S04 Episode 203 | MANPREET KAUR KALRA, THE WHITE-WASHING OF SOCIAL IMPACT + BUILDING INCLUSIVE BRAND NARRATIVES

In episode 203, Kestrel welcomes Manpreet Kaur Kalra, the founder of Art of Citizenry, to the show. An activist and educator, Manpreet is dedicated to exploring the intersection of digital media, social impact and justice.

“One of those very tangible things that I often tell people that they need to work on is the language they use — really being thoughtful about words such as empowerment, which really imply this idea of the person on the receiving end is not empowered to begin with.” -Manpreet Kaur Kalra, Founder of Art of Citizenry

On this week’s show, Manpreet shares more on what led her from the tech industry to creating her own unique business in the social impact space. After discovering how the minority voice is lost in sustainability, Manpreet set out to address power dynamics in social entrepreneurship.

Throughout the conversation, Manpreet breaks down more on heropreneurship, white saviorism, and what decolonization means to her. She also dives into more on how fashion has been built on appropriation, and what brands can be doing today to work toward building more cultural humility and empathy into their businesses.

The below thoughts, ideas + organizations were brought up in this chat:

  • Phulkari, traditional embroidery technique from Punjab

  • “For me, I realized that colonization continues to influence society’s pervasive assumption that people of color need saving — and this idea of there being a Global North vs Global South really just reinforces that.” -Manpreet

  • The Brandt Line, invisible line that was created in the ‘80s to separate the Global North from the Global South

  • “And the fact that to be fair trade, you have to be working with a quote unquote marginalized community from the Global South is fundamentally reinforcing that power dynamic of the North helping the South — right, the top helping the bottom.” -Manpreet

  • “What Broke Me Today: Why Language is Important When Navigating Inequity”, article by Manpreet

  • “But the issue that most people don’t realize with social entrepreneurship is that impact does not scale like a business.” -Manpreet

  • “Tackling Heropreneurship” in Stanford Social Innovation Review

  • Manpreet suggests the best place to start is asking yourself these 4 core questions —
    1) Do I sound like a savior?
    2) Am I making blanket statements about a community or a culture?
    3) Do I have permission to share the information I’m sharing?
    4) Am I promoting cultural hegemony?

  • “Fashion has been built on appropriation — it has been built on basically, stealing designs and concepts from communities that have been historically marginalized, and basically, reframing them to be quote unquote minimalist or really ethnic or boho chic.” -Manpreet

  • “Cultural humility is a concept that comes out of global health — and it basically is this idea of not going into conversations with individuals who have different life experiences or communities other than your own with any assumptions, and just listening and having empathy.” -Manpreet