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Join us for this amazing 2 part podcast!
We have guest Kurtis Robinson on to discuss:
- Motivational Interviewing and change
- Systemic change
- Systems of abuse
- Social justice
This podcast is deeply riveting and full of great, authentic and real conversations! Join us for part 1 and 2!
Kurtis S. Robinson is the current Spokane NAACP 1st Vice President and the Political Action Chair For NAACP AOWSAC, He serves as a Smart Justice Spokane Executive Committee member, Better Health Together Board Member, and on the board for Just Lead Washington. He was a Wildland Fire Fighter for over 11 years and has served with WA DNR and Spokane
County Fire District 10. Mr. Robinson is a Certified Peer Support, Recovery Coach, Veterans Recovery Coach and Reentry Specialist. He Identifies as a Formally Incarcerated BIPOC male with over 16 years concurrent abstinence from drugs and alcohol and is the first openly Justice Involved individual to serve as a Governor appointed Commissioner to the Criminal Justice Training Commission for Washington State.
Want a Transcript? See below!
Hello, and welcome to the communication solution podcast . Today, we’ve got Casey Jackson on the line, John Gilbert, and I’m Tammy. Here at IFIOC we love to talk communication. We love to talk motivational interviewing and we love talking about improving outcomes for. Organizations and the communities that they serve.
Welcome to the conversation you are listening to a two-part podcast. Hello hello. Again, we have a super special guest today and not that other guests aren’t special, but we just really love this individual that we have today. His name is Kurtis Robinson and welcome Kurt.
(clapping) And we will be diving in, into possibly a lot of different areas today, as we were just talking about Casey was helping us put up some guard rails, but we are open to going into [00:01:00] lots of places, lots of possibilities with you today. And I know that it might be helpful to just start for us to be oriented Kurt ..
John: What’s your background? Where do you come from? You can, you know, talk about as much or as little as you want, but just your background and how Motivational Interviewing has come to fit into that. And just how you have come to be into what you do and what it is that you do. And some, some background would just be really helpful, whatever you feel you you’d like to share.
Kurtis: Okay, well, good morning, everyone. Great to see you all again, and great to see the great to be in the virtual space that we’re in right now. So greetings to everyone that’s checking this out today. You know, when, when you talk about keeping the car rails up, I, you know, just my story in itself is just you know, a whole thing.
Tami: I know nothing, no nothing.
Kurtis: So I I saw, well, first off, let me self identify. So Kurtis Robinson identify his [00:02:00] Bipoc, he him, his as so black indigenous person of color with male pronouns. And. Currently, I mean, the, the, the short thing is, is I’m. I have dedicated my life to being a cultural change agent.
Tami: I love that… A cultural change agent. I love that.
Kurtis: That just came out this morning, but you know what I mean? But, you know, and, and it really is. It’s about, you know, really taking a very serious look at where our human family is at, where our American system is at and doing everything I can to dedicate my, my current human experience to.
Shifting that to where every part of my consciousness and every part of my conscience tells me it needs to be. And just so you know, I have a training pillar right here for my two hour limit. A brother was telling me the other day he was saying, [00:03:00] yeah, that’s your dog said? Yeah, that’s right. Curtis “tell them”.
So I come from a very traumatic human experience as an individual. And I’ve done a lot of different things in life as far as work. So just so you know, I’m pushing 60 as a human being. And so I have that life experience coming into space with. On a daily basis, last time I checked and that so with that comes a lot of, a lot of different sections to where I’ve had the wonderful and terrible opportunity to heal from a lot of stuff.
That’s occurred in my experience and not all of it. Self self implemented, right? At some point in time, there was a, there was a, there was a place to where I from being exposed to things that I had no control over to where it was just automatic pilot kicking in because of the exposure I had up to that period.
Right. And the training that I had as a human being be cool. And. And that what, [00:04:00] what I, what I eventually came to realize was that you know, not only do I do I do, I need to heal from all the things that happened, but I have a moral in cognitive and emotional and spiritual responsibility to do so, because regardless of how my life had started I have I’m engaged with other human beings on this planet and I have children.
And I have a responsibility to everyone and, and to myself to make sure that I figure out a way as my, as my native uncles would say a way to do this right. And find the way to do this the healthy way. And so that’s what I’ve dedicated my life to doing. And so the phase that I’m in right now as a human being is after coming out of a fire career.
I came into this work here in Spokane, where I had a spiritual experience on the mountain. Right. And it really is one of those, it’s a cliche, right? So, Kurtis, yes, you’re right about all the stuff that’s happened. But all you’re doing is sitting up here at the top of the mountain, complaining about what’s [00:05:00] happened, go down and do something about it.
And so that’s, that’s how I came into Spokane and got involved in a lot of social justice work primarily through the channel of drug and alcohol recovery. I’m coming up on my 18 years and January 1st and, yeah, thanks. And, you know, interesting. Right. They talk about recovery being a journey. I was talking to a brother the other day that started out at the same time I did, and I would have 30 years if I hadn’t relapsed.
So that’s how, that’s the journey, right? That’s the journey. Yeah. And so, but so grateful for the 18 years. Yeah, here’s where I’m trying to go with this is that when I got into it and I came into it through that section, I started seeing things and I’m like, what is this that I’m seeing and what happened? And then that started my invitation to start unpacking a lot of the internalized stuff that in the baggage and the trauma that I was carrying around into all of the engagements while trying to figure out a way to [00:06:00] stop.
Or at least have an impact on the harm that I knew that was occurring. And then to come to the realization that, Hey, I was actually perpetuating some of that. Right. And just by not unpacking the stuff that I was carrying around with me. And so coming to terms with that as a human being, and then realizing that the foundation of a place that I needed to operate from now in life was to be that change agent and to impact the culture in a way that at least whatever happens, if.
If I get called home tomorrow, I know that I did beyond what, what I thought I could do. Right. And to really come up against that encounter, that that, that, that place within myself, in that place within my human experience, you go, okay, here’s my limiter. Right. And then to turn around and look at that limit or a goal, K, I’ve been trained to have that limit by the very culture I’m trying to address.
Yes. Wow. Right. Yeah. And I’m going to, and I’m going to push through that. I’m going to [00:07:00] process without limit is about and do everything I can to transcend that. And so that’s what my experience has been about. So that’s led me into a bunch of different fields. Where I’ve encountered another section to where many people were coming into it like me, that weren’t even conscious of the fact that they had these, these internal barriers operating in them.
But we were trying to do something meaningful to implement change yet, not willing to address the change that needed to happen within that. And so that led to the social justice stuff, this Spokane NAACP revive center for returning citizens. I did the time better health together. And when you look at my email, I’ve got a paragraph under it because I just, you know, I’ve just sold out.
And that’s what led me to an encounter with you all the great team of IFIOC, and really getting you’re exposed to how to not just understand [00:08:00] and get like an informational download about Motivational Interviewing, but how to implement it and the core value of doing so the humanistic value do so the loving, you know, you of doing so, so yeah.
Casey: Yeah. Th that my first memory of my encounter with Kurtis I was doing a training, you know, I, I actually had at IFIOC and Curtis was kind of in and out of the back of the room. You know, and I had no idea who he was because the context didn’t quite fit either. I think it might’ve been a law enforcement.
And so and Kurtis doesn’t look when he came in the room, like he was part of law enforcement. So and he, and he met was meant to be there. I mean, it just, yeah, he was meant to be there. And he came up near the end of the training and said brother, you and I have some work to do. And then he turned around and walked out and I thought, I don’t know if I’m ever going to see him again.
I don’t know what that was about, but I am totally intrigued. And then came to the, the second day of the training and, and introduced himself. And [00:09:00] we talked a bit and I started getting oriented and I could just feel in my bones, I could feel in my soul that not only was he making in difference. Everything that Kurtis just talked about with who he is and what brings him to this moment right now. I, I picked up a lot of that in our conversation and just thought, wow, this is wherever he’s going, he’s making a difference. And I, the fact that I’ve been invited on you know, just part of that journey with him has been amazing to me.
Kurtis: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for that. And so, you know, with, in my, in my encounter with Casey and in the work that he’s doing, the work that you are doing and John, and now you, Tammy you know what I, what I’ve continued. Would I continue to move through? It’s like, Hey, you know, everybody’s in process on this, right?
It’s not whether we’re in processes, all we cognitive of the process. And are we using humanistic loving tools to go ahead and deconstruct the toxicity that we’ve all been exposed to and then turn around and [00:10:00] dispense that from that, from that loving foundation, which is the thing that for me, Motivational Interviewing and really just kind of sets the foundation for, and the direction for.. Because I’m not going to turn around and go to somebody and tell them what they need to do. I’m there to help be a good steward in whatever it is that they determined that they need to do. And to, to, to do the best that I can to help them feel loved and understood and cared for and heard and validated.
Right. And, and the other piece about that, and this is the real interesting part of this is some of the stuff that been, here’s the, you know, I know you’re holding the guard rail Casey so that that, you know, it’s like this journey is it’s, it’s the same thing. And I, and I love this, you know, and I really caught this the last time you did this, Casey, which was, you know, about three sessions ago was you know, doing this.
Yeah, right. Is that this work has to happen internally and externally, [00:11:00] simultaneously you’re on a continuum, you know? And so as I’m, as I’m engaging with whatever aspect of our human family, that I am everything from the political aspect to law enforcement, to justice involved populations coming out from a trauma informed perspective.
Implementing and coming from the foundation of motivational Motivational Interviewing in this that I’ve also encountered that I’m part of the process too. Am I coming from that place of equipoise and self-awareness at this, and yet at the same time deconstructing, what’s been saturated through historical throughout this American system.
Is that that, that principle, those or those, those principles used in error of white supremacy. Right. So how do I be self-aware yet not be self-centered yes.
Casey: I tell me, I’ve got to share this because it’s, this is we’re going to start to go. I don’t know if I’ll keep the guardrails on at this point but….
So I [00:12:00] get that. I get, you know, an email Kurtis and I’ve had exchanges before and, and, and connection. And then he reached out and says, Hey, you know, would you be willing to do part of this week long thing that I do? Would you be willing to come in and talk a little bit about Motivational Intervewing? And of course they sure more than willing to do that.
And because my natural cadence is I’m always working with professionals, you know, I’m always, it’s always an organization or agency that calls and says, Hey, train our workforce. I mean, that’s, that’s, those are the calls that I get. So that was just my modality in my brain. You know, and that was my modality with my brain.
When I showed up for what Kurt had asked me to come and show up for,
and it was a transformative day for me. I ended up posting about it. I I’ve thought about it like countless times since it, since it happened. But I show up and this is a room with beautiful formerly incarcerated individuals. This was. I literally had opened my PowerPoint up and it was ready to do my Motivational Interviewing presentation.
[00:13:00] And when Kurtis came up and did the introductions and kind of laid the groundwork and set the space for activity, what was going to happen, my brain just started to pop going, oh my gosh, this is not what I had. This was not where my mindset was when I walked into this room and this, and what I’m going to was going to teach on paper.
Was not what was needed with the group that I was working with. And I literally, every time that I’ve had conversations with Kurtis, especially in this particular setting with formerly incarcerated, I, I just kind of stare in awe because it, it, I am, I am so profoundly aware how ignorant I am. When I listened to Kurtis talk, like I am just so profoundly ignorant about cultural awareness and I, I want to step up and I want to be present.
And I want to, it’s all of the things that we talk about with, you know, with supremacy and power and privilege and, and the general way in which Kurtis says things it makes me [00:14:00] want to be a better person. Yeah. What transpired in that during that day. And I remember this was a extremely hot day in Spokane.
I mean, I’m telling you it was well over a hundred degrees. I remember this, the room was fine, but what I remember about it is something transpired and there were multiple moments where Kurtis stepped into the dialogue and it was like kind of the blue angels flying in and out of each other. Very close and very powerful.
Yeah. And I was part of that experience and transformation was happening in that room. We, he set the table for looking at systems of abuse. And when I was looking at Motivational Interviewing from this humanistic perspective, it was fast. One of the things that happened to him, it was just profound for me because it is, there is a tight rope that you’re walking and, and Kurt does it just masterfully.
Yes. Of of honoring a person’s experience if they’ve been [00:15:00] incarcerated. And now they’re in a situation where they’re either houseless or food lists or transportation lists, like there’s just, there’s things that are missed there just tumblers are not always falling into place for these individuals.
Right. And, and you can talk in a way that could come across condescending or unaware when you’re talking about empowerment to an individual who doesn’t have food tonight or a place to sleep tonight. Yeah. But what ended up happening is this level of dialogue and empowerment. We talked about focus mountain.
Like I draw out clearly what I did is I just shut my laptop off because I thought this is not going to work. Hey. Because we’d rather get some sleep at the lights are going to go off. Then listen to this guy that has no relationship to their reality. And I did pull up focus mountain and we started talking and we got into systems of abuse and that the systems need their bodies. To chew on to keep the system alive. And they could feel that like, they, there was no argument around that, but like Kurtis had [00:16:00] shared with his own story. What we got into was also, you have a choice, right? To generate resistance and discord or not that doesn’t negate, the system has targeted you for very specific reasons.
It also doesn’t negate. You have behaviors that are not in align with what your deeper values are. And there’s no judgment on either side of that. It is just an accurate, clean, nonjudgmental assessment. What would you like to do with peace facts? And, and that was just, it was a very profound moment. And, and I would say the vast majority of not everybody in that room, there was a moment of silence where there’s kind of this aha moment.
And, and what we got into is your probation officer or parole officer has no control over you and your behavior. You have to, you can get pissed and go in there and say, they’re setting me up. They want me to fail. They’re just giving me violations left and right. And it’s like, but they’re not doing that [00:17:00] in a vacuum based in thin air, you are interacting and making decisions in your life and it, and it’s not right or wrong.
You have lots of reasons why you make decisions that, that the PO may have no con comprehension while you’re making decisions. It doesn’t negate your decisions. So it doesn’t make you more accountable. It doesn’t make you less accountable. The only person you’re accountable this to yourself, but if you keep, if you continue with this narrative, the system will continue to consume you.
So if you want to bitch about the system, that’s consuming, you keep doing what you’re doing. If you want to disempower the system, maybe do things differently. And this was not a sermon by any stretch. This was just kind of the message that was coming out in collaboration as a group. That’s why this was a dialogue.
It wasn’t a sermon. And, and, but this was kind of the meta message that was coming out and to see light bulbs clicking on of being tired of being part of the system and [00:18:00] realizing their approach to the system was feeding the system and have kind of a collective consciousness around. That was profound. I was so.
Impacted and transformed by that. I had several people that I knew were on the edge in that room. One came up to me at a break and sat next to me, he’s one that I actually asked if I could take a picture of just his hands and his legs where he’s sitting. And he said that was fine because the story he shared with me was just so moving.
And he talks about several people that he’d killed and kind of the relationship that he’d had. And, but there is a deeper calling inside of him that it’s just like, it’s just not who I am. It’s just, it’s not where I want to be. It’s not who I want to be. But I don’t know if anybody will ever give me a chance.
It’s like, you know, we got into is yes. And the system is set up against you and you’re the only person that needs to give you a chance because all it is, it really truly is like a recovery perspective. There is a one day to time perspective is you have control over where your put your foot, [00:19:00] right this minute, you can put one foot in front of you.
That is all you have control over. Then you have to have a clear vision of what the top of the mountain is for you. And that’s, that’s where the Motivational Interviewing, piece of it came in in terms of, is your behavior in align with your values and, and the system itself to keep you distracted and focused outside of yourself, ad nauseum, it’s set up to have you focused and blame everything outside of yourself.
Not because you’re a bad person because the system sets up to have you focused outside of yourself. Yeah. You have capacity that focus inside of yourself. And make a decision where do I want to put this foot today? Because that’s what you have control over is where I’m going to put this foot today. And, and when the day wrapped up, I still remember this.
I like this vision is always going to be emblazoned in my brain. It was so flipping hot outside. So when I opened my car, like you could see fumes come out of the car because it was so hot. And I left and I left both doors open and I remember sitting in the car and it was in the car was probably well over 110.[00:20:00]
And I just remember holding the steering wheel and just staring at my hands when, what the hell just happened. Like I couldn’t even, I didn’t start the car for probably at least a solid 10 to 15 minutes. Cause just staring at the steering wheel going what just happened? Like what, what I drove in this car and showed up today was not what transpired over the course of the six hours that I’ve been here.
And that to me was transformative and it set me up for the next time I got to interact with. The folks that Kurtis provide support for and guidance for, to listen more to Kurtis. And that’s where I became even more aware of my ignorance and lack of understanding and this craving to understand how am I part of the problem and how can I continue to be part of the solution because it truly is unconscious bias.
I can not. The depths of unconscious bias to me are just Wells and Wells of untapped. It literally is like our petroleum system. There there’s pockets of petroleum [00:21:00] that we will never find. Like there’s a, that’s the level of, of bias that I have. There’s just no way in my lifetime. I can tap into all of it, but I’m just going to keep mining this section of it that I found and try to work through my bias.
And, and, and, and the humility and the ignorance and the surrender. To my own naivety for my own growth and for the growth of my, of the humans that I had to get interact with in my lifetime. So, so I just cannot, the reason why I’m so excited about this is I cannot tell you Tammy, cause you haven’t heard about this just truly how transformative that was for me.
You know, on a, on a human level, on a spiritual level, you know, emotional cognitive level, it was just truly a transformative experience and it was orchestrated because of Kurtis’s presence.
John: And Casey to that point, I really want to hear for those that haven’t got to be in attendance for Kurt, for you to kind of get into at least some of the topics you cover that really do help people really get them more.
Broadened [00:22:00] perspective and deep perspective, that would be really helpful. But before we do, I just want to say Casey, that’s it takes a incredible amount of surrender in that moment to do that as a trainer and having done at least just one of those classes, that is an incredible ability to facilitate.
And so I just want to highlight and affirm that as well. In that process, just the amount of empathy you had to just get into and how critical that is when you aren’t relying on your experience as a human to relate to them. Right. And like how normal that is to do. Right. And, and then you said something that was so powerful that also Kurt, we were talking about what to talk about today.
You were mentioning how you want to talk about this topic of people being unconscious of their own, internal stuff, preventing a systems change and justice change. And I just wanted to highlight that you could talk about possible topics related to that too, if you wanted to, because Casey, you said [00:23:00] disempowering the system and essentially not disempowering the self.
And it’s just such a powerful combination to have more self-accountable. To not disempower yourself, but instead focus on disempowering the system with what you have control over. And it’s just such an empowering message, but that’s very high direction and you could come in professing that and maybe be somewhat accurate theoretically, but that doesn’t mean it’s.
The evoked like you did, which is so critical to this whole process of what you are walking Kurt, and that’s what I would really enjoy hearing you talk more about what are the topics you cover? How do you walk that line of internal, external processing of these things for the people in the in the training, and then how do you do that with community partners and how do you even go about that?
It’s just such a tight rope to walk.
Tami: Thats a lot of questions John, Go Kurtis!
Kurtis: I’m keeping [00:24:00] up. I’ve just made real,
oh, well, you know, man, so much, I mean, you know, yet this is the thing, right? So this is you know, it gets back to kind of, you know, my, my kind of give it, given it, everything that I have plus right. Is because it is so complex. You know, we’re dealing with ways of thinking and social constructs and generation momentum.
That’s, that’s got four or 500 years plus going into it. Right. And we’re dealing with generations of human beings who have, who have at least been, have, have several generations of being exposed to these kinds of trends. Then you also have the epigenetic. Yes occurring in all of that. Right. So it’s like, how’s that all playing out.
So as a, as a human being, you know, John, when you were talking about, in, in case you talked about it too, [00:25:00] right? Is like feeling like I’m walking a tight rope. Excuse me. Hell yeah. I am. And rightly so. And one of the things that I had to really encounter, and I continued to encounter this out of necessity, especially the necessity of the unconscious bias and the deeper well of that, because we’re absorbing information that 11 billion, 11 million bits per second unconsciously in every experience, right.
And human beings just don’t, we’ve not been trained with that general knowledge. Right. Right. And so then when you start layering the trauma and the justice involvement and whatever else has come along in that particular one human beings experience that that’s been the exposure rate of that has been not 11 million bits per second.
And so that creates that deep well, and be cognizant of that as I’m engaging in this. I’ve also had to go, Hey, okay. There’s no way that I can do this work on any [00:26:00] level without making sure that I’m willing to do the work within me. And one of the things that, that, that I was able to articulate for myself is an invitation to do a work in me as I’m doing a work around me.
Yes. Right. And that continuing to be within the necessarily foundational trend. And yet also making sure that I’m walking that thin line or that tight rope of that I’m being self-aware yet not self-centered.
Tami: That’s it for part one of this. Make sure to listen in a few weeks for part two. Thank you for listening to the communication solution podcast as always.
This podcast is all about you. So if you have questions, thoughts, topics, suggestions, ideas, please send them our way at casey@ IFIOC.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. For more resources, feel free to check out IFIOC.com. We also have a public Facebook group called Motivational Interviewing every day. [00:27:00] We have an amazing blog and we have lots of communication tips on our website.
In addition to all these amazing resources we do offer online public courses on our website on motivational interviewing and effective communication strategies. Thanks for listening to the communication solution by IFIOC..
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