Tea Talk in the African Diaspora
Creative research about Black women's self-care traditions.
Creative research about Black women's self-care traditions.
Stephanie Y. Evans, PhD is a Professor of Black Women’s Studies at Georgia State University. She researches Africana memoir as Black women’s intellectual history, studying elder narratives as epistles (letters) of health, healing, and wellness. She is author of three books--Black Women's Yoga History: Memoirs of Inner Peace (SUNY Press, 2021), Black Passports: Travel Memoirs as a Tool for Youth Empowerment (2014), and Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History. She is also co-editor of four books including Black Women's Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability (2017) and Black Women and Public Health: Strategies to Name, Locate, and Change Systems of Power (2022). She has curated several research projects including the Auburn Avenue Research Library Distinguished Lectures, "Mother Vines: A History of Black Women and Wine" (2022).
Dania Wright, is founder of Fluffy Jo Studio, LLC. She is a multidisciplinary artist whose creative practice spans more than 15 years. Her work includes painting, graphic design, mixed media, animation, and storytelling. She is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated with a BA in Animation with a Studio Arts minor of Loyola Marymount University and an MPA from University of San Francisco. Her artist manifesto, like her art, is a mosaic: she draws inspiration from, " people, beautiful people, resilient people, typography and handwritten notes, bold colors, bold statements, combining textures, turning trash into treasure, asymmetry, coloring outside the lines, metals, intricate wax prints, intricate hairstyles, intricate hair stories, concrete jungles, real jungles, fauna, flora, love, real love, unexpected love, long lasting and unconditional love, cultural preservation and creation, problem solving, the fight for justice, the arrival of freedom, storytelling, truth telling -- even when the truth hurts, really-really-really good music, delicious food, delicious conversation, and the surprise and wonder in each new day."
Nishaun T. Battle, PhD is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Virginia State University. Her research explores how Black girls’ resilience, resistance, and creative genius impacts their identity, wellness, and understanding of girlhood, social justice, and Black womanhood. She is the author of Black Girlhood, Punishment, and Resistance: Reimagining Justice for Black Girls in Virginia and has written scholarly articles exploring spaces created by Black women and Black women’s organizations that provide leadership development, self-esteem and confidence building, and support for Black girls and girls of color. She is also owner of Lady Rose Specialty Teas, a tea service of herbal blends for health and wellness. She advances wellness in academic spaces through offering resources, workshops, and coaching consultations.
This work advances the concept of #historicalwellness, a research agenda Dr. Evans developed to explore Black women's self-care traditions and memoirs of mental health. Africana Tea is an interdisciplinary study, focusing on history, art, and social practices.
Artist Dania Wright provides artwork to expand communication about Dr. Evans's historical research beyond the academy. Together, Evans and Wright curate discussions, including a forthcoming graphic novel about the history of race, class, gender, tea, and health. Dr. Battle, as a tea service owner and sociologist, offers insight into the uses of tea in Black women's lives and a practical forum to apply lessons learned.
Inspired by Byllye Avery and the National Black Women's Health Project, Africana Tea advances a discussion of holistic history. Specifically, Evans builds on her research about stress management strategies in Black Women's Yoga History to define Black women's tea history and six types of health:
The goal of the project is NOT to make health claims about tea, rather we are invested in documenting how Black women's tea stories and socialization can inform us about self-reported health histories.
This project is grounded in historical research, writing, conference presentations and community-based discussions. Research spaces include the Vanderbilt Callie House Works-in-Progress retreat and a workshop at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) conference.
The 2022 ASALH conference theme is Health and Wellness:
“Mindful of Sister Audre Lorde’s words, we are doing more to move forward holistically for the betterment of ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, our communities, and our planet. We are determined to create a platform that shines a light on the multiple facets of Black health and wellness through education and activism. There is much to uncover, amplify, question, and correct.”
International discussions open to the public take place online, connecting researchers, tea professionals, artists, and tea lovers around the globe. Discussions focus on centering Black women's historical voices as a basis for how to better understand the deep complexities of tea and health. Serious study of tea in historical narratives can give context to generational narratives, help identify diverse pathways to health, dispel harmful myths, and guide those interested in improving health to apply insights and best practices from the past. Africana Tea offers a toolkit for community building around Black women's health.
For additional information on #HistoricalWellness, visit:
This project maps 300 Black women’s memoirs to study holistic health history. Professor Stephanie Y. Evans examines how Black women in the African diaspora have used tea for personal and communal health, emphasizing how self-care practices have been preserved through life writing.
From hibiscus in Egypt and Jamaica to black tea in Kenya, sassafras or orange pekoe iced tea in the U.S. South, and aromatic herbal teas of California, Black women’s wellness is steeped in tea history.
Life writing by Mary Seacole (Jamaica), Maya Angelou (California), Jan Willis (India), Edna Lewis (Virginia), Wangari Maathai (Kenya), and Mary Church Terrell (Washington, D.C.) are only a few examples of memoirs that illustrate how Black women expand the global view of tea as both medicinal and as a cornerstone of social and political life.
Africana Tea unveils the roots of Black women’s international tea culture, including biblical notions like “my cup runneth over" (a painting by Annie Lee and a cover song by Aretha Franklin), “spilling the tea,” (a term coined by The Lady Chablis of Savannah), and the need to “take no tea for the fever,” (Black women’s refusals to tolerate foolishness).
Once complete, this interactive map will be open access, like the map for Dr. Evans's book, Black Passports: Travel Memoirs as a Tool for Youth Empowerment.
Details coming in Spring 2024
Dr. Evans has been awarded a Georgia State University HRC Maymester Writing Fellowship. From May 9 - June 3, 2022, she will join the virtual writing program and share research updates with the Faculty Workshops. The annual seminar is hosted by the GSU Humanities Center. For more information, visit https://humanities.gsu.edu/support-for-faculty/hrc-faculty-fellows/.
In July 2022, Dr. Evans will join the Callie House Works-in-Progress Seminar in Providence, Rhode Island. The annual seminar is hosted by the Vanderbilt University Callie House Research Center for the Study of Global Black Cultures and Politics. For more information, visit https://as.vanderbilt.edu/aads/calliehousecenter/.
Friday, May 6, 2022. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and its Faculty Success. Third Kathryn Epps Faculty Wellness Conference. 9:30am - 4:00pm. Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans Keynote Speaker and Full-Day Workshop Facilitator. https://facultydevelopment.kennesaw.edu/eppsconference/keynote.php
May 31, 2022 - Online. Research discussion about Black women's tea history. Details HERE
August 26, 2022 - Online.
Spring 2023 - Online. Details forthcoming. Open to the Public.
November 2023 - Celebrating Mary Seacole's Birthday. Online. Details forthcoming. Presentations by researchers, tea professionals, and artists about tea and Black women's health history.
Examines how Black women elders have managed stress, emphasizing how self-care practices have been present since at least the mid-nineteenth century, with roots in African traditions.
Artwork: "My Cup Runneth Over" by Annie Lee. Book info, SUNY Press https://sunypress.edu/Books/B/Black-Women-s-Yoga-History
How have Black women elders managed stress? In Black Women's Yoga History, Stephanie Y. Evans uses primary sources to answer that question and to show how meditation and yoga from eras of enslavement, segregation, and migration to the Civil Rights, Black Power, and New Age movements have been in existence all along. Life writings by Harriet Jacobs, Sadie and Bessie Delany, Eartha Kitt, Rosa Parks, Jan Willis, and Tina Turner are only a few examples of personal case studies that are included here, illustrating how these women managed traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. In more than fifty yoga memoirs, Black women discuss practices of reflection, exercise, movement, stretching, visualization, and chanting for self-care. By unveiling the depth of a struggle for wellness, memoirs offer lessons for those who also struggle to heal from personal, cultural, and structural violence. This intellectual history expands conceptions of yoga and defines inner peace as mental health, healing, and wellness that is both compassionate and political.
BLACK WOMEN & HEALTH WGSS/AAS 4110-6110 | #Historical Wellness | Fall 2022 @GSU
Goal: To identify historical and cultural strategies for sustainable well-being
THEME FOR THE SEMESTER: “AFRICANA TEA”
This course will explore mental health and holistic health history in terms of race, gender, and stress management. Materials will show how history can inform today’s practices for mind, body, and spirit maintenance. For example, memoirs by Black women reveal tea as an effective wellness strategy. In this class, graduate and undergraduate students will study human rights abuses in U.S. history from enslavement to the present and explore feminist-womanist resistance in the form of struggle for optimal health. Definitions of health will be studied from six dimensions: physical, mental, spiritual, social, economic, and political.
Student researchers will combine historical analysis with psychology and public health frameworks to address one question: How have Black women elders managed stress? Answers will involve studying health challenges (morbidity) and sustainable health (longevity). Course reading includes reports from Center for Disease Control, American Public Health Association, Boston University’s Black Women’s Health Study, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Center for Black Women’s Wellness, American Psychological Association, Dr. Kanika Bell’s survey of 50 Black women mental health professionals, and other relevant sources.
THIS WILL BE A RESEARCH-FOCUSED COURSE FOR ADVANCED UPPER DIVISION UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE STUDENTS.
Herbal herbal infusions and tea products.
If you would like to invite a talk on the topic, of Black women's tea history or are a tea professional in the African diaspora, feel free to reach out!