Becoming a Leader

Imagine a serene setting in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, surrounded by meadows, deer and the wind. You are with 100 youth who are committed to gender justice, LGBTQIA justice and the healing of cisgender women, transgender women, and gender non-conforming youth through the idea of “sisterhood”. You have found yourself at the Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat (SRLR).

For the past four years, CCEJ has collaborated with The California Endowment on Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat, created to support youth organizers throughout the state who are leading campaigns on health equity in their respective communities. This 6-day retreat aims to educate, heal, and develop the next generation of leaders to transform the ways that the patriarchy and sexism impact our lives. CCEJ is proud to take the lead in overseeing its implementation.

For the past four years The California Endowment has sponsored Sisterhood Rising, a leadership retreat created for young women by women. This is a 6-day retreat which takes place at Sierra Nevada Journeys: Grizzly Creek Ranch in Northern California and this past summer of 2017 marked the first of three retreats that the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ) will facilitate as the lead in organizing and overseeing its implementation.

Youth who participate in the retreat are from the 14 sites that comprise the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative. These youth come from all across California to develop their leadership skills, build sisterhood and healthy relationships, promote social-emotional health and build the power of women to use a gender and racial justice lens connected to their own personal narrative. Each youth experiences the retreat in a unique way and the memories are ones that will stay with each of them for a lifetime. Karla a three time SRLR attendee shared,

“Before attending Sisterhood Rising I didn’t know how to love myself. I didn’t know what it felt like to be a leader in my own community. I came to the realization that I was a lotus, rising above and blossoming into the leader I now am. Sisterhood Rising allowed me to unwind and let my true colors shine.”

From Magical Monday to Wellness Wednesday, youth are participating in workshops, led by staff and youth who have experience with the various topics, DIY projects/activities, ropes-courses for teambuilding, while also engaging in conversations and self-reflections about their development as leaders while working in their respective communities as well as their healing journeys. Several staff from the CCEJ team were onsite at the retreat such as Trainer and Researcher, Jenny Escobar, who explained the importance and impact SRLR can have on the young women who attend:

Through testimonies, dance, art and other embodied activities, all these efforts helped us feel closer to our individual and collective freedom.  We held each other, challenged each other and ultimately made a collective choice to honor each other as we continue to create a sisterhood culture through our leadership.”

As summer draws to an end and school years begins to dawn on us, the leadership team from SRLR know that they all have collectively left “heart-prints” on this year’s retreat participants, and vice versa, while also providing them with new tools to go back to their local (BHC) communities to help fight for change as well as heal their communities, manifesting the world they want to see.

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