Robert K. Ross and Patrisse Cullors —
The Resilient World We're Building Now

We’ve heard a lot about Black Lives Matter, but you may never have heard one of its founders reflect outside a moment of crisis. Black Lives Matter co-founder and artist Patrisse Cullors presents a luminous vision of the resilient world we’re making now. She joins Dr. Robert Ross, a physician and a leader who is helping redefine public health in terms of human wholeness, in a cross-generational conversation. They give voice to the generative potential in this moment we inhabit — its courage and creativity, its seeds in trauma and resilience, and its possibility for all of our growth as individuals and community.

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is president and chief executive officer for The California Endowment. Trained as a pediatrician, Dr. Ross has been a leader in work surrounding trauma, resilience, and community as a clinician, public health executive, and health philanthropist. He previously served as director of the Health and Human Services Agency for the County of San Diego, and as the Commissioner of Public Health for the City of Philadelphia.

is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, the director for truth and reinvestment at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and a mixed media and performance artist. Her artwork can be found on her website.

Pertinent Posts

Trauma can be a rigid dictator of the course of a life, often giving rise to paths of destruction and illness. Dr. Robert Ross on why these cycles exist, and on our responsibility as members of the community to heal the broken spaces in the structures we live in.

Continue the Conversation

Dr. Ross's Work on Trauma, Resilience, & Community

The California Endowment has launched Building Healthy Communities, a 10-year, $1 billion initiative that works to foster robust and continuing health in 14 communities in California that have suffered most deeply from health crisis. Dr. Ross has been at the leading edge of this work:
» "Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds"
» "Manifest: Justice"
» The California Endowment's Healthy Communities Initiative

Stories of the Invisible: The Art of Patrisse Cullors

Art is a powerful channel through which Patrisse Cullors exercises her voice in bringing about social change and justice. Learn about her works and share them with others:
» "Power: From The Mouths of the Occupied"
» "Rise of the Dandelions" and "Pushing the Envelope"
» "Stained: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence"

About the Image

Black Lives Matter founders Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza.

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Thank you so much for this episode. Will the transcript be posted? I hope so.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Hi Emily. My team's working on it now. It will be up by tomorrow morning!

Hi Trent, still hoping for that transcript? Thanks a bunch, I know from personal experience how much work goes into that! Thanks for bothering to do it at all. It is such a valuable resource for those of us who want to go deeper more than once and pull out key nuggets appropriately and accurately.

Trent, I am echoing Melanie in my appreciation for the transcripts of these podcasts. I, too, came looking today for this particular one. Even on my fifth time listening, I am wanting to quote accurately and go deeper in the resources that Krista and Patrisse and Robert refer to here. Thank you!!

Black lives matter: unbelievable that we still have to affirm that basic truth today. It is above words. We are all children of God.
But it is also true that some of those who have power do no want to share it, and they cling to it with all their energy.
When will it change?

Dear Forward Thinkers! Thanks so much for using your knowledge and talent to continue to bring love to this world!!

I am a substitute teacher, and I see so much work still to do. I know that by the color of my skin, I can't truly walk where you have walked, but I feel the pain of so many lacking equality and respect! As a sub, I hear stories everyday, children of all races being downtrodden (physically & emotionally) and I find myself praying for the World! That we may all comminute to hold up the light in the way of patience, smiles, warmth, & compassion to all, and visualize others doing the same! I find that as overwhelming as the suffering seems to be, a smile and a hand make a big difference!!

Hope I am contributing to you intent in a positive way!!

Could you PLEASE talk about how to actually fix the problem, as in create jobs
and better schools and stable, two parent homes for minority populations? If and
when the last piece of racism is eradicated, this is the real work in front of us. You
do your community such a disservice by couching everything as a 'justice' issue.

It is sometimes said that "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."

This morning the service I'm co-leading at the Unitarian Universalist congregation I serve is titled, "A Desire to Build a Better World." Following the second service I will be witnessing a listening circle created to give people a chance to share their feelings about a decision I made this past summer -- the decision, following the shootings in Charleston, to hang a Black Lives Matter sign in our sanctury, right up behind the pulpit where it must be seen.


Thank you.

I rejoice hearing that Ms. Culloers and Mr. Ross (along with the fellow running for Mayor of Baltimore, a member of Black Live Matter) are applying a holistic approach to their goals. However, my heart breaks when a serious and critical component to health and wellbeing is NOT discussed: the # of children born out of wedlock - 70 % + in the African American community and the disintegration of marriage. Most recently I glanced through an edition of Westchester Brides Magazine. They profiled the marriage of a black couple - for one of them, it was the FIRST marriage in the family in 20 years!
Marriage matters, fathers matter, intact families matter and are irreplaceable.
Man perishes without a vision - PLEASE make this a part of the Black Lives Matter vision. As someone who has been an HR practitioner for 25 years, and a fair # of those years in high labor business in urban areas - the absence of marriage and fathers is the # 1 condition directly related to living a life of hardship, poverty, poorer education, HS drop out, teenage pregnancy etc., etc. These are all symptoms of the lack of whole families. There is no government program that can solve this.
As Mr. Ross said, while the United Stated is not perfect - this country provides the environment for the greatest possibility to succeed. As demonstrated by Condoleeza Rice, Barrack Obama, Colin Powell, the famed African American astro-physicist etc., etc. We must celebrate the lives of those who have succeed and tell others - you too can succeed. Celebrate as much as protest the injustices that must be rectified.

I heard only a portion of this program, but will be reading the transcript as soon as it is available. The words of Patrisse Cullors and Dr. Ross were both inspiring and informative about this meaningful movement. Before this program I only understood it as a "pushback " movement, but now I know it is SO MUCH MORE! Love, justice, and HEALING! As a poor, white, Italian-American child of seven, I wandered into the segregated blocks into which African-American neighbors had been pushed. it was my first encounter with discrimination which puzzled and pained my young soul. I applaud this program for bringing a greater understanding of what this movement means and I applaud these founders of a much-needed and significant movement. I fully support the Black Lives Matter movement! Thank you "On Being" for your contribution to greater understanding.

As I was attentively listening to this interesting broadcast, I had to constantly hold the « zoom » button of my mind in the forward position to chase away broader questions like « Are we talking about insertion of the disenfranchised into a main stream without questioning the central dynamics of that main stream, structured as it is around the belief that white lives matter more than any other? » « Is insertion or inclusion a necessary early stage of a metamorphosis of the system?»

Then came the first question from the public and my hand was knocked off the zoom button: “The system is without a soul, how do you suggest we bring some spirit back into the system? » The answer that followed did not invalidate or answer the question: « I am not clear if the system can gain a soul, I am not sure that is what their purpose is, but we must do our best not to lose our own.” That answer raises the prospect that a much hoped-for insertion or inclusion may actually endanger a soul that doesn’t want to die.

To sum up with a full zoom backwards: Despite the fact that I would not change a iota to what was said, the question that comes to mind is “how would a ‘Third-class lives matter’ movement on the Titanic, between Southampton and the fateful iceberg have changed the outcome?” It probably would not have avoided the overall shipwreck, but it would have at least tempered the darkest side of that human tragedy.

The Earth-spirituality of the African American traditions and of America’s First Nations most certainly can (and does) contribute to the survival (revival?) of the soul of the system, but a full recovery of the system from its current spiritual coma requires a counter-current movement of “White lives do not matter more than ANY other”. A good setting to start implementing such a ground-breaking ethics would be in the Middle-East where for so many years the atrocious inequalities between lives of different cultures and ethnicities have reached unbearable proportions and fueled endless transgenerational trauma and conflicts. No need to be explicit about whose lives matter more there! In his Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si” (Chapter 3, section 3), Pope Francis analyses the roots and the consequences of misdirected anthropocentrism. A much needed reminder.

Will the gathering on deck be sufficient to deal with the iceberg? I doubt it, but I’d rather be gathering on deck to help save lives of whatever color or to play music than to clap my hands to those who are vying for votes to build walls around the first-class quarters. As Einstein put it, “The World will not be destroyed by those that do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
Thank you for On-Being for “doing something”.

I have listened to On Being and it's previous iteration by Krista Tippett for years!! It's a ritual every Sunday morning to listen. I heard John Lewis, danah boyd, Sherry Turkle, the scientist from Harvard on the placebo effect whose name escapes me, and many many more. I generally listen to both versions of the podcast each week and use the transcript as well. This week's focus on Patrisse Cullors and Robert Ross was incredibly moving and spiritually salient to the times we are living in. This semester, I am teaching a political sociology class and we focus on #BLM this week with Prof. Deva Woodly a former student of mine visiting us. I also am an ethnomusicologist and digital ethnographer doing research on the digital seduction of the identity and reputation of marginalized youth like black girls on YouTube. The need for ethics and some spirit healing is all around the work I am involved in including my own self-care. I'll be assigning this episode to my political sociology students. It made me realize that I must speak to the heart. That the heart is the matter. That the LIVES in black lives matter, the livelihood of our selves, is the work. It lies at the heart of getting people to consider how social movements matter and how our oppression is a soul thing not just a social justice and state policies thing. It reminds us as this episode has that our very humanity is at the heart of any movement--individual, social, or national. Thanks Krista Tippett for your ongoing contribution to an ethical society in America. I am also a Ford Fellow and so appreciate their sponsoring your work.

When I first heard of this movement, "Black Lives Matter" I thought "too limiting. All lives matter." Today, reflecting on the gospel reading of the Transfiguration, we talked about the real transfiguration is from inside us, A new way of seeing things. After hearing this presentation my thoughts changed. All lives do matter. But at this moment we must focus more on the Black Lives. On those most threatened, most degraded by others. So I hope I am on board with Black Lives Matter!

On the relative absence of faith communities... the experience of the civil rights movement with faith communities being an integral and necessary part of massive social change is recent enough that it is easy to think that social change and religion have a lot in common. And in some cases, they may do so. But historically speaking, in MOST situations, established religion has been a sworn enemy of social change or even a majorly successful passive-aggressive, hesitant obstacle that is sometimes, good intentions notwithstandiing, even more damaging.

Thank you for this amazing conversation. Injustice is everywhere, always. We want to sustain just communities in the world? This is what we need to do - what you all talked about. Thank you so much. Every individual, every group that does good, that works for healing - you heal the world by healing that corner of yours that you can. Thank you so much...

This is a perfect example of how — even in conversations about #blacklivesmatter — white people center themselves: Krista's shock when Patrisse Cullors grounds the conversation in her family's powerful legacy instead of violence and poverty, Krista's son's shock that his Black classmates experience racism, Krista's insistence on framing racial justice through the lens of love instead of outrage. I understand that it can be difficult to place one's own perspective on the margins, but if you're truly committed to anti-racism, try harder.

I believe that our world is a community. Also all lives matter; it is a disappointment (which is probably too subtle a word) to the Highest Power, whoever (or whatever) that may be that some of us do not want to treat each other better. If we'd look at ourselves, and others, as part of the "world" community, we might be (hopefully) less inclined to treat each other so bad(ly). Of course, there will always be those who use fear, hatred, prejudice, to divide our world community, but for those of us who try to see our fellow humans as part of our larger "family" and "community" (like I try to do) I sincerely (and not naively) we'll all share in that feeling.

Wow, thank you soooo much for the Black Lives Matter program with Robert Ross and Patrisse Cullors. You hit that one out of the ballpark. I love listening to your program Sunday nights, but when I miss it, it is fantastic that I can go back and listen later when I have time from your website, and that I can share episodes with my friends through Facebook. This was such a strong strong program, so important. Thank you so much for airing this. You have a lot of power with your following, and this was an amazing piece to bring to us. Thank you sooooo much.

What I sensed I now have the words of explanation by listening to this interview.

Thank you Dr. Ross for this pertinent article. This is a very emotional discussion. How long ago did the African American Community realize that Black Lives Matter ? Is it because of the recent killings of young black men by white law enforcement officers? How many young black men have lost their lives in Baltimore, Chicago, and Los Angeles? Is there a "spiritual crisis" among the young black men?