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Inkblot Arts: Tell us about who you are, specifically in terms of what you’ve said “yes” to in order to become who you are today.
SRT: That's a good question! I’m a poet, writer, activist, and founder of The Body Is Not An Apology (TBINAA). I think in order to become those things, I've had to continually embody “yes” in an intentional way of being and living my life. To step into any identity that counters the narrative of what we should be requires a whole lot of “yeses.”
To step into any identity that counters the narrative of what we should be requires a whole lot of “yeses.”
The same thing in some ways with The Body Is Not An Apology, where a small “yes” became a much larger “yes.” I had a selfie on my phone. I'd been sitting on it for months, I thought I looked really hot, but the negative self-talk and the external voices of body shame were telling me, “No. No, the world is not going to embrace you as beautiful, no, you're not allowed to feel empowered or sexy in that large, dark-skinned, female body, no.” And it took one tiny moment of me saying, “Actually, yes. Yes, I am going to share this photo on Facebook.” And that small “yes” had a ripple effect. It gave other people permission to say “yes” to feeling empowered and beautiful. And then after that, it just kept growing, because there's something contagious about a “yes” that is an affirmation to our highest selves.
IA: That's beautiful. How do you describe The Body Is Not An Apology, and how have you seen the impact of its work?
SRT: We describe The Body Is Not An Apology as a global movement focused on radical self-love and body empowerment. It's a coalition of people around the world who've decided to live unapologetically in their bodies regardless of and because of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, mental health status, or any other actionable identity that the world so often attempts to shame us for. We believe that injustice and oppression are at the core of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others'. And so through information dissemination, community building, coaching, workshops, webinars, we foster an unapologetic radical self-love, which we believe translates into radical human action that help us toward a more just, compassionate, and equitable world. We believe as we change ourselves, we create the foundation of the outward change we're already seeking. As we begin to radically accept ourselves, we begin to see how the world really fights people who radically accept themselves, so we're actually wanting to change that not just for ourselves, but for the whole planet. And that makes us freedom fighters.
As we begin to radically accept ourselves, we begin to see how the world really fights people who radically accept themselves, so we're actually wanting to change that not just for ourselves, but for the whole planet. And that makes us freedom fighters.
The impact has been beyond anything I could've imagined. Every day, I get emails and letters from people who've been changed and shifted because of the work that we do. They say they've learned, “I don't have to apologize for my body. I can love me exactly as I am.” I had a woman write me and she said, “I'm a cutter. I've been cutting for ten years, and when I have the urge to cut, I don't cut. I just come to The Body Is Not An Apology.” I hear things like, “It has helped me shift my relationship with my own body. It has challenged me to think about bodies in the world. Before, I was judgmental; I'm not judgmental anymore. Things that I believe other people should do, I question myself when I find out they're doing that now.” I was walking down the street after a party a few weeks ago, and this woman walked over to me and she said, “Are you Sonya Renee of The Body Is Not An Apology?” And I said, “Yeah...” And she said, “That work is changing my life.” That's the feedback that comes from all corners of the planet, so I know the work is working.
IA: How do you describe WhenWeSayYES?
SRT: WhenWeSayYES is an invitation for the community to invest in a global platform that we are calling of the world’s most comprehensive online information, education, and community-building platform focused exclusively on radical self-love as a tool for personal transformation and global change.
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