Activists play a critical role in society. They raise awareness around social issues and push for solutions that benefit the most vulnerable and marginalized people. Many activists also experience serious mental, emotional, and physical costs from playing this societal role, whether their activism is through art, writing, performing, teaching, protesting, organizing, or providing services.
Self-care and activism seem like they may not co-exist with one another, as Audre Lorde, activist and prolific writer, once notably said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” In a world where just existing as a marginalized person is a challenge to the status quo, self-care and joy — for Black activists in particular — is an act of resistance to injustice. Self-care, particularly for activists who have marginalized identities, is important for both the success of their work and their own wellbeing.
In partnership with Target, who aims to support, uplift, and enable Black joy through recent social good initiatives, I recently interviewed four Black activists to understand their ideas on why joy and self-care are important forms of resistance to injustice and inequality.
Reggie Black, a multimedia artist, designer, speaker, mental health advocate, and principal of design studio all things progressive, when asked what joy and self-care looks like to him as an activist shared:
Jay-Marie Hill (they/them), Founder and Lead Dreamer at Music Freedom Dreams, a consulting and production house, and the Statewide Trans Justice Organizer for the ACLU of Missouri, also shared a love of biking, as well as a passion for music as an act of self-care:
Rayna, a prolific activist, union organizer, photographer, and film producer documenting the movement for Black liberation, also shared a love of music as a way to recharge:
Exploring nature is also a self-care act LC Johnson shared as a form of resistance and renewal. As the founder of a Zora’s House — a co-working space and leadership incubator that centers the healing, creativity, leadership, and activism of Black women and other women of color — LC knows the power of the outdoors:
LC also recounted how much replenishing your own reserves matters as a Black woman:
Joy and self-care aren’t just luxurious acts meant for the most privileged, they’re a state of mind and a necessary aspect of activism that replenishes those on the frontlines of social change. Learn more about Target’s mission to champion Black Joy at target.com/blackbeyondmeasure.
Christina Blacken is a writer, performer, and public speaker on the topics of inclusive leadership and culture change, and is the founder of TheNewQuo.com, a leadership development and inclusion consultancy.