‘You cannot heal the wounds you don’t acknowledge.’

Joi Freeman shares how the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have affected her personally, and what we as a society must do if we want to see true, lasting change.

How has the death of George Floyd, the injustice against him that is rooted in racism, and the events that followed affected you? 

As a woman of God, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have affected me the same way it should impact anyone who loves the Lord: with great grief. I recently listened to a sermon from Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, the title was “I can’t breathe” and was a reminder that only God can give us breath and no one has the right to take what God has given us, including the oxygen in our lungs and the life in our bodies.

As a woman it breaks my heart to know that Ahmaud’s mother had to celebrate Mother’s Day without her son, and George begged for his dead mother to help in his time of distress. Though I am not yet a parent, it pains me to know that this is the world in which my future children would face.

As a Black person who is a descendant of American slaves, I am tired. As a Black woman, it is frustrating to know that Breonna Taylor has not received as much coverage as Ahmaud, George, or even Chris Cooper, because I know the struggle of intersectionality and how my race and my gender forces me to fight to be seen and heard whether it is in professional, faith, or societal circles. And as a Christian Black woman, I struggle with understanding why it often feels like my life, struggle, and pain matters so little to my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.

As a Black woman, what hardships have you endured that white women and non-persons of color haven’t and likely will never come against? 

I don’t think this is about my experience versus that of a non-black woman. At this point there is plenty of evidence of the disproportionate outcomes so I would encourage anyone to research topics like disparity in health outcomes, mother and infant mortality rates, wage gaps and promotion gaps, and such. For context, the movie Hidden Figures is a great example of the barriers Black women face, even at the hands other women. Much of what you see in that movie still persists today in the forms of micro-aggressions; the greatest difference between then and now is that we can use the same bathroom. 

What do you hope America comes to realize as a result of the movement we’re currently in? 

I hope individuals in America and globally who sit in places of positional power and authority come to realize that we all have a role to play in living up to the United States (and Human Rights) declaration that we are all equal. It may look different in how we uphold and protect that standard, yet all of us, especially those of us who profess Christ, have a role in protecting and caring for the helpless and harassed. 

As a Christian, what do you believe it will take for change to truly happen? 

Living out the fullness of discipleship which often requires us to make personal sacrifice and be uncomfortable.

What words would you leave us with today, in the spirit of moving forward in unified healing? 

You cannot heal the wounds you don’t acknowledge, and you cannot reconcile the things you don’t confess. In the Old Testament, we often see communities move forward and heal only after there is individual and corporate confession and repentance. Therefore, if we want the Spirit to move us towards true unity, we as a Christian community must all be willing to lay our pain, our sins, and our idols as it relates to racial injustice and racism before the Lord so that we can humbly receive the wisdom to address the discord that has afflicted our community for far too long.

Last year, Joi spoke on 4word’s Work, Love, Pray podcast about racism and sexism and how to not let either of them steal your joy in today’s world. Listen below!

Strategist. Youth culture enthusiast. Advocate for the voices of vulnerable populations. Joi Freeman thrives in chaos and is a natural-born influencer. Widely regarded as a brand “fixer,” she possesses a unique talent for creating compelling strategies out of disorder and streamlining messages. She helps professionals realize their potential and has a knack for moving teams from the place where they are stuck to the place they want to be. 

Her work launching brands and transforming culture spans industries and sectors with a roster including The Boston Consulting Group, the YMCA, Claire’s & Icing stores, the Girl Scouts, MoneyGram International, McDonald’s and Burger King. Recently she founded Remnant Strategy a consultancy working at the intersection of culture and business to council brands through the process of mapping the next and better chapter to their story.

In addition to her work advising companies, Joi has also worked with HOPE Worldwide on various projects including early childhood development in South Africa and brand strategy in Kenya. She is currently completing her MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. 

When not helping build brands, Joi is mentoring young professionals, traveling across the globe, and discovering new dishes to serve at her dinner parties.