Posted by: Nicky Lawrence
Identifying as a Black Canadian means there is an immeasurable amount of pressure and expectation on us in any given situation, day to day. From the moment we wake up and leave our homes there is an unspoken fear that awaits us in the world we inhabit. Add working in the entertainment industry – that pressure can build up and weigh heavily on an already anxious mind. The popular thoughts of “pushing through” and “being strong” have long darkened the door of Black folks, leading to the lack of resources specific to Black people and their mental health. We falter and stumble in scenarios where we should thrive because we are too busy surviving the ills of a society laced with institutional racist ideologies; a society not designed for us in the first place. While the nature of the pandemic has isolated us from one another and kept us in our homes, the Black community is once again advocating for itself, and has begun a conversation about mental health; about the specific ways in which it can help Black performers. Having been run down and depleted from working in the industry, I took the time to rest, reflect, and find peace within myself. It is my hope that these words allow you to take the first steps towards centering yourself around your needs and prioritizing yourself within your Blackness.
The consistent flow of tragic news in our feed is grotesque at best, and feeds the narrative that our lives as Black people are secondary simply because of the colour of our skin. From the blinding of Dafonte Miller, to the deplorable murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ma’khia Bryant, among others, we are bombarded with images of our bodies being treated as less than, and our lives deemed as worthless. It can lead us to feel like we are under attack on a daily basis. Who among us could live such a life without feeling the trauma seep into every fibre of our being. How does one then concentrate on creating art and making a living while feeling the sting of the violence committed against us? With so much collective suffering to unpack, it’s enough to make the strongest of us buckle. While all of this can be mentally overwhelming, I encourage you all to shift your focus and energy to the positive outcomes that resulted from our valiant collective efforts as Black people in entertainment. Bathe and revel in the glory of our stunning history as Black Canadians, and allow it to provide you with the salve needed to get through a rough day, week, month or year. Take the time to explore, recognize and accept that we have gotten this far, and that the spirit of our people cannot be quieted no matter what hardships we face, and that we no longer need to endure perilous times without help. Little by little, the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community is being lifted, allowing light to shine where there once was darkness.
It is important to face your trauma and tap into it with a clear objective of no longer allowing it to control you. As Black creators we go into the depths of our souls to bring out the beautiful art which resides inside. While this can be taxing on a good day, and feel like a lonely space to start from, the resilience we were gifted from our ancestors is where one should look for the strength and answers we need to push through. For many years I have looked for and focused on the joys hidden within the trials and tribulations our people have faced, and it is my hope that you can find solace in the same space. When we bathe in our Blackness we tap into untold rewards waiting on the other side. Taking care of yourself is the key to longevity, and taking care of your mental health requires us to look inward for the answers we all seek. There is magic in who we are as a people, which is often forgotten when stress hits and the pace of the world is at mach speed. Be kind to yourself. Although the system wasn’t built for us, we still have the power to take the steps required to make sure we can function efficiently and thrive regardless. Your mental health matters to me, and to those in the community who you may have a connection to but don’t yet know it. We are all in need of rest, reflection and peace, and I hope that sharing my own experience helps you to find some solace in the chaos of being Black in entertainment. You are enough and you have enough, our people have shown us that for centuries.
BATHE IN YOUR BLACKNESS
– Do your research and educate yourself
– Start by spending time getting to know the black history in your geographic area
– Familiarize yourself with and embody the resilient nature of the Black men and women who forged a path in Canada and around the world
– Who are the Black musicians and artists you admire from the past and present?
– Who and what inspires you to be great?
– Its is never to late to start where you are
– Talk and be vocal about exhaustion with your friends
– Set boundaries with your time
– Take care of your needs without feeling guilty
– Allow stillness to be your friend
– Focus on embracing downtime
– Stay off social media for the day/week
– Forgive yourself for any and all mental transgressions
– Recognize the power of rest and relaxation
– Reach out to black performers and allies in your community who have had similar experiences
– Study the successful habits of those you admire and look up to, and begin to reflect on how to employ these habits in your own life
– Block out the noise with a favourite book and afternoon siesta
– Enjoy the present moment
– Use your breath to guide you and allow space for reflection
– Lean into your fear it does not control you
– Enjoy your and protect your privacy
– Keep a piece of you away from the public eye
– Listen to the voices asking you to slow down
– Spend time in Nature
– Look for the lessons
– Be intentional in your service to others
About the Author
Nicky Lawrence is a moody, tender, tour de force of a performer and vocal artist. Moved to sing by the black women who sang before her and who continue to sing within her, Lawrence’s voice will grab you by the throat with the force of its pain, beauty, rage and ultimately—love. Brimming with the longing, courage and despair of her jazz and blues heroes—Nina, Etta, Ella—Lawrence’s original songs are devastatingly elegant and sensual, lit by the fires of the past alongside the aching light and hope of the future. Lawrence’s vocals are redemptive; with the release of her single, The Ugly Black Woman, Toronto audiences are invited to witness an excavation of truth and history that will cut the heart open and begin to heal us all.