Black Joy

Skate to heal. Paint to feel | Black Joy – July 1, 2022

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July is BIPOC Mental Health Month, when we talk about mental health from a racial lens. As we all know Black, indigenous, people of color have been terrorized by colonialism and white supremacy. Which is why it is important to focus on our experiences to promote more racial healing for ourselves and our communities.

Last week, I talked to a marriage and family therapist student about self-care tips for when times get tough. This week, I reached out to two people who take pride in their therapeutic hobbies: skating and painting.

Forward this email to your friends and fam so we can all take care of our mental health together.

– Starr

Skate to me, darling

How many of y’all have fond memories of the skating rink?

For me, the skating rink is one of the stomping grounds of my childhood. It was one of the first places where my mom would let me hang out with my friends unsupervised. So it became a safe space for all of our joy (and ratchetness, if I am honest) – where we coasted to the groove of our favorite tunes and stuffed our faces with those Sour Punch straws.

Skating has become a form of therapy for 30-year-old Dasia Washington, who was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seven years ago. She has blessed the Gram and YouTube with her videos of Black vulnerability, softness and strength (she also does CrossFit!). Her melanin glows in the sunlight as she glides across the floor to positive affirmations or beats to her favorite bops. A few of my favorite lines of encouragement from her videos:

Dasia just started skating in Jan 2021, but she already has more than 71,000 fans on Instagram. She’s also sharing her skills through a beginner skater course (She also has a freebie course for those who may be a little timid about skating.)

“My Instagram is for everyone, but I love it especially for Black women because I feel like we grew up with a lot of BS that doesn’t really encourage Black women to move their bodies,” Dasia said. “I was one of those people who was way more worried about getting my hair wet or sweating a perm out than I was like exercising. But moving my body changed my life. It matters.”

Dasia is a California girl who moved cross-country to Nashville, Tenn., near the end of 2018. She lived in Music City for three years before settling into her current home in Chattanooga, Tenn. Her migration to the South was both physical and spiritual in nature. After getting out of an unhealthy relationship, Dasia found herself tired of living a life as a puppet to other people’s opinions. She felt like she lacked a sense of self and she was stuck in a cycle of negative thinking.  She decided to start moving her body more and build a life for herself that was based on her values: to leave people in better spaces than where you found them, to be a person who is precise with her words and to view herself as her own competition.

While the South helped her find home within herself, her ADHD diagnosis helped her along her journey of self-discovery. She started bullet journaling to figure out her work struggles. She learned that her to-do lists for the day didn’t match the lists of distractions she entertained. When she got her diagnosis, she felt more relief than anxiety.

“I thought, ‘Well, I know the name of the beast. So now I can do something about it.’ versus just thinking that something is wrong with me,” Dasia said. “I feel like a lot of times in the Black community, anything mental is like, ‘Oh, that’s white people shit.’ It wasn’t in the frame of possibility that something additional was going on. It was just like, ‘Well, you just need to sit down somewhere.’”

The hyper fixation that sometimes comes with ADHD led Dasia to her love of skating. Hyper fixation happens when someone’s attention becomes so laser focused on a skill, hobby, TV Show, etc., they lose track of time and eventually become bored of the task.

Hyper focusing on journaling helped identify Dasia’s diagnosis and revealed an infatuation with exercising. Exercising later morphed into a love of running, which dominated her life to the point that she ran a 30-mile race. She twisted her ankle during a trail run in 2021. After the healing process, Dasia was looking for a new way to get in some cardio. So she picked up a pair of skates and decided to try it out. She’s been hooked ever since then.

When it comes to hyper fixation, Dasia encourages others with ADHD to embrace that part of their journeys.

“I’ve just learned to accept that we all have phases,” Dasia said. “It’s like, ‘What phase is this, and how long do I get to keep it? Hold on to it while you still have it, and then appreciate that you have it.”

Dasia is very transparent about her slips and falls while skating. But the good thing about skating is that, as long as you get back up, you will get better at it. And that helps with ADHD.

“A huge part of ADHD is that you’re chasing dopamine hits,” Dasia said. “A lot of ADHD people experience issues with keeping up with projects or things like that because they like the initial dopamine of like starting a project, but then it’s difficult to maintain it and it dies off. Skating was immediately responsive to me because every single time I get on skates, I get better.”

Dasia is very transparent about her slips and falls while skating. But as long as you get back up, you will get better at skating, Dasia said. And that helps with ADHD.

“But once I got better at skating, I can just turn my brain off,” she said. “I can go into cruise control and just play music in my ears and float. It’s so quiet.”

She started feeling the therapeutic effects of skating in November, when she found herself connecting to her emotions and her body as she was cruising to the music with a clear mind and tears rolling down her face.  Dasia said she was encouraged to disconnect from her emotions growing up.

“I was always taught that children are seen and not heard,” Dasia said. “You didn’t talk about things you were struggling with because you can handle it. You’re strong enough to do it. But what if you’re not though? It’s not really talked about in the Black community.”

Dasia gets choked up when she talks about people who message her on Instagram about how she inspired them to find happiness on wheels.

“People have hard lives. And if they can find joy in 15 minutes of roller skating then I encourage that,” she said. “People are learning to like themselves and like who they are. When you like who you are then you have more to give. You can pour from a full cup.”

Paint to heal

When Trevor Hughes found healing through painting, he was being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and addiction at a Department of Veteran Affairs facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

It was 2019, 13 years since his tour in Iraq. But he was just getting treatment for the battlefield that was going on in his mind. The Army veteran was looking for an outlet for his emotions during his treatment. So he asked the facility if he was able to paint in his room. It gave him space to tap into his imagination and clear his head like he did when he was a kid.

“No matter how far I got away from it, I would always come back to my art some kind of way,” Trevor said. “It just stuck with me as I got older.”

Art is a favorite past time of Trevor’s. Inspired by Bob Ross and the hip hop music he listened to while growing up in the 80s in Huntsville, Ala., he started doodling in school. He was so talented that his friends would challenge him to drawing contests in the classroom. When his teacher caught him drawing in class, she didn’t send him to the principal’s office. He was sent to the art teacher who took him under his wing. It also was a way for him to connect with his grandmother who encouraged his artwork.

“I used to sit at her table for hours, and hours just drawing while she would be in the kitchen cooking,” Trevor said. “That would be our time together. She was cooking and creating. I was drawing and creating.”

No matter the hardship, art always gave Trevor a soft space to land. When his time in the military came to an end and he didn’t have a job, he started painting artwork on T-shirts to make some extra cash. While he still sells his artwork, his creative process now takes more of a healing approach. He picks out a few colors that inspire him and then connects with his emotions as he starts building the background of his painting by putting a swirl of color here and a splash of color there on the canvas. Once he starts seeing images in the colors, then he gets an idea of what or who he is going to paint.  For the most part, his favorite mediums are acrylic and spray paint, however he is dabbling in black light paint.

His work is starting to get more and more attention. He was featured in a Black History Month gallery in Huntsville Hospital and was one of the vendors during the city’s Juneteenth festival last month. He would like to start a painting class to keep the kids off the street and to help other veterans find healing just like he did: through therapy and painting.

“You don’t have to be ashamed if you need to go get some help,” he said. “I believe in Jesus Christ, and I also believe that God put people in place to help you. Those are the ones who are gonna make you more productive as a person and help you cope with what you’re going through.”

Along with pulling from his emotions, he said he also is inspired by our own Black experience. You can check out his work on Instagram and Facebook. Here is some of Trevor’s artwork and how Black culture inspired them:

When Trevor Hughes found healing through painting, he was being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and addiction at a Department of Veteran Affairs facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

It was 2019, 13 years since his tour in Iraq. But he was just getting treatment for the battlefield that was going on in his mind. The Army veteran was looking for an outlet for his emotions during his treatment. So he asked the facility if he was able to paint in his room. It gave him space to tap into his imagination and clear his head like he did when he was a kid.

“No matter how far I got away from it, I would always come back to my art some kind of way,” Trevor said. “It just stuck with me as I got older.”

Art is a favorite past time of Trevor’s. Inspired by Bob Ross and the hip hop music he listened to while growing up in the 80s in Huntsville, Ala., he started doodling in school. He was so talented that his friends would challenge him to drawing contests in the classroom. When his teacher caught him drawing in class, she didn’t send him to the principal’s office. He was sent to the art teacher who took him under his wing. It also was a way for him to connect with his grandmother who encouraged his artwork.

“I used to sit at her table for hours, and hours just drawing while she would be in the kitchen cooking,” Trevor said. “That would be our time together. She was cooking and creating. I was drawing and creating.”

No matter the hardship, art always gave Trevor a soft space to land. When his time in the military came to an end and he didn’t have a job, he started painting artwork on T-shirts to make some extra cash. While he still sells his artwork, his creative process now takes more of a healing approach. He picks out a few colors that inspire him and then connects with his emotions as he starts building the background of his painting by putting a swirl of color here and a splash of color there on the canvas. Once he starts seeing images in the colors, then he gets an idea of what or who he is going to paint.  For the most part, his favorite mediums are acrylic and spray paint, however he is dabbling in black light paint.

His work is starting to get more and more attention. He was featured in a Black History Month gallery in Huntsville Hospital and was one of the vendors during the city’s Juneteenth festival last month. He would like to start a painting class to keep the kids off the street and to help other veterans find healing just like he did: through therapy and painting.

“You don’t have to be ashamed if you need to go get some help,” he said. “I believe in Jesus Christ, and I also believe that God put people in place to help you. Those are the ones who are gonna make you more productive as a person and help you cope with what you’re going through.”

Along with pulling from his emotions, he said he also is inspired by our own Black experience. You can check out his work on Instagram and Facebook. Here is some of Trevor’s artwork and how Black culture inspired them:

Melanin Baby: “Inspired by a picture I saw of someone’s daughter. Her energy was powerful and it spoke to me. It was a reminder that our youth is the future and they need us to be strong so they can have a chance at life.”

Hold on: I created this piece to inspire people to never give up on your dreams, your visions for life or yourself. No matter how hard life gets, you must hold on. It’s also meant to inspire people to help others in their time of need instead of pulling each other down.”

Go heal by spreading the Black joy! See ya’ Friday!

The Reckon Report.
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