Some people know Madam Nselaa Ward as the former notorious attorney during Black Lives Matter who defied the system, or one of the top female Slam Poets in the world, or the professional troublemaker for the National Organization for Women. But people that have heard her speak in person know that this wasn’t always her story. Before she became Nselaa Ward, Juris Doctor she was Caramel, the sex worker. When you hear her speak live she tells an addictive story of resilience and how you can be your own superhero, even when the world thinks you’re a villain. People have seen her on TLCs reality TV show “She’s in Charge,” CNN, CSPAN, BET and on the stage of the March for Women’s Lives.

Learn more about Madam Nselaa Ward.

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Full Transcript:

Passionistas: Hi, and welcome to the Passionistas Project Podcast, where we talk with women who are following their passions to inspire you to do the same.

We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. And today we're talking with Madam Nselaa Ward. Some people know her as the former notorious attorney during Black Lives Matter who defied the system or one of the top female slam poets in the world, or the professional troublemaker for the National Organization for Women, the largest women's organization in the world. But people that have heard her speak in person know that this wasn't always her story. Before she became Nselaa Ward Juris Doctor, she was Caramel, the sex worker. When you hear her speak live, she tells an addictive story of resilience and how you can be your own superhero even when the world thinks you're a villain. People have seen her on TLC's reality TV show "She's in Charge" and on CNN, C-SPAN, BET and the stage of the March for Women's Lives, the largest march in the history of the U S at its time.

So please welcome to the show. Madam Nselaa Ward. We're so happy to have you here.

Nselaa: I'm so excited to be here also. Like this is awesome. I'm glad you guys have me.

Passionistas: What's the one thing you're most passionate about?

Nselaa: Oh, the one thing that I'm most passionate about, um, is, you know, helping disenfranchised communities, um, get economic justice, economic justice is something that I'm, I'm really, really, really passionate about. Um, I've always believed that the revolution was financial. Um, I think that, um, race, gender, um, and class, it comes in a little bit later, but I think that the bottom line is really making sure that all communities have economic justice.

Passionistas: So how do you do that? What, what kind of organizations are you involved with?

Nselaa: I started out with the National Organization for Women. I've been active with the National Organization for Women for a few decades, uh, right now, um, they actually was a really, really big resource to me when I was transitioning over into my divine purpose. Um, like you guys said earlier, I, I wasn't always an attorney or a business architect. My story started off really as a, as a sex worker and in a, what I thought was a dark place at the time. But now I realized that it was a blessing in my life, uh, because it taught me so many lessons about resilience. Um, but they really helped me to transition between that life and my, you know, and the divine purpose that I was trying to walk into. So I was involved with the National Organization for Women as the national field director for women of color.

So we went around organizing protests and demonstrations and educating people about women's rights and how they can make a difference, um, and impact. Uh, we actually organized the 2004 March for Women's Lives, um, which was the largest March, um, uh, Washington for its time. Um, and then since then after that, I became an attorney. Um, I did a lot of legal work, um, in criminal business and bankruptcy law. So, um, on the criminal aspect, I did a lot of work for our clients were involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and that work come through police brutality. Um, and during that time I was able to free over 300 years of black lives from the criminal industrial complex. So yay. Excited about that. Um, so I, in to, I mean, it definitely wasn't easy. There was a lot of, um, pushback that we got from, um, district attorneys, judges, attorney regulation, um, about some of the works that we were doing, the work that we were doing, I was in Colorado at the time.

So there wasn't that many black attorneys and there definitely wasn't weren't that many black attorneys that were helping, um, black people. Uh, so there was definitely a lot of, a lot of pushback, a lot of contents of court, a lot of complaints, you know, disciplinary actions and things of that sort of. So, you know, we, we went through that journey, um, together. Um, during that time I also worked in business and bankruptcy law. So one of the things that I was able to really really, um, see in business and make whimsy laws, I was able to see some of the correlating factors that happen between small and mid-sized businesses before they got to the point of being the 80 to 90% that failed within three to five years. Um, and boom, being able to see those correlations, I was able to kind of figure out what the, the patents were in the defining factors, but unfortunately at the time, you know, law is really based on being reactive. It's not very proactive.

And when you're in a reactive industry, you have to kind of wait until something bad happens. So I want it to be able to kind of step in early, before something bad happened and preventing them from getting to that place. So in 2015, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia and opened up my business architect firm, which actually works in that proactive stage and helping, um, businesses, entrepreneurs, small business owners to be able to have success in the business so that they don't get to that 80 to 90% of the businesses that fail. Um, and then now I'm also working with the international black business agenda. Um, so one of the main things that we work on is holding, uh, businesses in our community that have, um, historically contributed to the question of, of black people, holding them accountable, um, allowing them to make amends for the role that they've done in the past, as well as making sure that black people are getting the economic justice and, um, their share of the banking system in the United States.

That is amazing, such incredible, powerful, impactful work. And we want to touch on every single one of those things that you just talked about. Let's start by going back a little bit, talking about your childhood, how you grew up and how that sort of influenced the choices you made later.

Like I said, you know, I, I didn't really grow up as you know, on this pathway to being an attorney or being a business architect. In fact, um, I, you know, I, even though I knew that I wanted to be attorney ever since I was eight years old, I'm in bed. I wanted to be an attorney. I was in a third grade play. And, um, my teacher at the time, you know, they had different roles. And the role that I chosen was times that I wanted to be an attorney, but I didn't even know what an attorney was. And the time could tell that my teacher was trying to encourage me to do other things you outright say, you know, you can't be an attorney, but she was like, Oh, well, you can be the paralegal. You can be the secretary. How about me? This role over here?

And you can be the mom and can be like, no, I want to be the attorney. I'm about to be the attorney. Uh, and, and, and this play right here. Right. So I wouldn't let her, you know, encourage me to do anything otherwise. And even though I didn't even know what it was at that point, because at that point, I just thought it was arguing. And I was like, I'm good at arguing. I can do that. You know? Um, but the fact that, you know, somebody didn't believe that I could do it gave me like this fire to prove to everybody that I will do it. Um, so I knew that I wanted to be an attorney ever since I was eight years old. Um, so it was always in the back of my mind. And what it did is it provided me a vision, you know, when I was going through some of the other aspects of my life.

So when I was 11 years old, um, my mom actually, she got shot in a crack cocaine deal. Um, that went bad. She, um, it was around the Christmas holidays. And what I remember, you know, is that I was home with my brothers. I had, at that point, I only had two siblings. I had a brother that was about four years old at the time. And then I had a brother that was like a new born baby, just a few months old. Um, and you know, my mom was used to disappearing sometimes. Um, when, you know, when you have, if you've ever dealt with anybody in, in a crack cocaine community, you know, we, we called the missions, right. Admissions were when, you know, basically like they would disappear for a few days and just get high and they would come back like nothing happened, you know?

And you'd be like, she'd been gone for like three days. You want to tell me where you man, what's going on. You know? So I was used to my mom going on these missions and disappearing. So that had been normalized. Um, but this particular time, it was around the Christmas holidays. And she had been gone for almost a couple of weeks at that time. And I remember my grandmother called me and she, um, she was like, you know, well, what did you guys get for Christmas? And I was like, we didn't get anything for Christmas. And she was like, what do you mean you didn't get anything for Christmas? Um, and I was like, we didn't get anything for Christmas. Mom didn't come home. And that was kind of a red flag to her. Cause she was like, wait a minute. Okay. She's not coming home. She always gets you something for Christmas. Something is wrong.

And at the time all of my family members, I was in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time, but all my family members, um, they were in another part of the state. So my grandparents traveled up to Charlotte, um, to figure out what was going on. And they found that she was in a hospital and that's when we found out that she was shot. Um, and, uh, she ended up being paralyzed for a couple of years. She was bedridden. Um, fortunately she survived. They never told me, you know, um, that she got shot in the beginning. I just remember my cousins coming to the house. And they was like, I heard your mom got shot. I heard, you know, that she's in the hospital. And that was so scary to me. Cause I was like, what does that mean to get shot in the face? Is she dead? Like, is she like disfigured what's going on? You know?

And I just remember being so afraid that she wouldn't come back, but eventually she did come back. Um, and when she did come back, she, like I said, she couldn't, she couldn't walk. She was bedridden for a couple of years. And that sent her into a depression where she fell really, really deep into her crack cocaine addiction. Um, and this kind of left me, you know, out, you know, in the world on my own. I moved with my grandmother, but she was really old at the time. And she really, um, she really couldn't control what was happening to the kids and what was happening in the neighborhood. In addition to having to take on this mom role, all of a sudden, um, and, and dealing with all my own personal self-esteem issues, self-esteem issues that come with being a black female, um, substantive issues that come with the world constantly telling you that you're not good enough, you know, and that, um, you know, that my value and my worth was less than other people in the world.

Um, and one to be able to find that value, you know, I was introduced to a lot of people that were in the drug community that was like, Hey, I know how you can find value. Um, and that's kind of how I was introduced into the, the sex work industry, you know? Um, and it was a slow transition. Like initially it was just, you know, making sure that when I was with people that they show me that they weren't just using me by buying something right behind me, something, or taking me somewhere, or, you know, doing something nice that had some type of monetary value. And then when you're in this industry, you meet a lot of people that are trying to hustle you, you know, so over time, but what happened is that, you know, some, you know, when I would just trust them, okay, you have to buy this for me afterwards.

You've got to take to this place. So you're going to have to get me this outfit or whatever the case may be. And then they would try to hustle you and they would, you know, sleep with you or have sex with you and then not do these things afterwards. So then I started having to learn how to require some form of payment upfront, you know, and then that transitioned to, okay, look, this is what it is. This is how much it costs. You know, I'm valuable and you're going to have to pay me to prove that I'm valuable. Um, and that kind of lasted on and off between, um, the ages of 12 and 19, you know? Um, and then eventually I was able to, um, walk into my divine purpose and I found the national organization for women and started working for, um, several other activist organizations.

Passionistas: So what was that defining moment at 19 that helped you make that transition?

Nselaa: Like I said, I always knew that I wanted to be an attorney, but it was certain points in my, um, in my career or in my life at that young age. Cause I wouldn't say I had a career, um, where I felt like it was, you know, there was no hope for it. I was like, man, you know, a lot of people know that, you know, I'm a sex worker, we didn't call it sex workers back then we just like holds prostitutes, you know, tricks, things of that sort. You know, I call it sex worker today just to be, you know, politically correct, you know, but um, people knew about it. You know, I had a lot of police contact at that point and I just thought that it was, I thought it was hot. I was like, there's no way I can, I can be an attorney at this point in my life.

And, um, it was a series of things. One thing is that, you know, in, in the act of having a lot of, um, a lot of police contact, uh, at one point ahead, this public defender, you know, and, um, he was, he was a prop, it was a private attorney in the system at that point. Um, the state, instead of having a public defender's office, they just contracted private attorneys at reduced rates. So I was able to get quality legal care. Um, and, and, and not really having, you know, somebody that was overwhelmed and I was going through a case and he was able to get, um, me, uh, like a deferred prosecution. What people told me at the time, they was like, I was always very smart. I was able to go to the school of science and math, uh, when I was very young and at, when I was in 10th grade.

And what that is is they take the top 2% out of each county and they take them to this school where they do, um, college courses. So, uh, he knew that I, you know, I was a little bit different, but he was like, you know, what, what is it that you want to do with your life? You know, why are you out here doing this? What's going on with you? You know? And I was like, well, I always wanted to be a lawyer, you know, but you know, that's just not going to happen now. You know, but that's what I wanted to do. And he's just like, sly he's, let me tell you something. He's like, I know people that have murdered people and become attorneys, you know, um, he was like, it's really about what your power is. He's like, when you go in and you want to be a lawyer and he said, you go, and you tell those law school committees that they can't tell you no.

And he was like, you go in, you tell the attorney regulation board that they can't tell you. And he's like, don't let nobody tell you. No, just because you have a history, he was like, get that. That was the thing that sparked me like, Oh, is it really, is it still possible? Can I still be an attorney? Is he right? You know? Um, but then you just deal with my family members and the friends that was in my communities, we call them rock stars. Right. Um, because you know, my mom she'd get off with ever called anybody crack head or crack. She felt like that was an insult. She wouldn't let us do it. Right. So we called, um, people that were surviving, crack cocaine addiction. We call them rock stars. And they had this resilience where, you know, they wanted something to happen.

They just would not take no for an answer. You know, my uncles and friends and family, they would come and ask me for like $5 every day. And I would tell them no a hundred times and I would see other people tell them, no, I, 100 times over and over and over again. And they would just come back the next day. But you never just told them no, I could just, they just kind of brushed it off their shoulder, you know? And I was like, okay, you know, if they could do it, you know, why am I so afraid of people telling me no, you know, they would just come back over and over again to finally be like, look, here's $5. Get out my face and be alone. Don't ask me again. Right. And I knew that they were affected by no, if I saw so many people that were already rejected from society.

Right. And they weren't a favor afraid of failure. They were just like me. Right. Because I felt like some degree I was rejected from society because of the industry that I was in. I felt like if they weren't scared of no, then why would I be the worst thing they could do? And he goes, no, you know? So I started, you know, just, just going after life with this indifference of not being afraid of no. So going to law school, I did have to explain my history a hundred times. So a lot of different law schools, I ended up getting accepted to over 25 different undergrad schools, over 25 different law schools. When I, you know, having to explain to them like, okay, this happened, I was a sex worker. I have a criminal history. I came up in the crack cocaine community. That's okay.

Cause I'm gonna be the best lawyer there is help there. And they told me no, several times they told me no so many times. And I just had to suck it up and keep going back. I know you told me no, but let me explain to you what I was offering again, because obviously you don't understand, you know? Um, so I just, I just had to get past that. No, I had to get past the fear of no. And you know, even though it gets harder, as you get older to get past that fear of no, because we have so much more to lose. There's so many more consequences as you get older. I still have to constantly remember that. You know, there's so many people that are depending on me to show the world that just because you come from this past, just because you, because you come from this background doesn't mean that nothing's possible. Something's not possible. You know, so I have to get past the no and not be afraid and you know, not stress out, you know, and just keep going, just keep pushing forward.

Passionistas: So when you decided on this path to become an attorney, why did you, um, focus on the business and bankruptcy side of it?

Nselaa: It was a happenstance, it was a happenstance because I knew in the beginning that I really wanted to do criminal law. That's what I always thought I wanted to do. Because first of all, that's what we see on TV. We see criminal attorneys, you know, we see all these like Johnny Cochran type individuals that are just slaying the system. But the other thing is that my family and my friends were always, um, they were always having police contact. I literally remember like the police coming into my house. I had to be maybe seven or eight years old and like wrestling with my mother. I'm not gonna say they beat her up because it wasn't like an outright beat up, but it was wrestling with my mother and they drug her out of the house and arrested her, took her to jail while I was there, had to be set.

And they left me there by myself. And I always had this feeling like, man, I just, you know, if I could defend them, I would get all of my family members out and I would protect the neighborhood and I would protect the hood. I'm going to do this. Like, I always had bet that like, you know, desire to want to do that. Um, and I remember another time when my mom was going through a case, you know, later on down, because she had a lot of police contact as well. And she had the hardest time finding an attorney. And I remember like one of my school friends, um, in school, their father was an attorney. And I remember running to him court begging him, like, can you please represent my mom? You know, we can't get an attorney, you know? And, um, and he was like, I can't, you know, if she doesn't have the money, I there's nothing I can do.

And I was like, I'm not going to be that person. I'm going to do this. I'm gonna do that. You know, so I knew I wanted to be a criminal attorney, but then when I got into criminal law, I realized that a lot of the reasons that they were even in these predicaments had to do with their, you know, their economic situation, you know, and dealing with the criminal aspect of it was just putting a bandaid on it because if they couldn't feed their families, if they were unnaturally secure, if they weren't financially illiterate, if they were able to take care of their businesses, then they were going to end back up there again, you know, because it made survival of the fittest. So I realized that this was just putting a bandaid on things. Um, at the time I ended up getting offered a job as a business slash you know, we did business in bankruptcy was just really kind of a corporate law firm, which I hated at the time, but it was a huge corporate law firm.

And I was just kind of like this paper pusher, you know, and, you know, I was just doing all the background work, um, for the business and the bankruptcies that the cases that they had, but I was able to look at their files and then see some patterns. And I was like, okay, I want to do this on my own. Like, this is the missing, this is the missing key to these other criminal cases over here. I was like, Oh my God, I did not know that. Like, why is that just, you know, just hitting me right now. Right. So when I was able to work at that firm, you know, I was able to see those connections. And then, um, and I wanted to start my own firm because the problems that, you know, at that firm, they were charging 400, $500 an hour.

And the people that I wanted to work with at the time couldn't afford to charge to pay four and $500 an hour for business or bankruptcy work. So I started my own law firm at the time, and I wanted it to be able to provide that financial security, that economic justice to the people that reminded me of home, you know, so that, that, that's how I ended up getting in it. What did think that was important to me, you know, um, is that I was able to work with people that were just like me, you know, to be able to find a different way. And one thing that I realized early on about, um, people that I grew up with is that the, you know, people that were traditionally sex workers, drug dealers, um, things of that sort, they had a very, very keen sense for business and they didn't even know it, you know, um, they, you know, the world had constantly told them, you know, that they were bad people, that they were not smart, that they were ignorant that they were criminals.

So they go through life feeling like, okay, you know, I'm worthless. This is the only option that I have, but the same tools that we learned in sex work, you know, the same tools of being able to build a team, being able to build safety systems, um, being able to build systems, you know, within the business, how do you connect with customers? How do you connect with people? How do you handle supply and demand? How do you make sure that there's adequate distribution? All of these things were very similar things that we learned in the sex work industry, things that we learned, learned, you know, in, in the drug community. Um, but they were always constantly taught that, um, that they were bad and that they weren't worthy of anything. Um, so one of the things that I was able to do afterwards is to build programs.

One is called, um, from Corner Blocks to Corner Offices, which primarily focuses on former sex workers and then help them to build, um, legitimate, legal businesses under the same principles that they used under sex work, you know, and make more money from it. Um, and then I have another program called from, um, Prison to President, which deals with former drug dealers, you know, that, um, and using the same principles that they had been. Um, so a lot of things is, you know, is that we've been conditioned to believe that this is all that we can do. And it's so ironic because, you know, we we're, we're seeing States right now, legalize, cocaine, heroin, things of that. So in addition to marijuana, um, you know, all of these things that we've been told was bad, and that was worthless, you know, and has limited us from being able to reach our highest potential.

They're trying to make legal now. Um, but using those same principles to help people, um, to be able to really build something, an empire, a legacy that they can be proud of, but they're not gonna have to look over their shoulder, you know, about all the time and that they can use to take care of themselves and their families. So that, that was the, that was the work that I got the most joy in because it was like, I felt like I was working with my aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters, like it was like, you know, family oriented again. Um, you know, those, those, those are the ones, those are my favorite, you know, types of cases, um, in business architecture. And even when I was practicing law, they had their, their journeys with it as well. Let me tell you, you know, cause it's, uh, there's a mindset that you have to work through.

Um, that's constantly, you know, at play because they've been told one thing all of their lives and you're, you're working against that. Um, so there are some challenges that come with it, but it's still, uh, still very rewarding and very exciting for me because it makes me feel like I'm building a legacy for my family. You know, one of the things, um, that I realized that I have been battling with for a very long time is, um, building family, you know, building rebuilding my family when I was younger, when I was, you know, between, you know, at the age of 11 or so, it felt like when my mom, um, was she was shot and when I had to move away, it felt like all of a sudden my family was torn apart. You know, like I had lost my family. Like I was separated from my mom.

And then on top of that, you know, I was separated from my siblings at that point as well. Um, in addition to the fact that because my mom was going through her depression, she became very emotionally distant with me, you know? So, I had to learn over time that, you know, that that really affected my inner child very early on, you know, to always feeling like I had to rebuild my family some way. And I've noticed like through life, through the last few decades and different segments of my life, I've been trying to constantly rebuild my family. So that's one of my ways that I, I get my satisfaction is through, um, working through my, um, from Corner Blocks to Corner Offices and from Prison to President

Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. And you're listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Madam Nselaa Ward. To learn more about Madam Ward and how she helps small business owners to thrive visit NiNavaFirm.com. That's N-I-N-A-V-A-F-I-R-M.com. Now here's more of our interview with Madam Ward.

So let's shift gears a little, tell us how you got involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and what your work has involved.

Nselaa: Well, you know, like I feel like I've been involved in Black Lives Matter movement of my life. In all actuality. It just became a hashtag in 2012. Um, but I, I definitely remember, like I told you earlier, I remember the police coming in and both housing, my mom, um, you know, when I was younger, when I was like, you know, seven or eight years old, um, so it's been always something that has been really, really important to me, um, to, to make sure that I stood up for, there was one particular time in the latter part of my teenage years where, um, I remember, um, my mother had this police encounter in a car where she was stopped. And I remember like growing up with my mom, like I was, you know, when I was younger, you know, when she would go on her mission, sometimes she would take me with her.

Um, and, um, I would be in the backseat and she was like, okay, you have to make sure that you're looking out for the police in case anything happened because you know, they might try to hurt me if something happens. And I never believed that when I was really, really young in the beginning, I was like, why was the police shot hurt you? Right. But I would just, you know, be a lookout, you know, looking around, see police would come up behind us. But there was one time when I became a teenager that we were actually stopped by police. And, um, I remember the police dragged her out of the car and he was like, you know, crack cocaine has this very distinct smell to smell to it. And I I'm assuming that he could smell like the crack cocaine that was in the air, even though he couldn't see it, you know?

Um, and he was like, he kept saying, I know you have it in the car. I know you have it in the car. And she was like, Oh, you're talking about, I don't know what you're talking about. And he ended up dragging her out the car and what happened is she, she ended up, she swallowed it so that he couldn't find it, but he ended up, he was choking her to try to get her to spit the crack cocaine up so that he could have it as evidence, you know? And, um, I would be like, that's something that re replays in my head, even as an adult, you know, when I handle, um, when I started handling my cases, you know, in law, you know, like I remember like how he treated my mother and, you know, one of the, um, the analogies that I heard is that, um, you know, this situation that's going on with the black lives matter movement and America finally waking up to everything that's happening is like, you know, telling your mother your whole life that your father was abusing you, like constantly telling your mother, Hey, you know, your father is a daddy is hurting me.

You know, I don't want to be left by myself. And your mom is constantly like, daddy's not, what are you talking about? You must've did something for him to work. You, you must've did something, you know, um, for me, for him to treat you like that. Um, and you know, so it's like constantly telling your mom that your dad is hurting you and he never believed you all your life. And then all of a sudden, your mom one day comes to you and says, you know what, I'm sorry, I see what dad has been doing to you now. And, you know, I'm so sad that I didn't step in early, what can I do to fix it? So when I was dealing with a lot of my black lives matter cases, the world judges, prosecutors everywhere, constantly feeling like you were making up stuff, you know, they were constantly implying that there was something that we were lying about, you know, that we weren't telling them that created the incident that happened.

But I remember I saw visions of what was happening to my mother. So even if I even, even if the stories were really way out there, like I still had this, you know, natural been like, you know what? This probably did happen because I've seen it happen before. You know? So I always, I always believed them, you know, because I felt like, you know, if we just keep pushing one day, mom was going to realize that we're totally truth. And she's going to tell daddy to stop, you know? So that, that's, that's what, what got me into it.

Passionistas: What do you want people who don't understand it to know about Black Lives Matter.

Nselaa: Things, you know, that I want people to, to really keep in, in their hearts, is that a lot of times, the biggest question that we see is that people are asking, does protests really work? Does protests, um, really get the results that we're looking for? And one of the things you said earlier, as part of my head, he was like, you know, I'm sorry that there's not more movement. I'm sorry that we're not completely there, but we're getting there the biggest benefit, um, to protesting and demonstrations, people feel like it has to be the most immediate thing. What we see like within the first year, you know, they're looking for some type of reactions, some type of response within that first 12 months. And I would say probably about 25% of the benefits of protesting and demonstrations and civil disobedience may happen within that first 12 months or so, like, for example, you know, previously prior to these, this Black Lives Matter, but even prior to 2020, um, the majority of America didn't feel like police brutality.

When I say majority, at least 51%, didn't feel like party's police brutality was issue. Now 76% of America believes that police brutality is an issue. They believe that, um, people that racism is a problem. Um, the majority of America didn't, you know, didn't have a problem with all the Confederate statutes that were around. It was like, Oh, that's history. That's just showing that we're from where we come from right now, over 51% and saying that, you know what, these Confederate statues need to be removed. Right. Um, so you know, that that's the immediate benefit that we see that first, you know, that first, that what happens in that first 12 months, but the largest benefit that we get about protests and demonstrations is that it slowly changes the mindset of people over time, right? So we might not the results of it happening immediately within that first 12 months.

But we see it in generations to come. What it does is that it challenges the infrastructure of power when we protest, right? When people see that there are people in the masses that are saying that something is wrong. The thing that it does is it all of a sudden tells the public, okay, this power that we have been recognizing for so long is losing legitimacy, because power is based on legitimate. People have to believe the power is legitimate in order to follow the laws and the rules. But when you see that the majority of the people, all of a sudden, you know, are, are saying that something is wrong. It challenges that legitimacy and it slowly changes people's mindset. And that they're the way that they think over time. So that the people that traditionally thought that nothing was wrong. Eventually they're coming over to your side.

The people that knew something was wrong, but just felt like nobody was ever going to do it. Do anything about it. All of a sudden they're saying, you know what, well, maybe I should stand up, right? Like that. Sometimes oppression and discrimination is normalized so much. And I can say this, even in my own personal experience, sometimes it gets normalized so much that you all of a sudden, starting to think, you know, well, there's nothing we can do about that. So I'm not going to complain about it anymore. You know? Um, um, you know, it is what it is. So people, even the people that are being abused, stop working to change it. Right. But when they start to see other people setting up and saying, no, this has happened to me and I'm going to be counted, and this is wrong. All of a sudden it clicks, wait a minute.

There is something that we can do about it. So it's changing the people that experienced it. It changes the people that don't experience it. And it changes the political officials because they see, you know what, I gotta do something about this, or I might lose my legitimacy moving forward. So there is change that's happening with protesting demonstrations and civil disobedience. And just because we don't see it tomorrow or today doesn't mean that it's not happening. So just keep pushing, keep moving forward, keep going at it. Um, even if it's not changing for us, change it for the people that's coming up.

Passionistas: What do you think as allies is the most important thing for us to be doing?

Nselaa: The, the biggest thing I would say is listen, learn and leap. That's something that's really, really big, listen, learn and leap. Um, Liz, because the conversation is going to constantly change. Um, one thing that I see happening in media a lot is that, you know, people are going to get mad at people that did something, you know, 60 years ago, 50 years ago, you know, that wasn't racist back then, but it might be racist today. Um, I don't necessarily always think that's fair to, to try to say that they're a bad person today because things are going to change over time. Um, so the first thing is, listen, listening to the change in conversation because it's going to change within the months, within the weeks, within the years, um, and be willing to adapt to whatever those changes are, you know, uh, because we're all learning together.

So listening to the changes, learning from it, you know, which, which is where the adaptation comes. And we've been like being okay. Sometimes we're going to make mistakes. We're all going to make some mistakes, you know, even, you know, as a black female, I'm going to make mistakes. You know? Um, I, we have a conversation that we do regularly, um, with different States around the country, um, called white women. Can we talk right? Um, one of the biggest things that I learned, um, just in this process, like, for example, I used to always constantly, like I was always like when I see a white man come into the room, it historically has brought me a lot of anxiety. Like I would start to feel fear, especially if you see like a white man in a truck, you know, you start to feel, feel like something is bad is going to happen.

And a lot of it originally happened just because I didn't really have a lot of exposure. I didn't have a lot of experiences in relationship with white men, especially like white, Southern men. I didn't have a lot of experiences with them. And I realized as I started to practice law, and when I became, um, started working in business architecture, I have more exposure to white men. So over time I didn't see them as a threat as much anymore, but that was just based on my experience and exposure and over the conversations of, of white women that can we talk? I realized that a lot of times, you know, a lot of the people we're having conversations with, they don't have experiences and exposure to different communities and different cultures. So when you don't have that experience or exposure, all you have is the stories that we see on the media, the stories that we see on TV, the stories that we see, you know, her neighbors talk about.

And sometimes those are stories that are based on fear, but if we start building relationships and conversations and experience new relationships, conversations, and experience, then we can change that narrative together. So we have, um, a, uh, a series that we do called white women. Can we talk, well, we just ask each other, all the questions that we always wanted to know, like in an open form, without judgment, just being able to get to know each other and creating new experiences so that we don't have to base our views on old experiences anymore. Um, so I'm gonna say, listen, learn, and then leap have experienced leap into it. You know, if you see somebody that doesn't look like you, or, you know, it doesn't have the same experience, be willing to leap and create a new experience with them and make mistakes. And then just try again, you know, like, Hey, I made a mistake. Let me, let me get ready to try again.

Passionistas: You took a big leap into the news in September when you went to an event for your local us Senator, can you talk a little bit about that? What you were there for and what happened?

Nselaa: Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. So, um, myself and, um, my, my, my sister in the movement, Triana Arnold James, we went, uh, to a campaign rally for Senator Kelly Loeffler. And literally when we went to the campaign rally, we really just went to ask questions about, you know, what she was going to do to protect people. I didn't initially know a lot of her stances on the black lives matter movement when we first came, like that was still relatively, um, unfamiliar to me. Right. So we went, um, to ask her some questions. And of course we were the only black people there. So that was my first light, you know, especially because there's a lot black people in Georgia. Right. So we're all black people that, we're the only ones here. I'm confused. Yeah. That was the first kind of signal that, you know, that this might be a foreign territory to me, especially coming from like, you know, social media world.

And we made quarantine, like social media kind of puts us in this echo chamber chamber where every, like we only hear things that we agree with constantly. So I didn't realize it was so many people that did not agree. So we went there to ask her questions and it was, you know, during her, her campaign rally. Um, and all of a sudden, you know, she started talking about, um, the black lives matter movement, but when she was, I thought prior, I was like, well, okay, I'm pretty sure there's some people, you know, that don't support black lives matter, but justice people like the KKK and stuff like that, you know, like, you know, I didn't realize that there was a whole lot of people that didn't like it. Um, and they were just normal people too, you know, but they would, so they, you know, they were saying on me, they was like, you know, um, initially, you know, we asked her, you know, well, what are you in?

Cause this was around, you know, opera had happened in Georgia. So we asked her, what are you going to do to protect the black and Brown people that are being abused and murdered, you know, in your state, how are you going to protect those constituents? And then all of a sudden she started talking about how black people that supported the black lives matter movement, where Marxists, we were communists that we were in. I didn't know. I didn't even know what Antifa was when I went there until she called me MTV. I was saying, what is Antifa let me look that up.

Um, so, you know, so she said that we were part of Antifa that we were communists, that we was Marxists, that we was entire nuclear family. And I was like, I was just really shocked that she would even say this, like, this is my us Senator. And I was like, okay, at the very least, at the very least, like, I suppose, like I can imagine some people might be low key racist, but I never thought that anybody would, you know, as a Senator, as a political official, just be so like outspoken without like, they at least gotta be politically correct. She wasn't even politically correct. She was just like going for it, which is why I'm so surprised that there's a runoff with her right now. I'm like, that's a run. They like, I was shocked about that. So, um, you know, so she was telling everybody that, you know, this is what I'm talking about.

You know, she was like their fastest they're Marxists, they're communists, they're all just that they're trying to change your way of life. So then all of a sudden, the crowd like start like getting mad at us and started surrounding us. Right. And then they started yelling at it. But initially they were trying to lock arms, you know, and surround us in a circle so that we couldn't get out of the room. And then they started yelling at us all lives matter, like all lives matter, all lives matter, you know? So I was like, is this for real? Like I was, I was literally like, this is like a movie, you know? Like I felt like I wasn't us like the movie, you know, I was like, wow. You know? So they started trying to surround us. Um, and, um, you know, then they started telling, was yelling all lives matter.

So the only thing that we can do, because there was like two of us and like a hundred of them, you know, like, so we were like, okay, we're going to say Black Lives Matter. You know, it response. So we start saying black lives matter, you know? And then they started like spitting at us, like throwing stuff in a feat, you know, they, I mean, they were going and a lot of them were like older white people also like, Oh, like people that were in walkers and wheelchairs, you know? So I was just like, I've never seen like, Oh, people get this rowdy before. Like it was like, you know, and then afterwards, like while they was like locking us in the room, right. Mind you there's cops there also. So, you know, there's, the cops were kind of like, you know, some of the cops were telling us, like, even though there was two of us in like a hundred of them, like there was a few of the male cops.

It was like, you better not touch any of them or I'm taking you to jail. I'm like, we've been, not touched them. There's two of us in, you know, there was this one female cop who was amazing, you know, she was amazing. She was like, look, she's like, you guys are not doing anything wrong. She was like, they better not touch you guys. She was like, don't worry about it. She's like, you know, you guys have a right to be here. She was like, I got you. Like, that was kind of like our, okay. You know, like it's, you know, thank you. You know, but some of the other cops was like, you better not touch him or we're taking you to jail. And they were trying to find a reason to arrest us. And we're like, really? Right. So while they were surrounding us, they went outside a key to our car.

Right. Like Triana, she had a BMW. Right. Um, and of course, you know, she has a stickers up there. So they keyed her car outside when they was like holding us in. So it was definitely a crazy, interesting experience that happened that really awakened my, you know, my eyes to what, you know, that there are communities out there that didn't necessarily agree with some of the work that we were doing. The hard part about it is that after the event happened, Senator Loffler, um, tried to use it as, you know, a campaign strategy to rally up the masses to be like, this is why, you know, black lives matter, like is trying to destroy your lives. Like, look what they're doing. You know, they're trying to take away, you know, your, your, your way of living. They're trying to take away your money, your communities they're trying to do, like she was telling them that we were doing all of this stuff, you know, that we were like, we were just asking you questions.

Like, all we did was ask questions as our Senator, you know? Um, so, and then she went on this media campaign and talked to basically like a hundred different outlets about how, you know, this was an example of how black lives matter, like is a facet like Antifa communist organization. And that we were violent, even though they were the ones that keyed our car to us, you know? Um, so like, it was, it gave me the experience of seeing, um, really how, um, how somebody can create a narrative to create hate within communities. Because I didn't go in there, like having any opinion about any of the people there when I first came there. And I'm assuming that before we came, I'm assuming that they didn't really have very much opinions about us or about black people, you know, but when you have somebody created this narrative that they're coming after you and she repeated it multiple times on social media and then the media, she was like, these people are coming after you, Black Lives Matter is coming up.

And she said, make no carpet, hold at words was, make no mistakes. When they come from me, they're coming after you, they're coming after your way of life. You know? Um, she, when people are creating this narrative, it creates hate and it creates all of this division. And it was really the first time I saw it up close and personal know, we see it on TV where we see Trump's a standby stand down, you know? And it almost still seems like a movie when we see it on TV and stuff like, Oh, that's not real. You know, that's just movie. That's just, you know, but it really is. Will people have to really understand that this is real, there are people out here creating this narrative. Trump is real Senator to, of Israel, right. And seeing it's so close and seeing how people responded in our presence.

So up close and how dangerous it could have turned. It really raised wait, raise my awareness. And it, and it really, um, made me realize that we really have to get this message out here and to stop this division. Right. And make sure that we continue to have this conversation with each other so that people that don't look like us, they know that that's not what we mean. That's that, that's not what I said. And when she said that I was coming out of the out, that ain't true. When she said that I was anti-family, that's not true. That's not what I said. This is what I meant, like getting in front of each other, having these conversations, even if it's by zoom so that we can understand one-on-one what our agendas are and stop having these other people try to tell it for us.

Passionistas: Thanks for listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Madam Nselaa Ward. To learn more about Madam Ward and how she helps small business owners to thrive visit NiNavaFirm.com. That's N-I-N-A-V-A-F-I-R-M.com.

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