Elizabeth “Kitty” A. Davis
By Andy Armano, www.AndyArmano.com
This series focuses on individuals who give to our community and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Often it is through our personal adversities that we discover who we are and transform the challenges into strength.
Elizabeth “Kitty” A. Davis is a wellness coach and a deeply devoted community organizer. She balances self-care with community service and has based her life on a set of enduring values passed down from her mother.
Andy Armano: Tell me a little bit about your childhood and how that nurtured who you are today.
Elizabeth Davis: I believe that I was born with a social justice gene. I have spent most of my adult life as a community organizer- whether as a profession, as a volunteer, or part of my social life. All this was completely fostered by my mom. We lived in a commune when I was little, so my formative years were spent in a big house in Detroit with extended family and community. It was full of people coming and going in a really good way. My life changed when my mother married, and there was some dysfunction, but the foundation was set. I went to my first protest march when I was two years old. It was the Women’s March on the Pentagon. I was told all my life that the FBI has a file on me (Laughing). And I was very proud of that. I have always been driven by the values of social justice and equality.
AA: What do you spend your time doing professionally these days?
ED: I get to be a wellness coach under the umbrella of HIV prevention. I also work with chronic disease prevention and management. I help empower people who are suffering because they have not been able to get the care that they need. I am acutely aware of the barriers and marginalization people face so it’s rewarding to support people taking control of their lives. And, I know there is a ripple effect: the people I support pass along what they learn and have a positive impact on others. The good spreads. I wish my chosen field paid more (laughing).
AA: Before you committed to your current career you owned a coffee shop. How did that fit with your worldview?
ED: I was married, at the time. My first marriage. And he and I opened a coffee house in Ferndale, Michigan. It was a place where people could break down barriers over food and coffee. We had the first gay pride celebration in Detroit around the shop. And, we were instrumental in helping create space for Detroit black gay pride. I feel like the coffee shop did a lot of good. I hope I didn’t peak at 28!
AA: We live in a society that values externals, be it grand storefronts, or products, or instagram followers. But life’s real success in life is what we do for others and how much love and kindness we share. These are my spiritual values, at least. I fall short all the time, but I hope I never give up. Does that resonate with you?
ED: Oh, absolutely. Life is a study in spirituality, isn’t it? To me, it’s a process of stripping away the lies that our culture tells us. Society teaches us a scarcity mentality. Society tells us that the dysfunction, anxiety and trauma that it creates are our own individual failing. None of that is true. My spirituality is informed by my values and my pragmatism.
AA: I’m curious how you might define your approach to an integrated life.
ED: I’m a pragmatic optimist. Uplifting the people who need it most is good for everybody. Trickle down is nonsense. When we uplift our foundation, everyone rises. We need to realize and understand that my success is your success. We are all intertwined.
I am acutely aware of the layers of barriers that people face, layers of marginalization and it’s never easy. It’s not easy for the most privileged people. It’s certainly not gonna be easy for the people at the greatest intersection of marginalization. And I watch them do it every day. And I’m so deeply inspired.
AA: You spend your days serving others. How important is self-care to you?
ED: I take self-care seriously. Taking quiet when it’s time to be quiet. Engaging when it’s time to engage. Not beating myself up over making missteps makes it a lot easier to not make missteps. Color feeds me, music feeds me, people. Special people like you that I get to hang out with. My husband is amazing. He has just been such a source of growth, and comfort, and love.
AA: What is one way you integrate your personal growth with community service?
ED: We have to take responsibility for what is ours but not blame ourselves for the things that we have no control over or the missteps we make. I’ve started applying that to myself more and its greatl. Here I am, cruising into 50 and embracing the heck out of it, totally!