By Louis Bryant III | OBSERVER Staff
A Saturday morning, blue skies, Oak Park palms dancing gently. The occasional bike streams by and within the walls of Brickhouse Gallery, Black women gather in a safe space to be authentically themselves. What might look like a typical brunch event quickly reveals the intimate and deeper intentions of Toni McNeil and Dr. Teah Hairston, who co-host the gathering. McNeil, founder and president of Concrete Development LLC and the facilitator of the Anti-Black Conversations series, came from Stockton to join Dr. Hairston as the ticketed event’s co-host. Dr. Hairston, vice president of Safe Black Spaces and founder of Be Love Holistic, dedicates her work to supporting Black women with information and resources for an optimal life.
“When a Black Woman Speaks,” the title and theme of the event, used Brickhouse Gallery’s indoor and outdoor spaces to set the environment for an open and unfiltered mindset centered around sisterhood, empowerment and personal growth.
It was a sanctuary for women to gather, share their stories and support one another. Guests were offered a delicious catered brunch selection and beverages. After a preliminary meet-and-greet, everyone was invited inside where Dr. Kristee Haggins, community leader and board president for Safe Black Space, initiated the workshop by pouring libations, a ceremonial act signifying honor and acknowledgment of ancestors and shared experiences. Dozens of names were called out in remembrance; in fact, the plant receiving the water began overflowing.
To lay the groundwork for the experience, attendees were encouraged to silently reflect and listen to “Here’s to Life” by Shirley Horn. The room fell into deep stillness as the soulful song evoked introspection and compelled the participants to celebrate life and the moments offered.
The remainder of the early afternoon was spent with Black women of all ages engaging one another in various workshops. Some activities required grace and solace, while others pushed attendees to sprint across the room in a footrace. The soul and the presence that filled the Brickhouse Gallery was a treasure to experience, with words and visuals offering minute justice to the overall feeling.
If you are interested or might know of a Black woman longing for an uplifting experience, Dr. Hairston’s organization Be Love Holistic plans to collaborate with K Love the Poet for a brunch from noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3, at the Brickhouse Gallery. The event is part of K Love’s “The Art of Sistahood Tour.” For more information or tickets, visit klovethepoet.com.
#keepmovingforward #antiblackconversations #be