A couple of years ago, while navigating systems of oppression, domination, and violence daily as a Black woman, Restorative Justice practitioner, trainer, and keeper of all things including family, Ashley was on the edge of burnout and exhaustion and she looked around and realized she was not alone. Curious about how to transform this feeling into healing, it was on this edge where ancestors planted a seed and vision in the form of the question "Well, Who Keeps The Keeper?". And in the journey we discoverded the answer: WE DO!
We needed a space to practice care in community and so we dreamed this space into being and this spring, In collaboration with Trinity Wall Street, The B.R.E.A.T.H.E. Collective piloted our inaugural cohort of Who Keeps The Keeper: Community Care and Justice Initiative (WKTK)! An Initiative to promote community care and healing for those tirelessly working on the frontlines of our movement for equity, justice, health, and safety. WKTK uses restorative practices and peacemaking circles, Healing justice, and Transformative Justice to build community, self-recovery, and healing. WKTK is a nine month journey of exploring community care, holistic wellness, self preservation, and so much more in community. We heal together!
In early Spring, we curated a retreat to kick commence the initiative with a two day retreat at the Trinity Wall Street Retreat Center in Connecticut. Twenty- four Keepers who all work in the NYC area on the frontlines in justice work met for the first time. When they arrived, they were surely skeptical and not too sure about what they were about to experience. Many of them thought this was a “work thing” and they would have to go back and teach whatever new knowledge or skills they were about to learn. They had no idea that they were about to experience community care and healing. We were intentional about ensuring that their arrival would be filled with soft welcomes, food/beverage offerings, and a wellness table. The
wellness table, curated by Quandisha (Co-Founder), was set up for Keepers to make their own body butters, oils, and scrubs from organic shea butter, salts, sugar, and essential oils.
The space was opened up and guided by, Ashley (Co-founder) in such a grounding way, allowing everyone to experience each other in the space by seeing beyond our job titles and how we show up in the world and inviting each to explore the core question “who are you?” Keepers courageously shared openly and deeply, shifting the energy of the room, reminding us that we are all interconnected in so many ways.
The journey over the next two days invited everyone to discover and evoke the medicine within themselves and within this community, present and ancestral technologies, that would guide us in a communal practice of care, creating pathways towards our collective healing and liberation.
Lakhiyia, founder of (HOMEplxce) who is a dear friend, and dope transformative healing practitioner led us in a community pod mapping exercise. Community pod mapping was first introduced by the “ Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC) to specifically address violence – who would you call if you were in a situation of receiving violence or abuse or wanting to be held accountable for violence or abuse you might have done. Since then its use has been expanded to map and understand support systems across multiple vulnerable situations''. Keepers had the opportunity to create their own pod maps and reflect, not only on who shows up for them and also how they want to show up for others differently in their pods.
Within two days, we all grew closer to each other, building connections and feeling safe enough to share. Our offerings included workshops on altar building, herbal medicine making, and so much more. We practiced rest and community care in ways many Keepers have never experienced before. They walked away with community, support, new healing modalities, and ongoing group & 1-one-1 support.
We will be meeting throughout the remainder of the year on a monthly basis both in person and virtual programming. We will journey through these next few months holding space and creating practices with the ones who put on their capes every day and commit to the work of justice to ensure the community is taken care of, while still taking care of their own families. Who Keeps The Keeper is designed to create a sacred space that allows Keepers to have the support they need and to know that community care and rest is available and possible for us all. WKTK is a reminder that we are not alone.