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Brown Girl Butterfly Project makes community-healing their passion project

Brown Girl Butterfly Project makes community-healing their passion project

It’s angelic, it’s powerful, but most of all ― it’s necessary. The Brown Girl Butterfly Project is a recent LA-born initiative founded this past June to provide wellness kits to brown/Black femmes and non-binary folx at the forefront of protest-activism. The group’s efforts bring both public and personal awareness towards the long-existing and long-lasting effects of societal, systemic, and institutionalized subjugation with regard to the health of our mind/body connection. For the many people out there who haven’t had the opportunity or time yet to begin navigating that conversation with themselves, or don’t know how/where to start, Brown Girl Butterfly Project gets the ball rolling.

Brown Girl Butterfly Project: NY Team, 2020

Founded by model/community helper Gabrielle Richardson, AKA the earthy and stylish @fridacashflow, the group lends a hand to those fighting on the protest lines with the goal of promoting healing and self-care ― mentally, emotionally, spiritually ― even once the protests are over. Singer Raveena Aurora and actress Laura Harrier have both joined on as “butterflies,” not to mention the passionate swarms of volunteers in LA, Paris, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York.

NBGA caught up with the founder of the collective to chat a little bit about the conception of the group all the way through to the execution.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE CONCEPTION OF THE BROWN GIRL BUTTERFLY PROJECT. WHAT DID THE PROCESS BETWEEN IDEA AND ACTUALIZATION LOOK LIKE?

Brown Girl Butterfly Project started as me giving out care packages with my friends at the protests that were happening throughout late May and then through to June and also now, in August. I thought, what happens to protestors when they go home? I was going home depressed as fuck, super in my feelings. I wasn’t taking care of myself. Everything felt very overwhelming. My most basic state was just being overwhelmed. That’s when I thought, what can I do to help everyone who is feeling what I’m feeling right now? What happens to a protestor when they go home, if they have a home? What can I do to make sure that people are okay in the long run? I feel like society has a bad habit of only extending care to others when they’re very blatantly suffering. My question was: How do we keep up the momentum of someone feeling good and capable? Before they get to the point where they are outright suffering. I’ve noticed that Black people often are their most valuable when they’re experiencing pain and that’s something that I’m really tired of.

Brown Girl Butterfly: Team Atlanta, 2020

WHAT ARE THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THE BROWN GIRL BUTTERFLY PROJECT? HOW DO YOU INSURE THAT THESE OBJECTIVES ARE ACHIEVED?

I prompt general healing by giving people the tools. I guess I’ll never really know if an objective is achieved unless I’m told, but what I want is to do my part in making sure that people have access to the tools that will help them combat burnout or emotional, physiological, spiritual stress. Whether or not they utilize those tools is totally up to them, of course. All I can do is provide. All I can do is help. All I want to do is make people validate in their pain and especially, validated in their healing. I feel like Black people often are pushed into this Black death spectacle. Why do people only care about us when someone gets shot or killed? Let’s keep this up. You’re only seeing a cornerstone of years of racial injustice and subjugation. 

CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT THE CARE PACKAGES INCLUDE?

We usually include CBD, healing crystals, vitamins, a zine based around wellness. One of the people we work with is a therapist, and she’s not Black but she actually reaches out to other Black therapists and Black-owned practices and asks them to donate their therapeutic writings and works if they’re willing to. We include a gratitude journal as well. 

Brown Girl Butterfly Wellness Zine | Thoughts by @sunshine_advocacygroup

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TOWARDS ACTIVE-ACTIVISM OVER TAKING A MORE PASSIVE APPROACH?

For me, I can’t even consider it activism. As a Black person, I don’t consider myself an activist. I consider myself someone who is invested in my own self-defence and my community’s ability to self-defend. It’s big but it’s very personal. 

FOR THOSE WHO ARE LOOKING TO BEGIN HELPING MORE ACTIVELY BUT MIGHT BE FEELING A LITTLE LOST, WHERE DO YOU THINK IS A GOOD PLACE FOR THEM TO START? 

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In Philly, in my school district, it’s required to do 100-hours of community service during each school year so the idea of helping is introduced to you. Even before this, I used to volunteer with my family or with my friends. Things like that are great when they’re introduced to children. Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. There are so many different ways to get started in community work. You can even start by just looking at what’s relevant to you and making it personal. I don’t only do Brown Girl Butterfly; I also volunteer at a food bank and my friend Raveena, she’s Sikh and it’s part of the Sikh religion to take care of people, feed people. The best start is just finding a cause and helping out. It can be a quick Google search. Then if you want to organize on your own, you have something to model it after because you know what that looks like. 

Gabrielle Richardson, founder

WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE BROWN GIRL BUTTERFLY PROJECT? HAVE YOU FOUND YOUR SUSTAINABLE SWEET SPOT?

I think we’ll do activations maybe once a month or once every other month. It’s really fun. It’s a lot of work. I’m figuring it out, taking it one month at a time. Our next initiative is going to be working with trans and creating a trans closet initiative where we give free clothes to trans people. We’ll get designers and famous people to donate their clothing. It’ll be open for two days. On the first day, trans women can come and take the clothes they want and need for free. On day two, we’ll open up to the public and trans people can still get clothing for free but people can also purchase clothing. And then all of the money will go to affiliated charities. It’s a big project.

ANY LAST WORDS?

I don’t think we could’ve done anything without our community and everyone who donated their time. A lot of the time with community efforts, it’s the tendency to focus on just one person or the founder but I’m just the person who had the idea. It was everyone else coming and saying you can make this happen that made it real. I’m really thankful for my team. 

Founder Gabrielle Richardson (right) and butterfly Bria Vinaite. Photo: Courtesy of Searcy Kwon

Keep up with The Brown Girl Butterfly Project @browgirlbutterflyproject and check out what Gabrielle is up to over at @fridacashflow.

Thank you Gabrielle!

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