Ain’t I A Woman: Arielle Grant
In March of 2020, Render Free was licensed as an official business in the state of Minnesota. As the founder of this lounge, workspace, social and wellness club, my days are dedicated to disrupting the daily trauma experienced by Black and Brown women by offering physical space, promoting the prioritization of wellness and connecting members to practitioners of color who teach us strategies of healing. The doors of our lounge and workspace opened for the first time in October 2020 and in spite of the limitations of COVID-19 we’ve built a community of amazing members.
In the aftermath of the uprisings and murder of George Floyd just blocks from our building, after a year of grief and isolation brought on by a pandemic that disproportionately affects our community, our city needs spaces dedicated to communal rest, recovery and the overall wellbeing of Black and Brown women.
Since moving to Minneapolis only a few years ago, I have held three job titles. Transitory employment was not the plan nor what I had expected. Before my time in the Twin Cities my resume felt sparse with only one place of employment spanning many years and was only disrupted by my relocation. Here in Minnesota, I have been invited into numerous companies. I’ve been present in countless rooms. I’ve sat at the table and been told it was a space to execute my life’s work: to advocate and care for those marginalized by racial oppression. However, one thing came into clarity each time – to value equity in theory is very different than to practice anti-racism.
In this context, my new role became to persuade. Before accomplishing what I set out to do, I had to convince those with power from within these institutions that racially oppressed people, Black and brown people, my people, are worthy of our collective attention and the resources needed to thrive.
Existing in these environments 9-5, five days a week, led to deep sense of exhaustion and ultimately hopelessness. This was not the work I was made for. In fact, eventually for each position I held, I realized that this work was not worthy of me. My body began to tell me in various ways (sleep depravity, newly developed anxiety, skin irritation, ect.) that though I can collect an infinite number of job titles, my body is finite.
In all this, Render Free was born. Community leaders are at a loss regarding how to dismantle unjust systems of oppression that have been adopted within their institutions. Persistent adaptations of systemic racism affect the day-to-day lives of people of color. We are left to endure trauma and race-based stress. This continuous effort, coupled with everyday concerns, creates deep psychological, emotional and spiritual fatigue. I am not the only woman who knows the cost of racism. So many Black and Brown women ache with the internalization of trauma. For them, I am building a place devoted to our healing.
Render Free is a space for us. We practice loving ourselves. We learn together, in community, how to move forward with resolution toward internalized dignity. We remind one another: We have inherent worth. We deserve to be well + free.