There is this quote that I adore: "I wear oils on my skin. Honey on my lips. Crystals in my bra. I am my own sacred space" Can you talk to me about the body as a sacred space? What does this mean to you and how do you honor your own body as sacred?
Ooooooo I love this quote!
I think of the body as sacred as being good to your body. What goes in your body, was it something that you wanted there meaning was it enjoyable, nourishing, fulfilling? It's treating this vessel that holds your spirit well, such that one can continue making a difference.
For you, what is the importance of black women and femmes loving and honoring our bodies?
I think of Audre Lorde's quote when I read this question; "Self-care is not indulgence. It is self-preservation." I assert Audre was speaking to people of color when she said this quote and in particular black femmes. So when I think of honoring our bodies, I think of giving ourselves permission to break down.
Do you identify as a witch? If so, what so, what does it mean for you to be a witch?
When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with Matilda because I finally found someone (a fictional character I thought was my friend) that I understood how I felt. I had a backyard that was full of woods and I would often wander the woods rubbing trees and feeling the wind touch the tiny hairs on my arm. I would sit in the woods for hours by myself and I felt like it was my own secret space where I could be myself. Nature feels magical to me and even from a very young age, I felt that I was connected on levels beyond this human body. So, the short answer to the question is yes, but moving away from those woods and being seeped into Christianity had me question my connection with the woods. Now, I feel that witchyness has to some extent become normalized (Thank you Witches Brew!), I can be out and proud about being a witch!
Do you have any rituals that you enjoy? What is a favorite for you?
I have an altar in my room (would love for it to get larger). I love finding out what energy is carried in stones, even if I do not own it. It's healing to just learn about different earth elements that provide healing. I light sage just about every morning. I think my favorite ritual is reading my horoscope at the top of every month with my partner. Sometimes, she will remind me to read mine all the while getting me super excited because she has already read it before me.
I first saw you when you went topless at the NY Afro Punk festival this summer. I was like, this woman is a BAD ASS! What inspired you to go topless at Afro Punk? Were you nervous?!
Initially, my only motive was to bring visibility to breast cancer for young, black, queer folks. I wanted people to see me and recognize that they too need to check their breasts. Then, I took my shirt off and realized that this was a moment for me as well. A moment where I would reclaim my body in the face of being told that it should be some other way my entire life (not just after my double mastectomy).
What is the message you are wanting to send through the act of being topless in public?
I want people to honor their bodies as their own. I want people to be free in how they express themselves, resistant to societal norms that do not serve us but further perpetuate pain rather than freedom. People have told me that they are inspired by me and I am so honored to be seen in this way, and I want people to see me and express freedom in the ways that are safe and work for them.
When I reached out to you, i shared a bit about myself, including that I am a burn survivor. Seeing your pictures and hearing your story was so inspirational for me because I know firsthand all of the shame and insecurity that can come with having scars. To see you, another black woman, intentionally challenging those mainstream body narratives is incredibly healing for me. Thank you. Do you have any words of love and encouragement for black women and femmes who are struggling to love their bodies?
(Thank you so much for sharing that with me. You story is insanely powerful.) I think even the body love movement can have a damaging undercurrent. I have met many black women and femmes who felt bad for not liking their bodies. So, I think rather than focusing on self love as the goal, I like to structure it as honoring that black women and femmes are here. Existence can be pretty challenging as a black women/femme in a world not interested in our survival, let alone our thriving.
So, honoring ourselves where we are. If self love is not something that has been discovered, thats totally fine as that journey never ends nor is it an end goal or
has to be.
What makes you feel powerful?
Listening to what works for me and doing it! I have spent a lifetime listening to what others think is best and I have found that when I just listen to myself there is so much tenderness in just that simple act. I know whats best for me, I just have to listen.
What's next for you? Are there any projects you're working on or adventures you're conjuring up?
I am working on a speaking tour in 2017! Hooray! So, hoping to be booked around the country with various speaking opportunities on healing, sex/sexuality, LGBTQIA+ cultural literacy, etc. Book me on my website! www.ihartericka.com
Are there any black femme witches/artists/conjurers/healers that inspire you?
One of my really good friends, Lisa Swinney is super magical.
Ericka Hart was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer in May 2014 at the age of 28. Throughout her diagnosis, she realized that neither her identity as a queer black femme, nor the nuances of her life, were featured prominently in her treatment. A black, queer, activist, sexuality educator, writer and cancer-warrior with a Master’s of Education in Human Sexuality from Widener University, Ericka has taught sexuality education for elementary aged youth to adults across New York City for the past six years. Her work in sexuality education was catalyzed by her service as a Peace Corps HIV/AIDs volunteer in Ethiopia (Dec 08- July 10). Currently, she is the Director of Adolescent Sexual Health at a community-based organization in New York City.