Today, I took a short walk around my predominantly (damn near 100% except me) white, rural, mountain neighborhood. I often do not linger around the outside of my surroundings. Often the fears of what does it mean to exist in this predominantly (damn near 100% except me) white, rural, mountain neighborhood as a black body. Even outside of racial issues and the stress created from them, I am not one to linger in spaces without a purpose and sense of safety.
There was a sense of restlessness and uncertainty lingering in my body today as I couldn't ease my mind enough to move onto nor decide on the next task. So to my own surprise on this day at 4 PM, I decided to walk to my mailbox, which I usually drive to on my way to a destination. As I got closer to the mailbox, I reflected on how liberated I felt to walk through the parking lot stretching my legs in ways I have mainly deprived them of since being sheltered in place. I reflected on and acted on the urge to walk up the incline to the main road. Then I acted on the impulse to walk the curvy two lane mountain road to the near by trail where I made a circle in the trail parking lot in order to loop back around to my apartment.
In the back of my mind was the anxiety of inserting my Black body in spaces that do not feel they belong to me. Despite nature not belonging to any human, especially not non-indigenous folks. In the back of my mind I wondered if the car passing by would think ill of me or shout a comment. The thing about anxiety is we often cannot refute it or calm it without owning it or facing it. Although this is not always the case for Black bodies and the fact that my fears are so valid based on the world of "isms" I live in, no one highlighted to me in crude or silent ways that I did not belong.
The word liberation feels fitting because I felt set free from limitations and from the literal confinement of my apartment walls. However, I also felt free from the limits I place on myself to not take up too much space that would draw unwanted or even biased attention toward me. I felt free from the safety limits that other people's triggers and prejudice create silently around me.
On the walk back to my apartment, I indulged in the liberation even more. I couldn't hold in my smile. I felt proud that, Kiauhna, the girl who often attempts to make the least noise and to take up minimal space in unknown environments took that walk and felt so connected to the crisp, rainy, mountain air. Next time, I just may walk a little further. I will hold my cautions because that is what has kept me and my woman black body aware; however, I may do so with less hesitations next time.
Not only did my being and my mind feel liberated and positive, I also reconnected to the fact that White Americans do not own the outdoors or nature experiences. As a girl from Baltimore City, I inherently am not one for bugs and wildlife; however, I have appreciated their existence and their resiliency. I have always felt calmed and pleased by the softness of the rain and the fragrance of crisp air. I didn't allow myself to fully try on a closer relationship with nature until I moved to Colorado and people didn't quite understand why nature as a hobby was not something I understood nor cared to practice often. I would often hear, "well then what did you do growing up." That question would always tap into a sense of marginalization for me because it was hard to answer.
Now as I reflect, I can sit with the ways that oppression and lack of resources have played into a deficit for me in regard to connecting with nature in the ways my ancestry did long before slavery and even post. So for me this walk was an act of liberation. Liberation from COVID-19, liberation from whiteness placing it's colonized mark on spaces only owned by God, and liberation from feeling as if I cannot insert my Black body into open spaces. Nature can be so calming and healing and I deserve that too. I may not always feel this liberation but today I do and today I will cherish that.
It may not always be safe to do so Melanated and Anxious girl but I encourage you to engage in activities this week that bring you a form of liberation and reclaiming of your space. Think about what feels safe as well as growth fostering for you this week, whether it is taking a walk around outdoors, doing yoga on the porch, playing music from your car with the windows down, asserting "no" when you aren't inclined to caretake for someone else at that moment, taking a deep breath to acknowledge your humanness, or choosing to nap instead of doing one more chore that could wait.
I invite you to leave a comment about the one liberating thing you chose to do this week!