We are proud, former participants of last year’s Womxn of Color Retreat and this year’s student logistic interns for the third retreat. From the outside, our job may have only seemed to include refreshing the snacks during the sessions and gathering people for daily meals. On the whole, we protected the energy of the space. The work that takes place during this retreat is hard. It requires a willingness to go deep within one’s journey to truly examine what it means to live as a womxn of color. We provide laughter and joy through energizers that range from “Simone Says” to “Ask Your Partner.” We keep track of and take notice of participants who do not have the mental capacity to do this work and need time to themselves. We are there. We see you. We hear you. We support you. You matter.
Please, attend the Womxn of Color Retreat if you are looking to make connections with other womxn of color on a predominately-White campus. Please, attend if you are wanting to learn about radical womxn of color and their impact on our White, male society. Please, attend if you are hoping to connect with ancestors and loved ones who did not have a chance to see you bloom. Please, attend if you are ready. Even if you are not ready, please apply. Please take a chance.
To Whom It May Concern
The Womxn of Color Retreat provided a sacred space for expression, vulnerability and an escape for individuals to present themselves holistically. Friendships were formed, tears were shed, but respectfully we were together, supporting, loving and providing a shoulder for one another. A quote from Audre Lorde states, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” And it was on October 10, 2019 that we started this journey together as a collective. Our voices, stories, bodies were not our weapons but our tools for guidance as we mended and took the step into healing while reclaiming and creating space for ourselves within a society where obstacles, barriers and systematic oppressors are against us.
We used these tools to embrace the beauty that resides within us and our physical selves through laughter, dancing, food, singing, yelling, painting or an occasional spades game or two. Our voices serve as a unifying piece of our ranging spectrums of battles that we’ve endured in order to blossom within these physical beauties, which was spoken into existence within our community and sister circles.
Sister Circles provide an intimate space where we dived deeper into our connections with one another through various activities, and reflective pieces such as poetry, relationship-building exercises or writing. Community Circles provided a transition as we came together as a group where we held discussions on topics revolving around self, leadership, social justice or gender equity. We reflected on the means to be an American, to the ranging conversations of What exactly does leadership and community entail? We understood that we are not wallflowers within our societies. Our physical selves are our truest forms of who we are, in any way. We chose to define who you, us and we are, and what our stories and struggles will say about us.
The NC State race/ethnicity statistics stand accordingly:
African-American/Black-identified students: 6% (2,075 students)
Asian Pacific Islander-identified students: 5% (1,765 students)
Hispanic/Latinx-identified students: 4% (1,469 students)
Other-identified students: 17% (5,337 students)
White-identified students: 68% (22,168 students)
It is a given to provide a space where putting on the mask and code-switching were not needed. Pack away your masks, leave your shackles and bring your true selves. This was the start toward healing, realizing and paying respects to ourselves, others and our past. The Community Altar, which sat in the front of the center as we walked in the front doors, held pieces that were dear to us, from photos, names of loved ones, crystals and symbolic pieces that we truly loved; sat and took in the energy and the presence of the space. We are here.
The Retreat consisted of four days where students stayed at the Franklinton Center at Bricks located in Whitakers, North Carolina.
“The Franklinton Center at Bricks is a former slave plantation that was transformed into one of the first accredited schools for African Americans in the South. Today, it is a conference, retreat and educational facility focusing on justice advocacy and leadership development. Franklinton Center also serves the local community through various partner projects, including food justice and literacy outreach and programming.”
Deeply enriched in history, it was among the walls that held us, the land that sustained us and the body that fed us. The Franklinton Center at Bricks is a home away from home.
You, us, we, they… paved the way to be here, exist and to live authentically as such. Ashay. Be with our Ancestors. Ashay. Be within hope. Ashay. Hold our power.
Shantoneeka Zorn and Juniper Nie
Shantoneeka Zorn is a master’s student in college counseling and student development. Juniper Nie is majoring in communication media major with a graphic communications minor.