Toronto Womxn Helping Womxn by Hosting Weekly Womb Circles
Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to sit with Asia Clarke, founder of Wild Moon Jewelry, alongside her friends and project partners Jade Lee Hoy, Ruth Titus, and Virgilia Griffith to reflect on the Womb Circles hosted by Asia and Jade. The circles, hosted weekly at DAIS, offered womxn identified and perceived folks a safe space for personal and creative support through open discussion and free recording/studio space and resources.
“Safe, creative, and collaborative,” are the words Jade used to describe the core values of the circles. “Always in my life are those three.”
Inspired by Queen Afua's Sacred Woman, the circles began in February but came to a close this past Friday. Partially spurred by seasonal depression, our members need to escape the confines of their homes while connecting with others propelled its growth. The circle eventually grew into a gathering for all womxn identified and perceived folk who needed a safe space to express and themselves.
“We don't really facilitate in a way that is structured. It's more like coming together. Eating is usually involved,” Jade explained. “Just creating an open and safe space for people to talk about whatever they need to talk about in whatever way they need to.”
Outside of the circle, Jade works as a Creative Placemaker which she described as “anything that creates space for people to have a conversation about anything.” Currently, she is the Executive Director for the Friends of Pan Am Path.
The circles’ flexible and creative programming included activities such as; collective writing, making cocoa butter, and affirmation creation. Many of the womxn are also involved in other collaborative works that extend beyond the circle often exploring various forms of storytelling through film, photography, and design projects.
“I think everybody brings their own experience to the spaces, and this space offers interesting collaboration opportunities. Definitely, it gives you the opportunity to work with other womxn of colour, which is always exciting,” Ruth mentioned. “Because it takes a lot less energy to explain your point of view, you get to speak on things in a more in-depth way without having to do as much work.”
Ruth is a multidisciplinary artist working primarily in photography and cinematography. It's worth mentioning she is also the group's designated leader for if/when zombies attack.
Jade and Ruth’s involvement in designing the DAIS space helped them secure Womb Circles' current location. Despite the current wariness of safe spaces due to the ideologies driving them, the group did not face much opposition; they already had most of the community's support and understanding.
Connections to the DAIS space is also what brought the group access to equipment to offer free recording and studio space to the circle. While this provision was not the primary goal for the group, it played an integral role in the larger purpose of helping womxn and particularly womxn of colour express themselves through art.
“I think that recording was really important for the same reason as bringing visualization, bringing what’s inside outside, and seeing it for the magic that it is. Even if we didn’t record, we’d make some sort of art that went from inside of us to out,” Asia explained.
Creation was a crucial part of the movement of healing, collaboration, and resistance that the circle helped foster. Part of the emphasis on creation and bringing visualization comes from a project of Asia and Jade’s called the Wild Moon Theories which explores the space womxn of color can use to create art in this society.
“It’s just a framework from which to look at how womxn of colour can really make authentic art,” Asia explained. “There’s a lot of space in the disconnect, like growing up in North America and being racialized and learning what it is to be a womxn of colour… there’s a lot of space in that to create art. There’s a lot of struggle in that that can inspire art.”
As an artist and women’s entrepreneurship advisor, Asia holds this framework dearly. Using the platform she built for her Wild Moon Jewelry collection, Asia promotes jewelry created by the Obrapaa Group. The Obrapaa Group is comprised of 15 women living in Agbobloshie, Ghana who work as HIV and AIDS peer educators, artists, and jewelry designers. Last fall, Asia spent six weeks in Ghana helping the women create a business model to sell their art and jewelry abroad, and she will be returning this August to help further the women’s skills and mentor a new group.
In celebration of Asia’s upcoming adventure along with the projects the other members will be working these next few months, the group held their last circle of the season at Dufferin Park last Friday night. I was graciously invited to attend the final circle, and I don’t think I have ever felt such an immediate welcoming and positive energy. The overwhelming inclusion fostered an energy of support and healing in the Womb Circle that is seldom found and/or promoted in our society, but it the impact of it is so, so necessary.
“We got to talk about a lot of the things that womxn of colour experience...moving through different environments and navigating different relationships with people who have prejudices against women of color and/or don't understand what it means to move through the world as a woman of color. I think that a lot of people opened up, who were really vulnerable, in that space,” Ruth said, discussing the burden and exhaustion that often comes with being a marginalized person.
For many marginalized folks, especially for womxn and womxn of colour, it is difficult moving through a society and culture that was not built for us, but finding support and opening up to others with similar experiences can immensely ease the strain it causes.
“There is something about revealing oneself publicly. The veil is removed and your able to really see the person. See that we share similar human experiences,” said Virgilia, a multi-talented artist and performer and one of NOW Toronto’s Top 10 Theatre Artists of 2016. “We are all just trying to figure it out but sometimes we forget that we are together in this thing, life.”
Although the Womb Circles have come to an end, for now, the group does plan on resuming the sessions again in the future. To fellow womxn identified and perceived folks in the meantime, the womxn advise to “lean into fear” and be willing to be vulnerable.
“Find those people who ARE your safe spaces within the community, and then build on that,” encouraged Jade. “[Know] that you have everyone rooting for you, and that even if you have a low time, there will be people there to help bring you back. So you can feel like you can still attack that tomorrow because it is a never ending struggle.”
Healing and support are some of the of the most powerful tools marginalized folks have access to, and it is important to be there to lift each other up. So start your own Womb Circle, create your own space, and don’t let the white supremacist heteropatriarchy displace who you are.