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Selena’s Reflection: Self Care Among Leaders of Color

Last week, we gathered at an amazing Ethiopian restaurant, Keriza Restaurant, for our monthly RVC Fellows Brown Bag Lunch. I always look forward to this special time with my fellowship cohort: eating, embracing, laughing, singing, storytelling and sharing powerful reflections of our journeys as leaders of color in the non-profit world!

At this recent brown bag lunch, we focused on a very important, deep and personal topic to me: SELF-CARE.

Practicing and prioritizing self-care is so important as people of color working for systemic change in our communities. It is vital to take care of our mental, spiritual and physical well-being especially as our hearts mourn, become enraged and are golden with resistance after each account of violence and trauma inflicted upon black and brown bodies in our communities.

I believe it is such a critical time to have conversations about self-care as we are doing powerful work to fight for systemic change and strengthen our communities of color in the Rainier Valley. By planting seeds of resistance, preservation, resilience and solidarity for our communities, we must also plant them within ourselves. Self-care can be a tool to transform ourselves as we seek to heal and transform our communities.

The reality of our work is beautiful yet complex as leaders of color in the non-profit sector. Amidst our very busy schedules as RVC Fellows, we are growing and learning in many leadership capacities. You may find us coordinating events, writing grants, navigating funding for communities of color, attending town halls, forums, city council meetings, community dialogues and trainings. Developing surveys and collecting data. Addressing inequities in our public school systems. Advocating for climate justice and chanting #BlackLivesMatter while marching on the streets.  Speaking out about the impacts of internalized oppression. All the while building the capacity of our community based organizations, mobilizing and empowering our communities AND working to undo institutionalized racism. –breathe– Sometimes in this work, it feels like there really is no room to focus solely on S-E-L-F C-A-R-E.

However, I know I experience so much healing by working for social justice! My work is a form of self-care. Community work is very powerful because it is deeply connected to our self-care as activists, leaders, advocates, organizers and change makers! My amazing friend and RVC Fellow at Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Nate Thomas, said it beautifully, I’m lucky that a lot my work makes me feel good and feels like self care to do.” 

During periodic check ins, many of the fellows shared that sometimes it is difficult to separate our “work” lives from our “personal” lives. Yet it makes so much sense. How can we separate our personal lives from our work lives, as social/systemic change makers, when our work is so intimately tied to our beings, our identities, our stories and experiences as people of color?

How do we care for ourselves as we work so hard to care, heal and strengthen our communities?

How do we prioritize self-care amidst a capitalistic system that measures our worth based on productivity, output and working our bodies tirelessly on end?

How do we transform the oppression we face from all forms of institutional, systemic, historical and intergenerational trauma held in our bodies?

I reflect on these questions often as a feminist mother and womxn of color.  I often struggle to prioritize my own self-care. But as I practice and strengthen my resiliency skills —of writing poetry, attending healing art circles, creating ZINES, collaging, singing, dancing, running and community organizing— I know I am modeling the importance of radical self-care and self-love to my child. And it reminds me that my practice of self-care is a truly a form of resistance and survival!

At our brown bag lunch each fellow answered: “What is a form of self-care you practice?”

Here are some of the many ways that RVC Fellows practice self-care (and plant seeds of resistance & resiliency) by:

1. Attending brown bag lunches and being with the RVC Fellows
2. Interacting, working and learning with/from youth
3. Being by a source of calming natural water
4. Sewing and knitting
5. Going out with friends
6. Working out at the gym
7. Meditating
8. Playing video games
9. Singing
10. Spending time with loved ones
11. Giving and volunteering time
12. Cooking and cleaning
13. Writing poetry and creating art

As we continue this journey of growth, leadership and healing, it is truly incredible to be in community with powerful people who deeply value self-care, advocate for each other’s well being AND the well-being of our communities of color.

Now it’s your turn! Please share with us:

  • How do you practice self–care?
  • What are resiliency tools that help you heal?
  • How does your non-profit/organization/community center and prioritize self-care (especially for people of color and folks most impacted by systems of oppression)?

Much gratitude to each RVC Fellow for sharing their forms of self-care. You all continue to inspire me! <3

 

In solidarity and love,

Selena Velasco

Fellow at Families of Color Seattle

3 Comments

  1. Selena,

    You continue to impress me each encounter I have with you. I am truly amazed by your growth in day and day out. Your care and compassion for each individual that has the privilege to know you will forever be empowered by your resilience, resistance, and the deep understanding of what takes to be a systems change agent. I am proud to have met you and look forward to growing intellectually with you.

    Much love and admiration SELENA

    1. Saida,

      So much gratitude to you for being such a beautiful light and inspiration to me. I am so grateful for your incredible warmth, abundant love and powerful truth speaking! You truly are a systems change agent! Thank you for continually empowering us to do deep reflection and always opening our eyes, hearts and minds with your wisdom. I too am so proud to be in community with you.

      Much appreciation and love!

  2. I love this list! Being near bodies of water=====the best. I agree with Saida’s comment, you truly are an awesome force to be around. All the love!

    Andy

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