The term ‘self care’ has played an integral role in my work in progressive organizing spaces. I’ve trained multiple times on the practice of it. Self care can be described as the process where activists remove themselves from their work to heal and to restore their fighting power. Recently, however, I’ve begun to question whether or not self care is both relevant and sustainable in our movement.
Self care in itself is a privilege—as one of my coworkers often notes. The ability to take oneself out of movement work as stakes escalate (or don’t) is a demonstration of choice. For those directly impacted by the work, the choice to practice self care may not be an option.
Most importantly, there is a need for greater community in our movement (not movements), community that builds together, creates change together, and cares for one another. The trauma that we face as black folk and/or black social justice activists is real, and it cannot be dealt with in a silo. Spending a night alone in a warm bath with a bottle may help with mental trauma, but it won’t heal it. People need to talk. Be it with a counselor or a close knit group of friends or movement family, the trauma we face needs to be spoken about and communicated to others.
One of the most important activities I have participated in at BYP100 meetings is called radical healing. It’s a space where—as a collective—we air out our grievances and hardships to support one another through our issues. This is revolutionary for a society that isolates people from those around them and perpetuates an individualistic way of living that plays the notes of to each his own simultaneously with just work, work, work, and the American Dream is attainable.
As a community—particularly as a black community—we must continue to promote our intrinsic culture of black community, one where we know our neighbors well enough to let them keep our kids, cook for us, and provide a shoulder to cry on. We should participate in self care if privileged enough to have that space. Most importantly, however, we should make sure to find a community to care for and that cares for us in return in the most personal of ways; it benefits us all in the long run.
[Author’s note: YP4 uses the term “sustainability in the movement” when discussing self care during our trainings in order to highlight how caring for oneself ties into caring for a larger community and sustaining social movements.]