AfroPunk Solution Sessions: Affirming the Right to Be Here

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Is it one’s imagination or, as the reggae band Third World crooned, “You’re playing us too close.” Are people of color being pushed into a box to satisfy Euro-Americans? AfroPunk Solution Sessions hosts Bridget Todd and Yves Jeffocat believe this to be true. They say, “White hegemony leaves little space for Black existence.” Ponder that statement within the reality of the Earth’s inhabitants are majority melanated.

Bridget Todd asserted during Episode 9 of #AfroPunk Solutions Sessions’ podcast, Reclaiming Our Space, “The world tries to tell us we don’t belong but we don’t need to win the approval of anyone. This land is as much ours as anyone else. We have every right to be here.” This statement is juxtaposed with men saying, “If you don’t like it here, planes leave every hour, go back to Africa.” And one Deputy District Attorney for San Bernadino County said about Congresswoman Maxine Waters: “Being a loud mouth (explicative), you would have thought they would have shot this B#@#@ already.” Is Waters considered a loud mouth because she asserts her inalienable rights and those of her constituents? Why is it frowned upon to discuss issues relevant and important to Black people?

Similar to the old sitcom “All in the Family”, it appears people of color are required “to stifle it.” However, AfroPunk the outdoor music festivals, the podcasts, the art, and fashion won’t be stifled. Todd and Jeffocat agree that Black people need a space to let one’s guard down and utter one’s truths. These actions can be tricky propositions even in one’s own space. Todd said, “We need safe spaces to hold conversations. The spaces they want us in are the ghettoes, caskets, and prisons.”

Dr. Ayanna Abrams was brought into the conversation as it transitioned into looking at mental health issues. Abrams said, “Blacks are struggling with our mental health. We cut off so many parts of ourselves to make other people comfortable around us. We become fragments of ourselves to fit in but not getting our needs met because we can’t get our needs met. We are doing all the heavy lifting but not replenishing ourselves.”

Given New York City’s implementation of Thrive NYC which is an initiative to make mental health services readily available to the New York public, it seems access to mental health services vary widely from region to region within the United States. Also, personal care of one’s mind, body, and soul vary widely from person to person. It is true that the standard bathroom in an efficiency or loft apartment come with a toilet, face bowl, tub, and shower head. What is causing too many Black women not to lounge in a tub of water with flowers and Epsom salt? The flowers could be red or white clover or dandelions.

Dr. Abrams affirmed “Self care is very important.” Abrams referred to Audre Lorde who said, “Caring for ourselves is not an act of self-indulgence or selfishness. Not doing so serves to disconnect us from ourselves.” One of the hosts recognized yoga as transformative in that sitting in stillness led her to experience thoughtfulness, compassion, and less judgment.

So what does self-care look like? It is getting more sleep, financial health, eating more nutritionally, being good to yourself or finding a therapist? Self care is not necessarily glamorous. It involves taking one’s medications, taking a shower. It could be as simple as asking yourself, “Have I stood up today? Have I had a glass of water? Have I walked around today?”

It appears Bridget Todd is at the initial stages of mindful self-care. She calls it “quick and cheap self-care”. This involves walking around the block and/or listening to a favorite song through a head set. There is also cultivating safe care spaces in spaces we shouldn’t be in. This harkens back to “having the right to be here and not needing to win the approval of anyone. Rather, boldly taking my place.”

The podcast closed with a discussion about love for others and self-love. Sonya Renee Taylor, a poet residing in Atlanta, explainst, “In connecting with others, we must practice empathy.” She calls this practicing “radical self love.” She encourages going on wellness retreats and being around like-minded people. Taylor firmly supported radical self love. “We are here. Practice self care and self love. Find power in your discomfort. Embrace Blackness fully and always.”

AfroPunk Solution Sessions is a weekly podcast, a social salon, and a Facebook closed group where members may discuss issues relevant and important to Black people. The Facebook group has 355 members during the time of writing this story. Those who join the group are apprised sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, fatphobia, transphobia, and hatefulness are not tolerated.