Episode #197: Michael Fosberg

Dana GoodierOut of the Trenches Podcast

We each have a role to play in how we go about creating a livable society. Lots of people disagree. Speak up & do so from place of respect. Click To TweetChicago native Michael Fosberg has spoken at nearly a thousand high schools, colleges, government agencies, corporations, law firms and not-for-profits since 2005, utilizing his award-winning autobiographical story, told in the form of a one-man play, as an entry point for meaningful dialogues on race and identity.

He has collaborated with a number of professional diversity practitioners on programs to foster deeper dialogue in corporate settings and at educational institutions. His work with groups such as; The Boeing Company, United Way Worldwide, PNC Financial Services, Proctor & Gamble, The U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, and The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is reshaping the way organizations talk about race, identity and diversity.

Michael has been a frequent guest in the media speaking on these issues, and his latest book, Nobody Wants to Talk About It; Race, Identity and the Difficulties in Forging Meaningful Conversations offers readers seven important tools to engage in authentic dialogue. In 2011 he published his memoir; Incognito: An American Odyssey of Race and Self-Discovery and he has just launched a series of unique virtual e-learning programs utilizing his award-winning play as the entry point for delving into uncomfortable conversations.

Trench story: educator in a unique way, goes into institutions, but also educates ppl in the corporate world. People in DEI in ed institutions- why that is? Not in classrooms on day-to-day basis. DE &I space encompasses HS, corporations, etc. Esp. fraught with lots of resistance, lots of misinformation. People feel uncomfortable with it. Eye-opening experience for him. We all have an identity we don’t often share with others. Unconscious bias.

Why does diversity and inclusion training seem to be so divisive? Lots of people think we’re teaching CRT. CRT is usually a graduate course in the legal field about laws in the legal field around race. It’s weaponized by ppl who don’t know what it means. The work he does, even though it falls under De & I, wouldn’t qualify it as what the school boards are trying to squash. He wants to find commonalities. It’s not the students, it’s the parents. We need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.


How have different people responded to your story and training? It’s been phenomenal. People feel safe, non-threatened. It’s like a Netflix mini-series. Opens ppl up. People come up & tell deep, dark secrets. Some ppl will walk out saying it was a waste of time.


Talk about  book:Nobody Wants to Talk About It; Race, Identity and the Difficulties in Forging Meaningful Conversations what are some tools for educators in the book (7 tools)- #1- tell your story. Intergroup contact theory. Share your personal stories across populations. We have more in common than differences.  #2- don’t judge the differences. Embrace them. #3- there isn’t 1 way to have a convo around race & identity. #4- we can disagree so long as we’re not disagreeable. We’re siloed. Bring civility back. #6-understand there are realities outside your own experience. #7-practice forgiveness.

How do you approach diversity and inclusion training? Why is it important? His approach is very different. In FL, D,E &I work is being outlawed. Ppl are now able to sue school/district. His work isn’t going make ppl uncomfortable. Inter-contact theory. 1 man play over 45 m. He portrays 12 diferent characters.  In early 30’s he wanted to know about his biological father. Discovered him with 1st phone call. Bio father tells him he’s always loved him. He says he’s African American. Michael didn’t know he is biracial. Several people in generation were famous. His grandparents were still alive. Play- Incognito. He challenges the audience “What race am I now?”.

first book, published in 2011- he didn’t think of turning it into a play. Finished the book after he’s turned into a book. Had taken acting classes prior. As was traveling, he noticed people felt awkward then decided to write the 2nd book (published 2020). Was getting ready to send to printers as pandemic started. As soon as George Floyd happened, publisher said now’s the time.


Key quotes…we each have a role to play in how we go about creating a livable society. Lots of people disagree. Speak up & do so from place of respect. You let them know this isn’t way to create world we want to live in.

Find Michael online: https://incognitotheplay.com/   LinkedIn-@Michael Forsberg IG- @incognitotheplay handle. He also has a podcast where he interviews people from different fields. Methods/practices they use to bring people together. Incognito the Podcast: INCOGNITO the podcast on Apple Podcasts

The Incognito website includes information on the multitude of Diversity and Inclusion solutions he offers, his publications, responses from organizations I work with around the country, and more.        

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/vlYLO7oidUE



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