Retreat for Black women aims to ‘heal racial exhaustion’ and create space for joy

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Retreat for Black women aims to ‘heal racial exhaustion’ and create space for joy

There are workshops, sharing experiences and holistic exercises (Picture: Getty/

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

A retreat specifically designed for Black women who work in social justice will run for the second time this year – with last year’s participants calling it ‘restorative and cathartic’.

Tray Agyeman launched the retreat – Exhale – because she knows first hand the weight that Black women carry on their shoulders.

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For those who work in anti-discrimination or human rights, dealing with public discourse on systemic racism takes its toll, and Tray wanted to provide a sanctum for reflection and recovery.

‘I set up the retreat because I wanted to create a space which I needed when I first started my career in human rights,’ Tray tells ‘I want other Black women working in civil society and the philanthropic sector to have a different experience than I had. A better experience. 

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‘I started Exhale so Black women would not feel alone, so they could see themselves reflected. Sometimes it can feel like the things you are feeling at work are in your head, or you might be imagining it.

‘Then you share it in this space and you realise that you are not the only one, and that is so powerful.’

Retreat for Black women aims to ‘heal racial exhaustion’ and create space for joy

‘I started Exhale so Black women would not feel alone’ (Picture: Tray Agyeman)

This is the second year of Exhale. Natalie Alleyne, a writer and mentor, went last year and says the experience was transformational.

‘It was beyond what I had hoped,’ Natalie tells ‘It was very restorative. We did activities like painting and capoeira which were cathartic, when you release the stress, inspiration can be let in.

‘We explored how we can support each other in the third sector, how we can do our best work  while protecting our mental health. The retreat was intergenerational, so it was brilliant to have older and younger women sharing experiences and support.’

Tray says having women attend of all different ages and generations was very important to her to provide a wide variety of experience and wisdom.

‘They share what they have learned or face at work and are able to provide support to others,’ says Tray.

Retreat for Black women aims to ‘heal racial exhaustion’ and create space for joy

‘Black women joy is the underpinning theme’ (Picture: Tray Agyeman)

‘Last year’s event was inexplicable. Someone said, and it will stay with me forever, that the retreat was not something you can describe, you can only experience it.

‘Women came from different parts of the country and across the three days they shared lessons learned, tools, coping mechanisms, laughs and stories and experiences. 

‘Black women joy is the underpinning theme, and the retreat encourages attendees to be present, and to just “be” without having to perform.’

Natalie says she learned important lessons and experienced an overwhelming sense of understanding and support.

‘We are all more than the colour of our skin, more than our gender, or sexual preferences, or physical ability and whatever else – on paper these things don’t limit our ability to connect with each other or to be free,’ she says. ‘But, in a society that is accustomed to a white male dominant culture, us other folk are often perceived through a lens that misunderstands us and ascribes us negative stereotypes that can make navigating elements of life challenging.

‘The retreat is a safe space where the additional burdens we face are known as fact, and so we can exist for a while without the additional burdens.’

Retreat for Black women aims to ‘heal racial exhaustion’ and create space for joy

‘It is the breathing room and safety that every human deserves’ (Picture: Tray Agyeman)

Tray says the first retreat last year taught her just how much this type of space is desperately needed by so many. This year, she is making a few changes to the lineup.

‘We are inviting more women and we are bringing in workshop leaders to guide attendees into sessions,’ she explains.

‘There are sessions which are creative, therapeutic as well as laid back for those moments you just want to exhale. I want to build on the sisterhood that was created and support even more women with their career and aspirations.’

For Natalie, Exhale is the space she has been looking for her whole life.

‘It is the breathing room and safety that every human deserves and I believe it should be a permanent space,’ she says.

‘When you remove the excessive societal pressure and scrutiny that Black women face just for being Black women, we have room to excel. Our energy is no longer split between worry or fear over how we are perceived and potentially chastised, failed, ignored.

‘We can support each other and heal, just thrive and ultimately get the job done with wellness and full aptitude – whatever that job may be.’

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