black girls picnic: a movement in collective self-care

August 23, 2016

From morning till night a Black woman’s mind is filled with thoughts on how to maintain her survival. On top of life stresses like child care, rent, bills, travel, socialising, keeping up with current affairs and exploring creativity, if we are employed, we find ourselves in White institutions, wading through the muddy waters of racism and sexism that slowly chips away at our feelings of self worth. Hyper aware of how we are being judged as being too loud, too opinionated, too sassy, too much of everything and just too Black. It’s no surprise that according to research by the Mental Health Foundation, African Caribbean people are more likely to be diagnosed with mental illnesses than any other ethnicity in the UK. As a cultural producer and feminist activist being emotionally invested in what I do can mean there is no “off” button. Burnout is something I often find myself struggling with. When this began to affect my physical and mental health I thought about ways that I could positively “do nothing” in the company of other Black women who face similar struggles.

By Chardine Taylor-Stone*, AFROPUNK contributor

I’d like to think of Black Girl’s Picnic as an act of collective self-care. The idea for BGP came from a combination of dreams, conversations, memories and inspirations. The dreams had lying on the grass and falling asleep in the sunshine. Conversations with Trans women on wanting to be in a women identified Black space without the transphobia associated with some Black women’s groups. Inspirational stories from older Black feminists about consciousness raising circles and how developing a strong and centred self is as political as any other more public act. Even when viewing with a critical eye, Beyonce’s Lemonade also played it’s role. I loved the scenes of women coming together to create a healing space. They reminded me of being a young girl watching women in the kitchen at family parties. The energy of those spaces seemed like a secret and special society filled with laughter, shooing away men who tried to cross over the threshold. It’s tales like these that Black Girl’s Picnic aims to give to others who for whatever reasons did not have those experiences. We are all metaphorical aunts, sisters, grandmothers and mothers to each other if we allow ourselves to be.

BGP is run by a group of mostly Queer Black Cis and Trans women. Keeping it DIY, free and in a format that anyone can do Black Girls Picnic is a really simple concept. Find a park, tell friends about it, ask a few women if they want to speak, perform or share skills then invite people. We have six guiding principles for new BGP organisers to maintain the original ethos of being free, trans-inclusive, accessible and promoted to all women across education, class and politics. Our first picnic took place 24th July, in Regent’s Park, London. We had headwrap tutorials, craft circles, powerful speakers and workshops. We also wore white, not only to be visible but also because the colour has significance in the syncretic religions Santeria and Candomble that our ingenious ancestors created when forced to hide their own religions in captivity. It’s a symbol of our creativity and vitality even when faced with the most nightmarish of circumstances.

Some may say “Well it’s just a picnic, how is that working towards dismantling White supremacist patriarchy?”. For us to have two police helicopters hovering above us whilst we stood in a circle and sung songs in the language of our ancestors, is evidence enough that any conscious gathering of Black women’s bodies is enough to unnerve the establishment. White supremacy needs Black women to be burdened, anxious, and filled with self-loathing to maintain it’s power over us. Creating positive and loving spaces for Black women matters. 

Black women across the UK in cities like Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds are now getting together to organise their own Black Girls Picnics. Women from Europe and America are getting in touch too! Together we are building a movement that is empowering Black women to value their time, energy and space enough to say no to others. That they are not constant sources of labour for everyone else to tap into. With Black Lives Matter, Black women are leading the defining social justice movement of our time and whilst we are fighting for all Black liberation being sure to water the root of our mental health and acknowledge our own emotional needs is important. No flower can bloom without the right care.

* Chardine Taylor-Stone is the found of Black Girl’s Picnic. To find out more about Black Girl’s Picnic or be a BGP organiser contact us here