2020 illuminated the undeniable fact that Black women are the leaders of activism and justice globally. As racial fatigue and trauma continue to reverberate within our bodies, Black women are forging new paths to freedom that is rooted in self-love, where rest is the resistance required to continue our fight for justice and healing.
Chapter five of activist and professor Bettina Love‘s book, We Want to Do More Than Survive, describes the urgency of finding and celebrating Black joy to build community with each other in the work of abolition and liberation. This sentiment rings especially true for Black women, who — at the forefront of every social movement, including Black Lives Matter, one of the largest in US history — are connecting with each other and leaning into the deep work of self-care, where the goal is not merely to survive, but to thrive and take up space in the world as our authentic selves.
The racial reckoning this nation has faced has brought with it a renewed focus on mental health within the Black community. Black women are turning inward, intently focused on the necessity of rest as a form of radical self-love. If we are to both lead and inspire the exhausting and excruciating work of dismantling systems of dominance and oppression, we must take time to care for ourselves. Having carried the burden of activism on our backs, literally putting our bodies on the line in the pursuit of justice, we refuse to wear the “strong Black woman” trope as a badge of honor. That narrative seeks to strip away at our humanity, where we are unable to express the full range of our emotions, resulting in us powering through the pain while society romanticizes our struggle.
Our ancestors have taught us to endure. By watching our grandmothers and mothers, we learned to just “keep on keeping on,” despite the toll on one’s physical and mental well-being. Now, within our circles of sisterhood, we’re having real conversations about the impact of intergenerational trauma — and the simple truth is, before we can liberate others, we must first liberate ourselves, unwavering and unapologetic in our Blackness.
The simple truth is, before we can liberate others, we must first liberate ourselves, unwavering and unapologetic in our Blackness.
Rest in the form of resistance can include naps because our bodies benefit from sleep and relaxation. However, it also encompasses removing ourselves from environments, institutions, practices, and people that are unsafe and toxic, where it’s evident that our presence and voices aren’t respected, listened to, loved, and cared for. Rest as the foundation of resistance means being restored and alert with a sharpened focus, which allows us to disrupt systems of power and privilege that are a threat to social progress and transformation.
As we brave the twin pandemics of systemic racism and COVID-19, Black women will continue to be on the front lines of racial and healthcare justice, organizing efforts that move us beyond survival. Rest is our protection and our superpower, inviting us to reimagine, reinvent, and rebuild new systems of accountability, tethered to justice.
Black women, it’s time you go get your rest. You have earned it, and as the leaders of this movement, the revolution resides in your joy and healing.