When we feel sympathy for someone, we see the person in what is considered a ‘negative situation and oftentimes feel bad for them. On the other hand, feeling empathy for someone is seeing that a person is still struggling but also knowing that they can improve their situation. Although being empathic is being more inclusive than feeling sympathetic, being and seeing everything and everyone around us through the lens of compassion is the most inclusive of all states of being. A beautiful example of this is Jesus, who saw the world through his eyes of compassion and every situation to its fullest potential.
Malynda Hale, a multi-faceted artist who grew up in Santa Barbara, California, says. “Based on how I was raised, and very much like my mom, I have always viewed myself as a very compassionate person. I feel like my purpose is to help tell other people’s stories and share their stories with the world. Also, I’ve always been the type of person that wants to pay it forward. And so, anything I do is with the thought in mind that I want to make a difference in other people’s lives. So, I am essentially about people, about their stories, about love, acceptance, and affirmation. I get all those qualities definitely from my mom. Both of my parents are wonderful people, but the older I get, the more I see how much I am like my mother. And I’m really grateful for the example she set for me growing up to be a loving, compassionate, and accepting person.”
Acceptance and inclusion start from within ourselves. Any change we want to experience is the change we have to embody first, and then we can invite and inspire others to join us through our own example. No influence can be asserted because, ultimately, every single person makes their own choice to believe and speak the story that resonates with them the most at any given moment. Malynda wants to affect change through the podcast she hosts, #WeNeedToTalk, by bringing attention to issues that are close to her heart. She is a vivid advocate for social justice, female empowerment, the LGBT+ community, veganism, and the Black Lives Matter movement, to mention a few.
“I’ve always been a huge proponent of conversation and communication. And I think that’s where we fall short a lot in society. As a result, everything I say starts with a conversation. You can’t do anything without talking about it. Even if it’s just going to the grocery store to buy something, you talk about what you will get. So, through my podcast, #WeNeedToTalk, I can have conversations with people about these topics, opening the door for others to share their viewpoints and fostering empathy and understanding. And I think education is so important. Not everybody’s gonna sit down and read a book or read an article; you also need to listen to somebody talk or hear something that can make you take a step back and say, ‘Oh, I never thought of it that way,’ or ‘Oh, I didn’t realize this is what the situation was.’ So, with the topics and issues I am focusing on and extremely passionate about, I think emphasizing those conversations with people who are relatable with others who have stories and how they intersect those aspects of life is really important. And I think one of the biggest responses that I’ve received from the listeners of the podcast is, ‘Oh, I didn’t know it was that’ or ‘I’ve never really viewed the situation that way.’ That’s what I want people to come away with after they listen to other people’s stories, or just listen to the conversations that I’m having with people, so they can have a new perspective and then take that education and perspective into their own circles and then kind of continue it as a domino effect. Change does happen when we are willing to talk to each other and understand other people’s perspectives because it’s very easy to argue on social media, it’s very easy to just block somebody and not have a conversation with them. But that’s not going to get you anywhere. That’s why I’m a huge proponent of conversation and communication, and I think that is one of the best ways to make progress and initiate change,” Malynda shares passionately.
We all indeed hold our own unique perspectives. However, we all have in common the desire to feel good and happy with whatever we prefer to accomplish. Diversity in thinking is of excellent value for expansion; it allows us to recognize and learn new points of view, hence connect with the world around us in a fuller way. For that, we also have to be open to listening.
“Listening is the big thing,” Malynda says, “because I think when you go into conversations already defensive, ready to argue, then you’re immediately closing out the opportunity to listen, instead of coming with an open heart and mind. So, even in conversations with people that I don’t agree with, one of the things I always say to them is, ‘Well, what do you want?’ I think that’s important because we all do want something. And if we talk long enough, we kind of realize we want the same things as other people: to provide for their families, keep their family safe, have a career, have career aspirations, and succeed. So, the basic goals in humanity are actually very, very similar. How we decide to get there may be different; however, I think when people start to have the conversations, they will realize that there are more similarities than differences.”
Sometimes, we just want to be right, forgetting that there is a difference between entering a conversation and knowing that everyone’s opinion is valid, as is everyone’s life experience. When we hold a steady place of seeing others to their fullest potential, we will embrace our innate inner power instead of giving it away by focusing on seeing only the differences between ourselves and others. Whenever we argue, we ultimately argue for our own limitations, and from that state, we can’t see or recognize any value.
“For me, one of the biggest things is education. And I know there’s lots of controversies right now about what can be taught in schools. But when I think of inclusion, I think of honoring everybody’s history. I believe that everybody’s history is important because that is what America is supposed to be; a melting pot of people and histories and stories. So, I believe that being truly inclusive is ensuring that everybody has time to share their history, heritage, culture, and how it has impacted America as a whole. And I believe that’s what’s really important. I also believe that there are so many different walks of life that create this country, but not everybody has shared their stories. So, inclusion is being able to equally share everyone’s stories and realize that they’re valid.”
Through #WeNeedToTalk conversations, Malynda wants the audience to gain “a new perspective, a story that they may not have heard before or just a piece of education that they may not have in their everyday circles or in their regular life.” Then, Malynda passionately continues saying, “The reason I titled the podcast #WeNeedToTalk is that there are things we should talk about: we need to talk about mental health, social justice, and all of those things affecting us that a lot of people feel uncomfortable talking about. So, it’s really about education and new perspectives that I want the listeners to take away.”
Every one of us has a unique story to tell. And, while many of us may have had similar upbringings or come from comparable cultural backgrounds, we each have our own distinct perspective. Malynda has created another ongoing art project Black Voices Heard which can be found on Facebook. This project allows people to share their stories, showcasing a wide variety of the experiences of being Black in America.
About Malynda’s intention behind the Black Voices Heard photo-video series stories that people share and read, she says, “We don’t all have the same experiences, we don’t all have the same stories. Some things connect us as a culture, and as Black Americans. But what I want them to share is how they grew up and their experiences, be it good or bad, because it’s important to humanize people and normalize all experiences and make them all valid. I also believe that readers or viewers of Black Voices Heard are people that want to connect with others on a different level. But also, if you don’t have people that look like you in your circle, your perspective of them will be shaped by, let’s say, the media or entertainment. So, I want people to see real people, real humans, hear their stories, and think to themselves, ‘Oh, my idea of Black Americans was entirely inaccurate.’ The goal of this initiative is to humanize the black experience so that it can be shared. I also want people to read these stories and say, ‘Oh, I can actually relate to that.’ You may think don’t always have that, and you believe you can’t relate to others who aren’t like you; however, I just want to debunk that belief because it’s not true.”
In addition to #WeNeedToTalk and Black Voices Heard, Malynda also serves as a worship leader at Harmony Toluca Lake, where she co-hosts a twice-a-month discussion called Courageous Conversations. This discussion group focuses on social justice from a Christian perspective. Regarding the essence of Malynda’s Christian perspective and how she applies that to the topic of social justice, she shares, “The view of a Christian perspective is very split in America. But I was always raised that being a Christian means loving others at the base, the way you would want to be loved. And so, for me, that in itself is what social justice and fighting for social justice should be rooted in. It’s in loving others. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Cornel West is ‘Justice is Love in Public.’ So, when I’m having these conversations, I’m really focusing on what Jesus did, who he advocated for, and how he moved throughout his life. Jesus was always fighting for marginalized people, to love them and show grace to them. Even if somebody messed up or whatsoever, the example Jesus showed is what we should be doing. So, the essence of a Christian perspective is to love others. It’s just so simple to love, and I wish people didn’t complicate it because it takes more effort and time to add all of these additional factors to it and turn it into a problem. You simply focus on loving others as you would like to be loved. It’s just so simple.”
During one of the most recent conversations, Malynda discussed the importance of representation with others, the majority of whom are White Americans. The questions she posed to everyone is, “Did you ever grow up and not see someone who didn’t look like you in the media or on television? And none of them had that experience since, for the most part, White Americans are the dominating race you see everywhere. So I showed them some inverted photographs and asked them how they felt about it. One of the photos I displayed was of a small white child standing in front of a store with a wall full of black dolls. And I said, ‘How did it make you feel?’ And I said, because the reverse was my experience growing up, when I would go to the store, all I would see was white dolls, and there wasn’t anything for me. I also show them the reverse photograph of at a nail salon. It was all Asian Americans sitting and getting their nails done by white females. To get others to understand how marginalized groups feel, you need to use a shock factor. So the debates were fascinating because it was one of those ‘Oh, I never thought of it that way’ moments. That’s what I want people to experience so they may comprehend how others are experiencing. And that’s how you may elicit empathy from others by changing the script and showing them the polar opposite of reality. As a result, it struck a chord with many people just discussing the importance of representation. Why do children of all races need to see themselves in all areas and fields? Consider a young Latina girl who wants to be a teacher but has never had a Latina instructor in her life. Because she’s never seen somebody who looks like her, she’ll believe she can’t be one. So it’s about ensuring that those narratives can be corrected. So, from a church standpoint, having those kinds of conversations is quite beneficial. Because these folks, at least in my church, have a heart for social justice and a desire to change those narratives. But you do have to show them why it’s important and how they can go out into the world and fix it.”
Malynda, who is also an actress, songwriter, and gorgeous vocalist, feels enlightened when she performs music: ‘It fulfills me like nothing else really does.’ And I believe that music is so powerful because, for one thing, I don’t believe there is a single person on the earth who does not relate to some sort of music. Being a part of that is truly unlike anything else. And I believe that mixing my love for social justice with the music I have has been quite effective, because music is a universal language. Besides, music is the thing that can connect a lot of people. So far, most of the songs I’ve written recently have dealt with social justice issues. And I believe that is a good method, yet another good way, to entice people to listen, since everyone enjoys music. And it gives them a new perspective when they take the time to truly listen to some of the lyrics that I create. But the experience of singing and hearing my voice have an impact on someone else is truly a blessing, knowing that I’m blessing someone else. And if I had to do one thing for the rest of my life, I’d choose singing because of how it makes me feel. But I’m also aware of how it affects others. That is, it is extremely gratifying.”
Just like Malynda, we all go through the process of occasionally feeling sympathy, empathy, and hopefully, more often, compassion—seeing everyone for what they are at their core of beingness. This desire to know and understand more, to share and showcase more, this dance of asking questions and receiving answers, and vice versa, will always bring out infinite expansion. As we listen and learn about others, as we know and see the undeniable real worthiness and value within ourselves and others, we won’t do anything else but emanate love.
“I believe it’s important to have grace for others. When you have the ability to meet people where they’re at, and try to get them to understand certain perspectives, no matter how they’re coming at you, even on social media, always try to go back with loving-kindness. In that moment, when you choose to go high instead of low, it can change them as well. So, I think it’s very important to have grace for people and love them. For me, that’s how I would want to be treated. I’m always going to try to treat people the way I love to be treated. So, I believe grace, love, and compassion are traits about myself that I really do like and are nothing I plan to change anytime soon.”
It always feels good and brings good to have grace, love, and compassion instead of the opposite.
How aware you are about your emotions in relationship to how you perceive, and therefore act?
Photography // Mo Cee
Connect with Malynda on Instagram | #WeNeedToTalk | Black Voices Heard