When I had the privilege of studying abroad in Barcelona, I had a moment where my concept of normality was challenged. Two different cities, two different ways of breathing. I remember I went to a café to order a coffee to go, “me pones un café por favor para llevar?”. Then I took a moment and realized the people to my left and my right. Almost everyone ordered their coffee to stay – even if it was just for two minutes. I remember going back to my professor and asking her about this, and she explained how the simple thing to me, like getting a coffee to go, is taboo. I had a moment of realization that it was deeply ingrained in me that a break had to be deserved. Coffee was a tool to keep going. To keep the tempo. But just like caffeine, we start to burnout.
Society has made it okay to stay in a constant state in the absence of the body. So much that it becomes a privilege to find it again. Corporations have made monetary gains by this disconnection, making wellness something out of reach. Therapy is the price of some people’s monthly grocery expenses. “In most areas of the country, a person can expect to pay $100-$200 per session.” (goodtherapy.org). Dualed with the high prices for movement classes, MarketWatch states from a study on a group of 1,350 US adults aged 18 to 65, and found “that the average American spends $155 per month on their health and fitness”. This year the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study that “median weekly earnings of Blacks ($792) and Hispanics ($742) working full-time jobs were lower than those of Whites ($1,007)…”. Looking at these studies and how the price of wellness has continued to skyrocket, it is becoming increasingly harder for everyday people (disproportionally Black and Brown people) to afford access to the tools to take care of ourselves.
It is essential to look at wellness through the lens of environmental injustices. Particularly in New York City, parks and well-funded recreation centers are disproportionately in high-income white neighborhoods. According to the NYTimes, “At the height of the pandemic, more than 1.1 million New Yorkers did not have access to any park within a 10-minute walk of where they lived”. The wellness of Black and Brown people should be as essential and as accessible.
Intertwined with mental health is physical health. The food apartheids in low-income communities systematically hinder the way people fuel their brains, hearts, and body. Food apartheid is deeply intertwined with socioeconomic and racial lines. “An estimated 750,000 New York City residents live in food deserts… but the disappearance of urban grocery stores has had the most serious impact on low-income communities, especially those that are predominantly African-American (such East/Central Harlem and North/Central Brooklyn)” states Foodispower.org in a study. When these walls are in your way, you inevitably lose touch with your body. It is also capitalism in action to blame your inability to take care of yourself on something you did when it’s due to systems in place that prevent access to these tools.
Regarding Self, a platform that radically combats the ways that we access wellness and our bodies. A Black Women-Owned business focuses on honoring the present Self and creating a space where Black and Brown People can heal. Leah Tubbs, born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, created a space that honors you and your journey to acknowledge your self-worth. A dancer since the age of three, Leah has picked up many skills to help others through her journey. She currently lives in New York City and is expanding this platform day by day.
In discussion with Leah Tubbs, she talks about how we often carry the world on our shoulders, feeling like we have to ask permission to heal, stop, and breathe. With many wellness spaces branding themselves to a white demographic, she ponders this situation by questioning the following; “How can they understand how to be in this body?” “Who are they serving?”.
She states that “there needs to be a liberation of movement.” Our bodies hold a story, past and present. Leah explains to me how dance and movement are tools of storytelling. Movement, particularly for the Black Community, is intertwined with our existence through oppression.
Regarding Self is focused on helping your body in its present moment through all four angles – Physically, Mentally, Spiritually, and Emotionally. “We need to see our health as legacy wealth”, Leah says. Leah’s goal is for participants to learn the tools to be able to be yourself fully and unapologetically. Through this pandemic and isolation, she was able to create something with deep connection and community. Through a sliding scale, she is focusing on inclusion and accessibility. Leah Tubbs is further expanding with a new program called “Movement and Mindfulness” in the upcoming month. Movement + Mindfulness is a one-hour health & wellness experience to ignite your four bodies: Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, & Physical. It consists of an affirmation, a 45 minute Strength or Sculpt class (high energy, low impact bodyweight exercises with options provided for all fitness levels), breathwork and a meditation. This bi-monthly class will begin on Saturday, April 24th at noon via Zoom and costs $15 with access to the live-recorded class.
Leah discussed the many ways our society has capitalized off the inaccessibility to tools of mental and physical wellness, making individuals struggle to understand how to exist in the bodies we were all given without question. These expectations and pressures we have on ourselves are based on standards that are socially constructed. However, its implementation and long-term effect on our body, mind and overall existence are completely based on reality. We must learn how to dismantle these social constructions of toxic productivity and mentality that we have to work to deserve taking a break — disconnecting from the thought that wellness is a privilege, meant only for specific groups of people. We are learning to take a coffee break once in a while. It is powerful to stand up for the well-being of yourself and others. Regarding Self is getting us one step closer to a world where self-preservation won’t be radical but average and habitual.
Check out Regarding Self!
Mayana is a born and raised Brooklyn gal with strong Black and Latina roots. Her roots serve as the basis for her commitment to nature, wellness, and community. She is a Multidisciplinary Artist and Student Activist using different avenues of creation to not only tell her story, but amplify the ones of her community. Mayana uses her voice and passions to spread light and joy while also creating content based on being a college student and a young woman of color. She is committed to actively promoting the knowledge and mindset that supports global awareness of environmental and racial injustices.
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