause I am a writer, but that’s not my mode of writing.
Deshannon: And so she insisted, this is inspired by, so I am going to create a story. I’m using this as the basis, but it’s not verbatim in terms of what you recorded with the people that you interviewed. And so I had to get that. I said, Okay, this is a artist thing. I consider myself a artist too, by the way, just a different kind.[00:36:00] But I had to, you know, in terms of the traditional artist, I said, Okay, I had to understand that. We filmed a short doc. We even went to universities.
Deshannon: Yeah. This, again, this was all like 2015, 2016. We did.
Deshannon: We did the short version. We showed a clip of the short version. We even had readings of the excerpt, uh, like actors, you know, do readings in circles and then people could ask questions and whatnot. We went to some churches in Harlem and did it.
Deshannon: So it was good. You bringing back memories, Chanda!
Chanda: Oh my goodness. I think this was a right around the time when I was moving, ’cause I vaguely remember this. And then I moved, 2016.
Yes. So DeShannon, I’m enjoying this conversation. I wanna know, can you please let people know if they can find you, if they want some more information on your workshops, if they wanna find your book?
Deshannon: The best place is my website, ILERA.com and [00:37:00] just want to put that plug out there that in addition to the sexuality work, I have a very lovely, specialized, unique, spiritual counseling practice. So if anyone is interested in that as well, please, it’s all on ILERA.com. I am on Facebook.
It’s, @ILERA_NY. That’s on Facebook. And then I’ll give my personal Twitter is Omi Fasina. So, so O M I, F as in Frank, A S I N A. So that’s me on Twitter. I’m also on LinkedIn. I’m on everything I think, except for Instagram and TikTok, so, Google DeShannon. I’m there. ILERA.com though.
That’s the best way to reach out to me.
I’m gonna put all this information in the show notes and a link to your book. I did not know that you were doing spiritual counseling.
Deshannon: Mm-hmm. [00:38:00]
Chanda: Oh, this is beautiful. This is beautiful. All right. Well, thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining us and for sharing all this beautiful information and we will be in touch.
Y’all check out Hush Hush. Check out ILERA.com. Thank you so much for being here today. Thank you, Chanda, I enjoyed it immensely.