The year 2020 isn't even halfway over, and it feels like it's already been a decade. Between the coronavirus pandemic and all the other trials and tribulations of the past few months, it's particularly important to pause and take a moment for self-care. That's what gun safety activist and consultant Nza-Ari Khepra does.
The 23-year-old co-founder of Project Orange Tree and the Wear Orange campaign knows more than her share of trouble: she's been a gun safety advocate since her friend Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in 2013, and she's spent the last seven years advocating for gun safety and raising awareness of structural violence. In quarantine during the pandemic, she's doing her best to balance her cause with caring for herself. "It becomes easy to start seeing your activism, your work, your personal life, all of that start to bleed into each other," she says. "Creating time and space to be able to focus on the now and the moment is really when I've felt we're able to laugh a lot and joke around."
For Elite Daily, I asked Khepra about all of the ways she's taking care of herself as many states remain under shelter-in-place orders as of late May 2020 amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Her answers are part of our How I Take Care platform, which features interviews with all the celebs, TV stars, influencers, vloggers, TikTokers, musicians, and activists you love. If you're wondering what's keeping Khepra feeling balanced and focused, here's what she said.
Who she's quarantining with: Her boyfriend, Michael.
Her favorite quarantine snack: Chicken quesadillas from her favorite Chicago taqueria, Taqueria Los Comales. "Chicken quesadillas are probably my favorite pieces of food that anyone has ever created. I know that sounds childish, but I really, really love them!"
What she's marathon-watching during quarantine: Blood & Water on Netflix. "I finished it probably in a morning."
Remember: You're doing amazing, sweetie.
I've started listening to affirmations in quarantine. My boyfriend recommended it; you can look them up on YouTube. It's about taking the time in the moment to tell yourself the positive things you don't really vocalize. As activists, and even just as people in our current work environment, it's often normal to get comfortable with being constantly fatigued. It's really easy to get stuck in a cycle of insecurity and unhappiness, and to have someone else say positive things to you and you repeat them — I find that really helpful.
Post-quarantine, nothing's going to feel as good as keeping plans.
I was a homebody before quarantine! I love my friends and I did like to go out every now and then, or go to a party and have fun. But I would always make excuses and find ways not to go do things, because I was tired and I wanted to hang out at home a little bit more. I think I must not be a homebody now! Now that I'm in quarantine, I really wish I could reconnect with my friends and family.
She struggles with finding an emotional balance.
One thing that I've learned in quarantine is I am very good at allowing stressful situations to put me on autopilot. When things go wrong in one category of your life, it's easy to just go on autopilot about the benign things that happen day to day. And another thing I've found out is that I'm bubbling over with passion, especially in my activism. That extends past gun violence, and speaks to structural violence and how different minorities, especially African Americans, are impacted by the systems in place. Those situations of violence we've seen have forced me to reflect on what type of impact I want to have on the world, and how I can broaden my scope on the things I share my voice on.
In quarantine, posting on social media is activism.
I know a lot of times it seems as if a post on social media doesn't go a long way, but I think it's very enlightening how much it impacts others. For example, I've learned more about how black people are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus by seeing a ton of my followers take the time out of their day to post graphs and articles.
We have Wear Orange weekend coming up on June 5, and due to the current pandemic, we won't be able to have the number of in-person events we usually do. So it's really important for us to take those pictures of us wearing orange and share little bit more of our stories and how they relate to the movement. One thing that's super potent about awareness, is when you start to turn numbers into life stories. When you see people sharing experiences, you can get motivated as well as inspired, and start to think more tactically about how you can support a movement.
We are shining a spotlight on some of the millions of small businesses now challenged by COVID-19. This is part of an ongoing commitment our parent company, Bustle Digital Group, is making to support small businesses throughout the entire month of May. Tell us about your favorite small business on social media using #SmallBusinessSalutes.