Although my work changes drastically at times, and themes are ever changing, the one concept that remains the same is human emotion and human connection. The ability to work with a subject that is emotionally open is the dream for me, and it happens more often when I am open myself. Through the 2 years of being a photographer I have realized that the ability to make this experience therapeutic for the subject is a key priority. I enjoy the connection, it is a necessary theme.
I think a lot of us have been conditioned to think or live a certain way at some point of our lives. And then there’s a moment in our conditioned ways where something feels off. There’s something within our comfort level that no longer feels comfortable. Which can’t make sense because we’re comfortable, right? So we ignore this feeling, this inkling, and keep moving. But the feeling comes back and over time, it gets louder and we can no longer ignore it.
By Ciara Swan
Sometimes when I forget the cyst of love circulating throughout all of my lymph nodes and spiraling,
Nervously in the drumming of my heart
I carry loose cannons of self-deprecation and guilt,
Packaged in plastic baggage
There is taxation on the malleable; and my stress is spent.
What is wrapped inside of a calm?
My mind might add, “the psyche, or the human flaw of wanting to fix what is already fix(ed)”
There are three embodiments within one physical body;
The intuit, the physical, and the spirit.
All of them branch into various attributes and sometimes I get lost in the intersected quarrel of them all.
Fix(ed). My body is fixed, or it keeps on fix(ing).
My mind is fixed and keeps on fix(ating).
My spirit is fixed and keeps on; it’s fix(ture).
And a scar is but a healed ailment, although it is visible,
It is only a residuum of what has been conquered,
or in the lulls of overcoming.
My scars are fixed.
They were inside of me long before I could calculate their meaning
and they evolved into physical blockades over time — I worked in over time — I’m mind.
I’m steady working in over time to sustain a mine.
There is no fear.
Sometimes they treble across my path like what is tempestuous
and for so long I thought the antidote was to keep moving.
To keep distracting those fears.
To keep re-directing them.
And then something came to me.
I needed to be still.
I still need to be still.
In fact, I haven’t been for so long, I am now regaining conscious of my conscience.
My voices are not quiet.
My breaths are long and deep.
My heart still hurts at so much love.
My mind still weeps with thoughts of what I cannot control.
But now I am recalling comfort in that dark.
In that unknown.
I am dwelling there with only candlelight
And she flickers every time we both become aware of what was, what is and is to come.
I am thankful for her.
She is an extension in and of and out of myself.
We are scarred.
We are imperfect and we keep learning together.
There is only one formula =
ginger+honey+lemon+smells, stretch, stretch, sleep+water and water and phone calls home+being home+hugs+laughter+tears and time and time and time and time
Ciara “Cc” Swan is a poet from Oakland, CA. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at the University of San Francisco. As a current graduate student at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, Cc dawdles with a modern deconstructionist framework of language via sociological and philosophical platforms of “black sexual politics”. She is an analytical hermit and creator, and a lover of family and ever-finding spiritualism; who also sporadically attempts neo-soul singing and jazz-skatting with appropriations of funk via Logic Pro and Garage Band.
By Deun Ivory
Please save me.
I am hurting.
These are words that never made it passed my parted lips. I was an adolescent who was all too familiar with sexual abuse by the age of 11. With no hope in sight, I’d made the conscious decision to become a voiceless victim.
For 7 long years I was subjected to the sexual perversion of my stepfather and never spoke a word of it. You would think that my mother’s intuition would serve its purpose and somehow alert her that something was wrong,
She remained clueless — even through my emotional transparencies — she noticed nothing.
I wanted so badly for someone to recognize the joy that wholly dissipated at the mention of me going home to my stepdad. I wanted someone to recognize the fear that found a home in my weeping eyes.
Year after year the abuse proceeded until I was off to college. I was finally separated from the man who tainted my innocence. Through vital disconnect, I found myself longing for something or someone to fill this gaping hole that became a part of my identity. I longed to be free from the internal rage that developed while keeping the molestation a secret. I longed to be free from the misconception that the abuse was my fault.
God gave me that.
I found healing in community. I opened up. I released. I shared my shame. I started reading my Bible and realized that forgiveness was the only corridor to reclaiming my freedom. After reading about Jesus and truly experiencing His love for me through day-to-day displays of grace, I was compelled to pray for my stepdad instead of hating him. I no longer looked at him as a villain. He was a troubled man who made terrible mistakes. There is no excuse for what he did to me, but harboring hate towards him doesn’t make me feel any better. It doesn’t remove pain, it exacerbates it. It builds a wall, trapping me inside.
Unveiling my scars to people who may be looking for hope, answers or closure, has given me a sense of healing that not only helps me but also helps others. I am now absent of self-destructive resentment, which has given me strength to move on and strength to let go of my past.
Deun Ivory is a photographer, illustrator and writer. Her passion for the arts, the gospel and the black aesthetic serves as a huge inspiration for many of her art pieces. She uses visuals to communicate her interpretation of beauty, truth and grace. With a distinct style of unorthodox minimalism in both, photography and illustrations, she has managed to form her own creative lane. View her work and follow her here: Deunivory.me, Instagram: @Deunivory
By Krista White
“Allow your body to show you what it can do.” In other words, focus and have faith. These words of encouragement from my barre instructor have become a bit of an exercise mantra for me as of late. I repeat them to myself as I push through a difficult core workout, a half-grin, half-grimace plastered on my face. I repeat them to myself during a tough pose in hot yoga, when my hands can barely grip the mat and I fear I will collapse from heat stroke. (I have a propensity towards theatrics).
In my work life, I’ve adopted a modified version of that phrase: “Allow your mind to show you what it can do.” In other words, focus and have faith. As a writer and PR professional, I spend a lot of time in my own brain. As a result, I hardly ever feel like anything is quite done. This restlessness can at times be a satisfying source of ambition, propelling me towards excellence and growth. But as a recovering perfectionist, I also clasp fiercely to the idea of doing everything right all the time. It’s overwhelming, unattainable and endlessly frustrating. Though I know as a human I am inherently flawed, though I know I must be kind to myself in order to thrive, self-love still faces self-loathing at every turn.
I hold a lot of this self-directed anger in my body. It takes up residence next door to my banal annoyances and kitty-corner from my existential fury at the world’s injustice. This noxious and admittedly nebulous cloud of dark emotion is bottled tight inside of me, escaping in small vapors as headaches or tears. I fear what could happen if the lid is popped off altogether.
Last January, I discovered an unexpected respite from all this in a dark basement studio with flashing lights, stationary bikes and an ample selection of Flo Rida songs. I started working out more frequently in the past year, particularly falling in love with spin class. It’s not something I would have expected to enjoy, being a generally cardio-averse person, but the challenge of keeping up with the club beats was exhilarating. At first it was about becoming acquainted with the bike and reacquainted with my body. I spend a lot of time sitting, so I was somewhat astonished at how much endurance I was able to build in a short time. As I grew more comfortable with the movements and was able to make it through an entire class (well, almost) without stopping, I found myself relaxing into a focused mental space. When I am completely absorbed by the motion of my legs and the reliable thrum of my heart, I have no more emotional bandwidth to suppress my anger. The most curious thing happens. My anger, recognized, reconciled, released, feels an awful lot like power. I grin, sweat dripping down my face as we near the end of class.
I’m allowing my body to heal my spirit, slowly but surely. I’m biking my way to self-actualization.
Krista White recently returned to the Bay Area after graduating from Columbia University, and is more than happy to have a snow-less winter. She is deeply passionate about the issues faced by women of color and how their unique backgrounds interact with the arts and society. To the dismay of those who doubted the utility of her theatre degree, Krista works at performing arts PR firm in Silicon Valley. When she isn't busy sending emails or sitting in the Bay Area's hellish traffic, Krista spends her time writing short plays, reading long-form journalism and planning her next big trip. Krista loves musical theatre, Nora Ephron movies and binge-watching The X-Files. Her daily musings can be found on her blog, where she writes about theatre, travel and the most recent episode of How to Get Away with Murder. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @kristanicki.
By LeeAnn Chisolm
Hippocrates said it best. Food is our original source of medicine. But today we’ve literally all but stripped food of its nature by prioritizing taste, look, and even convenience over purpose. Compare it to choosing a life partner for their looks over how they make you feel. Choosing the former can, and will, typically leave us unsatisfied and sometimes even ailing. This summer, I had the remarkable opportunity to immerse myself in the healing power of food at the Living Foods Institute in Atlanta, GA. Every month, people travel from around the world to take part in this transformative experience. Here, I learned that healing our bodies is the greatest act of self-love we can undergo.
In my family, growing old and growing ill are practically synonymous — one of the reasons I started on my own path to wellness. Even though I didn’t have the ailments, I was already gathering the building blocks for predisposed diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and fibroids. In hopes of furthering my own food education, I enrolled in the 10-day course at the Institute. On day one, I found myself surrounded by beautiful strangers — some local, some all the way from Australia and Nigeria. We were a hodgepodge of diverse races, ages and of varying beliefs. But at 9 a.m. on that beautiful Friday morning, we all joined together knowingly, and some unknowingly, in search of healing.
For 10 days, we spent our mornings in the kitchen, learning about and preparing raw and living foods. Our afternoons, devoted to meditation and holistic therapies. It was amazing to witness the transformation among my fellow students in only a matter of days. One person I remember in particular, was a 16-year-old young man. He and his mother came to the center as their last resort. He was suffering from cancer, and the metal plates in his legs and a pair of crutches were his only source of mobility. By day eight of the Living Foods Institute, we all rejoiced when we saw him not only walking without his crutches, but smiling and laughing — a sight we had yet to see. It was a joy that filled every student and the entire staff. In that moment, we remembered our own healing power. In that moment, miracles were within our grasp.
When I speak of the healing power of food, it is important to note that food doesn’t heal us. Our bodies do. Our bodies have the innate capacity to heal themselves. We just have to give it the proper tools. One of the most important tools is the food we eat. Is it alkaline? Is it processed? Is it living? It’s critical that we make conscious choices if our intention is healing. But consumption goes beyond what we eat. Our lives are consumption: what we see, what we hear and what we tell ourselves. We are constantly being fed information that can either hurt us (physically, emotionally or mentally) or heal us. I like to say that with everything I think, listen to, do, eat, and say, I am affirming what I want in my life. We fill ourselves up with these small affirmations that become our thoughts and in turn become our life choices. We must actively guard our thoughts as actively as we guard our bellies. This was a key lesson at the Living Foods Institute. While we can restore balance in our bodies, illness can often reemerge if “dis-ease” still exists in our hearts and in our minds. Healing is and can only be holistic.
It’s so consuming to be ill, to be stressed, to be lethargic. It gives us little time to be great. When we feel our best, we can give all of our gifts and talents to the world unrestrictedly. That is why I choose to eat and live consciously. Because we are meant to live our very best lives. What we choose to feed our body is a radical act of self respect. So today, intend to give your whole self what it deserves. For to be healthy and to feel whole is our birthright.
LeeAnn Chisolm is a writer and an award-winning filmmaker. Born and raised in Germany, now residing in Atlanta, this self-proclaimed workaholic found her calling early on through the written word and performing arts. From photography to poetry, to dance and film, her art is a conscious effort to inspire, empower and simply be the change she wishes to see in the world. Check out LeeAnn’s latest projects on her website www.MissChisolm.com and follow her on Instagram @MissChisolm.
By Simóne Janae
The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself.
I realized this while reading one of Marianne Williamson’s books, A Return To Love. She quoted from A Course In Miracles stating, “you only receive what you give.”
So, I began to question. What do I give? Do I give well? How do I know? I asked myself these questions over and over. My present experience wasn’t feeling as good as it could. And it was in that moment that I found myself on both sides of the mirror: holding it out and viewing myself in the reflection.
What we give to our partners and to ourselves will be our experience in life. Period. I have come to understand that this giving is equally potent in thought, words and action. When I considered this further, I realized how much I was holding back from my partner; and how much more I was holding back from myself. I wasn’t being honest, I wasn’t speaking up on my own behalf. I was not confronting what I later realized I needed to accept in order to legitimately let go of all I was holding onto out of comfort. I rested very easily in my past and quite often experienced so much of what I didn’t want, over and over. I received exactly what I was giving — nothing.
So, I dove further into the book. If in fact I am the cause and the effect is my experience, then I do have choices to make. I don’t have to be the effect of my own lovelessness, let alone someone else’s. I prayed. I meditated. I asked. Clarity, vision, courage — everything and anything I could imagine — was my desire. I felt desperate to change my present surrounding. But, like Williamson often writes about, it wasn’t so much me praying to change the outside. I needed to pause and focus on what was on the inside.
That’s where my real stuff lived.
Habitually, my initial instinct was to focus on the pain. Where was it coming from? Who was causing it? What was the root?
Still outside of myself.
I then talked to my partner. I asked all the obvious who, what, when, where, why and how questions.
Still outside of myself.
This was me not “giving” again. I can’t tell you how long my misunderstanding of Williamson’s words lasted, but I finally got it.
Enter more research: the Latin root of the word relationship happens to mean “bringing back, restoring.” I found this to be incredibly beautiful. When we heal through relationship with another person, essentially, how we choose to heal, becomes our experience with that person. Does our presence bring them back to the truth in which they are? Does their presence bring us back to the truth in which we are? Wrapping my brain around this idea was tough. With all the history, arguments, bliss, hurt and happiness, there had been some serious stretching. I didn’t know it then, but I was growing.
The healing came in the moment I read Williamson’s words again, “you only receive what you give.” She would call that moment a miracle or a mental shift from fear to love. Yes, I was resistant at first. I was scared. That was the moment I became aware of my Self, the Divine being within that is whole, complete and perfect. I took notice of the love I would later choose to give without fear and it happened.
See, the inevitable approached and I chose to let it. My healing came in the chaos, the drama, the frustration, loud voices and silent drives to my favorite spot. My world was breaking apart. My comfort was being ripped from under me and I stood naked, in all my ugly truth. I had seen myself for the first time in, well, ever.
No blinders anymore, I saw a world that no longer worked for me. I needed out and space to reclaim who I was. And the best part wasn’t that I could blame and point fingers at my partner with all my newfound clarity. No! The best part was that I had finally entered into a realm of acceptance. I had made poor choices, I hurt people, I manipulated, I was selfish — it was time to accept my behavior and release it. I started by forgiving myself. From those I could, I apologized and asked for forgiveness with the intention that they may release me too, when ready. The breaking up of my cozy little world, though painful, let in so much light. With my hands attempting to cover the glare, I approached the glow and found my restoration.
With patience, compassion and love, we must be our own light. Our only function in relationships, be them romantic, familial or platonic, are to be the reflection or the mirror and the demonstrated answer while being the light, love and truth inherent IN us all.
Simóne Janae is from Harrisburg, PA and resides in Los Angeles. She is a film marketing manager by trade, growing, listening and learning with every step. She enjoys leveraging and being a space holder for creative brilliance; one project at a time. Follow her on Instagram: @les.bones.
By Sierra King
72% of our body consists of water. I believe 100% of it can be healed as water. Since birth we have been blessed by water, drank water, found solace in water — and in our growing years, we return to it.
As women, often times the only peace that we may find is in water. Strong is the water, as is the woman. Calm is the water, as is the woman.
Sierra King is a recent graduate of Valdosta State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art. She works closely with digital and film photography. As a Black female photographer, it is her goal to accurately portray the conversations and stories of her people, community and experience. She believes in the importance of understanding where the culture began and where the culture that is thriving, living and breathing now. Sierra enjoys giving her time to places and people that are full of life, music and art. View her online photography portfolio and follow her on Twitter: @SIERRACHAS
By Zakkiyyah Najeebah, Black Girl In Om Art Director
It was just last week that I finally admitted to myself: I have, in fact, not healed in the ways that I had “planned” or set up for myself. Yet, I’m taking the necessary actions.
My healing process was not brought on by a “plan”, but by a heightened awareness of myself and loved ones who hold me accountable for my actions. An extension of my healing process involves openly admitting what it is I’m taking strides to heal from, that being:
Internalized self hatred
Spurts of depression
Inflicting emotional and physical abuse in my romantic relationships
Do we talk enough about what it is we are actually healing from? Do we share how some of us are actually in the process of healing ourselves from our own self harm (spiritually, physically, and mentally)? It’s critical that we be bold and honest about our truths and how that contributes to our transformation.
In the realm of self-care and self-love language, I hear the term “heal/-ing” quite often. As if the process or act of healing is some romanticized notion in which you are left unscathed or have created a type of “normalcy” for yourself. I used to think that even yoga and meditation would act as a sort of erasure for pain and suffering, rather than utilizing those methods to confront my fears and traumas. My process also involves:
Considering the consequences of my actions
Writing myself love notes
Speaking words of affirmation for myself
Speaking my truth, even if it scares me
Practicing small acts of kindness that embody what I would like to receive from others
Learning how to listen…tentatively to others and myself.
I have not perfected any of these, but the feeling of progress definitely puts a smile on my face.
“Healing” is one of the ugliest, most painful proactive processes I’ve ever endured. Healing isn’t just something that’s discussed amongst your peers or in groups…it’s what you do. It’s what you practice. It’s how you feel. It’s what you care about. It’s how you dictate your choices. As someone, like most of us, who is healing from various things, this act of self preservation requires brutal self honesty. In order to heal ourselves and aid in the healing of those around us, the ugly parts must be exposed. Re-emerging and the process of transformative healing aren’t meant to be pretty at all. It’s meant to be bare, honest and self revealing.
I took it upon myself to produce these self portraits at a time where I had finally reached the point in which I was ready to uncover the ugly…embrace it, and shift it. It was on my mother’s couch that I, only partially, began to heal…