My guest today is the soon-to-be medical doctor, Janice Bonsu. She is the embodiment of light and joy. Janice was raised by parents who were immigrants from Ghana living in New Jersey. Her Ghanian culture alongside her experience of living in an immigrant community has given Janice such profound insights into the problems of systemic racism in the U.S.

Show Notes

Janice's accomplishments astound me. She received her undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University, her MPH (which stands for Masters of Public Health, I had to look that one up) from the University of Pennsylvania, and her almost M.D from Ohio State University Medical School. She is excited to start her residency this June as a full fledged medical doctor. And, as if that wasn't impressive enough, she is also a 2nd Lieutenant  in the U.S. Air Force (soon to be promoted to Captain in May). I met this intelligent, graceful, articulate woman completely by chance. I found her on Twitter and was blown away by a story she tweeted. So I dm'd her and she graciously agreed to visit with me. Get ready to have your socks blown off.

What emotional fortitude Janice has to see that the way this woman in the ER treated her was more a reflection of that woman and the problems she's dealing with in life than it did about her. Although it stung, she refused to be the victim. By sharing that story Janice was able to release the burden of carrying one more insult by herself and let those around her feed her soul with encouragement, validation, and support.

Another incredible quote by Janice that I personally think should be made into t-shirts, posters, and heralded from the mountain tops is the idea that, "We're not criticizing you, we're criticizing the situation and the system and you can be an active agent to fixing it." That, my friends, is speaking truth to power. 

I'm incredibly grateful Janice spelled it out for us, "This is what I want white allies to do: How can I bring this voice or this story to my community in a way that's not threatening. That's how you get the access and make the change that we want." Here's one practical step you can take if you truly want to work toward racial equality.

Her insight about when you experience people talking down to  you, microaggressions, or outright blatant racism, it makes you relive everything else you're carrying. That trauma, that wound, never has time to heal because that scar keeps getting cut open again and again. Those of us who don't experience this have no right to say how those who do should deal with it. I'm so thankful that Janice has found a cathartic way to heal, by speaking up and out about how racism is affecting her. The longer we hold on to negative emotions and experiences, the more resentment it builds. But Janice is the opposite of bitter, she exudes peace, forgiveness, and compassion. The idea that we can't change something unless we speak about it is a powerful, healing truth. 

All I know is that when I grow up, I want to be like Janice. She emanates  love, patience, benefit of the doubt, inclusion, and genuine compassion for others. From her time with Poverty and Inequality Research Lab Janice did the beautifully hard job of listening to story after story of how people were brutalized and betrayed by the police during the Baltimore Riots. She witnessed the broken system in a broken community and it broke her heart, yet also educated her.  And yet, the message that stuck with her after hearing all these sorrowful narratives was: "Just because someone has hurt me, doesn't mean I want to hurt other people." She repeated this idea 3 times during our conversation which tells me this is a lived ideal  she centers her life around. And it was proven true in her response to the vileness shown to her by a patient she was trying to help. May we all remember who we are, just as Janice has.

Janice's Quote:
"Success is not final and failure is not fatal." - Anonymous (falsely attributed to Winston Churchill, but Quote Investigator could not find a reliable source).

Janice can be found on Twitter and Instagram: @JaniceBonsu

What is Gramercy?

Stories from those who live and work on the margins of society.