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Saturday, November 26, 2022

How the Black Panthers used self-care as a form of empowerment

The term self-care has skyrocketed into the mainstream and social media over the past two years because of the pandemic. Between the presidential election; protests against police brutality; and of course the pandemic; many of us decided to use self-care as a necessity rather than a luxury. As a result, self-care became a word synonymous with survival in the modern era, and rightfully so. 

Now, self-care could mean so many different things to people. It’s easy to think it represents bubble baths, candles, or a simple social media post. Even though the word is commonly linked to practices, many of us don’t realize the history of this term and where first began. 

The origins of self-care first started to spread in the medical community in the early 1950s, but it wasn’t until civil rights activists, particularly The Black Panther Party began to use it as a form to “counter activist burnout” that it gained mainstream popularity. 

As activists’ leaders fought for racial justice in the United States, they quickly realized the lack of medical resources further inhibited their fight for equality. By creating access to healthy food, setting up health clinics, and building programs to share necessary information, the Black Panther party put self-care into necessary action. 

In a 2018 AFROPUNK interview, former Black Panther leader Angela Davis noted that she and Ericka Huggins began adopting mindfulness, yoga and meditation practices while incarcerated as a means of empowering and taking care of themselves. 

So rather than a luxury, these leaders saw it as a necessity and a form of empowerment so they could have the sufficient capacity to continue their work for the long term. 

In fact, Angela Davis said, “if we don’t start practicing collective self-care now, there’s no way to imagine, much less reach, a time of freedom.” The legacy of how self-care originated can inform us how to effectively use our own self-care practices. 

For civil rights activists to truly fight for freedom and equality, self-care became a tool for them to use that did not require them to lean on systemic structures that often did not provide sufficient aid for long-term health and wellness. 

As we reflect on the history of self-care, it is essential to realize it’s actually available to any and everyone, and it’s our duty to pursue it. If we want to live a better life and develop the capacity to accomplish more in our professional and personal lives, ultimately feeling better within— self-care should be prioritized daily. 

Back in 2017, I was burnt out from my job, running a nonprofit and keeping up with the demands of life. At that time, I felt it was my duty to prioritize self-care to not only, replenish my mind, body and soul but so I could show up as a better son, brother, and community member. When I practiced self-care consistently, I saw a shift in my energy, life satisfaction, as well as confidence. I never went back!

Here are a few self-care tips you can think about integrating into your life:

*Meditation 

*Journaling

*Reading a self-help or inspirational book

*Take a walk in nature

*Yoga

*Mix up a smoothie full of fruits and veggies

*Treat others nicely and give a smile to a stranger

Positively Caviar, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit centered on using positive thinking and optimism as a vehicle to instill mental resilience and disrupt mental health stigmas faced in our communities. Each month, a member of our Nucleus Team features a column focused on mental and physical health tips, scientific studies, nutrition facts, and positive stories to support a positive and healthy lifestyle. To learn more about how you can support, volunteer, or donate to Positively Caviar, Inc., visit: positivelycaviar.com 

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