Keeda Haynes on the JustUs Speaks Podcast

January 23, 2023

She went to prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Now she’s committed to using her legal work to help others who are directly impacted. Keeda Haynes sits down with the JustUs Speaks Podcast.



Read the full transcript:

Lester Young: Peace and blessings, everyone! Welcome to the new JustUs Speaks Podcast from JustLeadership. I’m your co-host, Lester Young.

Hakim Crampton: And I’m your co-host Hakim Crampton. JustUs Speaks is being produced to amplify the voices of directly impacted people, particularly the voices of formerly incarcerated people.

Lester Young: JustUs was founded on the principle that those who are closest to the problem are also closest to solution, but too often further from the resources and the power to affect positive change.

Hakim Crampton: So, right here on our first season of JustUs Speaks Podcast we’re interviewing leaders from the most recent 2022 cohort of JustLeadershipUSA, Leading With Conviction, leadership training program.

Lester Young: Today we’re talking with Keeda Haynes. Keeda is a federal policy analyst at the National Council for [Incarcerated and] Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. She’s also a senior legal advisor at Free Hearts, a non-profit organization led by women that have been formerly incarcerated.

Hakim Crampton: And as an assistant public defender in Nashville, Tennessee, for six and a half years, Keeda devoted all of her determination, her energy, and her passion into fighting for her clients in the courtroom and also in her community.

Lester Young: In 2002, Keeda was sentenced to seven years in a federal prison for a crime she didn’t commit. The United States Supreme Court remanded her case and eventually she was resentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. After her release, Keeda enrolled into law school at the Nashville School of Law and became a practicing attorney. Shout out to you, sister, you’ve been putting forth that work to get that. Shout out to you!

Keeda Haynes: Thank you.

Hakim Crampton: Keeda continues to continue to serve her community on the Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force. Receiving several awards, she continues to educate and advocate on behalf of the community focusing on criminal justice reform, incarcerated women’s rights, voter restoration, and various other issues.

Lester Young: In 2020 Keeda ran for Congress for the fifth district in Tennessee, receiving 40% of the votes against an entrenched incumbent. Additionally, Ms. Haynes has written a memoir entitled, Bending the Arc: My Journey From Prison to Politics. Keeda, welcome to the JustUs Speaks Podcast!

Listen, before you jump into this, I’m extremely excited right now to know that you was able to push through all of those dark days and to be able to stand in this sun and bathe in this sun and continue to change this narrative. Thank you for joining us on the JustUs Speaks Podcast. Thank you, sis.

Keeda Haynes: Thank you, thank you all for having me. I really appreciate it. I’m excited to be here.

Lester Young: So, tell us about who you are outside of what we just read. Like who are you? Like, the world don’t know you got 40% of the votes. Like, that’s huge, that’s huge. So who are you?

Keeda Haynes: I mean, I am just a girl from a small town here in Tennessee. I have one sister, three brothers. I love reading, love Broadway plays, love the ballet. I am an introvert, which some people find that hard to believe, but I am. And I’m just really, I am just a person, I value people. I value relationships, and I am a person that just really believes in community and really just believes in giving back to the community, which you know embodies the work that I do.

I always say, you know, we always have these mission statements and things with work but for me personally, I really believe personally for myself that I am not free until everybody is free, and so that guides not only the work that I do, but it also guides me in my personal life. Because I want to make sure that I am free spiritually, emotionally, financially, and want to make sure, you know what I’m saying, that others are able to experience that same level of freedom as well too. And so that’s why I say, like, not only do I incorporate that with the work that I do, but also incorporate it in my personal life as well, too.

Hakim Crampton: That’s phenomenal. It’s a powerful, powerful vision. But let me ask you this, you know you just graduated from Leading with Conviction–congratulations once again–

Keeda Haynes: Thank you.

Hakim Crampton: That’s a powerful network and family to be a part of. So, I want to ask you to really define for us what leadership really is for you, and also what was your favorite part of the program of Leading with Conviction?

Lester Young: Outside of saying, “You the best coach …” Don’t say that part, don’t be biased!

Keeda Haynes: Hakim was definitely a good coach, but I will say this in saying that, the relationship that Hakim had with us exemplified leadership, right? Because it was not just as if he was the coach, and “I’m here to tell y’all what to do.” It was just like, “Hey, like we’re the same, and we’re one, and let’s have conversations about this.” And then, “Let’s see how we can figure this out together,” right? So, that was, you know I’m saying, that was really important, and I really love that. You know, and because for me, that is what leadership is, that is what leadership embodies. It is not someone that is telling somebody constantly what to do, but it is somebody that says, “Hey, you know what let’s figure this out together, and let’s walk this thing out together,” right? I’m just a firm believer, and I don’t like systems of hierarchy and stuff like that or whatever, and so I really appreciated that leadership with Hakim. And like I said, it really exemplified what I envisioned leadership is.

My favorite thing about JustLeadership, and I wish we could have been in person, because again, like I said I value relationships, and just really getting to know the various different people that we were in the class with, and seeing what they were doing and hopefully we can build on that. And again, build each other up and just help one another succeed in whatever it is that we’re all trying to do here. So that was my favorite part, and like I said I’m just really looking to continue to build up on that.

Lester Young: You know we just interviewed Lana, your cohort member, and she was just telling us a story of how you displayed and showed true leadership when she was really talking down on herself, not really putting herself where she needs to be, and how you got on the call and and you start encouraging the heart you know um because that’s one of the five practices. You immediately saw that she needed to be encouraged and you spoke to her as a sister, as a woman, who was going through this very similar journey that she’s in, and you gave her that motivation, and I just want to tell you she shouted you out earlier and was really saying how powerful that was to even have that conversation with her to just encourage her because she was constantly putting herself down. And I mentioned to her in the interview that you displayed what that leadership looks like. Because we know the five practices, one of them is encouraging of the heart. As a leader we have to really take on that role of encouraging the heart of those that that we see in our network, so I just want to tell you that your presence was well received, and she really to this day, even after the graduation, she still holds that as something dear to her, and I just wanted to say thank you for displaying that leadership.

We’re looking at when we’re talking about all of the challenges that we see like obviously when you ran for congress for the fifth district in Tennessee–you saw a problem there. You know, you as the person getting out of a prison situation, then doing all what you needed to do, and you win against one of the most I mean incumbent person who’s been entrenched in this position for all of those years, and you got about 40 percent. So that leads me to, what is your vision for the future? Are you going to run again for a political position? Are you gonna challenge this structure again? What is your vision for the future?

Keeda Haynes: You know what? I feel like that not only in my presence, but all of our presence in these spaces is challenging, you know I’m saying? That is challenging these systems that have been held you know in place for so long. And that’s why I love to see all of us in these spaces and everybody doing the work wherever they are because I always said when I was running for Congress, and I believe still to this day is that it’s going to take all of us working in each and every single area where we are to see the change that we want to see, right? Like all of us can’t be doing one thing in the same space because we’re all in the same space, and we’re all preaching to the choir, right? And so I believe that it takes us just all across this country working in various different areas in order for us to see the change that we want to see, and so that’s why I say it’s it’s just great to see all of us in these spaces challenging these systems, being in spaces that people said that we couldn’t be in, holding positions that people said that we could not hold, and doing things that people said that we could not do. Like just rising above being second-class shadow citizens in this country, right? Like, that’s what energizes me, and people said all the time, “am I gonna run for office again?” Like, that’s a million dollar question. Like, if I had a dollar every time somebody asked that, like I literally would be like a millionaire.

Lester Young: And then you could be able to put money towards the campaign and run.

Keeda Haynes: You know not only mine but others, right? Because I just have this vision of directly impacted people like really and truly taking back what’s ours, right? And just being in these spaces. And you know, if I was a millionaire that’s exactly what I would do is fund campaigns of directly impacted people because that is one of the things that ultimately I would love to do is to have an organization kind of like Democracy for America that teaches directly impacted people to run for office like all across this country, right? When I decided to run for office it wasn’t something that I wanted to do personally for myself. I decided to do it because I saw a need and just really felt that God was calling me into that space and so whether I will do it again will just be wherever God is leading and guiding me to be. So, I want to make sure that I stay open to that and that I stay open, you know I’m saying, to not only that possibility but also other possibilities that He may present. Because one of the things that I’ve learned is that I don’t have to be in public office to make the change that I really, you know what I’m saying, want to make. And so I just want to stay open to the leading and guiding of God and what it is He would have me do next.

Lester Young: Five or 10 years from now when we see you hitting that lottery or you selling books like crazy around the world getting this million dollars and reinvesting it back into the community, in the grassroots movements. That’s my hope to see, you know what I’m saying?

Keeda Haynes: Yes, yes.

Lester Young: So yeah, yes, keep selling those books, continue to speak, continue to lead. That’s how we create this other screen that we can be able to get this money to continue to put forth with that. So that’s on that.

Hakim Crampton: So Keeda, you know, you’re a senior legal advisor and a federal policy and analyst for these two organizations, tell us what that work is, you know, and how does that play out in your life?

Keeda Haynes: So being the senior legal advisor at Free Hearts, that encompasses a lot of things, right? And so I don’t really take on criminal cases anymore, but the work that I do kind of coincides with our policy work that we do here locally, so I do indigency petitions because here in the state of Tennessee in order to get your voting rights back you have to have paid off um you know your legal debt, to be current on child support, and have finished your sentence, right? Tennessee’s the only state that requires you to be current on your child support. And so a lot of times you know what we see is that people can’t get their voting rights back because of this legal debt that they owe. And so we actually file indigency petitions in order for people to have their fees and fines waived so that we can move them through the next step of the process which is for them to get their voting right reinstated.

And then also too, there’s another piece of that through the expungement piece–our expungement law here in the state of Tennessee is extremely, extremely limited. And so when people reach out and want to have things expunged, looking at that, and trying to figure out if it’s something that can be done. But also, again because this is about building relationships people who are not able to benefit tell them, “hey look like, we’ve talked with some legislators about introducing some expungement legislation come first of next year. You are the perfect person to be able to speak as to why this law needs to be changed here in Tennessee, and so are you willing to come in and to work with us? Can we call on you when it’s time to have people to testify as to why this is needed?”

And so a lot of it like I said, it’s just really building and maintaining those relationships with people in the community so people don’t feel as if there’s transactional relationships with them. So it’s a lot of that kind of stuff, and then just any type of legal work that needs to be done within the organization. But like I said, a lot of it is policy work. You know, first of the year when the legislature’s back in session, we hit the ground running here. We have so many different bills that we introduce around criminal justice reform, and so a lot of it has to do with that. And, you know, lobbying, and just, I mean I do a little bit of everything.

Lester Young: Yeah, we see that, again thank you for that.

Lester Young: You know looking at, just getting a chance to learn a little bit about your story during the cohort, Leading With Conviction, and then getting the opportunity to read some of the stuff on your bio, your accomplishments from your bio, but I see that just that incarceration was that thing that you went in for a crime that you didn’t commit, and how you finally got that change in some way. I know, I have an idea what that felt like. I know I was in prison, and I know the anguish I felt even though I committed my crime, but would you, if you’re comfortable, could you share with this audience what it felt like to be sitting in a prison cell for a crime that you did not commit? You know, because that’s a rare thing, you know, and Hakim has a very similar experience as yours, you know, being wrongfully convicted of a crime and served a substantial amount of time inside of a prison before he was released. You know, I know his story, but I’m pretty sure the audience don’t know your story in detail unless they read your great book. But just tell the audience a little bit about what that felt like in the second part of that question was that the thing that fueled you, that inspired you to to walk out of here and say, “you know what? I’m going to get a law degree.”

Keeda Haynes: Well, you know, so when all of this started happening I was actually in school at Tennessee State University majoring in criminal justice and psychology. Because, like, when I first went to school I wanted to be a criminal psychologist. I wanted to work with serial killers, right? Like, there’s always that question of why, right? Like, why do people do the things that they do, right? And I mean I still ask these questions, like in my life today, right? And I think because, and I used to always say this, and I don’t think I even really understood what it meant when I would say this, but you know how like sometimes we say things because it’s just like it’s within us, but we don’t have a full understanding of what it is that we’re actually saying in that moment? Because I used to always say that it was better to understand than to be understood. And the “why” has always driven me, like in every single aspect of my life, and I think it still drives me, right? Because I think that if we can answer that why question then we can start to formulate solutions. And so that was why I wanted to work with the FBI, work in a behavioral science unit, you know like all of that kind of stuff, right? You know, I was going to be, like the next Clarice, you know, from Silence of the Lambs.

Like seriously, like all of that. I’ve read so many books on serial killers, like I think at some point my mom was, like, concerned that there was some kind of darkness in me because I just really wanted to immerse myself into that, right?

Lester Young: Understanding the “why”?

Keeda Haynes: Yeah, I mean and it’s just like, but I think about it, you know with what Brian Stevenson says we’re talking about the work that we do and talking about being proximate, right? In order for you to be able to understand you do have to be proximate, right? So again, I’m doing all of these things, and not even really knowing what I’m doing, and how it’s going to impact me later in life. But, like I said, I was in school, switched my major – I wasn’t majoring in Psychology anymore – switched to major in Criminal Justice because I was just like, I don’t want to have to get, like a PhD to do this. I’m not trying to be in school that long, not knowing that I was going to be in school that long anyways with going to law school. And I said you know what, I’ll just study patterns of crime. So, I took a legal methods class, and the class was just like briefing cases, it was a huge casebook. I had no idea what briefing a case was, so the first time I had to do it, I didn’t do well, and I talked to my professor, and he explained to me what it was, and it just clicked from that moment on. I remember one of the briefs that I submitted he told me that out of the X number of years he had been working at the University, it was the best brief that he had ever had submitted to him, and I was already deciding that I was going to go to law school because briefing cases, it was just like second nature to me, and he was telling me that I should go to like Harvard or Yale or somewhere, and back then you know Harvard and Yale were not letting people come there for free, you know ? So it was in the midst of all of that, that the “why” was going on, right? You know we grow up thinking that we see all of these shows on TV, the good versus evil, you know? We grow up thinking that cops are good people, and if people are arrested, if people go to jail or prison, then they must have done something wrong, right? That’s instilled in us from an early age, you know? Cops and robbers you know I’m saying? All of that kind of stuff like I said, just good versus evil, and all that kind of stuff, so we grow up thinking this. It’s entrenched in us. I went through the system thinking that I’m not going to go to prison because I didn’t do anything wrong. And that was the belief that I held on to. Of course, that was a naive belief, but again that was the belief that I held on to because again, that is what was so entrenched with us. So, when I was convicted and ended up having to go to prison, then I had to start rethinking that, right? Because now I am one of these people that’s going to prison for something that I didn’t do, and so you know so it was kind of like a shift for me. My whole thinking had to change about the criminal legal system and what it was, and who ends up there and stuff like that, and so it was kind of like a re-learning process for me, right? Because we grow up, and we’re taught to believe in systems, right? That in the end everything is going to work out. And so to be in that and to really, literally be in that and having to rethink all of this–I told myself going in, I said, “You know, I could be bitter, and I could be angry, but I’m not going to be,” right? Because I just felt that if I allowed the bitterness and the anger to consume me, then I would miss what I was supposed to get there, right? Because I just really believe that everything happens for a reason, in its appointed time, and how it’s supposed to happen. And of course, like, I would never say that I wanted to go to prison, right? But I would not be the person that I am had I not been there.

And so while it was unfortunate, it’s not anything that I would ever change because I got so much, you know what I’m saying, just from being there, and just being around the other women and learned so much about myself. And like I said, if I can prevent someone from walking in the same shoes that I have walked in, or if I can encourage someone else, then whatever I have been through, it’s all been worth it right? Like this is, it’s bigger than me. And so, I think that if we get caught up in self, then we miss the bigger picture as to why we have been allowed to experience things. And so that’s what I always try to do–I try not to internalize it, right? Because if we internalize it, we can get stuck there. And even working as a public defender, I would get just like so pissed at the DA’s and the judges and the system in general right you know with just how my clients and stuff were being treated and everything and I just started internalizing all that, and I would literally have to tell myself, “Keeda, you know what, this is bigger than you, and when you start to say me and I then you’ve internalized this, and you’re going to miss what it is that you can do in this moment.” And so, that’s what it was there – for me in prison – I didn’t want to internalize it. I wanted to say, “What is the bigger picture here? What am I supposed to get out of this so that I can be able to be the person that I have been called to be?” And so that’s the way that I chose to look at it. I know different people look at it in different ways. Was I still shocked about the entire entire process? Absolutely! I remember thinking, it was like an out-of-body experience, that I was literally watching somebody else go through this. This was not me, that this could not be my life, like in a minute I’m gonna wake up from this bad dream. But you don’t, right? Because it’s not a dream, it’s reality. So, it’s just like, what do you do with that? What do you do with this new reality–that of course you didn’t choose for yourself – but what do you do with this new reality? A lot of times when we go through things in life it’s not because we choose to. I think of one my old bosses and when he lost his son to suicide, that was the new reality for him, and of course he would never choose that, but it’s just like, what do you do with this new reality that I find myself in? How do I work from this? How do I work out of this? And how do I make sure that someone else can benefit from my new reality? So, that’s how I chose to look at it, and that’s how I continue to look at it.

Lester Young: Yo, that is powerful. There’s so much that we we don’t have enough time to unpack, I really want to dive deep into that, but just for the sake of our time, I would just say that I hope that whoever gets a chance to listen to this podcast, that they find some type of redemption from what you just said. It’s about perspective. It’s not all about how it hits you, it’s about your response, and I’m so thankful that you chose that path because now you are the woman that you are, in doing the work that you are, because you didn’t internalize it. You asked a question–why, what could I get from that–and that’s a very powerful perspective. Hakim?

Hakim Crampton: Yeah, I’m glad you closed it with that because one of the things you mentioned earlier, is about how you had this pursuit to understand things, “the why.” That question you posed about really wanting to understand, more so than to be understood. That’s a selfless, very selfless, philosophical approach in life. That’s powerful. So, that of course indicates how great of a thinker you are, and the things that you’ve accomplished–the papers you had to write, to get the degrees you had to write, shows us the fact that you know how to refunction and you’re a great penetrating thinker. So, I want to ask you a question about while you were incarcerated, was there a very inspirational book that inspired you, or did you discover an inspirational leader that really motivated you and moved you during your incarceration? Or was there both? Was there an inspirational book and an inspiring leader that you were able to benefit from and perhaps model some of your leadership after?

Keeda Haynes: Yes there were both. The women there were leaders for me. I was young when I went to prison–I was in my early 20s. And that’s the time in your life where you’re figuring out who you are, and what you’re doing. And I go to prison, right? We’ve seen these shows on prison, and what they portray are these hardened people that have lived this hard life. But I mean there were women in there that were professionals. Women that had been CEOs of their own company, just women that were amazing. Like all the women…I was awed by what their lives were before coming to prison. It just was not what I thought women in prison were, but even so much more than that because I remember when I got resentenced, we just all knew that I was going home. Most people end up pleading guilty, particularly in the federal system, like 97% of cases end in plea, so most people don’t go to trial. And so what comes along with people taking these pleas is that people don’t really have any options to get out of prison. When I went to trial I still had all of my appellate rights, and so even though the women did not have the same options that I had available to myself to get out of prison, they didn’t hate me for it. They rejoiced because I had that and they didn’t. So, we just all knew that I was going home when I went back to court to be resentenced, and come to find out, I didn’t, so I had to come back to prison. And I was really upset about it, that was kind of a turning point in my faith journey. But the women were amazing. They were just like, “oh, but your sentence got reduced, so you’re still gonna go before you were supposed to.” And they were able to lift me up when I needed it. That was leadership, right? And so it was just so amazing that even in the midst of all of this when, when they had no options right and then I feel bad because I’m complaining about going home early, just not now, but these women had 10, 15, 20, 25 year sentences. In the grand scheme of things a day in prison is too long, their sentences well exceeded mine, and here they are lifting me up. So again, that was leadership.

I also read this book by Beth Moore, and I can’t quite remember the name. But I remember this portion of this book that I read, and she gives this analogy. She’s talking about change, but then she’s also talking about how we do the things that we grow up and see in our environment and that shapes us. And until we see something different then that’s who and what we will be. So she gives this analogy of this dog that had puppies. And the dog that had puppies only had two front legs and did not have two hind legs, but was a perfectly healthy dog outside of that. And so because the dog didn’t have the two hind legs, the dog could not walk like other dogs walk. So, it would have to use the two paws and then scoot, two paws and scoot. It has a litter of puppies, and the puppies are born with four legs, but they see their mom, two paws and scoot, two paws and scoot. So, what do the puppies do? That’s what the puppies did. Because the puppies didn’t know that they had four working legs and could walk normally, and it was so eye-opening and to this day, I always refer back to that because it answers a why question, right? Why do these puppies that have four working legs walking as if they don’t? Because that’s what they see their mom doing, and until they are able to see and experience something different, they’re not even going to know and understand what their full potential is. And so, it just resonated with me so much, about who we are as people, and the things that we do, and what we need to change. So, I lived by that and that was one of the reasons why I also wanted to run for Congress. I thought about my clients and their kids, and what they had lived through and experienced. And it’s just like, you know what? If people can just see something else, then maybe they will strive to be something different than what they are constantly seeing. If people are given just that opportunity, how much more would people be if they’re given just that one thing? Or, if they see just that one thing.

Lester Young: I’m just thinking about when you say this “move and then slide.” Think about that environment a lot of us come up in, environments where we are unable to see anything outside of the environment. And even though these puppies still had working legs they emulated what they saw.

Keeda Haynes: Yeah.

Lester Young: And that says so much about our community. This is why, again, I believe that we have to really truly push to transform our communities because if you’re stuck in a bottle, the only thing you’re gonna do is believe that’s the only place. Deanna said something to me a while back that still resonates with me. She said, the bowl that a fish is in–that’s the length that fish will grow in.” You got to think about, like, if you want to grow in life, you got to get out of your little small bowl, and go into a larger pond, into a larger river to grow, and that’s the beauty of that. So I love that story …

Keeda Haynes: I want to say something else to that, because I feel like all my life I’ve just been constantly pushing myself to grow, and I think that’s what it is about. I always say that we have to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones. I heard this talk one day about this lady–we always hear “fake it ‘til you make it–and she was just like, “No, we’re doing it all wrong. Fake it until you become it.” And I was like, “Yes! Yes,that’s what it is.” We want to become this thing. We don’t want to just fake it ‘til we get there, and then we’re still the same person. We want to become this thing.

Lester Young: Like over with right? Like, it’s done!

Keeda Haynes: Yeah, yeah.

Lester Young: That makes a lot of sense. Wow, that makes a lot of sense.

Hakim Crampton: It makes perfect sense, essentially.

Lester Young: Yeah, man that just brings me back to one of my mentors when I was in prison. He told me, what is going to be your biggest challenge when you get out of prison is that you’re going to be stuck here if you don’t change this and see yourself different, you’re going to always stay stuck here. So, he said that when you get out of prison Lester, go buy you a nice suit, nice pair of shoes, even if you don’t have a job, you don’t have any money, he said you have to start seeing your success before you do that success. He’s like go get a cup of coffee, if you don’t like reading the newspaper, find a book, and go sit in a busy place where you see people constantly moving, and they’re successful. He said, because you need to see it, you need to feel it, and you need to be able to touch it. And that’s what I did for a couple months, even to this very day, I do it when I feel like I’m feeling a little off. I normally go into these environments with something on nice. I’ll go eat dinner by myself and these different things, so I love that part of it. I think that if we see it, we can start believing that we are.

Lester Young: As we get a chance, we’re um about to wrap this up, this has been fire, to me this has been fire. I love the energy that you bring to this podcast. Being that you’re our second guest, thank you for this energy. I know it’s kind of early, and I appreciate it. But as we’re winding down, I’m thinking about this and all of the work that you’re doing, and all of the passion that you have, and all the things that you’re really just putting yourself in because you want to see change in the world, you want to see change in the community, change in the world. When you’re not doing that, you’re sitting there reading novels and writing books and doing all this other stuff. What is key to doing for her regarding self-care? What are you doing for you, sis?

Keeda Haynes: Particularly since the pandemic and running for office, because when I was a public defender, there was always something else to do. We have this fictitious mentality that we can save the world by being public defenders, and we can’t. And there’s always something to do, right? Even when I was running for congress, there was always something. Everybody wants every moment of time that you have. You literally had no time, everybody wants access to you. So one of the things, once all of that was over, was that I really, really made sure that I set boundaries. Because again, like I said, I’m an introvert, and I know that about myself. I know that constantly being around people, I don’t get my energy from that. I get my energy from within. I have to have that time for myself, even if it’s just sitting and doing nothing. So many times I’ll be at my house, and a TV will be on, and I can’t even tell you what is on the TV because it’s just noise, and I am just being. So, that’s where I get my energy from. I have to just be. I have to allow myself to just be, whatever that is in that moment.

I love the ballet, I love plays, and so I will do that. I love reading, and I tell people all the time I don’t read all these heavy books in in my time. In my time I read–I escape to another world– so I read like romance novels in some shape, form, or fashion because I have to take myself out of that, because this is the work that we do all day, every day. And so for me it’s those types of things. It’s finding things that I enjoy doing, those things that I enjoy. We don’t have a lot of plays here in Nashville, and so I’m gonna be going to New York hopefully at the beginning of December because I want to go see Phantom of the Opera before it’s gone from Broadway, forever. Those are things that I have wanted to see and wanted to do. Those are the things that I do for me, self-care.I have a circle of friends, I love spending time with my friends. I love just hanging out with my friends and just just being. And then, also too, I love going to the mall. You will see my social media posts– anytime I am in any city–you can guarantee that I’m going to find a mall. I’m going to find somewhere to go. It’s not even always about just buying stuff, but most of the time I go by myself because I like just being by myself, just being in that moment. If I see something I want to buy, then I buy it, and if not, then that’s fine. It’s just spending time re-energizing myself so that I can go back out here and continue to be effective and continue to do the work that I do. So yeah, I’m not much into working out. I know some people do that, and you know hats off to them for that.

Lester Young: I’m one of those people.

Keeda Haynes: Hey look, and I admire those people who do those things. But yeah, being able to spend time with my friends, to go to lunch with them and say, “hey, what’s going on in your life? Tell me about you. What’s going on there?” Being able to be present in the moment with them, I love that, because like I said it’s all about relationships, and building and maintaining those relationships. I have learned, because in my life I have been a person that’s been a perfectionist–that’s an insecurity all within itself. So within that, with overcoming that, I have allowed myself to be, and that’s freedom all within itself.

Lester Young: Nice, nice. Hakim’s like, yo …

Hakim Crampton: Oh yeah, I mean your concluding thoughts on self-care alone is powerful enough to summarize my own concluding thoughts. It’s been wonderful interviewing you for the JustUs Speaks Podcast, I’m excited to be a co-host on the show to interview great leaders like yourself. My name is Hakim Crampton, so thanks again for joining us Keeda, appreciate you.

Keeda Haynes: Thank you all for having me. I really appreciate it and looking forward to all of the other great voices that you’re going to have on this podcast, I’m excited.

Lester Young: Keeda, my name is Lester Young as you know and just wanted to say what are some of the final thoughts that you want to leave our audience with? That those who want to get a chance to hear this podcast, or others in this society, or even inside prison walls, what is the word of wisdom you want to close with in this podcast?

Keeda Haynes: I think the last thing that I said because it is what I live by. It is what freedom is to me. Just be. Just allow yourself to be. Whatever that is, in whatever space that is, like get to know who you are and walk in that. To me, that is the ultimate freedom. It’s not being what somebody else wanted me to be, not doing this, not doing that, but who am I, and allowing myself to really be that person. So often, you know we grow up, and we can’t be who we really are just because of what society says, and like I said I’m an introvert, but you can’t be an introvert because that means you’re standoffish, or you’re stuck up, or you’re all these things. Like no, I’m an introvert, and I’m Keeda, and I’m just going to be, right? That’s what I would tell people: really find out who you are, embrace it, and just walk in it, and just be.

Lester Young: You think we can get a Just Leadership shirt that says, “Just Be”?

Keeda Haynes: Yes, yes.

Lester Young: Yo, thank you sis, we really appreciate it. Thank you for that energy that you brought into this space. I love that energy, and I’m pretty sure that those who get a chance to hear this podcast, they’re going to be truly inspired. Thank you again, I got so many thoughts we’re gonna wrap it up right here. Thank you, sis.

Keeda Haynes: Thank you all. I appreciate it.

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