A Year of Rest | Guest Stories

Meet More of Our Recipients of Rest

Earlier this month we announced an expansion of our initial offering, 100 Nights of Rest. In partnership with Rachel Cargle, The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and Miir we’re now 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:

Alixx Lucas
Alixx is a 25-year old Black, queer, EMT, artist, creative and healer. In her day job as a first responder, she has come face to face with the most difficult moments of the pandemic, providing care amongst PPE shortages and advocating for patients whose care would have suffered due to cultural and linguistic barriers. When the protests started in June, Alixx offered her knowledge to friends on the ground, then went above and beyond to give a health equity talk to leadership at her company specifically tailored to the biases she sees in her day to day. She introduced them to the history of racism and discrimination in medicine that are the vestiges of slavery, bringing in examples and quotes based on what she sees in her role. She was not compensated or acknowledged for this work because they didn’t think she was qualified. Alixx is also a creative working on dance and visual arts to bring to life unique stories and share her experiences with the world. She has done all this while continuing to break patterns and bring healing into her own life amidst years of managing serious and at times life threatening depression. Her ability to grow and continue to share her gifts even amongst the most challenging of circumstances is an inspiration to me and those who know and have been touched by her. She is now known as a safe space for her people in her community to talk to who may feel otherwise judged by their mental health situation because of her lived experience. Providing support for our community healers is extremely important, given the rampant racism present in the medical field (seen in real time during COVID-19) and the need for competent and well rounded practitioners who will care for Black and brown folks.

Chanae Jackson
Chanae Jackson calls herself the “Accidental Activist,” and although I would never wish the circumstances that launched her into action on anyone, I thank God that she has stepped into this leadership role for our community. In 2018, she experienced the impacts of policing gone wrong when her son was stopped by a police officer in our small University town. She immediately fought to be a part of the solution by bringing to light the inconsistencies, inequities, systemic racism, and implicit bias at all levels of policing and community leadership. Her invaluable insight as a native to our community gives her unique positioning to reach a large audience and impact real change. With the most recent local election she led an effort to mobilize and educate community members to register to vote and get to the polls. Our community saw the direct impact of their voices this election when they appointed the first ever Black sheriff and school board members who vowed to better address the inequity in our county’s school system, which has the greatest disparity of any county in the state. We saw polling areas directly impacted by her efforts with significant increases in voter turn out when compared to 2016. Her energy and her voice have motivated the community to be actively engaged. In addition to her activism, she is a mom and an entrepreneur who doesn’t stop working around the clock for the betterment of our community.

Chanita Simms
Chanita quit her job to invest full time in her startup, Melanin Tech, a community platform to help BIPOC break into and be successful in tech. We met at the company she just left and she was the reason I joined. She wrote a blog about feeling like she belonged, and a Black woman feels that. Sadly, it all ended up being false and she left the company in a lot of pain. She is in the process of selling everything and relocating. This would be such a treat for her, to rest and have a night to herself. Cause watch out world, she is unstoppable now and going to change things!

Cherise Bernard 
Dr. Cherise Bernard is constantly and selflessly providing leadership, support, and guidance to people within her professional community. In her role as the co-leader of Spotify’s resource group for Black employees, Cherise gives of herself constantly in order to uplift those around her and lead the way toward positive change throughout the company. Cherise is relied upon for guidance and insight by so many people at Spotify, and we look to her as an example of the kind of leader we want to follow.

Courtney Ariel
Courtney works harder than anyone I know. On a practical level, she is exhausted most of the time just trying to make ends meet. As a Black woman in the south, she has quit multiple jobs because of the overt and covert racism she’s experienced. She has been published in the Tennessean, given lectures at several colleges nationwide, and had a couple viral articles, including “For Our White Friends Desiring To Be Allies” in Sojourners. She does this work unpaid. Her work for racial justice is all bridge-building work. She works tirelessly to communicate her experience as a Black woman to a mostly white audience, overflowing with empathy and the desire for us all to see each other’s humanity. She is the wisest, kindest person I know, which is pretty miraculous knowing the oppressive circumstances she faces every day. My wife and I love and trust her so much that she’s going to be the godmother to our child. I truly think Courtney deserves EVERYTHING and I am constantly outraged at the injustice of her not being able to have it in this America. Her work is a gift and has healed so many. It would be the biggest gift to her to simply be able to rest.

deandre miles-hercules
As deandre’s fraternity brother in Alpha Phi Alpha, I have watched them grow into a scholar-activist that has placed their community before themselves. Since 2016, I have witnessed deandre contribute to the Black community at our alma mater, Emory University, through voter registration programming, academically focused initiatives, and community service ventures; while also fighting against police brutality toward Black people on the national stage. They were a part of the Ohio 4 who peacefully protested the acquittal of the police officer who killed Philando Castile ini 2017, which resulted in their being wrongfully charged. Since then, DeAndre has honed in on their skillset as an academic and are currently pursuing their Ph.D in Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A part of their research is centered around the concept of language and its usage in mis-identifying and identifying groups of people, specifically terms that include the Black community. Here are their thoughts on the harm of misidentifying people. Overall, I name these particular instances to showcase what I know personally: deandre has placed their body, mind, and soul at the center of the issues that plague this country, which are directly affecting the Black community, to fight against them. Their journey toward a greater state of mental health has been an uphill battle. I note this to emphasize that while we can hold up people like deandre in the spotlight, there is a toll on their psyche and body that is occurring behind closed doors. It is a sacrifice that one takes on to push change forward. Thus, for their knowledge sharing and their physical, emotional, and mental sacrifice to affect change, I nominate deandre for a night of rest.

LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill
LaTrenda works tirelessly to better the lives of others throughout her community and across this country. She pushes traditional organizations to fight against white supremacist culture, she stands up to the school system (organizing a group called Black Women for a Better Education), and she takes care of her two babies and husband. She is an incredible leader, mother, organizer, and friend.

Mawhyah Milton
Mawhyah is an illustrator and painter based in NYC who utilizes her talents to address social injustices in the Black community through her specific lens. I met Mawhyah in 2015 when we participated in AmeriCorps together in Central Florida, where she used her illustration skills to support a local non-profit. Through our friendship and this specific group of people, coming together to support one another in this year of reflection and service, I was forever changed by her willingness to use her story and knowledge to support me and so many others in understanding the systemic issues of our country. I will never know how these efforts to educate us have impacted Mawhyah, as I can’t begin to imagine having to explain the humanity of my people to another, as well as challenging this group of privileged people to understand and act on the systems we continue to benefit from. What I do know is that I have been forever changed by her presence and still am in awe of how she uses her talents to “illustrate what it means to be Black. The good, the bad and the unexplained.” Through her art, Mawhyah has tackled issues such as transgenerational trauma, cultural appropriation, and child abuse. Mawhyah has been featured at Art Basel in Miami and on social media through Ulta’s National Lipstick Day Campaign. Mawhyah deserves this getaway, because she continues to create art and share her perspective with the world. She truly opens her heart through her illustrations and puts it on display. Personally, I will never be able to repay Mawhyah for how she has impacted my life. Even though we don’t live a street away anymore, her voice and her lens is far reaching and constantly pushes me to continue to educate myself and work towards breaking down systems that have for too long beaten down and murdered Black bodies, while simultaneously profiting from their existence. I know her art and her story have impacted so many and just knowing Mawhyah is an honor in itself.

Renee Hess
Renee is a remarkable woman on a mission to support equity and inclusion in an overwhelmingly white sport: ice hockey. As the founder of the Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC), Renee has gone from enthusiastic hockey fan to a recognized, passionate organizer and change agent in the game of hockey, from the most local levels to the best hockey league in the world, the NHL, with BGHC members and supporters all over the world, including representatives from national federations like Hockey Kenya and Hockey Algeria!  Renee initially founded BGHC to provide solidarity and space for hockey-loving Black women, their families, and allies in order to sustain passion for the sport, prevent exclusion from hockey and combat institutional racism. In just two years, her work has become so much more: in addition to hosting meet-ups for Black fans across the country, and creating a webinar series throughout the 2020 stoppage of play due to COVID-19, Renee has raised thousands of dollars to create the BGHC scholarship fund. She has consulted with multiple NHL teams and the league itself, and is currently collaborating with the Hockey Diversity Alliance, a new organization founded and spearheaded by 9 current and former Black NHL players. At the end of July, Renee went viral by creating the #Kneel4Hockey challenge on social media to draw attention to NHL players standing for national anthems, while other major sports leagues showed solidarity for #BlackLivesMatter. It is worth noting that four days later, 3 white players knelt alongside a Black player before an NHL game. Renee’s work with the BGHC has garnered the attention of outlets such as NBC Sports and Canada’s CBC and SportsNet. Renee is TIRED. Beyond her commitment to her burgeoning non-profit and community activism, she is a service-learning director at a Southern California University, teaches college-level writing and sports media courses as an adjunct instructor, is active in her church, and is a wife and mother, as well. The racial battle fatigue Renee faces in her professional and organizing lives is real and draining. I desperately want her to take care of herself: she deserves an opportunity to recharge, in order to continue to do The Work.

Tamara Thom
Tamara Thom is a therapist/counselor in our community. She works tirelessly to provide quality support for individuals experiencing addictions and other mental health concerns. One thing that always has stood out about Tamara is her dedication to lift others up, even if she is in a difficult place. She works hard every day and is always looking for growth opportunities. She takes the most challenging cases with an open mind and treats everyone with respect. Since the beginning of the year, she single handedly ran a substance use program serving up to 50 people per week, which is a LOT for a therapist to do. Tamara worked so hard with the intention of supporting others that she lost focus of supporting herself and her relationships. Tamara is an amazing friend and a spectacularly strong woman that is a great example to everyone in our community, but especially to people of color. Oftentimes in our area, people of color work with individuals outside of their race. Though they adapt to this, it is crucial that we lift up Black counselors so that they can properly support and advocate for minority groups that often suffer from the highest rates of mental illness due to systematic racism and intergenerational trauma. Tamara deserves a quiet retreat where she can reflect and rejuvenate her passion for mental healthcare so that she can continue to inspire others with her wisdom and empathy. Tamara continuously sacrifices her own wellbeing in an effort to support others.

Tamika Gadsden
Mika created the Charleston Activist Network and more recently the The Historically Accurate Antiracist Book Club for Charleston, SC. For a city that has been dealing with racism since pretty much day one, it’s shocking how little people in Charleston are working towards a better community. Mika has continually worked to educate those dedicated to a more just world; call out city leaders, local newspapers, and business owners for blatant white-washing, lack of care, or just blatant racism; organize safe protests in the city; and work tirelessly to keep the voices of important Civil Rights icons alive in Charleston. Her work has inspired many people to educate themselves not only about the history of our city but also about the most effective and safe ways to enact change.

Tomi Akitunde
Tomi is a freelance journalist, and also the founder/creator of mater mea, whose mission is to help Black mothers get the answers to their motherhood, life, and career questions through content and community. Throughout the pandemic and the spotlight on the deep and toxic racism in this country, she has continued to put together virtual community events for Black parents who are left out of the parenting space across other media platforms. She has made sure to be intersectional for LGBTQIA families, and is constantly trying to bring helpful materials to her followers. She is tired in a way I have never seen before. She has had a really hard year personally with her own goals of becoming a parent, while staying focused on uplifting others’ parenting dreams and stories. SHE NEEDS REST!!! And, she won’t take the time unless it is given to her.”

Know someone who deserves an escape to nature? Nominate a friend today.