Being a Black woman in social justice reform for almost two decades has produced an evolving, and at times conflicting relationship to certain concepts. The current word in the queue:
In its more common use, a healer is someone(s) who cures diseases or alleviates pain. In Westernized vernacular it is often relegated to specific industries with at worst, certain taboo or stereotyped attachments or at best, trend focused appropriations of indigenous cultures. However, in the spirit of expansion, curiosity, and the dismantling of westernized vernacular, I dug a bit deeper. And what I found was us. Those of us called to work in this world of philanthropy, non-profits, or whatever our role in the social change ecosystem. Now whether this decision was a choice or made out of survival, is inconsequential, because as people of color committed to this particular path of liberation, we too are healers.
Well, a healer is also defined as a person who repairs something or an entity that alleviates anguish. So, whenever we walk into spaces built on systems of oppression on behalf of those who are not yet able to traverse those spaces armed with our power and audacity, we are acting as healers. Whenever we push back on antiquated systems of change that though “well intentioned” continue to cause intentional pain, we are acting as healers. Whenever we choose the humanity of those we serve in our respective roles as program officers, executive leadership, outreach coordinators, or something similar over “how things have always been done,” we are acting as healers. Just showing up to work in our black and brown bodies in spaces saturated with whiteness, be it corporate or nonprofit, and naming the changes we know must be given life, we are acting as healers.
And as healers we are both blessed and burden at times with holding at bay the energy set out to destroy those pushed to the margins. We stay up so others can rest at night. We solve problems we did not create but feel morally obligated to resolve. And we do this in spaces where the demand to prove ourselves, our position, and our expertise is ever present.
So first, thank you healer. You are appreciated.
And second, who’s healing you?
You see sacrificing ourselves for the movement, for the work, for the change is both incorrect and incomplete. We deserve to see the fruit of our labor. This work we do should not leave us as shells of our former selves all so someone else or some other community can experience a better life. This is a false choice – them or us. We all deserve joy, liberation, and light.
So again, who’s healing you? How are you guarding against your own burn out? What regimens do you have in place to protect your peace so you can continue to walk into those spaces on the behalf of others? When do you stop and breathe and rest and sleep? Where is your healing?
I ask these questions not from judgement but rather from experience. I have come to realize that I am no good in this work I am called to do if I am not taking care of the vessel I employ to do said work. A dull weapon is no good in battle- it is just dead weight. The best way we can support actual sustainable change starts with how we take care of ourselves in order to be the best version of ourselves for others. It is not selfish; it is a necessity. You too deserve to plant seeds of change and reap its harvest.
So, I ask you, fellow healer, how are you choosing you, protecting you, loving you, as a form of liberation while you actively work to liberate others?
If your answer includes practiced routines and regimens, please share them with colleagues in your networks and friends in your community.
If your answer is I don’t know yet, welcome to a new season in your journey.
Aseanté is a therapist and social justice strategist with almost two decades of experience in social-cause marketing, facilitation, and culturally inclusive community engagement work across the nation. Currently, Aseanté is a therapist with Renewed Focus Psychology Services and the Owner/ Principal Consultant of The Axon Group, a social innovation firm focused on equity and accountability.