Changing the Perspective on Health and Wellness

A Radical Self-Care Series

Sophie Margola ’21

“In a time of political turmoil and injustice in the world, how do you learn to survive and thrive in that type of environment?” asks Sharon Rodriguez, one of the brains behind St. Lawrence’s Radical Self-Care series made available to students during Spring 2021 through a partnership with the Clarkson University Chief Inclusion Office.

“We wanted to do a self-care series through social justice,” says Rodriguez, co-chair of the St. Lawrence Diversity Programming subcommittee. After the tumultuous summer of 2020, Lorraine Njoki, the Diversity Program Coordinator at Clarkson University, and Rodriguez began brainstorming ideas on how to support students of color amid months of racialized unrest in America. They felt that all students, but especially the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and the LGBTQ+ communities on campus would benefit from extra support this year.

“In the greater community, there is still a stigma around mental health. There’s still a stigma around taking care of yourself and preserving yourself,” says Ashlee Downing-Duke, co-chair of the St. Lawrence Diversity Programming subcommittee. “When you look at marginalized identities, it’s even harder.”

Downing-Duke, Njoki, and Rodriguez note that health systems often fail to recognize or account for the additional stress of racism, discriminations, and adverse impact of colonization on the psychological and emotional well-being of marginalized populations.. Both universities aim to support their BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities who often feel isolated. The Radical Self-Care Series is designed to enhance students’ sense of belonging and community, a strong factor for ensuring student retention and persistence in higher education. The series also works to eliminate the hesitance to talk about the complex social and political issues, targeting some underlying causes of stress for all students.

Throughout the semester, five invited presenters focused on addressing not only mental health, but also spiritual health, sexual health, physical health, and culturally relevant veganism. Each Friday, health and wellness specialist hosted a virtual seminars. For example, Danny Fluker Jr., founder of Black Boys OM, explored breathwork and guided meditation, journaling, and a beginner’s yoga flow. Fluker helped students appreciate the benefits of yoga without appropriating its cultural traditions. Other presenters include Ericka Hart, sexuality advocate, Melody Li, founder of Inclusive Therapist, Amy Quichiz, plant-based food activist, and Rachael Okesola, creator of Afrifitness.

While the series was open to all students, it catered specifically to the needs and healing of BIPOC students on campus, with the ultimate goal of providing students of color the tools they need to thrive in any environment.

The Radical Self-Care Series was a collaboration between Clarkson University Chief Inclusion Office, St. Lawrence University Office for Diversity & Inclusion, Clarkson University Student Health and Counseling Services (SHAC), and St. Lawrence University Diana B. Torrey ’82 Health and Counseling Center.