A Space For Us: Self-care As An Act of Social Justice
Being a queer woman of color (QWOC) is a unique experience in itself. Finding an inviting and uplifting community for queer women of color, can be challenging. The necessity of black femme spaces that is uplifting and centers on black joy, love and understanding is critical. It is needed for creating and maintaining community, but also as a healing space and coping mechanism. Especially, given the current social-political climate.
One direct answer to the cry for such space is Harriet’s Apothecary, founded in honor of Harriet Tubman by Adaku Utah in 2014. According to their website, “Harriet’s Apothecary is committed to co-creating accessible, affordable, liberatory, all-body loving, all-gender honoring, community healing spaces that recognize, inspire, and deepen the healing genius of people who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of color and the allies that love us.” I was privileged to attend one of their events in the Spring of 2017 in Brooklyn, NY, and I felt honored to be there. The attention to detail coupled with intentional self-care activities and ancestral and intergenerational acknowledgment helped to create an exclusive event.
The demand for inclusive spaces for black queer women is not contemporary. Audre Lorde expressed her longing for safe spaces for queer black women in her bio-mythography, Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name (1982). Her experience with feminism and lesbianism in the 1960’s highlights the disconnect with queer black women and their non-black counterparts. Lorde also made a connection between social justice and self-care in her book, A Burst of Light (1988). In which she wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self preservation and that is an act of political warfare”. Self-care is necessary in the quest for freedom and liberation, as well, as having meaningful alternatives for self care practice that is unfettered by whiteness and heteronormative ideas. Lorde, a visionary who used her gift for writing to expose sexism, racism and homophobia within the larger society.
After attending The Black Radical Tradition Conference in 2015, I began to brainstorm what is now Flower City Noire Collective. As the common theme and major takeaway for myself, was the need for more black spaces for organizing and healing. Accepting the responsibility and importance of creating a space for queer black women, Flower City Noire Collective was co-founded with Tonya Noel, an Urban Gardener and Organizer, in Rochester, NY. It is the mission of Flower City Noire Collective (FCNC) to elevate women of color in their communities using a holistic approach; to organize with imagination, respect, and sisterhood. We emphasize the values of collective leadership, collective work and responsibility, collective education, sustainability through skill sharing, sisterhood and unity. FCNC seeks to fill the void of safe, black centered spaces in Rochester that center around black joy, black love and understanding.
To execute this mission Flower City Noire Collective hosts various self-care events and meetups for black women across the African diaspora, being inclusive of all expressions of gender, sexuality and sexual orientation. Through focusing on books authored by black women in our book club, and traveling we actualize the mission of holistic healing. It is paramount to connect our individual experiences to the intergenerational narrative of black women, to glean and leave wisdom. Using reading and travel as a forms of self-care, social justice and healing is revolutionary due to the financial and time constraints most women of color face but it is obligatory. The on the ground meeting and interacting with other women encourages and engages all of us.This year, FCNC has traveled to Flint & Detroit, Michigan, New York City, and Washington D.C. with the intent purpose of exposing our members to new locations and to join with others who are doing work in response to the need and concurrent lack of safe queer, femme spaces.
Flower City Noire Collective and Harriet’s Apothecary both address the imperative need to uplift queer black women whose very existence challenges patriarchy, misogyny, misogynoir, capitalism, sexism, colorism, ageism and heteronormative ideas of womanhood. Spaces like these allows for us to build community and relationships around unity, black joy and understanding that can serve as a true healing space for black women. These displays of togetherness and sisterhood is especially needed to give voice and space to express the marginalization and oppression we experience within our society. By focusing on creating and curating safe spaces that affirm and empower us we are able to move toward that vision of a more inclusive and uplifting community through the ascension of black women.
Kristen Walker is an embodiment of #BlackGirlMagic. Armed with a Bachelors in African and African American Studies and English she uplifts black femmes in Rochester, NY as the Co-Founder of Flower City Noire Collective. Her passion for creating body+ sex+ black joy spaces fuels her work as an activist and educator.
Follow her on Instagram: @heytherekris