Photo by Kris Ray

Radical Self Preservation: A Literary Hug for PNW Black and Brown Folx

The intention of this work is to encourage and give some kind of tangible tool for surviving the Pacific Northwest while Black and Brown. All of us are out here in these streets living our lives, working in our communities, and fighting for the space and acknowledgement we deserve. As important as it is to stay strong and keep pushing forward, we often forget about the necessity of self preservation. I hope this work gives you the encouragement to protect your energy and give you ideas on where to begin your path towards healing.

Self care:

Self care is an important factor in maintaining our bodies and souls so we can continue putting in the work needed to better our communities and ourselves. Putting self care into practice is more than just a trip to the nail salon, Netflix and chill with your fine ass self, or going out to the club with the homies. Self care is also buying yourself food for the week if you can afford it, cleaning your living space, sending those important emails, doing your laundry,etc. Self care is doing the things that need to be done so you can breathe, relax, and set some time and space aside for yourself to recharge. It is so important to maintain some kind of balance in our lives so we can be our best selves and live our best lives.

Let’s be real though, keeping the balance is easier said than done. Many of us lead very busy lives, struggle with mental illness, or experience a wide spectrum disabilities that make even the simplest acts of self care daunting or impossible. Heck, even the state of just existing in a racist, classist, white supremacist society that would rather see us dead ,makes self care seem pointless if you’re gonna be back at square one tomorrow after reading the news.

The truth is, self care is hard but it is necessary to our very survival as Black and Brown people.

We are in this together even when we are recharging apart.

Checklist for the heavy hearted:

-Leave your bed, even if it’s hard.

-Drink water.

-Eat something. Anything. (you will thank yourself later)

-Shower and take deep breaths. It’s okay if you’re just running water and doing breathing exercises

- Dress yourself. No pressure. Wear at least one thing that makes you feel good.

-Leave your house if you are able. If you don’t have work, go on a walk, bring water, get a hot beverage. Listen to your favorite music. Call a friend.

-Run an errand or a few if you have the energy. Breathe.

-Eat something. Drink water.

-Choose your own adventure

-choose your own adventure

-choose your own adventure

-Have a snack/Make dinner/Drink water

-Do a chore or two if you have the energy

-Wind down. Read a book, craft, watch a movie, breathe

-Sleep. If you have trouble sleeping drink calming tea, breathing exercises, or high CBD cannabis is helpful.

Community Care Checklist:

-Call each other/Check in/Hold space

-Offer your skills, money, resources, or your time

-Stay updated on healthcare ins/outs so we can help each other get the care we need

- Have low key dinner parties

Self Love

Loving yourself is a fucking task. As Black and Brown folx up against the Eurocentric ideals of beauty, culture, and behavior, we waste a lot of time picking ourselves apart to fit the mold even when we don’t realize we are. These acts of assimilation or trying to adapt/ fit in, is truly damaging to ourselves and our communities. We are a vibrant, rhythmic, and magical people. Our shine constantly at risk of being maimed by the grubby claws of seasonless culture vultures a.k.a White folx. I am here to tell you that the fuck shit stops now.

Your dark skin, negro lips, indigenous nose, native tongue, bushy brows, wide hips, the way you pop your gum, the side eye you serve, big bamboo hoops, nameplate necklace, the way you speak, and your very existence is a radical act of self love. Read that again and let it moisturize your skin. Let it soften your hardened heart.

The movement of your feet and hips to drum and bass is a lullaby. The way you roll your neck and sip your tea is poetry. The way we gather at the table and raise our voices loud and high is healing. Let it hydrate your soul. Let it oil your scalp.

To engage in self love as Black and Brown folx is to live dangerously. It is the sweetest kind of risk. A fulfilling kind of rebellion. We invoke fear into the hearts of those who see us as commodities, trends, and experiences when we reject and remove their hands from around our throats. Let us lift each other up. Look ourselves in the mirror and stop cutting into our skin looking for something White underneath.

Self Love Affirmations:

-My gender is mine and no one else’s

-I deserve love

-I deserve understanding and empathy

-I deserve happiness

-I deserve to be paid for my time and emotional labor

-I am bae as fuck

Radical acts of self love:

-Being loud

-Being unapologetic in your Blackness/Brown-ness

-Drinking water

-Minding your business

-Moisturizing your skin

-Reading books to challenge your mind

-Trying something new

-Failing and getting back up again

-Surrounding yourself with your people

-Dancing

-Singing

-Laughing

-Crying

-Dragging problematic white folx

-Eating your favorite food

-Reclaiming the fashions, aesthetics, and cultures of your people/ancestors

Engaging in growth:

We are in a constant state of learning and unlearning when we take part in self love and care. We decide what methods serves us on our paths towards healing and discover what kind of community we need in our lives to be our best selves. However, we cannot become our best selves if we do not engage in our own growth.

Growth is painful, challenging, and so fucking uncomfortable. It puts us in a corner and forces us to choose between our bad habits, toxic behaviors, self deprecation, lies that the White man told us and the hard but necessary steps towards liberation and actually living your best life. White supremacy and intersecting oppressions aside, we will always be our biggest roadblock.

It is important to take time to really sit and reflect on who we are in this moment, our goals and dreams, and the ways that we hold ourselves back from doing what we need to do to glo up and advocate for ourselves. For some of us that means taking time away from social media/staying in/making time to just sit with ourselves and reflect. For others that means actually taking the steps to better our mental health/ make a plan for healing. It could also mean that maybe you have fallen down the rabbit hole of substance abuse and finally need to actively seek out help. Whatever path you need to take, be intentional and make those steps. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are, after all, in this shit together.

For those of us who have found a good balance in our lives and are continuously learning and growing actively, we need to be patient with those in our community who are still learning. Not everyone will be on our level of “Wokeness” or whatever bullshit you wanna call it. We are blessed to have arrived at this place in our lives where we can be self aware, check ourselves, and help people on their path. However, that does not give us a right to be gatekeepers. We must be careful of the way we speak to each other and the language we use. It is awesome that we have all of this knowledge and gained some kind of access to higher learning. Still, we must remind ourselves that this knowledge and the language it clings to, is rooted in classist and colonialist ideologies of the academy aka University. Decolonize your language, practice patience with our own people, and remember where you were all those years ago when you were just becoming radicalized. This is your growth challenge.

Unplug / Step Back:

Let’s be real for a second. We as people with phones and computers have continuous access to the the internet and consequently, too much nonconsensual access to each other. We are smack dab in the middle of the age when we are encouraged to put all our business out into the digital void for all to see, hear, and form an opinion on. That to me is WILD AS FUCK!

The internet is hella great in many ways, but when you find yourself unable to connect with people in your own community without a screen and a keyboard as a buffer, you have a problem on your hands. When you find yourself unable to sleep, unable to breathe because random Trevors and Beckys keep poppin onto your page flappin their chapped bottom lips with some fuckshit at 3am and you just have to respond to them, you’ve got a problem on your hands. When you’re too focused on swiping right or left on tinder/grinder to notice the fine ass QTPOC that has showed up at the coffee place you frequent 4 days in a row with hopes of somehow catching your eye, you indeed have a fucking problem.

It is time for you to unplug friends. Pick up a book, knit some shit, doodle, journal, do something that isn’t making you pick up your phone or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Take the time you unplug to actually work on projects you said you would start months ago. Have tea with a friend and challenge each other to not even look at your phones. Get comfortable being with yourself without any distractions. Talk with people at the function that you don’t know instead of sitting in the darkest corner scrolling on your phone.

Do yourself a solid and unplug.

Even for an hour.

Even for 15 mins.

Even Just to breathe

Don’t Procrastinate! Don’t second guess!….DO THE THING!

How many times have you put off making that super cool idea you had for a zine, workshop, or event from happening? In what ways have you put yourself down or told yourself that your ideas, your inspirations are just dumb and not worth anyone’s time? Have you caught yourself wishing you were doing cool things or living your best life like some folx on the internet as you scroll through your feed at 3am?

STOP!

Your ideas, your work, your efforts are valid and so very important! As Black and Brown folx we have no time to waste on feeling inadequate or under qualified to do something amazing. Recognize that this mode of thought is a manifestation of internalized oppression taught to us as children and it is high time that you don’t let it break you down or prevent you from living your best damn life. You deserve to live your best life and.

Pull yourself out of bed. Start showing up for yourself. Start showing up for your work. Be the representation 8 year old you would have needed to thrive. Lead that workshop that will create a change in your community. Make that zine that could bring you healing and maybe bring others healing as well. Raise your voice. You are worthy of recognition and praise. You deserve the credit for your work. Don’t let the imposter syndrome hold you back.

I know it is extremely hard out here for Black and Brown folx to be living in the whitest part of the United States right now. I know this little article is highly optimistic but, I am so tired of seeing my people suffer in this place. I am, after all, a Pisces with an ocean of optimism and love to give. Here I am giving it to you, praying that it gives you life.


Kris Ray (she/they)is a Queer Afro-Latinx femme living in Eugene, Oregon. They are a local community organizer, musician, and avid knitter with a sprinkle of tough boy glitter. You can find them on Instagram (@obsidianbrat) sharing tidbits of her life as well as sickening self portraits.