Welcome to Intersectionality in the American South, where educators, students, activists, and community members come together and unpack current realities for black and indigenous people of color. In each episode, we will discuss the impact of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and anti-immigrant sentiment on the lives of Atlanta residents and BIPOC individuals throughout the south.
Today we're sharing part two of the conversation that I had recently with Dr. Tonya Washington Hicks, Elizabeth West, Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey, and Desmond Goss. If you haven't listened to part one of this conversation, you should really go do that now. I'm really fortunate to work with all of these folks at Georgia State University and on part two of this conversation.
We are going to explore joy and self-care, so let's get to it.
Follow us on Twitter @intersectsouth or visit our website at http://intersectsouth.gsucreate.org/podcast/.
Welcome to intersectionality in the American South, where educators, students, activists, and community members come together to unpack current realities for black and indigenous people of color. Each episode, we will discuss the impact of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and anti-immigrant sentiment on the lives of Atlanta residents and bipo individuals throughout the south. This is your host, Dr. Katie Acosta, inviting you to embark on this journey with us. Well children where there is so much racket, there must be something outta kilter. I think that TWIs, the Negroes of the South and the women at the north all talking about rights, the white man will be in a fixed British soon. But what's all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages or over mud puddles or gives me any best place. And ain't I a woman? Look at me, Look at my arm. I have plowed and planted and gathered into bonds and no man could. and ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man when I could get it and bear the lash as well. And ain't I a woman? I have born 13 children and seen most all sold off to slavery. And when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus. You and ain't I a woman? Then they talk about this thing in the head. What's this? They call it it's lot. That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negro rights? If my cup won't hold, but a pint and yours holds a court, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full when that little man in black. He says women can't have as much rights as men cuz Christ wasn't a woman. Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God And a woman man had nothing to do with him. If the first woman, God. Was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone. These women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again, and now they is asking to do it. The men better let them oblige to you for hearing me and now also journal ain't got nothing. Welcome back everyone. Today we're sharing part two of the conversation that I had recently with Dr. Tonya Washington Hicks, Elizabeth West, Laquita Bonnet Bailey, and Desmond Goss. If you haven't listened to part one of this conversation, you should really go do that now. I'm really fortunate to work with all of these folks at Georgia State University and on part two of this conversation. We are going to explore joy and self care, so let's get to it. I am so exhausted, it feels so damn hard to be a queer black person in this world right now. It feels so damn hard to be a woman, to be a mother, to be queer, to be black, to be trying to survive in this reality. Um, and it's really got me thinking about self care. And in that, personally, I go back to Audrey. Queer black intersectional feminist scholar, Audrey Lord taught us so much about self care. I feel so, so indebted, in a burst of light. Lord wrote, Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. So I wanna make sure before we end, We take some time, all of us to think about the ways that intersectional thinking has supported our self care efforts. What is getting you through some of the uncertainty that black and indigenous people of color are experiencing in the South right now, and are experiencing throughout the country right now? What is supporting your healing? And Tanya, I'm gonna let you go first. self care is revolutionary. and rest is resistance. I know there are a, a number of scholars who are doing work in this space and I love it because they highlight that we were brought here to labor so we were not allowed to rest. And when you don't have time to rest, you don't have time to reflect and you don't have time to plan. Right? You are. Confined to a hedonistic existence where it's like, right now, let me just survive this moment. But somehow, and I believe it's because of our spiritual roots and our spiritual connectedness, we have been able, even in the midst of slavery and reconstruction and civil rights movement and all that we're dealing with today, to still imagine. Just the fact that we can carve out time for a self that society doesn't value and wants to convince everyone else, including us, that it is valueless. When we care for that self, we are resisting. And so joy is part for me. Joy is part of that resistance. I. Dr. Gosa takes some vacations, not guilt laden vacations where he's on the beach, like, Why am I here? But where he understands that's a contribution to the movement, right? Is you taking that time because you will be renewed and be able to return to the battlefield renewed with that perspective. And I, I just find things that, that I enjoy doing where I can detach from the reality of struggle. That is my daily existence. That's me and my weighted hula hoop on my front porch, listening to Earth, wind, and fire, and just going for it. Okay? That, that's, that's one of my happy places. That's me in a Zumba class. In the front row looking in the mirror and I'm on Soul Train. Okay, I'm back to like when I used to watch Soul Train as a little girl and I was like, I'm gonna grow up and I'm gonna be in the front row. those things that have nothing to do with progress, achieving, obtaining, or becoming that have everything to do with just being, that is self care. That's being in the moment and feeding my spirit. And without that, what are we fighting for? Indeed, indeed. Without that, what are we fighting for, right? What are we doing? If we cannot find the time and the love for ourselves to just be and to say, I'm going to just be because I don't have to exist. Constantly to labor for someone else. Like my worth is more than my labor. Desmond, I worry about you the most. Sometimes when it comes to this I worry about you the most only because I feel like sometimes, I mean, you wanna take people's vacations. So It's been rough for everybody past couple years and my father died in May, so my partner and I took a vacation, quote unquote, to The Bahamas. Second time I've been outta the country. And, um, you know, was excited. And then I got there. I'm telling you, 50% of the time I was thinking about international relations why everyone, like 99% of the people that were at the resort were white. Why all of the workers were black Bahamians. The relationships between the two were so interesting. You know how it is that white Europeans and white Americans leave their countries and then go to, you know, these black and brown places and expect basically like slave relations. Like they wanted them to wait on them. Like this wasn't the job, but they were owned, you know? And then I'm sitting on the beach, laying on the beach thinking, Okay, how am I complicit here? You know? So it is, difficult for me to turn it off. I'll put it that way. But, I think it's, I think it is, it's important to, think about the, you know, you can't, tour from an empty glass kind of thing, you know, to participate in. Collective resistance, for example, or even at the individual level. Still I am, I'm, I'm critical of the way that I think self care has been co-opted, even let's say appropriate as a concept. When Lord wrote these words, I don't think she meant that Donald Trump should take a vacation, Right? My understanding is that she meant for people who weren't really meant to exist as a complete itself. Black women in particular, Selfcare is revolutionary, right? It is, it is resistance within itself. So I think we have to be very careful to specify that the more. Multiply oppressed, you are the more revolutionary self care is. Put it that way for me. As you know, a cis dude, I feel like it's my job. I don't feel like self care is something that I'm, that, that is, revolutionary for me. Now there's, there's other questions there, obviously in, in terms of multiple access, identity. but I'm a fighter, so it's difficult for me to take a rest. And I'll also say that I think, you know, if you think about how it is that we're making it through, if I'm being completely honest, I don't think all of me makes it. You know, I think, you know, when, when Roe was overturned, a little piece of me didn't make it through it decayed, you know,. When, when Brian Kemp gave me a, a raise or, or a bonus essentially by not paying poor kids school lunch fees a little piece of me decay, you know? So not all of me makes it through, and I think for me, at least, I need to be honest in that kind of, in that context that this is, there's joy and there's, there's dancing in the revolution and there's singing, but takes a toll. And that's, I think that's important. I think it's important to recognize particularly, and why I think a lot of us, all of us really at different points, but, are so resistant to participate, in resistance at the root, because it is a, this is a harrowing, often dangerous kind of feat. But, What helps me make it through is that I know that I can rest because other people are gonna be fighting, right? I mean, I think that's perhaps the primary importance of the collectivity is that we don't all have to do everything. You know, and Collins talks about this, or she references this, you know, this idea that, you know, you just need to wiggle inside of your particular space. But if we're all wiggling, then the wall falls in, you know? So I see other folks, see other communities, see other groups fighting, oppression and, and when I need to take a break, I feel like, okay, there are, there are other people here. Not like I'm mlk you know, like I'm out there all the time or anything. Um, but, you know, I feel okay going on my vacation. You know, I still critical, but. Okay. Taking a arrest because I know that there are other people, other groups, other communities, that are continuing to fight. And, and hopefully when those folks, somebody else needs to take a arrest, I can take the hel and, um, you know, I think, you know, I was, I was pretty active in let's, let's call the first wave of Black Lives Matter. And, that was, I, I would say I was a moderately experienced activist at that time, but that was so draining. Um, you know, and just the feeling of,, this could be my last day on Earth every time I went to March downtown or whatever, is emotionally training. And, and so I really haven't participated in protests since then. And, and for me it was just because I needed. A break, you know? And, but I knew that there were going to be others who had been taking their break and now they're ready to go. So there's, I think the collectivity is what keeps me going. I need to remind myself frequently that, you know, it's not all on me and that I can sit back, relax for a minute, recharge, rejuvenate while other folks are going. But I do think that when, when I, when I think about and conceptualize self care as something that's, uh, revolutionary, I think we need to be really cognizant of that concept being more powerful, the more marginalized, right? In other words, for black women in a society in which they weren't meant to exist. And like, um, Dr. Hicks said it, it's not just, certainly not exist, but also not thrive or have joy. That, that self care is literally an activist system. It's literally an active revolution. Those folks need to not be resting. But yeah. So what keeps me going is other people, other groups, other communities, and hope. I think, Afro futurism has been, you know, in the last couple of years, really helpful for me, thinking about ways in which, it's not just about the deconstruction of oppressive systems, but the reconstruction of a more equitable society. And, it's things like, Anar blackness and Afrofuturism that really allow us to imagine what that could look like and. You know, and, Angela Davis talks about this all the time. The, the power of the imaginary, right? We have to be able to visualize what this equitable, just thriving society is gonna look like if you ever want to get there, right? And it's, it's such a important aspect of oppression to sort of limit our imaginations in that way. And as academics, I think we know that probably more than most. But, you know, being able to fantasize about, you know, what would this liberated world look like? And, and doing that through the perspective of, black anarchy and, Afro futurism, particularly in the feminist veins is a really powerful way to sort of get through the bad days, I think. Thank you so much for that, Desmond. I'm hearing you say that when we have big losses, a piece of you does not recover from that loss. I envision healing as this opportunity though, because, When little pieces of me die, at times, when I, when I see these big losses, I know that I have to figure out how to bring it back, how to rejuvenate it, you know, how to water the plant so that a new piece can start to grow. Because when little parts of us start to go and go and go, eventually, there's nothing left if we're not propagating. And so healing for me, sometimes it is that space for resistance. It is that space where I say, Oh no. Right, What we're not gonna do here is have me wither to the ground. Right? That's what we're not gonna do, because then that means that these other folks, Um, Laquita, I would love to hear your thoughts on this, particularly around healing. How are you doing? I would say that I'm, I'm responding to, I wanna respond to Desmond first and say that you choosing not to, um, participate in protests anymore is a form of self-care. And I think that as far as me and healing and self care, part of my process is figuring out what works for me. So I don't know if I have any pointers or any answers for you, Katie, cuz for me it varies. On some days it could be listened to my, a book on Audible as I'm driving. And I did that just morning, but it was at a park that was. Um, kind of not really relaxing so I turned that off. And sometimes it can be listening to music. I'm not a huge fan of cooking, but sometimes cooking brings me joy and it, it's healing and I feel great that I was able to fix this meal for my family, you know? And so I just, I definitely think it varies and I think I'm still finding out. And I think it just depends on what, it just depends on what I need. And I think part of the process of healing and part of the process of, um, of self care is figuring out what you need at the moment. I'm a political scientist who is very conscientious, but I unplugged from tv. I unplugged from the news, for quite a couple of months. I still try to catch up by reading New York Times headlines, but I am not glu to my television watching news like I was during 20 20, 20 21, 20 22, I just had to, to stop. And one of the things that I also do in reference to Black Lives Matter is I have not seen any of the videos of any of the murders because I know my heart can't take it. And I know that is self care for me. And so it just depends on the situation and it just depends on what I am able to do. And as far as healing, I, I think I agree with Desmond. I don't know if we recover from things. I think we. Adapt sometimes to things, and we change our understanding and perspective. And I don't even like the word adapt, because that sounds like we are accepting, and I'm not saying that we are accepting anything, but I definitely think it just makes you think about a different way to care for yourself, and to figure it out. And that's what I'm constantly on a journey to do. Like, what is gonna make me happy today? What is gonna make me feel good tomorrow? Because it, it varies and it's not always the same thing. And you know, as a mother, one of the important aspects as demonstrating this for my children, because I know, and especially as a black woman and we know all of the stereotypes and all of the ideas that black women don't take. Um, to care for themselves or to heal. And it's something that I wanna encourage in my daughters that you do take time. And so one way that I do take self care consistently, is to sleep, to sleep in. I know I'm not a one morning person and so everyone in my house knows I'm not a morning person. So they know not to wake me up if I don't have any meeting or anything like that. But I stay up late at night. And so I have to figure out what works for me. And it may not be the thing that everyone, um, will say is a self care, idea for them. You know, I'm not an outdoors person. I don't like books. So going off to some mountains to stay in the woods is not my idea of self care. It's actually pretty terrifying and I'm gonna be upset the whole time I'm there. And so I understand that there are differences in the way that people care for themselves. And you have to continuously explore that in order to heal, in order to be able to give your whole self to whatever it is that you wanna give your whole self to. Nikita. I too am not a morning person, and everybody knows not to talk to me before coffee. Like I just, you gotta gimme my minute, you gotta let me sleep in and I need, I need a moment sometimes. Yes, that is definitely one thing that I do to help myself continue to function and continue to find joy. I need that. How about you Elizabeth? How are you coping? I think my coping mechanism starts with a lot of. Self examination. And, and, and a lot of that is actually physical because your body can tell you a lot about how you're doing. Even more than how you might, kind of cognitively analyze how you're doing. You know, how do I feel? Oh, I feel good, it's, it's Saturday and, and I'm chilling. But then there are just key things about where you are in terms of the intersectionality of your being. Cause everything should be, in sync. It should be working together. if I feel, if I think I'm feeling good. And my body isn't quite working or feeling like it should, then I have to ask myself, Well, where, where am I really? And then there are these just other checks that I, I think I've done for a long time, probably as long as I can think back to when my kids were in grade school and I realized, that I was doing these battles, in academia, in, in my workplace. And then for my kids there were these battles. And so, you know, for my kids, it's like I realized I've gotta leave the, The, boundaries of school, of my own school, academia where I teach, but then I've gotta go home and I've gotta do battle for the experiences my kids are having in similar places. You know, what, what is the, what is the teacher doing to undermine, what I have, like implanted in my kids as, our values, our understandings of who we are. Um, and, and I go back to joy. You, you know, joy is central. Even if you live in the, in the height of misery, you've got to be able to envision joy. If, if you can't, I just don't know what you're living for. I think of, my forefathers, my ancestors who were enslaved. I mean, think of how many generations of people worked and worked and worked, but kept looking forward. They might not have had any joy, but they had the vision of joy and they wanted it for somebody at some point. So those are the kind of things I use to measure, self care. You know, when, when I look at my kids when they were little and I was doing all of these battles everywhere, and we were home just chilling out and, and I find myself just like unable to just smile or laugh. When you are too tired to just like let yourself go and really laugh, that's when you have to kind of check yourself. You know, I mean, everything else might be seemingly good, but over the years, when you look at yourself sometimes in the mirror and you see, you don't smile with the wide kind of grin you had when you were a 10 year old kid. when your parents did all of the monitoring and protecting you, and you knew the joy of being out, outside playing with your friends and the craziest things that happened, you could just like laugh forever about it. That we, you know, we need that. And when you find your smile, starting to cave in, starting to get smaller and smaller, that's an indication that, you gotta do some serious self care because, it's eating you up. It's, it's taken the, the joy, the ability to laugh and to share and, sometimes you're not sharing, what you might call real joy or real triumphs. You're just sharing the joy of being here and being able, to look to the future. And when you can't do that, when they're reducing your smile, and your look to the future, uh, I don't care how many massages you go for, or how good your diet is, they're shrinking you. And so I always, I always try to do that kind of, self-analysis cuz that's the beginning of self-preservation to me. You gotta, you gotta keep what's inside really whole or as whole as you can get it. Thank you. So, so much for that, Elizabeth. So many powerful gems in there. I'm hearing you talk about listening to our bodies, to the message it tells us with how it responds, paying attention to that and the importance of that. I'm hearing you talk about, the value that you find in mothering, not just as a place for, being able to get feedback and grow and, be nourished by your children, but also I'm hearing you say that your parenting in itself is a place for resistance for you. It's a place where, you can come back to your kids and engage in that process of helping them learn and relearn the things that the outside world will break them down to. Sometimes there's so much value in them. I think about my parenting all the time as a revolutionary act, raising my strong feminist brown children, as a revolutionary act, raising them to be resilient, raising them to question, raising them, to fight, like help, right? It is my parenting, it is my model, and it is, one of the ways that I resist. So, and then I also am hearing you talk about joy again, and all of the ways in which we need to find. I'm not particularly good at it. So I'm saying this selfishly in part for myself and also for all of you, how valuable the joy is. How important it is for us to try and remember every day, did I do something today that sparked joy? And if I didn't, then my day's not done. Go get some joy, right? Find out what gives it to you, what nourishes you in that way. I hear Laquita saying that for her, it is not going out in nature because we are not doing the bugs it's all good, it's all good. We need that feedback too. But finding our spaces for joy and finding the ways to make sure that in the middle of all this chaos that we are finding it, that something in our life is sparking it for us. Always. Cause I I hear you, Elizabeth, when you say, if not, then what are we doing here? So, Thank you all so, so much for everything that you have shared today. So much wisdom, I appreciate all of your, wonderful insights and I hope to have you back on the show. And thank you Katie. These are some questions that, that I'm gonna still leave here thinking about. And I like the way you put 'em together cause these are things that didn't really. Actually think about previously. And and I like how we ended on self-care because I'm going to find what it is that, what it is that heals me by trial and error if I have to. So thank you for having me on today awesome. Thank you so much. Those are your marching orders, Nikita's. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you Desmond. Thank you Elizabeth. Thank you so much Tonya. Y'all are amazing. Take care. That concludes our episode one. Thank you all for listening. I hope that you are feeling inspired to find joy every single day and to privilege your self care, and most importantly, to think of these actions as the radical challenges to oppression that they are. Go fill your cup, peace. For additional resources and to check out our episode archives, visit the website www.intersectsouth.gsucreate.org. Also, please use the contact podcast feature on our website to leave us a comment, let us know what topics you wanna hear us cover on the show, and don't forget to subscribe. That way you'll be able to catch every new episode. Leave us a review. So that you can help us get the word out to others. See you next month. Intersectionality in the American South is supported by a Mellon Foundation Grant. Georgia State University and its center for the Study of Africa and its diasporas. I must give a special thank you today to Kenneth Brown II and Joshua Christian Childress, who provided the music for today, and finally, many people contributed to the production of this episode. So a special thank you to my wonderful graduate students, Autumn Jones and Xavier Leham, and I am deeply, deeply indebted to my colleagues e. West at Visa, Jean Fransua, and the key to Bonnet Bailey for their continued support. Thank you all for following and join us next time.