BY EBONY FLOWERS FOR NAPPY HEAD CLUB
I was raised by two baby boomers, who were raised by sharecroppers, who were raised by newly freed people who were in the Freedmen's Bureau. I grew up with roosters crowing outside at 5 am, chickens, cows, a horse named scout, plenty of dogs and cats, turkeys, and hogsyes, I am REAL country. Well, REAL Gullah-Geechee. Let's not forget the gardens with various vegetables growing.
I recently started to examine why we get up so early. My grandmother always said, "the early bird catches the worm. My mother worked six days a week with nine children to care for." Queue the gospel music on Saturday mornings.
I think about how quiet Saturdays are for me now. I’m 34, single, with two small dogs, and I’m living the life. There’s no loud gospel music playing too early. There is no rush to clean or get ready for church on Sundays, while I get my forehead burnt by the hot comb. (Which I can still smell, to this day.)
This morning, I take my time to savor my coffee and look at my dogs lovingly while they watch the birds fly, land, and build a nest outside. Yeah, it’s a beautiful scene; dare I say, the soft life? So why do I feel guilty? Why do I feel the need to work? Am I preaching, or am I preaching?
I just moved to Pittsburgh, PA, for work (go Steelers), and I have had the worst sleep. Every night, I’m assaulted by the sound of cars, loud music, traffic, and construction. And not only that– I have been thinking deeply about who I would call if I were in trouble. Because walking in this world as a Black woman, we don't have the luxury of calling the police if we are in trouble. RIP Atatiana Jefferson. This is what experts call noise pollution and social stressors.
Hi, I am the expert. My name is Ebony Flowers, and I am an Environmental Justice advocate. Overall I know it all when it comes to Black folks and the environment. Growing evidence shows that lack of sleep and sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, remain more prevalent in Black, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino communities. These inequities can have long-term detrimental implications for physical health, even raising the risk of certain chronic diseases. But don't just listen to me; national data indicate that Black and non-white adults have poorer sleep due to a mix of social stressors, overall pollution, and the legacy of redlining.
A 2022 study from Yale University found Black Americans had the highest rate of short sleep compared to their white and non-white counterparts. Not only are we facing racism, but we are also TIRED–because of racism. And this affects our health. Lack of sleep leads to anxiety-then that leads to high blood pressure, and high blood pressure leads to heart disease. Damn, we can't catch a break.
You are probably thinking, sis, what can we do?! Talk to your doctor about your struggles with sleep, and be intentional about your rest. Buy those nice candles, the silk sheets and take that extra long bath. Most importantly: give yourself permission, allow yourself to REST. It is a fight that we know all too well, but it must be done. It must be done, not just for yourself, but for other Black women too. Because when I see you rest, then I know it's ok for me to rest, too. As Auntie Nikki Giovanni said, “rest is resistance. It is a war we will win.”
About the Author:
Ebony Flowers is a Environmental Justice Advocate from South Carolina who draws on her Gullah roots to care for the environment.