EP 49: Standing In Your Power: A Leadership Roundtable with Joon Park + Cha Barefield

Uncategorized Mar 25, 2022

We can get so caught up in how we are seen that we miss opportunities to course correct and expand our views on the world around us. 

And admitting you made a mistake or that you changed your mind can feel like jumping into shark infested waters. 

The process of expanding our views and self-correction involves connecting meaningfully with other’s experiences and needs so we can see the world outside of our own experience.

Sometimes we take in important new data that activates protective behaviors like defensiveness and control while navigating feeling disoriented and uncertain. 

How we move through these moments rarely looks or feels graceful. Especially because parts of us still resist the discomfort that leaves us feeling out of sorts. 

But when you commit to growing as a leader and as a human your work is more than an intellectual and tidy process.

And it requires deepening relationships with others so you can truly understand from your heart the needs and perspectives of others. 

Today’s guests were willing to share hard and vulnerable stories from their lives and perspectives and what started as a conversation in DMs expanded into this roundtable discussion.

Cha Barefield is a powerful speaker, and the host and creator of "The Cha Show". Cha sees the extraordinary in the ordinary and causes us to see the same. She believes that when you speak about things that matter to you, you will invariably speak about things that matter to everyone. The world needs what Cha seeks to amplify, now more than ever. 

Joon Park shares his incredible typewriter skills and inspiring ‘Typewriter Therapy’ on Instagram and he is also a Hospital Chaplain, Chaplain for the Homeless, 6th degree black belt, ex-atheist, skeptic, son to immigrants, and Korean-American who loves Jesus. He is also the author of The Voices We Carry: Finding Your One True Voice in a World of Clamor and Noise.



Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • How the narrative of “reluctant leadership” has been tied to race and gender for both Cha and Joon
  • Why we need to broaden our narratives, whose stories we value, and whose stories we center
  • The difficult and exhausting trade-offs of navigating visible leadership as people of color
  • How expanding the narrative and acknowledging their history helps Joon and Cha stand in their power
  • The fundamental difference between comfort and safety


Learn more about Cha Barefield:


Learn more about Joon Park:


Learn more about Rebecca:



Scroll Down for the Full Episode Transcript:

[Inspirational Intro Music]

Rebecca Ching: We can get so caught up in how we’re seen that we miss opportunities to course-correct and expand our views on the world around us, and admitting you made a mistake or that you changed your mind can feel like jumping into shark-infested waters. Now, these days -- and I’m not saying anything you’re not already aware of, but social media and reality TV, they fuel our critique for sport culture where hating on those who have made mistakes becomes entertainment, all the while forgetting we’re just as flawed as those we’re dragging. I really had to check this when I watched season two of Love Is Blind, but that’s a whole nother episode.

Now, no doubt there is a psychological projection happening when criticizing others who embody traits we despise in ourselves. This kind of discharge of pain, it gets in the way of meaningful growth and change needed around how we see ourselves, others, and how we do life and work. So the process of expanding our views and self correction involves connecting meaningfully with others’ experiences and needs so we can see the world outside of our own experience. 

I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with leaders whose burdens have inspired their life's work.  Our goal is to learn how they’ve addressed these burdens, how they rise from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.

I love to learn and stretch myself. I suspect the same to be true for you too. I regularly learn things that deepen my knowledge and either reinforce what I sense to already be true or help me shift my perspective to a new way of thinking and living. 


Sometimes I take in important new data that just rocks my world which, in turn, activates protective behaviors like defensiveness and control while I’m navigating feeling disoriented and uncertain. None of those things I enjoy ever, and how I move through these moments rarely looks or feels graceful especially because parts of me still resist the discomfort that leaves me feeling out of sorts when I take in new learnings which has led me to this roundtable discussion on The Unburdened Leader with two colleagues who shared hard and vulnerable stories. Now, what started as a conversation in our DMs expanded into what you're about to listen to today.

My first roundtable guest is Cha Barefield who is a powerful speaker and the host and creator of The Cha Show. Cha sees the extraordinary in the ordinary and causes us to see the same. She believes that when you speak about things that matter to you, you will invariably speak about the things that matter to everyone. She hails from Freeport, Bahamas and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, Matthew, and their daughter. When she’s not speaking or writing, Cha can be found watching all things reality TV or hanging with friends around a fire pit with red wine in hand.

And I am thrilled to welcome Joon Park back to his show. Along with his incredible typewriter skills and inspiring typewriter therapy that he shares on Instagram, Joon is a hospital chaplin, a chaplain for the homeless, a sixth degree blackbelt, and ex-Atheist, a skeptic, a son to immigrants, Korean American, loves Jesus, and author to the book, The Voices We Carry: Finding Your One True Voice In a World of Clamour and Noise.


I really want you to listen, today, with an open heart and curiosity as Cha and Joon share some of their really difficult life experiences, and pay attention to feeling defensive or if you start to fade out or think about other things. That’s likely a data point on something important being touched in you by their words for you to explore further with your coach or your therapist. Take in what is shared in this episode, not as a voyeur but with humility and reverence. Now, please welcome Cha Barefield and Joon Park to The Unburdened Leader podcast. 

Welcome, Cha and Joon. So glad you're here with me today.

Cha Barefield: Thank you!

Joon Park: Woo-hoo!

Cha Barefield: Woo-hoo! Yes, it’s exciting to be here.

Joon Park: Yes, it is.

Rebecca Ching: I want to drop right in on just why we’re even having this conversation. It was inspired from a comment I made on an Adam Grant post, and part of what he had written was that the people with the most potential are the ones who know they have a lot to learn. You know how you can do those little comments on comments in stories, right? I reflected that reluctant leaders always catch my eye, and that they're not chasing titles or power or the spotlight as vanity metrics, they just ask the right questions before stepping into greater responsibility, and JS, you slipped right into my DMs and noted that you had always been that guy that you had to lead and added how it is amusing how we love watching reluctant leaders in movies and TV, but those in power tend to despise them in real life. And so, we had a lot more back and forth, and then you brought in Cha to the conversation, and so, here we are today.

So I’d love for you each to walk us through what reluctant leadership means to you. So Cha, why don't you start.

Cha Barefield: Wow, I was like ooh, I’m gonna get to listen to Joon first and then steal all of his stuff.


Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]

Joon Park: [Laughs]

Cha Barefield: I think I’m gonna talk about it in terms of myself, right? So where I see my reluctance or the places where I haven’t -- if I’m answering the wrong question, you just let me know, but I want to speak to the places where I haven't stepped up in full vigor like I want to or I think I should. 

These are probably some of just my own issues, but one thing, I live a lot in corporate America and in these spaces where -- ooh, okay, I’m just gonna say it -- so in these spaces white women do have a tendency to rise up very well and are positioned accordingly, and I have found them to be the trickiest to navigate in corporate settings specifically, and so, the reluctance on my part isn't so much an internal one that I place on myself all the time. I had placed on myself before because I was still determining my value and my ability based on somebody on the outside saying I can do it, and what I kept seeing were white women who weren’t as educated as myself, who were more snippy than me, maybe, and had been given the opportunity to sit in these positions of authority.

So I have found the positions that I have lived in to have an overall reticence to let someone like me be in a position. So for the earlier part of my time in that space, I didn't recognize myself as a leader, and, this is very vulnerable, but I was like how do I be like these white ladies? How do I occupy space because what I did not see of the white women and what I felt like I saw in myself even if others didn’t perceive me, there was no question of whether or not they should be there. They were like yep, I’m the director of such-and-such.


So I don't know if I’m answering the question that you want me to answer, but it has been only as of recent where I’m like look, leadership is as leadership does, to coin my boy Forrest Gump. So I am a leader because I influence people, and I do it with great intentionality because I am intentional about pushing the needle towards love and that we can make this world a better place. I believe that. So I hope that answers something.

Rebecca Ching: No, and I appreciate that, Cha. Just a quick follow up before we move to you, Joon. For you, the initial sense of reluctance was it was a given for those in white bodies, particularly white female bodies that you had observed, but that wasn't something you were feeling was granted or that you were even internalizing. You saw that as the bar, right?

Cha Barefield: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: And then, obviously, you got a check on that and circled back, and so, I just appreciate that expanding on that reluctance, even from my perspective it means a lot of different things from others. So yeah, I wanna make sure I got that right. 

Joon, for you, what is reluctant leadership? What does that mean to you?

Joon Park: Yeah, I want to say, first, I very much think there’s a lot of overlap with what Cha was sharing and kind of my experience and my feelings around that. I think the ladders look different for marginalized slash minority and across gender, across many different groups that are not majority. The ladders, the rungs are gonna be spaced differently. The support’s gonna be so different, and so, I definitely feel what Cha was saying about even the same amount of effort or even if I put in more, somehow the ladders still look different because many of us -- and when I say us I mean AAPI, all people of color -- we start in almost a deficit, unfairly. 


So I think if I were to define a feeling of reluctance, I think that feeling of reluctance, the hesitation is born out of force resilience because I know what the cost is of stepping into a leadership position and the, almost, iron-like blanket that is placed on me or the web that I have to run through in order to be heard. I tend to say I work twice as hard to get half as far, and I feel like, even with years of experience, even with, quote-unquote, the “credentials” and “academics” and everything to show for it. I’m still that novice in every room, and add to that the layers of he’s a foreigner, how much English does he know, does he really know our culture, he may be a spy, he’s clueless; add to that the emasculation of the Asian American male. And so, when you put all of these things together, the reluctance is born out of my experience of having to force my resilience over and over, and I count the cost and I know what it costs. 

So when I step into any leadership position I already know this is the amount of work it’s gonna take. It’s a lot more than it should be, and until the system in itself is rewritten, dismantled, reconstructed -- Cha, you and I know this is the work that it’s gonna take.

Cha Barefield: Yeah.

Joon Park: It takes a lot.

Cha Barefield: It’s a lot of work.

Joon Park: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: Thank you, Joon. Yeah, I felt that. I felt those words in my body --

Cha Barefield: Me too.

Rebecca Ching: -- listening to that. I mentioned before we started recording, a dear colleague of mine had jumped into my DMs when I shared a post you recently shared about the need to deconstruct, dismantle, and kind of rewrite our narratives. 


He’s like, “What does that mean?” ‘Cause right now, in the recording of this conversation, we’re in a culture where words are getting weaponsized. They're taking very important words and turning them around to shut down really important conversations, really uncomfortable, really scary conversations around power, around distributing it differently, around shifting things. And so, there’s a power right now that’s trying to kind of shut that down saying, “Oh, you're just gonna cancel.” “Oh, you're just doing woke culture.” “Oh, that’s just PC.” 

So I’d love for you both to speak to when you’re talking about deconstruction and rebuilding and rewriting narratives, what does that mean to you as leaders and in the spaces that you are in?

Cha Barefield: I can tell you what I think, initially. To me, we use the words -- where certainly these are buzz phrases that we’re using a lot (deconstruction, reconstruction), but I would say what it really is is broadening what we have been discussing, broadening perspectives, broadening information piles. It’s not like we’re over here creating some new Frankenstein and we want to put that thing out into the world; it is hey, there’s an acknowledgement that there’s been one line of story we have told in this country, and it’s pertaining to white people. If it happened to white people or they experienced it or they were harmed by it, those are the stories we tell. Consequently, though, by the way, other stories were going on at the same time, and so, for me, deconstruction or reconstruction isn't so much a creation of a new narrative. It is being more broadened in the telling of the narrative. The narrative is a broad flippin’ narrative. It has held Black people in it for a very long time, and it’s held Asian people in it for a very long time. 


It has held Native Americans here for a very long time, the Indigenous people to this country. These are narratives that have existed. So, for me, it is pausing. Now, for me, it’s an issue of valuation. Do we value those stories? 

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Cha Barefield: So, now, we’re going to pause so the reconstruction -- or the deconstruction, if you will, is pausing and giving value to stories that were concurrently taking place while things were happening to white folks. So, to my point, reconstruction or deconstruction is something that every person should be leaping into because it’s not making anybody smaller. It’s making us all bigger.

Joon Park: Yeah.

Cha Barefield: How are you more crippled when you know more perspectives and more experiences? How does that cripple you? I remember -- our daughter went to a language emergent school from kindergarten. She’s fluent in Japanese (reads it, writes it, speaks it), and I’m married to a white, Southern guy, and I was so intent on getting my daughter into school. It was a lottery program. I was up at three o’clock making sure her name was in there as many times as possible. Like, can I cheat the system? I want this. I remember his mother kind of looking at me like why do you want her to speak Japanese? I go, “Anything that lets her be able to communicate with more human beings, how is that bad? You explain that to me how that’s a bad thing.”

Joon Park: Wow.

Cha Barefield: And so, to the point of reconstruction or deconstruction, and my emphasis on the broadening scope of it, how is it -- let me know if you can answer how it maims any person by knowing more of a story. How does that maim anybody? It makes us all stronger.

Rebecca Ching: Truth.

Cha Barefield: I don't speak Japanese but my daughter does, and it makes her life broader, and I’m happy for that, but, again, how is what I just shared with you making me any smaller? 


I just told you things that made me bigger.

Rebecca Ching: Well, you know what it is, is my story isn’t centered.

Cha Barefield: Correct. Now, white folks love their story being centered, and in their defense, they’ve come by it honestly because your story has always been there.

Joon Park: [Laughs]

Cha Barefield: So it’s like why would you not think it’s kind of  like a child? Why would you not think you are -- like right now, Joon’s baby girl, I know she knows she’s the center of their world. Why would she not think that? She is held up in love and care all the time. For her to think something opposite, that would be the strange thing, right? So when I’m saying that about white people, I don’t want you to hear me just canonizing who white people are and dismissing them; but what I’m saying is white Americans have come by the ideology that they are the center of everything honestly, because this country has served them in that regard, and that’s a limiting perspective.

Rebecca Ching: There are certain things. There’s an ease that I have that I didn't know because I never struggled with it. Now, as a female, I could speak to showing up as a woman in the world in different spaces for sure. So yeah, before we move off on this, Joon, anything that you want to add to what Cha had shared about deconstruction, reconstruction? 

Joon Park: Yeah, you know, I love what Cha said about how studying these hard, critical pieces of history bring about an expansiveness to our being, and it’s important that we see that the end result is not more diminishing, more marginalization of anyone, but the expansiveness, the expanding, and the broadening of our common humanity. The piece you said about the reconstruction, deconstruction, all of that, I think what I always come back to -- and at the risk of centering the person whose mind and heart is still closed off to all this -- I guess, for me, I always think of this in terms of bridge building because I’m always trying to speak in a way that -- I hope it’s not coddling, I hope it’s not pampering -- but in a way that is gracious and understands the pain of waking up to this reality that history is hard and has been hard on very specific groups of people. 


And so, in addition to the expansiveness of what our broadening can bring, each person is going to have to come into a reckoning slash mushroom cloud of --

Rebecca Ching: Well said.

Joon Park: -- awakening to the hard history --

Cha Barefield: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.

Joon Park: -- of all our experiences, not just the ones that were centered throughout history, and I want to be as gracious as possible to that. That’s a hard reckoning.

Cha Barefield: That is.

Joon Park: And I don't want to center that because what we’ve been through as people of color, of course, the suffering, that’s hard.

Cha Barefield: It’s hard, yeah. Mm-hmm.

Joon Park: That’s real hard, but I don't want to take away from -- or, at least, I want to show grace to and compassion to the internal, I guess, unveiling or peeling back or even deterioration of ego that happens because when I came into the understanding of my complicity and my indirect or even maybe sometimes direct engagement with the systems that continue to perpetuate these horrors (is there any other way to say it?), these atrocities. 

Cha Barefield: Mm-hmm.

Joon Park: I was shook so badly, and there are days I can’t shake the guilt.

Cha Barefield: Mm-hmm.

Joon Park: And I have to ask those feelings of guilt -- what can I now do with that?


Rebecca Ching: You got it.

Joon Park: Right?

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Joon Park: Yeah, so in the entering of that expansiveness or the broadening (as Cha so eloquently put it), each of us approach this event horizon where there’s a before and there’s an after, and after, we can’t do nothin’ anymore, we can’t ignore it anymore. The people that I talk to very often who, you know, receive the things that I say and seem curious, like, genuinely curious in good faith, they're right at the edge of that event horizon, and I think that’s a make or break moment for so many people.

Cha Barefield: I loved what Joon said, too, and I thought to myself while Joon was saying yes, you know, this mushroom cloud, this reckoning, and, again, a very simple question, how are you minimized when you can hold more stories in your being? How are you minimized? You’re not minimized when you can actually care about something that’s not you. You actually are a better, bigger person. I mean, like, literally.

So I think about the limitations of what inherently comes to you when you are the sole narrative discussed. There’s so much you don’t even know how to love, how to care about, and when you do meet that mushroom cloud -- I see it so visually -- the you on the other side of that, I promise you is a more intact, bigger, expansive, fuller person than before. Can I tell a quick little story? 

When I first married into the family that I married into, they -- you know, they're white Southern people, and they would all probably think of themselves as Christians. I’m not trying to question that, but a lot of Christinanity can be racist, and it’s totally a comfortable thing. They lay down side by side and, apparently, there’s some sort of reconciliation. 


I don't know how they do it. I think you just have to escape certain things, but I married into this family, and his mother was awful to me, just awful. I hated being around her. She was dismissive. She was insulting. She let me know through body language and words that she knew I was less than, that I was not good enough for her son. I even felt like it was larger than -- I wasn’t good enough, period.

I remember going into a restaurant with my husband, his, then, younger sister (she was much younger), and his mom, and it was a restaurant where I was the only Black person who walked in, and I remember his mother walking in and looking embarrassed that I was a part of the group. She wanted a table that was out of the way so people wouldn’t see this Black girl sitting at the table. This really bothered me, and I didn't know how to properly contend with it like Justice Sotomayor says, “None of us come fully prepared in knowing how to contend with the situations that besiege us.” None of us are fully prepared for it. And so, I didn't really know what to do, I just knew that I didn't like how I felt, and after some time, I started feeling like the thing that she was dismissing. I literally started feeling like a dismissed thing, you know what I mean?

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.

Cha Barefield: Does that make sense? Without intentionality, I started owning that which she treated me like. It’s like if you hear no enough, you start to believe you are the no, you know what I mean? So I started to feel like this thing, and I was just having one night where I was just kind of crying in the bed by myself, and I was just like, “I think I’ve gotta get out of this, God. 


I gotta go back home to the Bahamas. I can’t do this. I cannot do this,” and I heard this very clear kind of understanding, and what I heard was -- you can call it God, you call call it the universe, I just knew it was a greater understanding than I possessed in that moment, and it came to me and it said, “Every person who has ever loved her in her life believes that she believes. Her mama, her daddy, her grandaddy, her uncles, her cousins, her teachers, her Sunday school teacher, every person who taught her how to ride a bike when she fell down and got a cut on her leg, that person who bandaged her up, that person who bought her her first patent leather shoes for Sunday church, every single person in her life felt as she feels. If she stops and accepts you right now, she calls everyone of them a liar, and you are scaring her because you will unearth her world.”

So the reason why I bring this story is anybody who’s world in unearthed because you are considering another, unearth that damn story. It behooves you to do so. The you on the other side of the unearthing will be better for it. But anyway.

Rebecca Ching: But anyway. [Laughs] No, but you address you losing community, losing belonging, it’s amazing what we do, what we compromise, what we sacrifice in our own integrity and the humanity of ourselves and others for fear of losing that belonging, you know? In this training with Resmaa, he really talks about the difference between hurt and being harmed, and I think we conflate those two, right? We conflate, “Man, my feelings are hurt. That stung.” 


I’m feeling the healthy conviction of change or the shame of the belief that maybe if I’m a part of this, you know, mushroom cloud of holy cow, to I’ve really been harmed. 

Cha Barefield: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: And to really understand that, and I think that’s where it gets really noisy. I’m wondering, in light of this conversation, what specifically are the trade offs the both of you have to weigh when you decide to lead visibly?

Joon Park: [Laughs]

Cha Barefield: That’s a good question. I mean, you know, sorry if I keep jumping in, Joon.

Joon Park: No, I could listen to you all day, Cha. You go for it. [Laughs]

Cha Barefield: I just think to myself -- so the cost. No one wants to be disliked, right? No one. I don't care who you are. No one wants to be disliked. No one wants to be in active battle. You don't wake up in the morning being like I cannot wait to fight in traffic so I can take that left to turn to get to my daughter’s school. No one wants this, and it’s nothing that’s unique. It’s probably something that every leader or person who influences others feels, but at a certain point, your head is above the sand, and because of the story that I just shared and the story that we are all talking about, there are those who are with great intention and passion coming for your head because you’re disrupting their lives, you’re causing hurt, not harm. I was hurting my mother-in-law. I was hurting her. I was causing her pain, but I wasn't harming her. I was actually helping her become a better person if she could hold space for me.

And so, it makes you more visible, it makes you more apt for people to come at you with the intention of discrediting you or harming you. 


So that’s a part, I think, of the cost, but I have to always end on something positive. Also, I have found that as though that is the cost, I have found that my people are coming to me. The rooms that I’m supposed to be in, they are coming to me, and those people create a wonderful, powerful barrier around my consciousness and my being that helps me navigate those landmines that are being tossed at me or that I’m coming upon with greater frequency. Is that making sense? 

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, visible leadership. I mean, what you painted, Cha, was the image that you're to become a target, right?

Cha Barefield: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: And so, to really step up -- I mean, I believe we lead all the time however we enter a room, but to really visibly lead and put yourself out there is risking safety --

Cha Barefield: Yep.

Rebecca Ching: -- is maybe an invitation for harm, not just hurt.

Cha Barefield: That’s right.

Joon Park: Yeah, can I just name -- you know, Cha, as you were telling your powerful story, it took a couple minutes to tell, and it was, I’m sure, a long and difficult experience, hearing it, I was making all kinds of faces just ‘cause it was so painful to hear. I’m sorry if I sound like I’m laughing.

Cha Barefield: No.

Joon Park: It’s nervous laughter, you know? It’s that kind of -- I’ve heard it called trauma laughter where it’s just like yep, I feel you on this. My hands are sweating, and my face was in my hand, and this side is so red now ‘cause I was almost digging my face in listening to you. As you were self-leading into those situations with family that was clearly racist, is there any other word for it?


Cha Barefield: There isn’t.

Joon Park: Decades and decades, maybe centuries of racism. You talked about being a target of that rejection and then internalizing, at some point, that rejection.

Cha Barefield: Mm-hmm. 

Joon Park: You know, where the no, when you hear it enough, you feel like you are the no. You know, there’s two levels in which we do a lot of this work through leadership, through advocacy, through speaking, and that one, we are speaking against the injustice, but two, we are also going against the responses when we speak against the injustice. You know, for me, the tradeoff you were saying, Rebecca, is when I enter those situations trying to lead in a way or speak in a way that is hopefully informing, bringing about the education piece and also here’s my experience in a story, there’s gonna be so much backlash and pushback. I almost some days feel like I’m trading my mental health just to speak against something that’s already affecting my whole being, and that’s hard. Cha, I’m sure in your situation as you were sitting at the dinner table, as you were navigating all those racist narratives, you were literally paying in your time and your mind and your mental space, your heart, all of it, that cost to be able to speak. 

Yeah, that’s the tradeoff that we do all the time, and I think I’m trying to balance what does self-care look like? What do boundaries look like? When can I fast from having to take in all this media, all these news stories? How good is it to be informed and, at the same time, when do I know I need to unplug? When I am rejected, at what points do I pay the emotional labor and just move through the situation, I don't want to cause trouble, or when I get rejected I say no to that rejection and I put my foot down. 


These are the tiny micro-decisions we make every other second, you know? A friend told it to me best. This friend, she said, “Pick your battles and protect your energy.”

Cha Barefield: Mm.

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Joon Park: We’re constantly negotiating those trades, right? The internal and external trades. And so, I think that’s an answer case-by-case and even breath-by-breath. 

Cha Barefield: Yeah.

Joon Park: To find when we make those trades

Rebecca Ching: For you, Joon, what when you were listening to Cha share her stories, is there something in your story that came up? Is there something that as you were receiving that, that came up for you?

Joon Park: Yeah, I would say it’s not the depth of harm, I don't think, but, at least in my family, my wife who’s Korean-American like me, she comes from maybe a family that is more, quote-unquote, “well to do” and perhaps has more money and, economically, is different than my family. Her parents are still together; mine are divorced. At least, culturally, that counts against me because if I come from a divorced family, what will that say about the family that I create. And so, even I think now in some Eastern Asian cultures that’s still a bit taboo or, at least, that’s looked down upon. So when I married into Juliet’s family, there was some tension and conflict around that. It’s a type of -- ‘cause I know this is its own thing so I don't want to pull from it -- but it is probably a type of classism in colorism even, and I don't want to hijack that word because that is its own thing, and that’s its own diverse experience, but at least from what I felt, it felt very much like there were preconceived and prejudice narratives built in before I was even met that made it -- again, I just that image, the web or the iron blanket that I had to navigate through. It was a minefield.


And so, again, Cha, your experience, the depth of the harm that was done to you can’t even compare, but as you were speaking --

Cha Barefield: Pain is pain.

Joon Park: Yeah, I mean, I felt a glimpse or a fraction of what you were feeling. My hands are still sweating.

Cha Barefield: It was awful. 

Joon Park: Yeah, I can’t imagine, you know? Earlier, you said, at the top of the hour, talking about corporate America, moving through that, I mean, it’s all the same kinds of navigations everywhere we go, from the dormroom to the boardroom, it’s always the same kind of how do I step here and how do I step there, and do I purposefully walk into this minefield knowing that it’s gonna cost to speak or do I just save my energy for another day?

Rebecca Ching: That’s a powerful boundary, though, having energy boundaries and having to navigate that, ‘cause if we don't have the energy to show up and we can’t care for ourselves, our families, or have impact, but you both articulated the mental gymnastics and the frequency of evaluating and scanning and assessing that is a whole other level for those who are not in white bodies. When I think of power, right -- you mentioned in our initial conversation how the powerful don’t value the qualities of others that are pushing back on the norms, and I had an experience where I was on a leadership team where we were really stepping up and trying to shake things up around issues that we’re talking about in a team, and I had a colleague text me and she said, “Don’t forget to stand in your power.”

Cha Barefield: Mm.


Rebecca Ching: That was anchoring, especially coming from her (she’s a woman of color), and I’m wondering, first, if you can share what makes you feel powerful. I’d love for you to talk about when you are standing in your power and what that feels like.

Joon Park: Rebecca, can you -- you know, you got that message from your colleague in a meeting. I’d also love to hear from you what it means for you to stand in your power.

Rebecca Ching: Well, for me, it was not to delegate it to the folks with the titles of who was in charge of this team.

Joon Park: Wow.

Cha Barefield: Mm.

Rebecca Ching: And not to delegate my power or the fact that just ‘cause they held these titles or this is how it’s always been done, we knew that how it’s always been done was continually doing harm real time, and I was trying to help, you know, obviously, my colleagues who were laboring immensely more than I was, and that is to speak to the team leaders on this. It was super vulnerable and scary, but if I knew that my worthiness and my safety wasn't wrapped up in what they thought, then I knew I could stand in my power, and that's always what I do to regroup, and that’s when I work with leaders and work with my clients, it’s not to delegate my worthiness and my safety. It doesn't mean there isn't gonna be risk or that I might not get my ass kicked emotionally or more, and, of course, it’s gonna look different for me, ‘cause, again, I know I can operate in a lot of spaces differently, but that was it -- not to delegate my safety and my worthiness and my power in general, that I wasn't subservient like hey, you're the boss, you're in charge. It’s like no, harm is being done, and you're complicit to it, and that has to stop. I had to release some of those old ways of seeing things. It was scary and liberating [Laughs] all rolled in one.

Yeah, so how about the two of you? How about you, Cha? When do you feel powerful?


Cha Barefield: So, recently, I had the privilege of being able to speak to many of the freshman class at Virginia Tech, and so, I was on my way, driving there, and I was listening to an old Maya Angelou interview. She was responding to what humbles her, and she said what humbles her is that she is loved beyond measure. Then, she paused and she said that there is a great big being, bigger than me, who loves me, who thinks that I am incredibly special and valuable, and I am humbled by that love. Then she went on to say that when she thinks of all of the many Black bodies it took to get her here, that that is a powerful thing. That is a powerful thing of people who had to live and not die to make sure that Maya got here when Maya got here, and if that’s true for Maya, that’s true for you, me, and Joon. So when I’m standing in my power, I know what it took for me to be here, and you will not cut me off at my knees, even if I feel like I need to bow, I will not be cut down because I am so connected to all of the brilliant forces that got me here at this very moment in front of you. 

If I have to tell myself that story over and over again on the inside I will. Probably, if someone had to do a little cartoon of it, it probably looks like I have all these ninjutsu forces around me, especially when people who are in my space who don’t believe in my power, who don’t recognize my power, I can stand in that place even when you don't recognize it. 


I can stand in that place even when you don't value it because I know what it took for me to get here. So I think about that. I am humbled by how loved I am, and I am humbled by what it took, who needed to live and not die for me to be here right now.

Rebecca Ching: I’m having a hard time staying in my chair. I want to jump up. [Laughs] Thank you for that word. Thank you.

Joon Park: Cha, am I supposed to follow that because, uh…

Cha Barefield: Oh, my god, please. [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]

Joon Park: [Laughs] So I’ve done a lot of work in therapy, internal work, work with community, fellow activists in peeling back to whole model minority myth, and I don't think that’s largely just an Asian myth, but it was coined in, I think, the ‘40s or even ‘50s for Asian Americans. The idea is that we’re quiet, passive, hard-working, keep our head down, all of that. Come to find out that the model minority myth is just that. It’s just a myth that Asian Americans and Asians throughout history have protested loudly, have petitioned, have taken to the streets, have stood up for themselves.

Cha Barefield: Have been warriors, and have had those warried against them. I mean, like, yes.

Joon Park: Yeah, yeah. Cha, when you said about all the people before, I mean, this chorus of all the people before us, our ancestors, all of them together, you know, hearts marching together, the more I read on my own history I’m like we were never quiet. We weren’t silent; we were silenced, and that’s a big difference. And so, standing in my power is standing in the power of all my ancestors and the stories before me and the road that was paved so that I could be here, and to recognize the model minority myth was a suppressive tool used against us like many, many tools and tactics of white supremecist forces and throughout Anglo European history to ensure that we would be props and that we would sort of be the builders but never the leaders, right? 


What I’m learning now is no, and I’m having to say no to that all the time and unlearn it all the time. That’s hard, tough internal work, and I’ve been saying that word a lot, but it is. It’s very hard.

Cha Barefield: It is.

Joon Park: It’s not easy because these myths were not only internalized, but culture as a whole, especially in the west, still believes that myth and will do all they can with a death grip to perpetuate that myth.

Cha Barefield: Mm-hmm.

Joon Park: Otherwise it means sharing power, right? Or even giving up power. So part of my role and part of the voice that speaks when I enter a room is remember who you are, and you're bringing all of yourself, and the person that you want to become is who you always were, who you were meant to be is to remember before the outside world came in and said who are you.

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Joon Park: Before the outside world came in and told me who I was, I was and I am. That’s how I want to enter the room.

Cha Barefield: Ooh. Glory. Can I say glory? ‘Cause that’s what that is.

Joon Park: [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: That is glory.

Joon Park: You know, I know that this is a privilege that I have historical records of my family lineage, and I know that not everyone has that ‘cause, unfortunately, some groups of records were destroyed on purpose, but, you know, I’ve learned in the last few years that my great-grandfather was a revolutionary in colonized Korea, one of the leading revolutionaries. 


You know, Korea was colonized by the Japanese empire, and, again, that’s a whole different thing to bring in, but I can say that my great-grandfather, I mean, was one of the leaders of leading against, fighting for, rebelling against the empire. When I think of that, his blood flows through these veins, and I just think -- I enter a room, and I’m working so hard for people to hear me, and I’m just like y’all don’t even know. [Laughs] You know? I will say, hopefully, I’m not coming off arrogant or something when I say that, but it’s like really, y’all just don’t know. Y’all just don't know. I’m coming in bringing all of that, all of that fire into this room. 

Cha Barefield: What’s that quote? “I may come as one, but I stand as ten thousand.” Maya said it in that thing that I was listening to. “I may come as one, but I stand as ten thousand.” What you're talking about is that historical presence, the ancestors that are in you, what it took for you to get here, who you really are. That didn't sound conceited or self-absorbed in any way. It sounded like you were aware of the truth, and it’s the truth. It took a lot for Joon to get here. Very precise DNA timing. That’s all.

Rebecca Ching: Very precise DNA. I dig that. Yeah.

Joon Park: [Laughs]

Cha Barefield: You gotta stand in that.

Rebecca Ching: You have to stand in that, and I think a part of power is not shrinking from that confidence, right? 

Cha Barefield: Yeah, she spoke, too -- she goes, “A false sense of humility? Don’t pretend to be small, ‘cause a false sense of humility is just affect. It doesn't look good.”

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] She called bullshit to it.

Cha Barefield: Essentially, she’s like you're great, and know that you're great, and stand in your greatness. Now, the question is what the hell do you do with your greatness? You don't just sit back and talk about I’m great, you recognize how great you are and you do great shit.

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Joon Park: Mm.


Cha Barefield: But I’m not gonna pretend. I’m not gonna have a false sense of humility, and she said that is pure affect. It’s fake. [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: One more question about power, because you both referenced this too, right, in the spaces that you work, the spaces that you live, you both identified that it’s not always been pleasant, to say the least. What about a time, maybe the first time you really were devalued as you stepped into your power, where you felt devalued and you were devalued because you stepped into your power.

Joon Park: I think one of the issues that I’m still wrestling with -- as we talked about entering the room and bringing all of ourselves, that has been a daily work for me that is still not always complete, and I think I tend to enter a room smaller than I should, devaluing myself as if shrinking myself will receive more acceptance and approval, right? So sometimes even before others may devalue me, I will self deprecate in order to feel like I can fit into a room.

And so, when I did my Chaplain training -- this was probably about seven years ago now -- my supervisor shadowed me. At the end of the day, when she gave the evaluation, she had a lot of good things to say, but her feedback was, she said, “I notice when you enter a room and introduce yourself to the patient, you give a very long introduction.” What she was saying was I would enter into a room and introduce myself to the patient as, “Hi, my name is Joon. I’m one of the chaplains here, and I’m a da-da-da, and I’ve been hired by Tampa General, and I’m da-da-da,” and I would say this long thing about my credentials, and then I would start doing movie references and references to pop culture because I wanted to prove that I am, quote-unquote, “American,” [Laughs] and that they are safe with me and I’m with it and I’m kind of one of them. And so, I work at a hospital in Florida, and so, you can imagine sometimes the demographic that I’m with.


Cha Barefield: Right.

Joon Park: And my supervisor said, “Do you need to introduce yourself that way?” And I said, “Well, I do that, I think, ‘cause one, it’s a reflex, and two, I want the patient to feel comfortable with me if I speak --,” and as I was saying this, I felt weird. I was like if I just speak English real fast, then they’ll think it’s -- as I was saying it, I was like ugh, I’ve internalized all of this, right? It’s because of those -- maybe not any grand moment of I was devalued, but all those little small moments of being devalued in rooms where I knew people were turning away and not listening or looking past me or looking for someone else to speak, but I feel that everywhere I go, not being taken as seriously. You know, being someone without hopes or dreams or ambitions or anxiety in my head. I am just a prop in their story, and that’s something that I’ve had to one, move against externally, and two, rewrite internally.

Rebecca Ching: You’re having to rewrite it real time because the same narrative is being lived out, played, portrayed, and so, the pull to go back to the homeostasis, the status quo is significant. That’s a lot of energy. That’s a lot of labor.

Joon Park: Yeah, in fact, if I can read this quote from Chang-Rae Lee who wrote Native Speaker. This is kind of an older book, but this is the protagonist of the story. “He is someone who uses his Asian-ness as a way to people-please and to get people to approve of him,” and this is the protagonist kind of giving his inner monologue. The first time I read this, I think I was in college, and I thought oh, my gosh, this is me. [Laughs] He writes this, and he says, “And yet, you may know me. I am an amiable man. I can be most personable, if not charming, and whatever I possess in this life is more or less the result of a talent I have for making you feel good about yourself when you are with me.


In this sense, I am not a seducer. I am hardly seen. I won’t speak untruths to you. I won’t pass easy compliments or odious offerings of flattery. I make due with onhand materials, what I can chip out of you, your natural ore, then I fuel the fire of your most secret vanity.”

The first time I read that, I was like did this guy read my diary or something?

Cha Barefield: Mine too.

Joon Park: Yeah, yeah, and that’s how we’ve had to -- that’s how I, I can speak for myself, had to navigate in this world. How do I fight that? It's an everyday fight.

Rebecca Ching: You know, Cha, I keep going back to something you said at the very beginning of our conversation, and Joon, you’ve touched on aspects of this in the places that you work and are just in different spades, particularly around, not just white bodies, but white female bodies have a hard time sharing power, and I know a lot of the people that listen to this show are on some place of the spectrum of the curtain pulling back to the mushroom cloud of this awareness process. I’m wondering what you’d both want to say to those listeners that are really rumbling with this stuff (wherever they’re at in their deconstruction or reconstruction phase) when they're in spaces where they’re like do I say something, do I not say something, I don't want to say the wrong thing, but I don't want to lose my job, but I don't want to get yelled at myself -- you know, all the things that their mental gymnastics they’re going through even in their privilege, even in their advantages, what is something you’d want them to know if you were sharing space in a room with them at the hospital, Joon, or in a business, Cha?

Cha Barefield: I’m gonna answer this, and then at some point I want to go back to the question that Joon answered. I’m just still mulling that over. Thank you for that, Joon.


I think I would want them to know that follow your peace. Like anything that we do, what it leaves us feeling as it’s done, that’s the real thing that that thing gives us.

Rebecca Ching: Whoa.

Joon Park: Mm.

Cha Barefield: Do you understand what I’m saying?

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Cha Barefield: So I would say follow what you feel after it’s done. So you can do the thing to preserve your job and not say a word, but here’s a truth: how you feel about sucking in the words that were beating at the back of your throat afterwards, that’s the truth of what that thing gives you, and that thing will teach you what you should have done.

Rebecca Ching: Phew, okay.

Joon Park: Mm.

Rebecca Ching: Yep. Thank you. 

Joon Park: Yeah, I’m gonna borrow something from a book I finished recently called The Wake Up. I finished with tears in my eyes, and I think one thing she said in there -- there were so many takeaways for me. I messaged her the exact number of highlights in my ebook copy ‘cause it was just too many. I was like oh, I think I’m highlighting wrong, ‘cause there’s more highlights than that. But she talks about the difference between comfort and safety.

Cha Barefield: Mm.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Joon Park: And, you know, comfort is a self-insulation. It’s saying that I’m just gonna be comfortable in myself. To use Cha’s language earlier, it is to de-expand or have an unexpanded perspective, and many of us live in comfort, but safety is when you peel back the comfort or you enter discomfort of the hard history of the hard story of the trauma we face. Then, you begin to think compassionately and thinking about others, about our safety. This brings up, for me, working in the hospital, even the debate around masks. You know, my personal comfort. 


I don't want to wear a mask because this, you know, two-inch piece of cloth is bothering my face or can we think about our safety, can we have a -- you know, I don’t like masks either as far as comfort level, but I wear it because I care about our collective safety. And so, as we’re doing this reckoning work, I think we need to discern where the areas of discomfort --

Cha Barefield: Right.

Joon Park: You know, I enter with discomfort, but at the end, my wellbeing, my health, my safety, it’s improved. It’s better. More stories make us better and more expanded, and to edit that, right, it takes a level of saying I’m going to give up comfort because, for me, it’s been false safety. It hasn't been safety.

Cha Barefield: That’s it.

Rebecca Ching: Oh.

Cha Barefield: That’s it.

Rebecca Ching: Yes, that’s it.

Joon Park: And I’m gonna enter the discomfort and enter into real, authentic, honest safety.

Cha Barefield: That’s right.

Rebecca Ching: And discover what that is. Some people need to even just know what it’s like to even embody that.

Joon Park: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: Yes, what a word. Cha, you said you wanted to circle back to something Joon had said.

Cha Barefield: Yes, the question where you were asking when was a time that you -- either the first time or most recent time or a time that stands out where you were devalued in your power, you weren't seen in your power. I want to tell a story. I’m a storyteller, so please forgive me. I would say that the point of my story isn't that we should have to do it, but I want people to know it is possible, and there’s goodness on the other side of it.

So when I first got to this career that pays my bills right now -- it’s real estate. It’s specifically my -- I’m not in it any longer, but I was specifically in new home sales. New home sales, for whatever reason, [Laughs] it’s a very white-dominated space. 


Apparently, only white people know how to sell homes. It’s very incredible. [Laughs] And so, I was a big disruptor in that world, and the only reason -- I know why I got hired because I interviewed at a company who had the only Black sales manager in all of Charlotte but, by the way, for that national builder, throughout the nation. He was the only DP or director of whatever, and he didn't hire me because I was Black, but he did not not hire me because I was Black. 

I show up like this: I am a Black woman who phenotypically, aesthetically, I am Blackity Black, I’m Black. I wear a headwrap. I feel beautiful with my headwrap. I like it, and I know that that’s also very disruptive and strange in white-predominant spaces. I used to always want to make sure that people knew that I wasn’t a Black Panther -- which, why, who cares. What was wrong with them, you know what I mean? Because to the book, the quote that Joon read -- which this looks like a book I need to read ‘cause I had been primed, from early age when I came to America, that -- three things. Immediately, when I got into rooms of white people, make them comfortable with me, then, make them like me, and then allow them to see me as the gifted one or great. So it was like this three-prong thing that I would go through. I’m gonna make you feel comfortable. So I’m being extremely affable, self-deprecating, I’m not gonna hold all of my space. But where I'm at in my life right now is my job is not to make sure that white people are comfortable. I’m not even trying to do that.

But I’m in this space now. I had this job, and the company was purchased by another bigger company, and my, then, boss was let go. 


So, once again, I was back to being the only Black person, and this other company had inherited me, if you will. You understand? So I wasn't anything that that new sales management staff would have hired, and I remember it was so perplexing because I thought I make them comfortable, I make them like me, I show myself as great and exceptional, and I could tell that they didn't like me, and I didn't know what else to do because I’d used all my arsenal, you know. I’d done everything I can to make the white people like me, and they still weren't liking me, so I was like -- when you don't know what you've done to make someone dislike you, you don't know what to do to make them like you, you know what I mean? And the truth is I hadn’t done anything, but why it was important for me that I’m telling you this is it was a time where my value was in question all the time. I could tell that they were just waiting to figure out how to fire me. 

So I was always driving up to my model home like Fred Flintstone in his car -- eeeerk -- and trying to get there and open up the door and disarm the house before the time that I was supposed to -- because I knew that they were just looking for the smallest infraction, and it was awful. I remember finally saying to my, then, boss -- I actually asked this question, y’all. Oh, my god. I said, “Do you see my value? May I ask you if you see my value?” And his answer shows me what an awful leader he is and what a great leader I am. He said, “I could tell you a whole bunch of things you could do better.” Then I said to him, “Should I be looking for another job opportunity?” He goes, “I would if I were you.” I was like okay.


I remember I drove home that night, and it was about a 45-50 minute drive down this old country road, and I was just kind of crying and feeling weak inside, but by the time I got home, this internal resolve hit me because, again, that larger voice, I was so scared because I am the provider for my family. I’m it. My husband has chronic kidney disease. He goes to dialysis three times a week. We have a, at the time, she was a prepubescent little girl of ten, and I’m just trying to do it. So I’m scared, but by the time I got home, an inner-working had taken place, and what I heard in my soul was, “It’s not their job to take. You will be there as long as I will have you there.” 

And so, I was able to go through the machinations necessary to feel you devalue me and never see my value, and I was able to lean into that thing that gives me my power, who I come from, what got me here, and I was excellent in the face of those who did not value me, and that was good for me to learn that. That I learned that I can do well without a home team advantage. I don't have to be home. The people in the stands don’t have to be pulling for me. They could all be rooting against me. In that space, when I dig into my power, yet I will stand. I stayed there until it was time for me to go, and I was one of their most successful sales people.


At the end, I remember, you know, your reviews? They’re like, “We’d like to talk to you about your --,” and this was a moment that they really were trying to take my power, but that’s what I’m saying. You can stand in your power when no one else sees it. Your grandfather can be the warrior that he is, and you can come from that lineage. Even when they don’t see it you know it and you stand in that space. 

Joon Park: Yes.

Cha Barefield: So here I was. They were like, “You know what, you’ve grown. You’ve grown a lot since you've been here.” That was their feedback in my review, and I said at the end of that -- they said, “Well, what do you think?” I was so proud of myself to this day, I said, “I think you see me now.” They stepped back, and I was like, “No, I’ve always delivered how I’ve been delivering. Sure, I’ve grown like you grow. I hope you grow in your daily life, but no, the stuff that you're speaking to, you just are now seeing me. They didn’t know what to say to that, but my point is, what I could recognize is even when they devalued me, I was still able to stand in my power, and that’s what that taught me, that even if you don’t recognize my value, I can still tap into that value.

Rebecca Ching: Mm, thanks for sharing that, Cha.

Cha Barefield: Thank you for letting me.

Rebecca Ching: We have to be on our own team, always.

Cha Barefield: You do.

Joon Park: Yep.

Rebecca Ching: We have to be on our own team. All right, we could be talking forever, but I want to wrap up with a couple questions. I’d love for you to define success, what success is to you, and how is it different from what you were taught. Joon.

Joon Park: I think a short answer that I can give is -- to pull Cha, from your story, which there’s pain in there and there’s victory in there. I think success is so externally defined in measuring cups and arbitrary standards and based off of things that are classist and racist and misogynist and all of it, and I think I’ve had to unlearn a lot of those myths and be able to know that success is contentment within myself, that at the end of a long day or week or month, that I can say did I bring myself fully into the room. 


There will be days where I will look back and say, you know, I didn't that day, and maybe I sold myself short a little bit, but I think success can’t be I walk into a room and I have conformed and contorted myself and carved myself into the image of what people already want to see.

Rebecca Ching: Ugh, I feel that.

Joon Park: Yeah.

Cha Barefield: Me too. You’re preachin’. 

Joon Park: I’m bringing in the whole of myself, and, you know, there’s a beautiful -- I think, probably it’s not my favorite book of all time, by Min Gin Lee who wrote Pachinko. It is a historical fiction novel. It takes place over about 100 years of Korean history. I think the last third of the book I couldn't stop crying ‘cause it was just such an emotionally moving story, but there’s a scene and it, probably, within context this line -- I mean, it made me weep immediately. This father’s talking to his son, and it’s in colonized Korea, and just a series of terrible, awful events have befallen this family, and he tells his son, “You are very brave, Noah. Much, much braver than me. Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Cha Barefield: Listen, that was my point. It takes great courage, and it also builds something really remarkable in you, but I’m not saying that like I want everybody to go through the pain or the harm of those moments, but there is some delicious yummy on the other side of that. To be able to stand in a room that is actively against you, and stand there in your power is both brave and strong.


Joon Park: Yeah, that’s success right there. 

Cha Barefield: That’s it. Mic drop. What do I have to add to that?

Rebecca Ching: Is there anything you want to add to it, Cha? No?

Cha Barefield: I mean, no. I’m like I think that’s it. Being able to be exactly who you are and not waver regardless of the environment that you’re in.

Rebecca Ching: That means we have to figure out who we are, truly and not just regurgitate what we’ve been told. I appreciate what you said, Cha, too, ‘cause it’s not like hey, you have to go through the fire that’s, like, a justification; we have to stop avoiding the fire in front of us so that our world is tiny. We have to go through the fires, and that’s part of living, that’s part of expanding, that’s part of building resilience, and it’s part of connecting and deepening humanity. So it’s not just about I, I, I which you touched on, also, Joon, right? It's the collective I am living for we, not just my safety, not just my power, not just my needs, but the collective, and this is what we’re in the reckoning for right now. It’s happening before our eyes on small levels and big levels on repeat.

Thank you both. I’ll be absorbing in the echoes of this conversation for a while, but I do want to wrap up with some little bit more light-hearted [Laughs] quick-fire questions for you all. Okay, Joon, let’s start with you. I’ll probably just ask the same question and go back and forth. 

Joon, what are you reading right now?

Joon Park: What am I reading right now? Oh, my goodness. So I love fiction, and right now, I am reading two books. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. 

Cha Barefield: Ooh.


Joon Park: I've been into kind of science fiction and historical fiction lately, and so, Ted Chiang is another author that I really like. He wrote Exhalation and The Story of Your Life and Others, and one of his short stories was the basis for the movie Arrival with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner which is a fantastic movie about communication. 

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Joon Park: Yeah, but there’s something about Asian American authors -- short stories, fiction, where they're just -- it comes from a completely -- I mean, it does come from a completely different perspective and helps me feel like I’m reading in my mother tongue, in my cultural tongue. It helps me to feel like this is my whole language that they’re speaking. The talks about honor and the talks about fighting against assimilation, all of that. And so, every story, his themes are very obvious, but I love that it’s so thematically strong, and he uses these science fiction premises and he takes us back to the past with dragons and stuff in his book. It’s so cool. 

I just recently finished reading The Wake Up by Michelle MiJung Kim, and I am really embarrassed to say I have not read this, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. 

Cha Barefield: Oh, yes. “God sent no other rainbow sign, no more water, fire next time.”

Joon Park: Yes. Mm. So I’m ready. I’m ready for it.

Rebecca Ching: All right, adding to my reading list. How about you, Cha, what are you reading right now?

Cha Barefield: So I’m dragging on one book just because I don't want it to end, and I’ve just recently started another. The first one is Shoutin’ in the Fire. It is a book written by Danté Stewart, and it is just so brilliant, and as Joon is speaking of it, it feels like I am reading my native tongue. These experiences, it’s like a love letter to Blackness as it finds itself in America. So it’s beautiful.


The next one I’m reading, I just started it. Literally, it just showed up a couple days ago. God Is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland. I know the name is pretty shocking, but the reason why it’s so delicious is -- and she’s somebody who was a former columnist writer for Christinaity Today. She’s a Black woman. I know. I know. [Laughs] She had to go through her own reconstruction, deconstruction process, because the anti-Blackness that we all are fed, you don't have to be white to be fed anti-Black -- you have to be human. We are all fed anti-Blackness.

Joon Park: Yeah. 

Cha Barefield: And then, all of our other hatreds for other people are your standard deviations from -- [Laughs] you know what I mean -- Blackness or white -- it’s crazy, but it’s a book that she goes on a pilgrimage -- you can tell -- to find value in who she is, in recognizing that she’s been praying to the altar of white Jesus -- white, male Jesus --

Joon Park: Wow.

Cha Barefield: -- for her whole being, and in doing so, she had to shut off all these parts of her. So to learn how no longer to walk around and live in this fragmented state in order to comply. The worst part is, no matter if you comply, you still ain’t complying enough, ‘cause you’re still Black and a woman. [Laughs] So it seems to be a book that I’m going to love. One of her quotes is -- with the whole Trump election, she’s like, “What I recognized, at first, it didn’t shock me that racism was there,” ‘cause she was like oh, yeah, the church’s been racist. She said, “But when he came against white femininity, and everybody started --,” she goes that’s when she recognized her gender and her race were two things that were very important and that were being assaulted because she’s like there’s nothing that white America holds up more than white femininity. 


She said it’s a fruit of the spirit. [Laughs] So when she saw that fruit being attacked, she was like, “Oh, I think I need to rearrange a whole bunch of things that I have been living under.”

So those are the two books.

Joon Park: Wow.

Rebecca Ching: Oh, wow, I’ve got some reading to do. All right, what song are you playing on repeat, Cha?

Cha Barefield: Oh, my god, yes. Oh, my god. The song that I’m playing on repeat in the  last two days has been -- hold on, I just have to look it up, if you don’t mind. Go Joon.

Joon Park: So besides Cocomelon, right, for my one-year-old.

Cha Barefield: [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]

Joon Park: Yeah, you know, I’ve been playing over and over the Enconto soundtrack ‘cause it’s so good. Can I give a shoutout to my sister-in-law Sarah Kang. She’s a musician, songwriter, Korean American. I’ve been playing her songs as well.

Cha Barefield: [Gasps] Wow.

Rebecca Ching: Nice.

Joon Park: We don't have guests a lot. We try to keep as safe as possible, but when we do have guests over, we play her music, and it’s funny ‘cause I’ll play her tracks on a TV we got at home, and her album shows up, my daughter recognizes her and will start pointing at her auntie and start waving, and it’s the cutest thing. She doesn’t do that for any of the other album covers or any other person on the TV. She’ll start doing that, “Oh, that’s my auntie!” She’s one year old and she recognizes her, so yeah, we play her all the time at our house. Our sister-in-law, mainstay. Sarah Kang, shoutout to her.

Rebecca Ching: Did you find your song, Cha?


Cha Barefield: I did, and I don’t know why I paused. So the two things that have been on repeat is this artist named Wyn Starks. He has this album called Black is Golden. I think he might even be from North Carolina. It's just such a brilliant album. That’s been on repeat. And then, my one default song that has nothing to do with Wyn Starks is by Eve, the rapper who used to be a part of Ruff Ryders and it’s called “Tambourine,” and girl, that song just like, “Shake your tambourine,” I don't know, I just want to shake my tambourine all over the gym! [Laughs]

Joon Park: [Laughs] 

Rebecca Ching: I’m adding that to my workout list now too. Okay, what’s the best TV show or movie you’ve seen recently?

Cha Barefield: If I’m honest, I have some things that I want to talk about at another time, but I think an epic recent story that I have been caught up in is Yellowstone.

Rebecca Ching: Okay. Everyone keeps telling me to watch it, so all right. How about you, Joon?

Joon Park: My wife and I, we’re late to the party, but we recently finished Squid Game, which I know everybody’s been talking about it, and I guess we came late, but it was as good, if not better as everybody was saying. It’s take on classism and capitalism and it was an emotional, incredible show, yeah.

Rebecca Ching: Okay. I need to rally for it. My husband keeps saying, “Let’s watch it,” and I’m not sure I’m emotionally ready, but we’ll do it.

Joon Park: I will say, it’s very difficult to watch, very gorey, but my wife and I, when we watch shows -- she doesn't binge watch, but if she likes something she’ll say, “Yeah, next episode. You gotta click it,” and I look at her like, “You know, we got work in the morning.” “Next one, next one, go ahead, go ahead.” That’s how I know she’s into it.

Cha Barefield: I like Juliet! 

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]

Joon Park: Yeah, that’s her stamp of approval, and for that show, yeah, we went through it fast.


Rebecca Ching: Oh, man. Cha, what is your mantra right now? What are you saying to yourself on repeat?

Cha Barefield: That I can do this.

Rebecca Ching: Yes, how about you, Joon?

Joon Park: My theme for this year has been boldness. So be bold.

Rebecca Ching: What is an unpopular opinion you hold?

Cha Barefield: I mean, I don't know if it’s unpopular anymore, but it’s not that stereotypes -- It’s that Chimande Adichie TED Talk. It’s not that stereotypes are wrong; it’s that they’re incomplete. And so, do Black people like listening to loud music as a whole? Mm-hmm, yeah, we do. You know? So I think that I don't run away from believing the validity in certain stereotypes like I used to. I used to feel like I had to run away from it and disprove it. What I was really trying to do was prove that my value was bigger than the stereotype. 

So I hated the fact that my father -- I come from a broken family. My father has 15 children with 15 different women. I’m from the Bahamas, you know, and I attended white boarding schools in The United States of America and Europe, and I hated that my life sounded like a trope. I hated that my life sounded like a story that had been iterated over and over again, but here’s a truth, are there a lot of families without a Black father in the family? Yeah, there are, but that’s not the complete story. That’s not the whole story. The whole story is there are a lot of wonderful fathers who are showing up, too, or a lot of those fathers who are not showing up weren’t even given a chance almost out of the womb to show up, you know? 

So I think the unpopular belief is I’m less inclined to run away from the validity of stereotypes, and I’m more inclined to consider the totality of the story that ot them there.


Rebecca Ching: Oof.

Joon Park: Wow.

Rebecca Ching: Thank you, Cha. How about you, Joon? What’s an unpopular opinion you hold?

Joon Park: I’ve come to find, as I’m thinking through and rethinking through my own faith, I think the conversation has largely been taken up by here are white Evangelicals, and then here are deconstructionists. My unpopular opinion is that I think this is a binary, and it’s a polarity that is not fair to -- for example, in my own church, there are Korean-American Christians who care deeply about racial justice and immigration and also hold to the bible as their guiding authority, and I think if we’re just talking about here are white Evangelicals who hold these theological beliefs and then everyone else who is deconstructing, that is centering a very particular perspective, instead of looking at well, there are different intersections of Christians who can hold a range of different beliefs, who may be deconstructing but also still feel strongly about these things and these things that may not make sense too far right or far left.

Cha Barefield: Yeah. 

Rebecca Ching: Oh, thank you. I love it. Let’s close it out. Who or what inspires you to be a better leader and human?

Cha Barefield: Easy for me. My mother, and I know that sounds so trite, but she made me believe, from a young age, that I was special, that I had something to bring to this world. The truth is it’s nothing unique to me, it’s to everybody, but I took it on, and I took it in. And so, she inspires me because I see myself as she sees me, and it’s pretty remarkable.


Rebecca Ching: What a gift. How about you, Joon?

Joon Park: Oh, I can say -- this is easy for me too, Cha. My wife, my daughter, for sure, and, as of late, as I’m rethinking through faith, Brown Jesus. That’s all I gotta say on that.

Cha Barefield: Mm, mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: Cha, Joon, it has been an honor. Thank you so much for your time, sharing of your heart, and of your life. I’m a better person because of it, and I know everyone who listens to this conversation will be too. So I’m very grateful. As we wrap up, Cha, where can people find you?

Cha Barefield: You can find me on Instagram under @thechashow, Cha Bare. My name is spelled differently. It’s C-H-A. That’s really where you can find me. It’ll take you to my website or whatever. Any mode that you need to connect with me is through there. 

Rebecca Ching: Wonderful. How about you, Joon?

Joon Park: Yep, Instagram is for my long essay-like pieces. [Laughs] That’s some very carefully constructed stuff, and then Twitter’s like my real-time live thoughts. That’s like stuff that just goes from my fingers straight to the phone. Then, I have a Facebook, but I would say Facebook is where I’m least myself ‘cause the level of comments and messages I get there now, it’s a whole different level. My mental health -- I’m saying no to that now. So Facebook is kind of the safe page. Yep.

Cha Barefield: Amen.

Joon Park: Instagram is my thought pieces, and Twitter is me live and in real time.

Rebecca Ching: Awesome. We’ll make sure to put all those links into the show notes. Well, thank you again. It has been a gift that will keep on giving. I appreciate you both immensely. Thank you so much for joining us today.

We need to normalize and welcome the inevitable and, often, awkward experience of change and growth. We can do that when we stop trying to be perfect and do perfect and, instead, admit we don't know it all and engage with others by really listening. 


Cha and Joon modeled the power of sharing their stories of experience at work, in their respective families, and online. When we really listen to the lived experience of others and deepen our relationships with them, our hearts transform, and that’s the kind of change I want. How are you engaging meaningfully with the lives and needs of others around you, and what stands out to you from today’s roundtable? Where in your life do you need to grow and change, especially around those who have differences from you?

When you commit to learning and growing, you also benefit from taking a hard look at the burdens you carry that weigh down your capacity to change your mind and your ways of thinking and doing with confidence and clarity. This is the work of an Unburdened Leader.

[Inspirational Music Interlude]

Leading is hard, and leading is also controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, your boundaries. Navigating the inevitable controversy can challenge your confidence, clarity and calm. Now, I know you don’t mind making the hard decisions, but sometimes the stakes seem higher and can bring up echoes of old doubts and insecurities during times when you need to feel rock solid on your plan and action, but also during times of growth and change. Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex and polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing at safe and small. 

Now, leading today is not a fancy title or fluffy bragging rights, it is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is so unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up. Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to keep the protector of cynicism at bay and foster a hope that is actionable and aligned.


Now, when the stakes are high and you don't want to lose focus, when you want to navigate the inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions, The Unburdened Leader coaching is for you and where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.

To start your Unburdened Leader coaching process with me go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free connection call. I cannot wait to hear from you!

Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. You can sign up for The Unburdened Leader weekly email, find this episode, show notes, and free resources along with ways to work with me, at www.rebeccaching.com.


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