A Black Mother in America Wears All White: Year One

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A mother saturates herself in the labor of her becoming. Listening and feeling all around her for the changes soon to come, she knows where she’s going, even as she still knows nothing at all.
Photo by Colin A. Danville

A Black Mother in America Wears All White: Year One
© 2017 by Binahkaye Joy

One year ago today I began wearing all white. This came as part of a series of steps that marked the beginning of my self initiation as a fertility juju priestess. For months before my first day in all white, I had been sensing and intuiting the directions that I would need to go in to do my spiritual work. Very early on it was made clear to me that I would need to wear all white for this journey, and that I would spend some years going through the process of initiation.

Wearing all white was just one piece of the work. For me it represented a certain nakedness and vulnerability about the ways in which I would be moving through the world. On white, dirt, stains, mistakes, and messes show easily. There is no hiding what’s been done. This radical vulnerability and commitment to transparency is a critical part of my mothering work. I am called to share the underside of our mothering labors, so that other mothers and women might feel safe, supported, and visible in the honoring of their own complicated labors.

Being naked has always been a thing for me. I created a performance piece for the stage where I danced naked. I used to be a figure model for art classes. I have collections of maternity photos in just my bare skin. I tend to wear as little clothes as possible when I’m home. I love the way being nude is both courageous and vulnerable at the same time. It takes a lot of strength to reveal your whole, unadulterated self to people who are not doing the same. Each time there is risk involved too. Your body is exposed in the ultimate sense, and nothing is protecting you from everything that is outside of you. This is phenomenal because almost everyone walks around with clothes on, with defenses on, with their shields firmly in place.

The wearing of white was also for protection and deflection of negative energies. White is used in many spiritual practices to enhance one’s receptivity to pure consciousness, to being in tune with nature, and god, and spirit. White also helps you not absorb all the heavy frequencies we encounter in our day to day lives. This was especially interesting for me to experience because I have a history of extreme anxiety in some public spaces, especially transit spaces. Wearing all white those first few months really helped me breathe better when commuting and interacting with humanity in tight, enclosed environments.

This first year has seen a lot of growth and opened up many new things in my life, most amazing of all being the any-day-now birth of my third child. Still, I definitely feel like I’m only at the beginning of more intense developments yet to come. It’s as if it’s taken this first year to just recognize and give a name to the work that is happening in my life. Slowly I have had to prepare my heart, my mind, my body for this everlasting labor of being a fertility juju priestess. I have had to learn–and am still learning!– how to communicate to my family, my mother village, and my creative community what this initiation is. Some things that I know are essential components of this journey–like finding an autonomous home space for my family– are proving to take even longer to complete. This is why my initiation is a multi-year process with no specific end date on the horizon. It will take significant time and attention to get through each stage of the work.

When I started out for my life in whites, I didn’t actually have many white clothes to wear. I went to several thrift stores and discount marts, perused plenty of sales racks, asked my friends for their used whites, and went from there. I knew I wasn’t supposed to go splurge on new-new clothes–even though I wanted too! These whites weren’t about being fashionable. And it wasn’t about moving daintily through the day to avoid getting dirty–which is impossible anyway as a mommy of toddlers! So while I have a few “nice whites” for dressy occasions, the majority of my accumulated wardrobe is a mashup of found articles that range from bright, bright white, to dingy white, to even some ivory and off whites.

The winter was most challenging, as the temperatures dropped and my belly expanded from first to second trimester, there were less and less white options available. On really frigid days I had to wear blue jeans. Light grays, soft pinks, and some golds were sometimes a part of the color scheme too because I needed a sweater or something elastic and comfortable! Also, I didn’t find a white winter coat this go round, so from the outside, some days it didn’t look like I was in “all white.” But underneath there was always at least a white shirt and camisole everyday. During the winter I also got more intentional about wearing white at home, since I have plenty of white stuff-you-only-wear-around the house. It was a reminder to me too that this work starts from the inside. My home practice of mothering, and dancing, and writing, and learning how to run a family business, and preparing for a new baby–this has been the elemental work of my first year in white.

As it has gotten warmer, the white-wearing has gotten easier again. Now on the eve of summer, and as I’m mostly home getting ready for our homebirth journey, I am wearing the same one or two things that fit when I do have to go out. And for postpartum I’ll be primarily wearing what feels good while I’m healing. A good number of those things are white, but some aren’t. I have plenty of breastfeeding-friendly tops and dresses that are white, but not too many white bottoms with soft waistbands. I do have one pair of maternity white shorts that make me sooooooo happy! They are so cute, and I feel funky and fly in them. I will be wearing them out for sure all summer.

When I realized baby would be due around the time of this anniversary I was like, “Oh wow, that would be so poetic for baby to come on this day!” But as I have learned with each birth, baby comes when baby wants to come. I am celebrating this year, still. Happy birthday to the journey of a priestess evolving. Fertile juju is a real and holy thing. More and more mothers and women are connecting with me and reaffirming to me that my work is needed and supporting mothers and future mothers in cultivating pathways of liberated fertility is urgent for our survival as a human family. We each have our work to do. I am blessed to have come this far in my understanding.

This second year in all white is also beginning with me transitioning back to a vegetarian lifestyle after four years of mothering as a meat eater. When I was pregnant with my first born I had dreams about chicken, which at the time I hadn’t eaten in nearly a decade. I began eating it, and it being chicken and one of the easiest proteins to access and consume whenever, it just stuck, long after the cravings subsided. I am unsure if I’ll be led back to a totally vegan diet, which I also did for many years in my pre-mommy life. This internal recalibration is directly linked to my fertility and the preservation of vitality in my eggs for future children. Also, I know my postpartum recovery will be smoother and more resilient if my body is not working so hard to digest meat. And more importantly those awful postpartum hemorrhoids won’t be having me in tears over the toilet this time with a well-rounded, plant-based regimen. But even more than just being vegetarian, I will specifically be working towards incorporating more dark, leafy greens, more fruits and veggies that are in season, more homecooking, more whole grains, more hydration, more healing herbs and seeds, more life-giving and energy-raising foods.

This labor of initiation is layered. Accepting the call to wear all white has been an opening. But it’s also been an anchoring. It helps me remember on days when I feel very lost and discouraged that the unknowns, the frustrations, and the instabilities are signs of progress all the same. The journey is tumultuous, the rewards at times murky, and the weight of the revelations is oftentimes painful and overwhelming. Still, I remain present for this work. The grass stains, the oily smudges, the dried smears of food, the sweat rings, the dirt on the hem of my dancing pants that no amount of OxiClean can remove, the snags from insistent fingernails belonging to people that want mommy to stop and tend to them right now, the expertly placed marker scribbles from equally determined artists in the making–it all fills in the canvas. I can always see the evidence of my labors reflecting back to me in the whites. I can see I am getting closer, submerging deeper, traveling further from the surface of a dream, becoming more real inside this calling with every breath I take.

Further contextual reading:
A Black Mother in America Wears All White: Vibrational Recovery for Our Ovaries and the Preservation of Life for Our Future Children

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Binahkaye Joy is a mother of three and a fertility juju priestess. She supports mothers and women in activating their wildest mothering dreams. Binahkaye lives in Washington, DC with her family. She is available for in-person and virtual workshops, speaking engagements, and private sessions. For bookings, writing and performance commissions, and programming information send inquiries to thefamily.dances@gmail.com.

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