Why Self Care?

By Ashley Johnson

I am Black. I am a woman. I am fat. I am cis-gendered. I am queer. I am tall. I can go on and on; these identities affect how I navigate in the world.

None of these are particularly positive identities (unless we choose to reject a hegemonic, racialized set of beauty standards). On a daily basis, I deal with negativity towards at least one of my identities, whether it’s internalized, stereotypes directed at me, or overt actions threatening me.

Self-care is crucial towards my fight as an oppressed person because how could I maintain my willpower without it? How would I be able to teach others and myself about my actual lived experiences? How would I be able to diligently give a voice to those who don’t have one? Self-care regenerates me to work forward.

But, what is self-care?

One could say that self-care is simply taking time to pay attention to the self before, after, and even during stressful times. For me, I identify self-care as a radical act that centers you as the point of focus in the whirlwind of daily activities. Self-care is a necessity, and it’s crucial for my existence.

Surviving in a world that doesn’t make space for me, while simultaneously rejecting me, is nothing short of a revolution. Every day I learn something new about the ways in which people’s lives are threatened, simply because of who they are. As I am constantly evolving and learning more about the indecency that resides along with humanity, I experience lots of emotions. I’m hurt, angry, unsurprised, confused, and sometimes, a mix of these. All I really have to keep me pushing forward is my fight towards freedom. Ultimately, I hope to be free from all of my barriers. Self-care brings me closer to that freedom.

Self-care for some is as minimal as showering after a long day, for some it is as big as a shopping trip. The key to self-care is defining what frees you from the prison that is built around you. I do believe as long as you aren’t harming yourself or others, that you can experience self-care within your means.

I practice self-care every day. This, for me, looks like meditation, lighting incense, washing my hair, drinking a cup of water. It involves making tea, cooking, contacting a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while, writing a poem, reading a book, putting on some headphones and blasting music, taking a nap, finishing a piece, or talking to my grandmother.

I’m a working-class woman so I can only do a limited number of activities that cost money. I might take one bus to a tea shop and indulge in some tea, take the bus to the lakefront, travel to my favorite salad restaurant, or walk up the street to the gas station and back. Some of these things center my thoughts and calm me down. As a person with high anxieties about perfection, I wallow in the opportunity to do something without having to prove my worth.

Self-care is subjective, but it is what allows us to find peace in all the chaos and hatred. Our resistance looks like a lot of things, and caring for the self is part of it. Self-care is a liberating, transformative act that shows our thorough fight against our oppressors in order to survive.

Where I Stand In The Movement

By Ashley Johnson

Courtesy of Morgan Martinez

Courtesy of Morgan Martinez

As I was riding the bus this morning, with Ms. Badu’s But You Caint Use My Phone bumping in my ears, I was flooded with thoughts. How am I going to go to work and pretend that we don’t live in a racist society? How can I continue to prosper when the world is against me being Black and a woman? Is the money worth it? What can I do today that will advance my people and women into a state of equity? These are questions I ask myself every day as I head to school, work, or just out generally. I am always trying to find ways to move forward. As Shaun King, Black Lives Matter and Civil Rights activist constantly states, “stop wondering who you would have been in the Civil Rights Movement. Be that now!” Of course, when I was first waking up to the oppressive acts happening in the world, I easily would have told you that I was a radical. Idolizing Assata Shakur, I would have told you how I wouldn’t take shit sitting down, that I was the revolution and the government had so much more to fear when I came onto the scene. I would soon realize it isn’t that easy.

I am the revolution. I am radical. I am Black. I am a feminist… I am also 19.

I am also a college student and heavily dependent upon my parents.

There was even a time where I wondered if I would drop out of college to defend my people. If I were to really be as radical as I want to, I would end up in jail or dead. I don’t mean to be so heavy, but I have to be real; I would be viewed as a threat. I aspire to be a lawyer. If I end up in jail, that future is gone. Done. Finito. Does that necessarily mean I am stagnant in the movement? Of course not, but I feel very small when it comes to the movement.

Just the other day, my best friend, Marlon had to talk me out of my existential crisis. I was freaking out about how I might as well do nothing because anything I do would hold no meaning. How I was useless because I fear being pepper-sprayed, arrested or killed for peaceful protesting. How I was having no real place in the movement because of my lack of action. He informed me on how I actually was helping the movement by waking people up. He spoke on how before talking to me that he and so many others had no idea about these things. He went on to tell me that by me waking up one person, I could wake up so many more. And, that even though it was a minuscule thing to me, the impact would show to be so much greater in the long run. He also made sure to inform me that I was only 19 and that my hands were tied.

This is not to say that people of any age cannot participate in the movement in any way they see fit, it's just important to prioritize based on what works for you. It’s okay to help in whatever way you can. Be that educating yourself and educating others, participating in protests and boycotts, or writing to your government officials demanding answers. I had to realize that I shouldn’t feel trapped by the sense of urgency to do something more than what I’m able to. For now, I am comfortable in my lane of educating others.

Hair: A Political Statement?

By Ashley Johnson

Courtesy of Ashley Johnson

Courtesy of Ashley Johnson

My hair

My crown

My roots

My hair defies gravity

The hair that is atop my head

Has been, for generations, for centuries

Political

The braids on my head show history,

Status, class, culture

My bald head

Holds the bondage, the enslavement

The strength to move forward

My 'fro represents

The never-ending revolution 

Between me and the system

That presses me down

As I fight to get up

My dreads show

My fight, my eternal divinity

My stance on the forces against me

My straight hair

Shows the assimilation

And the transformation of

Adjusting

My hair is art

My hair is religion, faith

It holds so much power

It represents everything and

Nothing at once

Don't tell me that my hair isn't 

Good enough

My hair has withheld 

Generations of

Love, pain, anger

My hair reaches the skies

Carries the message of

My ancestors

I fight the power

With my hair

Injustices and manifestos

Alike

My hair is for me