QueenAfi, founder of Domestic Violence Wears Many Tags, speaks to youths as part of the "Week of Healing" in southeast D.C. on Dec. 5. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
QueenAfi, founder of Domestic Violence Wears Many Tags, speaks to youths as part of the "Week of Healing" in southeast D.C. on Dec. 5. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

As District residents continue to reel from the trauma of poverty and violence, dozens of local organizations have joined forces to host events this week that promote unity, clarity and thought and various healing modalities. 

The “Week of Healing” kicked off with a Sunday brunch at Da Culture DC, an event space on Minnesota Avenue in Southeast. That’s where several people nibbled on popular brunch delights while discussing how to foster healthy, tight-knit nuclear families.

Children participate in coloring activities during the “Week of Healing” in southeast D.C. on Dec. 5. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Other events from Dec. 5-10 have been tailored to meet the needs of young people, community members and policymakers. For instance, community members practiced meditation and art therapy on Monday during an event at The Alliance of Concerned Men that focused on domestic and sexual violence.  

Charnal Chaney, a yoga practitioner who founded Bold Yoga and organized the “Week of Healing,” said those who attend the various events have a safe space to participate in on-site yoga and meditation sessions while reflecting on their experiences with domestic violence, sexual assault, gun violence, homelessness, addiction and other societal ills. 

Chaney said these solution-oriented conversations have proven especially beneficial for young people unsure about how to live in their community without fear. 

“The youth said they want safer communities,” Chaney said. 

“Young people want to be able to come outside and not hear gunshots or worry about losing one of their friends,” she continued. 

“They want to be heard by their parents [so] they can vent without judgment. Even though this is for the youth, it’s for the community at large. We’ve passed down this trauma. It doesn’t start with the youth, but the adults.” 

“Week of Healing” started last year as a “Day of Healing” hosted by Bold Yoga, Guns Down Friday and T.R.I.G.G.E.R. Project. 

As people gear up for what will be a bittersweet holiday season for those who’ve lost loved ones, more than 30 organizations have coordinated events for the “Week of Healing.” Sponsors include Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, The Creative School, The Sober Living Project, The Rainbow Wellness and activist-author Tony Lewis Jr. 

Chaney and others said the “Week of Healing” had been inspired by the individual work of participating groups, as well as events that other organizers have hosted in the past. For instance, the “Week of Healing” will wrap up on Dec. 10 with “Heal Moe Chella,” where community members get to practice yoga, sound bath healing and other healing modalities while grooving to the live sounds of go-go. 

For some young people, like Laila Hammond, the “Week of Healing” came at an ideal time. 

Laila, a Ward 8 resident, expressed fear about losing friends to violence. She said the healing modalities featured throughout the week have helped her manage her anxiety in recent years. 

“With yoga, I get to clear my thoughts,” said Laila, 16, a local influencer with more than 1,000 followers on her social media platform. 

“I use relaxing music and a sound bowl, and close my eyes [because] I’m worried about dying. Adults don’t know how it feels to go outside to the ice cream truck and run back inside because someone is shooting or someone is about to die. I just stay in the house [where] I know I’m safe.” 

Candy Glover, a professional yoga instructor and founder of The Rainbow Wellness, said she can attest to the healing power of yoga. She said that she grew to understand the necessity of movement throughout high school and college, and especially as a flight attendant who attended yoga classes around the world. 

Glover said gaining certification as a yoga instructor in recent years not only allowed her to pursue entrepreneurship but better appreciate yoga’s benefits for people who experience the long-lasting physical effects of trauma and grief. 

Throughout the “Week of Healing,” Glover worked to convey that message and help people see the feasibility of taking care of oneself first, even if it’s breathing deeply for five minutes at the beginning of the day. 

She explained her goal as one centered on eradicating the vestiges of stress and grief that continue to live on in people’s backs, shoulders and other parts of their body after traumatic experiences. 

“We did this all across the city and we have things we’re doing online,” Glover said. 

“We didn’t want there to be any excuse as to why people didn’t participate and why it didn’t appeal to them,” she added. “We took some things we saw work and made it work for us. We saw how beautiful it was when things pop up in the different wards.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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