Ivirlei Brookes on What It Means to Be an Ally and How to Talk to Your Kids About Race6 min read
“I don’t think people realize that it was really hard to film,” Ivirlei Brookes revealed to WrapWomen. The actress turned business and mindset coach recently went viral after posting this emotional yet informative video on how the non-Black community can become better allies.
“I was feeling extremely low and exhausted from all the arguing I was seeing online,” said Brookes. “I decided to make a video for Black people to use as a tool – they could send the video link to their white friends when they didn’t have enough energy left to explain.”
Brookes recorded the video on Instagram live with 11 viewers tuned in. Afterwards, she uploaded it to IGTV and within one week the video had over 5.8 million views. It even caught the attention of white celebrities including Hailey Bieber, Lili Reinhart, Ellen Pompeo, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould among others who reposted the call to action.
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During a recent interview, Brookes opened up to WrapWomen about being a good ally, how to talk to your kids about race and how she is using her platform to continue promoting change.
Has there been any feedback from the video that has really stood out?
I received hundreds of messages from people and the experience of reading them was really moving. I had people saying they used the video to talk to racist family members for the first time. People saying, they used it to teach a class of children. I had one guy tell me that he grew up as a white supremacist and decided to walk away from his family years ago. He told me my video made him feel like he could go back to being human again. I really don’t take it for granted that people are sharing these deeply personal stories with me. I just try to take it all in and pace myself.
Is there a dialogue that non-Black allies should have with their Black friends to let them know, “I’m here, I support you.”
First, it depends on your friendship with your Black friends. If this is the first conversation you have had about race then you should reflect why it has never come up throughout your relationship. I guarantee they have thought about it because it is only a part of white privilege to NOT think about racial identity.
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If this is not your first conversation about race within your friendship then the dialogue that you have is limited. You can verbalize that you are thinking about them and sending them love/light/prayer/good energy, but be very careful about who you are doing it for. If it is for you to know that your friend knows you are a “good” white person, or that you are paying attention, then maybe you save it altogether. Walk it like you talk it instead. Be active on social media, listen to podcasts daily that highlight Black stories and history, stay connected with current events, protest from the back if you want. If you have a relationship with your Black friends built on trust and grace then they already know you support them. If not, it’s time to work on that.
How can parents talk to their young kids about race?
There are many right ways to talk to your kids about race, and the wrong way is to not talk to them about it. Young people are inquisitive and it is our job to give them the RIGHT information so that they can think through it. History is a great place to start. Child development is deeply rooted in exposure and connecting visuals to things they hear in their daily life. There are amazing children’s books that talk about historical events in this country (slavery included, and all kids should understand deeply the atrocity that this has on systemic racism) and also have BIPOC protagonists. Make it a point for your child to understand that Black and brown children are as valued, capable and worthy as anyone else. Watch shows with Black children, buy toys with different skin colors, and do not brush their questions under the rug. If you do not know the answer when they ask, say that and then go find out yourself. We are all lifelong learners, and some of us are unlearning to relearn it right. Do not count on the education system to teach them about race.
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Is there anything you would like to add or say that wasn’t included in the video?
Well, when I made the video I was talking to a group of people that I was familiar with through social media. Most of them are content creators who had asked me questions prior to filming. I instructed them to make videos because most of them were content creators. I think it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to make videos to make an impact. They can use whatever their superpower is. If they write, then write to help create change. Also, the video was about racism only. I didn’t include a lot of other subjects but had I known it would go viral, I would have talked about a lot more issues.
I understand you are building workshops around issues of race. Can you tell us more about those? Is there a way for our readers to sign up?
Yes! It’s called the Intentional Activism Workshop. It’s based around the concept of becoming aware of a person’s own whiteness and takes them through the process of deconstructing their own beliefs around what it means to be white. The process is more of a journey to authentic activism that starts with self. Intentionalactivism.com
You are also the founder of Mavenelle. Can you tell us about the brand and what motivated you to start it?
I’ve been coaching for a really long time without ever taking my business online. I spent a lot of time hiding behind the fact that I’ve stayed working through word of mouth. Outside of acting, I didn’t’ share much about it. It was actually my clients who kept urging me to put my coaching videos online so I created a brand around what I teach. Mavenelle is for creative entrepreneurs who want to create a lifestyle around their goals and learn ways to become their best selves.
You are using your social platforms as a resource to educate people about race and amplify Black voices. What sorts of information can our readers expect to find on your profiles?
My personal Instagram (@ivirlei) is my life and my point of view. I share coaching videos there but I also share my hobbies, lifestyle, my fiancé, and personal stories. @mavenelle is more empowerment-based. I share tips and tools to run your business, wellness resources, productivity hacks, and all kinds of dope stuff.
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