DejaJoelle Brings Forth Prayers for Healing

Webbed in DejaJoelle’s full-bodied silhouette is the ancestral story of a Black woman’s ability to transmute pain into purpose through healing, love and resilience. Just as all colors of the rainbow evoke an expression, a feeling, a song; DejaJoelle is a weaver of the various pastels and deep blues that have coated her life in pain, beauty, peace and joy. She has evolved from the confinement of bodily autonomy and numbness, to self-proclaimed liberation.

In her story, two fundamental aspects are reflected, art and healing; which has led DejaJoelle to embody the idea of a “Healing Artist.” In her practice, DejaJoelle declares, “I AM IN DIVINE AND DELIBERATE COLLABORATION WITH MY ANCESTORS”

DejaJoelle began dancing at the age of four, and it continues to fuel her work today. At first it was a means to connect to her identity. But after being sexually exploited as a child, she became deeply depressed, exhausted and disconnected from her former sense of self. Dance became the foundation for her journey towards healing and spirituality. She said the warmth and aid she found in dance led her to the realization of what she could offer to the world and became transcendental.

“When we open ourselves up to the specific rhythms pressed into our DNA,” DejaJoelle says, “we are able to guide ourselves towards our purpose. These things feel like they have been predetermined once they are discovered. Purpose.”

DejaJoelle leading Saturdays at Springboard: How We Heal, July 2021. Credit TJ Lor/JUAL Visuals.
DejaJoelle leading Saturdays at Springboard: How We Heal, July 2021. Credit TJ Lor/JUAL Visuals.

The healing aspect of movement for DejaJoelle, though initially recognized through movement of the body, expanded into channeling the movement of energy–through the body, mind, and spirit in harmony. DejaJoelle reimagined her relationship to dance, resonating with the liberation of art and self-expression within the potential of whole-body energy reclamation.

Anyone who’s attempted healing knows it is a long-term commitment and often requires daily effort to be effective. DejaJoelle’s daily practices manifested into acts of service and community building, as she found her trauma far from uncommon. She found through community engagement that many people shared her need for resonance, a release, revival, and rebirth.

DejaJoelle found her story of sexual exploitation to be a catalyst for connecting to a community of survivors. She felt that her gifts – which she credits to her ancestors and the Divine Higher Power – were leading her to use the knowledge she’s acquired through her experiences with suffering and release as a foundation for communal aid and empowerment. This is where her story became a mission. A passion. A purpose. This led DejaJoelle to creating Body Prayers.

“Body Prayers is a Black-centered poly-realmic practice that uses dance, meditation, and revolutionary love practices to guide one to heal themselves and ultimately heal and build the Black community.”

These “poly-realmic” services address Black people as vast, complex, and multidimensional manifestations in existence. Her work is tailored to offer an array of healing outlets that defy the one-size-fits-all model often found in traditional healing resources for Black bodies. In DejaJoelle’s experience as a Black, queer, thick-bodied woman, support within these identities aren’t reflected in our individualistic, Eurocentric society. This led her to “seek” in isolation.

But DejaJoelle says effective wealth- and wellness-building for Black people is traditionally done in communal and identity-affirming spaces; it’s now an integral focus of her work. “Community is at the center of Body Prayers. Without its contribution, there will be no Practice. Community Nurturers are people who are invested in the mission and are committed to nurturing the Black community in our healing.”

The moment the idea of Body Prayers came to her, which she recalls as an ancestral message, was in 2018. Shortly before the end of a tumultuous spiritual battle post-sexual exploitation, she felt called to begin meditating and using movement to free her body. Under the storm of antagonistic thoughts and dampened faith, she found herself at her home meditation station when her perseverance transformed into a spiritual resuscitation and a new understanding of purpose as a Healing Artist.

Today, folks can experience various manifestations of spiritual guidance through her work: Body Reclamation courses, Body Prayer workshops, one-on-one’s, Meditation guides, and more. These services reflect DejaJoelle’s alchemical journey. Alchemy is often linked to transforming metals into gold, but for DejaJoelle her alchemical journey is a spiritual one. Everything DejaJoelle has created reflects the transmutation of pain.

“Body Prayers has called people into awareness of their body and their relationships to their body,” DejaJoelle says, “also, neutralizing anxiety. Body Prayers initiates the healing process and amplifies that people deserve all good. Having to heal, but not knowing how – it’s very overwhelming.”

A prime example of this is DejaJoelle’s Afro-Cosmic affirmation deck called The Remedy: Melanated Affirmation Deck, which was inspired by the love notes DejaJoelle would write and read to herself to counteract panic and uncertainty that came with not recognizing who she was–her gifts, desires, or purpose.

These entries became mini bundles of dopamine, rushing rivers of encouragement over her body, mind, and spirit. After experiencing the positive impact of these letters, she decided to package them into a resource for others.

“People need tools outside of therapy/conventional healing paths. Sometimes in your healing journey, you don’t want to go to a therapist or tell anyone, so having an affirmation deck or letter really helps.”

All through the breaths of ache and pain and soul searching, DejaJoelle wanted to contribute to the restoration of her community. In hindsight, her advocacy for collective social, economic and emotional liberation reflects her own journey toward alignment with the divine.

Her work has been picked up on a national level, but she does not deny that as a plus-sized, Black, queer woman, the barriers of being marginalized has altered her work. DejaJoelle wears many hats, having to do the administration, creative, and marketing side of her business to keep things moving. She credits her progress to “moving as if there are no obstacles.” She says moving naturally, rather than operating in the awareness of pressure, is a form of self love she’s learned to embrace.

Despite the demands of wearing many hats, her goal is to certify and train over 200 guides and to have hubs around the nation. She also aspires to hold revolutionary conferences centered around prayer for specific purposes, such as cleansing, or ancestral connection. Ultimately, she is doing what she wishes to do, just on a smaller scale. DejaJoelle looks forward to bringing more people together for prayer, dancing and healing.

“Prayer means to ask,” she reflects. “It exists with pure potential, which requires action. When I ask, I actualize my potential. My ask is to amplify the tools folks need, at home, and thinking of the children. How do children become aware of their bodies and aid their bodies? Young and old, people are living their lives without knowing how to take a deep breath… Asking to come together is a Body Prayer.”

DejaJoelle is an affirmation that wilted flower stems still will bloom if they are saved from bleak soil. A dreamer, doer, a grace of stillness, an energy transmuter, DejaJoelle is an advocate of revival and wellness and spends her days evoking spirit through rest, movement, meditation, and creation in community.


About the author: Jasmine McBride is a Twin Cities-based storyteller and public speaker. Her work is rooted in the exploration of social intersections, amplifying collective shifts of perspective through film, photography, poetry, and journalism.