These days, everyone is talking about mindfulness. You’ve probably heard how it can help reduce stress and anxiety. But you wouldn’t be alone if you didn’t totally understand what it’s all about. More than just some hipster practice of burning incense and meditating, mindfulness is a way of life that can benefit your physical and emotional well-being. And believe it or not, you may actually already be practicing it.
Sonia Russell and David Walker understand the importance of mindfulness and have created a way for Black people to keep a little more calm in their pockets. Their BlackFULLness app helps users learn more about the practice of mindfulness and how it can support their daily lives. It’s loaded with daily affirmations and mindful practices, including breath work and body scans that can help users find calm and reconnect with the present moment. The app also includes a journal which allows users to track their mood and set personal goals. We spoke with Sonia and David about how they are trying to help Black people find the space to slow down.
Russell says the team wanted the app to support stress reduction and healing justice in the Black community, but they were fully aware that mindfulness means different things to different people. “This was our opportunity to figure out how to frame it and make folks realize that they were already doing it,” she said. “We didn’t want them to get left out of the process because they don’t like the packaging it came in.”
The app’s name was intended to be a combination of being Black and mindful. And it was a quote from a 1983 Audre Lorde interview that let the team know they were on the right track. “In the interview, she was talking about her experience living in St. Croix and said, ‘there’s a refreshing sense of Blackfullness here.’ And then we knew we had it. We started focusing on what it’s like for Black folks to live full lives,” she said.
Walker points out that mindfulness has existed in the Black community all along and says the app is giving us permission to reclaim it. “We’ve been mindful. But it’s been taken away and called something different. So we’re going to reclaim it, reap the benefits from it and make space to put intention on the things we already do – going to the beauty salon, chopping it up at the barbershop with your homies, playing pool, whatever brings you peace,” he said. “And once the behavior is changed, lifestyles will change and Black folks can live the healthy full lives they deserve.”
Although the app is meant to teach the importance of taking time to be mindful, Russell says she knows that time is not always available to everyone. “It’s a luxury to have a glass of wine with friends or get a massage. But we have to remember that care is important,” she said. “We can’t spend so much time worrying about what others don’t have that we neglect what is for us. You may feel a little guilty, but your body and mind will feel better in the long run.”
Walker says he believes building this app is part of his divine purpose and says he and Russell are ready to help Black people live full and healthy lives. “Sonja and I have the competencies to get things done, but it’s the love we have for humanity that is really driving us. We’re here, we’re ready, and it’s on and poppin’,” he says.