I try to engage in self-care. It’s difficult to do on a consistent basis as a busy mama. And it’s an internal struggle using extra funds to splurge on myself, and not on buying the kid a new pair of shoes. Plus, self-care spaces (spas, yoga, etc.) have been heavily promoted and imagined as a pleasure for white women. When I celebrated my birthday last fall, I decided to treat myself to a soak and sauna, with a massage sandwiched in between. I found it interesting that the mostly white staff seemed surprised and even a bit hostile I was there. I guess a Black woman wanting to focus on self/healing was unthinkable to them.
This past weekend, I attended a fundraising event for an organization that is dedicated to encouraging Black/communities of color to practice self-care. I had a wonderful time and ate some amazing Thai curry chicken soup! I enjoyed all the guest speakers, especially Day Bibb. Bibb shared about being a survivor of domestic violence. She noted when she was seeking services to reclaim her life/sense of self after leaving her abuser, white medical practitioners were eagerly willingly to give her medication to “deal with the trauma.” However, she realized she was never provided self-care resources. She made the profound point that Black women aren’t seen as worthy of self-care spaces. We are just expected to “mule” and take the lumps and bumps of life, without recourse. It reminded me of my experience at the spa. The look on their faces that read they didn’t think I belonged.
The truth is, self-care is more of a necessity for Black women than it is for white women. Let’s be honest. What do white women go through? They live in a society that puts them on pedestal, coddles their white woman tears, and pretty much let them get away with nonsense (all those 911 ones on Black people for eating while Black, swimming while Black, napping while Black, etc., were majority placed by white women).
Self-care spaces need to be more open and welcoming to Black women because we need/deserve it the most. This country was built off the bodies/labor of Black women, and we continue to be exploited/marginalized. Bibb stated Black children also need time for reflection/to breath, as they are even ruthlessly attacked under the system of white supremacy/oppression.
Self-care is self-love and I’m working hard this year to treat myself more and allow myself space to just be.
There have been so many fabulous things happening this month like LGBTQIA Pride and Juneteenth. It’s easy to forget that June is also Black Music Month. This is a great time to upload your playlist with tunes from iconic Black singers or listen to fresh Black talent.
If you are looking for suggestions for summer jams…check out these Black women singers who dropped new music this month.
Joi: Props to Janelle Monáe, Kelela, and SZA. But before these ladies there was Joi. Joi was doing the quirky/alternative/Afrofuturistic music and imagery back in the early 90’s. She was before her time, so she struggled with mainstream acceptance. However, she has been able to cultivate a strong underground fanbase. Recently, an amazing article detailed her brilliant career. Personally, my favorite album from Joi is Star Kitty’s Revenge (“I’m missin’ you/ wishing you were here baby”). She’s back with the album SIR Rebekkah Holylove. A wonderful opportunity to support a trailblazer in Black music.
Macy Gray: It took me a minute to catch on to Macy’s new video. I kept thinking why is Evan Ross in this? Then it clicked. The video is a take on Diana Ross’s movie “Lady Sings the Blues.” Of course, Evan is her son. He is playing Billie Dee Williams’s role. (If you are a Millennial…Google all this 😉 Gray’s song “Sugar Daddy” is pretty catchy. I raised an eyebrow when I read it was co-written with Megan Trainor. It explains why it sounds bubble gum poppish. But Gray can pull off any song with her textured vocals. And at 50, I know she’s probably trying to catch the attention of new fans. So, a diva has to do what she has to do. I ain’t mad at her and look forward to the album.
Nao: I came across Nao’s music a few years ago. It’s shocking she isn’t more popular. Like Ms. Gray, she has a unique and tantalizing sound. I love her voice. I was excited when she posted snippets of new music on her website. Then she released “Another Lifetime.” This is my current theme song. I like to randomly pick theme songs for some reason. In any case, this is a nice summer cut.
“I swear I won’t run/In another life, I’ll keep us bounded”
“There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal ‘other.’ The children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humor. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away. I could not only be me—whatever that was—but somebody actually needed me to be that. If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like. The person that was in me that I liked best was the one my children seemed to want.”–Toni Morrison and Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart
Our society has strange views when it comes to mothers. On one hand we exalt mothers, heap praise upon them (Mother’s Day), yet don’t provide concrete support for them such as universal childcare. As a matter of fact, majority of mothers are treated poorly on a daily basis, especially Black mothers. I often see mothers struggling with kids/strollers/bags/toys etc., while people push past them in a hurry. Usually, it’s mothers who will help other mothers by offering a hand or comforting an upset child.
I’ll never forget flying back to Portland with my 1 1/2 year old. He started hollering on the plane. There were other mothers on board. One sent some of her children’s snacks to me via fellow passengers. Another played with him to keep him distracted. One tried to carry on a normal conversation with me, to calm me. It was my first time traveling with my toddler, so it was a bit overwhelming for me. Recently, I saw an article about a mother who went through a similar situation at an airport. When I read that, it resonated with me.
Funny enough, I never wanted children. Honestly, I didn’t think I was mother material. And still wonder at times. I was surprised when I found out I was pregnant, but decided to keep chugging along. Curiosity got the best of me. I’m an older mom. I had my son at 41. So, it was a huge life change for me. My journey into motherhood has been interesting. I tend to have mixed feelings about it. I love my son, of course. I enjoy watching him come into his own. He’s a quirky kid, which I like. However, I miss my freedom sometimes. I think my ambivalence towards motherhood, is due to how it started out. It was chaotic and traumatic.
Just yesterday I stood for a few minutes at the top of the stairs leading to a white doctor s office in a white neighborhood. I watched one Black woman after another trudge to the corner, where she then waited to catch the bus home. These were Black women still cleaning somebody else’s house or Black women still caring for somebody else’s sick or elderly, before they came back to the frequently thankless chores of their own loneliness, their own families. And I felt angry and I felt ashamed. And I felt, once again, the kindling heat of my hope that we, the daughters of these Black women, will honor their sacrifice by giving them thanks. We will undertake, with pride, every transcendent dream of freedom made possible by the humility of their love. June Jordan, On Call, 1985
I’ve had to use a few tissues, my toddler’s sock, the edge of my bed sheets (whatever is nearby)…to soak up my tears. Why do you ask? I’m listening to the audiobook “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors. Check it out, if you can. Especially before March 29th. Khan-Cullors will be on Facebook Live Book Club to answer questions/chat about her work 🙂