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Episode 74: People-First Advocacy and Inclusivity with Deejae DuRante

by Deb Schell
May 29th 2022

In this episode, Deb Schell interviews DeeJae DuRante, a mayhem making bilingual livestreamer an... More

Welcome to the Community strategy podcast. I'm your host, Deb Schell on this podcast. I share conversations with leaders of purpose driven, private paid online communities that bring together like minded members for transformation to better their life, career relationships and well being as a community strategist, I help entrepreneurs build launch and grow online page communities on mighty networks and to learn more about working with me. Please visit my website, find calm here dot com. That's F I N D C A L M H E R E dot com. I help entrepreneurs find calm in the process of launching an online community. So check that out please. I want to ask you, do you have a strategy question that you are struggling with something A challenge? Uh if you do, I want to start answering some questions uh through uh the podcast. That's a new thing I want to try.

So please shoot me an email at Deb at find calm here dot com and I will review any questions I get in the next episode. I will add a answer section for any questions that I do get once I get some. So send an email to Deb at fine calm here dot com. And I hope you enjoy this episode. Hi, all I'm so excited for today's interview. I'm with D. J. I met her through pO'D fest. I'm actually gonna be going to speak at pO'D fest in Orlando in May and I'm super excited because we got to chat during some community meet up calls and we connected and so now we're here chatting. So welcome DJ to the community strategy podcast. Hi, thank you for having me appreciate it. Very excited. Yeah, I'm really excited to learn more about you and what you are up to. But give us a little bit of history and background here um where are you at in the world? Yeah, so a little bit about me is I was working in social services for over 20 years.

I've been really dedicated to social um issues, working with different types of um systems, right, well welfare systems, child welfare receiving, you know, different kinds of benefits, whether it was like food assistance or cash assistance or even Social Security. So my last job I was working with job seekers with disabilities and I was working for the state, really assisting them to find employment and a lot of barriers when it comes to having, you know, chronic illness or medical issues. And so with that just kind of kicked off the idea to start my show again when I was working for this day, it was kind of just for fun, a way to advocate for these individuals that I was meeting with inside the office and really hearing these stories of, you know, fear with the pandemic coming. And so it inspired my show. And so a little bit about my show. It's a live stream, I stream to twitch youtube, uh facebook twitter and I do monday nights and it's about mental health disability and trauma and it's called Let Your Mayhem be Known.

And again, it's it's kind of what it sounds, you know, letting people sharing their mayhem, their internal um struggles that they've been through and trying to get through it and move forward and find employment and you know, how employment is important to so many because you know, that's how you provide for your family and whatnot. So just really preserving quality of life for individuals. So that's been my mission, a social mission. Just Advocating for different individuals and populations throughout 20 years. It's kind of got me to have a show where I talk about those difficult subjects that oftentimes people avoid or don't want to share publicly. Um there's a lot of stigma with that when it comes to having, you know, a medical condition and when it comes to disclosures or job accommodations and whatnot. So there you go. How's that? So many things that you shared there that I wanted to kind of pull out. So what part of you're in the US uh where are you located in the US? In florida?

The sunshine state? So you're in florida and um your your your show, what is it called again? The Let Your mayhem be known? Let Your mayhem be known. I love so I love the title because um and and giving giving people that typically are not heard a stage to kind of um share? I think it sounds like that's what you're doing. Um how does, what is the structure, like, tell me a little bit about, you know, how long you've been hosting this, this kind of style and some more about it. Yeah, So I've been so I've just um in my third season and I've been doing this for over a year, so I count my seasons in about 24 episodes, you know, 20 20/20 plus Per season, so I've definitely hit over 50 episodes, it's one hour, so it's you know, not 20-30 minute podcast, but a one hour livestream. I have various guests whether um it could be individuals with these stories um that they're sharing, it could be an expert perhaps sharing their perspective and how the work that they do when it comes to that kind of topic, whether it be grief or um you know, visible diseases and visible disabilities, whether it's you know, just kind of different mental health issues or traumas and so it's just really nice to kind of learn, we're learning together, it's a live stream.

So it's interactive. We love to have the chat, we love to have individual sharing and contributing to the conversation through the chat, really, building a community, building a network, building connections and finding other people that can kind of say, you know what I relate to that, you know, maybe my uncle or my dad or my brother or my son or my daughter um you know, so maybe and again a little more understanding, it really is about kind of creating awareness and not stigmatizing what people can't do, but really highlighting what we can do and we can do so much more when we're unified, when we support each other and really kind of not look at it from what you can't do again in that disability or what's kind of affecting you, but focusing on the strengths and what you're bringing to the table and working from a a strengths based approach, I guess in anything we do, that's just my approach and the way I like to structure my show, not so much questions, but just conversation, yep, I love conversation.

Um so I like I think I mentioned when we talked previously about this sign that I recently saw when I was driving and it said don't just my ability and I was speaking to um the fact that why do we call people out on things that they can't do? I just, it's okay, it's right like what what who was the person that said, this is a great idea, let's tell the people and like name them just able instead of saying they're capable or able. Um but I think that this awareness that you're talking about is so important right now, talking about bringing people together, giving others a space to speak and feel like they are seen and heard allowing people to connect with each other um online, that they might not have ever met each other in person. Those are all ways to build an online community, which is what you're doing um through the message and the purpose and the and the, the need for social change in this, in this, in this area.

Right? Absolutely, Absolutely. And that's something I really like to talk about I really do enjoy is, you know, and you don't have to know everything normally when it comes to these kinds of things, like just being just a little more patient, right? Or maybe understanding how our language affects others and being, taking ownership of our own language is a way to, for social change and that's something we can all kind of own. So, you know, that's something that I would love to really challenges for people to think on how do they speak to others, how are their language possibly affecting other people and their opportunities um and how can we maybe learn to speak in a lot more compassionate way or in a lot more kind way and inclusive way, Right? Because it's hard. I, I can say that as somebody who lives in central pennsylvania, it's not very diverse here. And one of the things that I love about traveling is that you get to meet people um wherever you are and learn about their culture, their history, their experiences, their language, and when I was, I was traveling in Memphis and then I went to Miami in the last couple of weeks and just the, the amazing culture that you meet with people um is so amazing and I feel like that has helped me to find better understanding when I meet people that are from different backgrounds, different ethnicity, different cultures than me.

I am so interested in learning about them because I feel like the better that I spent, the more time I spend learning about others, the better I can then understand how to appropriately or you know, responsibly respond or speak with people like you're saying because language um to one person, something could be very rude and another person might not even understand that. It like I don't even, I didn't even see that as rude and that's a lot to do with how we speak and what our history and our background and our culture is, but I think it's so um fascinating the work that you're doing to bring this particular topic to light because there's just so many things that people can do right and focusing on their strengths. It's something I don't know if you're familiar with this program called You Map, but I'm actually getting certified in a um career profiling certification program is for coaching to learn how to use the strength finders.

Um the Clifton's strengths take those. Yeah, right, So we take the five, the five top Clifton's strengths and then the program expands on them and helps. Um and there's different kinds of them, but they basically help understand what you're really great at as either if you're an entrepreneur trying to figure out your unique um propositions or you're trying to go find a job and trying to figure out the right match, right? I think I was mismatched with a lot of my jobs in the past because I really wasn't working on my strength when I was applying to these jobs. I mean, I love people and I was really great in sales, but I really don't like sitting in an office next to like a whole lot of other people. So it was a wonder why my sales job was just like, not fun for me because I just didn't get to do all the creative things that I really liked. So the talking with people was a part of what I hamstring my, one of my strings, but not a lot of the other things that were not part of it, so it's just like so exciting to focus on people's strengths.

What do you think is something that you see as helpful to, to maybe people that are trying to identify what their strengths are? Oh, great question. So what, what I found myself doing way back, you know, working with individuals, one on one and what you would consider, I guess coaching, right? If if you're a coach, it's kind of that same structure, but it's really asking them questions about what um do you enjoy doing, right? Um what kind of hobbies, what do they spend the majority of their time doing or considering doing? Um and I think finding those strengths and knowing what you're good at and not focusing so much on the deficits the, and I think that goes back to what you said at the beginning of the podcast with the disks, right? What you can't do and one big component, I think that part of the languages is that oftentimes individuals you get so used to going to medical offices and talking in a specific way, right?

Like you're talking to a medical person, but then when you're out looking for a job or you're looking for opportunity, it's it's hard to change your language because you don't know how else to say things. You've kind of been conditioned to kind of talk about what you can't do when you're talking to a doctor, right? So when you're trying to figure out how to say or what to say and kind of get away from the what you can't do, what hurts? What doesn't, you know, can you sit, can you stand, can you tie all those things that you can't do? But really like what can you do? What do you like to do? Where do you find joy? Where do you find um safety or comfort in doing? So you can potentially grow in that area, right? That's your area where you would focus your growth and find joy and find inspiration. So I think you know and empowering others pop sometimes people don't see their own strengths, so it's really guiding them to find those strengths, guiding them to say, I didn't really think that I could do anything with that and allowing them to kind of have that autonomy to say what they want to do.

And I think that maybe in your case it might have, would have helped you like having those conversations rather than maybe just focusing on one thing like oh you're a people person, so all these jobs should fill the bill, fit the bill in the sense, but um you know or you know how it is in the sense where you're kind of giving individuals a direction and you're telling them what to do instead of really exploring with them in those conversations on what they feel that they can do Yeah, as as somebody who's applied to many, many jobs in the past and has had at least as many jobs as I am old, which is a lot would tell you that I tried to fit myself into the box of the, whatever the role was. So instead of me approaching it as um what am I really great at and how, what would I really enjoy and how can I do those two things and make money right, Instead of looking at it like that, I was, I was very focused on, I just need to pay the bills, I need to find a way to make money.

So let me go apply to the cleaning job that I did for like a decade that like was having on my body, let me do four jobs at a time so that I can pay my rent when I was a journalist and like trying to scrape things together. Even when I was a journalist, I realized later that I was trying to put myself in a box of being a cops reporter because that was the only position I could find that I was even able to get at that time because it was such a competitive um journalism at the time. Well when I was doing it was really competitive to work in, in daily newspapers and I wanted to be a photojournalist, but I couldn't get a job just as a photojournalist. That was a very, very competitive. So I ended up becoming a writer and a reporter. So then I did writing reporting and photography and then video, I did all the things, but I ended up becoming a cops reporter for a while and I realized after I got fired and a lot of other stuff happened since then.

But I realized later that it was a complete mismatch that I really wanted to do features and talk about positive things and social change and impact and how to help others. And I don't want to talk about crime or shootings or whatever negative political thing is happening, that's just not in line with my values or my intentionality or anything, but I I pushed myself in it because that was all that was available at the time, right? That was all I could find in my wheelhouse at the time with with the resources I had. So I think yeah, isn't isn't it common, right? Because we're just all kind of like, well we need to pay the bills so how do we do that? Whatever is the way, so we can't live in fantasy land. I get it. I understand, right? Like we said these ideas, right? And then we get this idealistic thinking where oh well, you know it would be great if this and you don't always reach those goals. So I know it can be so difficult where you do have to do what you have to do as they say to get right and there is just a lot of that in this world.

So do you, do you feel like you've had conversations with, with people in your in your community? That that struggle um with this? And how do you how do you help them navigate that in either your show or? Um otherwise yeah, that's a good question too because it's hard, right? Because when people feel stuck right? You feel like you're in the situation, you can't get out of there's not, there's limited options, There's limited resources. Like you mentioned, there's limitations everywhere. So you do feel cornered. You do feel boxed, you do feel helpless. You do feel um insignificant. You feel like you're burning your energy spinning your wheels. There's just so many ways that and I've heard these for so long again, that goes right back to the show. Like the the stories aren't going to change just because I start the show, but at least we can create some sort of social awareness and change that people are struggling.

There's, you know, barriers at every corner for so many individuals and it's just more amplified now with the pandemic with what's going on. I mean, we have any, you know, even an international affairs, just everything. And you already alluded alluded to it in what you mentioned, like as a journalist, you don't want to be writing about the crime and what, you know, all these terrible things that you have to report on. That's not the kind of writing you wanted to do. There was a different kind of writing. So it takes time to figure out and you know, but I think there's the matter of fact or truth is that it's a journey for all of us. I mean, there's there's not really for me, I feel like I don't there's no end goal. It's just to keep going. It's just the end is when we stop breathing and we're no longer here, unfortunately, that's the true the truth, right? But what I think is magical, if anybody is listening to this and is you know it Earlier in life than I am, let's say in 20s or or whatnot.

Um I would say if you could take one thing away from what we're talking about in general, no matter what your, where you're coming from with the conversation, it's that life is life, It doesn't start in six months or seven years from now when you have x, y and z and you have your together, basically it starts today. And so I had so much focus on, you know, well when this happens then da Dada, when I get there, when I get this job, when I get to this place, everything will be okay or things will get better. And I think that just kept me chasing the next thing because as soon as I achieved one thing or even if I failed and then was like, well that's impossible, then I would really became resilient over time. But what I found was that I don't need to get my things together, I already am fine. Just the way I am. I just, I want to do better each day and whatever that looks like sometimes that's going to look different from one day to the next.

You know, Perfect. So exactly, really. It's a mindset thing, right. We all, a lot of people, you know understand that it's your mindset and gratitude. Being grateful for what you have and what you're doing today, what you can do today, giving thanks um being appreciative and as far as the other person is, that's why I talk about that, you know, how can you be a little more kinder? How can you just be a little bit changed, understand your language and how you are, you know, portray your words or what your language really is saying because there's just so many people that are trying to get by one day at a time and we strive for these things and we say to ourselves, well if I just get that job, I'm going to be happy or if I just make this much amount of money, it's all gonna be fine and you know, even if that comes most often times and not it doesn't um you can't live in those hopes and aspirations in the sense right? And so it's good to have those goals and it's good to kind of work um from a a passion or a way of what feels good from the inside and what's your strengths, but at the same time you have to be realistic, you know, what is obtainable, what is doable.

Um and even if it's the smallest step, that's one thing we haven't really talked about, but even like the smallest, you know, obtaining that goal or getting through that last step, that really hard step, I mean that's to be celebrated, that's to be, you know, you should enjoy that moment, wow, I got that done so for me, you know, it's, it could be anything, it could be something within our business, it could be something within our family dynamics, what's going on, But I think it really matters. It's important to be grateful for what you have and you know, look towards the future and you know, work towards the future, but at the same time understand that, you know, you have to be realistic in the sense where you know, um I'm okay where I am today and that's just the way it's going to have to be in order for me to maintain my sanity right? And my own self preservation really preserve myself and not do the comparison thing because it's so yeah, comparison is the thief of joy, I forget who said that.

Um I will find the quote, I think it's, I don't know, I won't say who, I think. I'm not sure I like the little things right, enjoying your what you're doing, but the little things, you know, it's great to have vision and plans and goals. I love goal setting, but it's also important to just recognize all the amazing accomplishments you've already done and sometimes we tend to forget that. So one of the things we do instead to find common your community is we have wins on friday, so on friday, we celebrate something, whether it's a personal something when a community win, uh you know, a business win, anything like that and I feel like it's so important. I always start a lot of the calls that I facilitate, we start with wins because we always want to recognize like how far we have come. Even if it seems like, oh my goodness, I'm so far behind everyone else. Well you're only in competition with yourself and sometimes that's challenging in itself.

But um I feel just so passionate about uh celebrating the moments that you're in and just being in the today. I tend to in the past I intended to worry about things that are, you know, oh, you know, a long time from now, like for example and I have clients that do this that we'll talk about something and then I'll say they'll be like, but what about next year when X happens? I said, well it's not next year, so we're not gonna worry about it and we can figure that out when we get there. There's some things that we can try to plan ahead for and kind of like, you know, predict okay, we see that we want to make sure we don't have, you know, this thing happen again because we've learned something, but there's also times when you just want to explore and you have to be in the place you're at before you can like make plans for six months or a year from now. So I think it's also important to just like you're saying celebrate the winds being the present. I wanted to get a specific um, maybe some tips for people, maybe I'm speaking like entrepreneurs leaders, employers, people who want to offer a better experience for people that might be labeled as and I don't know what the right term is.

So this is why I'm gonna ask you there what the right term would be if they are in that category of disability. Um, what do you as, what would you recommend for employers? People that are listening that are entrepreneurs that want to make sure they're inclusive? Yeah. So um, people, first language is always great, right? Uh, you know, talking to the person, speaking to the person, looking at the person communicating with the person, meeting them where they're at um right understanding that everyone's coming from a different place and there should be some sort of options in your processes on how individuals can either reply or consume or share. So options is a way to be inclusive, whether it's the option on how they're gonna. Um if you're giving them some information some resources, can they get that um written or is there an auditory type of um option that they can consume it?

Right. So it's just like books, right? Some people want to read the books and people want to hear the books um, can they do it online? Is there paper I know papers kind of old fashioned that good state, but the point is options, offering options as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, making sure that there's different ways for individuals to access your information, access your services, access your resources um and connect with you communicate with you. I think that would be like the number one thing. It really helps if you say, you know, is there a different format of this? That helps tremendously because it empowers the other person to be able to consume it, enjoy it and they're going to come back, they're gonna know that you're uh have that inclusive um approach in your business and they're gonna they become loyal. I mean individuals with disabilities individuals that have different kinds of impairments and it could be just any individual that maybe has cognitive, they think differently, right? They um communicate differently.

So I think options, options and in your own processes and in your structures. And another thing I would say is making sure that this is something that you consider on the front and rather than on the back end, making sure that as you're building your business or your building out, you're giving all these thoughts to how people can access what you're creating what you're doing. I think it's good in general business practices to to offer multiple communication methods. Uh you know, visual images also audio of podcasts are great for these different elements because they can be visual if if you're doing a video podcast or video interview. Uh it can also be, you can get the voice part of it so that people could just listen and then you could have a paragraph that explains what we're talking about or you could have transcripts which are other ways to communicate. And I always recommend people using multiple ways when they're building out their community content, for example, because especially with onboarding people learn differently, like we discussed and sometimes people don't have access to all the things, so maybe they don't have sight or don't have hearing and so there and you want to make sure you're providing the resources so that they can consume in whatever method is best for them or a bit able for them to do.

And then is there any record? I know we're right about the time, but I just want to ask one more quick tip for for others out there who might feel like they're in these categories of of needing, they're struggling with how they find the right um language to use when they're at a job application about what their um strengths are instead of conversation, starting with their limitations. What recommendations do you have for for some people that might be listening in that in that area? Right, so I think that goes back to the good old elevator speech and really practicing and getting something down that you feel comfortable saying about what your strengths are and start there really, you know, understanding what you're good at and practicing and feeling confident. I know sometimes we go into these just with the most limited amount of confidence and so working on our confidence, finding things that are going to make us feel good and feel strong and feel like um so that goes into preparation a little bit right, like understanding what you're going to offer when you're going to.

So I didn't know if I answered the question properly, but if that comes from like more of a consumer standpoint um or someone that's going to a business or going to a community and asking for help or asking for, you know, to be included right in our communities and in our businesses and building that rapport that were socially conscious that were socially our businesses socially following. Well this is law of course, but you know, I think more so that socially conscious piece of doing the right thing and trying to help out the greater good of individuals that need, what you're offering there is going to be a transition, it's already been happening for a long time, but the business world, the old days of of not being inclusive are over and it is now, not only do people um higher and look for employment with companies that they actually aligned with a mission and value, which is new.

Um new are I feel like organizations also want to have their employees or team mates match the community culture that's within the organization and those are new, You know, in the last, I don't know, 15 years or 20 years whatever it is uh completely changed how the you know how people find work and how people work together and hire people. It's just so amazing when you can go in and say this is what I'm really good at. And here's why I feel like I'd be a great applicant for this role and you just how do you find like your strengths? Maybe I can say, well we got all these assessments right? I mean it's great. You knowing yourself ask your fellow friends, right? People around you and your family. Like what do they go to you for? What are they asking of you? Like are they coming to you because you're really great at going live? Like jay is like, you know get some tips on going live if you want to learn about that or um you know all those things, it's about preparation getting to know yourself and then and then walking out in the world and it takes time to gain confidence.

I know it is it is convenient and I just had a friend that went through this whole job situation of changing jobs and going back to her old job, but it's just so crazy that there's so much um that people don't say and then the interview and then they, you know how like you apply for a job and then you get you get hired and then you get there and it's like completely not what you thought it was gonna be right now. That's a whole another episode. That's a whole another episode. We won't go into it. But I'll just say that like avoiding that, seeing the red flags before you sign up is just knowing yourself better of saying, you know what, I'm okay to walk away from this job because I really, it's, I'm not a good fit for this role and this place is not a good fit for me and having the two way street because I think instead of looking at the employer and saying, you know, do you fit this job? The employee should be like the potential employees should be like, does this job fit me? Does this organization fit me? And I think we're going to see much more of that in the future.

And it talks about, I mean, obviously a lot of people are going to look for organizations that are inclusive. So if you're, if you're not on the bandwagon hop on over regardless of laws or regardless of what's required in your state or your country or your city, It doesn't matter. It really, it really is just about, let's bring people together in an online community online in organizations in nonprofits, all over the place. I would definitely want to, businesses are creating healthy spaces, healthy communities for, you know, individuals to thrive businesses to thrive so well thank you so much. Tell everybody where they can find your live interviews and, and more about you. Sure. So my handle the channel Silver Fox talks is pretty easy. That's my website. That's my Youtube channel, that's my twitch that I'm on linkedin, twitter, I'm all over facebook. So Silver Fox talks, you can find me and I stream monday nights, so monday nights, you'll get a little notification that DJ is getting ready to go live Silver Fox talks and again, you know, it is conversations for social change and social consciousness to really just create communities and people to feel like they are being validated and there's opportunity out there for them and I think you're doing such great work.

So thank you so much for sharing this today. I'm excited to see what podcasts soon you are going, right, you're going in, you're speaking right, remind, remind me what you're, what you're talking about, What you're talking. What's your topic? Yeah, so I'm gonna be talking about strategies that we can immediately implement to create again inclusive and accessible content. So it's kind of like what we've been talking about today. Very good. I love it, yep. And so if anybody wants to uh, to see us at podcast or if you're already going to podcast, please reach out and say hi to us while we're there. We are definitely going to be hanging out either in the, in the lazy river or at the after parties with, I'm gonna be with DJ at least sometimes at least some of the time there drinks or whatever. Right? Or do it. There's a lazy river. Are you staying at the hotel? Yes. So I know that hotel. I'm I'm a Floridian. I know that lazy river hotel.

I know that hill. Good, good. Well I'm excited just to have some time in the sunshine state and leave this dreary, rainy pennsylvania weather behind for a few days so I can't wait to see you in a month. Yes, so good. So thank you so much DJ for everybody listening. Make sure you check out the show notes and go to find calm here website for more upcoming cool interviews with podcasters and live interviewers like DJ until the next time I will talk with you later, have a great day. Bye. Mhm.

Episode 74: People-First Advocacy and Inclusivity with Deejae DuRante
Episode 74: People-First Advocacy and Inclusivity with Deejae DuRante
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