Meet Ree Botts...
1. What do you think it means to be a good girl?
A "good girl" to me is a woman who is unafraid to be herself in any environment she encounters. At times, our society confines the term "good" to mean socially acceptable, and this puts women in a box. I am learning to be who I feel like being each day, and that has been one of the most liberating aspects of my journey. I've learned to interrogate "goodness", Who defines "good" and who do we give the power to do so? Living in a male dominant, Eurocentric society, good has been defined through the lens of those who have historically had the power to oppress our people, particularly women. So why would I give those same people the power to project their perspective onto me? No thanks! As I redefine "goodness" by myself and for myself, I believe that I am a "good girl" or as I would say a Bad A** Grown A** Woman, because I am in control of who I am and who I want to be, and I fight the urge to box myself into society's confining definitions of who I'm supposed to be.
2. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was a young girl, I used to be embarrassed that I was a poet. All the other girls could sing and dance, and my gift was speaking. Because our society encourages women to be so silent, I didn't want a big voice. I knew that I was called to write and perform, but I would feel so large inside my little body that performing made me uncomfortable. I couldn't figure out why it had been given to me - these words, this message, this talent. I wanted to be normal like the rest of the girls, but God showed me long ago that I would never be "normal". I would always be the one who had to sacrifice for my calling.
It was my mother who helped me to understand the most valuable lesson I have learned in my life - Everything you need is within, so embrace your destiny. Each one of us is called for a designated purpose, and we have been given everything we need to accomplish this task. Life’s journey is designed to help us tap into our inner light, embrace it, and allow it to lead our lives. With that, I was able to see that what I needed most to fulfill God’s plan for my life was the very thing I tried to run from. It was this message that made me proud to be exactly who I was, because I realized I was becoming exactly who my creator had imagined me to be.
3. Night in with friends or boyfriend? Why?
It depends on the night. Some nights, all I wanna do is cuddle up with my man, eat Thai food and ice cream, and watch something funny on Netflix. He is one of my best friends, and the time we spend together constantly feeds my soul. But some nights, I just want to experience some Black Girl Magic - have a vision board party with inspirational women, talk about life and the world and our place in it. I have the best slumber parties with my best friend Nia because that’s all we do. We have ancestral revelations every hour, we laugh, we cry, we work on our future goals, and we motivate each other toward greatness.
4.What are your non- negotiables in the dating world?
The most important aspects of a relationship to me are genuine love and unwavering support. I went through a phase where I was so fed up with men because I felt so belittled. Every guy I encountered saw me as a “long hair, thick, red-bone”, and I hated that. None of the guys I met could truly see me, beyond my physical appearance, and I was tired of feeling so hypervisible yet so invisible at the same time. I wanted to meet someone who was attracted to my mind and soul first, and I decided that would be my primary non-negotiable. It was a blessing to meet a man who saw in me the parts of myself I felt I had to hide from the world for too long. The spiritual connection that we felt for each other is the very thing that sustains the relationship. It is much deeper than a physical attraction, but a human engagement that transcends space or time. I believe that love should be magical, so that is definitely a non-negotiable as well. The other thing I value most in a relationship is the ability to inspire and encourage each other as we continue to walk in our individual purpose. I can only be in a relationship where we work together as a team, and we envision ourselves as a unit building an empire that will change the world. It is that type of foundation that I believe every queen deserves. Without these things, along with trust, respect, affection, and effective communication, I do not believe that a healthy relationship can take place, and a healthy relationship is ultimately the top priority.
5.If you could describe yourself in a song what would it be?
I love Amy Winehouse, and one of my favorite songs by her is October Song. Every October, my best friend and I play this song every day and reflect on our journey. Amy passionately illustrates freedom and liberation as she sings the song of a young woman who is continuously letting go of her burdens and reconnecting with life’s purpose. To be reborn, to me, is to have true joy, to not be burdened by the falsehoods of the world, and to let life pour love and light into you. When listening to October Song, I feel free enough to become the bird that flew away and never looked back in regret, and that image is what I aspire to be.
6. As an activist yourself, and particularly as a woman, you have faced many obstacles -- what helped you overcome them? Where did you find your strength and your courage that has sustained you throughout your crusade over all these years?
Each woman has her own story which defines exactly what Selfology means to her. For me, my Selfology encompasses my path toward overcoming and giving back. This movement was birthed from my own attempts to make sense of this very question. Selfology was my response to the longing I felt while trying to figure out my own life and reclaim my personhood after feeling trapped in the expectations of others. As a victim-survivor of sexual abuse, I have experienced trauma, anxiety, and depression which all caused me to find poetry as a way out. After writing and performing for over ten years, I decided to write my first poetry book entitled ree-centered : a poetic collection of selfology which details this journey. This project has allowed me to vulnerably share my truth with others, and forced me to find truth within myself. The Selfology Movement was then inspired by the poetry that I wrote. I realized that I was not alone in this journey to self discovery, and I felt an urgent need to invite other women to join me.
I grew deeply spiritual and found that there was a deeper connection to that which is larger than self. I saw so much hurt and pain in my sisters, and a lack of self knowing that prevented forward progression. Their stories drive me as much as my own, as I recognize how integral we all are to the collective achievement of our people. So, I find that all I do is inspired mostly by my need to be a blessing to others and let other women know they are not alone, and that is what keeps me going.
7. Tell us about your Selfology movement
The Selfology Movement is designed specifically for Black women and girls to define ourselves, for ourselves, in order to free ourselves from the oppressive constructs that exist in our world. Through a process of self enlightenment, the movement is designed to assist women in defining their own personhood by exploring five critical layers - body, mind, soul, ancestry, and spirituality. One cannot exist without the other, and if one is not foundationally sound, then the holistic being is not balanced. By claiming and reaffirming these key aspects of self, I believe that Black women can reconnect with their most pure and genuine selves in order to move about the world more freely and more intentionally. What we believe about ourselves as individuals and as a collective ultimately determines the way we live our lives. It is my hope that through the five layers of Selfology, women will be encouraged to believe positive truths about themselves while still embracing the reality of their life’s journey.
My definition of good is being genuine, being truthful with yourself / others, and being humbly confident enough to walk into your purpose. Being good is giving good vibes to those around you, and spreading good things into the world. Goodness comes from within. It comes from channeling the purest form of yourself, and allowing your light to inspire others to do the same.
8. Your video narrative showcases a young woman washing away her hurts, judgements and barriers. The visual was strong and empowering. To help women further, how did you find the strength and means to actually “wash away” your hurts, judgements and barriers. Also how can we keep up with you?
The video was designed to be a visual representation of my struggles from girlhood to womanhood. It speaks to the freedom that I still seek to find daily. It was only through my writing and the Selfology movement that I was able to take strides in a direction toward liberation, because I could no longer run from my story. The video ends with the pain and the trauma of feeling bare and vulnerable in the world as a young woman. These are feelings I am constantly working through, using this project as a way to make sense of it all.
-Message from Ree Botts-
Thank you for listening. Please join the movement and stay in touch!
IG - @reeciology
Twitter - @reeciology
Email - ContactReeBotts@gmail.com