I belong here — in this body, in this country, in this world.

I’ll begin with a confession: I haven’t always loved my Blackness.

Most of the years I’ve lived on this planet have been spent assimilating into the very white spaces I’ve occupied. This has inevitably meant a gradual and calculated shrinking of my Blackness.

I’ve filled my high school closet with preppy clothes, learned to talk like the white girls, joined social circles in which I was the only brown person, and flat ironed my curls until they were pin straight.

When I began the essay collection that would become my graduate thesis, I started peeling back the layers of my assimilation. I was trying to gain a deeper understanding of how and why I tried to embody whiteness in a body that has and will always be brown.

I questioned everything: Why did I feel the need to straighten my hair every day? Why didn’t I have any Black friends? Why did I only play with white Barbie dolls as a child?

At the root of my interrogation was this singular question: Why didn’t I love my Blackness?

This is a question I’ll continue to wrestle with for my entire life. The bottom line is that my internal excavation took me on a years-long journey of exploring, accepting, and finally embracing my Blackness.

I’ve learned how to love and nurture my curly hair in its natural state. I’ve flooded my shelves with books by Black writers who’ve taught me how to access beauty and power in my own racial identity.

Thanks to writing, therapy, and a supportive network, I’ve found pride in my Blackness.

The dark irony is that while I was finally arriving at a place of love for my Blackness, the country I call home was displaying what felt like a growing sense of anti-Blackness.

I don’t need to read headlines to understand that racism and anti-Black systems exist in the world. This is not news to me.

Reading the news is like watching the United States burst at the seams, revealing the many layers of systemic oppression and anti-Blackness that are woven into the centuries-old fabric of this country.

With every injustice, I am reminded why the language Black Lives Matter (BLM) is precisely the language we need right now.

What lies at the core of it all — the police brutality, healthcare inequalities, incarceration rates, redlining, (the list goes on) — is the belief that Black lives matter less in America.

In response to these injustices, I, like many, have found ways to use my time and resources to support BLM.

Resistance happens on many levels.

In addition to donating money, contacting senators, supporting Black-owned businesses, and championing topics of race and diversity in my everyday conversations, I’ve also found power invoking resistance on a mind-body level.

In a world that diminishes the value of the Black body, showing my body radical love becomes a form of resistance. You can also show your body this radical love.

Here’s what I’ve found power in.

Affirming my body through body scan meditation

When confronted with today’s violence against Black bodies, it can be helpful to speak affirmations of love and strength over your body. I’ve been doing this through body scan meditations.

Lying down with my eyes closed, I bring awareness to various parts of my body, I notice any sensations that arise, and also acknowledge the strength and vitality I feel in my body.

As I focus on specific areas, I notice how each part of me takes up physical space. I tell myself that my body is worthy of taking up space.

Meditation can foster a greater sense of self-compassion. In a country built on systems that show little to no compassion toward its Black communities, meditation becomes a quiet, yet powerful form of resistance.

Finding strength in fitness

I’ve always loved running. The combination of endorphins, music, and challenging my body mile after mile makes me feel like the strongest person on earth.

But the murder of Ahmaud Arbery has forever changed the meaning of “going for a jog” for me.

Running while Black now carries the symbolism of resistance. I acknowledge that there’s a danger that comes with running while Black, even more so for Black men. I’m not dismissing the realities of this danger, but I’m also not retreating because of it.

To run while Black is to resist white intimidation. It is to say, “you will not terrorize me out of caring for my body and building strength.”

You don’t have to be a runner to tap into the transformative power of fitness. Whatever your exercise of choice is, commit to doing it for yourself — for your body — and acknowledge that in doing so, you’re actively engaged in resistance.

You are enacting the truth that your health matters. Your life matters.

Physical intimacy

No matter what this world tries to tell you, Black bodies are deserving of love, touch, and pleasure.

After learning about the death of George Floyd, I spent over a week feeling numb in my body. Dissociated and disconnected, I became less attuned to my body’s needs.

Physical touch brought me back.

Being intimate with my partner was a way for me to invite awareness, pleasure, and energy back into my body. Giving and receiving touch helped me reconnect with my body and show my body that it’s worthy of love, even when images of Black bodies in the media tell me otherwise.

Anyone can connect with their body through touch and pleasure. You don’t need a partner to make this happen.

Dancing for joy

I used to see dancing as something I did for fun. Now, I see it as a way to reclaim Black joy.

There was only so much injustice I could witness before my access to joy started to constrict.

There’s no doubting that the realities of anti-Blackness in America are heartbreaking and heavy, and we all need to sit with these truths and let them sink in — but I will no longer allow systems of oppression to rob me of my joy.

Enter: living room dance sessions.

A couple of times a week I’ll put on some music and dance in my living room until I’m sweaty, out of breath, and smiling from ear to ear.

Dancing is my way of making space for joy — both with my body and in my body.

If you can’t remember the last time you danced, maybe it’s time.

Let your body expand. Let it take up space, and then more space, and even more space. Dance to reclaim what is rightfully yours: the right to move freely, to live, and be joyful.

Showing my body love is not only empowering, it is essential.

In the face of anti-Blackness, building practices into my life that foster love, strength, and joy in my body helps enact the things I know to be true: that I belong here — in this body, in this country, in this world.