EC Cohosts Black Girls Empowerment Retreat

Written by Director of Equity and Social Action Leslie Harris-Johnston

On Tuesday, April 26, EC and Overlake School cohosted the Black Girls Empowerment Retreat. Eastside Catholic and Overlake students were joined at the retreat by students from University Prep, Lakeside, SAAS and Bishop Blanchet.

Assistant Director of Inclusion at Overlake School Shea Fleming and I developed this retreat to provide a space for learning and affirmation through workshops presented by local area Black women professionals. Often in the extreme minority at area schools, this retreat offered the opportunity for Black girls who feel either invisible or hyper-visible, to socialize and share experiences.

The retreat was a positive experience for the attendees who shared these notes:

“Getting to hear our shared experiences! It's one thing to think something but a completely different kind of joy to hear it affirmed. It was a very welcoming and joyous experience."
"I like to hear other peoples' experiences about their personal life, and I liked how I was able to relate to them and feel like I belonged." 
"I really loved the speakers and I felt like that was so empowering to hear those positive things about ourselves."

Workshop speakers included:

  • Damithia Nieves, founder of Thrive Centered, who led a morning yoga and grounding session. 
  • Latonya Littleton, LMHC and owner of Falling Forward Consulting and Psychotherapy, LLC led a session about mental health.
  • A workshop session focused on activating a greater sense of identity, self-value and confidence was offered by Chardonnay Beaver, a storyteller, writer, student and influential speaker who is a junior at the University of Washington and founded WOWbyChar (Words of Wisdom by Char). 
  • Freda Agboka, who has two students at EC and an extensive career in business experience, led a session that centered on how to speak positively about oneself as an individual and as a collective of young Black girls.

Volunteers and panelists included KING5 News Anchor Angela Poe Russell, Microsoft C-Suite Executive Leona Dotson, UW Medicine and Clinical Cancer Researcher Dr. Rachel Issaka and retired Automotive Engineer Francisca Engmann.

This year, we were blessed with the support of four EC parents and other volunteers who helped with decorations and creating gift bags for the retreatants Thank you to Freda Agboka, Karen Hamilton, Sandrine Wandji and Donna Grant.

We look forward to hosting the retreat again next year, possibly as an overnight experience.