Breathe in deeply.

Hold your breath for four seconds.

Breathe all the way out.

Hold for another for another four seconds.

Now return to your regular breathing and welcome yourself back to Black Joy, a weekly series by the Black Magic Project that’s all about bringing peace and love to a community that has endured evolutions of oppression. The series also wraps what’s happening in BMP’s Facebook group, where we celebrate the magic of our melanin while discussing Black, southern topics. You can join the group here!

I started this issue with a breathing exercise known as the “square breath” because the first topic we are going to talk about is self-care in the activism community. Last week, The New York Times published a story detailing how Hawk Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, practices self-care on Sundays. So I decided to bring that story down South and interview Birmingham activist Eric Hall, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Birmingham Chapter.

Being a Black Lives Matter activist is about more than protesting. It is also fighting for policy change – an arena in which Hall interacts a lot. I have seen this man fight for a higher minimum wage, demand better protections for those placed in and working for the Birmingham City Jail during the coronavirus pandemic as well as challenge multiple policing practices. But along with his activism, Hall works a full-time job with the U.S. Social Security Administration and is a full-time graduate student at Alabama A&M University.

Amid the Zoom calls, text messages and organizing work, Hall said there are some weeks when he cannot wait until Sunday.

“Activism has taken a full-time role in my life,” Hall said. “So, Sunday is a day to breathe.”

Hall’s favorite part of his Sunday ritual is spending time with his 69-year-old mother, a woman who has endured multiple strokes but hasn’t lost her get-up-and-go attitude. Her spirit is contagious, and Hall enjoys doing whatever she wants to do whether it’s doing crossword puzzles or helping her bathe.

“Seeing that smile on her face, her resilience despite her (health) state – that alone is a burst of energy,” Hall said.

Spending time with his momma refuels him because it tethers him to the heart of his social justice work. When his mother started working in childcare in the late 70s and early 80s, she was paid minimum wage, which was around $4 an hour at the time. When she became ill and retired in 2012, she was still making minimum wage at $7.25 hourly.

“My mother only earned a dollar every ten years throughout her career. It’s very unfortunate situation,” Hall said. “That’s why I fight for increased wages and policy changes. I fight for those who worry, those who lack, those who struggle so they will have some sense of hope.”

To prevent himself from burn out, Hall said he practices self-care every morning by avoiding answering messages and phones calls during the first 30 minutes in the day to meditate, listen to music or speak positive affirmations over himself. Which method his uses depends on his mood.

His advice to other activists who feel like they can’t fit self-care into their day: investing in yourself is investing in the community.

“Take the time to make yourself whole before working to make others whole,” Hall said. “You have to be healthy yourself before you can address other people’s pain. So, it is definitely important to take time out for yourself.”

“Dear Black son…..”

When I learned National Sons Day was Sept. 28, I remembered an NPR article I read earlier this year about how Black men try to dress, talk and act differently in an effort to appear non-threatening in predominantly white spaces. This story came out a little more than a month after Ahmaud Arbery was chased down, shot and killed by white men while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood and a few weeks before a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, thus killing him.

So I reached out to some parents in our group who participated in National Sons Day on their personal pages and asked them to write an encouraging message to their Black sons who are living in a world  where Blackness is color coded as dangerous. Their words were touching.

Marche Johnson, a Montgomery, Ala., resident, who fought to change the Confederate name of her high school alma mater, wanted to make sure her sons remembered who they are and their lineage. Johnson’s grandmother marched during the Civil Rights Movement.

“Walk in power,” Johnson said. “There is no person on this earth who can shame who you are as a man.”

You can listen to the rest of Johnson’s letter and read what other Black parents wanted to say to their sons below.

Cherinita Ladd-Reese, mother of 8-year-old Ronald Michael: “You are a gift and I pray that this world gets to realize just how much so. I look at you and often wonder if you will be a judge because of your passion for making sure things are fair, even if it’s just the correct distribution of candy to everyone. Or will you become a federal agent because of your attention to detail because you don’t miss anything? Will you be the next inventor of world-changing technology because you are constantly exploring? Our prayer for you is that you will be able to not only transcend but dismantle the walls of hate, discrimination, and violence that you have been pre-marked with just because of your beautiful, brown skin and live a long, full life. That you will leave your permanent mark on this world-making it better for you and all those who will come behind you.

Richard Cade, father of six sons, founder of a Birmingham-based mentoring program for boys called The Man Project: “No matter how hard it may be, always remember to take the high road, to be kind, to have each other’s backs, and band to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Always remember you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know. I am here for you every single day.”

Aminata Traoré-Morris, mother of 9-year-old Xavier: “Raising you is an adventure! Here’s to many more adventures while you continue your journey to manhood.”

Now this should put a smile on your face: A Black man making historical moves to win a U.S. Senate seat in deep-red state that was the first to secede from the union.

Ending this post with a shout out to The Reckon Interview, which is a political podcast that doesn’t care about which candidate is winning which poll. It is more about how Southern folks are – and always have been – changing up the game in the political world.

And this week’s game changer is former head of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Jaime Harrison, who is challenging current Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Now, this usually would be a for-sure win for Graham. But 2020 always comes through with the plot twists and it’s starting to look like Harrison is going to win this thing, y’all. If Harrison does succeed, South Carolina will be the first state in American history to be represented by two Black senators serving at the same time.

And Harrison is making these moves with little help from the national Democratic establishment, which had written off the South for decades, investing neither time nor resources in the region. So, Harrison comes on our podcast to give us the tea about the challenges he has faced running in the heart of the old Confederacy and flipping conventional wisdom about the party on its head.

You can listen to a clip of the conversation below. But you can also subscribe to the podcast on  Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Acast or wherever else you get your podcasts to stay informed about the South this election season.

See you next week! Keep spreading your Black magic!