A Space For Rest, Safety, and Healing
"Rest is not a privilege, it’s a right. The reality that so many think it’s a privilege solidifies the need for a rest movement. If you reimagine rest in an expansive way and outside of the parameters of capitalism and colonization, you will realize that you can rest anytime."--Tricia Hersey, The Nap Ministry
Black women deserve to exist fully--nourished, cared for, and rested. But for Black women in America, the reality is far from that. Despite being the most educated demographic in America, we earn 62 cents to a white man's dollar. Despite innovating when it comes to business, we receive almost no investments or loans to start our businesses.
As our country reckons with another cycle of white violence and as we face a generation-defining election cycle, we notice a pattern. Black women are again doing the essential work of responding, organizing, teaching, and caretaking. We are doing the intellectual and emotional labor necessary to build and maintain movements that are fighting against injustice and building for our collective liberation. These movements are not just powerful, they are absolutely necessary. And the Black women leading, rallying, organizing, and grinding do so while enduring the very injustices they are helping to dismantle.
Black women are devalued at the same time we are counted on--by our political systems, by our workplaces, by our communities, and families. We are tired. It is time for us to rest.
Black Women’s Freedom Circle was created out of an absolute need for a safe space for Black Women to focus on, contribute to, and create the conditions necessary for our own healing and wellbeing. For the past four years Black Women’s Freedom Circle (BWFC) has held monthly gatherings in the San Francisco Bay Area to facilitate an ongoing community of support, healing, and joy.
In response to the multitude of disasters wrought by this global pandemic and the unrest following the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless others, BWFC is piloting a new project: physical sanctuary spaces that will provide accessible opportunities for rest and renewal.
Too often physical spaces for rest, relaxation, and renewal are outside of cities where Black women work and live. Retreat centers, while necessary and useful, are often inaccessible because of the distance and cost. And, these secluded spaces can be unwelcoming and even hostile for us. Such spaces position rest and renewal as things that happen outside of our everyday lives. We need spaces among the trees, plants, birds, and bees that are located in cities where Black women live. We need to have rest and healing integrated into our lives on an ongoing basis, not be required to leave our lives, family and community to access them.
These sanctuary spaces will be formed by communities of Black women who will collectively decide how to manage, maintain, and access the space.
The first Black Women’s Freedom Sanctuary will be on private land in Oakland, California which will be stewarded by a member of the Black Women’s Freedom Circle. The sanctuary space will be equipped with healing waters and landscape curation that supports deep relaxation, beauty, and invites connection to the natural world. This in turn will inspire the true integration of home and healing into the everyday lives of Black women.
The sanctuary will have two components:
1. Healing Waters: There is a reason baths, hot tubs, and hot springs are so often part of spa and retreat experiences. Soaking and floating in water is restorative. It supports cardiovascular health and can alleviate muscle and joint pain. It promotes relaxation, which decreases stress and improves sleep. It encourages a meditative state and mental reset. For Black women, water as an element of care is not new. Spiritual practices such as the honoring of Oshun and the use of Florida water for protection and cleansing, illustrate how water has long been integral to Black women’s self and communal care. Healing Waters will be a partly enclosed outdoor space under a large plum tree with a cedar tub, large enough for a single person to float in and private enough for her to disrobe.
2. Garden of Rest: Acclaimed landscape designer Leslie Bennett, a founding member of BWFC, will design this space as part of her series of Black Sanctuary Gardens. These gardens were inspired in part by Alice Walker’s naming of the garden as a site for Black women’s spirituality, creativity and artistic work. This garden space, with a combination of ornamental, medicinal, and edible plants, alongside spaces to sit and recline, will provide an accessible lush green space for Black women to reflect, nap, heal themselves or just be.
First and foremost this space is for Black women, curated by Black women. In addition, we know that spaces that are open and public are often where Black women experience harassment, unwanted attention, and even danger. This space must be safe and protected, but, most importantly, allow visitors to feel safe and protected so that healing and rest can occur. This space will be open to a group of Black women who are in community with each other*. Like many other semi-private spaces, this one will be driven by a kind of membership. But instead of paying for access--there will be no cost--access is gained through established relationships of trust and care.
What does growth and sustainability look like?
This project can not be the only one of its kind. We need Freedom Sanctuaries all over Oakland, and in other cities, so communities of Black women can collectively care for themselves ensuring their own wellness and the sustainability of our movements.
We are committed to not only creating this space for ourselves, but gathering best practices, processes, and resources to support other communities of Black women to create similar spaces for themselves.
How can you support?
Please contribute to this fund, share this link with others, and encourage them to donate.
What will your contribution do?
Your support will enable us to:
-purchase and install a cedar hot tub with solar heating, build a platform for the tub and a privacy fence.
-convert a driveway into a beautiful, lush garden with irrigation and spaces to rest and reflect.
-pay for insurance and maintenance of the Sanctuary.
-document the pilot process and create a toolkit for others to create Black Women's Sanctuaries.
-create a pool of seed funding for additional Black Women’s Sanctuaries.
*During the Era of COVID, we will be following protocols to keep us safe including only one person in the space at a time.
- Ami Armstrong
- Sejal Shah
- Georgia Whitney
- Ellen McGirt
Fundraising team: Black Women's Freedom Circle (6)
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