Welcome to In Reverence.
On this series we ask 10 questions about self-care to folx we hold dear, honoring all kinds of voices and their Self Ceremonies.
We’re interested in digging into the ways self-care has helped people evolve past their own blocks, trauma and social conditioning. We believe in the deep healing path of vulnerability and compassion and how this can help us enrich our beautiful community.
For this edition we're honored to welcome Veronica Agard.
Photo by Carlita Lopez
1. Tell us a little about yourself, your name, your pronouns, where you live. Share a small bio to help us get to know you.
I'm Veronica Agard (she/her), daughter of an immigrant from St. Kitts, Guyana, and Barbados (patrilineal) and an Alabaman (matrilineal) transplant that met in college. They raised me in Lenape Territory (Southern New York and New Jersey) and I live on Canarsee land (Brooklyn). I am invested in cultures of healing, social justice, archival memory, and youth development. For the astrologically inclined - I’m a Winter Solstice baby: a Sagittarius Sun with a Capricorn stellium, an Aquarius Moon, all resting under my Libra Rising.
2. When did you start taking conscious care of yourself?
Ten years ago, I lost my paternal uncle unexpectedly, and two months later, my paternal grandmother joined him. I was stepping into leadership roles on my college campus and pouring into a space that nurtured me, and in the Spring 2012 semester - I named to my close friends and peers what was going on. I cannot recall exactly what I said, but once I said, ‘hey, this is what’s going on with me, so I seem a little off, that’s why’ - folks asked me how they could support me. This led to suggestions of therapy, essential oils, prayer and ritual, and other small practices of release that held a non-judgemental container for my grief. What has followed since then is a chain of events, gaining and losing communities, and making room for blessings that would lead me to creating experiences like Who Heals the Healer (which is resting), and Ancestors in Training (current offering).
3. What is your definition of self-care?
Personally, self-care for me means an intentional practice of maintaining your wholeness. My mother is a former educator who also instilled in me a sense of knowing that knowledge and learning comes from an extended, deliberate practice. I’ve applied that to how I tend to myself.
4. In your experience, how does self-care relate to community care?
Self-care and community care are two sides of a complex coin and having an ideal balance between the two is so vital to our wholeness. Community care and self-care go hand in hand for me, and I’d argue are forms of ancestral practices. Take the concept of ‘there’s no I in wellness but there is one in illness.’ That lands on me as a reminder that yes self-care techniques are important, but so much of who we are as people is shaped by others that it makes sense that we need to find solace in the form of a community. I really believe in having ecosystems of care - a map of folks and their consensual role in your life. This also helps when trying to identify who in your ecosystem has capacity to support you, and conversely, who may not.
2018 Brown Girl Recovery Conference (Tending to the Soul)
5. What is your current favorite Self Ceremony?
Creating altars for my ancestors as a community care practice, and then mirroring that practice with myself. So if I adorn and attend to my altar in a particular way, or with a mission, I find ways to give myself a similar set of prayers and veneration. My self veneration is layered: A scent of vanilla before it’s colonized, with traces of lavender and eucalyptus that lingers after my physical presence is gone. Songs that remind me of places I’ve never been, or haven’t yet, that are also where my roots ultimately reside. Also sounds like my late grandmother’s Caribbean accent appearing ‘randomly,’ while code switching between New York slang and a Southern drawl, in my I’m-fully-comfortable-with-you raspy tone. Looks like me fully embracing my sensuality and naming when folks inadvertently make me feel isolated from it or try to come with respectability politics. A series every day of ceremonies that remind me that my energy and spirit is grand underneath my calm demeanor and short stature.
6. How do you know when you’ve been slacking on your self-care? What do your red flags look like?
This may sound simple, but I know I’m slacking if I’m dehydrated. I see it in my skin, I feel it in my body, and just feel like a wilted plant. To tend to that, I try to remind myself that I am a part of nature just like my plants, and need to tend to myself with the same level of care and attentiveness.
Photo by Rebecca G. Kelly
7. What is your inspiration to continue doing what you are doing? What is the fuel that keeps you going?
My ancestors, especially the ones gained during my lifetime. Transitions and deaths of those I deeply love has reminded me that nothing is promised and that it’s truly on us to live the lives we want to live in the present. I say that while also thinking of the future, and always aspiring to think of what those who come after and through me will remember me as. So when my descendants have a photo of me on their altar, what do I hope that they’ll call on me for? How can I move through this lifetime with that in mind? And if I’m not quite there yet, what habits or changes do I need to make now so that it is in their best interest later? If my legacy isn’t sustainable through practices of care and healing, what’s the point?
8. What have you learned this past week / month? What are you getting better at?
It’s so easy to fall for all of these external messages that try to convince us that consuming additional products, buying in excess, etc, is the path towards maintaining our fullest selves. To that end, I’ve been asserting boundaries to maintain my softness. Pouring into reciprocal relations is such a soothing ritual for me. Allowing to receive as much as I give, as I find that it’s a natural antidote to imposter syndrome.
Photo by Carlita Lopez
9. Tell us a fun fact about what you do, or something people may not know.
While folks know me for my creative works, that’s actually not my only role. My profession is that of a youth worker - which has taken a couple of different forms over the years, but the common thread is that I aspire to be the supportive adult that I did not have in a school setting. My parents and family definitely molded me and did a wonderful job raising me (in my opinion), but there’s something about having additional role models that is so important for young people to have. So whether I’m guiding youth through their college and post-secondary paths, creating a container for their leadership development, or teaching Ancestors in Training - these moments fill me with so much hope for the future and humble me at the same time.
10. What’s the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is your message to the world?
“Don’t pray for blessings and not make room for them to come in.”
This is a download I had and have been moving through over the past two years and it has truly grounded me. We can’t ‘manifest’ anything if we don’t have room within ourselves to actually receive it. It’s like pouring into a cup and watching it overflow without having another container to soak up the answers to our prayers. If you ever hear or see me yell ‘make room for blessings!’ - this is what I mean.