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Resiliency, Self-Care, and Joy

Creativity can be an antidote to challenging times, but we can’t show up for our communities if we’re burnt out. Dive into the art of taking care of you with two radical self-care strategists, Dr. Joi Lewis and Joe Davis.

An abstract illustration of a laptop, a phone, and a pencil balancing on a match that is almost burnt out.
Photo Credit: Mayumi Park

About The Guests

  • A smiling person of medium dark skin tone with short curly blonde hair, wearing orange beaded earrings, a silver pendant necklace and a black shirt

    Dr. Joi Lewis

    CEO, Joi Unlimited

    Dr. Joi Lewis is a visionary community healer and facilitator of liberation and social justice As a speaker, author, scholar and the CEO of Joi Unlimited, and President of The Healing Justice Foundation, she’s on a mission to put healing in the hands of anyone, anywhere. Dr. Joi helps individuals, institutions, and communities heal from oppression-induced historic and present day trauma, using Healing Justice as an on ramp to reclaim our own humanity and each other’s. Dr. Joi’s book, Healing: The Act of Radical Self-Care, educates individuals on the Orange Method of Healing Justice, a framework to interrupt historic cycles of oppression through both self and community care. She offers this meditation to all who believe in freedom: #MayTheRevolutionBeHealing

  • A smiling person of medium dark skin tone with a long black beard wearing a tan hat, light black jacket and tan watch

    Joe Davis

    Artist, Educator, & Speaker, Joe Davis Poetry

    Joe Davis is a nationally-touring artist, educator, and speaker based in Minneapolis, MN. He employs poetry, music, theater, and dance to shape culture. His work has been featured on BET, CNN, and VH1. He is the Founder and Director of multimedia production company, The New Renaissance, the frontman of emerging soul funk band, The Poetic Diaspora, and co-creator of JUSTmove, racial justice education through art. He has keynoted, facilitated conversation, and served as teaching artist at hundreds of high schools and universities including programs in New York and Boston. Please visit JoeDavisPoetry.com to book, connect, or learn more.


Marianne Combs: Welcome to the first episode of Filling the Well, a podcast created to nourish provoke and inspire artists and arts leaders. Over the next five episodes, you’ll hear from creative change-makers who share their takes on how to shift power, build authentic community, share resources and advocate for support. With each episode, you’ll find links to explore these ideas further and to take action in your own community, we’re kicking off the series by talking about resilience, self-care and joy.

Joe Davis: You’re not here by accident, you are here to share the stories of your sacred passage, you are the only you that ever has been, you are not the magician, you are the magic so show up to…

Joi Lewis: We are not meant to stay in trauma mode as a way of living, this is why we practice radical self-care and I tell folks… There’s only two times to practice radical self-care, when you feel like it, and when you don’t… When you feel like it, and when you don’t, [0:01:11.8] ____ then you covered…

Marianne Combs: You just heard from Joe Davis and Dr. Joi Lewis, our guests for this inaugural edition of Filling the Well. I’m your host, Marianne Combs.

There’s no sugar-coating it. The last couple of years have been incredibly hard, whether it’s the toll the pandemic has taken on community health and the economy, or the increasing frequency of brutal hate crimes based on race and religion, or the surge in natural disasters brought about by climate change. We’re all living with varying amounts of fatigue, anxiety and even trauma. Amidst all this upheaval, what are artists and arts leaders to do?

As a journalist who has covered arts and culture for decades, I’ve seen firsthand how creativity can be an antidote to challenging times. Artists serve as both healers and visionaries for their communities, bringing people together and helping them to imagine better futures. Today, we need this transformational work more than ever, and the arts has been among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic shutdowns and social distancing.

So our first episode is dedicated to taking care of you, and we’ve brought in two wonderful guests to join us. Dr. Joi Lewis is a radical self-care strategist, mediator, coach and artist-activist who devotes herself to instigating joy and healing healers. She lives in St. Paul, Dr. Joi, welcome.

Joi Lewis: Thank you. Very, very pleased to be here.

Marianne Combs: And Joe Davis is a multi-talented artist and educator who uses music, poetry, theater, and dance to create transformational experiences. He lives in Minneapolis. Joe, thanks so much for being here.

Joe Davis: Hey, Thank you so much Marianne, I’m glad to be here.

Marianne Combs: Dr. Joi I feel like the term self-care gets used a lot in common parlance these days, but it means different things to different people, and I think there are so many people out there who wanna be doing the good work, and sometimes they run themselves ragged, they forget about the taking care of themselves that they feel like there’s this next event that I have to be at, there’s this next thing I have to do, the people need me, and forgetting to nurture themselves so that they can be there for community.

Joi Lewis: Yeah, self-care and rest is an act of resistance. As sort of counter-intuitive because you think like, what do you mean, I’m resting. Yeah, rest is resistance. I really want to emphasize the importance of this sort of reclaiming and pushing against systems of oppression that want us to be sick and tired and worn out, and that it sort of pushes against this notion of self-care as a kind of soft thing that is something extra that you do, instead of something that is essential that we do, and I always like to lift up sister Audrey Lorde who says that caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it’s self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare, and that is really the self-care that I speak about it, and we speak about that it is also self-care that is grounded in community care and actually showing up and enjoy a lot of the good work that brother Joe is doing around radical joy, and to show up in that kind of way, it’s just such a profound act of resistance. And we don’t think about it like that.

Joe Davis: Yeah. I just wanted to add too Dr. Joi, and you’ve been significant in teaching me this, but I can’t even show up in my full self in my integrity, in my authenticity, unless I am practicing radical self-care, I’m decapitated and I don’t even have the ability to offer my gifts that I can offer to the world, unless I’m first finding that time and that space to prioritize like my health and well being is deeply, deeply, deeply interconnected.

Marianne Combs: Joe you’ve taken classes with Dr. Joi, I’m wondering what were some of the most important lessons you learned?

Joe Davis: I think for me, it was about prioritizing my self-care, because the world is not gonna prioritize it for me, I’m the only one who could do that, and then also this idea of… I love how Dr. Joi, you say it, “Don’t light yourself on fire to keep other people warm,” which is a habit, a pattern that I think I’m life long on learning, ‘cause I come from a culture that has taught me to take care of everybody else before I take care of myself, and to give until I have nothing else to give, and then I’m of no service to anybody when I do that, and I understand in a different way now that I’m always gonna be a generous person, I’m always gonna be this type of person who shows up and wants to offer my gifts and create space for healing and transformation, but I can do that in a way where, I’m showing up more grounded and more centered because I’m doing… I’m doing the work, I’m doing the inner work of radical self-care.

Marianne Combs: And when you talk about the inner work that you’re doing… What does that look like on a day-to-day basis?

Joe Davis: For me, it’s about paying attention to my body, being really attentive and just taking a moment to pause and to breathe, and to listen to it… What does my body need right now? Like, do I need to slow down and take a break and take a rest? ‘cause I think so often times we move in this machine like pace, where capitalism just teaches us to grind, grind, grind, work, work, work, produce, produce, produce, but it doesn’t teach us to create the space to listen to our bodies and to respond appropriately and accordingly, and so that’s the biggest thing for me, is actually paying attention to my body in a real way and be like, “Oh yeah, I haven’t drank a lot of water today, I need to go ahead and drink some more water.” You know what? I feel kind of tight… I feel a tightness in my joints, in my neck. I got to, after the Zoom meeting, I’mma dance a little bit. I’mma stretch it out. I’mma move a little bit and just listening, I think that’s one of the biggest things, is to pay attention to your body and really listening to what it needs in the moment.

Joi Lewis: You talked about, Marianne just some of the things that people are juggling the stress, the trauma, and I think for folks particularly, you got fight, flight, freeze, and I think for many of us over this past year and a half have really been stuck in that kind of freeze mode. And I use this example, when I get into my car and I pull that emergency brake, I put that emergency break on, and I get out of the car and sometimes I come back to my car and I forget to take the emergency break off, and my car will let me go…

It will let me go, I can drive with that emergency break on, and if I forget, after a while it will start hollering at me. What are you doing? It’s like.


Joi Lewis: Take the emergency brake off. Like what are you… And it’s like we are kind of stuck because you’re only supposed to be in that emergency freeze mode for a minute, it’s just to kind of get you to override to say, “Hey, there’s something that’s going on,” but that’s not where we’re supposed to stay… We are not meant to stay in trauma mode as a way of living, this is why we practice radical self-care, and I tell folks there’s only two times to practice radical self-care when you feel like it, and when you don’t…

When you feel like it and when you don’t, then you covered, and that if you can do that, then you can build up enough to put into your into your energy bank, because there’s gonna be some withdrawals, there’s gonna be life that’s gonna happen, you know… Right. Before getting to spend time with you all, my cell phone went out… I don’t know why it went out, it just decided it didn’t wanna be with me anymore. You know, it’s just, it’s out and that would have sent me over the moon, that would have just but fortunately, I have enough that is stored up in my energy tank, I’m like, Okay, I’ve got irritated for just a minute… And I said, You know what, okay, maybe I just don’t need to be that connected for a minute, clearly I need to take a break.

Marianne Combs: I love it. When you talk about this energy savings account, and I love this sort of financial analogy, that is you need to have enough in the account to take you through in those times when you have to make withdrawals, what adds to your energy account?

Joi Lewis: Yeah, I really… Again, I love taking concepts like capitalism and turning them on their head, ‘cause they don’t help us out in any other kind of way, and so it’s like, we might as well use this, so I try to think about things like, who are the people in my life that whenever… I spent time with them that immediately I feel like filled up… I feel like energized. Who are those folks? And so you might, if you’re listening to this, I invite you to write down, Who are those, who are three people in your life that when you spend that time with them, you’re like, “Oh yeah, that feels good.” What are three activities that you do you know that when you do it, you automatically feel like, “Oh yes,”, I know for Joe it might be singing, it might be dancing. And you know what is it that when you do it you’re like, “Oh, that changes my mood.”

This is a fun one… What are three songs that when you play them… It just takes you there. Right, and it’s just like you can put those on your phone, have a load, have it already ready, you about to go in that meeting, that you really don’t wanna go to, and you can just pop it in real quick and it just automatically feeds you and so I think of these things as like deposits, right, at the same time, you’re gonna have some withdrawals, there’s nothing wrong with the withdrawal, if you have something on the deposit side. And I like to think about withdrawals as things that you have to do, who are three people that are in your life that you know you might love them, but you’re just like they kinda take the energy. And it’s good to be aware of there might be somebody in your family, it might be your people, it might be somebody, a meeting you’ve got to go every week, whatever.

It’s okay, but just be aware, you know, Okay, I’mma have to go and spend that time with those folks, but let me make sure I have enough on the deposit side before I go and have to spend time with them, same thing with those activities, maybe there’s some meeting you have to go to every week or whatever. And then I also like to try to think about like food, is there something that you eat that you’d like to eat, but it didn’t like you… You might not need to be eating that. So those kinds of things and just… And I like to put it, actually, on your phone, in your notes section so you can look at that really quickly, and then you got your little energy bank, ready set up.

Marianne Combs: So you’re ready to make a deposit, maybe a couple of deposits a day, check it in your list and say, “oh, I haven’t done this lately, I should do this for myself.”

Joi Lewis: Right, and the last thing I’ll say about that is that, you know, you don’t make a deposit in the bank, generally, today and then take it out tomorrow. So yeah, you know, don’t just be like putting stuff in and then just be automatically taking it out. You gotta kinda build that thing up, you know? That’s why I said there’s only two times to practice radical self-care, when you feel like it and when you don’t. And particularly when you feelin good, go ahead and put some extra stuff in there, don’t be waitin.

Marianne Combs: Oh, I love that idea. Joe, what are the things that you put in your emotional bank account to sort of beef up your reserves so you’re ready to hit those stressful situations?

Joe Davis: Yeah, Dr. Joi hit a lot of them. For me, music is such a huge part of my life, and so I don’t think I would be able to survive without music. Like, I gotta get my good grooves, I got my playlist, I got the vibes that I know would get me right, and so that for me is a big part. I have to have some good music in my life, like not only listening to music, but also creating music. I think that can be helpful as well is creating for me is really life-giving, and it really just kind of feeds my soul, it feeds a part of me that feels really good. So writing poetry, writing songs, dancing. There’s been times, I kind of mentioned it earlier, but there’s been times where I literally have just danced between a Zoom meeting, because I’ve been sitting down all day, getting that Zoom fatigue, you know, and the joints are getting kinda tight and kinda creaky and I’m like, “you know what, I gotta stretch it out, I gotta move this energy around.”

I got five minutes, 10 minutes, however long I have, I gotta take that and just use that and move a little bit. One of the biggest things for me is literally just starting off my day with meditation. I call it my rising ritual, and so before I even talk to anybody or anything else, like, don’t even have the phone on, turn off the phone, turn off the computer, nothing, and just have some quiet time to myself where I can set my intentions and say, “this is how I wanna show up for the day.” And to me, it’s almost like tuning an instrument, ‘cause you know with instruments, you gotta… You might play an instrument, you leave it for a while, it’ll get out of tune. And when you start playing it again, you have to get it in tune again, playing the piano, playing wind instruments, playing guitar, you see, you gotta get it in tune again.

And to me, that’s what it’s like every day. When I get up in the morning, I gotta make sure that I am centered and grounded and aligned, and in that space before anybody else tries to tug at me, ‘cause there’s gonna be a bajillion different commitments that are gonna tug at my heart, that are gonna tug at me in every which direction. And I see it in… I’ve seen it happen before, where it’s like a pinball in a pinball machine, where everything that touches the pinball is bouncing everywhere, right? That’s what can happen to me and to my energy, unless I stay like rooted and grounded and centered, and then no matter what people say or do, no matter what happens, I can find that space inside of myself and say, “Okay, this is what’s authentic for me, this is where my integrity is.” I know Dr. Joi, you talked about saying no, like saying no to things. Somebody told me like your no should make room for your yes. And so just remembering that these are the things I’m saying no to, these are the things I’m saying yes to, and that is what really guides me and really gives me a sense of direction, like setting that intention, that helps me so.

Marianne Combs: Dr. Joi, you said earlier, you were talking about capitalism and that there’s really you gotta use… Turn it on its head. And I think it’s really interesting because artists are always strapped for cash, it seems, like the artist is constantly looking for resources to help them do what they wanna do. And both of you have spoken in a way that feels so joyful and abundant. For those people out there who are thinking, “great, sure, it’s nice to talk about all the good nice feelings, but when it comes down to it, I need to pay the bills, and I’m stressed.” How do we face these realities of scarcity in resources while trying to bring joy and be resilient and mindful in the moment?

Joi Lewis: I think it’s both like again, it’s holding the contradiction and recognizing that it’s real, in terms of the way that the world is set up, particularly here in the West, the way that capitalism is set up to make you like, “Oh, you gotta do this and this next thing is happening”, or whatever. But I haven’t found, even under some pretty harsh realities, worrying about them or stressing over them, it never helps. [chuckle] And so I have found that I have to look at that thing like square in the face. I think you can have toxic positivity as well, I don’t mean it in that way, but I think that there is a healthy balance around saying, “Okay, I’m gonna look at this thing, but I can also have some reality around it.” As my grandmother says, “none of us are as smart as all of us.” I think that there are resources, whenever I am not feeling like that, I have to figure it out on my own, but whenever I open up and I am able to share with other folks and reach out and say, “Hey, how might we be able to figure this thing out together?” I get crushed, and I think other people get really crushed when we are left to…Individualism and having to try to figure it out and get crushed by ourselves isn’t… And I think that that’s part of what happened, I think, particularly with the pandemic, there was a lot of isolation, and so I think they’re getting out of that isolation and reaching out and even just talking about it helps to say like, “Well, wait a minute. Oh, there may be some resources.” Sometimes you realize like, okay, this thing is not gonna happen, that bills is not gonna get paid, and facing the reality around that too, but there are some devastating things that one has to face. People are dying, there are some… There is some bad news, there are some things, but it’s something about being a community and doing that together that makes getting through it different. And that’s where the abundance comes.

Marianne Combs: Joe, you talked about how that was one of the lessons for you at this time during the pandemic, was you ended up leaning on community anew in different ways. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Joe Davis: Yeah, yes, that’s one of the things I’m most grateful for is community, ‘cause that’s where I see where the most abundance lives. It’s a reminder to me ‘cause when I’m holding something and I’m feeling overwhelmed, a lot of times it’s either because I’m holding something that I don’t even need to hold to begin with. This ain’t mine, why am I holding that? I don’t need to hold this, or it’s because I’m trying to hold something by myself that I don’t need to hold by myself. We’re here together for a purpose and for a reason. We need each other, we belong to each other, not as a sense of ownership, we belong to each other as a sense of an extension of one another, and we’re deeply, deeply interconnected in ways that are hard to even imagine or to articulate, but when I look out and see my community and the ways that they’ve uplifted me when I needed to be uplifted, and then I’ve in turn also been able to uplift them in ways. I think we only rise as high as we can lift each other, and during this time of pandemic and racial uprising, I’m needing my community like never before, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the people around me in my life. Yeah, and I think that’s where the true abundance is, ‘cause sometimes we can get stuck, we can get stuck in that scarcity mentality and we’re in isolation and we forget, but I need people to remind me of what’s possible. Right, I’m kind of known as a person who is really joyful and hopeful, and I like to remind people of that, but there’s days when I forget too. You know what I’m saying? Well, I don’t even, I’m like, “What is happening? What is going on?” And I need people around me who can remind me, and I think that’s the beauty and the power of community. As we can remind each other, we will need to be reminded of what’s possible, remind each other of the abundance that’s real.

Marianne Combs: We’re also talking about the news and how overwhelming sometimes that news can be. Does that factor into, your self-care is what you listen to and what you take in and what you don’t take in?

Joe Davis: Yeah, I’m super intentional about the type of media I consume, like I, to this day, have not seen the video of brother George Floyd, and that’s intentional. I don’t like to watch videos of Black death, I already know. As a black man, I know the violence and the trauma, and so I don’t need to watch it on replay on any video, so as much as is within my power, I avoid watching any type of videos of Black violence and Black trauma, even if it’s in films. So I’m very intentional about that, and yet I still am staying abreast with what’s happening in the world, I’m gonna be socially conscious, I’m gonna watch the news, but I just won’t… I won’t doomscroll, I call it doomscrolling, and I think it’s like… I don’t even think that they should call it the news, my joke is they should just call it the worst things that are happening near you, ‘cause that’s like what it is most of the time, it’s just like we’re inundated with all this negativity. So yeah, I’ll tap in, I’ll check out, okay, what’s going on? But then I also gotta go out in front of my apartment door and see the community garden and what’s going on, and my, the beautiful things that are growing right here. So I don’t get sucked into that. So yeah, you gotta have balance. It’s all about balance for me.

Joi Lewis: I too also purposely did not watch the video of the murder of brother George Floyd. And the reason for that is because now I have an understanding of the way that epigenetics works and how that works for our community and how it particularly works in my own body, just the genetic mark of how trauma gets passed down and you begin to learn how things affect you, certain things you can’t just come back from, but we don’t have to consume stuff and we get to learn like, “That might not be a good choice.”

Marianne Combs: Do you think that you can build resilience by… Through self-care, you can change your own resilience?

Joi Lewis: Absolutely, it’s scientifically proven. You can rewire the way in which that we respond to things, and it’s so amazing, and it is so hopeful. On an individual and on a collective and communal level, we can shift the whole vibration of what can happen, like these diseases that are passed down that they say are hereditary, we can change the whole outlook on high blood pressure and diabetes and shift all of that. Radical self-care, it should really, in my opinion, it should really be primary care, that we can change the output for really safe communities as we know them. That’s serious.

Joe Davis: And that’s one of the things that really excites me about this work is that I’m impacting generations beyond my own, I wanna carry forward this legacy that my ancestors have given to me, that I’ve inherited and the resiliency that they’ve built up, that lives in me, but also the things that they weren’t able to build resiliency around, I can build on that, and I can impact the future generation and that’s so empowering. I think about… One of my favorite quotes of this season has been from Alice Walker, she says, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any,” and I think the resiliency is accessing the power that we do have, and cultivating that together. We are incredibly powerful, we have so much resilience, we have so much wisdom and healing within our bodies, within our community. How do we access that, how do we tap into that and grow that and cultivate that together? That’s where my radical joy comes from, this deep-rooted knowing that that’s possible for us.

Marianne Combs: Is there a way to take these lessons and apply them to teams, to people working together in communities? Dr. Joi, what do you think?

Joi Lewis: Oh yeah, absolutely. As we were thinking about it, we were talking about the idea of the energy bank, for instance. I’d love to work with organizations and teams so think about their organization bank, their organization energy bank, and what are those things, particularly as we think about a lot of our non-profit organizations who might be on the struggle bus, in terms of like, “We didn’t get that grant,” or “We don’t have that.” Okay, but whose culture has capital, there’s a lot of different kinds of capital beyond economic capital, and so identify what are those things that you are… Whenever you do together that it excites you, what are those activities that you participate in and… Don’t do it just once a year. Can you all do that at least once a week? Or are there daily things that you all do and that it becomes this list of things that’s embedded and part of the culture. How about you start your meetings off… How about you start with some meditation, how about y’all do a dance work. What are some things that are a part of the culture? And sometimes those things feel awkward at first, so you feel like that you can’t, but those things fill people up.

People know if I show up, you going… Everybody gonna get their minute, everybody gonna get their time, everybody’s gonna get heard. And that matters to folks, whenever you are in cultures where you don’t get your turn or you’re not heard, or you’re not seen, or you’re not affirmed, or validated. And whenever you are creating a culture where people feel like, “My voice matters, I’m seen, I’m affirmed,” that’s good money, and people will show up because they’re like, “I’m valued here,” and so those are radical self-care practices, you get some time off… I ask people, “Do y’all take lunch away from your desk? Do you go… Do you know that there’s a park across the street? Have you gone over there?” You know that those things matter, but if you’re just sitting up and you never are moving your body, you’re not dancing, you’re not taking a break to eat, all of that stuff adds up.

Marianne Combs: Dr. Joi, you call yourself a joy instigator. I feel like you just instigated right there, but is there other stuff that you do when you think about instigating joy? And what does that look like? Is it in terms of, how do you walk into a space and instigate joy?

Joi Lewis: I look and I try to see, like when I walk in the room, how can we hold space to give each other to each other? Joy returns, will we get to actually be connected to each other, right. And so how can we have more opportunities to be able to just get to find each other, to get to talk to each other, to get to be connected. Because people just want… And they be like, “I did not think I found that… I did not think that I could get connected. And it’s just people who they thought they never would have anything in common with, and it’s a joy, it’s really, really fun to watch people get connected.

Joe Davis: love that you said, you keep saying like space and spaciousness in creative space, ‘cause that’s really what this work is about, it’s like the joy is present, sometimes you gotta unearth it. When I even talk about radical joy, like Angela Davis is radical, just means grasping at the root, so sometimes the joy just got buried underneath all those other stuff, so how do we move things around and really just brush it off, “Oh there it is, I knew it was there all along, I missed you,” return into it and creating that spaciousness for us to breathe and for us to be together in ways that I think we’re meant to be together originally.

Marianne Combs: I love that idea that creating space for connection helps us to unearth or re-discover joy. I want to take a second to look to the future, knowing that we are in a space where there’s a lot going on, that we’re holding joy while also holding the realities of the world we live in, and think about the role of creativity in transforming and connecting communities. What is your vision for where we need to go next, what do we need to do to take best care of ourselves and the community moving forward.

Joe Davis: As an artist, I really feel like artists, all artists are uniquely positioned to offer a vision to the world or to even offer this invitation to people to vision together, to practice imagining, to practice embodying what’s possible. And so for me, it’s always about that invitation, always about that offering, so when I show up in the space, I’m like, okay, what are we dreaming up of together, what are we practicing together, what are we embodying together? And I don’t always have it all figured out, I got certain things that I wanna do, you know, that I think are fun, that I think are cool, but then I get with somebody else and they got something else too, and we put that together and it’s even more fun and even cooler and more beautiful than what I could’ve come up with by myself.

So when I think about envisioning and embodying I’m really intentional about saying both envisioning and embodying, ‘cause I don’t want us to just get stuck in our heads. I want us to embody all those possibilities, but when I wanna envision and embody the future alongside other people, I need other people… If we’re talking about collective liberation, we need the collective… Yeah, I just, I again, I come back to that spaciousness, creating a space for us to dream and to imagine and embody that are… Like some of that has to do with slowing down and just being intentional about our time and energy, but that’s the type of world I want to live in is where we have that space to do that together.

Marianne Combs: Dr. Joi.

Joi Lewis: Yeah, I think brother Joe said it very well, and I think just… I think what the artist does is give us reason and purpose to come together, the artists like theorize what’s happening in a variety of different ways and different perspectives. Which I think is really important. I think that because there’s so much that’s happening right now that I’m just thankful for artists, that there are so many different ways to engage when you can’t grasp it in one way, and you can look it, okay, am I gonna feel it through a song am I gonna look at it through a painting, am I gonna hear it through a poetry am I gonna… Am I gonna need to dance it out, Am I gonna… Is it gonna be through graffiti? There’s so many different ways. And we need all of that. I don’t even wanna know what it would be like [chuckle] without art.

Marianne Combs: You’ve both said, you’re both obviously joyful people. Are you hopeful?

Joe Davis: Absolutely.

Joi Lewis: Yes. Absolutely.

Joe Davis: Unquestionably.

Marianne Combs: Even with all that’s going on in the world?

Joe Davis: Yeah, I love this idea that brother Dr. Cornel West talks about, he’s not too fond of the idea of having hope. He says that’s too spectatorial. You are just kind of looking at the hope, but he says he talks about being hopeful and embodying that hope and trying to activate it within yourself and within your community, and that’s really what I’m about.

And the reason why I have that hope is because of what I’ve experienced throughout my life, like I know what’s possible. I know what my ancestors accomplished and what they showed me… And it may not always feel that way. Maybe I don’t always feel it. Maybe I don’t always see it, but there is an inner knowing where I’m like, Yep, I know things can be different, I know we can change, I know a new world is on the way. It’s deep rooted, even when I can’t always feel it or see it or taste it or touch it, it’s there.

Joi Lewis: Yeah, and I love this idea of being and my daily prayer is about asking my Higher Power who lives in me really about what would you have me be, instead of what would you have me do. And being hopeful is part of that, being light, being kind, being thoughtful. I’m trying to not have to do lists, but having to be list and just trying to just be… And being hopeful is part of that. Looking at the devastation and those things are real, but not letting that them consume me and saying, how can I just look at the next thing? Just pay attention to what’s in front of me. That’s all I can do. And that’s not by my… That I’m not all by myself, when I think it’s all upto me, that’s when I get devastated…

Joe Davis: Yeah. That’s true.

Joi Lewis: It’s not all up to me, when I look out and realize, oh, there is a whole community of folks then I’m hopeful. I can say it in hope.

Marianne Combs: Dr. Joi, Joe, thank you both so much for this conversation. I feel…

Joe Davis: Thank you.

Marianne Combs: More joy now than I did an hour ago as when we started this conversation.

Joe Davis: That’s beautiful.

Marianne Combs: So you are both amazing at what you do. Thank you so much.

Joe Davis: Hey, thank you.

Joi Lewis: Thank you.

Marianne Combs: You’ve been listening to Filling the Well. Our guests for this episode were radical self-care strategist, Dr. Joi Lewis, and artist and educator, Joe Davis. I’m your host, Marianne Combs. Want to dig deeper into the ideas behind this episode, visit the Arts Midwest ideas hub, a collection of free curated articles and tools to help creative leaders foster growth within their organizations and communities. Go to artsmidwest.org/ideas for more. On the next episode of Filling the Well, we talk about the shifting power dynamics in philanthropy.

DeAnna Cummings: What if we practice trust-based philanthropy? What if we didn’t make folks have to prove to us that they’re doing the right thing every three to six months to a year.

Tish Jones: I’m excited for philanthropy to encourage people to move away from telling the story of their trauma. We’re not asked to dream big, there’s no invitation to do that in the process, there’s no inclination that philanthropy is willing to fund our wildest dreams. So we forget to do that.

Marianne Combs: That’s next time on Filling the Well. I hope you’ll join us. This podcast was produced and edited by Emily Goldberg and mixed by Eric Romani with original music by Dameun Strange. The Filling the Well series is made possible with financial support from the Barr Foundation based in Boston, the Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human natural and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts.

Go Deeper

Bringing Self Care into Organizational Culture

Learn about several practices that you can integrate into your organizational culture to help you get grounded, get connected, and get creative with episode guest Joe Davis.


Marianne Combs – Host

Emily Goldberg – Producer

Dameun Strange – Original Music

Eric Romani – Master Mixer