~ By Jennifer Johnson, Empowerment 4 Girls Board President
Left to right: Claudia, Grace, Jennifer, Iris
Women who danced just enough...
I come from a long line of womxn that did what was needed to survive and thrive in the times that birthed them. Womxn that planted trees for shade, grew flowers to attract pollinators, harvested grapes before making wine. Women who danced just enough while the soup simmered all while caring for their neighbors’ children so that other women could thrive, nourished by the salty soup of community.
These humble heroines marked their houses in secret as safe places for travelers needing food, while humming a little gospel under their breath. They dressed their salads with eggs and salt, smelled of rising bread every Sunday, held my green eyes with their green eyes, honoring the power and pain that a woman must endure in her lifetime, no matter the time of life. They talked about God as an active force for good, healing, nature and compassion. They talked about God as he but allowed all of the questions from a child certain that god is a she and a me and a we.
Power with the softness of warm bread...
The womxn of my lineage wielded their power with the softness of warm bread, powdered cheeks and moistened lips. They led their lives as leaders of their families and their communities and though I may be the only one that remembers their names as we celebrate Womxn’s Herstory, they are my herstory, and I am a continuation of their generous lives, mighty and small. Viola, Grace, Roberta, Gertrude, Paula...they lift me on their backs, ancestors to my kin, holy in their simplicity.
My womxn taught me that prayer is an act of love, that abuse can be forgiven but never tolerated and most importantly to read, rest and listen as though my life depended on the ability to read, rest and listen. Their creative life force continues to feed my own creative life force and I teach my daughter that abuse bears no responsibility but to the abuser, that forgiveness is an act of love that is given only by free will and that reading, resting, listening and feeding oneself is self-care. Self-care is the way that we as womxn, descending unbroken from this long line of hard-working, gospel-humming, hip-swaying womxn, survive and thrive.
Everyday of our lives, may we give thanks to the womxn that birthed us, raised us, become us.
Image by jmanuelito from Pixabay
Shifting Toward Greater Equity for All
The entrenched patriarchy we are working to shift away from, towards greater equity for all people, even shows up in the word for our collective past; history. We’ll refer to it from here on out as Womxn’s HERSTORY Month, to help reframe the importance of womxn in building our past, present and future societies. In keeping with our commitment to recognize all people who identify as female, we use womxn, in place of woman/women, to free us from the externally imposed position as sub-man, and to acknowledge and uplift our LGBTQ+ sisters, past, present and future, who have done (and sacrificed) so much to re-direct the narrative from a binary view of the world to a pluralistic reality best represented by x.
We are living in unprecedented times; from our first womxn of color as Vice President of the nation; to a deadly pandemic; to violent suppression of people’s rights to peacefully assemble and address common grievances with our government; to the rise of white supremacy and violent assaults against the people and institutions of our government. As difficult as the challenges are, these are exciting times to be a womxn, and we are presented with a great opportunity to build on the work Empowerment 4 Girls is doing to affirm the self-worth of all girls.
Sharing Herstory and Shaping the Future
Womxn’s Herstory Month began as a project of the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women, in 1978. Hundreds of students from dozens of schools across the county participated in an essay contest, presentations at schools, and culminating in a parade through downtown Santa Rosa, California with marching bands and thematic floats to celebrate Womxn’s Herstory Week. This project sparked a movement as communities across the country started adopting Womxn’s Herstory Week as part of their public celebrations. With the advocacy and efforts of women led by the National Womxn’s Herstory Project, the US Congress was pushed to recognize these events with a proposal for a resolution to declare a National Womxn’s Herstory Week. President Jimmy Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation on February 28, 1980 declaring the week of March 8th, 1980 as the first National Womxn’s Herstory Week. The National Womxn’s Herstory Project further urged the US Congress to declare March as National Womxn’s Herstory Month, in perpetuity. With bipartisan support in 1987, National Womxn’s Herstory Month was voted into existence, and since 1995 every US president has issued an annual proclamation designating March as Womxn’s Herstory Month.
Womxn have continued to struggle for acknowledgement for our contributions to all aspects of our development as a species, and we continue that struggle today. Taking a single month out of the year to focus on and celebrate the stories of womxn who’ve led the way or stood out in the fight for equity, respect, and acknowledgement still seems like a small drop in a vast ocean of stories that are male dominated. It’s an important month though, and we’ll be keeping the appreciation and excitement for the transformational power of womxn present in our daily social media posts, even as we keep the recognition throughout the years to come, that we are standing on the shoulders of all womxn as we do our daily work to educate, nurture and empower all girls as they grow to become drivers and participants in the ongoing shift to a more conscious and compassionate world for everyone.
Join us for this FREE ONLINE EVENT!
Gratitude Gathering, December 5, 4:00-5:30 pm pst
Every year we gather in community to express our gratitude to all the individuals and businesses that support our work in affirming the self-worth of all girls as we lead toward a world where all youth are confident, resilient and resourceful.
This year, in light of COVID19, we are holding our Gratitude Gathering online and combining it with our year-end fundraising auction. Our Silent Auction begins at 9:00 am on Tuesday, Dec 1 at 9:00 am and ends during our Live Gratitude Event on Saturday, Dec 5 at 5:30 pm.
Registration is Free: https://www.empowerment4girls.com/events.html
In the midst of all that’s been challenging about 2020, Empowerment 4 Girls was blessed this summer with a large bequest from the estate of Ina Fennell. I did not know Ina, nor did anyone else in our organization. We are deeply moved by this tangible expression of encouragement and appreciation for our mission to affirm the self-worth of all girls.
Ina worked for Olympia Parks and Recreation until retiring due to cancer at the end of 2017. Her battle with cancer ended on April 17, 2018 and it was her wish that her estate be shared among 5 local nonprofits, including Empowerment 4 Girls. This thoughtful estate planning shares Ina’s financial legacy with the organizations in her community whose work she believed in and that she wanted to support, even after she was gone. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for Ina Fennell.
In planning for this gift in her estate, Ina couldn’t have possibly known how important it would be, arriving as it did, in the middle of a pandemic. This gift came at a critical moment for our young organization as we quickly worked to adapt our in-person programming to on-line and socially distant camps, to ensure our girls stay socially supported and connected during this time of physical distancing to reduce community spread of Covid19.
I am 10 months older than Ina. She and I could have been school mates if we’d grown up in the same rural part of America somewhere. We both became legal secretaries after high school, and moved away from our hometowns after graduation to forge our own paths. She and my mom shared a distant and unknown bond as members of the Rainbow Girls. Ina and I grew up in different parts of rural America somewhere and although we didn’t know each other, we could have been friends. Yet, even without knowing each other Ina and I personally touched each other’s lives through this organization. These small connections build on each other and support the positive changes we all want to see in our small, shared world.
It’s September 2020. Pandemic rages across our planet; fires are raging across the American west; earth’s children are yelling, crying, dying for justice and equality; our mother earth is under assault by those who would enrich themselves, ignorant of the cost to people or planet. Antiquated systems of social order are being laid bare for us all to see how badly it all needs repair, so we can get on with the work of attending to those repairs. We ARE rising to this challenge! Humanity is surging and shifting to make way for a more conscious, compassionate world. Ina’s planned gift to Empowerment 4 Girls is a beautiful expression of the shift of trust to womxn and girls to guide the way forward in the face of our history, to a more just, equal and empowered world for everyone.
Ina’s generous spirit and gift of grace will carry Empowerment 4 Girls through these dark times and beyond as we continue our work to help create a world where all youth are confident, resilient and resourceful.
Blessed be and blessed rest, Ina Fennell.
In deep respect and gratitude,
Empowerment 4 Girls
Ina Davidson Fennell
Born in Brooklyn, NewYork 12-12-1961. She was the third child and her parents were much older (Father 54 and Mother 43) when she arrived. Her Father worked for RCA Radio. She lived in Florida, Kansas, and Roy, WA. Graduated from Yelm High School and attended Capitol Business College to become a legal secretary. Soon after graduating she started working as a secretary for the Olympia Parks & Recreation Department. She would always light up the room and the customers loved her. She retired from the Parks Department 12-31-2017 due to cancer. On 4-17-2018 at the age of 57 she passed away of pancreatic cancer.
In high school Ina belonged to the International Order of the Rainbow Girls and was their Worthy Advisor. She has always been an advocate for girls to be independent and respected. She was independent, owned her own home and two other properties. As a young woman she tragically lost her husband in a quad accident (he drowned trying to cross a river) after being married only a short time. Although she moved on to another longterm relationship it eventually ended. She did not have any children of her own, but loved kids. She herself struggled with some of her relationships. She read many books about relationships and sought counseling to help her understand them.
I think she picked Empowerment for Girls because she felt it was important to build strength and self esteem in girls so they are able to recognize and be empowered to make decisions on what a good and bad relationship looks like.
Ina had many friends and acquaintances and loved her many pets she had over the years. She volunteered helping to put on and decorate at many events at her work and for Senior Services which are both in the the Olympia Center building. Her mother had patronized their services before her passing.
Ina registered kids for activities at the Olympia Center and generously willed money to a program that pays for kids who cannot afford to attend the programs.
She was an avid antiquer and loved collecting anything useful, unique, or beautiful to decorate her home. She was a dreamer full of ideas clipped from magazines in her dream book for gardening and remodeling her home to incorporate all her treasures and antiques.
She was generous and thoughtful ... giving cards, small gifts or flowers to her friends as a thank you or just to brighten their day. She was always up for attending gatherings and social events. She was a beautiful person...kind, funny, and serious.
Monday, August 24: Self Awareness Day
Guest Speaker: Emily McMason 1:30-3:15 pm
“Living in a Social Media World” — It can be a great way to connect. It can also disconnect us from what’s important. We’ll talk about some cool research—the bathing suit test and the kitchen table test. We’ll look at some not-so-little laws—how old do you actually have to be to have a Snapchat account? We’ll dive into brain-behavior—what happens inside your head when your device buzzes at you? And talk about how to decide what to share on social media and with whom.
Tuesday August 25: Self Expression Day
Guest Teacher Andrea Mikita 10:45-11:45 am
Andrea is a Blue Belt Nia and Moving to Heal instructor. Nia is a holistic movement blend of dance arts, healing arts and martial arts. Connect body, mind and emotions through a journey of self-discovery, awareness and connection with the JOY of movement.
Guest Speaker: Marie Poland 1:30-3:15 pm
Heartfire Astro Renaissance: We will utilize Astrology to take a closer look at who we are. Each of us was born with specific characteristics, including the various ways we think, feel, act and who and what we are most drawn to. We will look at the location of the planets at our birth to support a greater acceptance for ourselves and our path.
Wednesday, August 26, Self Responsibility Day
Guest Teacher: Annette McQueen 10:45-11:45 am
Our world is becoming more and more complex with more and more people experiencing anxiety, stress, and apathy. Our youth have unprecedented challenges. This YOGA class will offer some movement, breathwork, and meditation to strengthen our bodies, reset our nervous system, and calm our minds. We will learn some techniques which will empower us to take responsibility for our own wellbeing and perhaps the ability to extend some guidance to others.
Guest Speaker: Jennifer Johnson 1:30-3:15 pm
Learn how to use your knowledge to clean, sanitize and make your house smell good, safely! We’ll learn how to read labels on common household products to be responsible shoppers. Learn to use, store and dispose of household products responsibly to create a healthier home. We’ll play bingo to learn about safer products and make a green cleaner to take home.
Thursday, August 27: Self Love Day
Guest Teacher: Kelli Mae Willis 10:45-11:45 am
Know thyself. Yoga is a powerful tool to awaken your inner knowing. We will use yoga, mindfulness, and reflection to deepen an inner calm, grow our self awareness, and explore the most true part of who we are. We’ll learn about neuroplasticity and how the mind prefers to hang on to the negative, and practice ways to tip the scales back toward balance.
Guest Speaker: Jennifer Dawn 1:30-3:15 pm
During our time together, we will deepen our dive into the notion and practices of Self-Love. Each of the girls will have an opportunity to write a letter to either an empowered aspect of themselves or to an aspect that was particularly challenged at some point in their life. We will write to ourselves from the wisdom, grace and insight that we really wished we had received in those moments. The girls will also have a chance to create some Post It Love Notes of kindness, encouragement and compassion to themselves and to those they hold dear to be distributed as touch stones of Love shared inward and out.
Friday, August 28: Self Empowerment Day
Guest Speaker: Sarah Meyer 1:30-3:15 pm
Building our own personal resilience is something that takes practice and attention. We never know what life is going to throw our way, so it's important for kids and adults to have a resilience practice. Much like taking a vitamin daily to make sure we have the nutrients we need, a resilience practice is very similar. In this "I Am" workshop we will explore different tools for building resilience through games, group discussions, and quiet reflection.
E4G Needs Your Help!
I’ve been honored to support Empowerment4Girls for the past year and a half. As outgoing Secretary and Board member, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask for your support.
This program and its operations are run by Kristen Rubis and Jeannine Anderson, two empowered women who are two of the founders. They are also fiercely dedicated to E4G’s continued success. And we all need it to succeed.
I’ve volunteered at some of the Empowerment Camps and love seeing the positive effects they have on the girls. From the start, Kristen sets the stage to make the environment safe and welcoming, and the girls love and trust her. It’s inspiring and encouraging to see how the girls respond, interact and ask questions about what is being presented to them.
The setting also encourages them to share their own stories and express themselves authentically. There are guest speakers who bring a variety of topics that loop back to the main area of focus: self-empowerment. There are giggles, laughs and the occasional snort as they move through yoga poses that transforms into calmness when Kristen guides them back to centering themselves and being in the moment. It’s something special to witness and be part of.
Conscious Minds, Conscious Bodies™ is the newest offering. Kristen and fellow Curriculum Committee members have spent many hours developing the curriculum, which deals with a serious and much-needed conversation with girls about their bodies. Specifically, this camp provides education about body awareness, giving participants the tools to become empowered with knowledge about their bodies, sexuality, boundaries, gender identity and much more. This powerful camp needs the chance to make a difference for our girls in the years to come.
E4G has come up against the same challenges that many organizations and small businesses have in the face of COVID-19. Funds are running low and there are salaries to be paid. While donations usually go toward supporting the programs, education and other camp-related expenses rather than administrative costs, I’d like to offer this up for consideration: Our two staff members who run the programs, pursue fundraising opportunities, keep the books, and ensure all the paperwork and accounting are handled properly are what keep the organization afloat.
They also often work far more hours than their salaries support, and every effort is being made to rectify that. In the meantime – and especially now – donations to help keep the E4G staff financially afloat will result in being able to continue to keep the E4G programs alive and well.
Please consider making a donation to support core operating costs in support of our staff members so they in turn can continue to support Empowerment 4 Girls.
Thank you in advance for your contribution.
Past Secretary and Board Member
Happy Summer Blessings to you and your family. I hope that you are feeling safe and supported where ever you may be in this beautiful world. I wish to also acknowledge any hardship that you may be experiencing during this challenging and transformational time.
As we move through a growing collective examination of the systemic injustices against Black people in our society it is gut-wrenchingly clear; we have SO much work to do in ourselves, our families, our communities and the greater world. May we learn together, as a community and as a nation, how to use our personal power to respond to and support the forces of transformative change working to bring about an inclusive, anti-racist, culturally responsive, human-centered society that treats everyone with equity, respect and compassion.
Until we see an end to the race-based disparities that exist in our society, pushing people of color to the margins of our economy, educational systems, healthcare systems, justice systems and environmental security, we will affirm BLACKLIVESMATTER. We encourage you to educate, nurture and empower yourself to be an ally and an advocate for those who suffer an antiquated system that seeks to place the value of one human higher than that of another.
We have started to read, watch, listen and learn more as an organization. We understand this will be a lifetime process. Please reach out to us with your own #BLM resources and we can add it to this ongoing list. Thank You.
Thank you in advance for your continued support during these challenging and unknown times.
In Love, Gratitude & Service,
Founder & Program Director
EXPLORE AND READ:
BLACKLIVESMATTER - Healing in Action Toolkit
YWCA of Olympia - Racial Justice
Ava Duvernay - Award winning filmmaker
Rachel Ricketts - Thought leader and outspoken champion for Black and Indigenous Womxn.
A Kids Book About Racism - by Jelani Memory
Hop Hopkins - Director of Strategic Parnterships Sierra Club
A collection of TED Talks on the topic of race
Dr. Robin DiAngelo discusses "white fragility"
13th - a Netflix original film by Ava DuVernay
Empowerment 4 Girls Zoom Sessions provide an opportunity for our girls to stay socially and emotionally connected during these challenging times of physical distancing. Yoga, art, talking circles and other aspects of our day-camps are included, along with at-home activities that will be directed by Kristen and other Guest Speakers. We understand that families may need financial support during this time. Thanks to generous donors, we have ample partial or full scholarships available.
90 Minute Yoga Sessions:
Wednesday 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Cost: $25 each or $95 for four sessions
These sessions include: Introductions, talking circle, breath work, meditation, yoga class or yoga game, sound healing and a closing circle.
2-Hour Empowerment Sessions:
Fridays 12:00-2:00 pm
Cost: $50 each ~ discounts for 2 or more
These thematic sessions include: Introductions, talking circle, yoga/meditation/breath work, art/lecture, dance and closing circle. We'll take a few minutes for feedback and end the session with our Girl Power Rocks cheer!
April 17 - Self Expression
April 24- Self Responsibility
May 1 - Self Care
May 8 Self Love
May 15 Self Image
May 22 Self Accountability
May 29 Self Expression
Dine-Out 4 Girls! Enjoy find food, great company and support life-changing camp experiences for girls ages 9 to 16. Mercato Ristorante is donating 20% of their proceeds on Sunday, March 8, 11 am to 9 pm to Empowerment 4 Girls on International Women’s Day! So while you’re enjoying your meal, you can also enjoy the fact that you are helping empower girls, their families and our community. Bring a friend and see you there!
111 Market St NE, Olympia, WA 98501
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