Skip to Content


Community Care Is Essential

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde


Audre Lorde was an influential Black feminist, poet, activist, and lesbian. Often, self-care is taken out of this radical context and reduced to individual acts of self-indulgence by wellness brands or Instagram influencers. However, Lorde was emphasizing the importance of members of marginalized communities caring for themselves and each other in a hostile world. Lorde wrote this quote after being diagnosed with cancer for the second time. Folx of marginalized communities traditionally practice individual and collective self-care as an act of rebellion to maintain activism long-term, and as an act of survival because of exclusion from traditional healthcare services. Within social justice movements, you will hear the phrase “self-care” thrown around a lot. While these self-care pleasantries are nice, it’s not the essence or foundational work of real self-care.  Self-care is revolutionary, but what’s even more radical is community care.


“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” – Helen Keller


Throughout history, nothing great was accomplished without a team, a group, or a collective of people. We witnessed history over the summer as a wave of great awakening washed over the country. Millions of people came together to rise for justice, peace, and equity.


Community and the whole are just as important as the individual. But as Americans, we live in an individualistic society, where “self” is centered and celebrated. The idea that the individual is more important than the collective or whole is detrimental to society. “Ubuntu” in Swahili means, “I am because You Are.” This phrase explains the interdependence African cultures have in order to function, survive, and thrive. Community Care is just as essential as self-care because as humans we cannot do this life thing alone.


Taking responsibility for yourself and ensuring that your being is healthy and whole is a privilege and we must understand it in that way in order to fully grasp the concept of community care. In most marginalized communities, access to proper health care, food nutrition, and adequate resources to address the populations needs can be scarce. The idea that proper self-care is eating healthy and exercising is a great concept, but what about folx who live in food deserts? Their only access to “healthy” food is at the corner store that operates as a quasi-grocery market.


In Detroit, people are investing in their communities by creating green spaces in urban neighborhoods. Greening has the capacity to meet both individual and collective self-care goals. Green spaces are linked to positive physical and mental health benefits. One common free or low-cost “self-care” recommendation is spending some time sitting, walking, or reading in a green space, but access to green spaces is not equal. Creating, maintaining, and using green spaces, as a community practice, can foster community cohesion, connectedness, pride, and caretaking of one another and the physical environment. Bringing people together through greening and accessible green spaces can lead to empowerment and increase the political efficacy of marginalized groups. Detroiters leading vacant lot revitalization efforts are, literally, growing roots in the face of disinvestment and abandonment. Detroiters leading community and urban garden efforts are growing and feeding their community, an act of self-preservation necessary because of the government’s failure to meet the basic needs of their community. As practiced in Detroit, greening can be a radical act of collective and individual self-care.


Survivors of sexual and domestic violence are often encouraged to practice individual self-care; individual self-care is important, especially for those experiencing oppression every day, but, as a movement, we can never forget about the importance of community.

Historically, gay and lesbian people have sought to create “safe spaces” to connect with each other without being discriminated against, beaten, or harassed for their sexual orientation, or gender expression. This could have been at a bar, beach, ballroom. Today, the LGBTQ+ community has more freedom and rights to be ‘out’ in public than in the past. This legacy of creating safe spaces has continued by adding community and resource centers, nonprofit foundations, as well as lots of online communities. These spaces are used for connection, advocacy, and raising awareness for LGBTQ+ issues as well as sharing resources and fundraising. Fundraisers may be for housing, holiday presents, HRT or other needs. Often the fundraising includes selling art, or a dance or drag performance to collect tips.

Artistic expression, in itself, is not an individualistic experience, although American culture often portrays the artist as a loner. Drag queens are make-up, costume, and performance artists who learned their art in community, often with a “Drag Mother” who mentors and looks after their children. Drag performance art in America can be traced back to the ballrooms, where Black and Hispanic communities were known for this family-style protective community. Today, “chosen family” is still an important part of LGBTQ+ culture, and is recognized broadly outside of drag culture. Chosen family is who I spend my holidays with. Chosen family is who I turn to when I need connection or support.

Although many self-care activities like art and journaling are described to be completed in isolation, we can see they are taught, learned and practiced in community. Our care doesn’t stop with just ourselves, and we must recognize how we receive and give care to and from our community. These practices are vital to our survival and radical existence.