Above: Guadalupe Reyes, far right, poses with her “cabin mates” young woman from Merced and Richmond at Sisterhood Rising.
By Guadalupe Reyes | WeCed Youth Media
Image courtesy of Crissy Gallardo
Last summer I went to a camp at Bear Creek Ranch in Portola, Calif. called Sisterhood Rising. I had never known about the term “womyn” before my experience at camp. The word itself made me question so many things I’d been taking for granted throughout my upbringing.
I shared a space with 65 other girls from 13 different communities throughout the state who immediately felt like my ‘sisters.’ We formed a bond that managed to transcend the hundreds of miles that had separated us before we arrived. It was my first time going camping and experiencing nature, so I didn’t know how different I would feel out in the beautiful scenery and fresh air.
For many years, I was unsure of what it meant to be a ‘woman.’ Throughout my life I heard many different definitions. Growing up in a traditional Mexican home, I learned that women have a single role: being housewives. They are to stay at home, raise children, and serve their men. I was also led to believe that for women, school and work shouldn’t be priorities.
At camp, I wasn’t just given a definition of “woman” to absorb. I learned that being a “womyn” (as opposed to a wo-MAN) is about how I define myself, not how society defines me. Being a womyn is about taking charge of your own life.
I was introduced to healing circles, which helped me learn about self-care as a young womyn of color. I was not aware that Indigenous people used healing circles to help people recover from trauma as well as unite them and restore strength for teamwork.
In the healing circles, we were encouraged to share from the bottom of our hearts and to let everything out. I had never felt more safe sharing my feelings. There was also the fact that the healing circles only included womyn, which made me more confident to speak about the things that are holding me back. I also started to realize that I’m not alone — that many womyn around me have traveled a similar path to mine.
After the camp, I felt so motivated and excited for everything yet to come in my life. And that feeling has sustained me throughout the past year.
I want to bring healing circles back to my community at home — to make a place where girls and womyn can share with each other without being judged, and where they can learn healthy ways of coping with their problems. When you join a sister circle, you feel like you have a family to trust. I want to keep that circle going, the one with the Guadalupe that has confidence in herself and that loves her authentic self without any doubt.
Sisterhood Rising is a project of The California Endowment.