Chiaka Leilah Duruaku (pictured above), Student, Canarsie.
What brings you here today?
My sister and I were in the area to meet someone she met online. This woman was getting rid of some vines that could be propagated into new plants. I’m 16, so my mom was suspicious and came with us. It turned out to be just a nice woman with a lot of plants. Now we’re here to buy soil.
How have the last few weeks been?
I haven’t been to any of the Black Lives Matter protests. My mom doesn’t want me to join; she’s afraid I’ll get infected or hurt. I’ve felt a little dissociated. My parents are angry, much angrier than me, which I’ve been thinking about a lot. Even after they turn off the TV, the news follows them like a plague all day. Right now, I wonder if I should be just as angry all the time.
What have your days been like?
Getting back to the basics: running, listening to music, cooking. I deleted my social media for a while; it was too draining. I’m a Black male, so a lot of things that people are now posting has been my reality my whole life. It’s not new information.
Is that eucalyptus?
Yes. I’m going to hang it in the shower; it’s good for steaming. I’ve been getting really into herbalism lately, how it relates to chakras. I’m very sensitive to energy. Sometimes I find myself feeling feelings that I know aren’t my own. So I’m trying to stay balanced. I stretch. I carry crystals.
How are you?
Last week I had a little breakdown and I sat at my altar and spoke to my ancestors and asked them to hold me up. I hold space for people. I have a yoga studio — the only Black-owned studio in Crown Heights — and my students come to my stoop and they cry and I love them and I let them share.
Do you have a green thumb?
I feel like I’m a green thumb in training. My mother, who grew up on a farm in Chile, is the true expert. She tells her plants about her day and asks them about theirs.
*This article appears in the June 22, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!