A couple dozen young women rose early Saturday morning, wiped away remnants of midterm stress and headed to the Washington Johnson Complex for a retreat. SiHLE stands for Sistas Informing Healing Learning Empowering and also means “beauty” in Swahili.
Every attendee was given a SiHLE shirt, calculator and pen. The big wins were $50, $100 and $150 Visa cards. The audience of beaming brown faces was reminded that African American women are the fastest growing group of HIV cases, so the bulk of the retreat encouraged sexual safety, appropriate responses to carnal advances and risk consideration.
The organization hosted a one-day workshop designed to uplift women and intervene by spreading pertinent information. Ladies leisurely consumed two continental meals and won freebies during the raffle.
Program coordinator and advocate Dana Howard told the audience that contracting a life-threatening illness “.devastates more than just you.” Though a disproportionate amount of Black women are affected, she did not advocate shame. Instead Howard reiterated the validity of self-love and pride.
She encouraged the audience to view each other as sisters, share information and to behave accordingly.
“Stand together. Be together. Take this to another level.”
In a classroom, a verbal vow of confidentiality bound strangers to one another. Students agreed to an unofficial what-happens-here-stays here rule.
The workshops consisted of get-to-know-your-neighbor games and improvised scenarios.
Participants swapped anecdotes and answered personal questions. After the first session, everyone reconvened and ate. The room buzzed about the delectability of the meal and the new chef who catered it.
Of the event, campus liaison and grant overseer, Joyce Guy was content. The level of participation and the enthusiasm that the ladies displayed encouraged her. Any female student who missed the event and wants to see a SiHLE program, must do gather about 10 interested young women and contact Howard for a session. She can be reached at (318) 436-1837.