Why do you need a conference for wellness for Black Women? Why a wellness conference? Why a women’s conference and why a Black women’s conference first?
These questions and more are what Dr. Sheri Parks, Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming for the College of Arts and Humanities at University of Maryland College Park addressed on Saturday, July 14, 2012, at the Black Women Life Balance and Wellness conference. The author of Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Women in American Life and Culture was also a participant of the conference and offered her reflections on “amazing” sessions and conversations, as well as the weight of the expectations placed on Black Women in work, family and spiritual life.
“We feel heavy the weight of responsibility,” said Parks. Black women, often ask “How am I going to continue to carry this?” Parks urged us to understand that Black women are often as the beginnings of things. The foundation of the Civil Rights Movement, for example, started with leaflets in the early 1900s women wrote to petition against lynchings and inequalities. But even further into history, even into the early bibles and mythology, the sacred dark feminine was there. “The darkness has always been there. The earth begins when she gives birth….The darkness existed before God started to make the earth – where did the darkness come from?”
Parks expounds on the transformative role of African American women and parallels its characteristics to the sacred dark feminine. “The sacred dark feminine is extremely nurturing and fierce.” While masculine darkness is considered unchanging, feminine darkness is transformative – the highest you could get. In most global arenas, the Madonna is shown as a black woman (it can be argued that Oprah is a manifestation of the same image in her ability to transform ideas). Parks further explains that power of the sacred dark feminine as the keeper of “the alchemical libido” – the process of changing minerals into gold. It operates the same as a “black box” on a plane, which (though yellow in appearance) holds the answers since before the airplane took first flight.
In understanding the sacred dark feminine, Park discusses, it then makes sense why black women need a conference and as space such as the Life Balance Conference. “We are here because we are learning to protect ourselves.” Black women must understand that they are “god-like” but the weight of that causes them to seek affirmations. “We are hungry for someone to say that we are fabulous…[and at conferences like these find]…Rebirth and renewal with a woman name Jestacia [Jones, the Master of Ceremonies for the conference]“. It is then, but no coincidence, that a conference on Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness has themes of courage and resilience.
A recent Girl Scouts study showed that Black girls always wanted to be leaders because they wanted to help someone. The most resilient Girl Scouts were black girls. Parks connects this with the fact that Black women recognize at an early age their strength. ”What you are doing is amazing, you just have to honor and recognize yourself.”
Parks states “The sacred dark feminine faces the terrible. It goes in and lives with the terrible.” She recommends At the Dark end of the Street by Danielle L. McGuire and the life of Dorothy Height in delving into the struggles experienced in action. These resources, Parks mentions, “givse you takeaways where they tell you something but you also have ways of implement immediately what you need”.
As a challenge, Parks asked, “How do you sustain yourself during the terrible?” She offers the following because she “want[s] to give…something you can walk away and apply”:
- Respect me – to respect ourselves. Remind ourselves to respect “me”.
- Connect to the symmetry and meet with likeminded women
- Give yourself “Affirmations about being on the right path”
- We have permission to not say “I’m fine”
- Understand that “We are not operating alone”
- Learn “the good ‘No’”. You can make it elegant – as simple as possible but still impactful. It’s okay to say “No”.
Parks concluded by reminding the participants under the power of the image of blackness and to own it. “IF you don’t own yourself, someone else will.”
Dr. Sheri Parks’ book, Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture can be purchased through Amazon.com.