By Chelcee Johns. Photography by Deun Ivory.
It’s in the yoga studios where you are the only one. The classrooms. The Banana Republic that said hi to Harlem’s 125th street. The boardroom’s lax diversity clause. The tending to perfection instead of rooting freedom in the flawed.
Being honest about our stories. About what we call "the good" and "the bad." About the struggle and the glory. The particular ways the world tries to frame you, tell you what you do and don’t do - and how you step outside the frame. Outside the ideas of femininity, gender stereotypes… Black women stereotypes. It’s Black history month and not only are we concerned about the revolutionary voices thrusting our country, we are setting forth on a charge to revolutionize wellness all this February. Yes, Black women do… practice yoga, get our birth charts read, do reiki, live abroad, work through mental health, maybe send 5 back-to-back texts when dealing with a ‘not fully developed’ man (I wanted to write f*x boy, but my soul give these men more credit than that). And we do that too, we make space for others, many times more than the space we allow for ourselves.
Living an authentic story is revolutionary work. It’s a part of our wellness goals. We are not always carefree, but I do believe we are always magic.
Another definition for revolution, beyond the paradigm-shifting movement for radical change is “the time taken by a celestial body to make a complete round in its orbit” - tell me that’s not magic. Coming full circle back to yourself, I believe that involves a lot of whole truth-telling.
And, truth has always preceded any revolution.
Some of our key revolutionaries were deemed so because they told and worked in and for the truth. Revolting against slavery is the work of honoring the truth that all are created equal. Rebelling against a Trump narcissistic society pushes toward the truth of humanity, of equality, of liberty and justice. Creating Black Girl In Om acknowledges the truth that women of color needed safe space to breathe easy, to tell our truths amongst kin that would be tender to the telling.
And if we are talking about our personal lives, sometimes we don’t love all of our truths. But, that makes telling them - as "rough" as they may be at times - even more revolutionary. Our truths, our stories, at the various points in our lives don't have to be labeled "good" or "bad." They just simply are, let them be; that's revolutionary, to not judge any part of your story but see the evolution of it all. In the pews, they’ll call it having your “church face” on - desiring to appear less flawed as if there isn't beauty, wholeness, healing there. We wear a lot of different faces as women of color. We’ve had to. But, I think revolutionary wellness asks us to break out of the faces. To show up and tell our whole truths. To get free. To be brilliant and not edit our shine. To be broken at times and still appreciate how mosaic you are.
We are multidimensional. We are divine, and a mess sometimes. We are dynamic and deep and silly and soulful.
“The function of freedom is to free someone else,” says Toni Morrison.
Getting free is revolutionary work and all month long at BGIO we’re delving into ways we revolutionize our wellness walks by decolonizing our minds, by evolving our diets, by connecting to our ancestors, by gathering. By showing up as our whole selves and unapologetically living in and evolving our truths.
What part of your story have you not lived in fully? What areas of your life can benefit from an orbit back to your authentic self? Where in your wellness walk do you need a revolution?
Look at what comes up, and as we remember our history this month, let’s continue to tell and work though our own stories to get free and free others. And isn’t that a glorious byproduct of freedom, freeing another.
Do you have a story of how you revolutionized your wellness walk? How have you cultivated freedom in your mind, body, soul and space? What practices helped bring a revolution to your life? What advice would you give other women of color on creating personal and communal revolutions for a better world? Email us your pitch and a sample of your work at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can't wait to hear from you!
Chelcee Johns is a digital nomad, publishing professional, Detroit native, editor/content strategist and word & world-loving soul. She is based in Harlem and recently called Bali home for a year. Her passion for the power of the written word & highlighting often policed narratives has led her to work in publishing for the past 7 years with organizations such as Simon & Schuster, Moguldom Media Group, Serendipity Literary Agency, the New York Times and writing for the likes of Ebony.com. In a rupturing political climate and blooming social change, BGIO is the place Chelc is able to create a community of safe space in our collective stories as Publication Editor. She is empowered by the (inner)work! With that said, her self-care go-to is journaling, prayer and meditation.