On March 10, 2021, I saw a keynote from an Indigenous woman named Gabrielle Scrimshaw. Gabrielle shares an incredible story. She is soft-spoken, compassionate, vulnerable, and incredibly brave and courageous. You can’t help but lean in when she speaks.
At the end of her keynote, she finishes with this quote: “We are creating footprints for others to follow. When you walk, walk in a good way.”
Of course, she doesn’t know me. She has never met me. We likely will never meet. However, those words spoke to me more than any others I heard over the two-day event.
They spoke to me, because on March 5th, 2021, I did a public announcement on Facebook closing down my previous brand. It was painful to do but I knew it was the right thing to do. Gabrielle Scrimshaw gave me the words to describe why it was the right thing to do. I closed my brand because we are indeed creating footprints for others to follow and I wanted to walk in a good way.
One week prior to March 5th, I was called out (or in) for cultural appropriation. The manner in which they were written was not how I would have wanted to receive the message. That’s something I will look at in a different blog post. However, I knew I had an obligation to look at how I had culturally appropriated. I quickly messaged my coaches. Coaches who had only recently worked with me to rebrand. They responded quickly advising me that they were sorry they missed it and confirmed that yes, it was cultural appropriation. They suggested I thank those who pointed it out to me and move forward with a brand change.
When it is the brand I worked so hard to create, I was crushed. Could I throw away all the work? Should I throw it all away? Was it really cultural appropriation? If it was, could I rebuild? Should I rebuild? Did I want to rebuild? These were all questions that ran through my mind.
I am uniquely me. My husband jokes and tells me that there is a way to “speak Jennifer”. He also tells me he often needs to consider or adjust for the “Jennifer Factor”. The truth is he loves me, Jennifer factor and all. In true Jennifer style, I couldn’t just take the words of my coaches, I had to understand what I was being accused of and why. While I did that, I went quiet.
Was my old brand cultural appropriation? My friend who is of the culture I was appropriating said no. Yet, the group that pointed it out to me said yes and some internet articles said yes. The final decision maker for me was when my husband asked me if my brand would be treated differently being used by me vs. our friend of Japanese culture using the same brand. My answer, was very possibly, yes. I considered my use of the symbol and word fun and powerful. His use, however, may very well capture the true essence and sacredness – something I wouldn’t have given thought to. That is the essence of cultural appropriation. My decision became clear. I knew I had to let the brand go.
Not everyone agrees with me. Some believe I should have fought for my right to use the word.
Maybe but… as Gabrielle Scrimshaw so clearly articulated, I’m creating footprints for others to follow. I want to leave this world through my work, as a coach and as an individual, a better place. Therefore, when I walk, I want to walk in a good way. For me that means leading by example.
My belief is that in the year 2021, Jennifer Kendall a white women who recognizes her white privilege cannot use the symbol I used; regardless of my good, honorable intention. My belief is that the pendulum is being pulled and the pull is getting stronger. The pull needs to happen. I also think that like all pendulums, it will swing further the other way before it can settle in the middle. We need to let go when needed so the swing doesn’t get as messy and ugly as it could be if we hold on too hard. My hope is that more, like me, do our work, continue to do our work so that we can walk in a good way while leaving footprints for others to follow.
So, what are my next steps? It means I’m at the drawing board in finding a new brand. I still have work to do. I have footprints to leave. I will do that work and leave those footprints, following Gabrielle Scrimshaw’s advice: I will walk in a good way.
“We are creating footprints for others to follow. When you walk, walk in a good way.”Gabrielle Scrimshaw
“We are creating footprints for others to follow. When you walk, walk in a good way.”
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