October 29 2021
Black Women Advocating for Themselves in Healthcare
This Juneteenth marks the 156th anniversary of the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. Every generation since has labored to inch us closer to freedom and equity, ancestors laying the early foundations for liberation. And this fight continues today, Black people still advancing the work of those no longer with us. We understand, now better than ever, that none of us are free until we all are.
Beyond community, many of us fight against personal and interpersonal matters as well. Generational trauma is real, and it passes from generation to generation as fluidly as kinky hair and brown eyes, a bitter inheritance.
But we must not forget that joy is our birthright. Our ancestors also blessed us with a beautiful, priceless gift: the ability to rest.
Bravery and unconditional love for our collective future are how we received this gift. Each Black person who stole away to freedom, refused to move on a bus, marched, and educated themselves moved us closer to the freedoms we have now, the opportunity to just be.
Rest is an intentional and necessary slowing down to care for ourselves. It includes nurturing our physical bodies, mental wellbeing, and our internal growth and development. We accomplish this rest and excavate peace through simple practices that center us in the present, like sleeping or napping, eating our favorite meals, enjoying nature, bathing, stretching, meditating, journaling, singing, learning a new skill, or hobby, reading, listening to music we enjoy and even dancing.
Engaging in any of these activities positively affects our physical bodies, directly informing mental and emotional wellbeing. Expressing joy fights feelings of stress and pain, promotes a healthy lifestyle, boosts the immune system, and bolsters longevity and vitality. And all of these benefits are crucial for Black people, whose life expectancy rates in the United States are second lowest to Native Americans.
Unplugging from obligations and social media are among the few ways to begin our healing work. Practicing care with ourselves regularly allows us to extend our internal empathy outwards to those in our community, aiding them in their healing process, too. When we are most in tune with our needs and self-growth, it better equips us to set boundaries with the people and systems that influence us. Through self-understanding, we become better advocates for our own needs and desires, both immediate and existential. But we must be willing to change behaviors to position ourselves for prosperity and community revitalization.
It is essential for Black people, in particular, to engage in rest regularly because, for us, it is a form of resistance.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” (Audre Lorde)
Rest is our sacred right, as is unapologetic joy. These things directly oppose the oppressive forces of white supremacy and capitalism that seek our destruction. It is subversive to claim rest and contentment in the face of a system that necessitates our grind. They don’t want us to care for ourselves; they don’t want us to grow and thrive.
If not for the work of our ancestors, we may not have the same opportunities for prosperity that we have today. In new and innovative ways, the same forces that operated against our ancestors and elders function today, but with new names, new brands. So it is, as Audre Lorde said, “an act of political warfare” that we continue to care for and protect ourselves and each other.
“Misery resistance… the practice, particularly in Black communities, of dancing, singing, and loving as forms of resisting and releasing oppression.” (Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown)
Our rest is sacred. It is a tool we now possess because of them, as mighty a weapon as any.
When we rest, we feed the revolution, nurture our radical hearts. And when we slow down and care for our needs, we ensure the resistance lives on. May we dance and sing and love today; may we heed this sacred gift.
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