As the Twin Cities reels from the trauma of police killings and racial reckoning, residents are seeking not only self-care, but self-preservation.
Taking time to process does not need to be done in isolation, said Joi Lewis, founder of the Healing Justice Foundation and a local executive coach and author. Care can be amplified by connecting with neighbors, family, friends and even strangers, she and others said.
To facilitate that, a new crop of "safe spaces" have popped up around the Twin Cities. They aim to serve as places "where people can just go and be and, for lack of a better word, don't have to be policed," Lewis said.
After the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the anger over George Floyd's death, the frustration of Derek Chauvin's trial and the shock of Daunte Wright's shooting, people are looking for places to find solace in virtual chat rooms, wellness studios, hair salons and more.
"This is a collective kind of trauma we are experiencing," said Lewis, who many refer to as "Dr. Joi." "What is happening in the midst of all of this is we are reaching out to each other."
Here are some spaces:
Lauren Ash, Black Girl In Om
Lauren Ash, founder of Black Girl In Om, a wellness company that offers meditation and healing sessions, moved back to her home state of Minnesota last year around the time the COVID-19 pandemic began, a move that proved timely when Floyd was later killed in May.
"It was very clear, energetically speaking, that my role was not to show up at a protest or to show up at a demonstration. … My role was and will continue to be honestly to hold space for healing to happen," Ash said.
Black Girl In Om, which Ash founded in 2014 in a friend's living room, has grown significantly over the last few years. Its podcast has reached more than 2 million listeners, according to the company.
After she moved back to Minnesota and happened by an empty, 2,000-square-foot storefront in south Minneapolis, Ash was inspired to create a physical home for Black Girl In Om. She is fundraising to add an apothecary, healing rooms and an area to livestream wellness classes.
"With the nature of COVID exacerbating our isolation from one another during a time of such intensity, we literally need some physical space to come together where we can be ourselves, where we can breathe and we can also find joy," Ash said.
Keno Evol, Black Table Arts
Close to Ash's future physical studio is Black Table Arts, an arts cooperative geared to the Black community complete with a used book store, shared workspace and meeting rooms. Founder and poet Keno Evol opened the building toward the end of February to serve as a come-as-you-are collaborative center.
"It's really centered on Black joy," Evol said, as he sat in the main co-working space one afternoon during the trial. "Even during these conditions we can have that, we can have Black joy."
Black Table Arts has helped host several events during the Chauvin trial, and has partnered with other groups including the Healing Justice Foundation to create a community calendar of events through June.
Kamisha Johnson, Amani Counseling, Consulting and Healing
Kamisha Johnson pulled a tarot card from a deck as the smell of burning sage and the sound of R&B music filtered through the basement room in her Golden Valley home.
It was the card representing adversity, which Johnson told the virtual audience was fitting.
Johnson, a licensed social worker who leads her own healing practice called Amani Counseling, Consulting and Healing, called out to her Facebook Live guests by name as they logged in, addressing them as goddesses and kings. Each week, she asks her guests to share their thoughts in chat. "How's your soul?" she will sometimes ask before she gives advice.
"I'm into holding spaces because, for too long, we have been holding trauma in our bodies," Johnson said.
Over the past three years, Johnson has hosted numerous healing circles and public mental health sessions. She decided to start her "Misha Magic Hour" during the Chauvin trial "because it's heavy," she said.
Faatemah Ampey, SuiteSpot Salonspa
Hairstylist Faatemah Ampey hopes her SuiteSpot Salonspa in the Lyn-Lake area of south Minneapolis can serve as a "brave space" where people who are not as intimately familiar with the issues facing people of color can learn, ask questions and have frank conversations with no judgment. Her clientele consists mostly of white, affluent women from the suburbs.
Ampey said she believes all people could better empathize with each other to better understand others' life experiences.
"The only way that we can do this work is together. … We need to share our stories in a way where it moves people to change their actions, and I just don't believe that that can be done through anger," she said.
She wants to start a podcast and web series soon called "Deep Conditioning," in which different speakers can talk about current events and self-care.
Jasmine Brett Stringer, #ShareTheMicMN
Author and lifestyle expert Jasmine Brett Stringer has always had a gift for bringing people together. Last summer Stringer started a campaign called #ShareTheMicMN, which allows women of color to "take over" the social media accounts of allies of another race to share their stories.
Her campaign has been hosting a "Courageous Conversations" series online since Floyd's death to talk to groups about how to become better allies and support racial equity.
After the January attack on the U.S. Capitol, Stringer has been holding space for women via Zoom to talk informally about race and healing once a month as well.
"I hope this provides an exhale," Stringer said. "I hope they feel mentally better and ready to endure. I hope they are like 'This is the recharge I needed.' "
Stringer said she wants to continue these types of online conversations for as long they are needed. "How do we make sure that this is not a moment of time but a movement?"