Self-preservation in the Fight for Our Communities

I recently restarted this blog after abandoning it a year ago. I took a break, not entirely by choice, but it was needed. The blog has been given a facelift; it's on a new platform, and its focus has shifted slightly. That’s kind of my story, too.

In doing the research for this post, reading the stories of occupiers of Wall Street and activist Johnetta Elzie’s accounts of Ferguson, I was reminded of how I felt looking at pictures and watching live footage from those events. I thought about how I how it must have felt to live through that brutality. Elzie and other Ferguson activists told AlterNet they’re still dealing with the trauma of those events months later, and psychologists suggest they will for years.

I thought about the time last year black students on my campus, frustrated and saddened by the non-indictment of the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, marched from campus to our local police station as a show of solidarity. I thought about how a swastika was painted over the rock students painted black as part of the demonstration.

I thought about the time last year I couldn’t go to class after accidentally watching footage of police abducting Baltimore activist Joseph Kent on live television. I thought about how they called it an arrest.

I thought about Ohio activist MarShawn M. McCarrel II, and how one week ago he took his own life. 

 

What happens when the actions we take and conversations we start, many times out of a need and want to survive, become as burdensome as the structures we’re working to upend? And how do we remain committed to the work in a healthy and constructive way? A way that ensures we’re taking care of ourselves and each other?

In The Movement Needs Us Whole, Aaron Talley, educator and membership co-chair for the Black Youth Project 100, writes about how he dealt with his first year as a teacher, the death of his grandmother and his commitment to community organizing.

“The movement work became a chore.” Talley writes. “The tweets, rallies, marches, and protests seemed an additional burden along with the realities of my job. The work which had previously been inebriating was now suffocating.”

This feeling is not uncommon. While it’s important we don’t become desensitized to the everyday acts of mental, physical and structural violence, it's equally important we learn balance. For me, this was learning to say no. It was learning I could and, at times, must say no. It was also learning not to feel bad when I had to say no. It was learning to care for myself.

 On self-care, Tally writes:

“As Audre Lorde reminds us, self-care is not selfish but a war tactic. We must preserve ourselves if we are to be ready for any fight or any movement. I am no good to anyone tired, frustrated, and incomplete.”

It’s important to note I didn’t learn self-care on my own. It started with someone literally saying no for me. I had help. I had community. So, I'm blogging again. It's my hope I've learned enough to continue monitoring and adding to the conversation in a way that's healthy for me.

 

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.