In partnership with Rachel Cargle, The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and Miir we’re giving away A Year of Rest, 365 nights in total, to those fighting for change. We’ll be sharing our recipients’ stories in the hopes of amplifying their voices and inspiring meaningful action in our community and beyond.
Here are this week’s recipients of rest as described by those who nominated them:
Chas has been on the front lines for Austin’s Black community, founding the Austin Justice Coalition, and leading protest and policy initiatives in our state capitol. He’s not afraid of the microphone, but he’s also not afraid of the pen. Chas was hands-on with the city council when it came down to writing a new police contract. He was also hands-on when it came to redirecting police funding after calls for defunding the police became louder this past summer. He’s been a tireless advocate for the Black and marginalized communities of Austin, and definitely deserves a break. After all, Austin continues to need him as his best, well-rested self.
Chanel is my friend and colleague at UC Riverside, where she works tirelessly to support the Black students, faculty, and staff all year long. She serves as the current Chair of the Black Faculty & Staff Association on campus, where she actively supports the community by holding space to share triumphs, challenges, joys, and sorrows. In partnership with Black Affinity Groups across the UC campuses and the UC-wide administration, she is also doing her best to hold the upper administration accountable for making these campuses a more welcoming and supportive space for Black scholars at all levels. She was also involved in the creation and now ongoing, Sister Lunch, a regular meeting place for Black, female-identifying campus members to connect. Always an advocate for intersectionality, Chanel has supported the establishment of a Latina and Chicana Staff and Faculty Group, as well as hosted joint events to create a community of solidarity and support. She’s done all of this while pursuing a master’s degree, advocating for her own and her fellow students’ needs, and working full-time. Chanel has accomplished so much, often with little to no support from her department—she works constantly but always makes it a priority to show up for her community. When I think of what it means to fight for racial equity, I think of Chanel.
Zel is not only an incredible asset to the BIPOC community, but a wonderful human being as well. In their work, Zel aims to provide radical anti-colonial healing communities especially curated for BIPOC and queer people. Zel harnesses the power of their Master’s in Social Justice Education and their deep study of yoga, reiki, meditation, and sound healing to create safe, collaborative, and healing spaces. I know that Chris works hard to ensure that their offerings honor the intentions of the original source/culture/people/etc, and are true to those origins so that further colonization of these practices is not perpetuated. Beyond their business, Zel is beautiful and wildly intelligent, wise beyond their years, wonderfully curious, and deeply compassionate. While they have endured an undue amount of hardships in their life, somehow Zel maintains the ability to celebrate the successes of others, and supports them in their life journey, seeming to effortlessly let go of negative feelings. Last year, Zel was accepted into a PhD program in South Africa to pursue research, and ultimately develop a truly authentic African school curriculum, pooling input from both African teachers, as well as African-American teachers. Zel had to put this dream on hold due to COVID-19, and now may never get to pursue this work. Once they realized that this PhD may never come to fruition, they began to pour their heart and soul into their business, Rest in Power Yoga and Reiki, to further their efforts in social justice education outside of the school classroom. I know for a fact that—as much as Zel tries to protect their energy—they could use space to decompress, chill, and reboot to continue the critical work they are doing for their community.
Dr. Courtney Gilliam is an inspiration to all around her; Black excellence personified. She completed her Pediatric Residency and Chief Residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH), and is now the inaugural Hospital Medicine fellow there. As a pediatrician, she not only cares for the patient and family in front of her, but also for the children and families she’ll never meet. Through her research of health inequities, she shines light on the blatant injustices Black and brown families face within our flawed healthcare system, and is unapologetic in demanding change. Currently, she and her research colleagues are reviewing every single treatment guideline within pediatrics and highlighting ways in which race is appropriately, or inappropriately, included or excluded. In her time as a resident at SCH, she traveled to Kisii, Kenya to partner with physicians and local leaders to improve health outcomes for children and their families, and to bridge our two communities. She also led the Diversity Committee’s efforts to recruit and retain physicians of color. Now as a faculty member, she continues to be an important mentor to this organization. In her year as a Chief Resident, she fought tirelessly to make race, diversity, and inclusion be daily topics of conversation and action, even before the deluge of injustices against Black and brown bodies flooded the media. She led a healthcare workers’ march at our hospital after George Floyd’s murder, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She took on the heavy burden of creating a space of healing for her friends and colleagues during the many trying times over the past few years by meeting one on one with any resident of color, and also by leading the first ever resident of color caucuses at our residency program. Over the many years that we’ve known Courtney, she has never tired and has never said, “But what about me?” Her infectious laugh brings joy to our hearts. She is selfless to a fault, kind beyond words, and beautifully optimistic that the best is yet to come for people of color.
Devin is an unrelenting advocate for QTIBIPOC in biking and backpacking and is the founder of WTF Bikexplorers Atlanta, a cycling group in Atlanta specifically for Women/Trans/Femme and non-binary folks to adventure on bikes. She’s a fierce advocate for expanding who has access to adventures on bikes and what a cyclist looks like—all while having fun. Devin works tirelessly to promote her passion of cycling to more Black folks and hosted Black in the Saddle, a panel discussion with Swift Industries and the Black Foxes about what it means to be a person of color in bicycling today. I have personally learned so much from her work and feel lucky to consider her a friend. She deserves a Getaway because she’s always working. Even when she’s playing (i.e. riding her bike and adventuring), she’s always working to educate people on how they can be more inclusive, anti-racist, or just better humans. More people should be like Devin.
Dr. Uchenna Ossai
Dr. Uchenna “UC” Ossai is a sex-positive pelvic health physical therapist and sexuality educator and counselor. Dr. UC is assistant professor at the University of Texas Dell Medical School and also serves as pelvic health program manager at UT Health Austin. She is on faculty for the University of Michigan, School of Social Work’s Sexual Health Certification Program. Dr. UC is one of few, and only Black, licensed physical therapists in the world with an AASECT certification in sexuality counseling. Dr. UC spends her days treating people with both sexual and pelvic floor dysfunction, and her evenings educating the masses on everything that has to do with “sexytime”. When it comes to sexual intelligence and great sex education, UC embraces always being unapologetically real, happily crunk, and deliciously kind. As a Black woman operating in a predominantly white healthcare system, UC can personally attest to the implicit bias and racism within the healthcare world. She recently developed a powerful educational course, “Intersections of Racism and Power: Healthcare Redefined” that provides a forum for open exploration and conversation around racism within the healthcare system. The course aims to allow its scholars to understand their role in the movement to dismantle racism in the wellness and healthcare industry and to design their own action plans. The class reviews the history of racism, evaluates intersections of racism in the LGBTQ+ communities and studies evidence-based frameworks and approaches to address racism at the individual and systemic level. UC works tirelessly to create a more equitable world and she is unbelievably deserving of some rest, pampering, and refueling.
Elisheba is an artist, curator, and co-founder of Wa Na Wari, one of the most important art spaces for Black art in Seattle. Wa Na Wari, located in a Black-owned home in the historically redlined Central District of Seattle, hosts rotating exhibits from Black artists, local and regional, and provides a center for the community to attend workshops, lectures, and performances. It also serves as an oral history studio for gathering/sharing the stories of Seattle’s Black Central District. She has worked in Seattle for 15 years securing affordable and relevant cultural spaces for BIPOC communities and artists. She is also a mother on top of all her good work in the community. Because of her, I was introduced to the Nap Ministry, and she always posts meaningful things about the importance of rest.
As a freelance writer I’ve been leaning in to using my voice to speak up on behalf of my people for the last few years. In doing so, I’ve written some things that I am so deeply proud of over the last year—most often for Teen Vogue. Every time an educational outlet or a teacher tweets me saying my articles helped them explain a certain topic, I’m honored. Or when a friend forwarded a Harvard University webpage that highlighted a couple of Juneteenth resources, and one of which was an article I wrote over a year ago. As the daughter of an educator, I take those kinds of recognition as the highest compliment. This year has been heavy. The last op-ed I wrote was about the myth of “Black on Black crime,” and that thrust me into the spotlight in a way I hadn’t been prepared for. The hatred in my inbox was even more overwhelming than when I wrote about American patriotism’s relationship to American racism. This is the longest I’ve gone without pitching anything in awhile. I’m desperate for an escape from my Brooklyn apartment, but funds have kept me here. I know this is for nominating others, but as I tried to pull myself together enough to focus and get back to work—to write what needs to be written—I saw this post. I’m learning to ask for help when I need it (something that, as a Black woman, I’ve struggled with). So, I’m nominating myself because this getaway would mean so much to my mental health, my peace, and my ability to create the meaningful work I strive to create.
Jordan is an outdoor educator who works 24/7 when she is in season. She leads 90 day programs and is responsible for the care and wellbeing of recent high school grads, which, according to her many stories, can be very stressful. She is headed out to the field this fall and she deserves a nice relaxing getaway when her season is over.
Katina has been on the front lines of social justice and change in Denton, TX for years. She holds gatherings for Black women and started a nonprofit to support them. She leads concerts and rallies all while being a wife and mother to three Black sons. I adore her spirit and passion and know she deserves a night of rest.
Maria is the campaign director for the Alliance for Quality Education. Her fierce advocacy on behalf of the children of New York City and New York State has been the catalyst for critical change. She launched AQE’s Education Warriors program to train cohorts of parents on how to lead advocacy efforts, facilitate community conversations and take strategic action. Parents who have participated in this training program have gone on to be elected to their community education council (NYC’s equivalent to school boards) and so much more. Maria is especially deserving of rest because she has led many direct actions confronting those in power. She has led office takeovers calling out decision makers for their inaction. She has elevated parent voices in the decision making process around education policy and school practices. Maria is relentless in fighting for educational justice.
Toni is a co-founder of @letstalksocialjustice, where we were able to organize an online forum to allow the community to have a dialogue with the NYPD. They also organized a ‘Help Your Black Neighbor’ Fund where white allies are able to support the Black community by giving back directly. Toni has been a light in the community and deserves a Getaway so that they are able to have their energy restored.
Know someone you needs a restorative escape to nature? Nominate a friend today.