The power of self-care in the midst of tragedy
This morning, I woke up and immediately popped open my Facebook app to do what I usually do — catch up on my girlfriends’ statuses, watch a couple of those 30-second Instagram comedy videos and catch up on the foolishness that is the 2016 Election season. But, as I was scrolling, I kept noticing #AltonSterling, my heart immediately dropped.
It happened again.
Alton Sterling, a 36-year-old Baton Rouge man, was shot six times as he was selling CDs outside of a local store. I refused to watch the video of his vicious murder, but I did watch the video of his wife, standing strong as she called for justice for her husband, and the father of her children. Tears rolled out of my eyes as she spoke, but I nearly lost it as I saw and heard the cries of her and Alton’s 15-year-old son who weeped and called out, “I want my daddy.”
Sadly, Alton’s name is at the end of a list of 2,611 people who have been killed by police since Michael Brown’s death in 2014. Furthermore, black people are disproportionally impacted by these killings. According to the FBI’s most current available data from 2012, although we only make up 13 percent of the population, we accounted for 31 percent of police killings.
In 2016, 114 black men have been killed, and we’re only 186 days into the year. That’s one black man being killed by police almost every two days. Yes, two days.
Just by looking back at the deaths of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray, we can all guess how this will turn out. The police officers will go on with their lives as we mourn and are enraged by the loss of another black life.
Although the usual face of police brutality is black men, us as black women, often bear the brunt of the aftermath. We are left without a husband, without a father or grandfather for our children, without a child to raise and love on. And, for us that haven’t lost a loved-one to violence, we are left wondering how to protect the ones we love most. We are left wondering how to fight, how to go on. And, it gets stressful, depressing even.
That’s why in these times, it’s okay, even mandatory, that we take time for self-care.
Well-known black women activists and leaders, such as Johnetta Elzie, Franchesca Ramsey and Luvvie Ajayi, took to their social media platforms to speak out about their rage, but to also let their followers know that you can be woke and take time to unplug for the sake of your physical, mental and spiritual health.
As the video of Alton Sterling’s murder circulated, Johnetta urged everyone to handle it’s viewing individually and not feel obligated to watch it. “Extend grace to each other,” she said. “Remember not everyone is triggered by the same things you are.”
Luvvie Ajayi, the wordsmith behind Awesomely Luvvie, shared her outrage and dismay across all of her platforms and called out those who said she “needs to or should” watch the video.
Luvvie has consistently written about political issues, and she often gives advice to her audience about ways to handle these incidences — whether it’s not watching videos, not reading news stories, unplugging from your social media feeds or even taking time to watch, read and share things that bring you joy.
In 2014, Luvvie wrote an article “We can care about Solange and the Nigerian girls at the same time,” for The Grio. In the article, she makes a simple, yet poignant point: “What the people who are trying to make the rest of us feel some sort of way refuse to consider is that for some, the need to remove themselves from certain situations is a form of self-care. Especially when you feel helpless to fix or change whatever the crisis is,” she says.
“For others, we distance ourselves from it because of a need to laugh to cope with the desire to cry later. Either way, WE CAN CARE ABOUT TWO, FOUR, SIX THINGS AT ONCE! That’s why Jesus invented juggling. Get off our backs!”
Franchesca Ramsey, YouTuber and host of MTV’s “Decoded,” took to Twitter to offer a full list of ways that activists and non-activists alike can relax, gather their thoughts and recharge.
So, black women, it’s okay to take a break today. Turn off the TV, take a quick nap, watch a rerun of “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta,” or go pamper yourself with a fresh cut or a relaxing pedicure.
Recharge yourself, because you’re going to need the strength to continue fighting, striving and thriving for another day.
How do you take care of yourself during these times? Feel free to offer a little encouragement in the comments below.