Jamila Mitchell and Shavonda Sisson, from Public Allies, say it’s important to take up space. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

What does your morning routine look like? The question seems innocuous, but it can reveal a lot about a person and their self-care. It was the question that Shavonda Sisson, the program manager and director at Public Allies, posed to the group gathered in the Sherman Phoenix, 3536 W. Fond Du Lac Ave.

Earlier this week on Thursday, Oct. 10, hundreds of individuals and organizations gathered throughout the city to participate in the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s third annual On the Table. GMF started On the Table as a way for community members to participate in meaningful conversations about issues that impact Milwaukee and take action, according to the website.

This year, over one hundred groups participated, among them was Public Allies, which tackled the issue of Social Justice and Healing Work. Sisson who coordinated and lead the conversation was excited to see what each individual brought to the table.

“I would love to see us leave with some type of action and to continue the work,” Sisson said in her opening remarks.

Sisson approached the topic of conversation through the discussion of self-care. While self-care looks different for everyone, not everyone takes the time to practice it. This was one of the aspects, Sisson addressed when she asked the question, “What does your morning routine look like?”

The group gathered as a part of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s annual On the Table event. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

Edwin Huertas said his morning consists of waking up at 7 a.m. and running out the door. As the Deputy Director for the Office of the Governor in Milwaukee, Huertas has a busy job and little time for self-care.

For Jamila Mitchell, a program manager at Public Allies, her morning consists of more spiritual habits such as praying to her ancestors and cleaning her crystals. Although Mitchell’s morning is currently one filled with self-care and mindfulness it wasn’t always the case.

At the time she had been working nonstop on campaigns for various nonprofits. Her dedication to her work overrode her treatment of her body.

“I was doing great work and I was proud of it, but my body was literally falling apart,” Mitchell said.

These days, Mitchell continues to work hard, while also taking care of her body.

Sisson explained that self-care is essential, especially in the nonprofit and activist world where depression, suicide and addiction is prevalent among forerunners. Broken people cannot build others up, when they themselves aren’t whole, she said.

Self-care is only part of it. When it comes to the world of health and wellness, there’s a distinct lack of people or color in some cases and in other cases practitioners of wellness who are people are color are unknown to the masses.

Sisson recalled the other day when a friend asked her to connect them with a therapist who identifies as a black trans woman and Sisson was stumped. She didn’t know any black trans woman therapists.

Barbara Wesson, the outcomes manager and movement class instructor at Core El Centro, said she had trouble finding acupuncturists or chiropractors of color.

Angela Kingsawan, a well-known herbalist and yoga therapist at Core El Centro, explained that there were two reasons why. The first is lack of funding, but the second is trauma. Many people of color experience trauma in their life, she said.

When she went to be a yoga instructor, certain yoga studios shut her down or ignored her all together. In the end, Kingsawan pursued a different route. “Why add to the trauma,” she said.

In addition to discussing the issues within Social Justice and Healing Work, the group also discussed potential solutions and how they’ll incorporate self-care habits moving forward.

Paul Moga, a coordinator at MPS, said he plans to take time out of his day to just breath and center himself. Huertas plans to unapologetically take up space and go on vacation.

“I will do a better job living that wellness model,” Sisson said.

As well as individual self-care, Sisson wants to continue to conversation. What does healing look like for the city, she asked. As part of her quest to find out, Sisson plans to apply for the Ideas to Action funding, a project of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to help On the Table participants move towards a solution.

In the meantime, Sisson felt pleased with the direction the conversation went.

“Hopefully something can be birthed from this,” she said.