The SIP: Season 2, Episode 3 Transcript

Ericka Jones (2011), Lillian Singh (2000), and Kevin Shen (2000)

Learn more about The SIP and its third episode of the second season, Building Bridges for Communities of Color with Lillian Singh (2000), here.

Intro music

Kevin Shen:

I got the home studio totally set up.

Carolyn Norton:

Oh my goodness.

Kevin Shen:

This is the first time I’ve used it. I bought it and I haven’t really set it up. And I was like, “Oh.” I tried it out this morning with a friend, but I’m glad it’s working.

Ericka Jones:

Hi, Coke Scholar family and friends. Welcome to season two of The SIP, the podcast that shares a taste of the Coke Scholars around the world who are igniting positive change. My name is Ericka Jones, and I’m a proud 2011 Coca-Cola Scholar, originally from Los Angeles, and now finishing up my final year of ministry school in Northern California. I’m an actor, a poet, a storyteller, but most importantly, a lover of people.

For those of you who are listening and may not be a Coca-Cola Scholar, welcome. We are glad to have you. To give you a little background, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is the largest achievement-based and corporate sponsored Scholarship program in the country. Each year, it awards $20,000 to 150 high school students across the country. We share a unique passion for service and leadership. It’s a competitive program to get into, but once you’re a Coke Scholar, the benefits go far beyond the money for college. You become a part of this bigger family for life. If you want to learn more, you can visit their website at coca-colaScholarsfoundation.org.

In this episode, 2000 Scholar Kevin Shen interviews fellow 2000 Scholar and friend, Lillian Singh. Let’s dive in with them as they talk about Lillian’s important economic resilience and social justice work. Originally, from Orange County, California, Kevin Shen is an Asian-American actor based in London and Los Angeles. Kevin studied computer systems engineering and sociology at Stanford University. He also received his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has worked in the corporate world before transitioning into an acting career.

Kevin can most recently be seen as King Tai in the latest installment of Netflix’s popular A Christmas Prince film series. Kevin works regularly in film, television and theater. And he’s also produced and starred in the European premier of David Henry Hwang’s Pulitzer Prize finalist play Yellow Face at the National Theatre in London. Kevin was also in the first ever all East Asian production at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He strives to increase the visibility and positive representation of Asian-Americans and British-East Asians in the entertainment industry.

Now, let’s meet Lillian.

Lillian Singh has spent her career coaching teams, organizations and communities on building and owning their power towards economic resilience and social justice. As vice president of programs and racial wealth equity at Prosperity Now, Lillian provides vision, leadership and management accountability to project grants and contracts, focusing on racial economic equity and financial security. At Prosperity Now, she co-launched the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative in 2015, which is a multimillion dollar organization-wide effort that aggressively addresses racial economic inequality.

Lillian joined Prosperity Now from the NAACP, where she helped launch the Financial Freedom Center in DC. Lillian also managed the Financial Freedom Campaign, which organized over 15 NAACP state conferences to stabilize communities impacted by predatory lending practices. Lillian holds a BA in urban planning and an MA in sociology, both from Stanford University. Lillian lives in Bowie, Maryland. Now, get ready. Ladies and gentlemen, here are Kevin and Lillian.

Kevin Shen:

Hey, Lillian. So great to see you. We go way back 20 years now because we’re the same Scholar year, right?

Lillian Singh:

That’s right.

Kevin Shen:

How are you doing?

Lillian Singh:

I’m doing all right. Yeah, 2000, imagine that. It’s literally 20 years, Kevin, of us being admitted and accepted as Coke Scholars and entering this journey together.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, it’s pretty great. And it’s nice that we both look the same.

Lillian Singh:

That’s right.

Kevin Shen:

So that’s been wonderful. So just tell us, why don’t we just start by telling us a little bit about what you do at your organization and how you got there?

Lillian Singh:

Yeah, thank you. So what I do at Prosperity Now is I lead, support and advise an incredible team of people who are really working on addressing challenges of financial insecurity for families across the nation, doing this work through a policy lens, direct practice partnership, capacity building lens with local nonprofits. In research lens, I’m really trying to distill information data that is oftentimes distorted to really help motivate, as well as to engage people in really truly understanding the intersectionalities of race and economics and politics and health. And also, we’re just doing an incredible job of really trying to convene advocates so that they feel that there is a place for them to belong as they are actually working together to advance equity. And I lead, again, Prosperity Now in 2015 to launch Racial Wealth Divide Initiative as an explicit focus on working with and partnering with an undergirding nonprofits led by and serving people of color. So I’ve been at this work of justice for a long time now. And to your point about this year feeling different, it is finally different because at the national level there’s been more rhetoric about organizations of color, people of color, communities of color than I’ve experienced, and I’ve been in the racial justice space, economic justice space, for 15 years now.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that because, you know, Black Lives Matter showed up five years ago and it felt like a little bit of a flash in the pan. And Colin Kapernick has been kneeling for years. And this year, whether it’s because of the pandemic or what’s going on in the White House, it feels like people are taking it more seriously and educating themselves. Is that the case or is that just my bubble? Are you feeling it like an actual change on your front, or is it just being magnified because the divide is growing?

Lillian Singh:

Yeah. So I think what’s happened honestly is that the narrative around what the issues are, are finally truly mainstream. And we live in a country where we have 140 million, and I don’t want to misquote Reverend Barbara, but about 140 million Americans who are living at or below the poverty line. And disproportionately, those people are black people and people of color. And I think what we are now finally experiencing is a national reckoning and an acceptance of that truth, and trying to now support a grass swell, right? Because the Black Lives Matter movement was really a grassroots movement that developed and that was cultivated not from the top down, but really from local advocates and activists. And it’s taking a long time to try to just build a narrative of suffering and that economic inequality truly is racialized.

And I think what is happening now is with the murder of George Floyd, we were, for the first time in America, I think in a very, very long time, had a conscious witness to a murder that was without a doubt racialized. So I think what then happened is advocates who’ve been really championing this idea of racial equity and racial justice and racial economic justice had on national television a display of the injustice. And you had to be really so totally unempathetic and disconnected to not feel something from that experience, regardless of your race, regardless of your class, regardless of what place you live in in America, and frankly, in the world, because there was a disruption in the world because of this.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, that’s totally true. And I do want to come back to it, but I want to talk a little bit about your background because this is specifically very connected to you because of how you grew up, right? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey about that? Because I think you’re in a unique position in that you’re in this NGO that is making this difference because you felt its effects growing up, right? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey into it?

Lillian Singh:

Yeah. So, very few people, and I find it such a privilege, Kevin, get to have both the lived experience, but then the incredible opportunities to socialize and educate themselves and figure out how to use those privileges to then advance and impact the very communities in which they come from. So what you’re speaking to is I grew up in South-Central Los Angeles. South LA is what is called now because gentrification is true and we can come back to that later if we have time, by a single parent household. And I lived in what is called The Jungles, which is one of the worse in the ’90s, one of the most dangerous places in Los Angeles because of gang violence and just the crack epidemic. Awful thing-

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, I remember I was living in the suburbs. We would hear stories about like, “Oh, you can’t go there.”

Lillian Singh:

Yeah. And also, just frankly, the over-policing of our neighborhoods, right? There was just this militant presence there with very few social service on-ramps, but I was fortunate enough to win a lottery program called… And I was accepted to the USC Pre-College Enrichment Academy. It’s a public-private partnership between the University of Southern California and my school district. And each year, several students, about 30 students was onboarded into this program. And effectively, what we were given as very low-income students was middle income and upper income access to education from the best teachers to afterschool prep, to Saturday Academy, to Family Development Institute, where our parents were actually in embraced and taught about what it looked like to have Scholars, because that’s what we were called, to family therapy sessions that we had as Scholars, because you got to remember that we were still a part of the community of this very traumatic and violence-driven environment, but we were undergirded with the best academic and educational resources available because of this private investment in our educations by USC.

And for six years, we were coached and developed. And all of my peers actually was able to excel and transition and move toward higher education. We were guaranteed also. This is an important part. It’s not that they just told us that it was important to get an education. We were guaranteed a four-and-a-half-year Scholarship to USC upon completion of this program. So it was very clear to us, our pathway to a different lifestyle was through education, but I want to be really clear about that.

It was a free ride four-and-a-half-year Scholarship to USC because a lot of people of color are told and taught that education is the pathway economic vitality. And what we see in the data is that’s not absolutely the case because people of color are disproportionately burdened with student loans upon graduation. That’s a separate issue. But I just want to just name that what we were promised was a four-and-a-half-year Scholarship. And many of us declined our Scholarship to USC because we were accepted to Stanford, Yale, Harvard, UC Berkeley. And these are low-income students, who are first generation college students and oftentimes first generation Americans.

Kevin Shen:

Wow. It’s so incredible. Now, you said it was lottery chosen. So were you randomly picked or was it because they saw potential in you and they’re like, “Oh, these are the kids that we’re actually going to bring out.”

Lillian Singh:

Great question. So they actually was intentional about accepting C average students. So they didn’t cherry pick the elementary school students who were on the honor roll. So one of the requirements was actually being an average student, and our names was literally entered into a lottery because there were about three feeder elementary schools to the middle school in which we entered, and all of those schools’ students had an opportunity to have their name admitted. There was no application process. It was just, “Yes. Do you want to be considered for this opportunity?”

Kevin Shen:

Wow. That’s incredible. So you are like the poster child for like, “Hey, just invest in our communities in education, and you can just see what happens.” And you say, “Oh, it’s…” There is such heavy investment in you. But then when you think about it, your middle-class families, your upper middle class families, it’s kind of standard, it’s standard investment for these families. And so the potential is all there. It’s just access opportunity, it sounds like.

Lillian Singh:

And I want to be really clear about that. It was a true commitment and financial investment. It wasn’t, “Oh, just go take this one training course, and your life is going to be better.” We were a part of this program for six years, right?

Kevin Shen:

Wow.

Lillian Singh:

So we received an incredible amount of… I mean, in my own personal experience, I remember this, my grandfather passed away in Mississippi and I was very close to him. They bought maybe a $600 plane ticket because we were already going through so much trauma, right? So for them to have the financial resources just available, I mean, that wasn’t practice, right? That was something that I remember that it was transformative for how I actually share my own privilege today, right? My own financial privilege with other people today, because it really did change my life for me to be able to go home and say goodbye to my grandfather.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, I think about this Scholarship program. Before you were admitted into this Scholarship program, what did you think your life was going to be? What did you want to do when you grew up and what aspirations did you have and how did program change you?

Lillian Singh:

I can’t remember before 12. I’m going to be very honest, Kevin. What I do remember is my mom working two jobs and still making only about $25,000 a year. I remember living in HUD certified housing, which I was grateful for because our rent was subsidized, and that was an incredible blessing financially for my family. And I also remember being a part of my church home, Lutheran church, Pastor Brian, and where I learned from him how to be a social activist because our church was across the street from USC, and I remember during the Labor Rights Movement and when the janitors were striking, our church was to headquarters, where we fed the janitors and we had childcare for their kids.

So my pastor taught me about social justice. And what was important about that is my pastor was actually one of the only white families that I actually experienced outside of white teachers growing up in South-Central Los Angeles. So what I knew early on is that though one is taught to be racist, not all people are racist.

Kevin Shen:

Sure.

Lillian Singh:

And that had such an incredible impact on my analysis. And so I didn’t really understand how to think about the future at 12 years old before this program, but what I knew is that social justice was a part of me, hard work was a part of me, using community on ramps and not being ashamed of them, including living in HUD certified housing, excuse me, was a part of me. I knew that I would forever take those lessons forward. Yeah.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, I think about that your Scholarship program and then the Coke Scholar program and thinking about what they do is I think they just kind of open… They not only create potential, but they kind of open your eyes to what is possible out there, right? And I also think about that. Sometimes with the Coke Scholar program, I see all these people doing really great things and I sometimes worry, “Am I doing enough to change the world?” Did you feel any pressure being in that select group of people that if you didn’t succeed, you would be letting it down or letting yourself down?

Lillian Singh:

Absolutely. I think that me being accepted to Stanford… And I want to talk about that for a moment. I was accepted to Stanford on a need-blind Scholarship. So what that basically meant is because my mother made less than… I’m looking at the paper. I looked at my application actually recently. Less than $25,000 a year, Stanford guaranteed me a four-year education. So that was an incredible amount of pressure there, where I was at this one of the most elite schools in America and guaranteed this education. And then I was a Coke Scholar, a national Scholar and guarantee this incredible additional foundational investment in my education.

But when I went to Stanford, what I quickly realized is that though I was the best in LAUSD, I was so grossly underprepared to compete with students who have went to boarding schools or elite private schools. So not only did I have an incredible amount of pressure about failure and that never being an option because the alternative to that was returning back to South-Central Los Angeles and not having very much to carry with me for the foundational building that was necessary for a wealth building for my family, not like my immediate family, but my mother, my sister. So there was an incredible amount of pressure.

But one of the things that I loved about Stanford is I love that I never felt like the poor black student on campus. I never felt my class position, not once at Stanford. I also loved that there was so many resources. And again, I understood how to navigate the waters of resources early on from utilizing upperclassmen to review my essays to the writing center to just… I mean, I was a vendor on that campus taking advantage of everything that was available to me. So I was an overachiever, Kevin. Not only did I get my bachelor’s, I got my master’s. I co-termed. I co-termed in four years, which basically meant that I was on a 20-unit schedule every quarter.

Lillian Singh:

And I did not get an opportunity to do it in exchange program or to go abroad because what they told me is that, “Lillian, listen, if you get your master’s in four years, it’s free. We’ll pay for it.” And I was like, “That makes sense.” So I totally grind it. And that’s actually what brought me to DC, because I had always wanted to do an exchange program. So upon graduating from Stanford, I was a Tom Ford fellow. and the fellowship allows you to work with any foundation that would accept you and receive you in the U.S.A. And I was like, “I am going to DC because people have told me that DC is the mecca for black professionals. And that’s where I am headed. I want to be immersed with black professionals.” And so I came to DC in 2004. And it’s 2020, and I’m still in the metro area.

Kevin Shen:

Wow. That’s amazing. Did you co-term in sociology?

Lillian Singh:

I did. I-

Kevin Shen:

I think we co-termed together.

Lillian Singh:

What? Did you finish yours in four years as well?

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, because I was listening to your-

Lillian Singh:

Oh, because you knew about the free on-ramp, right? It was like-

Kevin Shen:

Exactly. I was like, “Oh, I can get a minor or I could just get a master’s. So, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Lillian Singh:

Yeah, let’s go ahead and get that master’s. Thank you, Stanford.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, exactly. And I was listening to your podcast earlier, and you were talking about the social stratification class, which I talk about the class all the time and the essay where… So we had this class, this social stratification class in our master’s program and the final essay or one of the essay was basically, Race, Class or Gender, What Makes the Biggest Difference? And I cite that all the time, and it was-

Lillian Singh:

What was your answer, Kevin?

Kevin Shen:

Mine was race. My biggest memory from that class was basically every white person in that class put class and all the people of color put race, except for you apparently-

Lillian Singh:

That’s right.

Kevin Shen:

… for one of those part. And so I was like, “Wow. Just the way the people of color view the world versus white people in regards to race is so different just from that examples.” So I think it’s fascinating.

Lillian Singh:

Yeah. And I would say I put a class because I thought what I experienced was the difference between me and others. It wasn’t necessarily my race, right? There was definitely some upper income black students at Stanford come on to Stanford.

Kevin Shen:

Sure. For sure.

Lillian Singh:

But I think what really define my personal experiences was rooted in my class position before Stanford.

Kevin Shen:

So obviously, you work for a NGO, which is nonpartisan, right? Because all NGOs are nonpartisan, right? And I’ve been thinking recently and watching footage of the election and hearing both sides making their arguments or making their stances. And I’ve come to the realization that both sides, both political parties, both members of both political parties think that they are basically the least racist and that the other side is super racist, right? And obviously, you work for an NGO, which is nonpartisan, but the people that you deal with are probably on one side of the political spectrum by nature of the demographics. How much do you outreach to people in both parties? How do you communicate and get your message across party lines, I guess?

Lillian Singh:

Got it. So, yes, Kevin, you’re absolutely right. We are nonpartisan. And actually, we can’t actually do any direct outreach to either party. So there’s a very, very fine line in order to maintain our 501(c)(3) status. But what we do honestly is we route a lot of our recommendations and our advocacy efforts in the data, because what’s true irrespective of your political affiliation is that most of most Americans are cost-burdened, right? So what’s true is regardless of your political affiliation is most Americans are experiencing some level of a debt, right? So I think what we try to do at Prosperity Now through our lens and our work, our advocacy efforts and how we engage our networks is by helping them to actually see what policy positions are going to actually impact the bottom line of families and improve our financial vitality.

One of the biggest reasons why we have so much economic inequality in America is because what we believe is that our tax policies are really upside down. So a lot of our work really focuses on dismantling systems that are constructed to make sure that the system continue to work the way it is, right? Benefiting those who are wealthy in upper middle class, and frankly harming those who are working class. So I think our efforts is really to try to just encourage a narrative around what the facts are and what they can do to engage in changing the narrative for their lives and their families.

Kevin Shen:

How do you deal with the narrative that exists and how do you let people readjust the understanding that wealth inequity is not a choice or it’s not something that is necessarily in the hands of these poor people?

Lillian Singh:

Yeah. Honestly, again, what our weapon around that is data. And we do a lot of training on these debunking myths of why people’s current economic status is what it is. We do an incredible amount… I mean, I’m actually preparing for a presentation with the Hunger Alliance and just to talk about why are people poor, right? It’s almost like it’s a choice, right? Certainly, I grew up poor. And I am subtly middle income, upper-middle income right now. Being poor is not a choice.

Kevin Shen:

Right!

Lillian Singh:

No one raises their hand and is like, “Hey, I want to get on the poor bus.” Right?

Kevin Shen:

Exactly.

Lillian Singh:

So I think a part of what we do is to try to do some educating of those who are in seats of power, right? Because those who are in seats of power have different opportunities to change policies, to then change life outcomes for people. That’s one piece. I mean, and I think another piece is helping people to understand that the data doesn’t lie. So when we are saying, for example, that education, frankly, isn’t a great equalizer. And frankly, oftentimes, it’s because there’s discrimination in the job market, right? There’s discrimination in the job market for people of color. So what we know right now is folks can get the same levels of education and not necessarily get access to the same job. And if they get access to the same job, they’re not actually getting access to the same pay, which is rooted in a system of frankly discrimination.

Another thing is people say, “Oh, well, if you just get a job, and you just spend your money better. You just do a better job of budgeting.” One of the things that is real about that frankly is the cost of living, being house-burden in whatever city you live in. But what we know is this, white Americans are disproportionately inheriting more from their families, right? So for example, when me and my husband bought this house here in Bowie, Maryland, our parents didn’t give us a down payment, right? It was no down payment to be given to my Guyanese husband and Lillian, who mother, frankly, doesn’t even own a home herself. So we actually bought this home by saving money and we were able to do that because of our earning rates. And I think that that is a very privileged position that most people that look like me don’t have an opportunity for.

I’ll give you another just personal example of this is about my first home in 2005, and it was… I’m sorry, 2007, at the height of the great recession. The type of loan I was given was a seven-year interest-only loan. And me being very, very ignorant and not understanding the financial markets and mortgage, paperwork, and documents, so there’s some self responsibility there, right? And by the way, I just want to name that now I’m an investment representative in mutual funds and all of that because that only happened to me once and I’m an avenger to make sure that it doesn’t happen to other women and people that look like me.

Kevin Shen:

Ah, love it.

Lillian Singh:

But when the data came out, it wasn’t just Lillian, right? Black women were disproportionately preyed upon, particularly in PG County. So yeah, it could have been like, “Oh, Lillian, you could have made a different decision.” But what the data told us and showed us is that people of color were disproportionately given predatory loans, period. So that is the system was broken, and it wasn’t just individuals making wrong decisions. So a lot of what we do is just a lot of educating right around individual decision-making. And then also the system being broken and helping people to see that people aren’t poor because they choose to be poor, right? The system is actually set up currently, which is what I’m finding to dismantle day in and day out to make it work better for people.

Kevin Shen:

That is so inspiring. With policy changing and education and all this from a very systemic perspective, how do you measure the change? How do you know what’s working?

Lillian Singh:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So a lot of what people want to do now is that they actually want to throw money and resources at a symptom as opposed to the root cause of the inequality or the root cause of the challenge. And only for a little while, right? So what we’ve seen in this year is that there’s so many financial resources, so many different funds that have been opened up, et cetera, to actually address some of the challenges, and frankly, I see as the symptoms, because we can only actually address the system through policy. Policy has contributed to the current status that we have in America. And the only way to walk that back is by walking back some of that policy, some of those policy challenges that we are dealing with.

So in measuring change and outcome, because that’s the new frontier, and I’m glad you asked me that, so the work we’re doing at the local level with nonprofits is really trying to help them to actually think about how they’re measuring change at the organizational level, at the individual level, at the community level. But certainly, there hasn’t been enough investment into the real root of the problem and how we’re going to actually basically undo the system and create a new system and then begin to actually measure change. I don’t know if you know… I think my frustration right now with the movement is we’re going to be throwing all this money at injustice. And then two years from now, we’re going to say, “Well, all these millions of dollars came towards this issue.” But when you think about the reckoning that needs to happen, it needs to be way more than millions of dollars, if you really want to see systemic change in America.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, that is a great way to think. It just opens your eyes to being like, “Oh yes, symptoms versus the root cause, it’s so important.” I mean, you’re working obviously so hard and have done so much towards this. How do you spend your free time? How do you have fun? What do you do for fun?

Lillian Singh:

Glad you asked. One of the things I love doing, and I was actually out yesterday with my best friends is I drove out to Virginia, and I love going to the wineries.

Kevin Shen:

Nice.

Lillian Singh:

It’s just so beautiful. And it allows me to really decompress and disconnect. So that’s one of my hobbies, really just getting out of the DC metro area and I’m going to rural America, right? That’s what it really feels like all the trees, the rolling hills, skylines, absolutely gorgeous. And just every day, Kevin, I’ll walk. So people don’t think of that as a fun hobby. For me, it’s an opportunity for me to just be with myself and restore myself. So I spend an incredible amount of time doing that several hours a week. And I kind of binge-watch Netflix. So, that’s another thing. So let me just be real. So I’m a little bit salty at the end of the night if I don’t have at least an hour and a half to just watch television, right?

Kevin Shen:

What are you watching?

Lillian Singh:

So right now, I am watching the Hart of Dixie, is some show that was about the 1800s. And so, that’s a cool one.

Kevin Shen:

Nice. That’s great. Cool. Well, I think that probably brings us to our Fast Five, which is our five questions that we ask all our podcast guests. And you just answer whatever comes to your mind first.

Lillian Singh:

Okay.

Kevin Shen:

What are two apps or websites you can’t live without?

Lillian Singh:

LinkedIn and my Bible app.

Kevin Shen:

Oh, very nice. All right. Question two, if I looked at the music on your iPhone or iPod… iPod? Do we still have iPods? … right now, what would most surprise me?

Lillian Singh:

That I listen to only gospel music and Beyonce.

Kevin Shen:

Well, I would count Beyonce as gospel music.

Lillian Singh:

I’m telling you, this is like Queen B-

Kevin Shen:

She’s inspiring. Exactly.

Lillian Singh:

… and my Hillsong United and WorshipMob. Basically, it’s those two things, really. I don’t even know any of the real music that’s happening right now.

Kevin Shen:

No, I think it’s totally fair. I don’t either. It’s pretty sad. And I’m in the entertainment industry and I’m like,” Oh gosh, I have great ’90s playlist.” All right. What is your favorite book or a piece of music or art that has helped or inspired you in your life?

Lillian Singh:

I’m going to change the question, Kevin, I’m sorry. Independence Day, I love that movie. I don’t know if you guys remember that, but I just think it just totally inspired me. And it’s one of those things that I’ve binge watched over and over and over again.

Kevin Shen:

All right. What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Lillian Singh:

Yeah, that’s a good one, and it’s actually currently on my LinkedIn. I love my girl, Angela Davis. And one of the things that I’m inspired by is her quote, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” And I just got that really clearly right in my mid-30s, right? Because before, I felt like I had a lot less freedom to make the decision for my future. And now, yeah, every day, like everything in everything… Everything I do has to be aligned with my purpose. And for me, my purpose truly is to build bridges and on-ramps for communities of color, build assets bridges, network bridges, resource bridges, information bridges, funding bridges. Yeah. I’m not doing anything in this season of my life if I can’t do that. So I’m just not accepting it. I’m just moving on.

Kevin Shen:

Amazing. Ah, that’s great. And finally, what makes the Coke Scholars Program or network unique?

Lillian Singh:

I’m going to tell you, it’s an incredible Scholars, and just knowing that we come from so many different walks of life and we are so uniquely positioned to make contributions and we were all chosen for a reason, right? To be a Coke Scholar. And I’ve never felt like I ever had to compare myself against other Coke Scholars. It is like so much love. It is like family. And I’m thankful for that.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, it’s a wonderful family. I mean, we’ve known each other 20 years because of it.

Lillian Singh:

That’s right.

Kevin Shen:

Can you imagine, we met on-

Lillian Singh:

20 whole years, man.

Kevin Shen:

… Coke Scholar Weekend?

Lillian Singh:

That’s right.

Kevin Shen:

I mean, I think we should… I’m an actor, so I lie about my age a little bit. So we’re like 13 years, Lillian, class of 2007.

Lillian Singh:

’09.

Kevin Shen:

’09, I’ll take it. But it was wonderful talking to you. Thanks for your time. So great to hear your journey. So inspiring to hear you coming from poverty and coming back to fix poverty and seeing that how much you devote your life to it or fix wealth inequity. The sky is the limit in what you can do. It’s wonderful.

Lillian Singh:

Thank you. Thank you so much, Kevin. Thank you for interviewing me today. And thank you for being my friend too, right?

Kevin Shen:

No, thank you.

Lillian Singh:

But that’s the other thing, right? You’re my friend in real life, so it’s become full.

Kevin Shen:

Yeah, it’s pretty easy. It’s pretty fun.

Ericka Jones:

We hope you enjoyed the third episode of season two of The SIP, featuring Kevin Shen and Lillian Singh. To learn more about Prosperity Now and other things they discussed, check out our show notes or coca-colaScholarsfoundation.org. And if you have an extra minute, we’d love for you to rate the show or leave us a review.

Tune in after the Thanksgiving holiday for episode four in three weeks, where 2006 Scholar Chantelle George will be interviewing 2004 Scholar Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of The Muse, the go-to destination for the next gen workforce to research companies and careers. And I don’t know about you, but I am personally really curious to hear what she’s got to say about the job search and about networking during a pandemic.

So in the spirit of gratitude and in Thanksgiving, I want to say that I’m super grateful to all of the listeners and I’m especially grateful to the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Tell someone you’re grateful for them. And see you next time on The SIP.