By Shamika Sonia
To me, advocacy is an action inspired by a personal conviction to ignite positive change. Although this is similar to a definition I would have shared, say, five years ago, my understanding of advocacy is definitely evolving. I consider how the inherent principles of advocacy: empathy, compassion, and togetherness, positively transform my life and the lens through which I view the world.
As a Black woman, a mother, the daughter of immigrant parents, a leader with an energizing and mildly goofy personality, a victor over the violence of robbery and sexual assault, and so much more, I embrace my identity and all that contributes to my unique and varied experience. Everything I have lived through informs my advocacy. Others might describe advocacy as raising public awareness or impacting public policy around critical issues to create positive change. While this interpretation is valid, the addition of personal conviction is what makes advocacy so rewarding.
Considering my intersecting identities (I’m an introvert, empath, and highly sensitive person), publicly advocating for critical issues often felt like self-inflicting additional suffering. A masochistic triggering of generations of pain and trauma reverberating throughout my body in response to injustices experienced personally and by others. There was a time I couldn’t fathom inflicting such harm on myself because the pain and resultant anxiety were unbearable. I have since shifted my perspective, absolutely transforming my relationship with advocacy.
As I experience the value of engaging in a healthy relationship with myself that is not dependent on the projections and assumed expectations of others; my perspective is shifting from shame and fear to gratitude and triumph. My advocacy stems from my lived experience and the desire for others to experience the sweetness of love – of God – that resonates throughout my being every time I remember who I am.
Advocacy looks like love, compassion, and empathy that promotes a fair and fulfilling human experience. Advocacy is promoting or showing support for a particular cause with action that replenishes the core of one’s soul. Here are three ways I advocate in daily life.
I advocate for healing and wholeness. I am vocal about my positive experience with therapy to break the stigma against treatment in Black culture. My experience with therapy was not always great, but I didn’t give up on my search to find the therapist my inner child craved; a Black, female, trauma-informed fairy God-sister with the awareness or natural capacity to guide and support me along my spiritual journey. And guess what? I found her. Jamila’s in-session truth bombs are filled with genuine compassion and pure wisdom. Since day one, it’s felt like we’re walking this journey together, learning from each other, and I love that the most. She guides me as we walk through layers of trauma, shining a light on the truths that still sting and clench at my chest with fear. When I do the hard things that she reminds me I can do, I experience this elating high that I liken to the sweetness of God, love, and peace. I now embody the confident, self-assured woman I’ve dreamt of for so long, and it is the most beautiful love I’ve ever experienced: this act of trusting myself and living life according to what feels right for me.
I advocate for inner peace and forgiveness. I am naming experiences that once brought me shame and leaning into them as a source of empowerment, shifting the course of my life in the best ways. I hold tremendous gratitude in my heart for the renewed awareness I’ve gained, my soul bearing witness to how the pains of my past positively shape this version of who I Am today. I have come to love this version of myself in the deepest blue ocean kind of way; the beauty I am experiencing is pure love, a love I’ve been searching for my whole life. I’m still learning to balance boundaries without ‘ghosting’ to protect my energy, but I’m actively working on it.
I am an advocate of togetherness. I’ve always admired the inherent power of sisterhood and yet struggled to feel like part of one until this current season of my life (Shoutout to therapy for uncovering and linking traumas to unhealthy behavior patterns). And so, I’ve committed to intentionally seeking and accepting opportunities to model or connect with other Black and Brown girls. At this moment, my inner child is jumping for joy at the thought of little Black and Brown girls seeing themselves in me, being a physical and visual representation of what’s possible. The inherent togetherness of sisterhood saved my life, and I desire for others to experience it as well. Black women – mothers, sisters, aunties, cousins, friends, Boss-ladies, mentors, therapists, fitness and nutrition coaches – are my sisterhood, and we wield our inherent and collective power in the softest way.
The act of other Black women recognizing my value and advocating for my life empowers me to acknowledge the significance of what I bring to this world. Black women modeling compassionate love of humankind inspire me to advocate for myself and others in ways that complement my capacity and ability to develop healthy habits that positively maintain my overall health and wellness.
Women of the Triad, what are some ways you see advocacy in your life? How do you advocate for yourself or others?