In a recent profile with Atlanta’s Creative Loafing, Sarah Belle recounted the founding of the Peach Coven and its expansion from a one-bin operation at Atlanta coffee shop Hodgepodge to collection drives and hopes for a non-profit organization. Belle, along with eight core members and lots of volunteers, collects and distributes tampons, liners, pads, and other hygiene products for Atlanta’s homeless women – a much-needed service that rarely gets the attention that it deserves. Auntie Bellum editors thought that made her an amazing Southern woman, so we asked her to be a part of our Well, I Declare series highlighting folks like Belle. This is what she had to say.
Where do you call home?
Home is Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up in California, but my mama and the majority of my family is from North Georgia, and other parts of the South. I hadn’t visited since I was a teenager, but when I came through while traveling the South East last year I fell madly in love and decided ATL is the place for me.
Describe your work life.
My work life is a bit erratic. My main job and passion is The Peach Coven, though non-profit work doesn’t pay the bills. So between coordinating drives, managing donations, connecting to the shelters, building a community, and everything else that goes into running an organization like this, I have multiple side jobs that keep me floating financially. Some weeks are crazier than others but as long as I’m able to also work on what I love, I’m good with any stress or unpredictable hours.
Share an accomplishment that makes you feel proud.
Truly, out of anything I’ve done in my life, nothing makes me more proud than achieving what I have with The Peach Coven. I started this just because I wanted to help get some pads and tampons into the local shelters. I had no idea it’d blossom into this organization filled with so many wonderful folks, and that I’d donate over 20,000 menstrual hygiene items in these first six months.
What does being a Southern woman mean to you?
Being a southern woman means, to me, being strong. There’s this, in my opinion, unrecognized power in Southern women. I feel the idea of a southern woman is a pretty sweetheart, barefoot and pregnant. But really being female in the South, we are warriors. We’re up against all the oppression of society with the added blocks of living in a region that generally likes women to “stay in line.” I love being a woman in the South. I love it because I love the South and I think that culturally women have played significantly more important roles down here than anyone, recognized or not.
What motivates you?
What motivates me most is the feeling I get when I think about the state of the world, and despite the evil and wrongdoing there’s so much beauty in humanity and life as well. The feeling inspires me to fight against the inequalities and spread goodness. There’s a lot of hate out there but there’s a lot more love too. One of my mantras is “do no harm, take no shit” meaning- always help others, and treat them with kindness and respect, but don’t allow any person to break me down or poison my life with their negativity.
What is one change Southerners could make to improve our current culture?
There’s a lot of policies that need to change to help our current culture. If I were to choose one it would be healthcare and family planning. Services that places like Planned Parenthood offer should be free to any person who’s unable to access health insurance or living at or under the poverty line. Safe abortion should be more readily accessible to any person who needs it. Though abortion is legal in GA, trap laws make it virtually impossible for more than a couple clinics to stay in operation. I think with actually accessible health care our current culture would improve significantly.
Has there been a defining moment that set you on your current life path?
I think that many different experiences combined guided me to my current path. Probably most significantly is that I come from a very matriarchal family, and watching the struggles my family faced growing up as a unit of women really tuned me into the struggles women face as a whole. As far as menstrual dignity and rights are concerned, that came about because I had read some articles about the void in menstrual care and decided that’s what I was going to dedicate myself to. I already felt passionate about better serving homeless communities, and once I read those articles it just clicked for me- helping as many people as I can experience a safe and protected period is a part of my purpose in life.
Who do you depend on for support in your life and who depends on you?
In my life I definitely depend on my sister, mama, partner, and dog for support. I have so many amazing friends who’re a beautiful source of support as well but those four are my strength. My mama, sister and partner are my greatest allies. My dog, Bingy, is just my ultimate warrior princess and makes any tough time feel better. I’ve had her for 12 years so we have a strong bond to say the least. I know that my relationships are all give and take. I believe my family, and friends depend on me for support as I depend on them. I try to provide that and be present for them as much as and the best I can.
What brings you the most pleasure in your life right now and how has that changed over the years?
In life I definitely find the most pleasure in the vast beauty and simplicity of nature. I love music, celebration, art, creating. I could live on top of a mountain or in the middle of the country playing music with my friends, building a lovely nest, and celebrating being alive forever. I think those things have always brought me pleasure, though through the years It’s become more refined and purposeful. Something that I can always rely on to put me in a place of total bliss too is being on the road. Travelling, wandering, exploring brings me peace and a feeling of being grounded.
What did you want to be when you grew up and how different is that from where you are now?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a singer when I grew up, and that’s what I am. So I guess my dream came true! Singing isn’t my main profession, or how I make money but it’s what I do every day. I’m currently collaborating on an album with my friend and it’s all our original music. I’m hoping this next album is the beginning of many more collaborations, and musical creation in my future. I have no intention in pursuing a career as a professional singer but that’s more because I don’t want to sacrifice my art and I can make money other ways. As long as I can sing, I’m happy.
What’s your favorite southern saying?
My favorite southern saying is definitely “Holler”. It’s one magical word to describe so many ways one may need to communicate. I use “Holler” a lot, and given I grew up in California, I know folks over there wouldn’t understand what I’m implying as immediately as southerners do.
“Well, I Declare” aims to highlight Southern women who are forging their own paths and making change in their community. We ask them a bit about this and that to gain a glimpse into the lives of women all around us who are shaping the fabric of our future. Check out some other rad women we have talked with: Mollie Williamson, Shanika Pichey, Big Freedia, Kyshona Armstrong, and Tina Currin.