Shakti Butler

Shakti Butler

Visionary Filmaker and Racial Equity Educator



Shakti Butler, PhD, is a transformative educator, activist, filmmaker, and visionary wisdom keeper, whose work invites new questions and practices that cultivate conditions for liberation. Her passion is engaging people and organizations in processes that support self-inquiry which leads to resilience, transformation, and an expansion of individual and collective awareness of our mutual interdependence.

In her presentations, she focuses on the development of new tools that generate deeper internal and external skills such as deep listening, strategic questioning, and radical imagination. The focus of Shakti’s work is the creation of spaces that build deeper relationships anchored in trust, connection, collaboration, and wellbeing to support outcomes for engagement in the work of embracing change that is more just, equitable and uplifting.

As a keynote speaker, workshop leader, and facilitator, Shakti has helped transform hundreds of institutions, organizations, government agencies, foundations, and businesses including the Walt Disney Company, where she served as diversity consultant and advisor on the Oscar-winning animated film, “Zootopia.”

To understand the power of her work, imagine an iceberg. The smaller mass above the water represents behavior we can observe or the “what.” The larger mass below the water line represents the “why” which informs the choices and decisions determined by the conscious and unconscious mind. If we want to change behaviors, structures, and systems, we must address the root causes that lead to different actions.

Shakti’s five documentary films focus on racial equity, healing, and social justice. The most widely-watched is Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity. This film is considered an important foundational piece and engaging educational tool that infuses the process of transformation.

Dr. Butler’s lived experiences and beliefs are informed by her roots as a Caribbean mixed-race Black woman, her study of global histories, stories, analyses ,and the arts to expand awareness and self-alignment in service to structural change. People who engage in change work will experience new meaning making and understanding. Hope, trust, and change can be inspired in ways that draw people together and foment connection.

Shakti Butler offers diversity and inclusion workshops, events and presentations that are tailored to address your goals. Engaging participants with each other is a hallmark of her methodology. All formats, even her film screenings, are highly interactive. Supporting groups to grapple with both the intellectual and emotional aspects of inequity makes these events transformational. All seminars use World Trust documentary films or Racial Equity Learning Modules as the basis for learning and dialogue about privilege and oppression. Presentation length and content is flexible, here are some sample formats:

Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity | 
Film Screening and Dialogue Event
 | 2.5 hours This event is designed as a catalyst for transformative learning about systemic inequity. We use music or other modalities to build community among audience members, introduce a simple frame for understanding the system of inequity, then braid segments of the film Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity with facilitated audience dialogue. This event is both challenging and uplifting, and is suitable for racial equity advocates as well as those who are new to the topic. Adopted for use by over 600 institutions, Cracking the Codes asks that we understand and talk about the causes and consequences of systemic inequity. YES! Magazine calls Cracking the Codes “the most dignified and evidenced response possible to the blithe assertion that we now live in a “post-racial” America.” The film illuminates a system that perpetuates structural inequity using moving personal accounts from 23 leaders in the equity movement including: Amer Ahmed, Joy DeGruy, Ise Lyfe, Peggy McIntosh, Hugh Vasquez and Tim Wise. “Cracking the Codes is designed to address and deepen the national conversation on race in this country,“ says Shakti Butler, PhD, director of the film and founder of World Trust Educational Services. “The current conversation is not only shallow, but actually harmful. We continue to primarily focus only on individuals, when institutional and structural inequities are pressing. We live in a time when we cannot afford to squander our national treasure — the minds and hearts of all people.”

A Bold Dream: Creating a World That Works for Everyone
 | Workshop | 3 hours – 1 day This workshop supports participants to reframe and deepen the national conversation on race. Through multi-media, dialogue, case studies and other participatory methods, the facilitator guides participants to seek new questions that foster collective engagement and build leadership skills that can illuminate pathways towards healing, equity and a more sustainable future. A multicultural future requires that we move towards collective impact that is imbued with understanding, equity and wisdom. To that end, participants will gain a practical framework for understanding and deconstructing systemic racial inequities, creating positive dialogue and building skills that enable dialogue to continue after the workshop.

A Deeper Understanding of the System: History, Race, Power and Economics | Workshop | 
2.0 – 4.0 hours Internal biases and external structures inform a system that continues to churn out racial disparities in the United States. This session speaks to the role of history, power and economics in inequity and provides an analytical road map to current day structural inequities. In order to envision, create and embrace a future that moves towards equity — a world in which everyone can thrive– we must challenge ourselves individually and collectively. Through the use of film and dialogue, participants will reflect, inquire and engage with one another. Delving into the system in this participatory way can help support participants to speak more fully to the challenges that impact both the marginalized and mainstream.

Irresistible Justice: Cultivating Joy as an Act for Social Change
 | 2.0 – 4.0 hours This session uses clips from Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity as a catalyst for transformative learning, and fosters a deeper understanding of the parts we all play in perpetuating the systemic dance of racialization. A holistic framework that conveys the interconnection between internal/personal and external/structural components of racial inequity frames the analysis and dialogue in this session. In order to manifest human rights and dignity for all, it is necessary that we seek union between the head and heart. It is the head that can recognize, analyze and strategize to overcome disparities. It is the heart that obliterates fear. We will use dialogue as a unique tool to create union between the head and heart. It is through this union that we can infuse our actions with our deepest held values, the key to avoiding burn-out and sustaining joy in our work. Joy, rather than fear, in conjunction with systemic framing becomes a radical act towards promoting justice.

Strategic Questioning Module | 
1.0-2.0 hours Strategic Questioning helps our clients collaborate on solutions long after the workshop is over. This technique, developed by Ronald T. Hyman and later refined by Fran Peavey, allows the questioner and questionee to engage in active dialogue that leads to solutions rather prompting a series of limited or dead-end responses. The purpose of the questions is two-fold: It allows the questionee to consider options and make decisions without feeling pressured, and it lets both questioner and questionee take an active role in finding solutions.

Other Topics include:

Working with the Media: Framing Issues with a Racial Equity Lens Fear: The Internal Engine of Oppression I’m not a Racist: Understanding White Privilege from Guilt to Responsibility Managing Paradox: Women, Race & The Way Home

  Topic Areas

African Americans/Black
Biracial/Multiracial Identity
Professional Development
High School Programs
Race/Racial Justice/Racism
Leadership Development
Whiteness/White Supremacy

  Related Links


Shakti Butler -- Racial Justice Speaker, Educator & Filmmaker


Interview: Director Shakti Butler on Cracking the Codes & Race Dialogue


Jefferson Award Winner: Shakti Butler


Dr. Shakti Butler -- Irresistible Justice: Cultivating Joy as a Pathway to Equity Part One

I was impressed with Dr. Butler's ability and willingness to integrate an appeal to the spirit with an explanation of systemic oppression, to consider the whole person and to address issues from that perspective. The clips from Cracking the Codes were able to bring people into a situation very effectively, to inspire empathy and break down the distance between audience and subject in a way that bridges intellect and heart.
Janice R. Welsch Professor Emerita and Co-Director, Expanding Cultural Diversity Project, Western Illinois University

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