The Absolute Need to Rest
Photo Credits: Eartha Kitt, photographed by Don Ornitz, (1957)
By Esther Alatishe
At some point during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement within the lockdown, I became very intent on finding content for young black women like myself that didn’t feel traumatic. On Instagram, I muted the posts of so many whose content magnified news stories of police brutality. There were closeups and unfiltered discussions on the disturbing police brutality stories that seemed to emerge in the spotlight every week. I’m sure you remember. This period of time— the summer of 2020— was an antiracist wakeup call that did a lot of good in threatening the power and complicity of this country’s nonblack population. Unfortunately, though, a form of performative activism easily emerged from both political elites and average civilians. So then there was the deep frustration of seeing traumatic images— sometimes feeling very similar to the lynching photography era— without the promise of actual change because of this performative activism.
I say all of this to shine some light on the specific ordeal myself and many other black people experienced. So, back to that intro sentence— I needed uplifting, positive, feel-good content. And that was when I found/revisited @thenapministry on Instagram; @afrosexology_; @wetheurban; @blackgirlinom; @alifebalanced. These are just some of the pages that felt like the embrace, the goodness, the peacefulness that I and so many other black people needed. They had the message that “Hey! You can also rest! Take care of your body, mind, soul.” Some of these platforms catered more specifically to young black women. While the Superwoman trope for black women and girls expects 24/7 activism, these pages emphasized the very powerful form of activism that exists within rest. @Thenapministry has stated: “Rest is a form of resistance because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy”. I love this message so much. Granted, at many points in my life, I have been very far from living by this message. I have put the needs of others before my own, so much so that the stress manifests into some physical pain. We have all been there, and the added context of being a young black woman— who is supposed to endure and fight (in the exhausting traditional form) and explain yourself (as I did in the opening paragraph)— easily challenges this right to rest.
But we must rest! Whether to consciously resist or literally to just nap, stretch, eat, be sensual and/or sexual, be in the sun, be among nature, for the sake of doing so, we need to care for ourselves. The BLM 2020 summer era has been over for a while, and we’re left with the realities of unmet expectations for institutional changes. We don’t at all need to stop bringing attention to this. Simultaneously, we need to prioritize ourselves, reject Superwomen expectations, and make time and space for care. Of course, these changes won’t happen in a day. In fact, you may get stressed trying to make these stress-free changes. When that happens, though, I hope you remember to rest.