Black women need self-care. Black women deserve self-care. Black women don’t often engage in self-care. At least not hardly enough.
Self-care has been interwoven into my life for a really long time. Dating back to when I was a teenager, I looked around at my mom, my friend’s moms, my aunties, my church community and the Black women in every other space where I interacted with them and noticed that most of them seemed stressed, haggard, constantly tired and just plain not happy or fulfilled or…..something. I mean they smiled, they were kind, they took care of me and everyone else but they didn’t seem to care about whether they, themselves were okay. I decided right then and there that I was NOT going to have that be my future. I knew that we had this one life and I wanted to live it in the happiest way possible because even at a young age, somehow I just inherently knew that I deserved it. That was over two decades ago and I had a long road ahead of me to figure out how to engage in self-care.
The idea of self-care and even the term “self-care” is not something that I heard and definitely didn’t see modeled in my community during my childhood. So, I started to pay close attention to any sign or example of women taking care of themselves. Most of the information I gathered was from the media (television programs and commercials, magazines, etc.) and I would sometimes hear of women, White women, who would go to spas. I first learned about going to the spa from my 10th grade AP English teacher, a White woman, named Ms. Steele. She would often refer to “going to Elizabeth Arden” to relax so I did some research and found out that Elizabeth Arden was a spa. I then found out about all of the wonderful things that a woman could have done at a spa – massages, facials, nails, make-up, hair and more! THIS information changed my life! Then, an unrelated series of events caused me to beg my parents to allow me to enroll in modeling school and after MUCH begging they approved my request! The modeling school experience was a mixture of good and bad messaging for a young girl at the time. They did a very poor job at helping me develop a healthy body image telling me that at 5’3″ tall that I needed to lose 20 pounds from my already small frame in order to make it in the industry because at 112 pounds I was too big and my hips were too wide to make money as a model. My modeling school instructors did an excellent job, however, of introducing me to many ways that I could engage in self-care. That still wasn’t the term for what they taught me and they weren’t even sharing this information with me and my classmates for us to use to be healthy and balanced, it was all for looking good for the camera or on stage. However, I soaked it all up and learned about all types of things that I could and should do to take care of myself and that led me to develop my own self-care practice that I engaged in on a regular basis.
Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours per night), drinking enough water, using sunscreen while out for walks, putting cucumbers on my eyes while meditating, getting massages, treating myself to gifts from time to time, buying flowers for myself, setting boundaries, scheduling time for myself everyday and just treating myself well, with gentle care was what I started to do on a consistent basis. Over time I refined my self-care practice and even helped my mom, my Black mom, learn how to engage in self-care as well. She’s often said that if it weren’t for me, she’d probably never have learned to prioritize self-care or even given much thought to doing things for herself “just because”. <insert sad face> One of the most important ways that I refined my self-care practice was by ensuring that toxic people could not take up any space in my world….ZERO. I began to truly value peace and tranquility, something that I hadn’t done initially when I first started engaging in self-care. And by not valuing peace and tranquility, I might as well not have done many of the other things that I was doing to try to take care of myself because stress, drama and toxic people cancelled out many of the massages, meditation, etc. that I engaged in.
One thing that I’ve done for many many years is engage in community work in one way or another either through volunteering, working as a professional Dogooder or both! In this work, I am often in the company of amazing, fantastic, dynamic, over the top intelligent, passionate, selfless Black women. I had the following experience a few months ago that I shared with my friends and I’d now like to share with you:
“A few months ago when I was at a community meeting, I saw several women come out of the room next to the one I was in to join in on the conversation. What struck me was that this was on a rainy, dark Saturday night at 5pm and those women, Black community advocates and organizers had been in the adjacent room since 8am that morning working tirelessly as they always do to work on solutions, support and help for our community. On my drive home after the community conversation I thought: “These women literally work seven days a week to take care of us but who is taking care of them?” So I decided then that I was going to find a way to honor them, thank them and allow them to feel the love that many of us have for them but don’t find ways to show on a regular basis.”
That experience led me to plan and host a self-care themed dinner for Black women which I will do quarterly from now on. I took months to figure out exactly what I wanted to do for the women and took my time finding the right caterer, bakery, etc. to create an experience the ladies would hopefully enjoy. I decided that I didn’t want us to have an agenda but rather I just wanted us to just share space, be fed, be able to chat and catch-up while in a safe space and not being rushed. Initially, I planned to finance this dinner myself but then decided that since I’d heard over and over again from the community that Black women deserve this and that they support it, I decided to set-up a GoFundMe campaign to see if people really meant it. Well, in just one week, I raised $1,000, had t-shirts donated to us by my sister-in-law and organic body cream donated by a local agency for all of the ladies who were invited to the dinner. I was able to invite 25 ladies and although I received some “warnings” that I shouldn’t hold this gathering because I might receive death or other types of threats for “excluding” everyone but Black women, I pressed forward. On the evening of the dinner true magic happened. We enjoyed an amazing event! Everyone who was there was moved in one way or another. We laughed, we shared, we cared for one another and we ate DELICIOUS food!
It warmed my heart to see my guests enjoy talking with one another and hearing all of the bursts of laughter!
And the selfie’s were so beautiful!
And of course, we had to take a group photo!
Thank you to my Sister-in-Law Sandra Adams for designing the t-shirts for the gift bags!
I can’t wait to host the next dinner and share a recap here with you! Remember that self-care saves lives! Until next time please be well.