What Black Resistance Looks Like to Me

How prioritizing rest and joy has become an essential part of my Black History Month experience.
By Déjà Leonard
A photo of a woman wearing ski goggles and a helmet, standing on a ski hill, used to illustrate a post about Black resistance. "So much about me and my awareness of my Blackness had changed, but so much was still the same. I was still that goofy kid who loved cracking jokes and feeling the wind whip past me as I rode down the hill." (Photography: Jodie Gordon)

It was mid-February 2023 when I found myself unable to get out of bed for a nine a.m. work meeting that was more or less meant to be a fun kickoff for the day. Between my full-time job as a copywriter, my side gig as a freelance journalist and my community work as a mentor, I had landed in a place where things that should bring me joy—like connecting with coworkers during the day, or friends after—sounded exhausting.

Not to mention it was Black History Month. I was also deep into helping lead, host and coordinate events at work as chair of the Black Employee Network. While I was allotted time in my workday to do many of these tasks, I knew that a lot of advocacy work happens off the clock and unpaid.

As I lay in bed, willing myself to start the day, I asked myself two questions: How was I honouring myself this month, and how was I embracing 2023’s theme of Black resistance?

What resistance means to me

When people discuss Black resistance, the conversation often turns to the many challenges Black people have faced collectively and as individuals over time. A lot of the stories sound the same: an injustice occurs and then Black people resist by fighting back, trying to educate people or protesting.

Why does resistance have to drain us?

In a time when everything feels urgent and allies are often looking to people like me to help them learn, I decided my idea of resistance was going to be prioritizing rest and joy.


So, I started planning a trip that would bring me both of these.

I knew I wanted to stay in Canada and spend some time outdoors. Even better if it wasn’t too crowded. I went back and forth between wanting to visit somewhere new in British Columbia and flying to the East Coast. When I heard a good friend of mine who lived in Vancouver, Jodie, could join me, the decision was clear.

We were going to meet in Rossland, B.C., a mountain town nearly equidistant between Calgary, where I live, and Vancouver. A small town of less than 4,000 people, it’s known for its laidback mountain culture, great skiing and snowboarding, and a surprisingly wide selection of cuisine.

Joy as resistance

When I reflect on one of the most carefree, joyful periods of my life, I think back to when I was 16. I had a job as a lift attendant at my local resort, WinSport, and would spend any of my free time snowboarding with friends.

Sometimes we’d leave the city and go to mountains like Sunshine Village or Lake Louise, and spend just as much time eating french fries and diving head first into big, fluffy piles of snow as we would learning new tricks.


Over the years, snowboarding had fallen to the wayside of my life, replaced by responsibilities and also, admittedly, lower-impact winter activities. When I strapped on my rental snowboard at RED Mountain Resort, it felt familiar and foreign all at once.

So much about me and my awareness of my Blackness had changed, but so much was still the same. I was still that goofy kid who loved cracking jokes and feeling the wind whip past me as I rode down the hill.

Jodie and I laughed the whole way up the chairlift, talking about how likely I might be to fall getting off the lift, and trying to remember the name of that movie where the people get stuck on a lift and then possibly eaten by a wolf. (For the record, we were talking about the 2010 horror film Frozen.)

A photo of a woman on a snowboard, used to illustrate a post about Black resistance. (Photography: Jodie Gordon)

I fell down, I landed a jump and, back at the chalet, I drank hot chocolate.


It was easy to feel joyful, because everyone around me was emitting that energy, too. It was a powder day on the mountain and we could hear people squealing as they ripped through it.

I also met a really interesting "snow host," a volunteer who gives tours of the mountain and recommends the best runs based on your ability. It inspired me to see someone give their time and expertise in a way that clearly brought them joy and connection.

The whole experience left me considering how I could weave more joy into the work I was trying to do to support my community, too.

Rest as resistance

Like many others, I sometimes find it hard to prioritize myself and my wellbeing over the demands of life.

In a stroke of luck, when I arrived at my hotel, I had been upgraded to a more luxurious room. This helped set the tone for the purpose of my trip.


I lounged in a soaker tub, sat in the outdoor sauna and reflected in silence in my room.

I took time to think about why rest was important.

“Our worth does not reside in how much we produce, especially not for a system that exploits and dehumanizes us,” writes Tricia Hersey in the groundbreaking book Rest Is Resistance. “Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it asserts our most basic humanity. We are enough. The systems cannot have us.”

This idea really resonated with me. Even though I love my work and giving back to my community, I’m also just a human who wants to live a fulfilling, joyful life.

I was coming around to accepting the idea that simply choosing myself was an act of resistance.

What’s next


This may have been one of my most impactful celebrations of Black History Month, because I finally took the time to consider what the month meant to me as a Black woman who is also trying to support Black people at work and in my life.

I left my trip with more questions than answers: What does resistance look like for me going forward? How can I better balance my goals of helping my community and nourishing myself?

But it was a great start.


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