Magogodi Oamphela Makhene and Cleyvis Natera are the founders of Love As A Kind of Cure, a digital community using art to take action on critical community issues. Their issue-specific festivals focus on topics such as COVID-19 and inequality and freedom and racial justice. Magogodi and Cleyvis share the inspiration behind their joyful digital gatherings and what motivates them to do this timely and important work.
Tell us about your journey to starting Love as a Kind of Cure. What inspired both of you to commit to this work?
When we saw how hard the pandemic hit our community–black and brown people in NYC and around the world–we knew we had to offer a salve, no matter how small. So we put together Love As a Kind of Cure, a digital “cure” for Covid-19, focusing on Covid and inequality. We wanted to spread light and love amidst the sea of our collective grief and anguish. Remember, bodies were literally piling up in NYC. Those body bags were filled with people who looked like our grandmothers, our uncles and sisters. That shit hurt.
Everyone was in pain. So we wanted to activate kindness. We also wanted to help people see the through-line between the many hundreds lost and the deep, systemic inequality that led to disproportionate deaths in Latinx and Black zip codes. On the global scale, folks in townships like Soweto and throughout India were asked to “shelter in place” even though they live in shacks. They were asked to wash their hands frequently, well how do you do that when you share limited running water with a few other households in a communal faucet?
What have been some of the most transformative moments in your life?
M: That’s a mother-big question. Losing my dad. Being born and raised in apartheid South Africa. Migrating to the U.S. alone, as a teen, and somehow figuring all that shit out. Becoming a writer. Several life-changing relationships. Like meeting my husband. And most recently, meeting Cleyvis and staying up all night drinking prosecco and talking shit and good books on a school night. That was only a year ago-- look at us now! I really believe God loves us through the people in our lives. Everyone shows up to teach us something. Especially people we feel drawn to. And yes, even the odd one or two who seem to completely repel us.
C: How much time do we have? I can go on for DAYS! Migrating to the US as a ten year old was a huge transformative moment for me, just as it was with Magogodi, especially since we left my father behind. When my father died a few years later, it was also a big shock, and to this day, my work as a writer interrogates migration, absence and loss but most of all the resilience I witnessed with my Mom, and so many family members, who thrived despite the hostile environments that awaited us in the USA.
"Everyone shows up to teach us something. Especially people we feel drawn to."
How would you describe yourselves as women? As activists?
For two people who grew up across the world from each other and in different cultures, we have so much in common as women. We’re both immigrants, we’re both part of the black diaspora--Cleyvis from the Dominican Republic and Magogodi from South Africa. We’re incredibly driven and have overcome significant hurdles to chase our dreams. We’re also big bookworms who take our writing seriously. Cleyvis is a mom to two adorable young kids. We’re mad about NYC but Magogodi has sold out--she’s a Jozzie girl turned country bumpkin...like wtf, lol :)
Activists. That’s a big one. We believe so deeply in using our lives and daily superpowers to affect social change. Cleyvis is especially driven by the world she’s creating for her children. Magogodi is shaped by her upbringing in apartheid South Africa--being raised in a culture of resistance and watching people sacrifice their lives and wellbeing to end the Nazi-inspired crime against humanity innocently called apartheid. That’s maybe why we also shy away from the term activist. The activists we are inspired by have given their lives for our personal freedoms.
Fannie Lou Hamer comes to mind as we mark 100 years of the 19th Amendment. After forced sterilization--she went in to remove a tumor and came out without a uterus--Ms. Fannie threw herself at fighting white supremacy. That landed her in jail more than once and blinded her after a severe beating from police. Because of Ms. Fannie, women like us can vote in the U.S. and we can make noise about the repeal of the Voting Rights Act which Hamer helped ratify, a right currently under attack. Or Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was banned by apartheid South Africa, who was held in solitary confinement for so long, she made friends with jailhouse mice to stay sane. All because she dared to be a black woman and declare her humanity inviolable.
The work we’re doing through Love As A Kind of Cure asks ordinary people to find daily moments of activation toward social justice and transformation. Most recently, we hosted our Freedom Festival, Jul12-19. Over 1,000 people got activated to dismantle white supremacy by practicing anti-racism. We did this through a series of dynamic events like a Food Cook-Along, exploring Food X Inequality; a keynote with Arundhati Roy and a kickoff brunch with a gallery tour, live music and conversation with Obama’s favorite podcaster & On Being host Krista Tippett. If that leads someone into full blown activism, then let the great church sing Amen!
What we know is that anyone can use their personal superpower to affect social change. Today. You don’t have to wait to become an activist to act on something that bothers you.
What are some tips you can share for carving out and maintaining a wellbeing practice?
M: I’m trying to get back on the bandwagon with my tri-factor: Rise early. Write. Run. The rest of the day/week/month is cake when I’m riding this rhythm. I think it’s about figuring out the right daily dose of creativity, spirituality, community, movement and bodily joy-juice. Ain't o one-track fits all. More like creating your own signature cocktail, which probably also changes with every season and hormonal period.
C: Much of the world wants to convince us that our self-worth should be measured by how much money is in our bank accounts, the pretty possessions we have in our homes, and the jealousy-factor we can inspire in others through our social media posts.
Wellbeing as practice for me starts from a simple and authentic place, to focus my energy on what brings me real joy - be it making a favorite meal for my kids, or going for a run, or finding a small moment of stillness during what is a very hectic life to consider ways to make the world a better place for someone whose life may be very different from mine.
"Wellbeing as practice for me starts from a simple and authentic place, to focus my energy on what brings me real joy."
Do you have any daily affirmations?
M: I very very very highly recommended Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. Changed my life. I keep a copy on my nightstand and I’ve given away all previous copies. If you’re open to it, that book will brew an internal revolution within!
Describe your perfect day.
M: Rise. Write. Run. Reeeeeaaad all day. A beach is great, sunshine essential. Sequins and prosecco for dinner somewhere sweet and joyful with zero pretentious and my favourite humans.
C: Surrounded by those I love, with an epic book on my lap, and a notebook nearby.
In this time of uncertainty, what do you know to be true?
M: At essence, we are Love. We are Life itself, which means we are inherently abundant, which means we carry within everything we need to face the present moment. Always.
C: Our responsibility extends beyond ourselves and the people we love most. That responsibility encompases strangers we’ve never met, who may not have the possibilities to health, safety and fulfillment as we do. We should live in service to making a better world for those we love and those we don’t know.
What does “wellbeing” mean to you?
M: Living in the fullness of life. Being awake to the present moment, whatever it brings.
C: What she said. Ha!
What are your favorite Prima products?
OMG, We LOVE Prima! And it’s not just us, our Love As A Kind of Cure Brand Manager Courtney has very sensitive skin and lungs, the skincare products like Prima R + R Cream are her favorite. Second that all day!