Rituals Of Community Care | Adrienne Oliver

Seven years ago, motherhood came with a whoosh in the shape of my girl, Pearl. Unlike educator and artist, “Black single mother” is a label still foreign, but it’s at this intersection where I harnessed the life-giving power of care. It’s at this intersection I refined a vision that buoys all my work.

My days are filled with tending to others through sweet, mundane routines: lunches, wash day, rehearsals, production meetings, and capping off with the co-sleeping we never quite kicked. It’s the two of us, side-by-side, tangled up in each other’s days and nights; a connection point each evening and dawn; a reminder that we choose one another’s closeness. We wake early and turn to talk of dreams. Sometimes, these are the sleeping dreams slowly melting away from memory, but most often, we dream about our “perfect day.” 

When we conjure perfection together, we know it’s a Saturday. The way we see it, Saturdays are the cherry on top of a week, the last drop in the desert, and always, always magic. There is time to soak up the unexpected wonder of our community. In our home, rituals of care are not products to apply or patterns to temporarily mend what’s torn or broken, but rather joyful adventures in the wild world to reaffirm our presence and mattering in the long-term. When Pearl and I dream these little days, we give credence to our hopes that we can build a better world. It sounds lofty and even wispy on paper, but the plan is simple: offer what we have, like noticing our neighbors in need and organizing support or just a glance to affirm the humanity of another. Then, ride the current of this drive to be change agents, and we see what bubbles up. Our Saturdays are us asking, “How can we be of service today?” In a society quite determined to pulverize our resilient spirits, there is personal and social healing that comes when we move into the world, daydreams in our pocket, and say yes to the work of reimagining ourselves and our communities through caring engagement. There is wonder to discover in the moments when the world asks us to choose closeness, to risk tenderness, to nourish our souls. 

A few weeks ago, we felt it–that Saturday magic. 

That day, the first stop was the farmer’s market. Pearl headed to the kids’ art area to build clay sculptures under the watchful eye of friends, leaving space for me to wander from the berry place to my old CSA. Looking around, I saw reciprocity, local economy, intergenerational activities; if we seek to notice, we can see in gatherings of folks sharing, communing, and exchanging, the ethics of care.

A young woman bounded toward me, almost lunging for a hug, and I was shocked to find she was the  gawky high schooler who I produced in a play a couple years ago, now womaning into quite the presence. In a beautiful butter-colored dress, she held the hand of her beloved, a new girlfriend she was showing around the town. Soon Pearl was near, eager to be remembered, and a nesting doll game of women fawning over women began, compliments tumbling out, each building upon the last. She turned to me so earnestly.

She loves my words, she said.

She keeps a saved folder of just my posts.

She wants to make something in the world as meaningful as a human, but she doesn’t wanna have babies because of the climate crisis and ‘and also it sounds gross.’ 

She says I’m showing them the way toward womanhood in all its many forms.

She was perfectly twenty-two, and of this moment.

She was the first of six women I would meet that day, each full of youth, a kind of energy in the way they boldly named a previously invisible-to-me connection. My work and words had been with them, a part of their lives, for months or years, and now, out of pandemic hibernation, they seized on the moment to say so. Glory! This is also care–when the impact of our work comes back to greet us! 

I take to heart Gwendolyn Brooks’s call that we are each other’s harvests. Our business is tied up together, and care is bigger than the wellbeing of one. The labor of mothering and tending home and making art–these are generative rituals of care. So is building community and educating toward liberation. So, too, is the devotion we give our children, our days, and our dreams. 

I am teaching my child that rituals, large or small, are not meant for one; we are always working to be of service. What enlivens and strengthens us, what fuels our creative fires, what liberates us, in turn, changes the world. It can begin so simply: at home in a bed snuggled close to a child; in the hug shared at a market; on the slow stroll of a dreamy Saturday; in the intentionality of our organizing and marching. 

May we continue to dream of reconnection, joy, and immeasurable power of care. May we dream it and be it until it flows back to say hello. 

(Adrienne Oliver is a writer and teacher. We are so thankful for her words today. Photographs are c/o Rachel Larsen Weaver for Adrienne Oliver)

4 thoughts on “Rituals Of Community Care | Adrienne Oliver

  • Reply Taylor November 3, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful, inspiring, comforting series of posts over the last few weeks. It’s been a wonderful combination of elements that has both soothed me and made me think.

    • Reply latonya November 4, 2021 at 10:56 pm

      Thank you Taylor for reading Adrienne’s words and for coming back in general for these posts! It really means a lot and helps keep us all focused on this side of the screen on the work and on the joy of what it is we’re doing. x

  • Reply SL November 4, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    This reminds me of the wonderful book Saturday by Oge Mora: https://www.lbyr.com/titles/oge-mora/saturday/9780316431279/

    • Reply latonya November 4, 2021 at 10:56 pm

      Oh, wow, Yes SL! A good reminder to pick it back up.


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