KENYA CUMMINGS, FARAI HARRELD, AND YOLANDA ACREE | BLACK MINIMALISTS
Black Minimalists is a website and community founded in 2017. Today, Kenya Cummings, Farai Harreld, and Yolanda Acree (L to R, above) lead the work which includes profiles of fellow Black minimalists, mini e-courses for folks just getting started, a podcast, meetups, and an online directory of businesses and individuals involved in the community. Based in South Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland, respectively, the three founders gather virtually and in real life, to explore and celebrate the relationship between minimalism and freedom.
ERIN: Let’s start with you sharing a bit about yourselves with RMTL readers who might not be familiar.
BLACK MINIMALISTS: Black Minimalists is a community of individuals who identify as Black and live a minimalist lifestyle. The Black Minimalists community is a safe space for us to connect with each other, tell our stories, share ideas and resources, and work collectively towards liberation. While Black Minimalists centers on the experiences of Black people, we welcome other minimalists of color to share in this space with us as well.
Black Minimalists launched in 2017, but Yolanda began searching out and interviewing Black minimalists on her personal site in 2015. As she encountered more and more Black folx living intentionally, the idea fomented to create a dedicated space for the growing community.
ERIN: I’m curious about how you guys define minimalism for yourselves as founders of the Black Minimalists community, but also as individuals. Would you say that the three of you have a shared experience of minimalism or are there ways that that looks different for each of you?
BLACK MINIMALISTS: As a community, minimalism is a tool of personal freedom and collective liberation from oppression, capitalism, and white supremacy, among other societal constructs. We have the shared experience of living this journey as Black people occupying this space. We also have collective shared values, but also individual values based on our different realities.
For Yolanda, freedom was the motivating core value that ushered her towards minimalism. The desires to have more control over her time and travel more have shaped her current lifestyle. For Kenya, her journey into simplicity has been guided by her dedication to and exploration of self-care, holistic wellness, spirituality, and activism. She has an unwavering commitment to healing and justice. Farai ventured into minimalism at the dawning of motherhood. With the responsibility of facilitating new life into this world, she hopes to create a sustainable environment to nourish herself and family.
ERIN: Many folks are used to seeing visual examples of a minimalist lifestyle through a fairly narrow, and largely white, lens. More than only depicting white people’s versions of minimalism, in lots of the imagery that we see there’s an almost eerie sameness. It goes without saying that your intention was to create a community that centered on the specific values and interests of Black people who ascribe to a minimalist lifestyle. I’m really curious about what creating this space has been like for you, the kind of response you’ve gotten, and the community you’re nurturing.
BLACK MINIMALISTS: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are always grateful for us creating this space and it humbles us every single time they let us know. For example, this summer when we had a meetup in Atlanta, we met one of our community members that has followed us since we put up the landing page in 2016!
Developing Black Minimalists has been liberating for us as a team and we have been able to bond and create community. One of our core values is community, and it shows up in how we relate to one another. We have broken bread in each other’s homes and genuinely made time to be in community.
ERIN: Lately I’ve found myself interested in work that starts online but that finishes in real life. I know you’ve started hosting meetups and I’m curious about how that aspect of your community has grown and what you think it might look like in the future.
BLACK MINIMALISTS: The goal has always been liberation, which can not be accomplished solely online. We want our people to be free in real life. We have started with volunteer meetups, supporting community farms, and have had a couple of social meetups to learn more who we are serving. It’s challenging to push from online to real life, but being in community offline has been invaluable. In the future we will continue supporting Black farms and showing up wherever Black minimalists are, and we envision having a Black Minimalists village one day.
ERIN: It looks like all three of you grow your own food, at least in part. I’d love to hear about the relationship you find between minimalism and farming and also freedom.
BLACK MINIMALISTS: The ability to grow your own food from seed, cultivate the land around you, and nourish your family and community is the ultimate freedom. We recently attended the Black Urban Growers Conference in North Carolina, and Dr. Monica White shared this quote from a black farmer (paraphrasing), “The only free [hu]man is a farmer.”
Farai is an urban homesteader, Yolanda does container gardening, and Kenya consults for a local community farm in North Charleston. Food, land, and table (community) are intricately tied to liberation. There is a lot of joy, but also trauma in the black community around farming because of slavery and its effects which continue to show up as food injustice and disparities in wealth and health markers, but we understand that returning to the land is also part of the healing process. Our ancestors from time immemorial knew the importance of having a connection to the earth that is mutually beneficial and respectful. Additionally, one aspect of this minimalist journey is learning self-sufficiency and using what we have to create the lives we want.
ERIN: What’s the relationship you see between minimalism and liberation?
BLACK MINIMALISTS: Minimalism is one of the tools in the toolbox for facilitating liberation. Freeing ourselves as individuals by creating lives that are whole and sustainable while sharing community, catalyzes collective liberation.
Head to the Black Minimalists website to learn more about this work.
To keep up with Black Minimalists on social, follow @blkminimalists.
To keep up with Farai, follow @thehillbillyafrican.
To keep up with Yolanda, follow @yolandaacree.
To keep up with Kenya, follow @kenyaceceliarose.
Sign up for the Black Minimalists newsletter for a free copy of their ebook, Simply Black: Personal Essays by Black Minimalists and periodic updates from the community.
For folks hoping to dig deeper, Black Minimalists is currently hosting a mini-course: Black & Minimalist: An Introduction to Simple Living.
Photos courtesy of Black Minimalists.
The Simple Matters Series is inspired in part by curiosity piqued while writing my book of the same title. I wanted to know what simple matters were for other folks. And why simplicity mattered to them in the first place. My own Simple Matters story came out in January of 2016. It’s still available where most books are sold. (Signed copies are available locally at Stories Bookshop!)