Black Minimalist: Amirio Freeman
When and why did you start your minimalist journey?
When it comes to my relationship with material items, I definitely identify less with practicing minimalism, which so often is linked to whiteness or reduced to being an aesthetic. I identify more with living with a heightened sense of purpose, vision, and intention. Regardless of terminology, I started enacting minimalism after engaging more with environmentalism and sustainability.
My family is from the South (specifically South Carolina), where they have cultivated a long agrarian history. Growing up in the suburbs of Virginia, swept up in my parents’ desire to leave behind our agricultural roots for Black middle-class professionalism, I never really had the opportunity to engage with my family’s agrarian legacy. To reclaim that legacy for myself, around late high school I began to read scholarship regarding Black people and their connection to nature. As I learned more, I began to consider ways that I could actually practice having a more intimate, ethical relationship with the natural world. Exploring minimalism/living intentionally was one of my starting points.
What lessons have you learned since going minimalist?
I’ve learned that our society values scarcity over abundance. The desire to accumulate and consume comes from, in part, our society’s constant spewing of messages that tell us that we aren’t enough. That we aren’t whole, and that we’re not inherently valuable…
“You don’t meet the culture’s standard of desirability, so purchase these beauty products.”
“What you bring to the table as a person isn’t enough, so buy these articles of clothing to enhance your presence”.
Minimalism has taught me to reject the internalization of society’s narratives and know that I’m abundant, overflowing, and that the cup that is my existence always runneth over.
What are your goals in living simply?
My main goal with living simply is to be more, in the words of Frantz Fanon, “in total fusion with the world, in sympathetic affinity with the earth.” The natural world has always been my ally, by providing me with everything that I need to thrive and persist. Living simply is one of the practices I engage in to be an ally of the earth. I recognize that my fate is intimately tied to the fate of the earth, so building a harmony with the natural realm is a critical, urgent task.
Has minimalism impacted other areas of your life?
In all areas of my life, minimalist thought and practice has definitely brought more joy. I feel more vibrationally connected to the things that surround me. I have more financial resources available to spend money on things that are actually nourishing for me. When I don’t have something I need, I’ve been propelled to look to my communities for assistance, which has only strengthened my relationships with family and friends. I’m more equipped than ever to tune into the frequency of my emotional landscape, expanding my capacity to efficiently resolve my problems instead of drowning them out with unneeded things. Living simply has provided me a spaciousness that has left me feeling full.
What if any surprises or challenges have you encountered?
In a lot of ways, internalizing society’s messages around scarcity is an act of trauma and violence. And redressing trauma and moving past violence done is a difficult art, as seen with the many setbacks I’ve had along my journey of living more intentionally: I’ve made a million unnecessary purchases in an effort to soothe myself while in an emotionally raw state; I’ve bought certain things just because buying them was convenient, but not necessarily fulfilling, sustainable, etc; and I’ve held onto certain unneeded items just because I was afraid of letting go of the ideas, memories, etc. they represented. Minimalism is a reality-shifting practice that necessitates an ever-continuing commitment to undoing and unlearning harm.
What mindset changes have you experienced?
For the sake of being polite and not rocking the boat, I’m definitely the type who is willing to endure things that don’t really serve me (unfulfilling friendships, stagnant romantic relationships, etc.). However, minimalism has taught me to lean into essentiality and to not be afraid to walk away from things that don’t feel life-giving.
What advice do you have for someone interested in simplifying their life?
Move with purpose. Figure out what your true needs and desires are–what emotional needs do you need to tend to? what textures do you want your material and psychic worlds to have?–and move from there. Shift toward your personal vision of wholeness and not away from it.
What does being a black minimalist mean to you?
What’s interesting about the term “black minimalist” is that it feels both reclamatory and redundant. After all, Black folks–a group that has always had to make do with less–have always operated by different tenets of minimalism out of necessity. The term, therefore, feels like it’s re-situating Black people within a tradition they have more or less always been a part of.
Where can we learn more about you?
Folks can keep up with all things Being Green While Black at beinggreenwhileblack.club!
Originally from Hampton, VA, Amirio Freeman is a D.C-based writer, anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocate, and founder of "Being Green While Black"—a digital archive dedicated to "visually reclaiming the greenness of Blackness."