Diverse City

A few months ago, I was accepted as a fellow with the Transformative Leadership for Change 2021 cohort, a statewide coalition specifically designed for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) leaders across the state.

In a nutshell, the fellowship is designed to support a diverse peer network of leaders of color who are committed to building transformational power in Colorado.

These leaders have strategies to collectively advance major social change in the state, to include working towards health and educational equity; economic, immigration, housing and racial justice; an end to police/state violence; and other systemic changes within communities of color.

This coalition is also designed to support these leaders’ health as it is hard to navigate these challenges without sacrificing one’s own wellbeing.

Speaking of wellbeing, last month I had the privilege of going on a retreat in my fellowship role and spend time away from the internet; there was barely any phone service. I was able to connect with nature and my emotions and with other BIPOC folks who were committed to doing the same. Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I unplugged like that. It has been so long that it felt like it’s never happened before. I emerged from that experience reinvigorated and committed to my own healthy narrative. 

On a related note, it’s refreshing to see the country focus on the stories of Black women committed to their mental and physical wellbeing. This summer, the world watched both Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles perform under a global spotlight at the 2021 Olympic Games but choose their health over the pressure to perform for our entertainment. Their message was particularly timely considering the health disparities that have been brought to light due to COVID-19. Choosing the healthy option in a society that often doesn’t support those choices requires great courage and intestinal fortitude. As author Audre Lorde says, the choice is revolutionary. 

Women have a tendency to act as martyrs because of various external pressures: toxic patriarchy, work, families, church, social expectations. But BIPOC women — and particularly Black women — have the additional pressure of navigating these challenges while dealing with the effects of racism. Black women are more likely than their counterparts of other races to die from breast cancer; they experience higher rates of cervical cancer; they experience more premature births and mental health crises, to name a few disparities. And systemic racism has been linked to substandard medical treatment. Additionally, Black women are more harshly judged when they don’t meet society’s expectations. In the words of Malcom X, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

So, I pledge to continue to make my health a priority. That goes beyond manicures, pedicures and massages (although those are cool too). I vow to look after my heart, mind, spirit and body with the same energy I put into anything else I love. Sometimes I will have to make a conscious choice to surround myself with folks who care for their health better than I care for my own. And I will continue to pursue a healthy balance of caring for myself and my community. I am the revolution.