T Aisha Edwards really wants to be the official White House therapist.
"If I was Donald Trump's therapist, we would live in a different America," she says with a laugh. "I'm not even playing. Quote me."
She laughs, but the sentiment is authentic. After 14 years serving marginalized communities with high-risk, out-of-control-behaviors, Edwards has come to see mental health as a way to learn how the body becomes a vehicle for oppressive systems, both in the physical world and within. She credits those insights to somatic therapy—a practice emphasizing the connection between mind and body—which is also a driving force behind the health collective she founded, Radical Rest.
Established in the wake of the George Floyd protests, Radical Rest is an autonomous collection of local healers offering free and donation-based services to BIPOC activists working the front lines of Portland's continuing protests.
"I know that what these movements need to be sustainable is healing justice," she says. "It feels pertinent to be doing something, not from the policy framework, but inside our own bodies."
At its core, the term “healing justice” refers not just to equitable care—it is also meant to address unpacking the trauma caused by internalized white supremacy, capitalism and ableism. This mission of dismantlement anchors Radical Rest’s manifesto: To take down the oppressive systems that surround us, we must first destroy them within ourselves.
Radical Rest’s provider network is a diverse assortment of practitioners, many from marginalized communities themselves. Patients can shop services and connect with providers directly on the Radical Rest website, further simplifying the relationship between patient and provider.
"I definitely see mental health as being involved in a comprehensive approach to healing oppressive systems," says Edwards, whose own somatic therapy practice, Full Flight Wellness, serves community members affected by systems of normalized oppression. "I spend all day with patients unraveling and uncoupling the ways that capitalism, white supremacy, and colonization have dismantled their relationships with their bodies."
To provide care under the Radical Rest umbrella, practitioners commit a certain amount of room in their caseload each month to serve members of the BIPOC community who may not otherwise have access to their services.
Though all the providers donating their time share the same somatic worldview, they each embody that mission in their own singular way, from bodywork, talk therapy and naturopathy to tarot, astrology, music therapy, and ancestral medicines. Wellness can be found in a transcendent tarot reading, chakra work, acupuncture, or even a bit of witchcraft. But regardless of the delivery, each service provided through Radical Rest aims to empower frontline protesters as a means to support the greater movement of abolishing white supremacy.
Radical Rest's providers are scheduling services through September 27, after which the team will take a brief recuperative break and reconvene in mid-November.
"I can see that my providers are fatigued and I'm fatigued," Edwards says. "We're going to take some time to be true to the mission, and Radical Rest itself is going to take a radical rest."
See radicalrest.org for more information.
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