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Atlanta-Based Organization Advocates For Rest As A Form Of Social Justice

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Resist, protest, buy from black businesses, educate yourself and your kids on racism, donate to organizations, be an ally - all good advice. But what if I told you, nap? Yeah. Lie down. Close your eyes. Go to sleep. For the past four years, Tricia Hersey has led The Nap Ministry. It's an Atlanta-based organization that advocates for rest as a form of resistance. Tricia Hersey, who calls herself the Nap Bishop, joins us now. Welcome.

TRICIA HERSEY: Hi. How are you?

MCCAMMON: Good. Great to have you with us.

HERSEY: Thank you.

MCCAMMON: This particular moment and many others before it have been about doing a lot - mobilizing...

HERSEY: Yes.

MCCAMMON: ...Right? - getting out, demonstrating, posting on social media to raise awareness. But how important is rest right now?

HERSEY: Yeah. I love all those things and have done all those things. But right now rest is critical because it's counterintuitive and counter-narrative to see slowing down, napping and rest as a key to our movement for black liberation. But it really is so important because rest disrupts and pushes back and allows space for healing, for invention, for us to be more human. It'll allow us to imagine this new world that we want, this new world that's liberated, that's full of justice, that's a foundation for us to really, truly live our lives.

MCCAMMON: You've been leading your organization The Nap Ministry for a few years now. What inspired the idea?

HERSEY: Yeah. I was inspired by the idea when I was in divinity school and I was dealing with all of the - Black Lives Matter was actually just heating up at the moment. It was, like, 2013, and a lot of the lynchings were back-to-back online and being shared. And I was a graduate student in a predominately white institution. Black Lives Matter was heating up, and I was just really exhausted from living as a black woman in America - you know, poverty and crime. I was robbed once when I was in school.

And just all of the things around me were coming on me at once, and I just decided to rest. I decided to take naps wherever I could, and it started to combine my research. I was researching black liberation theology, somatics, cultural trauma. I was doing a lot of research around slavery and historic - looking at the historic documents around the commodification of black people in America.

MCCAMMON: And I'm wondering; how do people respond to your message of rest, especially the African American community that you hope...

HERSEY: Yeah.

MCCAMMON: ...Will embrace it?

HERSEY: Yeah. I mean, it was - people would, when I would first tell them there's this - I'm doing The Nap Ministry; it's rest; it's resistance; it's reparations; you can lay down; you've done enough; this is a connection to our ancestors; this is a pushback against capitalism, a lot of people would start crying. People would look at me with, like, a tilted head and be like, wow, I've never thought of that, but yes, I'm exhausted. I'm tired. I would love to lay down.

You know, this is a racial and social justice issue. You know, sleep deprivation is a justice issue because it's been traced from all the way back during slavery. Slavery was horrific, and the times - during those times for black people, we were human machines. And so grind culture continues today to try and attempt to make us all human machines and not to see the divinity of who we really are. And so rest is disrupting that history. It's undoing part of that history, and it's allowing us to connect to our deepest selves.

MCCAMMON: And in less than a minute that we have left, what do you say to people about how to make that happen in their lives, especially if they feel like they can't rest right now?

HERSEY: Yes. You know, I love to reimagine rest outside of a capitalist and colonized system. So I love to think of resting as something that's subversive and inventive - closing your eyes for 10 minutes, taking a longer time in the shower, daydreaming, meditating, praying. So we can find rest wherever we are because wherever our bodies are, we can find liberation because our body is a site of liberation. So the time to rest is now. We can always...

MCCAMMON: I'm going to...

HERSEY: Yeah, go ahead.

MCCAMMON: I got to stop you right there. That's...

HERSEY: Of course.

MCCAMMON: ...Tricia Hersey. I'm sorry. That's Tricia Hersey. She's the Nap Bishop from The Nap Ministry. Thanks so much.

HERSEY: Thanks for having me on. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hey, thanks for reading.
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