Self Care Project flyer

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Activism can be tiring, thankless work — and low-paid, if it’s paid at all. Enter Detroiter Kerry Ann Rockquemore, with an idea and the cash to support other people trying to make a difference.

Rockquemore announced the Self Care Project on her blog about life after early retirement this week. She will give out $500 each to 50 “activists, organizers and change makers” who live in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park or work with a nonprofit there.

Rockquemore is self-funding the prizes, which are for winners to invest in their own self care and come with no strings attached. She came up with the idea after repeatedly hearing from people how “completely burned out, exhausted and depleted they are.”

“Particular to this political moment, people who are working for change are just getting hit, day after day, with emergencies and crises,” she told Detour. “When we’re in moments of really intense political struggle and intense change, all that feels more important than taking care of yourself.”

“People who care so deeply about making the world a better place, and other people’s well-being, have a tendency to put themselves last,” she added.

Case in point: Rockquemore has received multiple applications from people who wanted to use the money to support the work of their organizations rather than their personal wellbeing.

“People who care so deeply about making the world a better place, and other people’s well-being, have a tendency to put themselves last.”

She purposely didn’t put any limits on what qualifies as self care. It might mean spending time with loved ones, taking a trip, working on a hobby, going to therapy, protecting personal safety or anything that supports mental or physical health. 

Some of the most meaningful ways Rockquemore herself practices self care cost nothing: free-writing each morning; laughing at a giggling baby video on YouTube; getting enough sleep; a long hug from her husband and simply being “in the energy of unconditional love.” But others have significant price tags: Bikram yoga classes; an annual retreat and bodywork like massage.

Rockquemore notes that for parents, the constraints and costs of childcare can make it particularly difficult to prioritize activities for themselves. 

She called the fund an experiment — maybe not perfect, but a way she could address the issue immediately. 

“My core tendency is to be in my professor brain and think through things deeply,” she said, but other experience as an entrepreneur taught her that “sometimes you just have to throw out something that is easy to execute.” 

Rockquemore founded the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity in 2010 to train women and people of color to navigate academia, based on her own experiences as a professor battling “the old boys club.” Rockquemore has previous experience funding others’ projects as a member of Pipeline Angels, which focuses on investor funding for women and non-binary femme social entrepreneurs.

Want to apply for self care funding? All you need to do is write a short email by this Friday, Oct. 4, describing your work and how you would spend the money — yes, on you. Winners will be selected by Oct. 15. Get all the details here.

Kate (she/her) is passionate about journalism that involves Detroiters from the start and helps readers solve problems and find joy in their daily lives. Her favorite Detroit spot to watch the sunset, play soccer, watch the freighters go by and feel a little haunted is Historic Fort Wayne.

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