What's it like for a Black man to train white folks to be anti-racist?
Doyin Richards

Doyin Richards started off as "the dad guy talking about fatherhood" with his blog, Daddy Doin' Work. He spent several years sharing his fatherhood experiences, had a photo of him combing his 2-year-old's hair while wearing his baby in a baby carrier go viral in 2014, and published a book about dads empowering moms that same year.

"Then the world changed in 2016," Richards says. "It's not that the world changed—this stuff has always been bubbling under the surface—but then it just exploded."

Richards had always been an anti-racist activist, but when the Black Lives Matter movement pushed anti-racism into the mainstream, he started using his platform more and more to help move anti-racism education and activism along.

It hasn't been an easy road. Richards is open about his mental health struggles and the depression that took him to a "dark, dark place" a couple of years ago. When he found himself seriously contemplating suicide, he recognized he had a problem and got help. Now, he writes about all of it—fatherhood, mental health, racism, and even his new puppy—on his Facebook page.


Richards and his two daughters.Doyin Richards

In June, Richards launched a training program for white Americans who are new to anti-racism activism—the Anti-Racism Fight Club. For adults, the Fight Club "initiation" is a 90-minute live video training, including a 30-minute Q & A. For kids, it's 60 minutes, with a 20-minute question portion. In the training, attendees learn about the nuances of systemic racism, effective strategies for raising anti-racist children, bulletproof comebacks for common racist talking points, strategies for how to deal with racism in person and online, and more.

Upworthy spoke with Richards about the Anti-Racism Fight Club and what it's like to be a Black man educating white people about racism in America, even though it's not his responsibility to do so. (Interview lightly edited for clarity.)

Q: How did the idea for an Anti-Racism Fight Club come about?

A: After recent history with Amy Cooper and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery—and the list goes on and on—I realized that there's a movement and a strong energy around anti-racism. Then I thought, you know, there is an opportunity here to help educate white people on what it is to be a true anti-racist. I have 15 years of training and development experience, so I know how to create really impactful training modules, and I also have my decades of experience being a Black anti-racist in America. So, combine those two things, and I was like, alright, it's time for me to create this Anti-Racism Fight Club.

And the reason why I call it that is because being anti-racist is a contact sport. Maybe not literally, but it's not something that you can just sit on the sideline and go, 'Oh, I'm an anti-racist.' No, you have to get into it. It's confrontational. It's uncomfortable. It's loud. It's in your face sometimes. But it's never quiet and it's never passive.

And that's part of the reason why I call it the Fight Club, because it's a fight. We're fighting against racism, and systemic racism, and bigotry, and all of the things that have been laid forth for centuries. And it's going to be the fight of our lives to get things to a place where people of color feel safe living in America. It's a big, big fight we're up against. The enemy is no joke.

Q: What makes Anti-Racism Fight Club different from other anti-racism education?

A: I feel like my superpower is my ability to relate to people and use metaphors to help make the complex simple. And there's something about anti-racism courses that I've seen that's just not accessible to white audiences. It's either too complex or there's a lot of talking down to, there's a lot of guilt.

I meet them where they are. I say, 'Look, you're here now. I don't care what you did a month ago. I don't care that you're 45 years old and you just figured out what's happening now. There's no guilt. There's no shame. I'm meeting you where you are. You're here. Let's go.' And I think a lot people really appreciate that approach. It makes people feel more comfortable, and they're ready to be vulnerable and talk about these things when they know that it's okay to be vulnerable. Because I'm uncomfortable as well.

I talk about the idea of allyship, and I truly believe there's no such thing as an ally. No one's an ally. We're all allies-in-training. Because truly, an ally means you've arrived and you have it all figured out. And we're all learning. Like, I'm an ally-in-training for women and women's rights. I don't have it all figured out. And I don't get to decide if I'm an ally or not—that's another point. But allies-in-training means we're constantly learning, we're constantly evolving, we're constantly getting better to do what we can to improve the lives of the marginalized people around us.

So this course truly is a way for people—white people especially—to feel vulnerable, to feel safe in their vulnerability and open their eyes to what's around them that they may have missed for however long. And so far, so good.

Q: Do you ever feel frustrated that you have to make white people feel safe in that space?

A: Oh wow. That's an awesome question. So…yes, I do feel frustrated, because no one's ever really worried about my feelings when I'm the only Black person in the room, or when there's a microaggression about 'Oh, I'm so articulate,' or when people clutch their purses super close when I walk by. No one's ever worried about my feelings.

But part of being a Black person in America is you have to eat all of those microaggressions...you try not to combat every single one of them, or else you'll go insane. It's like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon. So you just have to go about it and do your thing.

But the sad thing, to your point about the white people that I have to make feel comfortable, is that I have to. Because if I don't make it accessible for them, then they're not going to do it, and then they're not going to learn. I have to do whatever it takes to get in the door with them, so I create a safe space for them. I try not to go too hard into breaking their egos or things like that because then I know I'll turn them off.

I try to get into their hearts before I get into their minds. Because if I can get into their hearts, I can definitely get into their minds and help create a better change.

Q: Do you feel like it's different this time?

A: I do. I feel like it's different now. I feel like because we watched a callous murder take place in under nine minutes, live, with a man's life slowly snuffed out, it really made people realize, like, I don't like this. And also the Amy Cooper thing happening in the same time frame, and the Ahmaud Arbery thing happening in the same time frame. The combination of these things show we have a problem in America.

I can't count the number of white people I've seen who didn't know what Juneteenth was until three weeks ago. They didn't even know it was a thing. (But you know about Columbus Day? What?) And the thing about Juneteenth and the 4th of July is I think Juneteenth is a more substantial holiday for people of color, because that's the day that we were all free. We weren't free on the 4th of July. We were still slaves. And you're asking us to celebrate this holiday? When we were still slaves and being treated as 3/5 of a human being? I think we should be celebrating Juneteenth as the true Independence Day in America where all of our citizens were free. But that's a rant for another day.

Q: You also have an Anti-racism Fight Club for kids. What's that been like? And how has it been different approaching the topic with kids vs. adults?

A: I've done a few of them so far and it's been unbelievable how great it's been. The response has been overwhelming.

I have a few superpowers—but one of them is not art. But out of this doodle, I created these characters to try to explain the concepts of racism, white privilege, prejudice, all of these things that a kindergartener could understand. And based on the feedback so far, these parents are like, 'I've never seen my kid sit still for one hour straight and be captivated in a training session.' They're completely blown away by how interesting their kids thought the content was, and how much they've learned from it.

And most importantly, how it sparks them to action. Because this is not just a 'Hey this is what racism is,' this is a 'Hey, this what you can do right now to stop racism in your communities, your schools, your neighborhoods, everywhere.' And I talk about tips on how to deal with racist family members, like Uncle Johnny who likes to say some racist stuff, things like that. First it gives them an understanding of what it is, so they can identify when things are racist. And then what to do when they're confronted with those things.

The course has been unbelievably positive. People love it and the kids keep coming back for more. Parents are asking, 'When's the next one? When's the next one?' Parents are saying kids don't usually get excited about learning stuff unless it's like a video game type thing, but to sit and have an adult talk to them? That's something that most kids don't enjoy so much, but these kids love it. So I think I'm onto something.

Richards leading a fist raise (pre-pandemic, obviously)Doyin Richards

Q: What kind of questions do kids ask you?

A: This one kid, a 7-year-old white boy, was like, 'I feel ashamed to be white right now.' It wasn't a question, it was a statement. But I just told him, 'Look, being white is something you should be very proud of. It's not a bad thing. The only issue is if you don't recognize the power that you have in your whiteness to impact change for people of color.' And then I dropped the famous Spiderman reference, when Uncle Ben said, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' And then I told the kid, 'Look, you have immense power just in your whiteness, and if you use that power for the greater good, it's like a superpower. If you use that, you can impact the lives of so many people of color in a positive way.' And then he was so excited because he didn't realize, 'Oh my gosh, I'm like a superhero.' I have a way of interacting with kids by using metaphors and stories like that to break down complex issues and make it simple and palatable for the youth of America.

Q: You also open up 30 minutes at the end of the adult sessions and you say, 'Ask me anything you've always wanted to ask a Black man.' What made you decide to open yourself up like that? Because that could invite some rather uncomfortable questions for you to have to answer.

A: I haven't been doing it every week because things have been so crazy, but I also do an 'Ask Me Anything' on my Facebook page. Ask me anything, literally. I get all kinds of batshit crazy questions, but I answer them. And the thing that I do to make it safe is I make sure they're anonymous questions so people can ask them without fear of being outed.

One lady was like, 'Don't you think the term Karen is as bad as the n-word?' Like uh, lady, listen. Until people are beating you half to death while calling you Karen, and ripping your children away from you, raping you, doing all of these horrible things to you, then we can talk. But until then, being called 'Karen' is about as bad as being called a 'nincompoop.' Like, I'm not hearing that. But yeah, I get those questions, I answer them, and I'm gracious with it.

But as far as why do I do this, I've been getting so many DMs and questions about 'How can I be a better white person?' And I was like, this is crazy. I'm answering questions and it's just tiring. So I was like, I'm just going to create a course.

I wanted to make the price point somewhat accessible. And I think $49 is accessible. If I made it $99 people wouldn't have wanted to come because it's too expensive, and if I made it $29, people would be like, 'Oh really, $29 for all this? This must be shitty.' $49 is right in the middle, so it works out well.

I also give them what I call a Fistbook, which is my version of a handbook (since it's a fight club) which gives the participants some tangible resources that they can refer back to on their anti-racism journey.

But yeah, I do it because I feel like I have the ability, as a training development specialist and as a anti-racist Black man in America, to create a course that is powerful and can make a ton of difference. So far, so good. This is just the beginning.

Q: What's been the most surprising thing to you as you've gone through these first Anti-Racism Fight Club trainings?

A: The amount of people who have just said how much they love it. I haven't gotten one piece of negative feedback, which in this day and age is crazy, especially when you're telling white people how to act. Like, it's just inherent in their whiteness—'How dare you tell me how to act!'—but that didn't happen. I didn't have any of those issues. And that to me is crazy in this day and age. So I feel like I am onto something, and it makes me so happy to see the energy and the enthusiasm of white people to own their stuff and get better, and a willingness to get better, so that to me is amazing. And I feel so, so good about it. It gives me hope.

One of my participants during the Q and A session asked me, "What gives you hope?" and I said, "All of the good white people who understand that they need to be active and not passive when it comes to anti-racism. It's not enough to say, 'I'm not racist.' You have to be anti-racist, which is an active activity. And that gives me hope that more people are realizing it.'

Q; How do you personally navigate the emotional work of doing all of this?

A: That is a great question. Yeah, it's exhausting. After a session, sometimes I cry, sometimes I take a nap…it is just, it's like running three marathons. It's so emotionally taxing to dive into the depths and the insidiousness of racism, trying to tear it apart and break it apart, and while you're doing it you see how awful and disgusting it is. And then when you're done and everyone's off the call, you know, a lot of them feel really empowered, and I feel good that I'm helping to empower people. But I also realize that, man, this is taking some stuff out of me.

When I click the End Meeting button, I just slump in my chair for a good five minutes. Like I said, sometimes I cry, sometimes I go to my bed and take a nap. It's just...it's a lot. And the thing about it is when I go through the course, I'm not just talking in monotones, I am very animated. I am in it, I'm active. People say it's the best 90 minutes they've had in their life. It just flies by because it's full of energy and action, but 90 minutes of being 'on' like that when talking about something so emotionally heavy, it just completely drains me. So yeah, it's no joke. But, you know, it's important work, and I'm glad to be the one to do it.

Q: What do you want people to take away from this training? What do you hope will be their next step?

A: To really do the work of owning the fact that they are racist. That's the first step. Own the fact that you are racist. And I think the problem is it's like a Pavlov's dog thing, when they hear the word 'racist' they go straight to Confederate flags and white hoods and the n-word. And that's not it. I mean yes, that is it—that's the like the cartoonish level of racism—but the subtle version of racism is the micro aggressions, the systemic racism that's everywhere that white people benefit from. Things like that that they have to dig deep and see, 'Where am I benefiting from racism in my own life, and what can I do to ensure that people of color that I care about or that are coming up after me don't have to suffer the way that people of color are suffering right now?' That the hard work that they have to do. That's the first thing.

And then from there, it comes down to the anti-racist work—the 'active activity' as I like to call it—of really getting into it and saying, 'This is something in my community that needs to be changed, this is something in my school that needs to be changed, this is something in my family that needs to be changed.' Like Uncle Johnny, who may be racist...maybe making it so that he can't come by at Christmas if he's going to be spouting all this nonsense about people of color.

These are difficult, difficult things to do. This is not easy. It's not for the faint of heart. It's hard, hard work. And what a lot of people who enjoy and benefit from racism bank on is the fact that white people will be like, 'This is so much work to fix, like why do I even bother?" Again, equating it to emptying the ocean with a spoon...the goal is to get everyone to get a spoon and then we start seeing some big time progress. That's the goal.

Richards has ARFC sessions coming up. You can visit his Facebook page or website to learn more and register.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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