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Luminary Brain Trust Updates

January 19, 2024

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Year of The Dragon

This is your friendly holiday reminder that we need sharp haircuts & new threads for the Ferbuary 10th kickoff to the Lunar New Year!

Grab a our limited-edition Year of the Dragon hoodies & t-shirts for your favorite people large and small!

Proceeds go directly to donuts for my mouth, and I’M NOT SHARING.  (kidding – I’ll share.)

Hi friends!

Let’s talk about how to give care without giving out.

I figured out how to stop setting myself on fire to keep others warm. Here’s what I learned – and how we got here:

Back in the summer of 2020, our family was still in full pandemic isolation. We weren’t invited into any pods. I didn’t have family or friends to share the load on childcare, domestic work, or cooking.

I was cooking meals for the neighbors, checking in to offer support to family and friends, creating and sharing curriculum, toolkits, reading guides, workshops, donating money I didn’t have – and other than a monthly zoom chat with a friend and donations from our lovely supporters to cover a portion of my costs running Raising Luminaries, I was getting nothing back.

I was homeschooling both of our kids, dual-working and child-caring full time, providing a billion meals a day, churning out anything and everything desperate families needed to hold on through the pandemic.

I have privileges – a kind and amiable co-parent, proximity to whiteness. I had lost the use of one of my shoulders but had most of my health, a safe home. We were surviving far better than most. But still – it shouldn’t be like this. No one should have to hold up the weight of society while navigating world disasters, weeping on the daily, for years, alone.

I had also realized during the summer of 2020 that my work was being shared widely – but folks weren’t transforming this education into action.

People were sharing my articles and perching revolutionary kids books on the shelf to show how woke they were. I was having the same basic talks with white women running our racial justice groups as we had years ago – nothing had budged.

We had attention, but we had no transformation. Raising Luminaries and everything I had built had become a pop-culture virtue signal. My work had been appropriated as an identity marker for people who wanted to be activist caregivers – even if they did not engage with my work – or me, at all.

It’s not because these caregivers were lazy – far from it. They, like me, were so far beyond burnout. All the greatest intentions, none of the fuel to get there. Forget igniting luminaries – we were charred matches, dry, brittle, and ready to crumble at the lightest touch.

I could throw more educational materials into the world to show off how productive and helpful I could be. To earn my way into support by providing the performative work people needed to look busy.

Or I could stop assuming I already knew what caregivers needed – and listen to what they REALLY need right NOW.

So I interviewed a handful of our most engaged, dedicated, radically committed caregivers. I took my own advice to center #OwnVoices – and sought overworked caregivers with lived experiences – running as fast as they could, and desperate for a nap.

I asked them what support looked like.

I asked what held them back from taking action.

I asked what kept them up at night.

I asked them for their hopes and dreams – what would the perfect solution look like?

What would help you draw air into the atrophied corners of your lungs?

Then I compiled everything I learned into a new… uhh thing?

(If it already existed, there’d be a name for it. But it didn’t. So it doesn’t.)

Like a workshop, because we learn, and talk, and interact with each other – but not a workshop.

Like a support group, because we connect and make friends and hash out our everyday challenges – but not a support group.

Like a retreat – but none of us have access to childcare or family support and we’ve got kids and work and volunteering and aaaaahhh… who has the time?!

Like a long-running group of friends who makes time for each other once a year – creating an anchoring space where you belong, even if the rest of the world finds you to be too much or not enough.

Like those things, but designed for us. Caring for caregivers for a change – those always pulled to center the needs of others.

And then I tied together all the radical foundation work missing in new activist spaces. The 101 stuff that nobody talks about before leaping into a protest, demanding action, shaming folks for not knowing better, doing better, earlier, more, faster.

The stuff that keeps us from burning out.

In Winter of 2022, I rolled out our first Winter Incubator with a group of open-minded caregivers who graciously joined me as guinea pigs to test out the format, discussion topics, and completely new way of gathering.

It was very messy, I infodumped way too much, and my cats interrupted constantly. It was also revolutionary, and changed… everything.

Other than a Covid vaccine (huge) and sending my kids back to school (also huge), my challenges remained the same. But things felt different. I became different.

I’m still a disabled mom raising a disabled kid, working below minimum wage. I still lack family and material support outside my partner and can’t live independently or carry my own weight.

And after running two Summer Collectives (very different topics and goals, but similar…roots?) we’ve just wrapped up the first week of our second Winter Incubator.

Everything feels better. Life is just as busy, but so much easier now.

All the stuff I knew I should do – but couldn’t: boundary-setting, saying ‘no,’ pacing my activism and care work, modeling rest and courageous action, letting go of the bullshit and the busywork – I did it.

Actually – I’m doing it. Cause that’s how radical transformative change happens. You’re always in it, doing it, creating new futures, finding new challenges. The stuff I once found dreadful and terrifying is… kind of fun now?

I could infodump for eons on how we do it, how to DIY your own Winter Incubator – but my guess is if you didn’t join this year’s winter incubator, it’s because you didn’t think it would work for you. Or you’re not ready for it yet. Or you’re scared of change and what it will bring – and that’s totally cool! Also you’re busy, and I’ll be honest it took two years to build i -t so if you are busy, you should not try to DIY this.

So, I’m resisting that urge to be like “HERE’S HOW I DID IT, AND YOU CAN TOO!” I think the best way to start is to help sow seeds for whatever it is that you really need this year. These last few years home with your kids, especially.

Giving you a moment (an opportunity? an excuse?) to answer these questions for yourself –

What does support look like for you?

What holds you back from taking action?

What keeps you up at night?

What are you hopes and dreams – and the perfect solution to help you get there?

Maybe you just journal it out.

Maybe you share your insight in our Collab Lab Challenges so we can brainstorm together this spring.

Maybe you schedule a hangout with a friend and share these questions with each other.

Even if all you do is talk about it – get honest about it.

Take a moment to form the thoughts in your mind instead of pushing them off for ‘someday when I have the time’ (translation: never.)

I think you’re smart, and I also know you could create some really cool things. Instead of scrolling, reading, consuming, bookmarking, and adding more stuff to the cavernous shopping cart of your brain –

what if you took your own advice, and centered an #OwnVoices person with lived experience – your lived experience – on how to ignite this next generation of leaders*?

*(Or whatever your goal is, you get to decide!)

I’m curious to hear how it goes. I’m curious to find out if you’re willing to do that scary work of collecting yourself, creating a vision of what it means to heal from the crispy burnout of this ongoing pandemic, and to center yourself for a moment so you can be better at caring for others.

Change of subject - when did endorsing genocide become a litmus test for good moms?! !!!?

Coming up next

I’m too ovewhelmed to figure out what’s coming next week, but it’ll probably be a helpful thing!
I’ll be more coherent once we get further into the Winter Incubator. That’s what it’s for, you know – cutting out the bullshit busywork for deep, transformative action.

With you,

– Ashia

PS: Have you read the latest from Cerebellum? My favorite line: “You know it’s not the last burrito on the planet but all of your hopes and dreams for the next many moments were wrapped up in that tortilla.”

PPS: We call it a Friday Failure Party – but I always join on the wrong day. Yay for mistakes!



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©2023 Ashia Ray of Raising Luminaries™. All rights reserved.

Raising Luminaries is anchored in the land of the Wampanoag & Massachusett People.
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Photographs via Unsplash & Illustrations via Storyset, used with permission.

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