At the time of Trayvon Martin’s death, I was an eighth grader on my way to high school. I first heard the news of this horrific racial injustice on the radio, and to say I was shocked is an understatement. It was my first experience with racial injustice not only in my generation, but in this era. Four years and dozens of stolen lives later, I was as emotionally drained as I had ever been. The constant fear of becoming another hashtag or developing one for someone in my inner circle paralyzed my thoughts daily. Am I next? Will I become another hashtag? How am I supposed to want to bring children into this type of environment?
My journals of poetry are reflective of how consumed I had become with the events that continue to take over our nation. I have participated in discussion after discussion within my community, but I still live with the thought that I may have to say goodbye to the people in my life sooner than I desire. My thoughts often journey to the three women who were not only brave enough to initiate but also continue to grow the #BlackLivesMatter movement. When was the last time someone told them it was okay to take a day to breathe mentally?
Reflecting on my thoughts and emotions, I realize that I am not alone. As young, African-American women, we often do not give ourselves the opportunity to unplug from the world around us. We are expected to be an ever present source of strength no matter what is happening, and in turn, our overall health and wellness suffers. I am learning that I cannot help another soul unless I am well within, so I want to encourage you to take a day to gather yourself, too. The racial injustices that occur in our nation are traumatizing, and it is important that we make our health a priority so that we are able inspire change effectively.
I know you may be thinking: “Najya, where do I even begin? I don’t have that type of time.” I’m so glad that you asked! As activists, we know that political and social change does not happen overnight. Well, the same applies to us! We cannot expect to be happier, cheerier people after just one minute, hour or day. Making our emotional and mental health a priority is a commitment that we must make daily because the journey to becoming emotionally sound does not have an endgame.
After identifying where I had channeled all of my emotional energy, I decided to make some changes. Here are some of the activities and practices that I have started and continue to do as I move forward in my journey:
➢ Take a social media fast. I know that this is easier said than done, but the benefits make it worthwhile.
➢ Meditate/Pray. My faith has been my saving grace when I watch the news and follow cases of racial injustice. In moments of fear and sadness, I hold my faith and spirituality close to my mind, body, and soul.
➢ Journal/Keep a diary. An age-old technique, journaling and writing in a diary allows you to let go some of the thoughts and feelings you have saved in your memory bank. Let your notebook and pen carry some of that weight!
➢ Go on a “staycation.” If you are like me and your mind is always running a thousand miles per hour, try setting aside one or two personal days that you can take off from business/academics to completely pamper yourself with a new look, spa treatments, and great food! You can also dedicate a weekend to check into a local resort or hotel and unwind alone. Turn your phone and notifications off during the day and let your hair down. It is the perfect way to clear your mind and recharge emotionally while not venturing too far away from home!
I hope that these ideas encourage you to devote time to rejuvenating, recharging, and becoming stronger emotionally. As I grow, it is my prayer that we grow as a community. I send you positivity, love, and hope.
Najya Williams is a social activist, spoken word artist and future pediatrician. She aspires to publish several books on her journey to self-discovery, healing, and faith. Najya hopes that her work encourages others to chase their dreams and reach beyond the celestial realm.