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Meet Ralinda Watts of RalindaSpeaks in Studio City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ralinda Watts.

Ralinda, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Growing up in Los Angeles, I’ve always been enamored with the creativity and diversity that the city offers. LA as the backdrop has really informed my pursuits, both professionally and personally, and how my passions and purpose often intersect with each other. From a very young age, I pursued dance, and continued that journey in college (undergrad), while also pursuing a business degree. At the same time, I was also actively engaged in studying identity and culture, immersing myself within communities and organizations that championed diversity and social justice. During and after college, I was a professional choreographer and dancer, working in the TV and film industries while also running a successful dance studio in the valley. I also taught dance in schools all over Los Angeles, but instead of just teaching the moves, I wanted to use dance as an entry point to engage students into having authentic conversations about identity, race, cultural appropriation, storytelling, and much more. I use dance and choreography as metaphors for conversations. Sometimes the choreography is beautifully presented (with complex movements coming to life with ease), at other times, the movement is messy, unrefined, and takes more time to develop or understand. In facilitating conversations, I’ve had to navigate various access points, understanding, lived experiences, backgrounds, engagement, etc., bringing it all together to find common ground. It’s definitely a dance!

In essence, the central message was helping students to understand that how we live and move the world is shaped and impacted by our identities and experiences. This work was so meaningful that I quickly focused all of my efforts (phasing out my dance studio) to working within educational settings as a diversity educator and practitioner. This allowed me to delve deeper into these issues, consulting (recommending best practices), writing, speaking engagements, and facilitating conversations. My perspective is informed through my lens at the intersection of academia, my own lived experiences, and contemporary issues, allowing me to engage in these conversations via cultural commentary, distilling big ideas down into relatable bits of information that are applicable and palatable for understanding and self-reflection. I’m constantly observing, commenting and researching culture, and all of these things, together inspired me to create the brand RalindaSpeaks, offering educational and media consulting, diversity and equity programs, writing, speaking, as well as content through a weekly podcast, RalindaSpeaks.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As a creative, I think I’m always trying to be innovative, reimagining what program or event I can develop to better (or differently) engage an audience. Owning one’s own business certainly presents challenges; however, our setbacks often prepare us for our greatest comebacks, building more confidence and resilience in our mission and purpose.

Diversity and equity work is challenging because people bring with them a different level of awareness, skillset, understanding, or willingness to engage in these conversations. As a practitioner, I am often managing the feelings and emotions that a person brings with them to the work, which are often roadblocks to progress. People have to be willing to be vulnerable and get a little uncomfortable: something that I’m not afraid to do. As a guiding principle to the work, I always begin every speaking engagement or workshop with “today, we’re going to lean into discomfort,” which is the “aha” moment where we can learn so much about ourselves, having true moments of growth.”

So, as you know, we’re impressed with RalindaSpeaks – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Ralinda Speaks is a brand that delivers content at the intersection of identity, culture, and diversity. As a diversity practitioner and educational consultant, my work includes consulting and dialogue facilitation, offering professional development training and workshops for media companies, educational institutions, organizations, teams, and for film & tv shows (coaching for individuals, too). In addition to my role as a diversity practitioner, I offer cultural commentary via social media platforms, writing, and speaking engagements. My studies at Columbia University in leadership, teaching pedagogy, and research was the impetus for bringing this vision to the forefront.

One thing I’m most proud of is being one of the co-founders of the Empowerment and Engagement Conference, a leadership conference for students of color (with a specific focus on students who identify as Black/African American) in the Southern California area. These students often represent less than 3 percent of their school’s enrollment, so this conference has really paved the way for empowering students to go back to their school communities where they can better advocate for themselves when they have challenging experiences that can erode their confidence as they navigate the burden of representation of being the “only one” or one of a few in a classroom or at their school. We just had our 6th annual conference on March 7th (one week before the Stay at Home Order), and this year we had a small group of students travel from the Bay Area and Massachusetts to attend the conference. It has been so great to see these young people feel affirmed and supported in their identities, or to see them gain more confidence in being proud of who they are, and not shy away from celebrating their authentic selves.

I’m also extremely proud to have founded the Los Angeles Diversity Directors’ Consortium in 2016, a collective of diversity practitioners working in the Los Angeles area. We meet regularly to share resources, support each other’s work, and most importantly to think critically about how we can advocate, elevate, and advance equity in all facets. As a diversity practitioner, I knew firsthand how important it was to create a space where you knew you weren’t alone, and that there were others who shared in your deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion work. For many years, I was alone, felt alone, and, at times, not supported in this work, so I wanted to cultivate a community that could feel empowered by our collective experiences, knowledge, and narratives. I’m so proud of this group’s continued growth and evolution and the challenging but necessary work that’s being spearheaded by members of this group!

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’m really excited about the future and the opportunity to continue expanding my work partnering with media (television, film, production) companies, personalities, and brands, bringing a deeper, more diverse (not just a buzzword but truly living and breathing what this means), and authentic perspective to the conversation. Representation of all identities and experiences are essential, and I want to bring these diverse stories, narratives, and experiences to the forefront in nuanced ways. We all deserve to see ourselves, and more specifically see ourselves thriving, not in spite of, but because of who we are. That’s the work that I’m passionate about and committed to, and I want to be a leader in meaningful change and honest dialogue that can happen in these various spaces.

The RalindaSpeaks podcast is definitely growing! We just had Lauren Speed and Cameron Hamilton from Netflix’s, Love is Blind as guests on the show (such a great interview) and I’m looking forward to having more guests that range in backgrounds, interests, identity, experiences, and passion, connecting us all on what matters most: authenticity. I’m a storyteller, and I look forward to bringing some fascinating stories into focus, connecting humanity in really thoughtful, informative, and exciting ways.

Contact Info:

  • Website: ralindaspeaks.com
  • Email: ralinda@ralindaspeaks.com
  • Facebook: @ralindaspeaks
  • Instagram: @ralindaspeaks
  • Twitter: @ralindaspeaks
  • RalindaSpeaks: the Podcast-available on Apple, Spotify, & Google.


Image Credit:
Reynaldo Macias, photographer

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