For the past three years, the highlight of my year has been the second to last weekend in September.
Since 2015 I have hosted #HereWeGrow, a national annual self-care weekend for women in search of self. It has been such a privilege to see the same women return year after year, a little stronger, a little more vocal, a little more intentional about how she shows up for herself.
This year I picked New Orleans as our home base. My favorite American city, full of my favorite American cuisine, with amazing cultural finds in any direction you step? I couldn’t wait for us all to be together September 21-24 to grow and thrive in this amazing city.
The welcome reception is always where my nerves die. Up until that very moment, I am constantly in planner mode, trying to remember everything that needs to happen and when, what I need to be anticipating, how I can add just a touch more…umph.
But when the attendees walk through the door, all that disappears. I’m with my family. I can relax. I hugged everyone hello and the festivities officially began. We ate beignets and king cake and washed it down with cafe au lait, the drink of choice in NOLA. We got a chance to dig through our swag bags, which featured goodies from Addictive Apothecary, Reciprocitee, Palmers, and more.
But most importantly, we got to set the tone for the weekend. We were here to have fun, to unwind, to leave stress at home for four days and to learn a bit more about ourselves. Here we grow….
So the way I designed the weekend was as such: On Friday, we’d do the work, being introspective and intentional about assessing where we are and where we’d like to be. How well do we love on ourselves? How well do we communicate what we need with others? How well are we showing up? How much do we draw from our strength as black women? What does it mean to us to be black women?
I kicked off the retreat with a welcome and an invitation to dive into what self-care looks like for us. Individually. I don’t preach a one-size-fits-all approach: take a bath, get a mani-pedi and you’ll be right as rain. Nah. I wanted them to look at their lives and see what changes they’d like to make that would help them get to their own version of happy.
We started with self-care inventories, to see where we stack up against our own personal goals. Are we sleeping enough? Getting enough time with loved ones? Seeing the doctor regularly?
After lunch, we heard from our keynote, Stevona Elem-Rogers, the black womanist writer, educator and creator of the #BlackWomenAreForGrownUps movement. I almost can’t put her presentation into words but her thesis was simple: As black women, we are crafted differently. #BlackGirlMagic is awesome but never forget that we are women who are multi-faceted. From Cardi B to Alice Walker, we contain multitudes and it’s important for all of us to recognize what each of us brings to the table.
After Stevona’s presentation, I had a surprise up my sleeve! Attendees could participate in their own “Amazing Race” style scavenger hunt for a grand prize of $100 CASH to each of the winners. My girls took off all around NOLA to snap pictures off their lists (Cafe du Monde and Jackson Square were just a few of the clues) and these cuties took home the prize for completing the race the fastest.
With the scavenger hunt over, our agenda had ended for the day and we were able to hang out in the city to take in everything it had to offer. Searching the #HereWeGrow17 hashtag had me ROLLIN’. My ladies turned UP this weekend. I wasn’t ready. LOL
I went out with a few ladies on Friday night (couldn’t get too crazy because you know #HostDuties) but I had a great time. Even though Bourbon Street had a ton of construction, I enjoyed trying new drinks and dancing past my bedtime.
So if Friday was the day that we sat and took stock of our lives, then Saturday was the day that we just got to sit and pamper ourselves. We began the day with a quick yoga workshop lead by Britney Taylor, founder of Amethyst Moon Yoga. Her bubbly personality and spirit instantly connected with attendees as she walked them through a few quick exercises that can be done when you are short on time and on space. Her affirmations exercise gave each of the attendees exactly what they needed to hear in that moment and the tears were flowing.
Then we transitioned to the stress relief portion of the weekend. Thanks to Greenstone Therapy, the mobile wellness company based in New Orleans, we then had table massages, acupuncture sessions and a bit of sound therapy. Attendees rotated in and out and took in some of the relaxation at their leisure.
As fate would have it, Stevona (our Friday keynote speaker) was also hosting a #BlackWomenAreForGrownUps pop-up shop that day, so nearly half of the #HereWeGrow17 attendees headed to Material Life, an eclectic retail space that’s past black history museum, part home furnishings. It was impossible not to walk in and feel a sense that you were, in fact, home.
Material Life is one of several black woman-owned businesses on Bayou Road, an inspirational enclave that made me wonder why the sight of so many BOB was rare to me. I honestly could have stayed there all day.
That pop up shop was just the boost I needed to get ready for that evening’s dinner, held at Deanie’s Seafood in the French Quarter. My goal was the dinner was simple: let’s eat great food in the company of our new friends and toast to our successes.
They got me, y’all! I was sitting at that table, trying to enjoy the night with attendees. One of them, Keisha, gave me a compliment on the event that got my tear ducts activated and then my bestie Amber followed up with her own compliment that just turned me loose. I was gone.
Chic (one of my good friends and 2x attendees) stood to give me a toast. Y’all. I was blubbering. I was a mess.
As I said that weekend, it fills my heart to be with these women every year. In many cases, hosting an event is purely transactional — they pay money, they receive an exciting agenda. But I’m also fed by these events, because throughout the whole weekend, attendees were checking on me. Have you eaten? Did you get a massage? Are you feeling stressed?
It is amazing to know that as much as you care about your attendees’ having a good time, they also feel the same way about you.
Planning and executing this retreat felt like running a marathon and by Sunday, it was time to say goodbye. We had a brief “hugs + safe travels” meet-up that morning for those who didn’t have an early morning flight and it was a WRAP on #HereWeGrow17.
My favorite moments?
- Hearing the conversations between the women during our “Get to know you” sessions on Friday
- Enjoying beignets at Cafe du Monde (but of course!)
- Trying acupuncture for the first time (I highly recommend it!)
- Meeting Stevona + Britney, two of the most brilliant women walking the streets of NOLA!
- Splitting a hand grenade with two friends on Bourbon Street because I was too much of a punk to handle one solo
- My Sunday brunch at the Ruby Slipper
I felt like it was an amazing weekend, but I’m also thankful for the attendees who wrote about their experience and how they walked away changed:
- Mommy Delicious – On Learning to Show Up For Myself
- Elle Lauren Ashley – I Know I’ve Been Changed
- Just One Hot Mom – #IAmGrowing
Want to be there next year? Well, tickets sold out in three days this year (I still can’t believe it!), so make sure you get on our mailing list below!