As we enter Black History Month, it’s important to acknowledge the trauma felt by Black communities over the past 20 months – as a Black woman, I’ve felt it viscerally.
From the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people of colour AND seeing those who look like us killed in real time to the injustice of having our government gaslight our lived experiences, our pain has been in the spotlight. A spotlight that’s often felt more exploitative than empowering.
Throughout, Black women and marginalised genders have responded to these persistent crises in a way that comes naturally to us: by caregiving. Our resilience, strength, compassion and joy has continued to uplift and hold space for our communities in the most transformative, revolutionary ways. As a result, grass-rooted, by-and-for safe spaces, which offer holistic and creative liberation through healing and happiness have been on the rise.
In these spaces, we are reminded that self-care is also community care. We’re reminded that we, as Black people, are allowed to exist beyond our trauma, our pain and our struggle, and are urged to focus on the simple pleasures. We're given space to process our feelings, express our emotions, create, contribute and care for ourselves.
It was this personal need for safety, and this desire to hold space for my community that inspired me to create Peaks of Colour, a Peak District-based walking club for people of colour, in the hopes that I too could serve my community by the promotion of outdoor wellbeing. Spaces like these give us something that’s hard to describe and even harder to understand by those who have the privilege of feeling safe and seen in any group.
Below are some of the other fantastic spaces by-and-for Black women and marginalised genders helping us to move away from racialised trauma and heal:
Black Girl Writers
Black Girl Writers simultaneously offers a safe space for Black women of all identities to write, and have their words received, while also bridging a gap between Black writers and an overwhelming white publishing industry. In the UK, 86% of publishing staff are white. Established in the summer of 2020, this writing club also runs free online events, workshops and mentoring schemes to pair industry professionals (such as literary agents, editors and publishers) with unpublished, aspiring writers, all of which can be accessed via their website.
"Black people create so much culture, language, art, and style globally, despite the racism we endure. So, the only way to continue is if we preserve our safe spaces and protect each other's mental health," says founder, Jackson P. Brown. "Racism [impacts] on a mental level too [and] self-hate is one of the worst functions of racism. Being able to get together as Black people, to write and revel in stories of Black love and joy, and contribute to more with these themes, is revolutionary."
Learn more about Black Girl Writers
black girls breathing
black girls breathing is a community for Black women to manage their mental and physical health through the practice of breathwork – a meditation technique that decreases anxiety and stress, and releases difficult emotions, traumas and energies by strengthening the nervous system’s response to triggers. "Historically, Black women have not had the opportunity to rest and focus on ourselves," says Jasmine Marie, who created bbg. "Taking care of ourselves is the most radical thing we can do in this day and age."
Learn more about black girls breathing
Black Women’s Art Network
Black Women Art Network is a non-profit organisation that promotes, celebrates, connects, and supports Black female-identifying artists. In recognition of the impact that a predominantly white male art industry has had on Black women’s confidence and self-esteem, the BWA Network allows artists to further develop skills within their craft, submit their work to galleries, exhibitions, events and magazines, and host their own bi-annual exhibitions.
Art has long since been a medium to process and communicate trauma and having a space to do so freely is imperative. Speaking on the way art heals pain, Leah Adamson and Janet Osei-Berchie founders of BWA Network said, "The narrative of being the 'Strong Black Woman' can be draining... Art is a form of healing and celebrating."
Learn more about Black Women Art Network
Black Girls Hike
Black Girls Hike is an award-nominated hiking club by and for Black women, it hosts nationwide group hikes, activity days and training events that encourage Black women to reconnect with nature and participate in the outdoors. Speaking on the importance of safe spaces, Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike says, "Community organising and safe spaces are important everywhere, but Black women are particularly underrepresented in nature and in the outdoors." She adds that while nature is hugely important for our wellbeing, so is "being around people who are like you, so you don’t have to wear a mask, or contextualise your experiences so you’re not misunderstood."
Learn more about Black Girls Hike
Dear Noah Project
Earlier this year I submitted my own contribution to Dear Noah, a platform which encourages Black women and non-binary people to write love letters to their children (real or imagined), children of the world or inner child. I found it to be a cathartic purging of suppressed emotion.
Born out of the trauma felt by many during the early stages of the pandemic, Dear Noah hopes to create a time capsule that documents the last strange 20 months and beyond. Speaking on what compelled her to found the site, Anne-Claire Ahouangonou says, "The year 2020 made me think; what are we going to say to our children about this moment in 30 years’ time? It's almost like [throwing] a bottle out to sea. You write a letter, put your emotions onto paper, you heal, and you offer love to the next generation."
Learn more about Dear Noah Project
Go Grow With Love
Go Grow With Love is a London-based eco-therapy service that creates a safe space for melanated women to reconnect with the land. Through land cultivation, food production and enterprise, women and children can learn how to cultivate crops, understand the soil and share their produce. They offer these practical skills and spiritual healing as tools to overcome trauma. Alongside creating the space to learn how to sow seeds, grow food and care for plants, Go Grow With Love also offers nature talks, Herbal Medicine-making classes and community fun days.
Learn more about Go Grow With Love
Far more than a book club, Nyah Network is a London based community (meeting both online and in-person). The network uses literature to bring Black women together for everything from more formal discussions to nights out. Ashley, Gabriella and Toyosi, the three CEO’s of Nyah Network, agree that especially in such challenging times, "Black women need a place for refuge, safety and to be able to focus on the light, beauty, and joy we have within us so that we may easily share that with others."
Learn more about Nyah Network
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