Name: Rachel Ricketts

Age you feel: A wise and soulful 50

Where did you grow up: Vancouver, Canada

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Tell us about where you grew up and one of your earlier memories as a kid

I grew up in a very white and wealthy space (as neither of those things) in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The community I was raised in was overcome with "well-intentioned" white folks who feel they are progressive and liberal but in truth are anything but. As a Black girl it was a very toxic environment to grow up in, but it gave me the tools I needed to fulfil my life's purpose and do the work I do today. One of my earliest memories is running away from a racist daycare centre when I was about 3 years old. I was the only child of colour and they treated me terribly. One day I had had enough. I lived across the street so I snuck out of the daycare, crossed the street and down to my house. When my mom came home from work to drop her bag before picking me up at daycare, she found me home alone playing on the kitchen floor. She called the daycare to ask if they knew where I was and they replied with a bold face lie: "she's right here ma'am". My mom gave them an ear and ass whooping no doubt! I was born bold, raised by and in boldness.

How has being abroad and seeing what happens in the U.S shape your world view

Being a Black woman living abroad has been a rollercoaster. As a Canadian, I've always been a close spectator to the politics and policies of the US and as a Black person I feel little difference between the things that happen to a Black person in my own country versus any other. Anti-Blackness is global. Our bodies are weaponized no matter where we are and there is no country I have been or will go that is free from discrimination against Blackness or womanhood. Sweden, where I was living for a year, is thought to be one of the most progressive countries on earth but it's racist just like anywhere else. What is happening in the US has become the global barometer for bad behaviour so other countries and communities throw their hands up and say "we aren't racist, sexist etc because we aren't like the US". It's ridiculous. The shit going down in the US should not be anyone's barometer for how to treat citizens and we ALL lose when that becomes the metric. Systems of oppression are global and need to be addressed everywhere. I have a lot of family and friends in the US and it is a hot dumpster fire right now, it certainly has a visceral impact when you witness and learn about what’s happening no matter where you are.

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What has driven you to do the work you do

I do this work for my ancestors who were unable to use their voice in the ways I am privileged enough to now. I do this for all the little girls of colour who are growing up in a white heteropatriarchal world that tells them they aren't as worthy, deserving or valuable. I do this for my inner child who wasn't allowed to express her boldest, Blackest self without white violence stomping her down. And I do this work for my mom, who literally died as a result of medical racism, white supremacist patriarchy and the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental consequences of intergenerational trauma.

Doing anti- racism work can deplete the spirit, what are some ways that you combat this

It is an absolute spirit depleter...on a good day. This is one of the areas I am working on the most because it is really hard to overcome social programming to constantly DO instead of BE, especially as a Black woman. But I cannot show up for others if I am not showing up for myself— so, soul-care, as I like to call it, is one of the most integral components of my work (and the basis for spiritual activism). I meditate and move my body regularly, usually through yoga (at home as I find most studios around the world are utterly white-washed and appropriative). I connect with nature as much as possible. I have a strong network of Black and Indigenous womxn who keep me on my shit and have a team of traditional and spiritual therapists to guide me through it all. Writing is a major form of catharsis for me, and I return to my breath as much as possible.

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What has been the most difficult conversation you've had to have in your career

I would say it's a themed conversation, meaning I've had to have it several times (and keep on having it). I get a lot of requests from big brands to work with them in a collaborative manner because anti-racism is "hot" right now and they want to appear as doing the work by affiliating themselves with people who are leaders of it. But they don't want to actually DO the work, just appear to be or affiliate themselves with it in some marketable way. I am constantly battling big brands to share what it is they are actively DOING to address white supremacist heteropatriarchy within their organization (not just on social media). The first time I had this conversation it was totally exhausting and I wound up consulting for free over calls and emails. Huge fail. Now I have a list of questions I send immediately to see how legit their request is and what they're truly committed to. I've clearly curated it well because 9/10 times I never hear from them again. Which is great in terms of saving my time, energy and emotional labour, but still frustrating and depleting that so many businesses are trying to talk the talk and it’s all for show. And doubly frustrating that I forego big money because I am committed to my values in a way those who don't give a damn about systems of oppression never have to.

What brings you the most joy in the work that you do

Helping womxn of colour, especially BIWOC, feel affirmed, supported, nourished, seen and heard.

How has having a social media platform helped in putting your voice and leadership into the world

I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram. It's a racist, sexist, ableist and overall oppressive space so I hate that (obvi) AND, I wouldn't have the career I have now without it. I'm grateful for my social media platform because it allows me to easily speak to a large community with my own authentic voice and because of that my words are heard and felt in a way they wouldn't be otherwise. I am able to forge meaningful relationships with people all over the world and this is a total game changer for making this work accessible and impactful. Still, I would definitely like to see these platforms ensure the safety and protection of womxn of colour and social justice activists generally, and they need to stop censoring Black womxn.

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What's one misconception you feel people have of you because of social media

That my life is coming up roses. I think my IG life can look like a fairy tale sometimes (like so many others) because I work remotely and travel so often but there are undoubtedly cons to being a digital nomad. I can't put the sacrifices that were made to cultivate this lifestyle into a square picture. I do my best to keep it on the real and share the ups and downs but I also have to be fiercely protective of myself and my people so I don't share everything nor should I be expected to. It's easy for people to think I have shit on lock in some superhuman way just because I have a bunch of followers and a curated feed but I'm human just like everyone else. I get stuck in my own internalized oppression. I harm others. I abuse my privileges. I falter and I fuck up and I do my best to address and rectify the harms I cause and do better moving forward. Like any perfectly imperfect person.

Who are some people or accounts that our readers should follow to get more educated

There are so many but my faves for racial justice are:

ShiShi Rose (@shishirose)

Catrice Jackson (@catriceology)

Allen Salway (@lilnativeboy)

Dionne Elizabeth (@dionne_____) is my go-to for authentic self-care and mindfulness

For people who have friends who want to be better at allyship, what would you tell them to say

I would tell them to tell their friends to do their damn work without relying on the sweat, tears, time, energy, and emotional labour of womxn of colour (especially their friends of colour) unless those womxn are willing educators who are getting PAID. It's 2019, with all the information at our fingertips not knowing is an active choice and frankly, an unacceptable one. I have a free anti-racism resource list on my website to point those wishing to act in allyship to, but I would make clear that reading about racial justice is the bare minimum. Allyship requires ACTION and there are tons of BIWOC educators out in these streets providing ample opportunities to learn what that means and how to get aligned. So get to it!

Fill in the following sentences

The place that brings me most joy is being by my forever boo's side.

The last time I laughed until I cried was with my girls at my wedding.

I've watched Clueless (sorry not sorry) more than 4 times.

Blackness is beauty, grace, raw, real, incessantly replicated but never duplicated. Blackness is the sun and the moon and the stars combined.

The women in my life are glorious goddesses and I wouldn't be where I am today without them.

I hope that in 5 years we are past "learning" about racial justice and entrenched in personal and collective ACTION.

Loved learning about Rachel? You can learn more about her work here and follow her here!

Interview by Associate Editor Gabi Thorne