Tag Archives: retreat

“Grounded and Ready To Soar”: Notes From the 2013 CFC Retreat

14 Jan
CFs gathered in a circle talking

Grounded and ready to soar, #retreat2013

The business of our everyday lives (jobs, mothering, aunt-ing, loving and making love, creating and tearing down (oppressions), building and holding up, going in and coming out, taking care of ourselves and others, etc.) has been strenuous over the past 23 months. The CFC has grown exponentially since our March 2010 launch. In 2012 we added 127 new blog posts and our blog had over 1 million views with visitors from 212 countries (thank you!). We have nearly 12,400 likes on Facebook, active Tumblr and Twitter accounts, and our blogs are regularly re-posted on other sites (thank you!). We have attended conferences and symposia, sat on panels together, collaborated on academic work, done speaking engagements and workshops, and generally contributed to and helped shape the conversations that are happening in our online and offline communities–but it has been a long time since the CFs have all gathered together in one space.

CFs SheriDF, moyazb and Crunktastic putting up the CFC sign

Representing the CFC

CF Chanel strikes serious pose

This is what crunk looks like!

With the generous support and assistance of CFC Supporters who contributed to our 2012 Giving Campaign, and a grant from the Media Equity Collaborative we were able to finalize and fund our second retreat for early January 2013 in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

We learned from our first mountain adventure (in 2011) that we should plan to be up the mountain before dark so we planned accordingly.  We shopped for groceries a day early, arrived in town sooner than needbe, and “packed light” (E. Badu). Our timeline, while somewhat flexible, indicated that we would meet in Atlanta, at CF Sheri’s house, at 12:30 on Friday afternoon, and plan to be on the road by 2 o’clock. We arrived from various pulse points in our lives, the farthest driving up from Lousiana (by way of Jersey), the farthest flying down from the northeast. Nine CFs were able to attend the retreat: Sheri, Moya, Susana, Eesha, Brittney, Asha, Chanel, Crunkista, and Robin (me). We also had our two beautiful baby girls in tow, CBs Asali and Cori Rain (or as Asali says Co-rane).

Once we were all in the same place we hugged, talked, put on our CFC sweatshirts (thanks Sheri), laughed and shook off the exhaustion of a long week. Only a few of us were meeting for the first time while others reconnected and grinned as we unpacked and repacked cars with car seats, groceries, luggage, supplies, and a drum.

We left Atlanta at 2:15 (only 15 minutes behind schedule), two cars deep and leg-to-leg close as we ventured to north Georgia for our rendezvous. We stopped in a small town on the way (where CF Robin’s risqué t-shirt proclaiming what she doesn’t give a fill in the blank about inspired suspicious looks from the local folk who seemed a little alarmed and a little confused when brown body after brown body emerged from a mini-van and SUV) to break bread at Longhorn. We ate quick meals, taking the time, when it was available, to touch and love on each other, passing our babies back and forth transferring strength to strength and love to love. By the time we got to north Georgia there was some sunlight and light rain to travel with us up the mountain. Mountain miles feel like journeys. The steep turns and narrow roads make for lost time as we waited what seemed like hours to go from a stop sign to a railroad track to the world’s shortest (car length) cover bridge (made of four by fours). A trek up a mountain in near dark conditions is never uneventful, especially when there are cars coming down the mountain as you are going up. Our stop-and-go, mountain curvy ride ended in front of our three story cabin fully equipped with a wrap-around porch, hot tub, and what we knew would be a beautiful view in the morning. We unpacked and the party started. Moya, our resident DJ, put on the Friday night remix and announced, as it played in the background, that the “I Wanna Be Down Remix” by Brandy featuring MC Lyte is her ish… (it was ours too).

CF Sheri, Moyazb, EeshaP and Crunktastic pose together

Thick as thieves

6 CFs pose for a picture outside at the mountains

Quick…strike an old school pose!

We paired off and looked around the house, picked the beds we would sleep in, and ate snacks before congregating in the open living room for official retreat business. Meanwhile Asali and I tagged ourselves crunk feminists with blue post it notes while Sheri wrote out our Saturday Schedule and Crunkista (“the baby whisperer”) and Eesha bonded with Cori Rain. Asha, Chanel, Moya and Susana christened our cuddle couch (the comfortable corner couch we designated for cuddling) while Brittney rebelled, sitting in a single recliner and declaring her intent to avoid the cuddle couch (cc) all weekend. We spread ourselves out, caught our breath, and got our bearings before we gathered in close and did a check-in ritual (breathing deep, saying how we felt in that moment, how we hoped to feel at the end of the weekend, and one thing that our CFs probably didn’t know about us). From our first-night sharing we realized that many of us came to the space emotionally and physically tired.  We needed affirmation, recognition, inspiration and sisterlove. We discussed and adapted our agenda, set up an altar (CF Sheri did a reading from Homegrown by bell hooks and Amalia Mesa-Bains about the cultural functions of altars), assigned roles (timekeeping, cooking, cleaning, etc.) and talked about our emotional triggers, pinpointing the ways our relational lenses and communication styles are influenced by our astrological charts. Our commitment, for the weekend, was to discuss concerns and improvements, plan editorial content for the year, and envision the world we want to see (for ourselves, the collective, and the babies).

CFs relax on comfortable couch

The “Cuddle Couch”

CF Robin and CF Eesha with their laptops

Vision work

On Saturday morning we had a hearty breakfast of sweet potato waffles, fritatas, scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, bacon and fruit. We spent the morning reviewing and visioning which included reflecting on the success and growth of the past year (reviewing) and then shifting to how we can create the world we want to see (visioning). We started with a long conversation about the Collective’s values and principles and committed to ensure that the work and outreach we do is continually guided by those beliefs. In particular we decided that we want our work to be inclusive (recognizing the nuances of what that means), to honor the voices and work of our feminist foremothers, to be grounded in the intellectual traditions of black feminist thought, to incorporate self-care and soul-nourishment, to shape conversations, to contribute to our professional and personal development, and to concretely build our audiences and communities. We designed the editorial calendar for 2013, talked about digital literacies (including the launch of the soon-coming website and our forthcoming digital video series) and made intentional plans for self-care and growth over the next year.

CF Crunkadelic and CF Moya relaxing on the couch

Cuddle Couch, Take 2

Before dinner we drank wine and left over margaritas and then ate homemade pizza, salad, and Susana’s delicious chocolate buttercream cupcakes (also known as Audre Lorde Have Mercy Cake). With a sleeping Asali and Cori Rain we gathered for late night woman talk. Sheri twisted Brittney’s hair, Moya posted pictures from our session and we passed around extra cupcakes and bonded over good wine. We shared secrets and talked about everything from politics and popular culture (Scandal) to feminist sex and our desires for the new year (shouts out to Susana for writing an impromptu ballad, On The Kitchen Table).  We talked into the wee hours of the morning (3AM) knowing we had an early check out the next day (8AM alarm).

CF Chanel and Cori Rain

Crunk Mama

Sunday morning breakfast was continental and last minute showers, packing, and cleaning swallowed the first few hours of our day. Our only business was to wrap ourselves up in the space we created, flourishing in grown woman and baby girl love and intentionality. We closed out our retreat with a blessing for Cori Rain. We got in a circle, took a collective breath, played some Nina Simone, and serenaded Cori Rain with well wishes and blessings to the brilliant beat of Sheri’s drum. We ended with two final words from each CF, the first to describe how she felt in that moment and the second to describe what she would be taking out into the world from our brief time together. CF Eesha’s final words, which were the final words spoken in the circle, resonated with us all. Her words collectively described how we all felt in that moment and what we would all do when we left each other to face the world. With a self-assured smile and early morning eyes she said, “Grounded. Soaring.” Indeed.

Four CFs showing off the CFC Sweatshirt logo

“We Take Our Feminism Crunk”

“We Created A Circle”: Reflections on the CFC Retreat

28 Feb

photo of eight CFC members

We began making plans for our first Crunk Feminist retreat months in advance.  The first attempt, in May, failed because of an unexpected death in Brittney’s family.  We initially planned a workshop-like gathering in Atlanta on Emory’s campus but the postponement, coupled with hectic schedules and life’s work, lasted one year.

Our second attempt, scheduled for February 2011, nearly a year from when we started, would be a weekend getaway in the mountains of north Georgia.  Eight of us confirmed our plans to attend.  Aisha Durham, Moya Bailey, Asha French (and baby Asali), Susana Morris, Brittney Cooper, Sheri Davis-Faulkner, Whitney Peoples, and me (Robin Boylorn).

In preparation for the trip we collaborated plans over email, including the selection of a logo designed by Aisha and the design of t-shirts, care of Brittney and Sheri.

On the Friday of our journey we met at Sheri’s house in Atlanta.

The agenda said that we should be there by 1:30 EST.  But then there was the getting there part.  Susana and Brittney had to “make groceries”.  Asha had to get the baby together.  We relied on our own time and took advantage of the delay to bond together.  We had traveled a long way to get t/here.

We came from all over.  Aisha the farthest—from College Station, Texas.  Robin and Brittney from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Susana from Auburn, Alabama.  The other CFs were already local.  We were traveling to Mountain Top Cabin Rentals in Blue Ridge, Georgia for a reprieve, a retreat.  We packed up a rented car with groceries and toiletries for the weekend and congregated in the driveway, dancing, talking shit, bonding over the bliss of finally, finally all being in the same place at the same time.  An hour behind schedule we got on the road.  Sheri and Moya driving.  Whitney and Brittney riding shotgun.

Separate conversations in the car quickly melded into one as we discussed teaching, research, sex, and music.  We stopped at Longhorn ½ the way there and spent time checking in with each other, vocalizing our goals for the weekend, and sharing how we were doing.  Only a few of us were meeting for the first time.  Collectively, we all felt that the weekend was timely, something we needed for reassurance and renewal.  We got back on the road with a little over an hour between us and our retreat.  An hour later we were picking up keys from the office, which was closed.  It was already dark.  Our anxious anticipation quickly turned to silent frustration as we searched for a road with no name and a cabin with no number.  The twists and turns up the mountain were calamitous, steep, long.  It would have been scary had it not been for all of us having all of us.  After passing the road and turning around, stopping at two cabins (one occupied, one unoccupied), and nearly giving up and going back, we finally found our place, “A Beary Good Life.”

Everyone praised Jesus, “grown man Jesus” as Susana said, either in their minds or out loud, when we finally made it to our cabin in the pitch black dark and in one piece.  And the stars were beautiful.

A group of women can unpack a trunk full of groceries quickly and meticulously.  After a quick tour of the premises we selected sleeping arrangements and congregated downstairs for an impromptu meeting.

In the meeting Brittney distributed agendas and we discussed our goals for the weekend and what we hope to accomplish before Sunday.  We also prophesied about Susana’s feminist bakery “Real Women Have Rolls & Buns,” and all of the various feminist-inspired eateries… I suggested Audre Lorde Have Mercy Cake, which would have some kind of chocolate in it and Brittney explained how by the time the bakery was fully functioning we all would be known by name, calling forth Moya Bailey Irish Cream.  There was also talk of selling self decadence (oils, tea baths, etc) in the Ida B Wellness Center.  Etc. etc.  We talked about plans for moving forward with the blog and sponsoring a crunk feminist dance at the NWSA.  These plans put a smile on everyone’s face.  And we dismissed ourselves to get comfortable and prepared for our night’s rest.

After eating Rotel (cheese dip with tomatoes) we congregated in separate spaces.  Asha and the baby retired to bed.  Moya and Whitney listened to music and read, respectively, in the living space, while  Aisha, Susana, Brittney and myself sat around the kitchen table.  Susana wrote a blog, I recorded the events of the day, and Sheri twisted Brittney’s hair.  We transformed the cabin into a black feminist space through transformative conversation(s), hearty laughs, and memory-making.  

***

On Saturday we took turns taking baths and gathered together for a hearty breakfast prepared by three of us and passing around our collective baby.  The day’s events both meshed together and easily transitioned from breakfast talk and reflections to vision board making and identifying problematic ads in the process.  We talked about our life’s work as ongoing, sustaining, important.  Several CFs pulled the ads and articles in order to share them in classes and use them in dissertations.  We cut out words and images of our visions and dreams, both for ourselves and each other.  We shared our vision boards over sandwiches outside with a backdrop of mountains and a soundtrack of drums (c/o Sheri).

Afternoon naps offered necessary sustenance and rejuvenation and led to our final meetings, discussions of opportunities for the CFC, and future visions.  We discussed how to sustain ourselves, each other, and our collective missions.  While homemade pizzas were being made, conversations took place about everything from academic jobs, to life maneuvering, to womanism.  We mulled over these serious topics with brief interludes of unrelated conversations about moments inspired by songs from our decade of “growing up” and being grown.  Pandora radio played songs that reminded us of particular moments in our life or childhood.  Music brings back memories.  Some good, some bad, some haunting.  We took turns taking care of each other and offering words of help from our own experience(s). 

That night we ate—pizza, salad, popcorn, strawberry cake (not in that order) and jointly made feminist anointing oil.  We also made bath teas, across the table, and talked—and laughed—and understood each other, trading kitchen table wisdom and personal struggles.  We committed to be more intentional about being there for one another. Respecting each other’s boundaries. Taking care of each other.  Taking care of ourselves.  The night ended with me holding crocheted yarn in my lap after listening to the bellyache laugher of my friends, doing dance steps, watching interesting videos on youtube, and relishing in not having to be serious.  Subconsciously aware that our time together was almost over, we avoided sleep until after two o’clock in the morning.

***

On Sunday we took the task of memorializing ourselves in a group photo (other pictures, too, captured through Moya’s vision/s throughout the weekend).  A brief meeting around the table reminded us of the short and long term goals we had made and strategies to not allow our dreams or visions, to fall by the wayside.  Then, in an eloquent and remarkable moment, we created a circle of strength and wisdom and love, reading excerpts of Octavia Butler’s words about the inevitability of change (in Parable of the Sower) and making promises to our baby, a representation of all of us.  The circle culminated in love and a reminder of what we realized in our final meeting, that the Crunk Feminist Collective is “a conduit for care.”

I realized, as we closed the baby blessing, that the weight of our emotions and cares fell on the last woman in the circle (each time we gathered accordingly), who bravely and brilliantly articulated together, the culmination of who we are (as women of color feminists), what we have been through (as black girls turned grown ass women), what we envision for ourselves, and what we want for our future and for the future.  Strong for each other, our circle complete, we extended support through open arms and woman strength.  The retreat is over.  Now it is time for change.

The day’s spent.

The time together.

The memories made.

The setting.

All beautiful.

Circle un/broken.

We gathered to leave the space (of healing & peace) and to take it with us.  All in a feminist day’s work.

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