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 Broadview‘s September 2020 issue with the title “Tricia Hersey.”
Anne Bokma is a journalist and author in Hamilton.
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