Amira Stanley: Finding Her Place and Voice as a Black Activist
Updated: Jul 5, 2021
As a podcaster for justice, I stand with my sisters from the Women of Color Podcasters Community. We are podcasters united to condemn the tragic murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and many others at the hands of police. This is a continuation of the systemic racism pervasive in our country since its inception and we are committed to standing against racism in all its forms.
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After launching my second podcast in April, Companies That Care, I’ve begun alternating each week. This week on the Finding Fertile Ground podcast, I interview my amazing friend Amira Stanley, a mindset & intention coach, end-of-life doula, and anti-racism educator and community activist. I met Amira a year ago when we started having weekly accountability check-ins on Zoom. I was thrilled to finally meet her in person and give her a (masked) hug in April! It feels like I’ve known her much longer than a year.
It was a thrill and honor to interview Amira. I knew she’d gone through a lot of grit in her life, but I had no idea how much. She grew up Black and gay in mostly small cities or towns, has lived with pain from hip dysplasia and lost a huge amount of weight so she could have hip replacement, supported her beloved husband through his transition, and has dealt with the emotional trauma of racism all her life, only to discover this one year ago through education and studying. She’s always been an LGBTQIA+ activist, but now she’s also become an anti-racist and community activist.
As I told her on the podcast, I don’t take our friendship lightly because I know how difficult it can be for Black women to trust white women friends. I trust Amira to tell me if I ever screw up!
Amira was born in the Tri Cities, Washington, and grew up there and in Petaluma, California, predominantly white spaces. Now she lives in Salem, Oregon.
“I remember when I when I got to school the first day in Petaluma, a kid came up to me and said, ‘Oh my gosh, the palms of your hands are white!’ They were just shocked at that and also the color of my skin. ‘Oh my God, you're the darkest of black.’ I thought I was the darkest shade of black until way later.”
She didn’t consider these things to be oppression until later in her life. She also experienced racism and tone policing in the workplace when she was told her tone was too harsh or she shouldn’t say certain things, even by other Black people. Now she realizes that white supremacy is embedded in Black people too.
We talked about how organizations bring Black women on board and are excited for them to be there, but then they are viewed as problems when they stand up for themselves or speak truth to power.
“I could probably walk into an establishment and hand them this graphic that shows this (pattern of tokenizing Black people and then not listening to them). Black woman walks into to an establishment. Black woman is praised. I could show them and they would say, ‘Oh yeah, we see that.’ And then it'll still happen.”
Amira has long had many white friends, but in the past year as she’s gotten more educated about white supremacy, some of these friends have massively disappointed her. After the murder of George Floyd, Amira discovered how uncomfortable conversations would get.
“I started to get mad at (one friend) because she was my ride or die. She just couldn't handle it when I brought up the word privilege. ‘I don't have privilege. If I was saying that you have privilege, you would be so upset.’
She also said she didn’t see Amira as a Black person and she didn’t see color.
“It was bad.”
“No one saw color, but would you switch spots with me? If you want to be me, would you want to be my color?”
Because of the emotional labor involved in keeping folks around who are unable to recognize the harm that it causes, Amira chooses to let folks go, faster than the average human…hardcore boundary queen.
“It's a mission of mine to help people be okay with sitting in discomfort. We're not going to get to the other side without sitting in discomfort.”
Amira describes herself as a “friend hoarder,” so she had a hard time letting go of some of these friends.
“I no longer have any Black, homophobic friends. I no longer have any white lightweight racist friends. I have no one in my life who can cause me harm. The people I consider friends now are quality people. Most of them are anti-racist. That is where I feel at home. That is where I feel comforted.”
Amira explains that anti-racist people truly care about all humans and move in a way that is loving and compassionate, caring about mutual aid and community.
“Life is short…I'm not promised to be here until I'm 80. I could be gone tomorrow, especially with my Black ass running around talking about ending white supremacy in this racist town. I'm well aware I'm not promised tomorrow, so I want to be around people who truly love me, my gayness, my confidence, my eyes getting big. When I speak my truth.”
Amira knew she loved women and female energy from the age of seven or eight. She had crushes on her little white girlfriends. She was also attracted to boys. When her mom made her go to church, she started receiving the message that liking the same sex was bad. That made her check out and not want to go anywhere near a church.
At age 18 she finally had the nerve to come out as bisexual.
“Of course my mom is, ‘you just wanna hump anything you if you like both. And I was like no, that's really not it at all. I hadn't even really been with anybody at that point. I just knew it.”
Every time she’d bring male friends home, her mom would get her hopes up…so finally Amira decided to make a choice and be with women. When Amira got older and began volunteering with the Living Room Youth, an organization that celebrates and supports LGBTQIA+ youth in Clackamas County, Oregon, she realized she was pansexual (not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity).
Amira shared a phenomenal story about her husband coming out as transgender that actually sent chills up my spine. I am looking forward to having Amira come back on my podcast with her husband Sander to talk more about his transition and how that affected both of them. I asked Amira if she has any advice for people whose partners are transitioning.
“Allow them to be who they are, but also take care of you. If it's something you can't handle, follow your own heart, but do it in a way that is loving and supportive to that person. If you can, walk them through this journey, especially if they have no one else. It's not easy, but if you can support them being who they are, that's priceless.”
Amira has been shocked to discover the extreme racism in Salem, Oregon, as she explains on this Facebook Live.
“Salem is extremely racist. I've never been in a space where I've been very uncomfortable. I'm used to giving people eye contact and smiling. That's who I am. I don't do that here anymore. I walk through the store looking straight ahead with my combat boots on, with my mace in my pocket and my knife in my pouch. I get what I need from the store, and I don’t small talk. It makes me sad but it made me sadder six months ago.”
As a Black woman, she can never relax in Salem. She is constantly looking around, on her guard.
Living in such a racist town made her into an anti-racist and community activist. Attending a vigil for Breonna Taylor at the state capitol, she was inspired by Julianne Jackson, founder of Black Joy Oregon, to step it up.
"Julianne said, if you're Black and you live in this city, 'There's no excuse. We need you out here.' And I was crying and saying, 'Okay Amira, you're terrified. But this chick is calling you out and you live here and this is what you need to do.'”
We talked about the ambitious “End White Supremacy by Way of Black Experience” event Amira and her team put in in April.
“After losing so many people and studying about white supremacy, I thought if we can just be okay with saying end white supremacy and learning about it, we can change the world like that. I wanted to make the words ‘white supremacy’ and ‘systemic racism’ normal. I want families talking about it with their kids.”
Amira and I also talked about progressive Christianity, after she recently left a position at a local church, and her journey to get to wellness with hip dysplasia and weight loss.
Part of Amira’s activism and passion now is being a mama bear to community members in the streets and working with them on their mindset.
“We cannot sustain what we have to do, especially those of us who are out in the streets, if we're not taking care of our hearts. And we cannot keep going if we are angry as hell. We should be angry, but we should be angry with compassion and we should be mindfully angry so that we can still do the things.”
Amira is inspired by her husband Sander because of…
“The things he's endured in his life and the human that he is and continues to be and the way he fights for himself…and he kind of has no choice, being married to me…he’s my hero.”
You can reach Amira on her business website, intentionmindset.com. Also, listen to her latest video podcast episode with her friend Rayah Dickerson on the topic of “Protesting: What’s the Use of It?”
Meeting and befriending Amira is one of the joys of the last year for me. And we need all the joys we can find right now!
Next week on the Companies That Care podcast, I interview Ousman Touray from the UK and originally from The Gambia. Founder of a new company, phioneers, Ousman is an ecopreneur with a mission to improve the quality of life in developing parts of the world through sustainable and eco-friendly architecture, engineering, and technology.
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