Healing comes in many forms. Some find it in dance. Others in prayer. The women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. brought several forms of self-care together in an inaugural “The Art of Healing” luncheon.
The Theta Epsilon Omega Chapter of AKAs, which serves the Greater New Haven area, gathered about 200 of its closest friends at Cascades Fine Catering Sunday for an intimate afternoon of celebration to honor Congress’ newest member from Connecticut, U.S. Rep.-elect Jahana Hayes, along with stalwarts of the community who have made the well-being of others their life work.
They also gathered to raise money for scholarships and to glean tips for coping with the holiday season from psychologist and founder of Therapy for Black Girls, Joy Harden-Bradford a website and podcast dedicated to helping black women access quality mental health care.
Chapter President Khalilah L. Brown-Dean said the luncheon was inspired by a recent opportunity she had to interview the acclaimed actor Danny Glover. Brown-Dean, an associate professor of political science a Quinnipiac University said she was taken with his answer to a question about finding peace in uncertain times.
“Danny Glover says we find peace in art,” she said. “His quote is that ‘Art is a way of understanding, a way of confronting issues and your own feelings all within the realm of the capacity that it represents.’”
She said the best gift that people can give, particularly during the holidays is “the gift of a whole self.”
“We cannot build strong communities unless we invest in building strong people,” she said.
New Haven AKAs honored people from the Greater New Haven area who are busy building strong people, including Enola G. Aird, founder and president of Community Healing Network; Delphin-Rittmon, commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services; Kate Mattias, executive director of NAMI Connecticut; and Michael Taylor, Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center CEO.
Congresswoman-elect Hayes was celebrated for her recent historic win, having catapulted from being recognized by President Barack Obama as the 2016 National Teacher of the Year to political rock star status. The New Haven AKAs along with the Waterbury Chapter of The Links Inc. and the New Haven Chapter of The Girl Friends Inc. honored Hayes with a Christmas ornament representing the heart of Connecticut and a box of prayers.
“Being first can sometimes be lonely and being first can come with an overwhelming set of expectations,” Brown-Dean said. “When you are the first you don’t have the luxury of just representing the people in your district.”
Brown-Dean said she wanted Hayes to know that all those gathered were praying for her and that when she journeys to Washington D.C. She wasn’t doing it alone.
“We want her to take out one of those cards and be forever reminded that she is never alone,” she said.
Hayes said she didn’t set out to become a member of Congress but now that she is she knows it is exactly where she is meant to be.
“I never once thought about what this meant for me always recognized so much bigger than me,” she said. “I really had to give myself permission to even begin to imagine myself or my name coming after the word ‘Congresswoman.’”
Once she did that, she said the confirmation of what it’s all about happened while she was recently at orientation in Washington, D.C.
“I know I’m supposed to be here, because even though I question how I got here and how I’m going to make this work and what this looks like, last week we had orientation, and I was walking through the halls of the Capitol,” she said, “I thought I was lost. I was in the tunnel. I looked up and there were five young people running toward me. And they all looked like me. And the one girl started to cry. She said, ‘I’m so happy to see your face in this tunnel.’ I mean this is after hours, you had to be credentialed to be there. And she said, ‘You’re the one I’ve been waiting for in this tunnel.’”
Hayes said it’s not lost on her that she now has the keys to that tunnel and can hold the door open for the girl, and the other people with her that day.
“That’s what’s supposed to happen,” she added. “This is real. And it is happening. I know today more than I have ever known in my life that it was exactly the way it was supposed to happen.”
Finding Your CHEER
Harden-Bradford, or “Dr. Joy” as those who listen to her podcast know her, used her first trip to Connecticut to get right to the heart of the matter for most people: How to cope during the holidays.
“We are smack dab in the middle of what some of you have been waiting for all year long and some of you may have been dreading all year long,” she said. “The holidays can bring up a lot of stuff for us. There’s a lot that goes on. There are a lot of expectations.”
She offered the following tips to help you CHEER up:
C - Create new traditions especially if you can’t be with your family or you’ve recently lost a loved one. She urged them to resist the urge to simply forgo the holiday celebration. “When we avoid things we never teach ourselves that we can get through it,” Harden-Bradford said.
H- Honor your feelings. “Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. Give yourself permission to experience your feelings without actually judging them.”
E - Consider gifting experiences over things. It’s tempting to spend money on things to show people how much you love them, she said. But it’s the experiences that you and your loved ones share and the memories you make that will matter in the long run.
E- Setting realistic expectations. “You can’t do it all,” Harden-Bradford reminded the crowd. “Make sure you’re giving yourself some time. It is important especially during the holiday to say no.”
R - Schedule time for reflecting and setting your intentions for the new year. Harden-Bradford in addition to being a busy professional is a wife and mother of a 5-year-old and a 2-year old. She asked people to raise their hand if the best gift someone could give them was peace and quiet. Everyone in the room raised their hands.
“We’re often doing so many things during this time of year,” she said. “To get this time to reflect, you may have to move some stuff around. Whatever it is you need to do figure out how to give yourself the gift of stillness this season.
“Schedule some time to simply be still,” she said.