Wellness is a global trend, taking over our newsfeeds. It is a $4.5 trillion market industry, one that includes everything from medicine to tourism. Yet, in the Black community wellness is often considered not important, non-essential, a luxurious recreational activity set aside for the elite. Also known as…
“some white people stuff.”
At a young age, Black folks are often told they must be twice as ________. Our caretakers took care by toughening us up to handle the tough world outside. We must smile brighter to diminish their fears. We must be smarter to reduce their doubt. We must personify more so that we are considered enough.
We are exhausted.
We are depleted. Living in a world that underestimates us, while violently pressings upon us an unrealistic expectation to perform and provide, comes at a great cost. Perhaps not referred to as self-care, in the brilliant history of Black ingenuity, we’ve always found ways to replenish what the world takes from us. When we needed to release pent up distress, we danced in drum circles. When we needed to be fed, we invented entire cuisines of table scraps. When we needed to belong, we curated church communities, social clubs, and gathered in barber shops and hair salons.
Truthfully, we all practice a variation of self-care. To be alive is to possess some level of awareness about what your body requires. When you are thirsty, you drink. When we are tired, you sleep. When we experience life that disrupts an inner equilibrium, we reach for what we need.
When you feel overwhelmed and turn to social media to sooth you, you are caring for yourself.
When you feel fear rise up and tears prick your eyes, you go to a quiet place and let yourself cry – you are caring for yourself.
When you feel out of control, so you order your favorite take-out or cook your favorite comfort food you are caring for yourself.
The inevitability of all practicing self-care pegs the question -
How well is your practice?
Which leads us back to an underlying question: Is wellness for white women? It might feel that way when you reach for wellness by attending a yoga class and find yourself the only woman of color in the room. It might feel that way when you find yourself in the doctor’s office and can’t find a face of recognition amongst the sterile white coats. This is no coincidence. Barricading our access to wellness is instrumental in the anti-Black tradition of this country.
For this reason, our caretakers have taken care by teaching us to be tough in this tough world. We learn as little girls to be “strong Black women” and to master the psychological act of compartmentalization. We wade through the muddy waters of injustice, detached from the aching in our hearts, detached from our bodies, detached from ourselves.
Sis, Render Free exists to remind you: there is a time for everything. There is a time to be tough, to be strong, to be fierce. And there is a time to be gentle, to rest, to take care. As Black and Brown women we will certainly find ourselves in need of space to grieve, to mourn, to scream, and to laugh until we cry. There is no shame in this necessity. In fact, it is beautifully human.
Those childhood teachings can become an inner voice of shame. Our bodies tell us to reach for care and a sense of guilt rises up, a sense of failure, of not being tough enough to handle whatever is before us. But those who taught us in word and deed, their job well done is our existence today. Now as grown women, our greatest offering to the world is to live fully, boldly, freely. It is our job to care for the gift of our being.
To say that wellness is not for us, is to overlook the rich history of self-care within the African American tradition, as well as many Black and Brown communities across the globe. We will do our best to continue to carve a space just for you to take care. Render Free is a space for your practice of the prioritization of wellness through intentional connection, co-creation, introspection, and movement. Together we will carry on the tradition of self-care and practice simple acts of wellness. The ancient practice of our people is to laugh, to cry, to dance, to breath in the face of systems that silence us.
We reach for freedom.