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

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.

rboylorn

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