It began with a tentative move inward in a time when the world, my home and my heart was finally hushed. We were all realizing that the stay-at-home order was not a temporary precaution. The novelty of working in our pajamas was wearing off and the eerie uncertainty of the pandemic was settling over us like a fog. Any attempt to predict the future in that moment felt laughable. So, instead I surveyed my recent past.
What I found were the ruins of years surviving within the confines of a troupe. I was bound by a caricature of the ‘Strong Black Woman’.
What I found were the ruins of years surviving within the confines of a troupe. I was bound by a caricature of the ‘Strong Black Woman’. For years I was burdened by the shadow of this troupe, expected to work harder, be better, remain tolerant, and struggle through the mire of institutional racism. I was told that in time this would lead to progress. I was told that patience would eventually lead to change which would compensate for the pain and lack of pay. And after realizing the futility of these promises, I made the agonizing decision to resign, not once but twice, and was left with the bruises of these binds.
I knew that the nuance of my lived experience as a Black woman and ancestral wisdom of my foremothers, held insights to questions our world desperately needs answered. Questions of human worth, of antiracism and of justice. Yet, I was met with denial, a refusal to admit that any problem exists. I was met with backlash and I was gaslit. Before I could make sense of the pain of this dissonance, my body set the limit. I could not continue this way and be well.
Finally, in 2020, in the long days of spring turning to summer, I began to reflect on the normality of this experience. I let light reach my wounds and admitted the lament of my traumas and grieved the likelihood of the experience repeating itself. The threat of systemic racism on the wellbeing of Black women has created a chasm in health disparities that persist.
In the quiet of my home, I picked up the power that was not afforded me in previous institutions and decided to create one for us. Render Free was born.
Since that day, I have given much of my energy to nurturing this community resource. I have held fast to the vision of a physical place where Black + Brown women might discover a work-life that is integrated with self-care and collective healing. Render Free is created to be an environment sacred enough to bare our wounds.
For two years, Render Free has observed a proof-of-concept phase. Operating two days a week, Render Free has engaged roughly two hundred members and the question of relevance has been answered. I now know that Render Free is more than a space that I needed. It is a space that we need.
Now, what I need is you. After a season of fallow, I have chosen to continue to honor the initial vision of Render Free, fully launching for the first time with an expansion of offerings. This means the growth of what Render Free has become is no longer something I can sustain on my own. In spite of the love and devotion I have for this vision, I refuse to return to the shackles of old tropes. In this time of opportunity and risk, I will not put this business on my back and strain ahead as the ‘Strong Black Woman’.
Now, what I need is you...In spite of the love and devotion I have for this vision, I refuse to return to the shackles of old tropes.
Instead, I will look to you. The
model of Render Free is tested. The haven is waiting. Now, to continue, to sustain Render Free, I need my community. Many have expressed a devotion to this resource, you’ve shared your excitement about what Render Free is and all that it will be in the future for our cities. If Render Free is to last, now is the time to join in. Let's contribute to the riches of Black history. The future is now.
Invest in yourself and join as a member. renderfree.com/membership
Join us in solidarity and contribute as an ally. renderfree.com/support
Help me fortify the sustainability and staying power of Render Free as a community resource.
Kenzie Achterhoff Photography