A Word from Jamilah: The Audacity of Rest

FaithActs Founders

I often think about the litany of things my ancestors never afforded. As Black people generally and as Black women especially, we faced so much systematic oppression in our workplaces, at the ballot box, and in public and private life.

The most pervasive form of oppression that we seldom discuss is labor.

And that’s why it is a bold, revolutionary, and dangerous act for a Black woman to rest. The audacity of resting a body expected– implicitly and explicitly– to bear constant burden is shocking. The boldness of rest is only matched by its necessity. 

I am taking on the audacity of rest. And here’s why:

As a child, I knew my grandmother worked tirelessly. She cleaned white people’s floors, to provide a better life for my mother. I watched as my mother fought on, working two jobs seven days a week to provide a better life for me. And when I attained the life they imagined for me, I followed the pattern. When I graduated from Yale and established my professional career, and went on to found my own organization in FaithActs for Education, I never rested. 

I am proud to lead Connecticut’s only Black-led, community-led, faith-based education advocacy nonprofit. And while I’m proud of the hard work it took to build it, I don’t know rest. I only know labor.

More than eight years ago, I left my job and only source of income to found FaithActs. I am immensely grateful and proud of the organization I helped build. Alongside the people of Bridgeport, and now Hartford and New Haven, we created an organization that is making an immeasurable difference for people in our communities. When people said no one could unite hundreds of Black pastors across churches and denominations in this state, we did it anyway. When the governor flat-funded education, we won a $150 million increase for Connecticut’s public school children, the largest educational increase in a decade. We have countless examples of the powerful results of our labor. We are making monumental change.

And like my mother and grandmother before me, I want more for my daughter.

I am building multi-general wealth in a different form of currency: time. What I want for my daughter and for all of our children is something our ancestors were deprived of – abundant time with people they love, doing things they love, and being who they already are.

Hebrews 4:9-11, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief”

And so, in this season, I’m prioritizing rest and rejuvenation. Since August, I have been taking a sabbatical from my role as Executive Director of FaithActs for Education. I’ve transitioned the work into the powerful hands of another incredible Black woman, Duanecia Evans Clark, until I return, renewed, at the end of October.

So, I am taking this sabbatical because I need to rest and because I want to serve as a model for all of us who think that rest is beyond our reach. When I rest, I rest for myself and for every Black woman whose time on this Earth has been cut short because of unending labor. I rest because they couldn’t. I rest so that others may.

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