This weekend, my mother came to visit me to check-in after having being on the receiving end of numerous late night phone calls from me where I worked through frustration and anger at the disinterest of students of color on my campus towards progressive organizing and advocacy on campus. In the midst of my venting, my mother advised me to not put myself in the spotlight all the time. As a student organizer, I am a member or president of the few small progressive student organizations on campus, and I spend my time emailing and scheduling meeting times with on-campus decision makers about how we can encourage students to vote on campus and what strategies might look like for students advocating the worth of black lives at small private christian universities in the South.
While in town, my mother made me lay in bed for hours, and detach myself from the social justice world I call home. She removed Between the World and Me from my bedside, muted the conscious hip hop music, and refused to let me watch another documentary about the Black Panther Party. For the first thirty minutes, I was fine and spent time focusing on the soul records I had plastered on my walls, admiring the embroidery and jewelry on Al Green’s pants.
The remaining amount of time, I started to think about my life after undergrad.
What graduate school I would attend?
Where my first job would be at?
What my children will look like….will I even be able to have children?
As soon as this question arose, I couldn’t stop picturing my little brother as Tamir Rice being shot for nothing more than being a child of color. I felt the immediate urge to contact my little brother to see if he was okay, to protect him from the world he is living in, and to shield him from the evils that are after him. The more my mind began to think and calculate ways to protect him, the more my body began to tense. I felt adrenaline being released into every muscle and fiber in my body, while my mind searched for any incidents of state violence that had been committed against young boys of color in his school district, and my chest began to tighten. I found that my breath and life were being sucked out of me as I began to realize that no matter what I did or said, no matter how much I protested, advocated, or rallied, I would not be able to protect him from the American reality of losing Black lives to state violence.
I reached for the inhaler situated near my bed side, took three breaths, and started to pray. I prayed for my brothers and sisters who are with God in Heaven right now. I prayed for my future children, and prayed that they will grow up in a world better than my own. I prayed for the continuance and growth of my family. I prayed for my Young People For family and for the support systems that the Lord continues to bless and use for his kingdom. I prayed that the Lord withdrew the anger, sadness, frustration, and evil that resided in my heart towards people committing injustices against his children everyday.
Most importantly, I prayed for me. I prayed, and continue to pray, that he heals me, he allows me to grow, stretches me, loves me, and comforts me. By the end of my prayers, I found myself at peace with myself. I am aware that not everyone is religious or spiritual, so my self care practice of prayer may not be for you. But my brothers, sisters, and siblings, I encourage you to find, try out, and develop a self care practice that heals and strengthens you. We cannot engage in this hard work without a way to deal with and heal from the violence we witness everyday.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde