A Historic Day… And Why The ‘Nap Bishop’ Believes Rest Is Radical

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Hey, y’all…It’s Brittany. 

SONIA SOTOMAYOR The duties of the office which I am about to enter.  

KAMALA HARRIS The duties of the office which I am about to enter.  


KAMALA HARRIS So help me God.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Vice President Kamala Harris. President Joe Biden. Y’all know how hard we had to work to be able to say that! I may or may not have a glass of champagne in my hand while I’m talking to you.

I sat with all the crocodile tears in my eyes while Kamala Devi Harris was sworn into the vice presidency with her hand on Thurgood Marshall’s Bible. Michelle Obama came through with the poise and the hair flip of a thousand first ladies and Amanda Gorman set my soul on fire. All the Black women in me are dancing. You can’t “outdo the doer” baby, and you can NOT do democracy without us. 

When I was a kid, my parents were invited to attend Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, but I watched on TV at home and it was just one of the most grand glamorous, glorious things I’d ever seen as a nine-year-old. I was obsessed with my mom’s black and silver beaded gown for the ball and the pictures of everyone dancing the night away in celebration.

But you know, my parents really wanted me to pay less attention to the dresses and more attention to the moment. After the inauguration, my dad bought me the cassette tape of Maya Angelou reading the poem she read that day—“On the Pulse of Morning.” And as I watched the powerful little sister Amanda Gorman become the youngest poet to stand in Dr. Angelou’s spot yesterday, I thought of all the mornings I listened to that cassette tape back in the day on the way to school. 

Maya Angelou Today, the rock cries out to us. Clearly. Forcefully. Come, you may stand up on my back and face your distant destiny. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham I think my late father wanted me to understand that, you know, democracy is how ordinary people can show our power, that we earn our moments of celebration through commitment to the things that are bigger than us. And that when we reach a peak, a summit, an apex, the top of that rock, our work has really only just begun. We have reached an incredible peak. What a privilege it is to see into the next horizon and choose how we get there. We are UNDISTRACTED.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham On the show today…Performance artist and activist Tricia Hersey. I’ll be talking to the Bishop of the Nap Ministry about the importance of rest—yes, even now—and why rest can actually be used to dismantle white supremacy and capitalism. 

Tricia Hersey This is about more than naps. Naps is the way that I get people in, and naps is the vehicle and the tool used, but it really is about disrupting and pushing back against a toxic system. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham That’s coming up…But first it’s your “UNtrending News.”

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Good is an understatement when it comes to poet Amanda Gorman. She performed at the Biden/Harris inauguration continuing a tradition that includes Robert Frost and, of course, our beloved Dr. Maya Angelou. The young Black woman is a fast rising talent. I met Amanda a couple of years ago for a Together Live event and she is warm and friendly and, yes, as impressive as she’s always been. At 16, she was named the youth poet Laureate of Los Angeles. At 17, she published her first book, and now at 22, she is the youngest inaugural poet in all of U.S. history. At the ceremony, Amanda read her poem called “The Hill We Climb.” 

Amanda Gorman The new dawn balloons as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only, we’re brave enough to be it. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham For there is always light…Back in 2017, Amanda told The New York Times that she wants to run for president in 2036. She actually said: “You can put that in your iCloud calendar.” I am Amanda. I’m on it.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham We’ve been talking about just how diverse. This cabinet and administration is becoming President Biden says he will nominate Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s top health official, as his Assistant Secretary of Health. If all goes according to plan, Levine will be the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The 62-year-old pediatrician actually first came out publicly about nine years ago. And as Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Levine has been really tirelessly leading the state’s response to the pandemic while also, unfortunately, dealing with incredibly ugly attacks on her gender identity. 

Dr. Rachel Levine I have no room in my heart for hatred, and frankly, I do not have time for intolerance. My heart is full with a burning desire to help people. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham According to GLAAD, the Trump administration waged 181 attacks on LGBTQ+ people through their policies—not just the rhetoric—but through their policies since 2017, that includes the introduction of a rule barring healthcare access for trans people and of course the infamous trans military ban. Y’all, this is what we mean by righteous representation, not just having somebody at the table, but having somebody at the table who can correct the things that went wrong and create the things that should go right. For all people. Not just some people. As Ayanna Pressley always says: “Righteous representation is where it has to begin.”


Brittany Packnett Cunningham And finally y’all know yesterday wasn’t just all pomp and circumstance. I love it. I love the pageantry of it all, but one of the most powerful things didn’t happen on the Capitol steps, it happened in the Oval Office. 

President Biden There’s no time to start like today. So I’’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham President Biden’s first order of business this week is signing 17 executive actions to stop the bleeding that includes restructuring the federal response to the pandemic; making sure we have a far better vaccine rollout than the one we’ve got; implementing a federal grounds mass-mandate; extending eviction and foreclosure moratoriums—so important—continuing the pause on student loan payments; counting who the Census Bureau calls non-citizens in the U.S. census again; ending the so-called Muslim travel ban; strengthening and fortifying DACA, and even more. Look, y’’all, it’s so important to remember everyone did not survive this presidency, whether by white supremacy or COVID or something else. So it’s going to be evermore important for this administration to move urgently and quickly, and for us to make sure that they keep on doing it past day one. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Coming up, I’ll be talking to Tricia Hersey of the Nap Ministry about the liberating power of rest and why it’s actually a racial justice issue.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham So it is go-time. There is so much to get done in this new administration, let alone just the next 100 days and certainly on the ground where we all are. But with so much to do the idea of resting can feel like an afterthought. Not even a thought. I mean, who really has time to take it easy. However, my guest today argues that resting is actually a form of radical resistance. Tricia Hersey is a poet and activist and the founder of The Nap Ministry. It’s an organization that’s all about promoting rest as a way to push back against burnout culture and a relentless toxic system. Before the pandemic, Tricia was hosting collective napping events in the Atlanta area and she continues to hold space for folks to rest online, and heads up in that Bishop, as she’s known, will be quick to tell you about how this is not about so-called “wellness”—she ain’t trying to sell you no jade eggs—she wants you to change your life. So at this time, when I personally am struggling to find time to rest and recharge, I was particularly interested in having Tricia read my whole life. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham My goodness, Bishop Tricia. I’m so, so excited to have you with us. Thank you for doing this 

Tricia Hersey Of course. I’m so honored to be here. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Before we get into really talking about the work of The Nap Ministry. I really just want to ask you how you’re doing. I mean, these are some rollercoaster days. Have you been getting enough rest? 

Tricia Hersey You know what thanks for asking that. I have been, you know, I think the reason I’ve been able to kind of dig deep into my rest practices because I’ve been doing it for so long. So probably since 2013, when I started this entire thing, because of me wanting to save my own life and seeing naps as something that could help me do that. And so I sleep probably nine hours every night. I take a nap every day. I have a hour throughout my day that I build into my calendar where it’s just a rest time.

It could be a nap, it can be daydreaming and it could be meditating needed it so much because of all of the shenanigans of the last year and now. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham The shenanigans, all of the shenanigans. I mean, hopefully, we’ll have fewer shenanigans moving forward, at least at the federal level. So a historic inauguration, right after that for so many people, especially folks in my line of work, that is go time, right? It’s like, all right, this is day one. Let’s get moving. Everyone is talking about what we need to get done in the first 100 days necessarily and understandably so. So I think maybe for some people listening to this, it may feel counterintuitive that we’re talking about rest right now, but is it? 

Tricia Hersey No, that’s the lie. That’s the bamboozlement. That’s the toxic program that we are under, living in a capitalist white supremacist system to think that rest is this privilege, some luxury, something that is in generative rest is a generative space. It is a space that will allow us to be able to have a foundation, to be able to build and invent and restore and imagine this new world that we keep talking about. Everyone keeps talking and screaming about this new world, but we will not get there from exhaustion. Really from a biological place, when we think about sleep science, our brains really can’t even download and process innovative new information when we’re in an exhausted state. And so it really is a time to rest. It always has been, but I think rest needs to become center, become seen as a social justice and racial justice issue. It’s a public health issue. And so to think that we can continue on from this exhausted disconnected state, because really when we aren’t resting, it’s bigger than just doing all-nighter and not feeling well the next day, we really are disconnected from our body. The more that we do that, the more we’re able to, you know, not have empathy and what we’re able to not be able to give care and without care in the world, none of us would be free. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Hmm, without care in the world none of us will be free. I mean, we could stop the whole interview right there because that in and of itself is words, scripture, Bible, the whole thing. But I actually, I want people to understand that this really is a ministry. You started the Nap Ministry in 2016. How do you explain it to folks? 

Tricia Hersey Yeah, I never talk about it being in any way a wellness movement. I talk about it being around political and social justice movement. I am an activist. I’ve been a community organizer for 20 years. My father was one in Chicago. This work is grounded in Black liberation, theology, womanism, you know, reparations theory, Afrofuturism, somatics. It is deeply rooted in radical political thought that says we can disrupt this capitalist system, we can reclaim and take back our bodies from a system that believes that they own it.

You know, this is deep political, radical, you know, shifting thought it’s not some fluffy wellness idea. This is about more than naps. That’s like one of my favorite things to say, this is about more than naps. Like naps is the way that I get people in and naps gives the vehicle and the tool to use, but it really is about disrupting and pushing back against a toxic system.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Like you said, though, the naps are the thing to get people in the door. So, okay. I get in the door, I’m here for this collective napping event. I’m wondering what in the world I’m going to experience. What do they look like? What happens?

Tricia Hersey They’re gorgeous. They’re amazing, beautiful events. I really miss them. You know, I’m a performance artist. So I think it’s really important for people to know that this work came out of me, experimenting with performance art theater, a one-woman shows. And I also am a theologian. I went to divinity school, so I was trained as a pastor. I did not go to divinity school to ever run a church.

You know, all of my friends are pastors at huge churches all over the country and the world, but I really went as an artist and community organizer to kind of see how my work could be grounded by looking at the intersections between like creativity and spirituality and kind of deep deconstruct all the ideas of public worship that I learned on training as a pastor. And I had audacity to ordain myself as a Bishop, and so that Bishop really is a persona that I use to be able to tap into this whole work. People come—there’s yoga mats, there’s blankets, there’s a rest altar…There’s always a rest altar with bottles of my grandmothers, a refugee from Jim Crow tale, great migration, you know, so they’re there.

They didn’t have an opportunity to rest in this dimension. And so we’re always looking at rest of the spiritual practice and grounding the work in this remembrance with them. People come, they lay down, I guide them into a rest meditation. I do poetry—I’m a poet—so there’s poetry read over them while they’re sleeping.

There’s a soundtrack of music. Sometimes there’s live music that we play. And then there is a nap talk that happens like a short lecture that I give on resting, on resistance, and people can also share discoveries and hold space for others. Because I believe rest is a portal to heal and imagine. And so people come out of the rest state, they talk—they talk about their dreams, they talk about what happened. We have tea there, we have a person who crafts tea for us. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham This is a full experience, right? It is not just somebody rolling out the cots, like when we were in kindergarten and you take a nap in the, you wake up and you move on to the next activity. This is real. I need to get in on one of these, when the world opens back up, I mean, you mentioned, that you were a student of divinity, you got your masters of divinity from Emory University. And you also—you talked about it a little bit just a second ago—but you talk also about how rest can connect us with our ancestors. Honoring the rest that they were never able to embody due to enslavement, capitalism, marginalization…Can you talk a little bit more about that? I think it maybe feels fuzzy for people who aren’t used to accessing that part of them, but it’s real.

Tricia Hersey It’s so real. It’s really how the work started. It started there. It didn’t start any other place, but me reading slave narratives, me working in archives at Emory University when I was a student mayor working. And at the same time, while I was doing this work, studying cultural traumas—one of my main research interests—I was exhausted. I was going through so much personal trauma. Black Lives Matter was heating up at the moment. So it was like lynchings on TV constantly. And so I was really at a place where I was wanting to give up. Like I just was fully exhausted to the point of where it was probably not physically healthy at all for me. So I just started resting all over campus, sleeping; at the same time, I was reading slave narratives and connected with my ancestors about how they didn’t sleep. I was finding out all these micro-details around their lives: about them working 20 hours a day, women having babies in the field and having to go back and pick cotton the same day. I had a baby, so I’m like saying, having a child and then having to go back the same day to pick those 500 pounds of cotton that was your thing that you have to do every day. And so I began to take naps, I began to rest as really just a resistance to just I’m giving up. I don’t know what else to do. I’m just going to sleep and nap. And I started to go into this dream-space of understanding that I could connect with my ancestors in this dimension. I could connect with them and reclaim a dream-space that was stolen from them for centuries. If you believe in ancestor communication and reverence like I do, and if you believe in the power that they are not gone, but they are just, you know, in another place, if they’re on a journey that we can still tap into that I could gain reparations for them now I can be an active participant in gaining the reparations of sleep for them. I can receive a word from them. They can tell me something that could help me on my journey. And so I think when we keep going, we constantly treat our bodies as if it’s a machine where we don’t take the time to let our body slow down, we’re missing so much information from another place. We mentioned so many downloads that, um, wants to come to us. You know, specifically people who have ancestors who were denied sleep. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham So the way that you really packaged rest for the rest of us [CHUCKLES] is so multifaceted. It is ancestral. It is spiritual. It is resistance work. It is also a resistance to capitalism, right? And I think, look, I think a lot of people see napping as a superficial practice. Like you said, some people see it as part of just a healthy wellness routine, like, you know, doing something commercial or at worst some people actually see it as indulgent. A lot of people think of it that way. So how do you explain to people that this is so much more than a child’s pastime or a trend or something commercial? 

Tricia Hersey If you know history and know what was happening on plantations, if you really pull back and understand what capitalism sees you as—to me, it’s a politics of resistance. I refuse to let capitalism on my body and try to control it when they still owe a debt to my ancestors—you can’t have my body, sorry. I’m not going to willingly give and donate my body to a system that is so wicked and corrupt and that is so evil and that doesn’t see me as a whole divine human being. And so what I do is I try to let people understand that rest is your divine right. It’s a human right. People don’t realize they’ve been brainwashed, they think it’s normal. They don’t know that this is literally something that has been placed in you. All of culture is in collaboration for us not to rise. Every single part of our culture from academia to public schools, to the churches, to everything is in collaboration for us to continue to use our bodies as a tool for their production. And so when people really sit with that for a minute, and it’s going to take some sitting with, you know, to understand how truly bamboozled you have been, it’s going to take some grieving around that. It’s going to take some understanding that grind culture is violence. And how do you want to like, align with that? Do you want to align with white supremacy and capitalism by exhausting your body, or do you want to disrupt and dismantle it? And rest can be that way for us to be able to push back against it. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham So on the other side of this, right, there are folks who are exhausted because of white supremacy. And you’ve been very clear, right, that rest should not just be for the wealthy. So, what do you say to folks who are really suffering through this pandemic and are overwhelmed and therefore overworked: they’re taking care of home; they’ve become educators in their home; they’ve become, you know, home healthcare nurses for their family and their loved ones; they are working multiple jobs to try to make ends meet because they may have lost their job because of this pandemic. What does it look like to build a space for rest when you feel like you are just too busy trying to survive?

Tricia Hersey I mean, that’s my life. That’s what this whole work came from. So I really can speak to it because it literally is my experience. And so what I tell them is that I want us to tap into the concept of imagination and also being subversive. We can’t even imagine another way. And so we believe that there’s only this one way. So what I will say to them is what I talk about my grandmother, who was a muse for this work. She was a Jim Crow survivor; she left Mississippi ‘cause she didn’t want to see the lynching; she came to Chicago; she worked two jobs, sometimes three jobs, raising nine children, poverty, like never seen it. And I was one of her many grandchildren and she sat every single day on her couch with her eyes closed and she rested her eyes. And we always was like, what is she doing? What is she up to? So she’s so eccentric. And she was like, “I’m not asleep. You know, every shut-eye ain’t sleep. I’m resting my eyes so I can get a word so I can hear what the universe wants to tell me. I’m pushing back in between going from this job to that job.” She’s sitting on her couch and resting.

And so I think creating a space and re-imagining rest for yourself is really the work. You know, that is a work in a system that is not going to ever slow down in a system that continues to go, rest becomes this beautiful existence in your subversive nature. I’m able to tap into that via thinking about my ancestors on plantations how they were subversive and flexible and very, very inventive. Those are the things that have been stolen from us, our invention, our imagination. So I will tell people it may look like closing your eyes for five minutes in your car on your way to work on your way? Like while you’re in a parking lot, it may be like before you get out the shower in the morning, you’re like taking two minutes to score yourself. You’re not answering email constantly, right. You literally are going to have to get off social media and that’s real talk. You’re going to have to find a way to create a time and a schedule for when you’re going to detox from it. And without that, you won’t have a rest practice. You won’t be able to embody any type of rest practice, if you don’t have a deep timeline and schedule around not being on social media, like when you’re going to detox from it. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham You know, Tricia, I have to tell you, I know that this is going to be so beneficial to everyone who listens, but it is also deeply beneficial to me right now because I set a schedule for me to detox from social media and take a rest from it and I keep interrupting it. And I’m realizing that especially with everything going on in the world. And especially as a Black woman—who we know continue to save ourselves and everybody ends up benefiting from it, including democracy—we feel guilty taking that pause. Black women, especially women of color, we feel guilty. How do we manage that guilt? How do we manage that feeling like we don’t deserve rest because people need us. 

Tricia Hersey Rest is a meticulous love practice. It is going to be a practice that is going to be a part of your life for the rest of your life. It’s going to be a slow unraveling. I tell people a lot to journal, you know, to have a rest journal where they can journal somebody’s thoughts. And really at the end of the day, we’ve all been traumatized. That guilt is literally trauma. And so I am trauma-informed and I understand that the collective trauma of living in this culture is on us. And then there’s the individual trauma that we all hold personally. This work really is about deep healing and deeply looking at how to unravel your trauma, how to heal from it, how to do all the things, you know—naps included—but other things also to start uncovering the ancestral trauma in you, the trauma of being, you know, feeling guilty about doing something that your body is supposed to do, you know, when you think about that, you’re guilty about doing something that is a human right that your body just naturally needs to do to really survive and live. And so to really understand the violence we’ve lived under, we’re going to have to take time to really deal with our trauma to really heal our trauma in so many ways.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham How has the pandemic affected the Nap Ministry? I mean, have you found that more people are interested in and reaching out for rest for the work that you do? 

Tricia Hersey I’ve been doing so many virtual rests and healing sessions online, on Zoom…I did my rest hotline. We have that 1-833-LOVENAPS and people can call in and I have this kind of long intimate moment where people can kind of connect with us, but people have been calling so much. There’s so many people wanting me to do work with them. And I think people are so exhausted and they also are dealing with deep grief. I think collective grief that we’re all under, and anxiety and we’re all under is really pushing us all to the edge. And I believe that they’re looking for something that can give them some type of solace and I believe rest supports grief.

And so we’ve transitioned just everything virtual and it’s still been the same because I believe spirit shows up wherever: spirit can show up on the phone, spirit can show up, you know, I don’t even have to even be talking to you, but telepathically the spirit can touch you. So the events have been very connected and very rich, and I’ve been very grateful for that.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham I mean, your spirit is touching me right now. I’m already thinking about how I have to get back off of Twitter.


Tricia Hersey I love your Twitter! We’re both on it way too much. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Okay. Well we can hold each other accountable. Well, you are changing lives and you’re most certainly changing mine. Thank you so, so much. 

Tricia Hersey Well, thank you so much, Brittany. It’s been amazing. Thank you for all of your work. And I’m always watching you and seeing all work you’re doing, I’m wondering, is she resting? Is she getting her sleep? 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham So you and my husband alike. 


Brittany Packnett Cunningham Tricia Hersey is a performance artist, activist, and founder of The Nap Ministry. You too can call their nap hotline for a special rest message at 1-833-LOVENAPS.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham As Tricia’s grandmother Ora told her: every shut eye ain’t sleep. You know, the older I get, the more I really trying to stand up in the understanding that living, simply existing in ways that attack the status quo, is revolutionary and rest is no different. This ain’t laziness or indulgence when it’s done with discipline. Rest is power. It is autonomy and agency. I want us to get our rest. I promise you I felt the chill through my whole body when Tricia said that she refuses to sacrifice her well-being—her literal body—for a country that still owes our ancestors a great debt. I was ready to pass the collection plate. So how about after a year that took so many of our loved ones and four years that tried to take out every one of us too, we try something different.

We do our best work and we try and get some rest, even if it’s just that five minutes of shut-eye to daydream like grandma Ora. Rest and work are not mutually exclusive. In fact, our best work requires that we get our best rest. Tricia said that rest is a meticulous love practice. It is a human right. And frankly, I can’t think of any better a middle finger to the horror of the past four years than each of us deciding to be unrelentingly, unapologetically human.

So that’s it for today, but never for these new tomorrows. 


UNDISTRACTED is a production of The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. 

Our Lead Producer is Rachel Matlow.

Our Associate Producer is Taylor Hosking. 

Thanks also to Treasure Brooks, Grace Chen, and Hannis Brown. 

Our Executive Producers at The Meteor are Cindi Leive and myself. 

And our Executive Producers at Pineapple are Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky. 

You can follow me at @MsPackyetti on all social media, and our team @TheMeteor.

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Thanks for listening. Thanks for being thanks for doing and today, I especially say thanks to the ancestors.

I’m Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Let’s go get free.