I am not OK.
The sound of police sirens racing outside my window triggers me like I imagine the sounds of helicopters makes my uncle think of Vietnam. No. I have not been arrested. But that doesn’t mean I have not been the victim of policing. It also doesn’t mean that the fear I have of dying at the hands of police is not real enough to cause some form of PTSD. As a matter of fact, being Black in America has always been associated with surviving. Look at the lineup of “Black Voices” on your streaming platforms. They all feature stories of degradation, adversity, and sorrow. Being Black has even been compared to living in hell by our highest political officials. Now ain’t that something.
In spite of all of this, we’re expected to continue on. When the video of George Floyd’s murder surfaced, I watched it, but I didn’t see anything. My eyes glossed over to protect me from the trauma of seeing yet another person charged with the protection of all people taking the life of someone because of something that has never been against the law. It’s never been a crime to be Black in America. We’ve always been wanted here; it’s just so damn hard to make America a place we want to be. And just like that, I get an email message from a makeup brand I’ve spent shameless amounts on saying to hang in there. When the video of Ahmad Arbery surfaced, I was devastated and triggered. When Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade were killed, I was heartbroken. I felt particularly attached to Breonna because she was a Black woman. Black women frequently go unseen or uncared for. Our mistreatment is often seen as a casualty of a larger war. How does it feel to be asked to strip away one of your identities to serve another? We’re all in this together. I am behind on work, behind on sleep, and having nightmares of dying the next time a police officer doesn’t like the trace of something in me. I cannot hang in there.
I had to take some time. I remembered the words of Angela Davis, a woman I have aspired to be like all my rebellious life. Radical self-care. It is the assertion that part of your duties to others is to make your own well-being the first priority. This is truly radical to me. I am an empathetic being. Since before I can remember, I have put others first. It’s in my nature. The world is in a pandemic. And then this. The pain of my people compels me like the rhythm of a beating drum; this time, I can’t put anything before silencing the madness all around me.
So, I asked for this article to be different. It is not about my sexy playlist suggestions to amplify your sex magick this summer. Although those playlists are pretty tantalizing, I am an artist. The artists’ job is to be the voice of their generation, and mine is crying out to me right now. I didn’t know how to juggle the responsibility of being a Black person who needed their own healing with being an artist who has made an entire career of speaking out and for the lives of disenfranchised folks. I was so thankful for an opportunity to rework my words, but I honestly didn’t know where to begin.
So I started taking a few days off for self-care. My normal rituals, a cleansing bath, yoga or sensual movement, talking to my family, soaking up some sun, and a little pleasure didn’t seem like equal rivals to this problem. How does one self-care themselves to wellness when the trauma you’re healing from is generational? My mother marched so I wouldn’t have to. What now?
I trudged through my self-care rituals anyway, if only for the sake of this article. I wanted to commit to bringing myself out of the vast depression I was sinking into. Outside my window, billboards proclaiming we were #StrongerTogether towered over the palm trees like lies. I felt so isolated—alone. Even as floods of texts from my well-meaning white friends came in asking “Are you OK?” I didn’t feel comforted. I felt like I had a target on my back. The world was now so interested in my trauma because on any given scroll, they could see George Floyd taking his last breath. See Maud taking his last run. Were they reaching out to me because they saw some form of my last actions or thoughts while Black?
I couldn’t write about that. My self-care bath, no matter how loaded with Lush products and holistic herbs, only made me feel cold and vulnerable. So, I searched for more self-care. Be more radical, I told myself. I almost completely unplugged from social media and technology for a few weeks. I’m still working from home, so that was much harder than it used to be. I found part of the anxiety I had to heal was coming from the need to explain myself, my feelings, or my plans for activism to anyone. I just had to focus on coming to terms with some obvious things I was in denial over. You see, I actually thought part of the new normal would include an end of police brutality. I know many reading this will call me naïve and foolish for thinking that, but wish fulfillment is in my nature. The walls of capitalism were being exposed to the general public. People began seeing themselves in the struggles of others regardless of background, race, and gender. Part of my radical self-care was standing in front of the mirror and telling myself wishing was not going to end racism in America. Punishing myself wasn’t going to either.
We are the land of milk and honey. No one in America should ever know what it feels like to be frightened, abandoned, hopeless, or pressured to keep powering through without getting overwhelmed. If your self-care is refusing to educate someone on why the phrase Black Lives Matters matters, be radical in it. If your self-care is taking an entire week off to unplug, surround yourself with healing sounds and vibrations, do that. If you have to head to the shop section of this website and buy yourself a powerful stimulator, be radical. You owe it to yourself to be honest about your humanity, especially if you are committed to a movement for long lasting change in America. This will not be a brief battle. Movements take time. When I started healing this way, I could feel my energy rising. I could feel a power so strong within, I imagine it’s what collectively carries Black folks through time and time again.
And then the sound of more police sirens outside my window soberly bring me back to reality. I ground. Center myself in this reality, and it doesn’t frighten me as much anymore. Taking time off is not a sin. Admitting I’m not a strong Black woman at all moments of my life is not treasonous. Asking for help and support is not shameful and taking your time to reach out to do so is just fine too. However you seek healing, be sure to do it authentically. Some of us are going to need therapy after this. Some of us might even have a deep spiritual evolution. However you choose to be radical, commit to yourself first. The revolution will be strong when you jump into the fight.