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Showing Up for Yourself: Black Women Organizers Learning to Come Home to Themselves

Autumn A. Griffin, University of Pennsylvania autumn.a.griffin@gmail.com

Tamisha J. Ponder, University of Maryland Baltimore County tponder1@umbc.edu

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston describes Janie’s journey of self-discovery. We first meet Janie, tired and hungry, as she sits on her porch with her sister/friend Pheoby and recounts her story. Through her words, we learn of her “self revelation” (p. 7), and how she found peace in her return, possibility in the horizon, and herself in the sanctity of sisterhood. It is in this moment we learn a powerful lesson from Janie: we, as Black women, must learn to come home to ourselves.

Like Janie, many Black women often find ourselves so dedicated to our work that, while meaningful, can take us away from ourselves (Boyatzis & McKee, 2005; Parker, 2020). As Black women organizers, educators, and wellness practitioners who work to serve our communities, we end up burnt out, stressed, and longing for the healing presence of our sisters. However, as Hurston does in this novel, Black women have long used storytelling as a way to heal from our pasts, come home to ourselves and “call in our souls to come and see” (Hurston, 1937, p. 193; see also Baker-Bell, 2017). We enter this space with the lessons of Janie and Hurston, grounding ourselves  in the vulnerable act of storytelling amongst our sisters in order to return home to ourselves and imagine healthy and liberated futures (Brooks, Anderson, Taylor & Baham, 2019). We take up the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston, 1937) as a framework to guide this workshop. Together, and amongst sisters, we create a sacred space for participants to engage their own stories, recalling their own call to serve, their hurricanes, and self revelation.

 

We begin this workshop by describing the work we have committed ourselves to, and what brought us to heed the call. We then briefly revisit our own hurricanes to discuss, as Janie did, the anxiety, stress, and physical ailments we endured took us away from the core of our being and invite participants to join us in “[calling in their souls] to come and see” (Huston, p. 1937, p. 193). Drawing on Dillard’s (2016) concept of (re)membering and Thích Nhất Hạnh’s (1986) quote, “breathing in, I go back to the island within myself,” (p. 10-12) we will engage with a brief embodied breathwork practice to reset the nervous system, followed by a guided journaling practice to explore our bodily experiences and processes to understand our emotional experiences around the work we do. In her book, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace, Rev. angel kyodo williams, describes how these embodied practices and creative expression allows space for self-inquiry and restoration for Black people struggling under the weight of systemic racism, intergenerational trauma, exhaustion and grief. The composition of storytelling, breathwork and introspection will invite participants to journey the island within themselves and to find resolve within a community of Black women seeking to write futures full of possibility and rest. 

Guided Breathwork Practice

Click here to access your guided breathwork practice. The goal is for you to create a sustainable practice and make it just as much part of your day as everything else.

21-Day Meditation Journal

Click here to download your PDF.

The goal is for you to create a sustainable practice and make it just as much part of your day as everything else.

Meditation Resources

Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much by Anne Wilson Schaef. Click here.

 

Prayers of Honoring Grief by Pixie Lighthouse. Click here.

 

How to Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh. Click here.

 

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer. Click here.

 

Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. Click here.

Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma by Gail Parker. Click here.

Sound Meditation Practice

Click here to access your mini sound meditation.

 

Click here to access a sound healing session. 

Alignment hOMEwork

Click here to download your PDF.

Whenever you’re feeling out of alignment, remember the tools that you’ve created for yourself.

Literary Resources 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Click here.

 

The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara. Click here

 

Gathering Blossoms Under Fire by Alice Walker. Click here.

 

Black Women and Social Justice Education: Legacies and Lessons. Click here

 

Black Women's Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability. Click here

Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation. Click here

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