A few weeks ago, we celebrated Juneteenth, a time where we celebrate the end of slavery in the United States. This year, Juneteenth was particularly highlighted in communities, due to recent instances of police brutality and racism. This tension continues as we approach Independence Day weekend. With racism continuing to be prevalent in the United States, it can be challenging to celebrate such freedoms, particularly when we are shown that not all lives are treated equally in the United States. Yet, we still rise- African-Americans continue to be resilient and survive. Somehow, we have developed tools to help us move forward. Without these tools, some developed by our ancestors and some that we have learned along the way, it would be tough for us to continue to be resilient. Even with that resiliency, learning how to heal ourselves allows us to experience emotional freedom. Here are a few tips to help:
- Take a break. Seeing triggering videos on social media of police brutality and violence tends to drain us from our strength from today. It leads to hypervigilance and robs us of our sense of safety. While it is understandable that we, as a people may need to be cautious due to the systemic oppression that we experience, it is also essential to give our minds a break. We need to take that moment, breathe, then decide how you want to move forward. While our ancestors may not have had control over the things they saw, we can choose whether we engage in what we view. Applications such as
Liberate (https://liberatemeditation.com/), can help us take that socially conscious break instead of focusing on triggering information.
- Remember that joy can be a form of resistance. If you believe that someone is trying to take away your peace, decide to focus on those things that bring that sense of peace. While there may be a lot of things outside of our control, there are some things that are within our control. For some, it may be caring for a pet or tending a garden. Consider those things that bring you joy, or may have brought joy in the past, and engage in those activities.
- Choose encouragement over criticism. While we may be experiencing a collective trauma from various forms of oppression, we all respond to trauma differently. Thus, we tend to use different tools to hear from trauma. Sometimes, people may choose to try to tell us how we should heal, but ultimately, we must choose the best path for ourselves and who awe are going to spend time with, particularly now. Choose folks that create a safe for you to express yourself and encourage you to do what feels right for you and avoid engaging in self-criticism and being critical of others.
- Connect to your body. We often hold stress in different parts of our body, and it can be helpful to learn where you tend to hold that stress for yourself. Exercising can also be beneficial to ease that tension. Exercise not only helps relieve stress but also can help us sleep better as well. Try to go for a walk when you feel overwhelmed or engage in dance or some form of exercise that you enjoy to help you engage in your healing.
- Give b(l)ack. In a capitalistic society, freedom can be defined by what we choose to spend our money on. If you own a business, consider investing in hiring black staff or contractors. If you are looking for a new outfit, consider supporting an African-American designer or finding businesses to purchase items from. Investing in our community can send a message to our minds and others that the essence of blackness is valuable. Consider ways that you can invest-whether it is time, money, or energy. Having the freedom to give what we have can be an empowering experience. You can find more information on ways to invest in black businesses at https://officialblackwallstreet.com/directory/.
- Seek more knowledge about your history. Sometimes we may forget that our ancestors faced challenges as well and were still able to persevere. If possible, talk to your elders about what helped them get through their tough times. Consider researching traditions and beliefs that helped your ancestors survive and decide if there are some things that you can implement in your daily life as part of your journey.
During this time, it can be difficult to consider our strengths in times of adversity. By taking the time to grieve and acknowledge the pain of being black in America, engaging in self-care, seeking support through friends, family, and/or therapy, then choosing to uplift ourselves and one another can help us to move beyond surviving to thriving. You are the owner of yourself, use that knowledge to heal, and ultimately liberate yourself.
Chante’ Gamby, LCSW, is a mental health healer and writer passionate about bringing inspiration and empowerment to the people of Chicago, and beyond. Follow her on Instagram-@Fringegram and Facebook-@Fringefam.