Ten years ago on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected to be our 44th President of the United States of America. The following day, November 5 I left for Medissage at Noaks Ark in Mt. Croghan SC for a healing sabbatical. Since birth, I struggled with an autoimmune disease which at 50 began to wreak havoc over my mind, body and spirit. Earlier that year, in a moment of clarity at this beautiful retreat center in SC, I declared: I AM A DEMONSTRATION OF GOD’S HEALING. Little did I know how God would work with me to heal.
Medissage – Healing Wisdom – is a 135-acre oasis just below Charlotte, NC. There I would stay for 5 months, wandering the land in between my hours of loving service in the community. I began my day with an hour of meditation and each day would look different. I would wash clothes, make beds, cook meals, clean the chicken coop, give massage and Reiki. It was during meditation, I found my body didn’t itch and I could transcend the pain of atopic dermatitis. So when not working, I would meditate to find peace and escape the physical shell my spirit dwelled within.
As I prepared to leave Washington, DC, my private practice and my family, I took minimum possessions as I knew I would be living in a small yurt on the land although having access to the main house. One of my possessions was a book by Dr. Karen Johnson on the work of sisters Nannie Helen Burroughs and her teacher, Anna Julia Cooper. These race first women were dedicated to uplifting black women in their communities, the nation and around the world. Being born in DC, I knew of Nannie Helen Burroughs as the avenue in NE but little of her accomplishments. After reading about her ministry as a servant of God and using this as her platform for education, activism and organization, I was in awe of her efforts and eventual success in opening a boarding school for young women and girls in Washington, DC.
One day, while walking to the crest on the land to look out over the creek and watch the beavers build their dam, I was stopped in my tracks as I heard little girls singing. Turning towards the open space, I had a vision of girl dressed in all white playing “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” and all falling down in giggles. It was clearly an illusion but as I walked back to the yurt, I heard a voice say, “Return me to my relevance”. It was the voice of the ancestral spirit of Nannie Helen Burroughs.
Upon returning to DC on the vernal equinox of 2009, I set about doing just that. Gatherings of women occurred where I shared my vision of simple retreats for girls in the country – like going to “grandma’s house” where they would be immersed in the ways of women and the play of girls – including meditation, yoga and the technologies I had come to adopt for my healing. They would cook, snap beans, set tables, sing, dance, do community service and take trips to Charlotte for cultural enrichment. I wrote a one-woman play to promote Nannie Helen Burroughs entitled “Nannie Speaks” which was performed and videoed at the Multi-Media Institute in DC owned by my friend, Lynn Dyson. My mentor and friend, Beatrice Davis-Williams received word of a grant for a summer camp and we went about applying for it. Lo and behold, we received it and iThings 2 Collard Greens was born! We held camp for six weeks and took an extra week to travel to Medissage with a select group of girls.
We are now entering into our 8th summer with girls. – all because of a severe illness and heeding the call from Spirit to follow the ways of an ancestor. We give thanks and pray for many more summers with girls ages 5-13 and beyond. Thank you, Nannie. We trust you are pleased.