Sonya Renee Taylor

Lift You Out of the Pit

What was your last bite?

A mango, strawberry, blueberry maple yogurt parfait with maple quinoa granola.

Tell us about The Body is Not an Apology and how you came to create this space.

On February 9, 2011, I posted a Facebook status and profile picture of myself in a saucy black corset. I had been hiding the photo in my phone for months, feeling somehow wrong for finding my own big, brown, queer body beautiful. Despite this fear and shame I posted the photo anyway. This terribly frightening act was birthed from the outlandishly simple idea that no human being should be ashamed of being in a human body.

Less than 24 hours after posting that picture, people across the country began posting their own pictures and stories. Folks began sharing photos of empowered, perfectly imperfect bodies, shaped by differences in age, race, size, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, class, and other attributes. They were willing to exist unapologetically for just that moment.

I had a poem entitled, “The Body Is Not An Apology” and decided to create a Facebook page of the same name where we might practice living unapologetically in our bodies. Since it’s creation it has been a refuge for millions of people committed to dismantling personal shame and developing a new relationship with their bodies and the bodies of others that is absent of apology.

Today we are a digital media and education company committed to using radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation.

 

List 13 questions that start with Why.

Why are we invested in shame?

Why are we committed to the notion that human respect requires we see each other as the same?

Why don’t we ask why more?

Why are people calling that new dance the Running Man when it looks like the Riverdance?

Why is anyone still dieting?

Why Iggy Azalea?

Why is reality TV viewership up and book publishing down?

Why beans?

Why is Donald Trump a viable presidential candidate?

Why are we not analyzing what that says about us as a culture?

Why is white supremacy still a thing?

Why is video of police killing Black people not enough evidence to say police are killing Black people?

Why do you love yourself?


Claudia Rankine discussed black woman erasure and everyday racism on theguardian.com recently. Please share a story of your own experience with everyday racism or erasure. What are three ways black women can counteract these aggressions?

There are ways I am regularly erased as a Black woman working in body empowerment. Huffington Post published an article a year and a half ago about 13 body-positive activists folks should follow. The issue was not that my name did not appear on the list, it was that no a single Black woman and (maybe) one person of color was on the list at all. It was complete erasure of our identities in the sphere of body shame, body activism, and lacked any intersectional lens. I have written about the erasure of Black women in weight activism spaces and you can read my piece “Weighting to Be Seen” here.

To counteract erasure, we must affirm ourselves—things like #BlackGirlMagic and Black Girls Rock are examples. We must create our own space to tell our stories. This was why I created The Body is Not An Apology. I refused to allow white owned mainstream media to make our stories invisible. We decided to tell them ourselves. Demand our space. Question when we do not see ourselves and demand organizations do better.

Define apology.

A verbal sentiment of remorse for having done something wrong or harmful.

Write a Haiku for summer.

Mama comes to me

as a summer hummingbird.

How sweet June is now.

 

Define self.  

One’s full multi-dimensional being.

Self-love in the black woman community is often overlooked, as we are expected to be in leadership roles in the family. How can black women begin to shift that reality? List two of your favorite ways to relax/care for yourself.

We must remember we cannot give water from an empty well. We are not only neglecting ourselves but also negatively impacting our families when we ignore ourselves for others. We model neglect for our families. We teach them that they are not worth their own care and love. We must tell our loved ones, that I love you so good because I love me and I am going to take the time I need to fill my well so that I have an overflow for you.

I sit on my deck and listen to the birds and breathe deeply, let my self get present to the miraculousness that is this life. I make really yummy food for myself. I speak powerfully over myself. I tell myself that I am talented, capable and beautiful often.

If you were to add a word to the dictionary what would it be?

Pootatious Patootanator (my Yorkie’s nickname).

Which living writers would you like to take on a retreat and why?

I would take Ross Gay because he is a giant vial of joy. I’d take Sonia Sanchez because who doesn’t take Sonia Sanchez on retreat and I would take Toni Morrison to learn the power of ancestor in our stories.

Listen to this song. Write a one-line ritual for healing.

Breathe deeply.

As you exhale say, I love who I was, I love who I am and I love who I am becoming.

Repeat.

Kore Biters Womanifesto: Please add two-three approaches, recipes, directions and/or practices for transgressive and transformative behavior that you believe every woman writer should incorporate into their lives and writing.

  • Be involved in some healing community. Transformation is not a function of isolation—12-steps, spiritual center, activist community. Find community.
  • Practice affirmations. I keep a jar on my altar and when people come into my home, they are asked to write me an affirmation for my altar. When needed, I pull one from the jar and allow myself to be reminded of my own divine light.

Come up with a radical self-love writing prompt.

You have fallen into a physical pit. The floor can only be raised when you celebrate yourself. Write a praise song to yourself that will lift you out of the pit.

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