We had the good fortune of connecting with Janelle Scales and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Janelle, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor behind my success is the continuous act of defining success for myself. Years ago, I decided that dollars were not going to be the only units by which I measured my success. When my words and actions encourage others to be more authentic, courageous, and compassionate, I feel successful. When parents say “You encouraged me to be more gentle with my children.” I know, I’m DOING IT. When white folks say “You help me confront the white supremacy inside me everyday” or when Black folks say “Thanks for doing the work that others won’t.” I celebrate. Doing social justice work, is doing love work. Cornell West says “justice is what love looks like in public.” I think about what I want people to say about me after I’m gone. All I can hope folks say is “Janelle loved people with her words and actions.” If my children and handful of other humans can utter those words. Then success is what I achieved!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m an Anti-Bias/Anti-Racist and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant. What I love most about what I do is shifting the culture in workplaces. The dominant culture in the USA has left a mark of harmful patriarchy and white supremacist delusion on every system and industry in this country. This means in every work place people are marginalized and oppressed because of racism, sexism, colorism, childism, fatphobia, ableism, transphobia etc. Being able to support and center marginalized people in a training or a series of trainings is work that I feel proud of everyday.
I watched the video of 12-year old Tamir Rice being shot and killed by police when he was playing outside. I was devastated. The grief I felt was nearly debilitating, I was battling depression. The only way I was able to move through my grief was to fight to dismantle the system of oppression that killed Tamir Rice, Ayanna-Stanley Jones, Wakiesha Wilson, Noel Aaron Russell, and Kurt Reinhold and so many more. So I started reading, learning, listening and being vocal about topics that made people very uncomfortable. I got pretty good at telling stories and delivering information that didn’t just make people uncomfortable but also made them want to change. So I invited people over to my tiny apartment, fed them chips and salsa, and gave talks and had discussions about bias, policing, and racism. I had petitions and voter registration cards available. I started getting invitations to lecture at conferences in Los Angeles about the impacts of slavery and racism on Black Americans. In 2017, I was offered an opportunity to teach a semester course on social justice to middle school students at The City School in Los Angeles.
After George Floyd was murdered, the work that I have been building for the last 8 years was in high demand. Since then I’ve been busy holding workshops and doing professional development training. Talking to people about topics like colorism, sexism, and defunding police; topics that make people uncomfortable is never easy. I’ve had people stop associating with me, I’ve had my talks hacked and been called nigger on public forums. My daughters have seen these attacks and they get scared. That’s probably the hardest part, knowing that my daughters are afraid for me sometimes. I try to reassure them…“Even though what I do seems scary sometimes, its my way of trying to keep you and others safe.”
My ancestors have paved the way for me, I come from a rich legacy of sharecroppers and enslaved humans. In fact, on my paternal lineage, I’m the first generation to never pick cotton or work on a plantation, I was born in the 80’s. That says something about how far we think we have come in this country. So when things get hard I lean on my ancestors, whose courage and perseverance got me this far. What I want the world to know about me is that I love humans deeply. I love doing social justice work because I love people. I love doing activism and organizing because I love people. I love working to dismantle patriarchy and systemic racism because I love marginalized folks. What drives me is my love for myself, my family, my friends and my neighbors.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would to love to do a staycation with my girl Karen. If we could sneak away from our sweet babies for a week we would get into so much trouble. We’d definitely hit up a day party or two at The Parlor or shake our tails at Brunch 2 Bomb. We’d go for hikes in Palos Verdes. We would snag a condo and spend at least one day eating Fyrebird wings and cackling at old episodes of Flavor of Love. We’d go have margaritas and black beans at Calo Tequila Kitchen. If we had some long money we would go to Burke Williams and get a massage. Maybe hit the Sofitel for the Kiss N Grind or Salsa night. Maybe do some exercise at Claudine Cooper’s Community work out in Inglewood. Because I’m me, we would have to do some service. Probably meet up with my girl Kim Isaacs and protest or canvass with BLM LA. Also volunteer on Sunday afternoons at one of my favorite organizations, Food on Foot. Gosh saying all of this made me miss the things I used to do pre-pandemic. It reminds me that when I could, I knew how to work and play.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Karen The Therapist is the woman I would like to dedicate my shoutout to. Having a therapist as a best friend is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made IN MY LIFE. She isn’t my personal therapist, I have a separate one (thankfully), but I’m positive she’s used her professional skills in someway to support me over the course of our 15+ year friendship. She’s been with me on my best days and worst days. She has supported me in every endeavor I’ve had from relationships, to motherhood, to my business as an Anti-Bias/Anti-Racist Consultant. She is a superstar in her own right! She is a mother, has a private practice and works in the public sector supporting students with disabilities. I’m grateful to love her and be loved by her.
Other: @neighborsnotnuisance on IG FB and @nbrsnotnuisance on twitter www.loveisjustus.com
Benjamin James Roosevelt Scales