When you meet a diverse group of people who leave a warm feeling in your heart and mind, it’s worth talking about. After I returned home from the first ever JUARA conference in Detroit, I couldn’t stop talking about what a wonderful group of people were present, really “present”, and the feeling of happiness and comfort that I had felt there. It’s that feeling you get when you meet people who exude a sense of acceptance, kindness, curiosity, growth, strength, and collaboration. Each person in Detroit exuded the character of a “champion” and that is hard to come by, but worth chasing and cultivating.
I have to first give thanks for the opportunity to experience what I have had in this lifetime. The partnership and support that I have received, and hopefully given, in this skincare venture that has turned into an adventure in self care and self discovery, has made me feel blessed ten times over. Of course, learning and growth are not without their stressors, and full of ups and downs, but I have learned that it is better when you are surrounded by strong, thoughtful, and scrupulous women and people. I experienced a taste of the same in Michigan.
Our gathering was a cornucopia of all ages, backgrounds and personality types. We had come from states as disparate as Kentucky, California, and Connecticut. Daughters, nieces, cousins, long-time friends, even friends who had recently met over the internet, each person had made a commitment to teach and learn without judgement. Keynote Speaker, Shandra Woworuntu’s dynamism and optimism started the meeting with inspiration as she shared her personal story of not only climbing out of a pit of despair and exploitation, but also working for others who have experienced the same plight. One might think, “That’s a hard act to follow.”, but the individual stories that were shared over the course of the day and weekend showed me that tenacity and heart is something that we all possess, and each story should be celebrated in its own right.
Andrea Bednar led us through discussion and self analysis, to better consider the meaning of wellness and self care to ourselves. She also challenged us to set goals and attainable tasks to go home with and continue the search and practice ourselves. Nancy Wilcox guided us on her journey of motherhood and sharing, showing us that sisterhood or personhood is possible beyond blood lines, and friendships can coexist with conscientious commitments.
And that is exactly what happened during our inaugural conference. Guides reached across the table to work with one another and shared tips; people gave and people received on equal footing. Being able to participate and be amongst such a dynamic, generous, and energetic group made me feel more motivated to share, contribute, and help build. Truly getting to know everyone and experiencing the common bond of people working to improve themselves and their surroundings was an inspiring moment that I am sure we can recreate and multiply as time marches forward with this beautiful group!