Activists organize weeklong series to help Black Philadelphians heal during protests

Vernon Park in Philadelphia

Vernon Park in Philadelphia. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY News)

A group of Philadelphia activists, artists, speakers and instructors have come together to help the Black community heal amid ongoing protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

Starting Sunday, June 14, Spirits Up! will offer a safe space for those on the frontlines of recent protests advocating for Black lives, as well as those who have suffered repeated racial trauma.

Organizers say their goal is to support the continued work toward collective Black liberation through yoga and meditation.

Billed as a call for radical change and healing, the series will take place at key historical locations like the Municipal Services Building — where the controversial statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo once stood — Washington Square, Rittenhouse Square, Logan Circle and Vernon Park in Germantown.

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The weeklong series of peaceful demonstrations will wrap up Friday, June 19. Spirits Up! will celebrate Black freedom to mark the Juneteenth holiday at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia

The project is spearheaded by artist and activist Sudan Green. Among the artists, speakers and instructors slated to appear are Marc Lamont Hill, Khalief Khadafi, Shesheena Bray and Adrienne Dolberry.

Tayyib Smith and Meegan Denenberg of Little Giant, Next Steps Together, Philadelphia City Council and jean-jacques gabriel are supporting the effort.

“We know this fight will be long,” organizers said in a statement. “We are here to share, what we believe, are invaluable resources so that we can continue to help sustain black lives and each other.”

Organizers will be providing 250 yoga mats for attendees to practice on and to take home.  Participants are asked to wear face masks and follow social distancing precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Outside of the weeklong demonstrations, a Spirits Up! GoFundMe campaign aims to raise funds to bring a wellness center to Germantown to provide yoga, meditation and holistic healing for the Black community. Part of the money raised will also go to a scholarship to help Green and others receive yoga training and certification.

“Historically and presently, there have not been many yoga spaces filled with black faces,” the campaign reads. “Representation matters, especially when diving deep into meditation and spiritual practices.”

As of writing, the GoFundMe has raised more than $2,500 toward its goal of $250,000.

“It’s a really big goal,” activist Sudan wrote in an Instagram post. “So we are in it for the long haul.”

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Those interested in joining the Spirits Up! demonstrations can find more information here.

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