(Photo by Charlie Watts)

Topics: Justice, September 2020 | Interview

‘Nap bishop’ advocates for rest as a form of resistance

Tricia Hersey says we're exhausted because capitalism has turned us into machines


Feeling heavy-laden? Maybe what your weary soul needs is some rest — specifically, a nap. So says Tricia Hersey, an Atlanta-based artist, divinity school graduate and self-appointed “nap bishop.”

Hersey founded the Nap Ministry, which gathers groups for collective naps and workshops such as Sabbath Dreaming, which promote rest as a tool for healing. She preaches to her Instagram followers with concise counter-culture messages: “Sleep is a social justice issue.” “Rest is a right, not a privilege.” “America is so exhausting for Black people.” “The revolution will be led by well-rested people.” She spoke with Anne Bokma.

Radical We are exhausted, disconnected and overworked because we are surviving in a capitalist system that values profit over people. Capitalism turns us into machines. We aren’t machines. We are human beings.

Righteous Rest is not a luxury — it’s a divine human right and it’s one of our most ancient and primal needs. It’s a spiritual practice. You do not have to earn your rest. Napping allows us to take a pause and listen to what God and the universe are trying to tell us.

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Race Black Americans are five times more likely to be sleep-deprived than whites. Like most people of colour, I was told I had to work twice as hard as a white person to prove I was smart. That led to exhaustion and the idea that sleep isn’t valuable. We are brainwashed into feeling guilty when we listen to our bodies and need to rest.

Reparations In divinity school, I worked in the university archives researching cultural trauma and black liberation theology and became obsessed with the narratives of my enslaved African ancestors. I studied the details of their lives on American plantations—how they would work 20 hours a day starting at five in the morning. I started to think about what it would have been like if they’d been allowed to rest. Rest is a dream space where you can imagine new worlds. When you are in living in a toxic culture, one of the first things stolen from you is your imagination and hope. If you can’t close your eyes and hope yourself out of something you are done. Our dream space has been stolen and we want it back. Naps are a healing portal.

Resistance Capitalism wants us to work 24 hours a day. How will we lead justice movements if we are sleep-deprived? Resistance looks like protest marches, boycotts — but it also looks like resting.

Re-imagining I created the Nap Ministry in a classic liturgy format where sleeping is the sermon. My dream is for this to become a global movement. I would love to have my own nap temple, a place that would be a refuge for sleep.

This interview first appeared in Broadviews September 2020 issue with the title “Tricia Hersey.”

Anne Bokma is a journalist and author in Hamilton.

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  • says:

    If lack or rest is from capitalism, what would be the alternative? None here is given, so let's figure it out.

    The opposite of capitalism is collectivism. (socialism, communism and others)

    Let's look at a typical work day for those in such states.

    North Korea 10-12 hours in a factory or farm. A six day week, (but under threat) you are encouraged to work 7 days. they all get the same benefits regardless of what they do.
    Russia, (although no longer considered "communist") 9 hour work day (less an hour for days after a public holiday). Night shifts and weekend work is enforced.
    Laos an average salary of $250 a month. Farming and living off the land is generally the means of survival.
    China, forget your training in Divinity education.
    Excluding Germany, most "developed" countries have the lowest work weeks. You are free to chose what your profession can be. You are generally able to refuse work, or move on (you're not told where to work).
    Proverbs 6:10-12 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
    Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

    As I mentioned before, clothes and food is the only promise God gives us outside of salvation.


    • says:

      I did some travelling in eastern European countries in the 1980s. I don't know how many hours a day were standard, but work was compulsory. If you didn't work you went to jail. That's just one aspect of the oppression. Children snitching on their parents if they watched western TV stations (I'm referring to East Germany here) is another. "Capitalism wants us to work 24 hours a day"? Baloney.

  • says:

    when I read 'nap bishop' and 'nap ministry', I immediately thought the article was about the Canadian National Anti-Poverty organization! Well, the ideas work there as well.