- Let us never forget that the most powerful weapon of our existence is the mind, body and soul. We, as a Black people, have proved our valiant strength to fight against racial prejudice and intolerant injustices posed by white people due to our extreme intellect and knowledge of what we deserve. But our battle scars are visible, and there's no shame in admitting when we are in need of healing. Racial justice and spiritual activist, Rachel Ricketts, has dedicated her life to healing the collective divide by dismantling racism and prioritizing the needs and comfort of Black women worldwide. By getting comfortable with our discomfort, Rachel believes, is the only way we can instill a lasting and meaningful change.
In honor of Black History Month, we partnered with Rachel on a 21-Day Book Challenge to celebrate influential Black, female authors, poets, essayists and entrepreneurs who rose above our racist society to speak their truth.
- I had the pleasure to speak with Rachel on why she chose her book recommendations, the lessons she teaches in her Spiritual Activism workshops, and how Black women can advocate against racism in their personal and professional lives.
- Check out our exclusive interview with Rachel Ricketts below.
21Ninety: Why is it important for today’s Black, female authors to educate our society with stories from the Black community?
Rachel Ricketts: When Black womxn (including trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex femmes) tell their stories, be it through fact or fiction, we tell ALL of our stories. We see, hear and support one another and our healing. It is a bold and beautiful thing. It is also imperative that we take control of our own narratives or, in the words of Audre Lorde “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” White supremacy so often seeks to eat us alive but when we stand together, firm and unapologetic in our truth, we move mountains. For the first time in a long time, perhaps in history, the white community is beginning to truly listen and acknowledge the realities of racial injustice. Black womxn continue to lead and pave the way towards dismantling racist heteropatriarchy and freeing society as a whole.
21N: You published an article on HuffPost entitled, The Grief Inherent In Being Black And Feminist. It’s apparent many Black women, who are feminists themselves, can attest to these woes. Have you discovered ways to overcome this grief? And if so, how?
Photo: Rachel Ricketts / Bethany Schiedel
RR: The grief inherent in being Black and feminist is more or less the same as the grief involved in navigating a white supremacist heteropatriarchal world as Black womxn period. Overcoming grief is impossible, but we can certainly find more fruitful ways to navigate the experience. How that arises is different for every person but finding a tolerance for our discomfort is key. Learning to accept our challenging emotions, not to fight or ignore them but rather ask why they’re there and what they want us to know. And creating a practice of prioritizing OUR needs, well-being, self-care and comfort, rather than white folk or men. Black womxn are usually the first to put everyone’s needs before our own and we need to reclaim our divinity and right to joy, freedom and liberation. Joy can be a phenomenal antidote to grief.
21N: We partnered with you for a 21-Day Book Challenge to highlight influential and talented Black, female authors. What prompted you to suggest the book recommendations that you did?
RR: My top picks are the books and authors that have had the most impact on me in terms of unlearning my own internalized oppression, standing unapologetically in my bold, Black female truth and feeling understood exactly as and how I am. I grew up in a very white community and was often the only Black person for miles. For a long time, my only interaction with other Black womxn was through story and it was — and continues to be — a major source of salvation. My favorite book selections showcase Black womxn and our bravery and I hope other Black womxn see their beauty and boldness reflected in them, as I did.
Photo: Rachel Ricketts / Bethany Schiedel
21N: If you could meet one Black, female author — dead or alive — who would it be, and why?
RR: Maya Angelou. Her words resonate with me so deeply and I just want to bask in the glory of her wisdom. She also met my mother way back when and it seemed that Maya too struggled with internalized oppression, expressed during their exchange as colorism. I’d love a chance to address and unpack that with her.
21N: I understand that you are also a lawyer. What kind of law do you practice? And can you describe what led you down the path towards a career in activism?
RR: Indeed, I am a lawyer and I was born an activist. I went to law school to become an international human rights lawyer, but my mother, who had advanced multiple sclerosis, was incredibly ill during that time. As her only child and primary caretaker, I knew I was not readily equipped to take on a career fighting the injustices in the world as I had to reserve my time, energy and advocacy to fight for my mother’s rights as a single, disabled, chronically ill Black woman on social assistance. It was an incredibly hard decision but I pursued a career in corporate and entertainment law so I could earn an income sufficient to take care of both of us and take on less emotional burden.
I quit private practice after 4 years as it was soul-crushing and my mother needed more care and attention, particularly since medical racism was destroying her ability to have a decent quality of life. After helping my mother with her wish to die with dignity in 2015, I recommitted to my advocacy work and poured myself into helping heal the collective, and specifically, womxn of color, heal our hearts. I now merge my legal and anti-racism training to educate on inclusive business practices.
21N: In addition to your talents as a writer and a racial justice advocate, you also offer Spiritual Activism online workshops to help the Black community get comfortable with their discomfort surrounding racism. What are some lessons you teach during these classes?
RR: The Spiritual Activism workshops are designed specifically to support, uplift, nourish and prioritize Black and Indigenous womxn and our well-being. I do this through educating white folk on how to acknowledge and address their racism and cause us less harm as well as educating POC, specifically BIWOC, on how to address our internalized oppression and heal our hearts from the grief inherent in navigating racist heteropatriarchy. My favorite of the series is the 102 webinar for POC/Mixed Folk only, which is a brave and sacred space free from the white gaze where we can come together to further unpack the ways in which we may be perpetuating white supremacy via internalized oppression, and learn spiritual tools to honor our grief and heal our hearts.
Photo: Rachel Ricketts / Bethany Schiedel
21N: What do Black people, specifically Black women, need to do to lend their hand in the fight against racism and oppression?
RR: We need to unplug from the matrix of white supremacy and address our internalized oppression, including anti-Blackness. Our biggest contribution to racial justice is to heal from the grief, loss and trauma (ancestral and otherwise) inflicted by racist heteropatriarchy. It is deep, personal inner work and it is incredibly challenging but our healing is the only way we can free ourselves and future generations. This has to happen in tandem with white folks doing their work to tear down the systems and institutions they created to oppress us for so long.
We also need to do our part in owning our privileges and prejudices and undertaking the work to stop harming and oppressing others including the LGBTQIA+ community, gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans and intersex folks, plus size, differently abled folks, etc. and uplifting, following, learning from and supporting those in the Black community living at the intersection of various oppressions. All forms of oppression are linked and must be eradicated for any of us to truly be free.
21N: Are there any projects you are currently working on? What can we expect to see from you in 2019?
RR: I’m currently working on a book proposal for my first book which is my biggest dream, so hopefully you can expect a published book coming soon. I have an e-book, Get Spiritually Activated, with tips and tools for commencing the inner work required for racial justice that will be launching soon. And I’ll be touring the U.S in March speaking at SXSW in Austin and a bunch of other cities around the States so check my website for dates in your city. I’m always seeking more opportunities to spread this message and engage folks in this vital work so if my message resonates with you, please reach out!
Photo: Rachel Ricketts / Morgan Sessions
21N: Do you have any final advice or words of encouragement for Black women interested in becoming an advocate for racial injustice?
RR: Yes, Black womxn are so crucial to this work so if you hear the call, get quiet and still enough so you can heed to it. Those of us doing this work didn’t wake up one day and say “yeah, I think I’ll spend my life fighting white supremacy. That sounds fun.” It was a calling, and we made the tough decision to listen and proceed on the path our ancestors paved for us. It’s incredibly hard work. It can, and likely will, cost you friends, family members, time, energy and money but, if it’s done authentically and integrally, it will also set you and the collective free. If you feel passionate about the cause then join the fight. We need you and your unique voice and gifts.
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