Ep#1: Healing as Protest with Shelley Bruce
In this first episode of Your Story Medicine, I welcome entrepreneur, artist, activist, and my wellness wifey, Shelley Bruce. Shelley is the creator of Day of Healing, a healing gathering on Venice Beach that combined the concept of much-needed protests with community organizing and wellness to bring a rejuvenating experience for artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and everyone else in between. Shelley shares with us the ways she stays grounded during these turbulent times, the inspiration behind Day of Healing, and the powerful significance of it being held on a beach. She also shares what she has learned to release on her spiritual journey and offers words of wisdom for people starting their own spiritual journey. Then, Shelley reads a beautiful poem and ritual from her book, On Blooming.
The revolution is happening and it can be exhausting, but we’re here to help bring you back to feeling empowered and inspired to keep sharing your unique gifts and messages with the world.
How would you describe your medicine?
I am an artist by profession, have been painting since I was 13 and have been writing poetry since I was 15. I love to share my commissioned and creative work with everyone. I work with themes of identity as a black fem queer woman. I am also a community organizer with passion in social justice and spirituality who plans events, concerts, and workshops.
What is your ancestral lineage and how is that influencing the ways in which you show up in the world?
I have a Jamaican mother and an African-American and Scottish father from Los Angeles. I have a space in my physical home for an altar that houses things that remind me of where I come from, including Jamaican sand, hot sauce and grapefruit soda. My father’s side informs the legacy of black history that’s in LA and the US. Through them, I can see how we have survived and thrive despite the obstacles. I’m very grateful for acknowledging where I come from.
What are you doing to stay rooted and grounded during these times?
I have been doing multifaceted things, I’ve done more community organizing events and protesting recently. It’s a lot because as sensitive beings, when we take the next step in affecting larger communities, we may not realize what we’re carrying. I’ve been finding more stillness. One of the gifts of this quarantine is a lot more ‘nothing time’ or fostering that self-awareness.
Gratitude also looks like taking advantage of the resources near you, like going to the ocean and physically touching nature. Do that every day! I also practice what I preach by participating in what I teach to others and what I tell others to do, like creating art. I love myself in ways that I hope others would.
Why did you start Day of Healing?
One thing it started with was creating opportunities for POC Black folx, women, and queer folx to express their art. There are so many working creatives in California, but we often don’t have access to spaces and certain parts of town. When this revolution of change has been becoming more mainstream in 2020, I combined the ideas of the much-needed protests with community organizing and wellness.
I could not sleep during the first week of protesting because I was processing so much of it. In that time, something clicked and I came to the realization that we need to do some sort of healing work and do something that creates reverence. On June 21st, I was able to work with creatives and entrepreneurs to host a healing day in Venice that was a form of protest that was extremely rejuvenating. Healing doesn’t always happen individually, I think it truly happens in the collective where we can see the improvement in our community.
What’s the significance of Day of Healing being on the beach?
I was doing other socially distanced healing circles before and everything in me was saying: touch the Earth. It’s a form of healing for myself but I knew we all needed to do that as a collective. It was monumental for a lot of people. For coastal cities in CA, there were many historically segregated beaches. Ultimately, doing protest is a form of reclaiming space that is ours or that we pay taxes for or that has been stolen from us in some way. Gathering in mass without a permit from the LAPD and taking up that space is a powerful way to let people see change happening in real time.
What have you been learning to release?
Prior to releasing is understanding the complexity of what I’m carrying. There is a place for righteous rage and for that anger to be respected. We also have to create spaces that remind us that we are human through all of this and that foster a peaceful, quiet, still space. I’m releasing the need for people to see me show up in this all the time and still respect me for the goddess I am. I’m happy to release the idea that if I’m crying, upset, stressed, or at peace… that Shelley is the same Shelley that is powerful on stage and gets the attention of 10,000 people.
For anyone starting their spiritual journey, what is one ritual, practice, or even words of wisdom that you invite them to embody in their personal lives?
It’s often uncomfortable! You can be in process and not be a masterpiece and still heal and serve people. Even as you’re learning your lessons, you can still speak truths that are helpful to people. Just having the audacity to show up is powerful.
Conclusion: You have something to give to the world, so don’t be afraid to share it and embody your power. Release the idea that you have to show up as powerful all the time. We are fluid and complex beings. We thrive with a duality of expressing our rage and finding peaceful stillness. You can also still serve and heal people while on your own journey of learning and healing. Lastly, sometimes the most revolutionary thing you can do is take care of you.
Homework: Engage with your community and do your best to take care of the world, starting with something small. What’s one thing you can do today to spread a positive message?
Learn more about Shelley and her work:
Day of Healing 2020: www.instagram.com/dayofhealing2020
Listen to our past interview: https://www.jumakae.com/shelleybruce