A Community Poetry Project Dedicated to Radical Self Love

Elisheba Johnson and Kristen Ramirez. Photo by Bruce Clayton Tom

Elisheba Johnson and Kristen Ramirez turned Valentine’s Day on its ear with a collaborative community poetry project titled Radical Self Love Seattle. Using the hashtag #RadicalSelfLove18, they invited anyone and everyone in the city to contribute positive personal statements that looked inward, not outward, for love.

“Radical means to push something beyond where it’s already at, to make it bigger or more,” Johnson says. “And self-love is about loving yourself so much that you feel whole on your own.”

She and Ramirez—both of whom are studio artists, public art administrators and divorced mothers of young men—wanted to create an opportunity for everyone to feel validated, empowered and included in a day that can be hard for many people. Dozens of people contributed to the project on Wednesday, displaying a vulnerability that surprised Johnson and Ramirez.

“We were asking people to reveal an interior landscape,” Ramirez says. “The level of vulnerability was heartwarming. I’ve definitely experienced a paradigm shift around Valentine’s Day.”

Johnson adds, “People who don’t consider themselves poets wrote very poetic things.”

Radical Self Love Seattle was inspired in part by the work Johnson and Ramirez do with public art for the City of Seattle. Last year they, along with the rest of the city’s public art team, curated the BorderLands exhibition at King Street Station, which included an installation of 48 flags by Mexican American artist Pedro Lasch exploring ideas of identity and belonging. Ramirez says she was moved by the genius of their simple sculptural quality.

So when the idea for Radical Self Love Seattle began to brew, she and Johnson decided to make flags to display their own personal statements: I Will Continue To Love Like My Heart Has Never Been Broken and Burn Your Fire For No Witness. On Feb. 7 they took their finished flags to Kerry Park, known as one of the city’s most romantic spots, and staged a public performance, seen in the photograph above.

Yesterday, Johnson and Ramirez sifted through the digital contributions and cut together the collective poem below, which they’ve also made available for download here.


Radical Self Love
A poem from many voices

The soil rumbled and we all spoke…

I am going to continue to love like my heart has never been broken.

Self-love starts when we are young and the challenge is how can we carry it like the precious treasure it is through our adulthood.

“Kiddo made himself his own card as well and signed it, “From Me!!!”

Me. Missing my big girls, missing my Tiny One, missing my beloved, missing my community, missing Seattle… but, I’m not missing me. I’m right here, a tiny bit nappy, melancholy yet happy, I love me. Breathing in and loving myself. Breathing out and loving all of you.

Holding heart space with black brilliance.

I hella love myself.
I am so smart and talented.
Black, Bomb and Bountiful.
Quirky, Queer and Queenly.
I just got love for you all, but from a distance.
Get up, get out, get over it, get it on to be strong

And the clouds whispered RADICAL…

steadfastness to fully inhabit the self in every mental and corporeal state

So many harsh reminders of what happens when humans don’t love themselves enough to care. And I know we can all do better. But it has to start with committing to some seriously radical self-love, everyday.

Dedicating my time to keeping this Black body healthy, thriving, happy and whole is at the center of all that I do.

My self-care practice is my number one priority.

My self-love is fierce, it’s unapologetic, it’s undeniable.

I will breathe in deep, inhaling all the love in my life and exhale with joy and hope.

And the rain yelled SELF…

I polish my warrior heart so that all that I am can shine strongly, so that I can love like the grandest imperfect but perfect sky.

Being present with me.

I am strong, motivated, adventurous, and understand myself more than I ever have before. Through years of attempting to transform myself to be something I am not, I’ve learned that being true to myself and happiness is the key to living my life to the fullest. I am passionate to be here, as I am.

Witch, look inside and say I have power I am strong, beautiful as fuck.

noticing repetition / two eyes / single column / rotation and inversion of the column into the four brackets which double and mirror the eyes / but form a single eye

And the mountains screamed SELF…

I am the most important person to me and that will always be.

I knew in my heart something was truly out of the norm. I knew I wasn’t crazy. I listen to my instincts more because they’ve proven to be worthy of it. I rest when I need rest. I’m learning not to be so hard on myself when I can’t do it all/be it all. I’m trying to be more loving, open and vulnerable with myself and others. I’m a work in progress like the whole beautiful lot of us.

I will move away from unreasonable expectations of perfection and allow myself and others to try, experiment, and learn with graciousness and generosity.

Strictly enforced boundaries around my time, space, mental and emotional resources help keep me in balance.

I’m going to fight, but my sword is a dove. I’m going to be strong, but my strength is love…

And the trees echoed SELF…

I’m viewing my Valentine’s Day dinner of popcorn and wine as Radical Self Love.

I’m fun. I connect. I’m curious. I dream. I’m emotional. I give my all to everyone around me… I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me.

Don’t forget to love and nurture yourself.

I am valuable, not when I do great things, but for my own simple sweet existence. I will not squander my time in this iteration. I will learn to open wide my arms to my own self.

And the moon dripped LOVE…

Skin like honey, hair of brownie locks, succulent body, mmm. Laughter like the sun, voice of an angel, Oh joyful soul!

This is my love letter to the “better angels” of my own humanity as well as a reminder and plea to what bitterness, bile and corruption I harbor to linger no more in the shadows of my heart, but be transformed by the embrace of love, beauty, openness and compassion.

Today, I will listen with patience, speak with compassion & love with all my heart.

Your heart knows. Tune in. Listen. Trust.

Burn your fire for no witness.

Eyes that remind me it’s not just for her, it’s for me. We sneak out into the world before the light comes up and others are awake to feel the drizzle and listen to the sounds of my slower than I’d like stride but I’m moving and grateful. A time to be alone before the sun rises and the expectations that come with daylight start to collect its daily tolls.

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known. Nothing you can see that isn’t shown. There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you are meant to be. It’s easy.
 All you need is love.

I love me, I love me, I love us.

I’m in tears over your generosity of love for me.

And we all closed our eyes and dreamed of a perfect, RADICAL, SELF LOVE.