April Danielle Lewis (Baltimore, MD)
October 2019. Museum collection ribbon, plywood, hardware.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgent it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” Audre Lorde

“Do you already know that your existence–who and how you are–is in and of itself a contribution to the people and place around you? Not after or because you do some particular thing, but simply the miracle of your life. And that the people around you, and the place(s), have contributions as well? Do you understand that your quality of life and your survival are tied to how authentic and generous the connections are between you and the people and place you live with and in?

Are you actively practicing generosity and vulnerability in order to make the connections between you and others clear, open, available, durable? Generosity here means giving of what you have without strings or expectations attached. Vulnerability means showing your needs.” ― Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

Untangling, processing, holding space, binding, and working through.

A mass of threads intertwined, a daunting task, a history unknown—Ms. Sylvia’s collection of ribbons and the action of sorting and making sense of the mess left unfinished in her death are evidence of her labor. The spooled ribbons that adorn the walls of the ribbon room are one of the only things preserved in the museum’s collection—thus celebrating the work and labor of women.

Black women have spent generations in servitude to others. Handed down through family lineage like my grandmother’s wrinkled fingers, my mom’s button nose, or the gap in my front teeth, black women inherit the responsibility for caring for everyone but themselves. From setting boundaries, taking time for myself, eating things that make me feel good, regular exercise, intentional self-care, and kindness, I have spent the past year exploring the radical and very political notion that I deserve the time and space to care for myself first before anyone else.

Boundary Workout is a reflection on the labor of women—especially black women and the things they are tied to.