A soundtrack for rest, curated by the Nap Ministry’s Tricia Hersey

(Charlie Watts; iStock/Washington Post illustration)

This is The Mix Tape, a monthly playlist curated by someone notable. Is there a person you want to see featured here? Let us know.

Years before the pandemic encouraged legions of people to question their relationship with work, Tricia Hersey was preaching the gospel of rest.

A multidisciplinary artist, writer and community organizer, Hersey began thinking about the importance of rest as a theology graduate student at Emory University in 2013. She’d recently endured some personal trauma and grief, alongside her difficult graduate school research, which dealt with the cultural trauma of slavery. A few states away in Ferguson, Mo., the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining traction in response to a number of police killings of Black people — many of which were captured on video and shared ubiquitously on social media.

In short, she was exhausted, and it led her to do something radically simple: She took more naps.

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A few years later, Hersey’s philosophy of rest as resistance took shape as an organization. The Nap Ministry, founded in 2016, is an artistic practice and community organization that focuses on the radical power of letting your body rest.

“We believe rest a form of social justice and a form of resistance in a capitalist space,” Hersey said.

Since then, the Atlanta-based organization has hosted hundreds of writing workshops, lectures and communal events, and amassed more than half a million followers across their social platforms. They’re in the process of opening a permanent community space in Atlanta, and Hersey’s book, a manifesto on her philosophies called “Rest is Resistance,” is set to be released this October.

Hersey said music has always been central to the Nap Ministry’s practice. The ministry’s signature events are nap sessions: community events where people can rest together. Participants lie on yoga mats as a facilitator reads meditations and poetry; dim lights and soft music, sometimes performed by live musicians, set the tone. This helps assuage what can be a strange and vulnerable experience — falling asleep with strangers. When it comes time to wake up, the music grows louder and changes to something upbeat and joyful: a tone-setter to carry the lessons learned into the day, according to Hersey.

“I believe rest is anything that slows your body and mind down and allows them to connect with one another,” Hersey said. “And music is definitely a portal to connect that.”

In this spirit, we asked Hersey to make our readers a playlist inspired by these themes of rest and resistance. The result, she describes, is “a blend of dreamy and powerful tracks that allow you to float and connect with your mind and body.”

“The energy of this playlist is celebration, ease and leisure,” she said. “It reminds us that we can daydream, wander, imagine and dance. We can just be.”

Listen to Hersey’s playlist here and read along with her commentary, edited lightly for clarity, below.

1

“New World A’Coming” by Duke Ellington

A piece of magic. This composition is a call for imagining a new world. It opens the playlist because it taps into the expansiveness of dreaming with orchestra sound. To begin the journey of liberation via rest, we must first stay in a “DreamSpace.”

2

“Lullaby” by Tasha

A classic lullaby with a specific request for Black girls to do less, dismantle the “superwoman” myth and sleep.

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3

“Stranger in Paradise” by Dorothy Ashby

Her work has appeared on all the playlists for our signature program of the Collective Napping Experience. Since 2017, we have curated and facilitated hundreds of in-person and virtual rest events.

4

“Rest Life” by Tricia Hersey

The single from my upcoming album of R&B-inspired rest meditations. The Nap Ministry has always used sound as a path to guide people into the portal of rest. Music and sound is foundational to our work, and I am excited to create more original work for people to use as a tool to deprogram from grind culture.

5

“Here Comes the Sun” by Nina Simone

A joyful moment of ease and hope. The ultimate wake-up call. I have used this song to wake people up from their slumber slowly when they sleep at our collective napping experiences.

6

“Escape” by Sudan Archives

This song is clearing and cleansing. It’s a moment to prepare your spirit for rest. Close your eyes and sway, wander and hold space to just be.

7

“Everything Scatter” by Fela Kuti

You are not supposed to listen to Fela standing still. There is movement. There is energy. There is power in active rest and radical focus. This track is an invitation for dance and flow.

8

“Things in Life” by Dennis Brown

Meditations for survival, thriving, slow healing and hope. Hope for change. Hope for goodness and mercy.

9

“Let That Sit” by Chikwe Jah

This is a praise break of history and truth, soothing our minds and hearts for all we have endured and remixed into creativity and creation.

10

“Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

This song is a classic feel-good track. We must stay focused on our ability to make a way and thrive despite it all.

11

“I Want To Thank You” by Alicia Myers

One of my favorite dance tracks. I’ve danced and vibed to it since the ’90s. I offer it here as a moment to close your eyes, bop your head, twirl and smile.

12

“Door of the Cosmos” by Sun Ra & His Arkestra

The Nap Ministry is heavily influenced by Afrofuturism, a term coined by cultural critic Mark Dery, the art of Sun Ra. The portal that resting provides offers a chance to invent, heal and imagine.

13

“Touch in Mine (fingers)” by Esperanza Spaulding

More care. More connection. More softness.

14

“Love Will Find a Way” by Pharoah Sanders

This piece closes out the playlist and hopefully sends the listener floating on a cloud of rest and care — and into a future centered in love.

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