This week on the text.soul.culture podcast, co-host Shauna Gauthier, Alumni Outreach Coordinator, gets to know community organizer, artist, teacher, and attorney Nikkita Oliver, who shares about her formation, her work in Seattle, and the themes she engaged recently at our Humanity Through Community conference. This is an insightful, vulnerable, and necessary conversation, and we are grateful to Nikkita for sharing her story with us.
Nikkita: “I don’t shy away from the painful points in things, because sometimes we have to be willing to engage the pain in order to move through it. We spend a lot of time trying to move around pain, or over pain, or away from pain.”
Nikkita shares about having a White mother and a Black father in Indianapolis, growing up code switching as she moved between different parts of her family and learned their ways of speaking and thinking. Her mother instilled in her a deep value for compassion and empathy, as well as a commitment to stick to her work even when it’s hard. Nikkita recalls visiting Seattle when she was 16 or 17, thinking for the first time about what it might mean to grow into her own person.
“Hope is a beautiful thing, and it’s natural. It’s like faith—it persists because you have a vision for something better.”
Nikkita: “I am constantly digging into my own family of origin to better understand why other people move through the world in the way that they do, and how you can use where a person comes from, their own story, to get them to see the role they play in the bigger story.”
As Nikkita began sharing her voice and putting her work out in the world, and as she continued reflecting on the stories that we tell—and the stories that don’t get told—she grew as a leader in speaking to the realities and needs of her community. This background helps inform her view on the difference between natural resilience—the ability to be stretched and still keep your essence—and forced resilience.
Nikkita: “Oftentimes the sort of resilience we celebrate as a society is not natural resilience, it is forced resilience. It should force us to think about why are some people forced to be resilient, and some people not? […] So I often talk about the problem of resilience. I think resilience in a white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal society is something we only expect certain people to have to show.”
Resources to Go Deeper
- For more from Nikkita Oliver, you can watch the full video of her Humanity Through Community talk, “A New Take on Resilience,” as well as the follow-up panel discussion.
- If the phrase “code switch” is new to you, or if you’re just looking for insightful and engaging perspectives on critical cultural issues, check out the Code Switch podcast from NPR.
- Nikkita shared that her father’s family moved from Louisiana to Indiana near the time of the Great Migration. The Warmth of Other Suns is a vital, in-depth look at “this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America.”
About the Host
Shauna Gauthier received her MA in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School in 2010. She previously worked in the Denver Metro area as a therapist and a nonprofit program manager; she also helped launch The Seattle School’s Colorado Alumni Chapter. After returning to Seattle, Shauna now serves as the Alumni Outreach Coordinator. She also enjoys writing and speaking about motherhood, feminism, and faith. Learn more about Shauna here.