Diane Burkholder identifies as a cisgender, queer, mixed race, Black feminist. She has education in both sociology from CSU-Long Beach and Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. She’s a co-founder of One-Struggle KC, is the founder and lead consultant for The DB Approach, co-moderates the Kansas City Freethinkers of Color & Kansas City Mixed Roots, and serves on the Board Member of Kansas City’s Uzazi Village. Burkholder can be found on Twitter here.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is your personal background?
Diane Burkholder: I grew up in a manger. I’m kidding. How do I arrive to be an atheist? I did not grow up in a religious home. I went to a Methodist Church with my mother when I was a little young. She said that I spoke to God when I was the age of 5.
My mother considers herself Christian but doesn’t go to church and is very critical. In my late teens, I identified as agnostic. In my early 20s, I thought, “Who am I kidding? I don’t believe in a higher power.”
Only 10 or 15 years ago, I adopted the term atheist, secular humanist, and so on, depending on who I am speaking to so they can understand.
Jacobsen: You were the co-founder of One Struggle KC. It’s a coalition of Kansas City activists hoping to connect and help the struggles of oppressed black peoples not only in Kansas City but across the world.
What are some of the issues now from your particular perspective? Why are some issues more important than others?
Burkholder: We started right after Ferguson in October, 2014. We saw a need to talk about issues of police brutality in Kansas City. We are only 4 hours away from Ferguson, but we are not very connected to St. Louis.
A lot of people in Kansas City thought St. Louis was way over there. When you have a black police chief and a black mayor, they thought it wasn’t really an issue. The police brutality is a very pressing issue.
From 2005-2016, the paper did an expose. KCPD had killed 49 people without any indictments. Since then, they have killed 6 more people. Then it was talking about how police brutality is how it is linked to other types of oppression for black folk, and how other marginalized communities within black communities: LGBT folk, undocumented folk.
They are even more oppressed under police and state violence. We look at how they are linked. Police brutality kicked this off. We talk about many different issues.
We talk about the way our community is oppressed in various different fashions. Our group is mostly non-believers. We have had Christian folk and other belief systems as part of our group. We are not a strictly non-belief group.
I also facilitate the Kansas City Freethinkers of Colors. That is specifically for non-believers.
Jacobsen: You founded and are the lead consultant for the DB Approach. How does this relate to the other areas of work that you noted, One Struggle KC and Kansas City Freethinkers of Color?
Burkholder: My work history has been advocacy, specifically HIV advocacy. I did treatment care, prevention, and also worked in the evaluation. I have three other folks who are community organizers who I have collaborated with. We work one-on-one with agencies to do anti-oppression training.
We look at policies and procedures and the ways trauma and oppression work at the organizational level and not only the individual actions way. It is looking at all of the ways oppression plays out.
Jacobsen: As well, you co-moderate Kansas City Mixed Roots.
Burkholder: That was founded in 1991. It was a multi-racial family circle. It was a space for multi-racial kids. About four years ago, we changed the name to be more relevant. Some of my co-facilitators grew up in the group.
In the online space, we have meetups for people who are multi-racial, transracial, adoptive families, interracial couples and families, and others; it serves as a space discussion on race. We have a space for people who are non-white.
We have play dates. Those are open to everybody. We have a local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) here. Three of those organizers are also a part of Mixed Roots. They have a families group. They host and talk about race and racism, specifically for white folk, but they also have a space for white folk who are raising kids of color.
Those are for people with the background who are able to talk with their people group.
Jacobsen: What is Uzazi Village?
Burkholder: Uzazi Village, it was founded to address issues of infant mortality. Some of the highest is black infant mortality across the country. That really plays out systemically with families before a baby is born and up to 1 year of age.
But really, it is looking at the ways black families, straight or queer-identified, are affected: looking at breastfeeding outcomes, access to prenatal care, and there’s also the Sister Doula program.
Folks are trained to be really advocates to help moms and pregnant folks during their pregnancy and after their pregnancy with advocacy of care. There is also a breastfeeding class. It is really providing advocacy in the community.
We moved in 2017 down the street from where we previously were. It has a larger building with a second story that will have not only a space for clients, but also community space for other organizations.
Also, we are building a community garden next to the new location. It is operating and expanding above, and being a focal point for black families, whatever shape they may look. It is to have a black-centered space.
Jacobsen: Most of this work is very practical in addition to the advocacy. Something as simple as breastfeeding classes. So, in addition to the advocacy, which is needed, as well as the educational and social initiatives, the foundation is keeping the ears to the ground and helping people with very practical needs.
That leads to the last question. How can people get involved, donate, or help in some other way?
Burkholder: I really encourage folk. If they want to donate to other organizations, I appreciate it. We need all not-for-profit organizations running, as they function off donations. We also encourage people to dig locally into their own communities.
So, depending on people’s identity and background, the goal would be to find community groups and organizations that have similar interests. I would encourage people to work as small as their living room as that is how most community groups start, whether an activity or some other means.
I often say the strongest way in order to argue for the community is if you are able to connect with other community members. Particularly with our current administration [Laughing], it is all about harnessing the power that has been taken away from our communities and having people connect with one another, which is a power of ours.
Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Diane.
Burkholder: Thank you!
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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