Body PoliticsWe See You

morgan dixon wants black women to feel pleasure

August 30, 2019
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My mother scrubbed floors to put herself through school and give her family a comfortable life. Her mother did the same, a generation of Black women living on their knees in service of others.

Now my mother seems almost pathologically disinterested in physical activity. Don’t ask her to go for a walk, she doesn’t want to. That morning yoga class? It’s always gonna be a hard no. On the one hand, it makes sense, after a life spent working hard, when the day is done, all her body wants to do is collapse. Her physical body becomes a vessel for labor, followed by sleep in service of providing more labor on an exhausting and continuous loop.

Black women are the backbone of this country and our families. And on top of that, the near daily trauma of being a Black woman can sometimes necessitate a kind of detachment from the physical body. But if we’re training our physical selves to be used to work and trauma, when do we reconnect rejuvenating rest? Relaxation? And most importantly, physical pleasure?

In service of this mission, Morgan Dixon cofounded GirlTrek, the largest Black women’s health organization in the country. But for Dixon, health isn’t just about green juices and yoga, the health of Black women is linked closely to human and civil rights and is rooted in Black women’s history of organizing. “All roads to social change lead back to the health of Black women,” she told me in a phone conversation. Dixon is busy. We talk on the phone from Ghana, and she’s gearing up to fly across the world to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado where she’s bringing together hundreds of Black women on Labor Day to say no to the denial of our physical pleasure and wellness in an event she’s calling a Stress Protest.

Dixon got her start as a leader in education. But eventually she grew disillusioned with education. “I couldn’t talk about curriculum one more time. Half of the time our kids are being raised by Black women who are drowning by the trauma of America. Unless they have living breathing role models for what it means to thrive and be joyful, nothing else matters.” Dixon founded GirlTrek, founded on the idea that through walking, Black women could transform their physical and mental health, but also build power in their communities. She believes GirlTrek can build more powerful and healthy communities by investing in the health of Black women and girls. Dixon recalls watching Erica Garner, the daughter of the late Eric Garner, die from heart problems at 27 after spending years fighting for justice for her father. She saw it as the urgent need to center to wellness of Black women as critical for justice work.

“Where we had a setback in our civil rights history is when Black women were used up. When we died prematurely or we died early or we died in unmarked graves like Zora Neale Hurston or from heart disease in our 50s like Fannie Lou Hamer,” Dixon explains.

“While there are mass murders happening. While our president is calling out mother countries out of their names. The most radical thing we can do is not die. The most radical thing we can do is not shut down. The most radical thing we can do is laugh and make love and praise god. It’s covert and it’s radical.”

For Black women, getting rest is radical. Orgasms and sexual pleasure is radical. Saying no to the stress of having to present a certain way to be validated is radical. At the Stress Protest Dixon and GirlTrek are asking Black women to fight back by doing the radical work of centering our physical selves and pleasure.

“Every generation before me has had to detach our spirits in order to survive physically and what we are asking Black women to do is to be whole again. To reconnect. And to do it in the presence of other Black women because it’s sacred and it’s special and its secret.”

Click here for more information about GirlTrek and follow the hashtag #StressProtest