I Was The Only Black Person At Elizabeth Gilbert And Cheryl Strayed’s ‘brave Magic’ Retreat

Discussion in 'News - Breaking News & Political Forum' started by ladysaraii, Oct 16, 2018.

  1. ladysaraii

    ladysaraii Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2009
    Messages:
    15,567
    Likes Received:
    56,672
    Trophy Points:
    113
    This was posted in a book group that I belong to. What do y'all think? I'll reserve comments until later.

    I arrive in San Jose on Thursday, Sept. 20. After picking up my hybrid from Hertz, I drive up the windy, narrow roads to 1440 Multiversity, which rests at the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California. I am so mesmerized by the scenery that I actually forget to be nervous about being in this unfamiliar situation: my first writer’s retreat, my first time meeting the other ladies from my online writers group face to face and my first solo trip for any reason in over a decade.

    My stomach begins to churn the moment I take my place at the back of the 200-plus person check-in line. However, it isn’t churning because of the length of the line. It is churning because I am the only black person in it.

    Craning my neck to look as far down the line as possible, all I see are natural blond ponytails and top buns, whose wearers look like they were born holding a yoga mat in one hand and a Mason jar in the other.

    The “Brave Magic” retreat is described on the website as “An invitation to Curiosity, Creativity and Courage” with powerhouse authors (and besties), Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed (authors of “Eat Pray Love” and “Wild,” respectively). The cost of the three-day program, which excludes lodging but includes meals, is $450. I’ve flown up from Los Angeles and rented a car, so my total ends up being somewhere upward of $1,800. I’m trying to see it as an investment in my fledgling writing career (and I really hope the IRS sees it that way, too). Up until the moment when I take my place at the end of this long line of fresh-faced white women, I am pretty happy about how I’m spending this money.

    As I look further down the line now, I can see a few silver-haired white women. I see three or four brown women (Middle Eastern, Indian or Pakistani?) and five Asian women (one I meet tells me that she is Korean-American). I find out later that there are 11 men in attendance also. But once the line that forms behind me is as long as the line in front, I am stung by this most unfathomable reality:

    I am the only black one.

    There are over 600 people here.

    I’ve been the only one before. I was the only black student in class many times when I was in grade school, I was the only black parent (many times) when my kids were little, I’m often the only black person in my recovery meetings, on the tennis court and in workout groups. But I didn’t know that my first-ever retreat would be so massively big. And it hadn’t even vaguely occurred to me that out of 600 people, I might be the only black one. I am more than just shocked, I am deeply saddened.

    While I continue to stand in line, I notice that some of the women are now craning their necks to make eye contact and smile at me. I smile back self-consciously, all the while trying to imagine how any of these yoga mat-carriers would feel if they’d arrived at a retreat where absolutely every one of the 600 attendees (and all of the facility staff members) were black.

    They’d probably slip away nervously and call someone, right? Or maybe they’d turn around and head back to the airport without saying a word to anyone.

    I feel irrational tears pressing against the backs of my eyes.

    Really?! How is it that an event this big, in twenty fricken eighteen can be so incredibly homogenous? How is it that I can be the only one ― STILL ― AGAIN at age 54?!

    I think about getting back in my car and driving down that crazy mountain road back to the airport. Would anyone blame me if I did?

    Gripping my car keys in my left hand so hard that my palm hurts, I use my right to send a group text to the women from my writers group, saying that I’ve arrived and that I’ll be “easy to spot.” Moments later, Stephanie appears (she lives in Portland, Oregon) and then Dana, who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. They are both so happy to see me that it relieves a bit of my self-consciousness. Soon we have drifted into the dining hall. We’ve now been joined by our other two members, Amy who lives in Oakland, California, and Riva who lives in Toronto.

    I am, as they used to say, quite obviously the fly in the proverbial buttermilk here, so, together the five of us sit and try to figure out why I am the only one who looks like me.

    “You know, it is Liz Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed,” says one of them. “I’m not that surprised, given who their fans are ― and there are a lot of fans here. Maybe only half the people here even identify as writers.”

    But in this age of “Hamilton” and inclusion riders, how could the organizers of a 600-person event, where everything is planned so thoughtfully, down to the abundance of water bottle filling stations, have not even considered the optics and possibility of an all-white audience?

    [​IMG]
    COURTESY OF LAURA ROBBINS
    “In this age of ‘Hamilton’ and inclusion riders, how could the organizers of a 600-person event ... have not even considered the optics and possibility of an all-white audience?”
    After the first evening’s Brave Magic session concludes, I say goodbye to the girls and walk alone back to my room across the Multiversity campus. The crisp night air smells of firewood and pine needles. All around me are small groups of white women in cashmere shawls (did they pass those out when I wasn’t looking?) huddled around various firepits. The whole scene looks like it could be a spread right out of Goop Magazine. I am virtually unnoticed as I pass by each pit, catching fragments of intense conversations here and there:

    “And then I put my arms around my inner child and just cried.”

    “Didn’t you love when that man read his letter today? Wasn’t that brave of him?”

    “I was just so moved by Liz’s story. Everything begins and ends on the bathroom floor, right...?”

    Their soft laughter reminds me of the “chimes” option on my iPhone timer. Ahead of me is a sign that reads “Sleeping Pods” with an arrow pointing down a path.

    Sleeping pods?

    Did other black writers choose not to come because they didn’t want to sleep in pods? Did they choose not to come because the Santa Cruz Mountains are so chilly and remote? Do black writers only want to attend truly diverse events? (Do those events even exist?) Was it too expensive? Or maybe unlike me, “Big Magic” and “Wild” aren’t books that profoundly changed their approach to writing. Or maybe they just didn’t want to risk traveling all day to get here, only to feel “othered” when they arrived.


    [​IMG]
    COURTESY OF LAURA ROBBINS
    “Did other black writers choose not to come because they didn’t want to sleep in pods?”

    That night in my (private) room as I am waiting for Netflix to load on my laptop, I lean back against the stucco wall, picturing myself asking some of the black aspiring writers that I know, the questions that keep ringing in my mind;

    Hey! Did you guys know it would be like this? Is that why you didn’t come? And how come no one told me?

    On Day Two of the retreat, Liz and Cheryl begin the session by asking people how far they’ve traveled to be here. One woman raises her hand and says she’s come from Poland. Two or three shout “Australia” in unison. “London,” shrills from the far corner. “New York” yells the woman at the end of our row. I and the rest of the ladies look around as Cheryl starts throwing out names of random states and people’s hands shoot up with a collective whoop.

    “Montana?”

    “Yes!!!!”

    “Hawaii?”

    “Aloha!”

    “Oregon?”

    “Yeah!!!”

    “Black people?” (OK, she didn’t really say that).

    But I still picture myself standing up with the rest of them and shouting, “I’m here! I’m here! Happy to represent the black people of the world.”

    Later, during Liz’s “Tribal Shaming” session, we’re instructed to write letters to the people or dynamics that we are betraying or abandoning. (Like: Dear ex-husband, I’m going to betray you now because I know that I will never be the kind of wife you were hoping for and, frankly, the fact that I continually disappoint you is killing me.)

    But since I’ve already written that letter (yeah, that’s another story), I decide to write my letter to the black families at my sons’ schools who always try to get me to go to church with them.

    Next, we’re to find a perfect stranger with whom to read it, so I look around and pair up with a redhead from the row behind me. She and I sit cross-legged in the aisle next to the row facing each other. We lean in close, so that we can hear each other over the cacophony of 300 women all reading aloud to their partners at the same time. After we introduce ourselves, she asks me to go first.

    “Dear black parents...,” I say.

    “Ugghhhh.”

    I look up abruptly as I am unsure what the sound she’s emitting indicates and see that tears are streaming down her cheeks.

    I smile with what I hope looks like empathy and then return my eyes to the notebook page. When she doesn’t actually say anything after a few seconds, I decide it’s OK to continue. But the moment I say, “at my sons’ school,” she loses it and begins to wail, letting her arms fall to her side. Mortified, I look around to see if anyone else is paying attention before I put my notebook down next to me.

    “Are you all right?” I lean back a bit, so I can better assess what’s happening.

    “I’m sorry,” she says. “It’s just that I have such an affinity for African-Americans.” She accepts the tissue I’m handing her. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be African-American ― but I’ve always felt like I need to do more for African-Americans, you know? I feel like we could all do so much more.”

    I will my eyes to keep their composure. Her pink-hued, freckled face is so full of earnestness and compassion.

    “I protested when that African-American boy was killed by the police.”

    OK ... and which one?

    “And I don’t know why but I just have always felt more comfortable with African-Americans.”

    Oh, please do stop saying African-Americans.

    I decide the best thing for me to do is just give her the hug she so clearly wants and finish reading my letter to her before Liz asks us to return to our chairs.

    * * *

    Heading back to the airport the next morning, I can’t help but wonder:

    What if it wasn’t an oversight? What if the event organizers just really didn’t care whether black people came to Brave Magic? Which leads me to another (and slightly existential) question: Do black stories matter?

    I mean, I know that they matter to us black people. But do they matter to the rest of you? Do you even want to know what it’s like to walk around like me? In skin like mine with hair like mine? Do you ever wonder what it’s like for black people to fail, love, grieve and triumph? What it’s like to raise black sons and daughters? What it’s like to be hated or feared on sight? Not for how or what you believe but simply because your skin has a threatening hue?

    Do these stories matter to you?

    I’m not asking if they matter as much or more than your stories, mind you. I’m asking if they matter at all? Do you think my story about feeling “othered” at Brave Magic might be as interesting and impactful as some white woman’s account of feeling right at home at the same event?

    I think Roxane Gay would say yes. Toni Morrison might say, “Right on, sister!” And maybe even Ta-Nehisi Coates would give me some words of encouragement. My final questions are: Will writing about my experience at Brave Magic change anything? Will the 2019 organizers be more conscious of diversity and inclusion?

    Is Brave Magic only for white women? I guess I’ll have to go next year to find out.


    link
     
    Gin&Tonic, Bklynqueen and kxlot79 like this.
  2. discodumpling

    discodumpling Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    144
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2007
    Messages:
    10,230
    Likes Received:
    44,339
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Queens NYC
    She got what she paid for imho. She went to a retreat hosted by white women and was surprised that the overwhelming attendance was 99% WW?
    I mean really what does Elizabeth Gilbert and women like her have for BW?
     
  3. fula97

    fula97 Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2006
    Messages:
    3,843
    Likes Received:
    17,451
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    NY, NY
    *sigh*
    This entire article is annoying. First off you went to a writing conference put on by the chick who wrote Eat Pray Love and the other wrote Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, Torch and Brave Enough. 99% of their base is white. And their writing style nor their writing about their "life experiences"are not going to appeal to most non white writers

    Second no they didn't consider the audience. Why should they? Black people seem to be the only ones worrying about is it diverse enough Ugh. Just stop worry about is it black enough when you put on an event.
    She obviously learned nothing in all these years.
    So she decided to turn herself until a self help project at a conference.
     
  4. sunnieb

    sunnieb Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2009
    Messages:
    14,599
    Likes Received:
    51,699
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Pretty much. Did she post the event anywhere a black writer would see it? Well, at least she got to write an article about it.

    And I'm not offended by the term African American or Black for that matter. :look:
     
  5. ladysaraii

    ladysaraii Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2009
    Messages:
    15,567
    Likes Received:
    56,672
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Y'all had the same thoughts I did. This reminded me of that article about the crying white woman who saw an overweight black woman in her yoga class and had an existential crisis about it.

    I was so surprised to see she was 54. I feel like she's too old for this nonsense.
     
  6. HappilyLiberal

    HappilyLiberal Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2009
    Messages:
    16,645
    Likes Received:
    84,043
    Trophy Points:
    113
    She grew up in an all white environment, raised her children in an all white environment, and chose to go to a conference sponsored by white women... what did she expect? She could have changed her trajectory--and that of her children--years ago with very little effort.
     
  7. metro_qt

    metro_qt Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    Messages:
    8,118
    Likes Received:
    23,713
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Toronto
    I'm just wondering if she did her due diligence....has this retreat or any other retreats similar to it been put on by by these authors before?
    Is there not anyone...INCLUDING the authors she could have writen to before hand to ask about diversity and inclusivity if it is such a problem to her???

    That's what I do if I'm in unfamiliar situations...research!
     
  8. nysister

    nysister Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    22,567
    Media:
    7
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    91,507
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    New York
    Did she really just end it like this?

    No offense but this was as vapid and pseudo self-reflecting as Eat, Pray, Love. Which was sophomoric and flavorless as it comes. I rolled my eyes so many times reading that book, and I don't normally roll my eyes.
     
  9. Chrismiss

    Chrismiss Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    Messages:
    7,764
    Likes Received:
    42,904
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Powerballin'
    This reminds me of a dilemma I'm seeing in a black planner group I follow on fb. They are chomping at the bit to go to a predominantly white planner groups conference, while the same black planner group just had their own conference this past weekend. In fact, while the black planner group's conference was in progress, people were steady posting in the fb group about the other planner group's conference. It seemed super coonish to me, as does this.
     
  10. Goombay_Summer

    Goombay_Summer Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2009
    Messages:
    5,895
    Likes Received:
    32,448
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    The Happy Time Murders
    She truly revels in being the exemplary one of her ethnic/racial group, different from those other barbarians that they've had the misfortune to encounter. Hers is not the voyage of the Starship Enterprise, she's definitely not boldly going where no black person has gone before (as a favor to us). Lonely Laura ought to enjoy her tokenism in peace without expecting us to reward her with an oreo cookie.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
  11. Tibbar

    Tibbar Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Messages:
    840
    Likes Received:
    4,729
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    NYC
    Since she seems to rebuff the other black parents at her son's school when they try to reach out to her, I'm going to rebuff her whole ridiculous stream of consciousness puff piece...

    Meh.

    ETA.. she thinks Toni Morrison would say right on sister to that??
    C'mon son.
     
  12. Southernbella.

    Southernbella. Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2005
    Messages:
    30,817
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    272,963
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Drunk in love
    This.

    She sounds whiny and immature. Much like the folks she keeps surrounding herself with.
     
  13. intellectualuva

    intellectualuva Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Messages:
    11,690
    Media:
    1
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    61,246
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    From MD - Now Location Independent
  14. GreenEyedJen

    GreenEyedJen Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2009
    Messages:
    1,918
    Media:
    4
    Albums:
    2
    Likes Received:
    13,718
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Hampton Roads
    I truly thank God and my mom almost every day for not allowing me to end up like this woman. Black people that are brought up around all white people usually end up one of two ways: super proud of their race, or like this woman. She's sitting up there wondering why Black people chose not to attend this event? She gave that girl a hug?!?!?!?!

    I do understand that my parents thought they were doing what was best for me by living in the neighborhood I grew up in (and honestly, neither my brother nor I ever wanted to be like the white kids, so maybe they did) but I can't imagine bringing up my children, if I ever have them, in a neighborhood like the one we had. From what I've seen, most Blacks that grow up in that environment turn out like her, not like me and my brother. That would destroy me as a mother.

    I don't have anything in depth to add about the specific article. You guys were on it.
     
  15. SurferBabe

    SurferBabe Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    Messages:
    2,449
    Likes Received:
    22,876
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Sheesh. This woman needs counseling.
     
  16. RossBoss

    RossBoss Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2010
    Messages:
    9,848
    Likes Received:
    44,214
    Trophy Points:
    113
    This. And it's annoying. Always being the mammy and wondering if there are enough "black and browns" and "people of color".
     
  17. Theresamonet

    Theresamonet Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Messages:
    14,378
    Likes Received:
    154,627
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Chicago
    I agree with what everyone else has said... What did she expect? You're at a white women's event. White women are always trying to come into our spaces, but we usually leave them to do their white lady thing on their own. If I come to an event and I'm the ONLY black person, I'm leaving early. Not because I feel uncomfortable, but I know its not gon' be worth my black time. Also, all of the friends she was meeting up with at the retreat were white. So maybe if she had some black writer friends, they'd lead her to where the black writers be at. Instead of considering that no other black person could afford to go, consider that no other black person is interested in this wackness.

    But the thing that really rubbed me wrong, is that despite feeling (or because she felt) "othered", she decided to do the proverbial tap dance and pander to their white womaness. Why did she feel the need to tell a story about how she doesn't want to fellowship with the other black families at her son's school? What a perfect time to tell that story. :rolleyes:

    Also, if a white woman is being weird, why try to make them feel good about it? I would have sat there quietly until white lady pulled herself together, and then continued with my story. Why the hugging and coddling, when its HER that's being made to feel uncomfortable?

    *deep sigh*
     
  18. intellectualuva

    intellectualuva Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Messages:
    11,690
    Media:
    1
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    61,246
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    From MD - Now Location Independent
    All
    of
    this

    especially the bolded. You're feeling "othered "at this event, then want to tell a story like that.

    Girl if you dont get yo....:rolleyes:
     
  19. Brwnbeauti

    Brwnbeauti Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2012
    Messages:
    10,384
    Likes Received:
    55,448
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I googled the event. Nothing about the site says, "Black women might show up."- only took 3 minutes to see this
    Accommodations look nice.
     
    kokodiva524, sgold04, Shula and 10 others like this.
  20. Everything Zen

    Everything Zen Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2007
    Messages:
    12,876
    Likes Received:
    69,520
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    With the cool kids
    Agree 1000% You’re still confused At 54? o_O You have got to learn to figure this :censored: out one way or another when it happens. Maybe I’m “spoiled” by the I don’t know if my generation with the help of the Great Recession was forced to become extra woke along with the Obama effect but still :confused:
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
  21. oneastrocurlie

    oneastrocurlie Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2012
    Messages:
    6,843
    Likes Received:
    37,319
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Girl please. The first thing I do when I see an networking/learning type of event or conference is look at their previous year's pictures. Then I goggle all the presenters and speakers.

    Bet it was all whiter than expensive copier paper.
     
  22. lesedi

    lesedi All is well with me

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2008
    Messages:
    12,158
    Likes Received:
    113,470
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I'm so annoyed that I read that.

    She's a pick me IMO
     
  23. IslandMummy

    IslandMummy LHCF "Strong In Our Wrong" Hell in HB Crew

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    May 1, 2013
    Messages:
    21,656
    Media:
    1
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    232,797
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    In Transition
    I didn’t even need google, once I saw eat pray love I knew what the deal was.
     
  24. intellectualuva

    intellectualuva Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Messages:
    11,690
    Media:
    1
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    61,246
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    From MD - Now Location Independent
    I read the book and liked the movie. :lachen:


    I wouldn't have gone to an event though.
     
  25. Shula

    Shula Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2010
    Messages:
    3,181
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    32,018
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Too late now, sis missed that train. I mean she wrote this in whining that sounds just like ww whining about dumb things nobody else cares about. Remove the fact that you already know she's a black woman and we would have all concluded this as beckery. She's too far gone in the caucasity and ain't no coming back. Bet she don't even wanna come back; she just wanna do useless whining on the internet just like ww. Her transformation is complete.
     
  26. Sarabellam

    Sarabellam Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2018
    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    1,187
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Halfway through the second sentence in this article I started rolling my eyes. I then skipped to read everyone’s comments.

    It read like a caricature of the type of person who does basic normal things but expects others to give them praise for their superiority in this world.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  27. PhonyBaloney500

    PhonyBaloney500 Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Messages:
    7,848
    Likes Received:
    8,249
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    NYC
    She sounds dense and ridiculous. I'm going to a an event that will probably be mostly white cuz two of the bloggers are white and I'm not gonna be shocked or cry about it.

    I also couldn't stand that eat pray book (and movie).
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2018
  28. PhonyBaloney500

    PhonyBaloney500 Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Messages:
    7,848
    Likes Received:
    8,249
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    NYC
    And there are black women writer retreats. She could easily go to those too or instead.
     
  29. RoundEyedGirl504

    RoundEyedGirl504 Well-Known Member

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2008
    Messages:
    18,252
    Likes Received:
    145,516
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Bay Area
    Self flagellation at its best. Better luck next time I guess.
     
  30. FemmeCreole

    FemmeCreole Island Gyal

    Blog Posts:
    1
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2006
    Messages:
    18,390
    Likes Received:
    90,736
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Central Islip/NOLA
    What an annoying article and equally annoying woman. She's pseudo complaining. She actually likes being the token special negress. Chile please.
     

Share This Page