WOC Talks: Sacred Space for Women of Colour

Sashah Rahemtulla
Jul 13, 2018 · 4 min read
photo by Anita Cheung

This week I had the honour of being a part of WOC talks v6.0: Reclaiming Self-Care. WOC talks describe themselves as “a safe place for all womxn- not no matter the hue or mixture- to feel seen, heard, understood and supported”.

It was my first time attending WOC talks I had no idea how that statement might manifest- except that I would be in room with only with other women of colour (yay!). This almost never happens in the very white-dominant spaces of my life (work, yoga, dance class, etc). To be honest- I was a little nervous.

As I got out of my car in the parking lot, so did another woman- we immediately greeted each other with a smile, introduced ourselves and walked in together. Instant comfort, camaraderie, safety. What unfolded from there was more of the same- I felt welcomed, cared for, celebrated and seen.

I always feel a bit uneasy walking into a room of people I don’t know, but the space created by WOC talks made for easy conversation and connection.

To begin the evening, we made our way to our yoga mats. Two sides of the room facing each other- just sitting on my mat looking around- I felt my heart swell, it was so obvious from the vibe that we all showed up for ourselves and for each other.

Anita led us through some beautiful grounding movement, bringing us out of our heads and into our bodies. Encouraging us to check in with ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally. Tonight was about self-care. For us, by us. Not the kind sold to us on a daily basis.

From yoga we moved to journaling questions, reflecting on our own role in upholding the oppression we feel from others. How do we hide ourselves, minimize our pain, practice compassion for others but not ourselves first? How can we practice wise compassion?

We went deep. We shared in small groups about our reflections, and then in the larger group.

The feeling that stuck with me throughout this evening was — these women get it. There was an unspoken understanding, a knowing of our collective experiences as women of colour in Vancouver and the world. Many things came up that I had never discussed with others or even realized I was feeling until someone else brought it forward. Something more than the discussions I have with my white friends about how we share the oppression of being a woman.

This is about the intersection of race and gender. The realities of how we are constantly exhausted because we not only have to work harder for any semblance of recognition- but we have to do it with a smile on our faces for fear of being called angry, lazy, ungrateful or harsh.

Not having to explain to these women the feeling of insidious racism- a feeling of being violated in a way that may seem subtle to those who don’t experience it- yet the pain digs deep and lasts.

The feelings of hating your own body because it doesn’t measure up to the white centric beauty ideal sold to us every day of our lives.

The complicated internalized racism that breeds within us- eating away at our insides while grasping to be good enough but knowing, for society- it will never be enough.

They got it, because they live it too.

This was a safe place to talk about our pain. A safe place where the understanding was not learned but lived, by our fellow women. There is possibility for immense and great healing in that. And so we healed, together.

RayRay led us in breath-work to help release some of the pain and suffering we might be holding onto. To let go- instead of stuffing down the parts of us that stay hidden where they are not safe to exist.

But here, it was safe here. Safe to cry, scream, FEEL. So I did. Lying on my mat, tears streaming down my face- I felt the power of collective release.

I thought to myself- imagine what our ancestors have been through, imagine how many forces have tried and continue to try to eradicate us, keep us down, dehumanize and undervalue us.

BUT HERE WE ARE.

We are here. We’ll be here. We’re not going anywhere.

We’ll keeping fighting, healing, organizing, and taking care of ourselves and each other.

And this how we change the world.

We finished the evening by locking eyes with a fellow woman. My eyes filled with tears witnessing the beauty of the woman across from me. She let me see her.

One of the most lonely parts of being a woman of colour is having to hide. Making sure you constantly come across the “right way” (aka: the white way), not too much, not too little, not too ethnic but not too white-washed- the list goes on.

To be seen for our whole selves- is a birthright. Yet it is one that women of colour are regularly robbed of while trying to fit into the white ideal.

This night was a celebration of who we really are- in all our intersectional glory.

And let me tell you, it was GLORIOUS.

HUGE thank you to WOC talk’s Anita Cheung and RayRay Ricketts for organizing, and to all the women in that room, and the collective of women of colour in the world- my wish is that we all have more of each other and this sacred space for ourselves and each other in our lives.

Check out https://woctalks.org/ for more information on being a part of this community, near or far.

Sashah Rahemtulla

I’m passionate about social justice, anti-oppression, yoga and working with youth. Currently in Tanzania working as a Gender Equality Advisor.

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