Is This Sustainable: Black Minimalists™ (Updated)
The theme of our first anniversary was community and it represents the direction of our work over the next 1-2 years. After careful reflection, we realized that we are most effective when we are holding space in our communities.
Our favorite moment from 2017 was the fall volunteer meetup in DC and most recently, Kenya and Yolanda had the opportunity to meet up with folx in Atlanta and Charleston. Those meetings solidified for us there is more work to be done in our communities to empower our people to get free.
One of our main struggles in the first year was having a lot of ideas, but not approaching them practically. For our work to grow and be impactful, we as an organization have to walk in our values, one of which is sustainability. While we enjoy meeting and working within our communities, the reality is we can’t be everywhere nor tackle every issue online. Also, with our goal of empowering you, our job is give you the foundation to form your own communities and do the liberation work specific to your locality.
We devised a framework of questions to help us strategize our content and events through a liberatory lens and help you focus on the work. This framework can be used by individuals, communities, and organizations.
What is the work?
The work is getting free- releasing, liberating, creating and strengthening community, healing ourselves and our people, cultivating black joy, creating sustainable practices within our community, finding and living our core values, and aligning with organizations and businesses that share our core values.
Is this the most important work we could be doing right now?
One key to acting sustainably is only to focus on the most important thing in any given moment and devote all of our energy to making that thing a reality in the most practical ways. For Black Minimalists™, that thing is community building.
Fostering communities within the larger BM community is the most important thing we can do right now (and for the next couple years) to make our goal of liberation a reality. We have grown our community digitally over the past 2 1/2 years via interviews and informative posts. We’ve also started to connect offline via meetups led by our team. We see the next step as you forming your own BM communities locally to help each other get free.
Update: Additionally, our work is to connect other black minimalists and give us/y’all a platform to tell your stories and do the work of liberation together.
Are there other people doing the work?
We’ve created a whole directory of folx who contribute to the black minimalist movement. We have featured some of them in our interviews via our blog, Simply Black, and the podcast, and there are many more black minimalists out there as our community grows daily.
Can we add something of value to this work? Can we collaborate?
Our purpose is to hold space for and connect all black minimalists together in the pursuit of our liberation. This cannot happen without collaboration. Again, we want to take our work beyond what we’ve already done and support you as you lead your own communities.
Our new direction is an invitation to create spaces in local communities for collaboration, support, and liberation. Our work is not only to empower, but to equip and support black minimalists throughout the country and the world.
Has this work been vetted or evaluated?
Black & Minimalist was our first foray into working with a micro-community on an intimate level. The course focused on individual minimalist journeys to freedom while including an overview of why we approach black minimalism from a liberation standpoint.
This course received evaluation and feedback from course participants. It allow us to see the power of micro-community and resources for our audience and larger community. This informs our direction as we move forward and solidifies the importance of our work.
Update: There are still more stories to be told. There are some BM communities we haven’t worked with intimately such as our mobile/alternative dwelling folks, also, we think it’s important to learn more about environmental stability and spirituality. Who from these communities do you want us to work with and feature? How can we make this platform more available to you?
We welcome anyone who wishes to tell their story in the service of liberation. Our features include individuals and groups of diverse backgrounds and abilities and we expect the local communities that are formed to also embody this. We are unashamedly black, always highlighting the reality that blackness is not a monolith.
Is it ethical?
Black Minimalists understands ethicality as an alignment to values. Ethics often seem subjective, but as a community we have created values as guidelines for our work. It has been said “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism”, yet we must be mindful of the harm we incite intentionally and unintentionally. This direction of our work is rooted in healing and the expansion of sustainable community.
Is it intersectional?
Our team consists of black cis women who are mindful of the multiple identities represented in our community. Any partnership, collaboration, or local community formed in connection with BM must uphold these values also.
We as a team understand our social location and we push ourselves to examine the accessibility of our work, being mindful that black minimalists come from a variety of backgrounds, world-views, and social locations. As we move forward in our work we are mindful to ask questions and ask for feedback to better fit the needs of our growing community.
Update: Immediately after we posted the article, Kenya sent Yolanda a graphic stating, “Inclusion implies that someone owns the table” and we had to step back. We don’t own the BM community and we’ve discussed the structure and potential evolution of BM to be more of a collective. “Is it equitable?” may be a more appropriate question. Equity > Inclusion. From the live discussion: Where are the black male minimalists? We acknowledge that everyone in our community does not identify as a minimalist or use the language of minimalism.
Are we leaving people and spaces better than before? Are we creating spaces where none existed before?
The birth of Black Minimalists™ created a space where none existed before. This is the first community dedicated to empowerment and liberation of black folx who live simply in a variety of ways. Each time someone tells us they are happy they found us or happy we exist, affirms that our community is needed and wanted.
Update: We want you all to create your own spaces that reflect who you are and your values. We also want a space beyond our digital space, a physical space for us to commune. Fort Negrita shared her communal living space and we loved that. If you got land where we can build a community and inhabit long term or you know landowners willing to give some of or lease their land, contact us.
The main reason for creating this framework is to make our organization more sustainable. We learned a lot about ourselves over the past 16 months and acknowledged truths about how we work. Engaging in this framework privately and publicly is a necessary exercise for us to continue the leadership and development of Black Minimalists™.
What is the path of least resistance?
The path of least resistance is to continue with the organic development of the Black Minimalists™ community leading to the creation of local communities throughout the diaspora.
Do we have the tools necessary to do the work?
The main tool is minimalism. Beyond that, our network, community, and digital platforms are key to facilitating this work.
Update: When thinking about the sustainability of our work, we need to consider the possibility of BM becoming a collective entity where the work is divided more equitably and exploring non-traditional modes of operation. Current team members personally funding BM is not sustainable either. We’ve discussed this several times about how to source revenue without trying to sell you things you don’t need because it’s against our values. We are working developing our Patreon. With regards to tools and resources, does money always need to be exchanged to gain the resources we need. How can operate beyond the capitalist system?
How do we celebrate or mourn the results of the process?
We’ve struggled with this concept and acknowledge that even in our personal lives we have not done this sufficiently or consistently. Engaging in this framework is our first structured attempt at reflecting on the joys and struggles of building Black Minimalists™.
We are inviting you to join the celebration and the work with our forthcoming community groups program. In November, we will host a webinar about community as praxis: an introduction to the program.
How do we integrate?
We are using the knowledge from the last year to bring more clarity to our work. We’re learning how to honor our values not just in the content or organization of Black Minimalists, but also in the being and living as black minimalists. Integration is a process we are committed to and is necessary for further development.
Update: We forgot about rest and healing in this process. It needs to be another section. Taking a hiatus this summer was a great experience and it helped us put things into perspective and gain clarity.
The process begins again.
For the BM team, this means taking the framework and applying it to the launch of the BM community groups. For you, it means taking this framework and interrogating the sustainability of your own life and community.
We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments and offer any related topics or questions you want us to explore using this framework.