The room was filled with women from all over the East Bay. Speaker R. Dafina Kuficha, a Berkeley acupuncturist and healer, spoke about the importance of self-love and attempted to instill a sense of empowerment in everyone in the room.
“I want us to take a moment to just completely be still,” Kuficha said. “Sink into your chair like you’re sinking into the wings of an angel. Feel the peace around you. That is yours.”
The Black Women’s Media Project’s “Be Still” Retreat was held in the Graduate School of Business on Saturday, Oct. 4.
The Black Women’s Media Project (BWMP), funded by Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services and individual donors, has operated in Alameda County since 1995. They examine the ways in which Black women are portrayed in the media. According to Colette Winlock, director of the Health and Human Resource Education Center (HHREC) in Oakland, the BMWP has completed several campaigns over the years, contesting the negative images of Black women that have been put into the media.
The board members of BWMP came up with the idea of providing a safe space through a retreat for Black women in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle in both the physical and the mental aspect.
“The better way for us to go was for us to start helping women de-stress, look at more self-care so that these images don’t continually create this feeling of distress,” Winlock said. “It’s not that we’ve given up on trying to counter the message, but we also recognize that we had to do some things for ourselves.”
Mills Alum Desire Johnson, class of 2013, a member of the HHREC, was in charge of finding a location for the most recent retreat. Johnson reached out to Hazel Jay of ASCENT, the African American Graduate Association at Mills and Ari Nussbaum, the Editor-in-Chief of The Campanil. The two organizations co-sponsored the event.
“My personal hope was to bring a wellness retreat to Mills because I know how anxious people get from going here, so I was hoping a couple of students would be able to partake in this experience and especially for our students of color,” Johnson said. “In my tenure here at Mills, unless we are hosting it, our needs aren’t going to be touched on or met.”
While the retreat focused on the mental health of Black women, the event is all-inclusive and was free and open to the public. Black holistic practitioners of physical and mental health were available to attendees and gave free massages, facials, beauty products and advice on how the women can take better care of themselves, while also allowing themselves to enjoy the self-care station.
As a part of the retreat, wellness coach Asara Tsehai held a workshop entitled, “Simple Keys to Happiness.” Tsehai spoke on personal wellness and setting aside time to do something purely for the sake of enjoyment. She also focused heavily on self-love in the physical, mental and spiritual aspect.
“You want to have a physical movement that you really enjoy,” Tsehai said. “The thing about an orgasmic life is that it is very physical as well as an inner drive. For some reason we want to deny the physical. We say our mind is the master. I say the body is the master.”
According to retreat Coordinator, Sharon Green-Holder, the change in scenery had a positive effect on the attendees, some of which have been attending the “Be Still” Retreat for years, much like Oakland resident Paula Marie Parker, 61.
Parker said that she thought it was wonderful to see so many Black women at Mills for the retreat.
Green-Holder plans to bring the “Be Still” retreat back to Mills this winter and next spring.
“This new environment has just been awesome,” Green-Holder said. ” Everyone has just been so appreciative of the building and the calmness of it. Everybody is just in awe over us being here.”