In this past year we have seen young activists take to the streets, the screens, and promote
social justice work from their homes. WOC of especially are incredibly active in their respective spaces
because of their passion and true desire to create change in communities. However, as it is important to
highlight their work we can also draw inspiration from how they celebrate and care for themselves. How
do they practice love for themselves in order to contribute to spaces the way they do. Today I had the
honor of speaking with Anastasia Cusack-Mercdez an organizer for the Downtown Women’s Action
Coalition based in the Los Angeles Community Action Network and Rani Hanstad an organizer for South
Asians for Black Lives in Seattle to discuss their accomplishments but also how they create a culture of
care for themselves. Therefore we will have the opportunity to learn from their experiences to better our
own understandings of social justice work through self-work.
Anastasia Cusack Mercedez:
Stasi is a 22-year-old artist located in Los Angeles California. She works as an organizer for gender
justice with the Downtown Women’s Action Coalition, and with the Arts and Culture Department; both
are based out of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, a housing non-profit in Skid Row. In these
positions, healing practices are integral to the work. The Downtown Women’s Action Coalition cultivates
space for healing to take place in every meeting as well as through regularly scheduled healing circles,
and the Arts and Culture department uses art as a form of expression and healing. In this work, as well
as throughout every day of life, Stasi uses music as a mode of healing practice. She plays piano, sings,
and more recently starting writing music as well.
Rani (she/her) was born and raised in south and central Seattle, but also spent four years of her
childhood living in Bangalore, India. She has a strong passion for racial, gender, and educational justice
which led her to apply to a Master’s of Education Policy program at the University of Washington.
Outside of school, Rani organizes with Seattle South Asians for Black Lives, a group of people
committed to decolonizing their behaviors and unlearning anti-Blackness. She hopes that her work
continues to contribute to systemic educational change so that Black and Brown students and
communities can thrive. On the weekends and in her free time, she loves watching Bollywood movies
with friends, drinking boba in the ID or on the Ave, and taking care of her cat and houseplants.
South Asians for Black Lives: @sa4bl
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