Nailah Tyrell On Racism, Self-Care And Prayer

"I can't count the number of times I've been asked, 'Why can't you just have a normal name?'"

Racism is a reality for many Canadians of colour, and its effects can be damaging physically and psychologically. We asked Canadians to share their experiences of racism, self-care, self-love, and "paying it forward" for real change.

Nailah Tyrell is a Caribbean-Canadian gospel singer and songwriter. When not singing, Tyrell is a certified human resources professional, connecting people to the work experiences that bring them satisfaction.

What effect do repeat experiences of racism have on your well-being?

I can't count the number of times I've been asked, "Why can't you just have a normal name?" often followed by, “Well, do you have a nickname I can use?” Anything to "normalize" my name, rather than learn it, like I learn "Ann" and "Jane" and "Bob" and "Joe." That said, I think I get angrier at group experiences of racism than individual ones. Maybe it's easier for me to forgive or let go of an individual [encounter] because of the seemingly small scale that it's on. Larger displays of racism actually make me angry and sad.

How do you practice self-care?

My first response now is prayer. I truly believe that we wrestle not against flesh and blood so I pray for a spiritual healing and enlightenment in the lives/homes/communities of those who believe that hatred of one group could possibly be justifiable. In addition to that, there's nothing that a group chat can't cure. Talking it out, airing out the frustration and [even] Facebook posts when I'm really fed up.

What is the relationship between self-care and working toward change?

Ultimately, self-care starts with a spiritual practice. I believe focusing on self-care in this way causes me to look at the bigger picture — beyond my emotions. What's the root cause behind this? I believe that God loves the person who discriminates just as much as He loves me and I believe that prayer for them — which literally means talking to God about someone who hurts me — ultimately helps us both. I believe that prayer and scripture can give insight as to practical ways of dealing with hurtful experiences — how to fight, who to connect with in the cause, if I'm fighting for one, when and how to move or act.

This interview has been condensed from its original format.