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Equity in Action: Crystal Lynese Walker on Creating Inclusive Workplaces

Crystal Lynese Walker has over 15 years of experience helping organizations develop operational processes to curate equitable and inclusive workplaces through result driven methods. With a background in organizational communication and social and economic justice, she uses cultural intelligence to catalyze change and disruption within the diversity, equity, and inclusion sector. Crystal Lynese is the Senior Director for Management Leadership for Tomorrow's Racial Equity at Work Program, leading the MLT Black Equity at Work and MLT Hispanic Equity at Work certifications to drive Black and Hispanic women, Hispanic equity across corporations in the U. S. She also serves as MLT's lead for their Affirmative Action Task Force.


Listen to the full episode here.





[00:00:00] Introduction of Crystal Lynese Walker

[00:01:38] Crystal Lynese Walker on what she’s most passionate about

[00:03:35] Crystal Lynese Walker on her childhood

[00:10:25] Crystal Lynese Walker on her college career and what she studied

[00:16:44] Crystal Lynese Walker on what her mom, thought of her becoming a teacher

[00:18:10] Crystal Lynese Walker on her teaching philosophy is.

[00:19:23] Crystal Lynese Walker on what she has learned from that teaching philosophy

[00:20:33] Crystal Lynese Walker on what is DEI and why it’s so important

[00:24:22] Crystal Lynese Walker on having so much more work to do

[00:25:32] Crystal Lynese Walker on DEI steps we can take

[00:29:00] Crystal Lynese Walker on where people get it wrong with DEI

[00:33:00] Crystal Lynese Walker on engaging in intentional and not performative DEI

[00:35:10] Crystal Lynese Walker on making sure that workplaces are more equitable?

[00:40:27] Crystal Lynese Walker on being better advocates and allies

[00:43:36] Crystal Lynese Walker on the question we're not asking — Why are we still here?

[00:44:42] Crystal Lynese Walker on what keeps her going?

[00:50:06] Crystal Lynese Walker on her cultural heroines

[00:52:35] Crystal Lynese Walker on one lesson on her journey that really sticks with her

[00:53:59] Crystal Lynese Walker on where people can find her

[00:55:15] Crystal Lynese Walker on her dream for women?



Passionistas: Hi everyone, we are sisters, Amy and Nancy Harrington, the founders of The Passionistas Project. We've created an inclusive sisterhood where passion-driven women come to get support, find their purpose, and feel empowered to transform their lives and change the world. On every episode, we discuss the unique ways in which each woman is following her passions, talk about how she defines success, and explore her path to breaking down the barriers that women too often face.


Today, we're talking with Crystal Lynese Walker. With over 15 years of experience, Crystal has helped organizations develop operational processes to curate equitable and inclusive workplaces through result driven methods. With a background in organizational communication and social and economic justice, she uses cultural intelligence to catalyze change and disruption within the diversity, equity, and inclusion sector.


Crystal Lynese is the Senior Director for Management Leadership for Tomorrow's Racial Equity at Work Program, leading the MLT Black Equity at Work and MLT Hispanic Equity at Work certifications to drive Black and Hispanic women, Hispanic equity across corporations in the U. S. She also serves as MLT's lead for their Affirmative Action Task Force.


If you're joining us live here today, please feel free to drop any comments or questions for our guests in the chat, and we'll do our best to get them answered.


So please welcome Crystal Lynese Walker. Hi, Crystal.


Crystal: Hi, Nancy. Hello, Amy. It's so good to see you both.


Passionistas: It's good to see you too. So we love to start every interview with the question, what are you most passionate about?


Crystal: What am I most passionate about is the living life fully. And then that's just a period moment. I could go on, but I will say it that way. My passion is around living this life. Um, there's a couple of quotes in song lyrics and one that always strikes me is that, I have to cheat life because I can't cheat death.


In other words, like, I have to live this life so much to the fullest that when that last breath comes, you don't have any regrets, right? Like, this is what we do know at this moment. And so that's my passion. And that then leads me into going in different ways to get there. Um, and so my passion That outcome is what I'm always hoping for and working for for myself and trying to do it and help and support others to have the same.


Um, but, you know, there's different ways that you can accomplish that. So, professionally, I often do that through social impact work and looking at racial equity at work and workplaces and what that looks like. But in my personal life, my. Drive is really in the interconnectivity of women. Um, as a black woman, I understand the importance of community.


Um, if it weren't for myself being surrounded by other black women, I wouldn't be who I am, but I also don't even know where I would be or Lord knows what I would be doing and all women need that connectivity. But as we look at things, Our connectivity to one another has to transcend race because there are struggles that we're all dealing with, but we can't transcend race if we're not dealing with it head on.


And so my work personally and just my overall passion is finding ways to connect with women and finding ways to help women understand how to better work together.


Passionistas: So, let's take a step back. Where did that, the seed of your passion for living without regret and, and I think more importantly social impact, where was that born? Is that something that was instilled in you as a kid? Where, what's your, what was your childhood like?


Crystal: Yeah, so I think. Understanding what I wanted or what I was doing is where I realized that I was, the outcome that I was going for was this thriving life without regret. So for a while, it was really about the social impact work and I would absolutely say that it came from my childhood.


I don't know if it necessarily came out in a political or social way initially, um, I came out as a child that just liked to talk and if I saw something that didn't seem right or I had a question, I would ask why. Um, and so I think it was just my nature to be curious, but then growing up in a household that had parents who understood what was happening around the world.

My dad was military, my mom was a teacher, um, and you know, my dad was a blue collar worker and. You know, with our blended family there, I have three siblings, and so. They always want it better for us, and I grew up in a rural town, a rural area that had its own racial challenges on top of, you know, social economic challenges, and so you started to see and understand very early on in life, um, that there were grave differences by some of us, and it's not an experience that parents want to set out to have to help their child navigate, but it is an experience for some parents That is a part of growing up, so that's the other pieces that I never noticed that it was a seed, because it was just being taught how to be who I needed to be, but more importantly, how to just be in this life based on who I was.


Um, I think my first most pivotal moment in having a conversation with my parents that was really clear that I can remember. It was kindergarten. I was growing up in the 80s, so I'm an elder millennial, which means that, you know, at that time, the thought about children and getting them to move was to create competition and, you know, everybody's hallway had some kind of metric and everybody was racing to get their star or whatever they were.

It was a really hard time for me to go from this place to that place. And it was, you kind of think about it, that's a really horrible way to do things for kids when their names are on the entire hallway, traumatized every day where they are without understanding why they may be where they are. But we'll digress from that.


But that was the life that I was in, in the school system. And we had these like reading and math bars and they were like, we were little cubs. And so our cubs would move with our name and. I liked being in the front. It seemed like a good place to be. So I worked really hard to stay in the front. And I also talked a lot.


I would finish my work, but I wasn't talking to distract folks. I was often going to go help them. Right? So I was like, trying to help them with their work, and I would get in trouble. The teacher would send me out in the hallway. You know, it's a time out and ironically, my mom worked at the school and so there was times she was walking down the hallway and I would be outside and I'd be like, hi, mom, I put out again and she would just ignore me and just like, walk by but.


At the end of the school year, our teacher had been talking about it for weeks, that there was going to be one person in kindergarten that was going to win a top award for math, and there was going to be one top award for reading. And at some point or another, I kind of lost the first place on both.


Reading excelled, and I like dropped off in math, but I still knew I was ahead in reading. And I remember my mom getting dressed that night to go to the award ceremony, and I I wasn't getting dressed. She, she didn't lay out clothes for me like she normally would. And I'm like, you know, why am I not going?


And so she had to explain to me that she was going as a teacher. She was presenting an award, but that I was not getting one of the top kindergarten awards. And I was like, but I have the top reading all year. And my mom was like, I know. Um, but sometimes other things. that go bond you just doing well. And I knew, you know, I think back on it now and I realized she was trying not to have to give me the speech, um, that I was going to have to be three times better.


And I was going to have to do things twice as hard, um, and that I was often going to get half the recognition if any. Um, but ultimately that's the conversation that we had to have. And I asked my mom, could I still go? And she said yes. So, we stood in the back up until it was time for her to present, and she walked up and presented, and we stood in the back, and I watched, you know, the folks who won the awards, I watched my teacher go up and talk about the students that won the awards from my class, and I went home and I told my mom, and this was kindergarten, I was like, I won't lose again.


And I didn't. There wasn't a year after that that I didn't. And there were other things that happened while I was in school about me and, you know, my intelligence or, you know, being gifted, that other parents were challenging and saying that my mom was, you know, doing things for me. And my mom was like, I'm a teacher assistant and I'm not even in the grade she's in.


She's never been in any of my classes, um, to the point where one parent complained enough that they made, um, me and another student retake the state exam because they didn't believe that I would have had a higher score than their daughter and when we took it, uh, my mom never told me that we were retaking it so I didn't know.


I just got called out of class and was asked to take it and I just I scored higher and that person that I did the last 1 in that person scored lower. And 1 of the things I learned later from that person was that their parent had told them so they knew. So there was my mom. And it was kind of amazing to see how much she had protected me from because she's like, Crystal's gonna just do what she does.


So, you know, she let me live that life and to understand that about myself and not even know that. So I didn't even find out that until like I was, you know, in high school when she finally told me what happened, you know. And so those are the kind of experiences that I've had. And I kept thinking, gosh, if I was getting this far and I didn't even know there were barriers, if I found out what the barriers were and I was able to remove them, what would I have been doing?


And that's where my work really started, because I was like People are in, not people, but things are in my way, and I don't like when things are in my way. And if they're in my way, that means that they're in other people's way. And so that's where that work started.


Passionistas: Wow, what an amazing, incredible story. Um, so where did you go from there? Do you, where did you go to college? What did you study? How'd you get into doing what you do?


Crystal: Yeah, so I grew up in North Carolina. Um, and so North Carolina has hands down, and I know I'm biased because I'm from there, but some of the best colleges in North Carolina, both HBCUs, PWIs, there's so many different college institutions that are there.


And so lucky enough, living in North Carolina, I had lots of options, but deep down in my heart, I was a Tar Heel and I was going to go for it. So I went to UNC Chapel Hill and, um, my road there was very interesting for as far as choosing my major, because when you have a passion for everything, it is hard to choose something, let alone a thing.


So it evolved. And then as I look back on it, they were all still connected and I never really left. You know, what I wanted to do. So I actually started out as an archeology, like, major until I realized that the. Additional equipment and other things was not a part of my tuition and that was coming out of pocket.


And I remember them saying, I was going to need like an extra 7 grand a semester and I was like, so that's not going to work out. So we, so then I switched to anthropology because I really wanted to understand people because again. My interest was all of these barriers keep getting in the way, and I'm trying to understand why people put them there and right one, trying to understand why people put them there.


And then how do I better navigate around them? And so that's where my interest in trying to understand people. And how we communicate why we do. So that's where anthropology came in and understanding culture and how it impacts so many different things. Um, but then the anthropology program had some additional courses that were mandatory, but that weren't part of the actual program when you looked at it and those were like, in other countries.


So once again, we were out of price range. So even with that, the next step was, Well, I can study interpersonal communication because it required anthropology archaeology courses. And so I was like, okay, so this allows me to have the courses that didn't require extra money and I can still, you know, learn through that mechanism.


And so that's how I started that. And then I chose the minor of social economic justice because it was a brand new minor that UNC had just launched that year. And so it was really interesting to be a part of it. And part of the, the pilot was to see if it could ultimately become, you know, a major and I knew I would be graduating before they made that decision, but it was really great to be a part of the social economic justice minor program that was there.

So, that's what I did. You know, graduated in 2007 at the height of the recession, and so there were no jobs. And so, but I found a great opportunity working for a telecommunications company that wanted to start a more inclusive and diverse program of recruiting students. Um, and so I was a part of this 1st, like, pilot program.


And so, we really helped them understand what was needed, how to move through, and how to take someone from, like, retail to corporate. So, that was really fun to do, um, but I had always told them that I wanted to get my master's degree and wanted to continue studying. Um, and unfortunately, when I came back around to say I'm ready, they were not as willing to work with me and my schedule.


So. I still went and said, go get my master's, so then I moved, um, moved, pursued my master's at Bowie State University here in Maryland and where I continue to study organizational communication because then I started realizing that the behaviors and how individuals communicate. Those individuals make up an org.


They make up the clusters, they make up those decisions. So now I was trying to figure out how do folks go from behaving this way individually to how they do so collectively, and how does that create systems that move? And so that's organizational communication. So. That's where I got my master's there. I had a great time working there and doing my research.

And so while I was in grad school, I was a property manager assistant where I somehow developed a program to think about how we could be more inclusive in our collection practices of rent and kind of what that looks like in the literacy that's needed oftentimes for folks in different places in life.


Um, and. That led to realizing I like to teach, although I had told my parents I never wanted to be a teacher. Um, and so I also knew that I wanted to teach adults because that was the next place that I realized I didn't have. Black women that look like me. I didn't have them in college and as instructors, I didn't really have too many of them.


Um, and so I thought, again, it didn't stop me. I was able to graduate. I finished. I did

everything I need to do, but what could that experience have been like if I did have? At least more than one, right? And so I decided I wanted to be a college professor. So then the pursuit was on to be a, to become a college professor, which I ultimately did.

I taught as an adjunct for a few years and then full time at a community college and had a wonderful time there for seven years as an associate professor and coordinator of the communications department. So that allowed me to teach some of the same things I learned to my students, but I also taught intercultural communication and that really sparked that other piece.


That was like the last like, I'm like, that's what it is. That's what I like doing. Um, and how can I continue to do it? Um. And so, from there, I started working in non profit. Eventually, I started working with MLT. And that's where I am now. But that's how, like, my story started. So, from kindergarten to now, each one of those had a very clear impact.


And it feels like each time, I had a new iteration of how I saw my role in that space. Wow.


Passionistas: And what did your mom, who was a teacher, what did she think of you becoming a teacher when you were doing that?


Crystal: Oh, I mean, everybody knew I was a professor. Everybody in Food Lion, everybody in Piggly Wiggly, everybody at the, you know, hardware store on the corner, right?


Like that, she was shouting that to the mountaintops at all times. Um, you know, I miss her dearly. My mom and dad have unfortunately passed away, but I know that they would be. Beyond proud. Um, I have a photo. One of my favorite family photos was more impromptu and we were out in the yard. Um, and. It's my brother, my nephew, my mom, my dad, and myself, and I'm wearing this ridiculously oversized Malcolm X hat.


I'm probably about eight, and it's got the big X on it, and it is huge because I made my dad buy it for me at a gas station, and it was like clearly an adult male's hat. Um, but I had to have it because I, we had just watched the movie and then my cousin had gotten into Malcolm X and he was telling me all about it after school when I was at my aunt's house and so, you know, that's one of my favorite photos.


So they knew who I was very early on. So nothing ever changed. I love that. I can picture you in the hat. I'd love to see the photo sometime. I'm going to have to send it to you, ladies.


Passionistas: So tell us what your teaching philosophy is.


Crystal: Really, my teaching philosophy is that I am only able to assist you in the understanding of what is happening. But teaching stops at the point of action. And, right? And to me, teaching is how we put the information out. So my philosophy is giving you the right information, and helping you understand how to navigate ethical information. Helping you understand how what you're learning is connected to what you know, to what you don't know, and where there's dissonance.


But my teaching philosophy is never that I can guarantee anyone an outcome, because that outcome is solely based on your motivations and your intentions. And so my teaching philosophy is around being an ethical provider of information, a person who can provide you with opportunities to connect what you're learning, to challenge me, to challenge someone else.


But my teaching philosophy will never include an outcome for an individual, as that is solely based on their own commitment.


Passionistas: And what have you learned from that teaching philosophy? What, what lessons do you take away from that?


Crystal: That is hard as heck to do. Uh, that is what it is. So, it is one of those philosophies that I have as my constant guiding reminder of what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, but it can be so hard when the teaching is happening and the learning and the action is going contrary to the teaching.


So, that teaching, it In one way, it can be very frustrating to have that as a philosophy because it puts me right at a barrier that I've created for myself for a reason, because there's also a boundary, because in this particular space, it can be overwhelming if my teaching philosophy goes beyond what I can pour out.


And so it's also very grounding to have it. So, as frustrating as it can be, It's more grounding than it is frustrating. And the moments that are frustrating to me is only because my passion level has exceeded my capabilities and I have to take a step back and lower my, you know, lower my goal there and kind of refocus.


Passionistas: Yeah, that's good advice for all of us, I think. Um, so let's talk about DEI and, uh, and that's, there's a lot there. Um, but obviously it's a topic that's under attack in a lot of places. In this country. Um, so what, for people who maybe don't really get it, what is DEI and why is it so important? Mm-Hmm.


Crystal: Ooh. Okay. So to me. The reason that, and not just to me, the reason that DEI is important is because it has been through efforts and DEI efforts that we're actually seeing in some areas, true growth and movement, especially within workplaces, especially in learning spaces. If you look at historical data, Prior to DEI ever being a part, or even ingrained or introduced, we look at numbers historically.


Things have not been operated equally as folks claim that they have. They never have, and the numbers don't lie. They are the reason that we know that things are unequal, right? DEI isn't here. To reverse discriminate, it is to remove initial layers of discrimination. It is to actually allow everyone to have the same opportunities.


To move with the same knowledge. To understand and have the same opportunities to make decisions. That is what DEI work does. It looks to find where in systems have we as humans taken our flawed mistakes and built them into processes. Where are there unwritten rules that need to be written that would Totally change what it looks like for someone to operate here.


It is not an attack on any individual. It is on ensuring that every individual has the same open opportunities and access to information that the person who has the most does. It does not mean that the resources would be tipped over. What it means is that everyone would actually have a fair shot because the fair shot has not existed.


So that is what DEI worked. Is to me in a broad sense, but it's only being attacked. Because it is showing movement of what starts changing when everyone does have the same opportunities and when everyone does have the same knowledge and can make decisions, because what it then starts to reveal to us is that not only were things unequal.

Right, but they were also stacked and so as we start working for equity and inclusion, the stack starts coming down, the flaws start moving up, and so then folks who shouldn't have had positions. And you can't explain why they had them to begin with. Now you have proof that that wasn't the right candidate before.


Right? And so now you're creating true competition in the workplace that allows folks to be based on meritocracy, to be based on their skills and what they're bringing, because as much as folks want to attack and you know, Talk about people being DEI hires. Being chosen to be hired for being white is the opposite of that.


You were chosen for the exact same reason you're upset that someone else was chosen. Um, and, and sometimes that comes along with more or less, but oftentimes it comes to at the detriment. Not always. Everyone should still have that open shot. But a white person shouldn't be hired because they're white no more than a Black or brown or native or indigenous person should either.


But those folks also deserve to be considered at the same rate level with the same opportunity.


Passionistas: Absolutely. And I think we've talked about this recently too. It's like, there's a perception by a certain faction of the people in the world that like, oh, things are getting better. Things are better. What is everybody still complaining about? It's like, no, it's, uh, we have so much more work to do, you know.


Crystal: Not to mention the rate in which they're getting better. Like, that we're right now, the timeline is shown, we'll never see where we hit that level point based on the progress that we're making. So, you know, the rate. And the vigor in which we move forward in this economy through enslavement of others and through the theft of people's land along with other things that happen with that same level of vigor and swift timeline, right?

And the long laws that you put into place that allow that to happen for 100 years, we need that same level of investment and in vigor to undo those things as we did and to investing and getting them.


Passionistas: So, so what do we do? So, how do we collectively, you know, those of us who see this injustice and want to change things, what are steps we can take?


Crystal: Well, I think the first thing, there are many steps. I think the 1st thing for anyone that I advise at a personal level is find where you're best suited emotionally. Intellectually, skill wise, and level of investment in time that you have. Every person plays a major role in the movement to move anything forward.


But you need to be realistic about where you're used and your gifts are the best suited. Right? So that's the first thing that I tell anybody is find your lane first. Just start there. Right? And then within that lane, you can determine where you best fit to help. Because this is a long term fight. This isn't a short term.


So you need to find not only where your skills are, but Where you find enjoyment because you're likely going to be up against things all the time. So what are the skills that you like to do, you know, employ the most? What are the talents that you like to use the most? Because this is an easy work. And so you need to find joy in the work because the outcome can sometimes be so far removed from you that it can be easy to give up.


So that's why that first step for me is to find. Where that is, and it doesn't mean that has to be your lane forever, right? Like, continue to find new lanes, but really make sure that you're setting yourself up, um, and be realistic about your level of commitment and what you can do, because that can cause burnout, but also it could cause guilt when that's not necessary, right?


Because, again, everyone has bandwidths that they can handle things, so one, find that space. The second step is to surround yourself With more people who are in the other lanes that you chose not to. And the reason that you want to double that circle is so that you understand how their work is working so that the work that you're doing does not interfere or disrupt.


And if there is a place in which there needs to be collaboration, somebody can spot it. That's the second step for me. The third step for me is whatever that lane was, do what you do well over and over and over and over and over again. Those are the three steps that we all have to follow. This isn't about, this is the X law that we should be fighting.


It's not about this is the X initiative that should be at every state level. This is about finding your niche in the work, because there's a crap ton of work that has to be done to dig us out of this hole. And so there is plenty of dirt to go around. Once you understand that, if you've got the right people working at all of the right levers and the right spaces, then the work that we're doing will start.


To show up. I mean, it's not as though the work isn't showing up now. The work that folks have been doing at DEI in the workplace is starting to have an impact on what's happening socially and what's happening, right? Legally, what's happening legally is allowed companies to do certain things in the workplace.


And so these things are starting to connect with one another and we've got to pay attention to how they are and find your lane and work the hell out of it is basically what you need to do in that space.


Passionistas: Yeah, I think that's so important. I know that when, after the 2016 election, I think we all were like, okay, we got to do this and we got to do this. And oh, my God, this is a problem. And finally, it was like, okay, you can't do it all. Pick your issue, you know, focus on that, makes it have an impact. And it's part of the reason we want to bring everybody together because everybody's doing these different things, but it's like. Okay, so, but then there's a unified force, you know, you're doing this, we're doing this, how do we then make that a more powerful force to move forward together?


So, um, super, super important. Um, the brilliant Dr. Melissa Bird, who is the reason that we know you, um, is here with us watching today and she has a couple questions. So I'm going to ask her first first, which is where do people get it wrong with DEI?


Crystal: Melissa, such a good question. I think the first place that people get it wrong is in the understanding of what it is.


And so earlier on, you all asked that question, what is this work? And, you know, as I explained it, this is the work that's needed to unravel the systems and the processes and the things that are not fair and that are not equal and that are not equitable. So that everyone can have that. I think that's one of the biggest misconceptions about what DEI actually is.

Um, and so that causes a lot of misunderstanding. Um, I also think that there are two components or two layers to DEI work in general. There is heart connectivity work and there is real strategic action work. And, you know, Each one of those comes with pros and cons, but each one of those are necessary. But also, each one of those are stereotyped and deemed in different ways on purpose.


Right? So, oftentimes the heart, you know, work becomes the woke information or the this information that's made to seem as though it should be dismissed because it's outlandish that this can't be possible. However, right, on the other end of the spectrum, there's data that shows that what they were saying on that side was correct.


Right? Like, that was a qualitative perspective. And then on the more strategic side, we have data that shows what that looks like. And so then you're looking at the processes that are in place that hold up folks to continue to do what they do. Oftentimes, DEI work, social impact work, it's not as simple as individual behavior.


And I think one of the things is that a lot of misunderstanding of DEI looks at everything as being an individual attack on a person, that you're not doing the right thing, you have privilege, you have something someone else doesn't, you should feel bad. That's not what. D.E.I. work is really about, and it's really not about individuals, it's about systems, because systems create multitudes of people who have the same barriers, so it is not an attack on you as a person, Amy or Nancy, it's on the fact that this system is leading to this result, and that's not an equitable result, so where are we going wrong in the system?


Where can we fix it? Right? Um, and I think that's, you know, folks use that as a way to dismiss all for tuning in. I'm gonna go ahead and turn it back over to you, and we'll be back in just a few minutes. All right. Bye. Thanks. More of a symptom of you learning the truth than it is what came out of the information that was provided, right?


And so you do still have to check the heart because that's a needed understanding, but ultimately it's about, you know, systems. I tell oftentimes in DEI, let's trust processes, not people. Not because people aren't doing the right things, but as humans, we can make mistakes and we don't understand where those are coming from. And so let's build better processes. Yeah.


Passionistas: Um, and then, uh, Dr. Bird also asks, how can people engage in

intentional and not performative DEI?


Crystal: It goes back to that first finding your lane, because one, I often find when I see more performative, you know, work, whether at an organizational level or at an individual personal level, it's oftentimes very reactive, reactionary.


It is not. Proactive, nor is it consistent, right? It's in very clear moments of time. Now, I will say everyone doesn't Advocate or show up in their lane the same way. So, just because you don't see someone posting something on social media doesn't mean that they aren't doing the work that they needed to do in their lane.


Social media may not have been a part of that lane. So, I wanted to make clear that that doesn't mean that that's not what's happening, but oftentimes you can see the patterns of when. Right? Folks are responding. The other thing is that at an organizational level, if you have these kind of one off initiatives, initiatives don't move needles.


Right? Like, having a program for Black History Month or for Indigenous Peoples Month is not going to change you. The pay compensation at your organization, right? And so that's the other piece of this is that there needs to, for DEI to work, it has to be integrated across the organization at an organizational level.


For it to work for you personally, it has to show up in your values, your morals, and your personal boundaries of what you're willing to say yes and no to, and then also how you vote in the booth. So those are two different places that they show up. Right, where personally you can have more heart thought in what you're doing, but be sure that you're not forgetting that those decisions you're making with your heart will have an impact on the systems and the processes on the other end.


Passionistas: And Dr. Bird says, more of that, please,


Crystal: Please, please, and


Passionistas: So a lot of the members of the Passionistas community are small business owners. They don't have these big corporate structures, but they are, you know, maybe are working on their own or have just a really small team around them. So what can they be doing to make sure that their work is more, and their organizations, if they have one, are more equitable?


Crystal: I think you look at it both internally and also at the level of your external impact. What are you doing beyond inside of your organization? Whether or not, you know, I'm a small business owner with my, you know, consulting, which is how we got connected, there are things that I practice personally. So I'll use myself.


So one, um, I seek out to only support minority owned vendors and suppliers when I'm trying to shop for things that are related to my business. Um, right? And so Any money that I'm making is going back into those businesses, right? And so I know who I want to support and that's where my money goes. Um, so my clients know that.


Anybody who knows, I tell them, hey, by the way, I support these businesses, right? One, that's my way of letting them know who I am and what I stand for before they decide to work with me. But also, it's a small little nugget to say, hey, maybe you should take a look at these same ones. Um, right? Or to say, hey, you could do the same.


So, that's something that you can do that has major impact, even if you weren't thinking about that. Right? Um, another one that you could think about is, you know, a lot of small businesses have social media, they have marketing materials. What does that look like? Who is your ideal client? Right? Um, are you, you know, being sure to be inclusive in your, your language?


Right? Are you setting up the right parameters in your comment section on your platforms where you allow folks to have conversations? Are you setting up rules that ensure that it's psychologically safe for people to be in that space? And so these are all things that you can do. That make a place inclusive, whether or not it's a one person show, or whether or not from an organization, you have multiple folks that are coming together to help you strategize what needs to happen, whether you're hiring or recruiting or whatever that may look like.

But, yeah, you can take these kind of small steps and reaching out to folks like yourselves and other passion, you know, Passionistas that we have out here. Right, and connecting and getting to know one another and finding other ways to support and amplify other folks in that same space. Yeah, absolutely.


So, we're building this community. We're trying to build this micro economy of women buying from women. We're trying to get a directory together. Do you have other resources where people can support one another, buy from each other? Yeah, so I think As far as, like, resources to buy from, you know, one another, there's quite a few lists out there.


Um, so one great resource is a lot of DEI curators and strategists provide lots of free information on LinkedIn, actually. quick search and a lot of them will share databases that they created or I even saw one time someone created a list. And they were like, hey, these are, you know, a hundred organizations that I know of that are black consulting firms.

Right. And they just put that out there. Right. And so that's an excellent place to start. Um, you know, there are also really. Great organizations that target specifically to support the intersectionality of different women in different groups. And so following them will oftentimes connect you. One of my favorites is Mogul Millennial.


I wrote for them for quite some time and they talked to, you know, their audience were Black millennial entrepreneurs and those who were in business and, you know, all the articles, right, and the networking. So connecting with something like that. Um, there's larger media sites like, um. You know, Refinery29 that talks also to Black women, right?


So there's so many different organizations, um, both locally. So I tell folks LinkedIn is a great source, but also be really, honestly, Facebook has been great. As antiquated as it can be, um, I live in Baltimore. I found like a by Black Baltimore group that has like all Black owned businesses. And business owners and just community people.


And like, you can type in the search bar, like, I need X, Y, and Z, like a DJ. I need a caterer. I need a plumber. I need an electrician. Boom. Like everyone shows up, like who's been using who. And so even like that local level, um, finding out and having those connections. Um, my neighbors actually do, they've been doing it now for like 20 years.


They have their own directory and they have been finding Black businesses, uh, in Baltimore. Um, and like creating a book for like 20 years and they just pass it out. Um, and so like, you know, I find all kinds of things in that. And so I think one of the ways you do that is by being intentional to look for it.

Like be intentional to look for it, connect, and it's so much out there.


Passionistas: Yeah, that's amazing. We, a couple weeks ago, interviewed Nikki Porsche from Buy From a Black Woman. Do you know her or the organization?


Crystal: Following on Instagram. Yes. She's absolutely amazing. Love her.


Passionistas: So, um, so what can we be doing to be better advocates to people of color in general?


Crystal: So, I love that you asked about being an advocate because I think that it's, there's a couple of things that play here and there are a couple of different roles that people can play. There's advocates and there's allies, right? And those two things are two different roles with very, two different purposes and a person can play both or one or the other.


Um, when I hear someone talking about being an advocate, I think oftentimes an advocate. You are saying, when I hear X, Y, and Z being said, I am willing to put myself in the forefront of a conversation, and I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'm saying it's harder because it requires more vulnerability of you than being an ally.


So, to be an advocate means that you are willing to put yourself in the forefront of a conversation. You are saying, when I hear X, Y, and Z being said, I am willing To take my physical voice and my body and stand in front and say something. If I'm being an advocate, I am willing to go in the booth and I'm going to vote X, Y, and Z because these things have this impact on others that won't have this impact for another, you know, intersectional other folks, right?


So being an advocate means walking. And having very clear actions or in other words, receipts for your work. In other words, I can track to know what Amy and Nancy have been doing to say that they are an advocate. Right. But that's the other key. You can't name yourself an advocate. You have to be practicing the practice, right, of advocating.

That is how you become recognized as someone who is an advocate. So you've got to put in the work and you've got to have the receipts for that. As an ally. Ally is still active, but ally often requires less or oftentimes comes with less risk. And so a lot of times folks want to know how to be an ally more than they want to know how to be an advocate.


Or they'll ask how to be an advocate, but what they really learn after they hear that is that I would prefer to be an ally. And your ally might have a sign up, right, uh, for LGBTQ and the intersection of race, right. Flying from their home and they may absolutely go and vote and to make sure that the right laws are in place, but that ally may not also be the person that stops their family members from saying what they're saying at the dinner table.


Right, so advocate requires additional action and oftentimes as an advocate, that action comes right at a risk. It comes at a, you know, a back and forth, right? That often some people aren't willing to take. So, if you're going to go the route of advocate, that also means That there comes more sacrifice with that, and vulnerability on your part.


Passionistas: I love that. I love that your name, Crystal, is Crystal, because you make things crystal clear. Like that was, that was a beautiful description of the distinction between those two roles. I love it. Loving it. Um, what's the question that we're not asking, that we should be asking?


Crystal: Why are we still here? Yeah, right. That's the question that we're not asking enough. Why are we still fighting for the same things? Um, why are we fighting for things that we already fought and won for again? Right? Like those are the questions that we need to be Asking, um, why? How did it get here? And then I guess the next, the last one is, you know, what the hell are we going to do now? Those are the questions that we have to be asking and we better start having answers for them quickly.


Passionistas: Yeah, absolutely. Why do we keep fighting the same fight? Why do we, why do you keep fighting it? What keeps you going?


Crystal: What keeps me going in this fight is, goes back to what you asked me when we got started. In order for me to live the life that I want to live and that I want my nieces and nephews to live and the rest of my family and friends and loved ones and generations to come, I have to experience it to know how good it is so that they know it was worth it.


And so that that's what keeps me going. Um, I'm not in this. Fight. And I'll put this, I'm, I'm, part of me is in this fight constantly just because of who I am. But it doesn't mean that I'm always living in the moment where my gloves are actively on. Because if I lived that way, I would never get to live the life that I'm fighting so hard to have.nAnd so that's, that's what that's about for me.


Passionistas: So looking back, you know, you mentioned your mom, um, but when you were growing up and, and through your journey, um, who are some of the female role models that you've had and what did you learn from them that was important?


Crystal: Some of my best female models are the women in my family. So, you know, my mom was. No nonsense. She was going to stand on her word. She meant what she said. Um, and that's not easy to do as a Black woman, it's not easy to do as a woman. And so I learned that from my mom. Um, you know, I have an Aunt Phyllis and she is And she is so intentionally sweet. And she notices so much about everyone.


She would remember our birthdays and make us pizza parties and she had this such caring demeanor constantly even when things weren't okay, right? I learned that that, like, level of empathy, like, okay, that I need a little bit of that. My Aunt Rosie is so feisty and she will tell anybody about themselves and she will correct you and then still love on you and she has no problem doing that and in this work, I need to do that because sometimes I have to call out You know, a friend, I might have to call out a family member, I might have to call out someone I consider a sister, but I also know that I might have to be called out too.


And so, like, learning that, how to receive that, and also how to give it with grace, um, has been great. My Aunt Jill. Keeps the most youthful spirit about her. It does not matter. Right? Like, she reminds me of the same Aunt Jill I've known my entire life. And so, having that youthful spirit to say, I'm going to live youthful and I'm going to take life as it comes to me.

And just having those kind of experiences. My Aunt Mary, for example, is a praying woman and she does not waver. Right? And so, having that kind of person in my life that does not waver and will stand on that, right? So, I learned each of those things from them. And then to learn that, you know, my grandmothers were, you know, making history.


My dad's mom, um, she was part of a class in our small town that was like a first class of Black students that they were actually tracking through to college because they had never done that before. And she got a scholarship and we just found a recent clipping about her in our Like, newspaper. Thanks, Ancestry.


We found this, like, we didn't even know. Nobody knew. And it was like, she's all in the newspaper about this. Um, and, you know, my, my grandma Sally, like, she was so determined to be a homeowner. Like, so determined. That she saved up her money, and she found this house that she wanted, but it was not in the location of the land she had bought, and she was just a badass, and my grandma, like, had the whole house moved, and we're talking at a time where, like, Black women weren't buying houses, let alone as a single Black woman, and she bought this house and had it moved and rebuilt back on, like, the land she had been saving to have her own home.


Like, that's the kind of, And so when I read about more Black women and other leaders and women in general, it just kept adding to the pile because I kept finding how they were just like the women in my life or, you know, my two sisters that I have. I have one sister, my sister, Deasha, she, whatever she puts her mind to, she just does.


She does it well. Like, you know, it's amazing to me. And then my sister, who's a therapist, Alicia, she's so thoughtful and she thinks about people and, you know, she has like this tenacity for people like being healthy and, you know, not having, you know, she's like drugs is a mechanism because of the things that are happening in people's lives.


They would need treatment if they didn't have some of these problems. And, you know, she's advocating for that. So to be surrounded and to grow up with people like that in my life. You know, where was the road? It was there. So that's also why not having other Black women throughout other journeys didn't slow me down because of the role models that I had when I started.


Passionistas: And who are some of those cultural heroines who you saw from outside your family that have impacted you?


Crystal: So Harriet Tubman, Her, you know, entire story, um, and I actually live in Baltimore, which I love being able to be in Baltimore because, you know, it's her birthplace and there's so much history about her and her movement through Maryland for the Underground Railroad, but I remember reading her story in a book my mom bought me from the Scholastic Book Fair, and it was Um, like, I just vividly, I can't even remember the name of the book, but I can picture the picture of her and like, she's reaching down and just to read that book about how many people that she was able to save, um, but more importantly, not so much save, but to set free because they didn't need saving.


They needed freedom, right? That's very different. And so she was, um, Not only able to do that, but willing and to do it with such conviction, where she herself said, I was never afraid. I was already ordained to do this work. So I didn't worry about anything else. Like to be able to go into something and say, I don't even know why it's me.


I don't know why I'm here, but the fact that I'm here means that I'm going to do it. Like that's.  That's just pure courage and bravery to me, um, Audrey Lorde's work on the intersectionality of being a woman, um, and, you know, her work is just more than phenomenal to me. I read those essays at least every year, um, and honestly, a person more in my age range is Issa Rae.


I absolutely love Issa Rae because her journey, it reminds me so much of my own, um, and being around the same age group and to be a Black woman in this age as a millennial, and that's a new generation that's here. Um, she's been an inspiration. She made a comment before that, you know, It wasn't about trying to convince people up.


I started working with my friends across the board. We each had these equal talents and that's what she did. She didn't go to try to convince two people or three people above her that she was great. She was like, we can create great things with the people we have. And that's exactly what happened. And then more importantly, all of those people she was working with, they're all now at the two to three levels up that weren't trying to hear them before.


And so like that kind of work really is inspiring to me. So those are my three. But there's so many more, don't make me, like, I didn't forget anyone, but I'll keep it to those three.


Passionistas: Well, the good thing is you're a Power Passionista, so you can go to your space and you can tell us all who else, you know, and we'll check out.... We love Issa Rae. She's like, she's one of our heroes too, so. Um, so Um, I am bummed because we're getting close to the end and, and I don't want to stop talking to you. But, um, what's one lesson that you personally have learned on your journey so far that really sticks with you?


Crystal: That through my experience and my lens as a Black woman, it has given me a lot of empathy, but it has not given me the full knowledge of everyone else's journey, and that it does not automatically qualify me to feel as though I don't have to do the work or the research to support any other intersectionalities across my community and communities abroad and that is a huge lesson for myself, um, that the work doesn't stop just simply because of who I am.


It still requires work and being humbled to learn from others and to realize that there's a place for my voice as a Black woman and there's a place and time for my platforms to be shared.


Passionistas: Yeah. So, where can people find you, learn more about you, get in touch with you?


Crystal: Yes, so I have a website, which is, um, and that just talks more about the kind of passion projects that I work on through my consulting, which is actually Crystal Clear Consulting, Nancy. So, you didn't nail it. Um, I do that work as a passion consultant, which is one of the reasons I love your, your organization and your work, um, because I don't do it necessarily to have a lot of clients.


I pick and choose projects that seem really cool to work on. Um, and so that's kind of how I go about that work, but you can read more about that. Um, I've got some old blogs there. I'm not active as much as I used to be, but some blogs about some different perspectives. Um, I'm on LinkedIn. Um, so as Crystal Lynese Walker, you can find me there.


I'm on Instagram. It's Chic_NoChaser, but that is personal. You're going to see my puppy. You're going to see me. Um, and so I don't do a lot of advocacy work there. Although, um, when things really outrage me, I will say something in my stories, but that one, so that one is more, if you just want to get to know me at a personal level, that's where you can find me.


Passionistas: Excellent. And you are one of our Power Passionistas. We are meeting this week or next week to start to really talk about The amazing things that you want to roll out. Um, on the, in the community, so anybody that's a member can actually connect with you, find out more about you here, and as time goes by, um, we're, we don't want to reveal anything yet, but we're really, really excited about what we're talking with Crystal about. Um, so Crystal, we have one last question for you. We always like to end with an easy question, which is, what is your dream for women?


Crystal: To rule the world. That's it.


Passionistas: What more can you say? That's all we need. We agree. So, we cannot thank you enough for joining us today. This was such an amazing conversation. We had such a wonderful time. We can't wait to share this with everybody in the world, share you with everybody in the world. And we can't wait for all the amazing things we're going to do together. So, thank you so much.


Crystal: I'm excited and thank you, ladies.


Passionistas: Thanks for listening to The Passionistas Project. Since we're not only business partners, but best friends and real life sisters, we know how unique and truly special our situation is. We know so many solopreneurs, activists, women seeking their purpose and more, who are out there doing it all on their own.


They often tell us that they wish they had what we have. So we're creating a space for them, and you, to join our sisterhood, where trust, acceptance, and support are the cornerstones of our community.


By joining, you become part of our family. We'll give you all of our SIS Tips on building meaningful relationships through the power of sisterhood, and all the tools you need to thrive in three key areas: Business Growth, Personal Development and Social Impact..


You'll learn from our panel of Power Passionistas who are experts on topics like transformational leadership, following your intuition, the power of voting, and so much more. You can join us virtually and in person at storyteller events and meetups to connect with other members of the community. And you'll be able to participate in our online forums with other lik-minded-women and gender non-conforming, nonbinary people who share your values and goals.


Be sure to visit to sign up for your free membership to join our worldwide sisterhood of passion driven women who come to get support, find their purpose, and feel empowered to transform their lives and change the world. We'll be back next week with another Passionista who's defining success on her own terms and breaking down the barriers for herself and women everywhere.


Until then, stay passionate.


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