Why rest is necessary—and radical

By TaMeicka “Ifasina” Clear

Director Culture and Healing for the Young Women’s Freedom Center

Black organizers, and leaders of communities of color who have dedicated their lives to systems change and the long, uphill walk towards liberation, have had an unrelenting year. 

Torn down by so much Black death, and raised back up by the resilience and power of Black life, we have applied our skills, wisdom, time and heart to “the movement”, the purpose that serves as a beacon for our drive, determination, and focused attention. But movement work can often be at the expense of our lives, because it is, after all, our lives that are on the line

The old adage of “it’s a marathon not a sprint” summarizes the commitment and longevity required of us to engage in movement work. We need endurance to sustain this movement and forge real and lasting liberation – yet the patient, slow approach endurance requires is rendered impossible by the urgent weight of this moment. 

At the Young Women’s Freedom Center, we understand that dedication and hard work are necessary to move forward the many areas of work that we are engaged in. We also know that rest is not a luxury; it is necessary, and it is radical. To enable and encourage our staff to be in touch with joy, and pleasure, and whatever else is conducive to their rest and endurance, we will be closing all of our offices from December 14 through January 4. 

We have shown that we can be rigorous, strategic and productive. We began this year by launching Freedom 2030, a 10-year political organizing, culture change and legislative campaign with the ultimate goal of ending the incarceration and criminalization of cis and trans women and young women, trans men and young men and gender-expansive people and the abolition of systems that harm them. We housed over 40 intergenerational cis and trans women, trans men, and gender-expansive people in an emergency housing shelter to help them survive a global pandemic. We co-sponsored several bills in the California Legislature this year to break cycles of poverty, violence, exploitation, criminalization and incarceration perpetuated by unjust systems. We have hired more than 60 new staff members across California, in the midst of an unprecedented economic downturn and unemployment.

The work is fulfilling and we are proud of all we have accomplished in a historically challenging year; but we are also emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. To continue on the long march towards freedom, liberation and self-determination for all formerly incarcerated, systems-involved cis and trans women and young women, trans men and young men, and gender-expansive people next year and beyond, we will take time to engage with all that gives our lives meaning and prioritize our wellness. 

While we rest, I invite our partners — funders, community allies, government officials, elected officers, and other members institutions critical to systemic change — to think about the ways you can show up for Black organizers and advocates of color driving the movement forward. Envision us as not just successful, but also replenished and taken care of, safe in our homes and taking our time. We ask that you take this time to send us love, donate to our work, or at the very least, allow us to rest.