We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaanji Irby and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaanji, what matters most to you?
The principles that continue to guide me in my personal life and in my work at EMBRACE Action are love and connection. I often tell my team that making change is not about only appealing to those who are like-minded to you, but to those who are “like-hearted.” When we dig down into what really matters to people instead of focusing on the ideas that we disagree upon–that’s how we make deep connections. In the end, most people have similar values. Our hearts are made out of the same love. We just need to remember that.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am the Executive Director of EMBRACE Action, an anti-racism advocacy and awareness nonprofit. I’m also a practicing attorney, an executive coach, and podcaster. As a diversity & inclusion leader, I speak to groups and organizations about the importance of supporting inclusion and bridging the racial empathy gap. Our EMBRACE Action team is made up of mostly mothers, and I think that sets us apart in a really special way. We’re invested in reaching out to other adults in order to change the world for our kids, but we’re also committed to the growth of our children. In my professional journey, I have often found myself as the only or one of the only Black women in a room. My anti-racism work is necessary because we haven’t reached full racial equality. The optimistic side of me hopes that the work that I am doing makes this a safer one for my son…for all of our children. I think if I’m able to change one heart, one mind– that’s significant to me. For many years, I was often the silent person in the room because I was afraid of being perceived as an angry Black woman. But recently, I have learned to share my voice and my story, as I have learned that we can no longer be silent and we must work together to lean into the discomfort to move us towards progress. These conversations aren’t easy, and they’re not always comfortable. Sharing my personal experiences with racism is a vulnerable process. But that’s how we connect with others.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend were visiting the Dallas metroplex, I’d use that time to enjoy a kid-free staycation at the Star in Frisco. I would get us a room at the Omni, book a spa day at The Hiatus Spa in Plano, and we would dine at Tupelo Honey and The Common Table. I would take her to some other local favorites in Frisco and Plano, including Eight11 Place and Sixty Vines.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I don’t know if I can pick just one person to shout-out. There are so many people who deserve credit and recognition. Too many to count. The civil rights’ and anti-racism activists who have paved the way for this ongoing work, my ancestors who have fought their way through inequality, my family, my friends, my team at EMBRACE Action, and all of the support from individuals and from our community. It’s one thing to believe in our mission, and it’s another thing to offer your time and resources up and say, “I’m here to help. What can I do?” I’m grateful to everyone who has done that. It’s humbling and inspiring.
Other: Podcast: https://blackandwhitemomcast.buzzsprout.com
Professional headshots by Vanessa Corral