Background: In 2015, Bree Newsome Bass made national headlines when she scaled a 30-foot flag pole at the South Carolina statehouse and took down the Confederate flag. In an article entitled, “Charlottesville Reinforced That Self-Care Is an Essential Part of My Activism,” (SELF Magazine) Bass shares the importance of self-care stating, “I have a tendency to go, go, go until I burn out…self-care did not come naturally to me at first…since committing myself to social justice a few years ago, it’s something I’ve developed out of necessity.” VisitBlackHistory.com has invited participants to take part in an oral history project that will document the role of self-care in this day and time. We are specifically examining the individual impact of COVID-19, witnessing recent police brutality in the Black community, and the subsequent demonstrations that have followed.
Forrest Evans self-description: The best way to describe myself is that I am a wholehearted Geechee woman that is also trans…excuse me queer. But, that I am amongst that identity and that as a queer woman of color that is a librarian, I love being a vessel of information. You know historians, archivists, librarians, oral historians, and storytellers we’re a part of the same bird. We are feathers in the bird. And so, that also …we transcend and transfer energy. And someone that is a rootworker as well….under the rainbow…I always enjoy my self-expression and the expression of others. Not only within my community but the Black experience.
So, my passion reflects my journey to that as a librarian. I’ve always worked in minority-serving historically Black institutions or colleges. Or in LGBT circles or sectors. So I always want to maintain that and provide a space and opportunities for others. And so I am challenging myself to be the best me during and after this pandemic but to also be the best resource, be the best librarian, be the best me, be the best woman I can for me first and then the communities I reflect
“This pandemic and this time of racial and social injustices is living history and I want to be as part of as many collaborative efforts to show that we are organizing. We’re celebrating, we’re together and that we are to normalize this kind of unity. That this isn’t temperamental. That this should be a platform, a cornerstone for creating a new beloved community.” -Forrest Evans
Self-Care 2020: VisitBlackHistory.com, Oral History Index (Forrest Evans)
0:53 – 1:45 Forrest Evans: Self-care is showing up for yourself. Making time where you don’t feel guilty or as though it disrupts your discipline for individuality. Self-expression can also be self-care. But, also to keep in mind that your rest is your revolution. And as a queer black woman, there is a phrase that I hear in our community that Black girls die exhausted and I refuse to believe or subscribe to that philosophy.
2:03 – 2:47 FE: Yes, I do feel prior to COVID, African-Americans have always be disenfranchised. Specifically, because the journey to person-hood has been so long, collective, and is a narrative that includes so many other experiences. So, when we highlight and discuss All Black Lives Matter, that includes trans, queer. During the pandemic I hope that African-Americans can not only prioritize their peace but unify. Which is why we must say All Black Lives Matter. Especially during this time.
2:56 – 4:05 FE: I had to really prioritize myself, level myself, and put myself as a priority before I could love my community. Because if I’m not okay, I surely can not love on anyone else.
And so, during the height of the pandemic, I realized that not only am I resource to circulate information. And that is why I use my platforms to provide book selections and not only African-American literature and history, but LGBTQ+ resources..
4:06 – 7:06 The change you’re looking for is internal. You know like, Gil Scott-Heron says, “the revolution will not be televised.” The change we are looking for must take place internally and then when you express and love and show up yourself and then your community….the Sankofa effect…reaching back. Then that’s when the change is truly progressive and long-lasting. It is not temperamental.
That is also why Africa-American history is not always considered American history. The launch of the African-American museum in Washington, DC is so monumental. Especially others like the Tubman African-American museum in Macon, the historical slave monuments in Alabama. These are important ….contribute to the African-American experience. And they’re in the south as well. And that’s a reflection….well excuse me….the DMV to the south….and that’s a reflection of how we organize.
Black Wall Street in the midwest….Black Mecca in entrepreneurship but you know we had the Sweet Auburn District as well. I’m really excited to see how the entrepreneurship during and after the pandemic….celebrates a Black narrative of our own-ness.
7:35 – 9:02 FE: I work at a special research library in the downtown area. Specifically, that only and solely maintains a collection for African-American culture and history. And, what I’ve known…not only a reflection through our archive collection but also in the history of downtown Atlanta and gentrification. So, what I also have been able to see is that our history has not only been able to show a reflection of how we have been uprooted not only because of a lack of ownership but the lack of importance of history and preserving it….when we keep an open mind, that open-mindedness is the drive of passion to eliminate certain disenfranchisements and ignorances, and oppressions within people of color. Especially queer people of color community.
9:24 – 13:13 FE: because I am queer Black woman, I often at times find myself being a go-to or a representation….a representative for my heterosexual colleagues and counterparts because they do not engage certain LGBTQ or people under the rainbow.
So when I am at that intersection I try to verbalize, hey I am a face to the struggle that you don’t recognize and understand but by verbalizing you know, that you are uncomfortable in a room full of queer individuals or certain identities of the queer spectrum often at times overwhelms you, let’s talk about it. So we can then bridge…you know bridge together and understand where we have been separated.
And when we compare the images of how they criminalize images like Rayshard Brooks and with the brother that lost his life…because they escape me….these stories are so similar. The features, the narratives, the details are so similar and yet the names are so plentiful. That is the most disheartening about it. And yes, it is mostly African-American men. But there are many trans lives and queer Black lives that are being lost at this time but there names and stories are not being included.
So, that’s why I enjoy being a resource. And not that token Black queer resource but being a resource for that information.
13:37 – 15:49 FE: I set personal boundaries. I don’t have to talk about race and what’s going on all the time because that can be exhausting to my mental health. So that’s how I prioritize myself by saying “you know there are certain times of the day when I’m just not going to engage certain social media.” Because that’s also where I receive some of my information. Because certain news sources and platforms do not circulate our story with the full scope of information and that creates a biased scope of the information or the narrative that’s going out.
And to be able to show up for yourself. So, I notice that especially here in the Atlanta area…alot of queer folk, during the pandemic….if they are not protesting they are taking time to be one with nature. And so, I have also done that. Also needed that alienation and isolation.
I read this book called the “Marx Theory of Alienation” and it spoke about that….you know, creating your own narrative alone in that inner dialogue and then reflecting that through how you follow your actions with your thoughts and then manifest that progress through a collective effort. And so that is why I love setting those boundaries but also remembering not to live behind those walls. That boundaries are not walls but if I maintain too much isolation and alienation that they will. And so moderation also is key during this time.
16:13 – 17:16 FE: So, I love how great Atlanta circulates their information, especially the Atlanta publications. So, Wussy Magazine – them. I also write for an Atlanta based gay publication called GAYE Magazine… G A Y E. But also that the pillars of our community, the catalyst for change they now …I’ve learned and have seen they are stepping up in providing information to their community. So, I look to them as well.
17:40 – 19:24 FE: So this past…or this recent New Moon…I enjoy saging and palo santo at the library as well as my own place. I believe that you can cleanse any environment through not only what engages your senses but with what you resonate with the most. And I love Holywood and I also love utilizing certain crystals and stones to engage, settle, and maintain certain energies and frequencies that I’m on.
Like in the library that I work at. Because it is in a historically Black neighborhood, you know sometimes there are certain energies that are targeted. Especially from the Race Riots of 1906. So, I like to place a lot of Black tourmaline, that has mica, as well as some black obsidian. To use that negative energy for positive energy. I also like to use smokey quartz, I believe in that. As well as your words have power and can also manifest great things. So, I also like to speak and share that information. So, I use a lot of sound bowls to cleanse the sounds in areas. Not only in my home but the library. Because I believe your mind, body, and soul are separate but they are a collective. And they all are a part of your whole health and whole wellness.
19:45 – 22: 25 FE: So, going on hikes with Sula. You can probably hear her in the background. So, Sula gets her name from my favorite Tori Morrison novel. During the height of the pandemic I thought, let me read all the greats and be comforted by their words. And I was so alone. I was so alone because keep in mind these are the words of the greats that have gone before us. But, it is also nothing new. They are highlighting narratives that I see and am so saturated with. So, again I had to isolate myself. And one of the last novels of Toni Morrison that I read or got my hands on was Sula….and so, I when I adopted Sula I thought, I want a friendship and companion like that…that would comfort me and would love me unconditionally.
I love exploring the history….you know similar to VisitBlackHistory.com, I just love to get my feet wet. And get dirty in that history and sometimes it’s not beautiful. Look at genealogy. African-American genealogy is bittersweet. Because and I hope I don’t get emotional…because you’ll never get to meet these people. And you’ll never get to say I’m sorry
22:47 – 25:23 FE: I definitely…wholeheartedly would have thought of this as being selfish. Making this kind of time for myself. Because I never prioritize myself amongst things that are important. You know…my community, how others identify, those disenfranchised within my community, not only the Black experience but the LGBT community. And so, the pandemic helped me to understand I matter…too.
I need my time and space. And that’s it. Period poo. Period poo. *laughs*
something I want to highlight, especially during the month of July. When we see rainbow pride flags, look for the black and brown. I always tell people that because when you see rainbow flags you don’t usually see that initially. When you see that imagery. But, look for the black and brown because we are there too. And those stories are just as beautiful and colorful.
25:47 – 27:08 FE: that was traumatic. Not being able to be in my community. Not being able to be in my home library, which is in a historically Black neighborhood, downtown Atlanta area. I’m literally a few blocks away from the Georgia Capitol. I…and I know this sounds crazy but I prefer to take public transportation. I prefer to be in the community. I prefer to see what’s going on, how I can reflect, what’s new, what’s current, what isn’t being seen or overlooked. And so, when I wasn’t able to go to my job and be there, I was lost for a few weeks
27:09 – 28:42 FE: I do feel like I had to prepare myself. Success comes when opportunity and preparation are aligned. And I do feel like I was not balancing before the pandemic. This was the universe telling me to get myself together, to prioritize, to prepare, and also so that if I see something and intention that I want to manifest…that I also must do the work.
28:50 – 30:06 FE: So now my library is preparing to open back up and I’m enjoying that. But also, you know I am a published poet. So, I have collaborated with a lot of queer and LGBTQ+ platforms to not only circulate my art but to also share my experience during this time. Because this is a historical…we are in living history. This pandemic and this time of racial and social injustices is living history and I want to be as part of as many collaborative efforts to show that we are organizing. We’re celebrating, we’re together and that we are to normalize this kind of unity. That this isn’t temperamental that this should be a platform, a cornerstone for creating a new beloved community.
30:26 – 31:52 FE: I am a wholehearted Geechee woman …I am amongst that identity and that as a queer woman of color, that is a librarian, I love being a vessel of information. You know historians, archivists, librarians, oral historians, and storytellers we’re a part of the same bird. We are feathers in the bird. And so, that also …we transcend and transfer energy.
I am challenging myself to be the best me during and after this pandemic but to also be the best resource, be the best librarian, be the best me, be the best woman I can for me first..and then the communities I reflect.
32:06 – 32:33 FE: Well, during the pandemic I hope that others will …through their self-discovery and passions for the pursuit of a higher and elevated self…that they explore African-American history and culture. And also to see the beauty in a collective narrative and that trans and queer lives do matter.
32:34 – 32:36 SN: Thank you, Forrest.
32:37 – 32:51 FE: Thank you for having me, I really enjoyed it. Me, Sula, and our special guest. *laughs* Its been a great time, I really enjoyed just being….oh before the rain too. So, we’ve been blessed today.
32:52 – End SN: Awesome. I’m going to stop that right there.
Content may be used for educational purposes. Must include citation: Nelson, Sophia. Evans, Forrest. Self-Care 2020 Oral History interview conducted June 28, 2020. A VisitBlackHistory.com Oral History Project, Atlanta, Georgia. 2020.