My body felt weathered. My skin and lymphatic system screamed with signs of inflammation. I’d been feeling an impossible tightness in my neck and shoulders and explosive pressure in my lower back. It was the summer of 2021, and I was at an appointment I’d booked with a chiropractor. As he felt across my body, looking for a place to begin, he locked eyes with me and said there wasn’t much he could do until I spoke with my therapist, who might be able to address what had me so tight in the first place. Not even a week later, my dermatologist said that stress was most likely causing the flare-ups on my skin. My mind, heart, and body had been on fire with the rage and heartache that consumed me as I’d navigated the landscape of racism each and every day for the past five years.

My Black feminist awakening happened in 2017 after a photo of me at the January 21 Women’s March went viral. I was confronted online by people in the Black community who insisted I consider how the mainstream feminist movement, the ideology that led to the event, discarded and dismissed Black women. I began to study the history and uncovered heartbreaking evidence of how time and time again, white women protected their whiteness over their womanhood at the expense of the women of color fighting alongside them.

pride issue

Since then, my work as a writer and antiracism educator has lived largely online through teaching on my social media platforms as well as in thought pieces for major publications. There was also my self-managed, 13-city tour I’d titled Unpacking White Feminism; the corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings I ran; and the hours I spent sparring in the comment sections of my Instagram posts with white women who demanded I acknowledge they were “one of the good ones” because their high school boyfriend was Black.


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In the middle of all this, I was given the opportunity to put my work into the pages of a book. I had done so much studying and writing about antiracism that I already had a wealth of material. But diving into the manuscript meant rehashing the dramatic and harmful interactions I’d had with rage-filled racist people who had been pushing back against me from the very beginning. It also meant rehashing the death threats that came to my DMs after suggesting that white women’s successes might not have been manifested but instead afforded to them via white privilege. And the aggressive demands and doxxing I experienced from people who thought they’d silence me forever. Reliving it left me tired.

When the racial uprisings and white urgency of 2020 came about, I was already several years into this unrelenting work. By then, I felt broken. That period of time left many Black people in a haze of recovery, but I hadn’t let myself take a breath.

A year later, the same summer I booked the chiropractor appointment, I found myself sitting on the windowsill of my apartment in Brooklyn, sobbing on the phone with my literary agent, letting her know I felt depleted. I simply couldn’t keep pace with the demands I was getting to produce thought that centered so excruciatingly on race and racism. I told her I was willing to give back the book advance in full, explaining that writing what they’d paid me for might very well drive me into the ground. In that moment, I pressed pause.

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For me, it wasn’t an option to back out of activism entirely. There were lives on the line—both in the present and in the future—that made this action abundantly worth it. But I couldn’t keep going at the same rate I had been. I knew if I did, I’d burn out before I ever got the chance to join the efforts we all were putting forth for the justice we believed in.

After this inward realization, I knew I needed to look outward, toward the community I had been fighting so passionately for and with. I got on the phone with friends and peers—a group containing authors, educators, and activists—and asked for kind reminders that while I rested, there would still be feet on the ground, moving us forward. I promised when I was ready to return, I would be invested in their rest—a cycle of showing up and slowing down that might be the only answer to the question “How can we keep on keeping on?”

A cycle of showing up and slowing down might be the only answer.

The words of my colleagues as well as those I call my intellectual ancestors—Black and feminist writers like bell hooks and Toni Cade Bambara, who trailblazed with dynamic thoughts we still utilize today—reminded me that when we honor these cycles, we can show up full, on time, and in bloom. They also helped me overcome the shame I felt at taking that sacred pause from the very work I understood to be part of my purpose. Shame that told me activism is suffering and that selflessness is sustaining. Shame I now realize was unjustifiable.

I began to calibrate my efforts away from trying to convince white people to value our lives and instead focused on showing up for Black people with deep investment and care. I poured into supporting our collective journey toward liberation instead of trying to teach white people why they must do the same.

A Renaissance of Our Own by Rachel Cargle

A Renaissance of Our Own by Rachel Cargle

A Renaissance of Our Own by Rachel Cargle


Today, I am still in the midst of my healing. I sit with many questions about how to shape my work in a way that honors the reality of the struggle while still tending to the care and keeping of myself. I have committed to an ease, a slowness and softness, that roots me in intention as opposed to the reactionary approach that had left me feeling undone. My book is finished and ready to reach people across the world. The premise of it has changed: It’s now a memoir and manifesto that speaks to the whole of me, not just the part of me that shows up in the fight against racism.

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Contributing Writer

Rachel Cargle is an activist, entrepreneur, and philanthropic innovator. She founded the Loveland Group and the Loveland Foundation. Her debut memoir, A Renaissance of Our Own, will be published in May. Find her on Instagram @Rachel.Cargle.

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