#SWAAYthenarrative

When America Catches a Cold, Black America Gets Pneumonia.

Culture

We're living in stressful times, with news about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, economic collapse, and civil unrest causing many of us to feel high levels of concern daily, if not outright, stress and anxiety. That's why it's more important than ever to take care of ourselves. We know that all of these things, from illness to job loss to systemic racism, hit the Black community harder, making it even more essential to develop a self-care routine that centers on our own physical and mental well-being in ways that are practical yet effective.

The Wonders of Routine

Routine gets a bad rap, but when the world seems to be falling around you, it keeps you moving forward because routine gives you something to focus on. The nice thing about habits is that they're flexible and can look different for everyone. What matters is that you develop one and stick to it. And it doesn't need to be anything grand or dramatic, either–anything from watering the plants every morning to meditating every afternoon can be part of your routine.

Routine gets a bad rap, but when the world seems to be falling around you, it keeps you moving forward because routine gives you something to focus on

Food as Fuel

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables that avoids processed foods is always a wise decision, and never more so than now. Your body needs vital nutrients for optimal performance of your immune system, digestive system, and even your mental health. While COVID-19 may have interrupted our usual grocery shopping and meal preparation, it also presents a chance to get creative in the kitchen, since we're all spending more time at home.

Stay Active

Now more than ever, it's critical to keep up your fitness routine. And if you don't already make exercise a regular part of your day, this is a great time to start. The release of endorphins during exercise boosts your mood while improving your cardiovascular health and supporting strong muscles and bones. Something as simple as a walk around the block or running a staircase in your home or apartment building is an easy way to begin.

The Great Outdoors

Research suggests that sunlight can also produce those endorphins that make you feel good. Even though we're all keeping our distance from each other to slow the spread of COVID-19, spending time outside can still do wonders for our mental health. Choose times to go out when you're less likely to run into others, such as early in the morning or early evenings, and be prepared with a mask to help reduce the transmission of the coronavirus.

Even though we're all keeping our distance from each other to slow the spread of COVID-19, spending time outside can still do wonders for our mental health.

Sleep Well

No one is surprised to hear that any of us are having trouble sleeping these days, but developing good sleep hygiene can help. Keep a regular bedtime and put aside your smartphone around a half-hour before bed. Take a break from the news. Spend a little time on self-care before bed. Read a book, enjoy some herbal tea, or spend time on a hobby or craft, like crosswords, puzzles, or knitting to let go of the day's challenges. Keep up these habits, and they'll soon be a signal to your brain that going to bed means going to sleep, and you may find it easier to nod off and get some quality sleep that leaves you feeling well-rested in the morning.

Be Smart About Being Social

Taking the proper precautions when interacting with others in our community is our best defense against COVID-19. Use face coverings, wash hands regularly, and stay home if you feel unwell. When outside, keep 6 feet apart wherever possible. When you can't see friends and family, reach out to them by phone, video chat, and text regularly. These times are hard on everyone, and just knowing that someone cares can go a long way in helping them manage tough times, too.

Taking good care of ourselves by prioritizing our own health and wellness in the Black community during these turbulent times will help us see it through. Small measures can have a significant positive impact on our lives. When we're at our best–physically, mentally, and emotionally–we're better prepared to work for our communities from a place of strength in hard times.

Taking good care of ourselves by prioritizing our own health and wellness in the Black community during these turbulent times will help us see it through

This article was originally published July 6, 2020.

5 min read
Self

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.