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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.