‘Rest Is Power’ Is A Stunning Expression Of Black People Reclaiming Their Peace


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By Sage Howard, Huffington Post

We were forced into a value system based on our labor. It’s time to disrupt that trauma.

Black people have been forced into a value system based on our labor. “Radical rest is resting because your ancestors didn’t have the opportunity to,” says the director of NYU’s Center For Black Visual Culture. (TERRENCE JENNINGS)

When I was growing up, the adults who raised me demonstrated that the right to rest was explicitly reserved for the dead. As I got older, I realized this was not just how my extremely hard-working parents ran their household, but a rigid mindset for so many of us in the Black community.

This is why entering a space that intentionally encouraged me to seek physical and emotional rest felt like a hug. When I visited the “Rest Is Power” exhibit currently on display at New York University, I was invited to reimagine what rest looks like for Black people — and to consider making more space for it in my own life.

The visuals excavated memories of lying on the floor in my great-grandmother’s bedroom as a child, experiencing the type of serenity and security that rarely surface for me as an adult. These reflections that bubbled up also made me question whether I could somehow access that type of peace today. I wondered, is the deprivation I experience all because of a broken system — or am I actually contributing to it?

The show, which features photography, paintings and new media from artists such as Kennedi Carter and Chris Friday, is part of an evolving movement made popular a few years ago by theologist and activist Tricia Hersey, who founded the aptly named Nap Ministry. Her published manifesto “Rest Is Resistance” is a critical literary work that reframed Black people’s relationship with rest as an act of political resistance.

“Rest Is Power” will run from September 7, 2023 – October 22, 2023.

For more Resistance art, explore our own exhibit on leaders of the movement.

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