Cheers! My Birthday Celebration with the Napa Valley Wine Country Tours

After losing my grandmother a few weeks before my birthday, I really needed to celebrate life. I know she would want me to do that. This year, I decided to ring in a new year of life in wine country. My soror traveled up from So Cal to visit. This would be her first time in Napa. I didn’t want to drive so instead, we bought bus tickets for the Napa Valley Wine Country Tours.

Let me tell you something, going on this bus tour was one of the BEST decisions I made. The Napa Valley Wine Country Tours bus isn’t just any bus. It’s a limo bus that looks like a VIP club lounge on wheels. We paid $119 for an 8-hour trip, visit to 4 wineries in Sonoma and Napa counties, continental breakfast and lunch. It was worth every penny. The tastings aren't covered in the bus fare, but they ran about $10-$25. Wineries won't charge you for tastings if you buy a bottle. I recommend this for tourists and any Bay Area locals who have folks visiting from out of town and want a short excursion to Nap…

Alice Walker Shares Words of Wisdom for Black Women

Alice Walker and Jenee Darden pose together after retreat
Want an honor to meet Alice Walker!
Photo by Jenee Darden 
What a blessing to not only attend a daylong meditation retreat for Black women, have writer Alice Walker as the main speaker.  Yes, the Alice Walker who wrote The Color Purple. What a blessing! I wish I could’ve flown in my girlfriends from around the world to attend. The retreat took place at the East Bay Meditation Center in downtown Oakland.

About 80+ sistas of the diaspora gathered for the Wisdom Rising Daylong Retreat for Women of African Descent. The Black Girl Magic and energy in there was beautiful. I came with my notebook, heart and mind open. I especially wanted to attend as I’m embracing womanism. Walker introduced the term in her book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens. With all the chaos going on in the country I needed to be in a space with my sistas, who understand me and I understand them. It felt like I escaped the world for eight hours.  

Here are some of my favorite words of wisdom from Mother Alice Walker that day:

“We’re always beginning.” And she went on to say if we understand that, the setbacks won’t feel so hard.

“Wisdom is not colonized”

“We[Black people] have been led to doubt we have a great mind.”

“Live and really be alive…if you want to feel like Bessie Smith and shake your shimmy.”

“Black women are great thinkers.”

On letting go of abusive relatives she said, “ You don’t need to be with anybody who doesn’t see you.”

“Protect your mind like you would an infant.”

I could write more but those were some of my favorite. Or maybe I’ll share more in a podcast. Hmmm…

Black women on meditation mats look on as Alice Walker and Spring Washam speaks
East Bay Meditation Center Founder Spring Washam and
Alice Walker

 Later that day I experienced one of the most moving spiritual experiences when singer
Gina Breedlove and Jenee Darden all smiles
Gina Breedlove's sound healing was such
a blessing! 
Breedlove touched us with her sound healing. This sista’s gift blessed me tremendously. She broke down the power of our voices and humming. I remember going to church and hearing the women hum. Black church women humming is rich with soul and emotion. Gina experienced this too growing up in Florida. She noticed the women would hum. Then those hums turned into wails. Humming was their therapy. I thought about how my grandmothers hummed. Gina asked us to hum and touch our throats simultaneously to “feel the vibration of ourselves.” The humming in that retreat space literally sounded Heavenly to me. I don’t use that description lightly.It took my spirit higher and brought forth tears. We sang uplifting words to ourselves and sent loving energy to each other. I can’t put into words what this experience was like. It was extremely moving and beautiful.

Here a words of wisdom from Gina Breedlove:

“The sound of your voice gives you dominion over your thoughts.”

“What is the song you sing to yourself?”

She suggested we sing our names to ourselves. It’s a way of re-connecting to one’s self. 

“When we speak we are piercing the air with that vibration.”

Altar made up of things attendees' sacred things like photos, jewelry, flowers, etc.
We created an altar with things sacred to us. I brought
a journal a friend gave me with a copy of my favorite
painting by Brenda Joysmith "Barefoot Dreams."
Photo by Jenee Darden 

One of my favorite quotes was from a sista whose name I didn’t get. I remember she had on a white t-shirt with a Rumi quote on the back. If anyone knows her name, please let me know.  She’s a therapist.

She said, “As a Black woman, you don’t have the right to your back on yourself.” She encouraged us to take care of ourselves, don’t be ashamed to feel our emotions and express them. In light of this month being Mental Health Awareness Month, that message was right on time.  

Thank you to the East Bay Meditation Center and Spring Washam for this memorable day. What a blessing!

Journal on the Altar next to "I Love Oakland" button
Jenee's sacred item for the altar is a journal with
Brenda Joysmith's Barefoot Dreams on the front.
Photo by Jenee Darden