Long before Europeans colonized the Motherland and forever changed the course of history, African people lived communally and women sat at the helm of various societies as gatherers, healers, and advisors. Centuries later, gaining and applying that ancestral knowledge remains a constant challenge for sisters living amid perpetual dysfunction, squalor, and violence.
However, a paradigm shift may be just around the corner for those who converged on the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Northwest last weekend for the inaugural Truth2Power Women’s Conference. Over the course of two days, a bevy of Black women, along with male community members, engaged in healing activities, created lifelong bonds, and learned about various methods of self-care that could better enable them to lead fulfilling lives.
“This was an opportunity for us to connect spiritually so we can get to the essence of who we are and bring that out of each other. We are divine beings having a human experience,” Patricia Patton, co-organizer of the Truth2Power Women’s Conference, told AllEyesOnDC.
Patton described the gathering, which took place on April 1st and 2nd, as an extension of the Truth2Power show, a weekly program on We Act Radio, based in Anacostia, she and Kristina Jacobs, a D.C. area community organizer, have hosted for nearly a year. She said squabbles within the planning committee almost jeopardized their plans. While similar situations would discourage groups from carrying out their work, it further compelled the duo, along with their small team, to unify as many Black women as possible.
“[We Black women] give life to every man and woman so it’s up to us to connect and respect one another,” Patton added. “Black women have gotten a bad rap. It’s important to embrace each other. There’s so much animosity and focusing on our differences. It’s important for us to get along and support each other. We came from shattered pieces and this needed to take place for the women.”
On Friday night, visitors walked up a steep flight of steps and into a dimly lit ballroom adorned with African art, flowers, and other decorations. Dozens of vendors set up shop along the outskirts of the large space where they sold clothes, jewelry, fragrances, sculptures, photos, and other wares. An on-site massage therapist kneaded his fists into visitors’ backs and supplied much needed physical therapy that weekend. Holistic health agents also doled out fruit and vegetable juices, healing crystals, and vegan meals.
D.C.-area poet Raquel Ra Brown served as mistress of ceremonies for Friday evening, introducing a cadre of widely renowned acts including Princess Best aka Hip-Hop Momma, Afi Soul, and Ayanna Gregory (pictured in the feature photo), all who call D.C. home, along with Watoto from the Nile, Sunni Patterson, Charm Taylor, and spoken word artist Dominque Christina. DJ One Luv spun the one’s and two’s throughout the evening as each artist seduced the audience with their intricate wordplay and hard truths about misogyny, trauma, disunity, and ignorance.
Shortly after her performance on Friday night, Patterson, a spoken word artist from New Orleans, explained her purpose in speaking truth through her words. That evening, she recited three poems and called on audience members to yell words of affirmation that she said would vibrate through the U Street Corridor for weeks and months to come.
“Everything has a spirit in it. Whatever I do has a tone of acknowledgment of the ancestors and gratitude to my guardian spirits,” Patterson told AllEyesOnDC. “It’s one thing to enlighten but it’s another to inspire. We can do it as one. We have this purpose and obligation to lift up and be for ourselves and others. I want to bring that to my work. Our words are medicine to the community and world.”
Throughout much of Saturday, women participated in group meditation exercises and learned how to best take care of their bodies. Representatives of BeNature Earth Wellness Center, based in Waldorf, Maryland, stressed the importance of a balanced diet while Dr. Mawiyah Kambon, a Raleigh, N.C.-based psychologist, later regaled the audience with a presentation that outlined her most recent findings. Dr. Afiya Mbilishaka, president of the D.C. Association of Black Psychologists and pioneer of “psychohairapy,” wrapped up the festivities with her keynote address.
For Denise Douglass, a designer who represented Ites International Fashion, the Truth2Power Women’s Conference reaffirmed the Black woman’s power in bringing calmness to whatever environment she occupies. Douglas, a vendor that weekend, recalled seeing people at their best as they talked and laughed among one another.
On Friday, Ites International Fashion put the Kwanzaa principle of Umoja into practice on Friday when more than half a dozen women sported different dresses during a modeling show.
“The vibe is very smooth in here. The people are enjoying themselves,” Douglass said. “It’s natural for us [as Black people] to have peace, not all of this chaos. This conference helps women take control of their lives and be free in this place. It brings power and unity. That’s what it’s all about. We can become a stronger race because of it.”
D.C. area mother and community member Asteria Hyera said she looked forward to finding Black-owned businesses that could meet her basic needs and watching Narubi Selah, a spoken word artist and educator from Trenton, New Jersey, perform. On Saturday, she did just that, linking up with Venus Visuals, a local producer of custom jewelry, and Freedom Toilet Paper, a black-owned business based in Baltimore.
“I’m always looking to connect with like-minded Black women who are about Black liberation,” Hyera told AllEyesOnDC. “This sounded like an opportunity to meet with those who are building. The Black woman is a mother, teacher, and builder. We have to be at the forefront to reinforce good values.”
For Patton and Kristina Jacobs, the most intriguing aspect of last weekend’s conference was the connection between women of different ages. The co-hosts, who have a more than 20-year age difference, said the lessons they learn from each other in the course of their work at We Act Radio inspired their goal of placing elders and young people in the same room.
In the spirit of millennial fortitude, Jacobs, 23, expressed plans to continue the work of the Truth2Power Women’s Conference in her daily work. Goals include the purchase of property and collaboration with Black women across the globe.
“We need to be investing and reclaiming these historic buildings so we can use them for our institutions. The possibilities are endless,” Jacobs told AllEyesOnDC.
“We’ve also talked about taking the Truth2Power Women’s Conference on the road, because the conversations and connections we’re making need to happen everywhere, not just in D.C. I’m sure there are relationships that will come out of this that we will never even know about, but that will benefit our community in incredible ways. The first step is getting people who are committed to building community in the room together and creating a space for connection and collaboration. These sisters really walk the walk, so I’m excited to see what fruits manifest from this,” Jacobs added.
Photo by Rodney Ladson & Key Digital Media