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On this episode of Unlocking Us

This week, I’m talking to Karen Walrond, writer, activist, and longtime friend of mine about her new book, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change without Losing Your Joy. This is the right book for the right time. Activism is such a big and often intimidating concept, and Karen breaks it down into small, intentional, and integrated acts that create a joyful life. We talk about how we met and how we define activism, and we share some really personal experiences we each had after Hurricane Harvey that shaped how we see the intersection of activism and joy. So, enjoy this first of two episodes on life, light, and activism and how those three things are completely interconnected.

About the guest

Karen Walrond

Karen Walrond is a lawyer, a leadership coach, a photographer, and an activist who is wildly convinced you’re uncommonly beautiful. Her first book, The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit, provides irrefutable evidence that the thing that makes you different is the source of your superpower. Her current book, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change without Losing Your Joy, helps us name the skills, gifts, values, and actions that bring us joy; identify the causes that spark our empathy and concern; and then put it all together to change the world. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Karen currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her British husband, Marcus; their American daughter, Alexis; and Soca, the super mutt.

Show notes

The Lightmaker’s Manifesto by Karen Walrond

The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change without Losing Your Joy by Karen Walrond

The Lightmaker’s Manifesto includes creative and practical exercises, including journaling, daily intention-setting, and mindful self-compassion, that are complemented by lively conversations with activists and thought-leaders such as Valarie Kaur, Brené Brown, Tarana Burke, and Zuri Adele. With stories from around the world and wisdom from those leading movements for change, Walrond beckons readers toward lives of integrity, advocacy, conviction, and joy. By unearthing our passions and gifts, we learn how to joyfully advocate for justice, peace, and liberation. We learn how to become makers of light.

 “Chookooloonks” by Karen Walrond


Brené Brown: Hi everyone, I’m Brené Brown, and this is Unlocking Us.


BB: This week, I am talking to Karen Walrond, who is a writer, activist, and has been my friend for a very long time. We’re talking about her new book, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto. God, this is the best book for right now. Oh man, it is just so beautifully written. Activism is a intimidating word, it can be a confronting word, and this narrative, it really takes people on a very personal journey that Karen went on to understand better how activism shows up in her life and when and how she chooses it and what it means. It’s an approach to activism and to life that I think propels our ability to make meaningful change. It’s practical, it’s actionable, it’s also about meaning and purpose, which I think a lot of us are actually trying to figure out in our own lives. I am so glad you’re here. This is going to be a two-parter because probably halfway into the first episode, I was like, “We’re going to need way more time,” and y’all have been really clear on the feedback that if possible, keep each episode under an hour. So, this is part one of part two. Glad you’re here. What a… I don’t know, soulful conversation with Karen Walrond.


BB: Before we jump in, let me tell you a little bit of the official legit Karen Walrond story. We’ve been friends for so long, I think we jump into a very familiar pattern. Karen is a lawyer, a leadership coach, a photographer and an activist who is wildly convinced that we are all uncommonly beautiful. Her first book, The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit, provides irrefutable evidence that the thing that makes us different is the source of our power.

BB: In her current book, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto, she helps us name the skills, gifts, and values, and the actions that bring us joy; identify the causes that spark our empathy and concern; and then she puts it all together and weaves it together to help us see how change is born. She was born in Trinidad, and she currently lives in Houston with her British husband, Marcus, who is from my favorite place that I’ve never been, but it’s in all my shows, Cornwall, and their American daughter, Alex. Welcome, Karen.


BB: So, today, is a very special conversation for one big reason, and one second reason that’s not as big, but that I love, the first big reason is that I’m here with you, my friend.

Karen Walrond: Woo! Hey girl, hey!

BB: Yeah. Hi!

KW: Hi. [laughter]

BB: And the second is we’re in person.

KW: We’re in person, which is such a gift. I feel like I don’t get to see… I mean, since COVID, we really don’t see each other that often, so it’s lovely.

BB: No! It’s really… It’s nice to be with you.

KW: You too.

BB: We’ve done over 100 podcasts.

KW: Amazing.

BB: But this is the second time to be in person with someone and it’s you.

KW: What an honor. I’m thrilled to be here.

BB: Oh! I’m so excited. Okay, we’re going to talk about, this is the right book for the right time.

KW: I hope so.

BB: Yeah, it’s so beautiful. So it’s called, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto, which is perfect for you because you are a lightmaker.

KW: I try.

BB: And I love the subtitle: How to Work for Change Without Losing Your Joy. I can’t stop thinking about this.

KW: Yeah, really?

BB: Yeah, and we’ll get to it, we’ll get to it. So, we’re going to do two episodes, this is part one of two.

KW: Awesome.

BB: Yeah, and let’s start with the media disclosure, we’re friends obviously.

KW: We are friends… Yes, for many years now.

BB: Okay. So, how many years?

KW: I think I was still practicing law when we met, and I stopped practicing toward the end of 2008, so 13 years?

BB: 13 years.

KW: Yeah.

BB: So, I think we should tell the funny story about why we met and then the meet before the meet. So, we met because we had both been invited to an artist’s retreat.

KW: Which is hysterical even thinking back now, because neither of us would have called ourselves artists.

BB: No, and I didn’t know a single person.

KW: Yeah, I know, that… You’re crazy. [laughter]

BB: Really, I got this random email from people that I had seen online…

KW: Well, we both had blogs at the time, and these were all bloggers.

BB: Bloggers, yes, and artists and photographers… Yeah and people that I thought were doing really great things, but not the crew that I run with.

KW: Yes, because I did know a couple of them, and they were the people I wished I was. They were artists, and I’m not an artist. I play with a camera, but I’m not an artist, and these were people who fully embraced the title of artist, which I didn’t do. So, they were wishful-thinking people, and it was very weird to get the invitation.

BB: Yeah. It was so weird. And I said yes and Steve was like, “Holy shit, I cannot believe you’re going.”

KW: Same, Marcus as well. [laughter]

BB: Yeah, this is not like you. I just said, “There’s something about them that is magical and light and liberated and I want some of that. But I need to make sure I have enough money in case it’s a cult.”


KW: [laughter] Yeah, and I don’t remember how or why… I’m going to guess you contacted me first.

BB: I think I did.

KW: I think you did, because you were a professor and I was a lawyer, and we had the most sort of non-artist titles I think of everybody…

BB: Yeah, two of these things are not like the other.

KW: [laughter] Yeah, exactly. And so you called me and said, “We should meet. Let’s meet ahead of time,” because also, we were also the only two in Houston as well. And so you said we should meet ahead of time so that we’re not going in cold or especially you. Like you weren’t going in cold, because you didn’t know anybody.

BB: And we were sharing a big house and sharing room.

KW: I would never do that now.

BB: I would neither, and that’s so problematic, probably.

KW: I think it’s a testament to…

BB: Wisdom?

KW: [laughter] Maybe. Also to who invited us. I can’t imagine anybody inviting me even back then, or now, that I didn’t know, because I did not know the… Kelly Rae who invited us, I did not know her at all. And I can’t imagine anybody I don’t know inviting me anywhere and me saying yes. There was something about the way she did that invitation that made it safe.

BB: No, that’s true. And we are talking about the Kelly Rae Roberts, the prolific artist who I quote all the time on her boundaries definition, and yeah.

KW: And maybe that’s why. Maybe she knows boundaries so well, that she can communicate in a way that felt safe.

BB: But I remember looking her up too, and I know that she was an oncological social worker before she was a… And so I was like, “Okay.”

KW: She might be your people.

BB: “We have the same code of ethics.”

KW: [laughter]

BB: And so if shit gets weird, I’ll be able to be like, “Okay, hey Kelly, subsection 3.25.”

KW: [laughter] Perfect.

BB: “Start where people are, and I’m not wherever y’all are.” So we tried to meet. I had to cancel because I had something come up with my family.

KW: Yep.

BB: And then I think a couple of days later, we’re…

KW: No, that day.

BB: Oh, that day?

KW: That evening. That’s why it was so strange because that evening…

BB: Oh, we were going to meet that morning.

KW: We were going to meet that morning, you couldn’t make it, and I was like, “Cool, see you on the plane.” And then that evening, my husband and I had date night. Marcus and I had date night. And I looked over at this rollicking party at this big table, and saw you, and thought… And people need to also know that you weren’t the Brené Brown at that time. It wasn’t like I saw you and was fangirling, because, “Oh my God, it’s Brené Brown!” It was, I’m sure that’s the face on the email that I’ve been emailing the last few times… And so I told Marcus, I said, “I think that’s the woman I was supposed to have coffee with today.” And he said, “You should go say hi.” And I said, “I think I need to. I think it would be weird if I get to Oregon and go, ‘Oh yeah, I saw you two tables over and said nothing.'” [laughter] So I went over and I tapped you on the shoulder and said, “Are you Brené Brown?” And you looked at me, it was very warm and very sort of, “How can I help you?” Maybe it was your social worker face. I don’t know. [chuckle] And I said, “I’m Karen Walrond. I was supposed to meet you for coffee this morning.” And you barked. You yelled, “Oh my God. I can’t believe.” And you finished up your dinner, because we had just come in, and you were finishing up, and then you and Steve came over and sat with us, and it turned out that…

BB: Yeah, we had another weird connection.

KW: Really weird connection…

BB: Because you were like, “I know this guy.”

KW: Yeah. And you… I remember, I said, “I know you.” And he kept looking, I don’t think we know each other. And you said, “Is he your pediatrician?” And I laughed, I’m like, “No, I know my pediatrician.” And I just wouldn’t let go, and it turned out that my pediatrician worked at his practice.

BB: That’s right.

KW: And so I was like, “Oh, I’ve seen you when I’ve taken my kid in, walking in the hallway. That’s how I know you.” So we were destined to meet.

BB: We were destined to meet.

KW: Indeed. [laughter]

BB: Yeah. So then we jumped on the plane. Was that the next… Was it like…

KW: Maybe three or four days later.

BB: Three or four days… Yeah. So we get on the plane, we make an action plan in case it is a cult.

KW: Yes. [chuckle]

BB: And we… All the things, like if they’re writing weird shit on our bodies, or we’re burning sage, or dancing around the fire. And then we did all that stuff, and it was…

KW: All of it. [laughter]

BB: It was amazing.

KW: As a matter of fact, I even write about one of those experiences in the book. It actually shows up in the book. So yeah, it was clearly impactful.

BB: Yeah. It was such an incredible experience. The Love Bombers.

KW: The Love Bombers, man. Shout out to ’em.

BB: Shout out to them. Yeah. And to us for going, “Okay, I’m going to go to Oregon.” And I’d never even been to Oregon before. And then I drive to the beach that looks like the scene of a British murder mystery.

KW: And it was foggy in the mornings, and… Yeah, yeah. We should have been dead. [laughter] By everything on paper, we should have been dead. But it was amazing.

BB: Yeah. I came back liberated.

KW: Same. For sure.

BB: Yeah. It was incredible. Okay. So we always start with the same thing.

KW: Yeah.

BB: I’m excited. Tell me your story.

KW: Yeah. Yeah, it’s so funny because if I think of where I come from and where I am now, it’s so very different. But I’m from the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, a two-island nation at the southern part of the archipelago, at the Caribbean Archipelago. And the elder of two girls. My father grew up very poor, second of nine. And his father was a school master. He ran the school in the village that my dad grew up in. My dad tells me he remembers when electricity came to his village. So it was a very poor community. And my grandfather never graduated high school, but educated himself into a school master position, just by reading. And he was also the organist at the local Anglican Church. So very religious family. And my grandmother, who was a dressmaker, she used to make all the clothes for everybody in the village. And yeah, so my dad grew up poor, but my dad is brilliant. He’s really one of the smartest people I know. And he ended up… In Trinidad, they follow the English school system. So he did what was called Common Entrance, which was a test you had to take, and you could choose where you wanted to go to high school based on the results of this test. And he did very well and got into one of the top high schools at age 11, which was the normal age. And then he ended up taking his O levels and A levels and getting an Island Scholarship, which was a scholarship that the government used to give to the top students in this… In the island to go to college.

KW: And so my dad went to Birmingham University in England, and he studied Petroleum Engineering, which was very new back then. And he actually wanted to originally be a chemist, but they said, “We don’t have a scholarship for chemistry, but we have this Petroleum Engineering scholarship.”

BB: A lot of foresight on the scholarship committee.

KW: Yeah, it was…

BB: About what these islands were going to need.

KW: What was coming. Yeah, what was coming. In Trinidad, the main source of income in Trinidad is oil and gas, is energy. So my mother, on the other hand, her father had been very poor, but had educated himself into a really amazing career. He was started in the mail room at one of the energy industries then, and ended up being the managing director. So my mother, in comparison, grew up with more means, but she also happened to be the daughter of a feminist. And everybody kept saying to my grandfather, “Why would you educate your girls? They’re just going to get married.” And he was adamant that his two daughters, he had four children, three daughters and a son, but he was adamant that if they could, they were going to go to college. And so my mom went to Bristol University in England. Back then, Trinidad and Tobago was a colony of England. So a lot of people who went to college ended up going to England. And they actually met either right before they went to college or on summer vacations, or I don’t even think that, actually. They were there for four years, so it must have been while they were there.

KW: And met, got married, and then… Dad had come back and was working, and had… They’d had me, and when I was a month old, my dad decided to go get his graduate degree. And so he saved… He had saved his money, and he had enough money for two years of education. So he ended up going to Penn State University, to the States, and got his Master’s and PhD in those two years, because…

BB: He had his Master’s and PhD in engineering in two years?

KW: In Petroleum Engineering. Yeah.

BB: Jesus.

KW: I told you. He’s not… He’s no slouch.

BB: He does not play.

KW: Yeah. He does not play. And he literally was like, “I have no choice. I don’t have the money to stay here longer.”

BB: This is how many dollars I have.

KW: Yeah. So he did, which is insane, ended up moving from there to, I believe, Shell Oil. He was the first Black professional engineer at Shell at the time. So this would have been 1970, perhaps. And worked for a couple years, and then decided to go back to Trinidad. By then I was five, my sister was born, and when she was a month old, we moved back to Trinidad. And so we moved back and forth, honestly, for my entire high school career. Every 2-5 years, we would go from the American School in Trinidad that the expats had, to the American school here in the US, to Houston, back and forth, until my… In high school, I ended up going to a Trinidadian high school, did my O levels, and then we moved right after that and moved back here. So every time I moved back, I got very good at switching, at code switching, basically. So I would come to America and have my good American accent on and look like every American kid, or what I thought American kids would look like, and…

BB: Like long, straight hair?

KW: Yeah. Well, yeah, yeah. I straightened my hair, relaxed my hair, and had the flips. Yeah. [chuckle] Jordache jeans, that whole thing. And then I would go back to Trinidad, and I’d change my accent and start to talk more like a Trinidadian, and go to my High School, which was at a convent, a Catholic school, and I had my uniform, and I had my natural hair, no makeup, because that wasn’t allowed at school. And I was a Trini. And then two years later, I’d go back to America and sound like an American.

BB: I’ve got to say, first of all, you’re the fanciest sounding American.

KW: [laughter] Am I?

BB: Oh my God. Yeah. I’m sure that people are listening right now, that’s like honey coming over the airwaves here. Yeah, no, it’s… You sound like… Actually, I’ve thought about this a lot, because you are a commanding presence. You are, because you were a model.

KW: Oh my God. I can’t believe you pulled that out. Many years ago.

BB: Okay. But you still look like a model. And then you sound, actually, to me always like an American educated Oxbridge-y, like Oxford or Cambridge, like English…

KW: Oh yeah?

BB: Yeah, yeah. Like a UK-educated American. So I’m going to try too. [fake British accent]

KW: [laughter] That’s amazing.

BB: Oh great. Yeah, please. But…

KW: It’s like looking in a mirror. It’s funny, I always think that my American accent sounds like, “This is CNN.” It sounds very studied. Which it is.

BB: Yeah, it’s a little bit. Is it BBC, yeah.

KW: And so I… The closest anybody has ever guessed where I’m from is they say I sound like a Jamaican that grew up in New York. And I’m like, “That’s as close as I’ve ever heard. I’m a Trini who grew up in Houston.” It’s very studied. It’s a very studied sounding thing. And now I don’t even think about it, but yeah.

BB: And you use OU when you write.

KW: Yeah. It’s a little bit of resistance on my part, honestly, because I know I don’t sound Trini day-to-day, and it’s the way I hang onto that Trini-ness for me. Yeah, it’s a little bit of resistance.

BB: I like it. I have to say, that level of switching had to be exhausting.

KW: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. I was thinking about this, actually, this morning about you talking about vulnerability. And we have a running joke. You and I always say, I don’t do vulnerability. And I’ve been working with and… With your work for I don’t know how many years. But it’s not that I don’t, I’ve had to. But it’s very hard. And I will say that I don’t have a whole lot of friends from those years. A lot of it because I just moved as often, and so there wasn’t really the opportunity to create really deep friendships. But it was just, “Okay, let’s do this again. Let’s see how I can… I can do this again.”

BB: Yeah. Slide in.

KW: Yeah. And I don’t think I got really comfortable with not feeling the need to do that anymore until I was well into adulthood. Maybe even 40. Like well in.

BB: Yeah. So you are here when you graduate from high school, this will always just be puzzling to me, it’s…


KW: I don’t understand why I went to engineering school. [laughing] I was the daughter of an engineer.

BB: It’s not that you went to engineering school. It’s where you went to engineering school.

KW: Yeah. But that was where I wanted to be. I wanted to be an engineer. I was a daughter of an engineer. And at the time, in the late or mid ’80s, I guess, the engineering school in Texas was Texas A&M, which, for those who are listening, has historically been the archrival of Brené’s alma mater at UT. And she gives me a hard time about this all the time…

BB: But White.

KW: Oh yeah.

BB: Conservative.

KW: Yeah.

BB: Military and agriculture. What does the A&M stand for?

KW: Agricultural and mechanical. Yep. So yeah.

BB: Oh, I thought stood for military.

KW: You’re not wrong. It was a military school for a long time, still has a rollicking core of cadets. But so think about it from my point of view.

BB: Okay.

KW: The fact that it was mostly White, so was everything else, coming from Trinidad. I came from a mostly… Of color. Most people in Trinidad are Black or South Asian descent. So coming anywhere in the US was is going to be mostly White, really. And I did not know anything about HBCUs when I landed. I didn’t know what that was. And I was going to engineering school. And A&M had a great reputation. It was the only school I applied to in Texas, and they gave me a full ride. And I loved it. And also, the idea of conservative versus liberal, I didn’t know what that meant then at all, especially… I went to Catholic school. So I didn’t know politically what that meant. So it’s not… And I loved it. I actually… I had a great time at A&M. Now that I’m more politically-minded, I’m surprised. It’s a great school and I loved it, but it is considered the more conservative of the universities. And I’m decidedly not a conservative person. So it is funny to me even to think that I went to school there, but I loved… I was all in. I did all of the activities, I did… I was on… I sang. I was in the choir. I did everything at A&M. I really loved it.

BB: How many Black women in engineering?

KW: So I did a civil engineering degree. Recently, somebody reached out to me on one of the socials, who I went to school with, and she says that I was the only Black woman there, in civil engineering. And I could not think of another person. And I actually went back and went to look to see when the first Black student was, which was, I think in like the early ’80s or something, or late ’70s, so not that long before I was there.

BB: Oh really?

KW: Yeah.

BB: Wow.

KW: I can’t think of anybody else.

BB: Yeah.

KW: I don’t know if I was the first, but I was certainly one of the few in civil engineering.

BB: In civil engineering. Then you do a year working as an engineer.

KW: Yes.

BB: And?

KW: And decided that I did not want to design pipe racks for the rest… I’d gone in thinking I was going to design suspension bridges, and skyscrapers, and really sexy structures. And in ’88…

BB: Oh yeah. Sexy structures. [laughter]

KW: But in ’88, when I graduated, and in Texas, it was oil. And so I ended up working at a company that built pipe racks, like refinery pipe racks. And I was bored out of my mind. It wasn’t for me, so I thought, I could go to get an MBA or I can go to law school. And every engineer I knew was getting an MBA. And LA Law was on, and Blair Underwood, and Jimmy Smits, those two…

BB: Oh yeah, oh yes.

KW: So I’m like, “That’s where I need to be.” So I ended up applying to law school, and I didn’t know if I’d get in. I took the LSAT, and thought, let’s see what happens and got accepted. So, I went to our alma mater, U of H.

BB: Yeah.

KW: So I went to the law program there and loved it. Challenged me, that was really tough. That was a really tough three years, and then I ended up doing engineering for… Up until I met you, really.

BB: Doing law.

KW: Ended up doing law. Yeah. Up until I met you.

BB: So let’s get on that plane again, together.

KW: [laughter] Okay.

BB: I’m like, in love with you. I’m already, like, “Okay, this is great. If it’s a cult, we’ll find somewhere cool to stay, and we’ll hang out together for the week.”

KW: And I’m probably very guarded and trying to figure out how am I going to assimilate and make myself look like an artist when clearly I’m not, in my mind, at the time.

BB: Yeah. And I thought you were an artist. I thought I was the only non-artist. You had a 47-pound camera bag with you, so it would be like having on a beret and carrying a palette.

KW: [laughter] But you have to understand, I grew up believing I had no artistic ability whatsoever. And so I got into photography because it was f-stops and ISOs, and those are numbers. And I’m an engineer, so I can figure out this machine and how to use it. So even that was like, “Oh, I’m not a artist, I just know how to use this machine.”

BB: I knew your photographs from Chookooloonks, at the time, from your website. And I remember thinking the whole time, “I hope he takes a picture of me, I hope he takes a picture of me, and you did.” And probably the favorite… Probably the picture that captures me more than any other photograph I’ve ever taken, do you know which one I’m talking about?

KW: I know, exactly the one. The one your head is thrown back and you’re laughing.

BB: And I’m in the jean jacket and cargo pants.

KW: Yes. And I think you felt a little bit broken apart when I took it. I think it felt really vulnerable for you.

BB: Oh, I hated it.

KW: Yeah, and it’s to this day, my favorite photo of you.

BB: Yeah, it’s my favorite. We’ll put it on the Episode page just because… Yeah, I’m being brave.

KW: Ooh, look at… You’re evolved.

BB: I have evolved. I’ve been doing this work.

KW: You should read Brené Brown. This an act of courage.

BB: Fuck Brené Brown. [laughter] And her vulnerability. Go ahead, say it.

KW: I’m not saying it.


BB: You should see her thought bubble.

KW: I love vulnerability. That’s my favorite thing.

BB: So I’m sitting next you and I’m like, “I hope she takes my picture and she’s an artist too, but she’s in some kind of crisis.”

KW: Yeah.

BB: Yeah, and I liked you right away, because you were using a lot of F-words.

KW: Me? [laughter]

BB: Vous. Tu. Whatever you need and you were in a crisis on that flight.

KW: I was. Yeah, I’m so surprised to hear you say that because… Because I thought I hid it. One.

BB: Okay, that’s funny.

KW: Also, I didn’t know you, I didn’t really know you on that flight. We must have gotten… Gone deep on that hours-long fight because I was really questioning whether or not law was meant for me after having practiced for, at that point, almost 15 years.

BB: So here’s what’s weird.

KW: Yeah.

BB: The story that is… The story that sparked the crisis that you’re in, on this flight, is in the book.

KW: It is in the book.

BB: I didn’t know that. You didn’t talk about what had happened, but you kept saying, “I’m getting pushed to the edge. I’m getting pushed to the edge.” And I was like, “Too much work.” And you said, “No, the edge of my integrity. The edge of my integrity. I’m getting pushed and I’m getting pushed, and I’m not going to spend a career getting pushed and pushing.”

KW: Yeah. Encapsule. I don’t know if those were exactly my words, but that’s exactly how it felt, for sure.

BB: No, that’s it, I remember, because I just remember I was like, “Oh, she’s an artist and she’s breaking free of the legal system,” and I was so interested.

KW: I’m still a licensed attorney. I keep my license active because I worked too damn hard to get it. But, yeah, I was… Yeah, it was weird. And, also, I’m an immigrant. I’m the daughter of immigrants. I had all of this education. There was a certain sexiness to being able to say, “Oh, I’m a lawyer, Karen Walrond, Attorney-at-Law.” And so that had really become part of my identity, and so if I left that… What next? I have seven years of higher education, what next? So it was… And would I be, not a disappointment to my parents, but a disappointment to myself, right? This is… And as a black woman, like I had, I had everything. I had the great career, and I had all the education, and… Yeah, how dare I, really walk away from that?

BB: How much of that immigrant pressure that we read about and hear about, how much of that played out for you? You are a engineer, lawyer…

KW: I am.

BB: Artist writer. So what would have happened if you would have said, “Not doing engineering school. I’m just going to be a writer and I’m going to be an artist.”

KW: Oh. Come on. It’s so fun… It’s so fun… So my father is a pretty formidable guy, and my mother… So my father is an engineer, my mother studied languages at university. She was a teacher, and she… As brilliant as my father is with mathematics, she is with language and she now speaks five languages, and she picks up languages really easy. And I studied languages in high school because in Trinidad, you start focusing on where you might want to be. And in high school, I studied language and I studied Spanish and French, and thought I was going to be a translator for the UN. That’s what I had said in my mind, which pleased my mother to no end.

BB: I’m sure.

KW: But my father was like, “But you’re good at math. You should be a mathematician, you should be an engineer. Don’t you want to be a petroleum engineer?” Me going to engineering school, but not doing petroleum engineering, was rebelling.

BB: Oh, got it, okay.

KW: In a lot of ways, right?

BB: So you’re saying, I think I’m going to go to SCAD.

KW: No, that would not have happened. And I remember when I wrote my first book, The Beauty of Different, which has a lot of photography. My dad read it, and I remember he came to me, and he said, “I just want you to know, I’m so proud of you, and this is what you were meant to be.” I wrote that book I was what, 40, right?

BB: Yeah.

KW: And that was so validating, I couldn’t believe that he really said that. He’s one of my biggest fans. He’s wonderful, but at the time, there was no question that I wasn’t going to engineering school when I went to college for sure. Even though my passion was what my mother loved, and obviously my mother was very good at, my dad jokes about it, now he goes, “I didn’t make you go to engineering school,” and my mother will look at him and roll her eyes… She was like, “Yeah, you did… You did.”

BB: And so, did you shift gears with your own daughter?

KW: For sure, my daughter is an artist and…

BB: She’s a great artist.

KW: She’s… Thank you. She is an artist and my rule… So this is the immigrant part… Is she has to go. She’s a senior now, and I’m like, “You’ve got to go to college. You’re a Black girl in England. In America, you’ve got to… You just need the degree, but I don’t care what you get. I don’t care what you get.” Those words would have never come out of my father’s mouth, ever. My sister didn’t get an engineering degree. She ended up doing business, but that felt rebellious. She was the younger, and that was like, “No, I’m going to go to business school and do International Studies,” which is what she did, and it was very…

BB: Like, sneaking out the second story window.

KW: And she went to a far more prestigious university and prestigious graduate school than I did. And I think that’s honestly how she got away with it was like, she was getting accepted to these really great schools.

BB: It’s really amazing too, to see Alex, because I’ve known her since she was little, just… She is such an artist in every way, right?

KW: Yeah, she really is. She’s… It’s funny, if we lived in a time where parents had to decide their children’s future career. I don’t know that design is what I would have chosen for her, not because… I love design. But she’s very funny, and I’ve always thought she should be a playwright. So I would have said that, but yeah, she’s definitely… She’s great, she’s a good student, and she’s a great student in mathematics, but it’s not her gift.

BB: How she comes alive.

KW: Yeah, her gift is in words and images. For sure, for sure.

BB: It’s really amazing. So let’s talk about images. Alright, “The Lightmakers Manifesto.” Okay, tell us how this book came to be. It’s got an amazing origin story, that I think shaped it in a very unexpected way.

KW: Oh, I’m not sure which part. Are you talking about the part where it wasn’t my idea?

BB: Yeah. That doesn’t… That rarely happens, yeah.

KW: Yeah, so I had written my first book, which was images and words, it was “The Beauty of Different.” My blog has always been a lot of photography, and I had contributed to a couple of books, and so the publisher for this book is not the same publisher I had for my first book. And this publisher found me through some of that writing, and had signed up for my newsletter and that kind of thing. And contacted me out of the blue. I’d never heard of these people, never heard of this publisher before. I think it was January 2nd, 2020. And she said, “Hi, I’m with this publisher, Broadleaf Books, and we are looking for a book on the intersection of joy and activism, and we think you’re the one to write it,” which was very odd to me. I did write a lot about joy and gratitude, and a lot of things like that. I never… So I thought, wrote about activism. I wrote and took photographs when I was at the Pride Parade or at The Women’s March, and I’ve traveled and taken photographs in countries where people were doing amazing, where other people were doing activist work. But I am not an activist, is what I thought.

BB: Had anyone ever described you as an activist?

KW: You had, Brené. You had to…

BB: I just want to be on the record, people. On the record, okay.

KW: Yes, I was like, “Okay, yeah… Okay, Brené, I’m an activist.” But it wasn’t something I would have ascribed to myself, and mostly because, in my mind, an activist is somebody who gets arrested frequently or gets tear gassed or has police dogs set upon them. They do dangerous things…

BB: Set a high bar for activism.

KW: I discovered.

BB: A dangerous bar at the very least.

KW: And that, to me, was part of activism, and I don’t think that I’m unusual in that. I think a lot of people think of the dude standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen square. Like people who put themselves in physical peril, for a cause, is what I think people thought.

BB: Okay, and I want to stop you and ask this question…

KW: Yeah.

BB: You wrote a post about what it was like for you, being with Alex in the car, driving as a Black woman. With a Black daughter, you wrote a lot about what it was like to be followed by the police in those situations…

KW: Yeah, that was after Trayvon Martin.

BB: So, what do you call that?

KW: I call it being Black in America.

BB: No, what do you call writing about it?

KW: Telling my story. This is what I thought… I don’t believe that now, but then, I would have been like, that’s just me talking.

BB: So activism, it’s like almost claiming the mantle of writer. Do you know what I mean? I really had to fight with my therapist after my fourth book. She said, “Maybe as a writer…,” and I said, “I’m not a writer.”

KW: Yeah.

BB: And she said, “What do you call the things behind me on the shelf?” and I said, “Books, but I just use words to describe what I’ve learned, because there’s no other medium for it.”

KW: This book came out and I was like, “I think I’m a writer now,” to my husband. He’s like, “You’ve published before, Karen.” Yes, it’s very similar.

BB: Activist, first of all, seems like a scary word to own.

KW: Sure.

BB: Because it seems like it’s inviting a shit ton of judgment, around enough-ness.

KW: Yes.

BB: And so I can see why.

KW: Yeah.

BB: Reserved for…

KW: For the big things, for the Nelson Mandelas, for the Martin Luther Kings, those are activists. They went to jail, right? That’s an activist, that’s the people…

BB: They paid.

KW: They paid, dearly. Yeah.


BB: So you’re asked to do this book, you don’t… You’re like, “Okay, well I do know joy,” because you’ve written about joy for as long as I’ve known you.

KW: Yes.

BB: “But I don’t consider myself an activist.” So how do you say, “Sure, sign me up”?

KW: Because our dear friend, Ali Edwards, who has been choosing a word of the year for many years, I have been doing the same inspired by her, and for 2020, I actually had two words and it was ‘bold’ and ‘experiment’.

BB: Oh shit. You asked for it.

KW: I did. I did. And so, I said, “Let’s talk.” I’m like, “Yeah, sure. I’ll put together a proposal for sure.” And literally got off the Zoom call or whatever it was. And remember the pandemic hadn’t happened yet. So this is January, and I thought, “I am completely unqualified to write this book, and I’ve just said I’m going to put together a proposal.” What I thought was, “You know what, I love interviewing people.” I had interviewed people for my earlier book, and I thought, I know activists. Surely, I know activists, so I’m going to interview activists and it will just be me discovering what turns them on. It has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with me.

BB: You got to record and report.

KW: That’s what… That is it, nothing else. And maybe I’ll put my own thoughts on what I think of what they say, but I’m not going to talk about me, and so the first person I thought of… I decided to make the list and the first person I thought of was you, so I set up Brené and I’m sure Brené would talk with me about this. And then the second person was Tarana Burke, our friend, who’s also a good friend, and I thought Tarana will probably spend some time to talk to me, and then I started just making lists of people.

BB: I want to stop you there.

KW: Yeah, yes.

BB: Now, whether I can neither confirm nor deny some arrests in my early days, my activism looks a lot you mean like… Okay.

KW: That’s it. That’s exactly it. I made this list and I looked at it and I thought, even if these people have at some point in their life been arrested or tear gassed, that’s not what they’re known for, and yet they were the first people that came to mind. So why is the title activist, okay, in my mind, to ascribe to them and not ascribe to work that I do, and therein lies the book. Right?

BB: God, yeah, it is, definitely. You really bring us along in this revealing.

KW: Yeah, I was doing it. I was doing it in the moment in a lot of ways.

BB: Alright, so let’s start.

KW: Yeah.

BB: Okay, I’m going to start from the beginning, I have 727 Post-it notes.

KW: Oh, we’re going to be here a while, then.

BB: Yes, that’s why we’re a two-parter. Okay, tell me how Sam and Grace… We get to meet Sam and Grace, yeah…

KW: Yes. Sam and Grace, yeah.

BB: Tell us why the book starts here, and tell us why and how that shaped… It seems to me to be the introduction to the intersection of activism and joy. Tell us about it.

KW: So I’m writing this book proposal, and as part of a book proposal, you usually have a sample chapter, and so I thought, “Okay, I’m going to write a chapter to introduce… ” For me, it’s always, whenever I do a book proposal, it’s easier just to start with what will probably end up being either the first chapter or the introduction because it helps me think through what I think I’m going to say.

BB: Yeah. Puts the arc together.

KW: Correct. So I thought, “Okay, joy in activism.” Something that I had done that had given me a lot of joy was work with the ONE Campaign, which is an advocacy organization that their aim is to fight extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. And I had traveled with them several times in the past as a photographer, so I thought that’s the closest thing I’ve done to activism, so let me think about why that was so much fun for me. So I went back, and of course, I have this blog, so I went back and I looked at some of the stories that I had written, and this story of Sam and Grace came to mind and I was like, “Oh, that was a great day. That was… That gave me joy.” That’s what I was thinking as I sat down to use that story as the start of the book, so I write this story of going to Kisumu, which is this very rural part of Kenya and is what people believe might be ground zero for the HIV crisis and for also tuberculosis, and some really… Malaria… Some really awful endemic diseases. And I start to write this story and think about what it was like to go there and watch these two people, Sam and Grace, who are home healthcare workers who visited homes in this area and tested people for HIV because a lot of people didn’t know their status, and by knowing their status, they were able to start getting the kinds of medication that could help them thrive.

KW: I’m doing this and I’m remembering this story, and then I suddenly realize and I’m thinking about, “Okay, how am I going to write about how this brought me joy,” and I suddenly realize, “Wait a minute, this story isn’t about me.” What I did was I witnessed Sam and Grace doing their work, and witnessed their joy in doing the work and what they did, and they were doing this in a place where HIV was rampant, malaria was rampant, some of the children that they were testing were HIV positive. Right? These are hard stories. This isn’t…

BB: Hard place, hard stories.

KW: Yeah, this isn’t about joy, this place is not about joy, and yet they derived this joy from the meaning and purpose that their work gave them, and it was only in writing this that I was like, “Wait a minute, this isn’t about me,” and it shouldn’t be about me and really activism shouldn’t be about me. It’s about other people, and yes, a wonderful byproduct can be joy and meaning and purpose, but it’s ultimately not about me, it’s about the meaning and it’s about the purpose. And really just writing that story was my own aha about, I’m starting to see a glimpse of where this joy can come from, because activism by definition, doesn’t occur when things are all great, we don’t become activists because life is perfect and everyone has equal rights, and we all have healthcare, and… We do it because something has pissed us off, we do this because something is wrong. We do this because we see something that needs to be changed. And so how can we get that and a lot of it has to do with the journey of the work, is where we get the joy.

BB: When I was reading about them, Sam’s great joy was in leading his team.

KW: Yes, very much, very much. And I did not know… I asked him if he liked his work and he said, “For sure,” and I said, “What was it about it?” Not really knowing what he would say, and when he answered me he says, “I love managing people.” And I did not realize at the time that he was the leader, like I had just… We were introduced to Sam and Grace and they’re going to take you to show you how this is. And it was only when I talked to him, I realized that Grace worked for Sam, and that several others, I think eight, I think how many people ended up working for him, and he was just coming along to demonstrate at that point. And that was his idea… His being able to develop leaders and develop people who were instrumental in the health of, not his community, but the community. Because what was great was… There’s still a stigma around HIV, so they always had people do this work in other villages, so people didn’t go, “Oh, that person is doing this and they’re checking up on me,” but that people would be able to give back. So yeah, for sure, his was in leadership. Whereas Grace was about doing the work.

BB: And then it was so funny because you describe Grace as this very serious person.

KW: Yeah.

BB: And then you ask her a question and she lights up and you say, “Do you like what you do?”

KW: Yeah.

BB: And she said, “I love it, I’m a life changer.”

KW: Yeah, it was so striking, not just that she called herself that, but she was very serious… Like of the two of them, Sam was this sort of convivial jokester, and she was no-nonsense. She was like, “I’ve got work to do, I’m going to do this work.” She was polite and professional, but not necessarily warm.

BB: But focused.

KW: Yes, she was very focused. And literally, when I asked her if she loved what she did, she just… She lit up, and I talk about light. There’s a reason why. She lit up and said, “I’m a life changer, of course. How could I not love what I do?”

BB: Yeah.

KW: Yeah.

BB: We go from the ONE Campaign in Kenya to something that was personal for both of us.

KW: Yeah. Yeah.

BB: Hurricane Harvey.

KW: That was fun, wasn’t it? [laughter]

BB: What a… And we’re still living in it.

KW: For sure.

BB: Yeah. I mean it’s still…

KW: In Houston for sure. People have not… It is not fully recovered.

BB: No. So, what was your experience? What did you go through with Harvey? And how did it shape how you think about the intersection of activism and joy.

KW: We lost our home in Harvey along with thousands of other people.

BB: Tell us about the day.

KW: So first of all, I thought, in the days coming up to Harvey, and friends from out of town who were like, “Are you guys going to be okay?” I thought they were being a little ridiculous. I thought that the storm is not actually coming to Houston, it’s coming south of Houston, and it’s rain. And we’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. We’ll hunker down. We’ll get some food in.

BB: And if you’re listening, you have to understand, for those of us that live here, that’s not being cavalier. None of us are… No one that lives in Hurricane Alley is… And we’re not ever cavalier.

KW: Yes.

BB: It’s that there’s a calculus to it. If we lose our shit every time we’re in the cone of uncertainty for a hurricane, none of us would be alive, and so there just was nothing telling us.

KW: What was going to come, what was coming.

BB: Maybe it was beyond prediction. I don’t know.

KW: Yeah, and also I think when you live in a city like Houston where hurricanes are not infrequent. You learn things like, are you on the dirty side of the storm?

BB: Right.

KW: Are you on the clean side of the storm? How far away is it coming? So we knew that it was going to hit somewhere in Texas and it was going to be awful. Houstonians just didn’t think it was us. We thought it’s going to hit somewhere else, and then it’ll go inland and we’ll have to all marshal our efforts to help our neighbors to the south.

BB: That’s it.

KW: And what happened is it turned, right? It hit and then it just turned and came towards Houston, and so like a swath of the Gulf Coast got hit, and so I was busy on Facebook calming everybody down, who were I’m sure, seeing sort of inflated ideas of what could happen. And then the morning that it hit, all of our phones went off with the tornado warning. And so we got up, it was like 7:00 AM, so we’re like, “Okay, we’ll get up, we’ll, probably should go into an interior room, but tornado warnings, they rarely turn into anything.” And my husband, who is fascinated by miserable weather, he’s English.

BB: English, yeah.

KW: He went outside and the water was up to our doorstep, which had never happened before. Was to… To our actually… Yeah, to our doorstep. And then it started coming in. It started coming into the… Then coming up through the floor boards. We would just be standing in the living room and a puddle would appear. It just started coming in. And, so I got very…

BB: I just want to pause right now. It is the most awful feeling.

KW: And unreal.

BB: You don’t understand what’s happening.

KW: Yeah.

BB: And there’s no winning.

KW: No.

BB: Like you can’t bucket-pail water out of your house. This is like, you’re standing and a puddle appears, and you know that you’re in their ruins of your home.

KW: I don’t know that we knew that then.

BB: Oh. Yeah.

KW: For me, I was like, “Okay, this is annoying. Let’s make sure we get everything up off the floor,” but it will ebb. We’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. Like the whole time, we’ll be fine. We were not fine. Friends… Alex, my daughter, who at the moment was texting her best friend, whose family I did not know, but immediately said, “We’re coming to get you.” And I said, “No, you can’t make it here. The roads are impossible.” And he said, “No, I have a kayak.” And so they came and kayaked us out, at first. And then the rain stopped for a bit and we came back and the water had gone, and we thought we’re great, and then they opened up the levies, which because the dams were in danger of breaching and breaking, and so they had to let out a lot of water, and that’s when the water really came in. And, so that was… Two weeks the water stayed in our house and we lost everything.

KW: We lost everything. There was mold. It was awful, but, and the thing about that time, which was so crazy was how, total strangers just showed up, in the wake of the storm and nobody thought twice, and I don’t accept help easily or well, and I kept seeing stories of people who were far worse off than we were so, I said, “We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine.” Our mutual friend, Laura Mayes, who produces this podcast, she called me, and I remember I was actually just talking to her about this, that she’s like, “Okay, let’s help you. And our mutual friends are calling me and trying to figure out what to do, because they know you’re in a bad way.” And I was like, “No, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.” And she got really stern with me and what’s really funny is that Laura’s a funny person.

BB: Yeah.

KW: And she’s often making jokes, and this… And she literally was… Okay…

BB: Called your ass out.

KW: Yeah, and she was like, “Enough.” And she said, “You have to let your friends help you.” And I remember feeling very chastened in the moment, and that was the moment that I acquiesced and said, “Okay, yeah, you’re right. I do.” And it was just this outpouring of people sending us kettles for our tea, because they know we drink lots of tea and guitar picks for my daughter and clothing and appliances and de-humidifiers and just so much stuff just kept coming and coming and coming, and my overwhelming memory of the time is not loss, but just gratitude. Just really being really overwhelmed by the activism of other people. I don’t wish it on anybody. Nobody should ever have to go through a hurricane. It’s the worst thing ever, and as we said, people are still recovering, but I do wish that people could experience a community, even strangers, just suddenly being activated to do something, because it’s the most beautiful thing. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, but I feel like it’s a very similar thing, like the sudden realization of how interconnected…

BB: Yeah.

KW: We all are and how… But for the grace of each other, go us, right?

BB: Yeah, no, the inextricably connection is so clear in those moments.

KW: Yeah, yeah.

BB: Yeah, and I remember, same Laura.


BB: We had just dropped… I mean it’s such a memory for everyone that was in my daughter’s college class. A lot of us had dropped our kids off at college, two or three days before Harvey.

KW: Right.

BB: And so I was supposed to go back to Austin to visit my daughter at UT, for a celebration, and no one could leave Houston, and so…

KW: Well the roads were also impassable, right?

BB: Everything was impassable and there were 48 houses on our block, in our little stretch, in our neighborhood, and four were left after Harvey.

KW: Yeah. It was crazy.

BB: 44 houses gone.

KW: Yeah.

BB: Yeah. And the only thing… The only reason why is that we bought our house from a guy who was so hurricane paranoid that he broke all the deed restrictions and built it two feet above where we were supposed to be.

KW: Smart man.

BB: Yeah, smart man. And we were lucky also because Charlie had a kayaking trip with the boy scouts, so we had kayaks in our garage, so you’ve seen the picture of Steve in the kayak…

KW: Yeah.

BB: Getting neighbors and pets and moving them to higher ground. I call Laura, sobbing. In the grief of Ellen’s… Gone… I had to drop off my first kid, and I’m like, “I can’t go to parents’ day.”


KW: And Laura got very serious.

BB: “What do you need?” I say, “I’m just telling you.” “What do you need?” “What do you think a gift basket. A lot of UT shit.” She’s like, “I’m on it.”

KW: Yeah.

BB: Yeah.

KW: And she was, wasn’t she?

BB: Ellen was like, “Dude. I had to hold the basket sideways to get through the door.” Do not give Laura Mayes a basket gift wrapping challenge.

KW: Don’t give her any challenge. She will show up and be like…

BB: Yeah, yeah.

KW: Whatever you’re expecting. It’s going to be more.

BB: Totally. And I was volunteering at the George R. Brown.

KW: That’s right, I remember that, yes.

BB: Yeah, and dealing with a lot of the people, they were just… All these displaced people. Nowhere to go.

KW: Because George R. Brown was a shelter, basically.

BB: It’s a shelter, yeah. And it was not like in the movies.

KW: No.

BB: Where you’re like, “Hi,” welcoming… People had soiled themselves. People were in attics, waiting for someone with a hatchet to get them out and swimming through water full of, who knows what, we were all sick from the water, and I just remember I looked like I looked…


KW: We all did.

BB: I just…

KW: We all just looked bedraggled.

BB: Yes! Is that a word? Yes, I was bedraggled. And I don’t know what kind of weird sports bra I had on and all I could find was a Rising Strong shirt, which was so ironic, wasn’t even funny. And then I had my hair pulled back, but it was… And I just remember like, ” Hold this camera!” And I was like, “This is Brené Brown. We need underwear. I know… I like to ask about weird things like this, but God damn it we’re… Everybody is out of underwear.” And what I remember is between underwear and money, it was over a million dollars. People just sent more underwear…

KW: You should be giving me money because I waited it out without underwear myself.

BB: Yeah, yeah.

KW: And actually, I was on NPR a couple of weeks later about the storm, and I mentioned, “I wish I had brought underwear.” And the poor host was like, “I’m sorry, what?” But yeah, underwear was real then. I felt for those people. Because I…

BB: Yeah, yeah.

KW: It was the first purchase I made when I could finally get to a store for sure.

BB: Undies For Everyone, that’s the non-profit that I was like, “Send your underwear.” And they called and they were like, “Back your people off. You’ve got more… ” They were coming in 18-wheelers, of underwear. Yeah, but it was… I don’t want to say it’s joyful again, because I’m not trying to… People died.

KW: Well, but it depends on what you… How you define you joy, right?

BB: Yeah.

KW: It’s not happy.

BB: No.

KW: There was nothing happy about that time, but that interconnectedness and that kindness and that overwhelming, not just desire, but that overwhelming helping that happened, that’s… There is joy in that.

BB: There is joy in that.

KW: There is joy in that. For sure.

BB: It’s interesting because you do, you and I both do this in our work, you make a distinction between joy and happiness.

KW: Yeah.

BB: Because it’s not activism and happiness.

KW: Yeah, no! That’s rare. I suppose it can happen, but that’s rare.

BB: I’ve never seen it.

KW: Yeah.

BB: Yeah. How do you distinguish, joy and happiness?

KW: I think of happiness as something that’s more fleeting and usually caused by something external. Somebody sings you Happy Birthday or like…

BB: Extra cheese on my burger.

KW: Extra cheese on the… Really good salty fries, like a bonus check, whatever. Those are happy-making. And they will last and they feel great, and then they dissipate.

BB: Yeah.

KW: But joy is more something that is deeper. It comes from things like meaning and purpose. It comes from things like looking back over your life and having expressed gratitude and being able to have highlighted those moments of happy and those moments of really of kindness and realizing, “Oh, this was a good life,” or this was really good, or this felt really good, or there’s a certain amount of… Yeah, just that tapping into meaning, it makes me feel good to help people. There’s joy in that, and sometimes it comes directly from pain. There’s a great quote, and that I use in the book from Bishop Desmond Tutu, who talks about how when a woman gives birth, it’s incredibly painful, and you don’t know if you’re going to make it, I imagine, I never gave birth, my daughter was adopted. It’s a really painful thing, and then as soon as the baby is born, suddenly you’re overcome with joy. It can sometimes abut pain and suffering. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

BB: That is so powerful.

KW: Yeah, it’s great.

BB: Okay. The last thing I want to talk about before we sign off of this episode and go to episode two is what you learned from the etymology of the word activism.

KW: Yeah, so the thing about activism, and what I like to tell, I like to define activism, which is not about putting yourself in physical peril. I like to say that activism is being led by your values to do something that helps other people and makes the world brighter for other people. And the really important part of that is that you do something. The root of activism is actus, meaning to act, to do a deed, and so it requires a something, like you’re moved to do something from your values, and it can’t be just to help yourself. It may help a community of which you are a part, but it’s meant to be other facing. It’s supposed to help other people. So yeah, a full action, and nobody says that action has to be gigantic or death defying.

BB: Okay, part two.

KW: Yeah.

BB: You in?

KW: Let’s do it.

BB: Okay.


BB: Okay, y’all is it just me or could you listen to Karen talk all day about meaningful… Again, I guess the word soulful comes up, soulful things? Where does joy come from, how is it different than happiness, how does it butt right up against pain and suffering so often, and it doesn’t make it any less joyful, it makes it more meaningful? It’s so good. Her new book, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto, is out now. Just this week, you can find her books wherever you like to buy books, we will provide links to the books on our episode page. Her website is, we’ll provide it, a link on there too, but it’s… C-H-O-O-K-O-O-L-O-O-N-K-S, like the Trinidadian version of M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Is that how it goes Barrett? Did I screw that up somewhere? Yeah, C-H-O-O-K-O-O-L-O-O-N-K-S She is heychookooloonks on the Instagram and chookooloonks on Twitter and Facebook.

BB: You can find all this information on our episode page on And… there’s a new y’all. It is gorgeous. It is beautiful. I feel like everyone from the folks we partnered with to do it, Upstatement, Alchemy + Aim, our team here, our operations team, our design team. It was such a massive undertaking. Six months of just tons of work. But I’m so excited about the new so please visit it. One other thing I want to say in our church bulletin for today is if you’re in Austin this coming weekend, we are launching… drumroll… [drumroll sound in background]. Oh, Barrett’s helping me. Boy, yours is really good. Yours is like wipeout. We’re launching major league pickleball. Our first tournament. At Dreamland in Dripping Springs, right outside of Austin. I’m part owner of one of the teams. I love this sport and I love that this is a tournament with full gender equity. Same court time, same prize money. It’s going to be a blast. It’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Which is what, the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth, Barrett. is that right? Yeah. So if you’re in Austin or close to Austin, you want to come out to Dreamland for the first major league pickleball tournament. It’s going to be fun! Friends don’t let friends dink and drive. [Laughter in background] Why are you doing that laugh? Is that funny?

Barrett: [inaudible] … high…

BB: Or dink high over the net. As spoken by my sister Barrett, who is also my doubles’ partner. We’re really trying to get our dinks down. Dinks are like the little baby hits. Which is a really big part of the game. Anyway. Dreamland. Major league pickleball. If you’re in Austin, come see us.

BB: Come back for episode two, we’re going to dig in even deeper and there may be even a laughing fit. We’re glad you’re here. Thanks for joining us on Spotify. Stay awkward, brave, and kind.

BB: Unlocking Us is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me Brené Brown. It’s produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil, and music is by the amazing Carrie Rodriguez and the amazing Gina Chavez.


© 2021 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2021, November 3). Brené and Karen Walrond on The Lightmaker’s Manifesto, Part 1 of 2. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.


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