Imagine a local community café filled with 15-20 women of all ages and races sitting at tables discussing with strangers the struggles in their lives. Imagine the energy these women are sharing of hope, of understanding, and personal experiences. It is a room with open dialogue to support character building and an exchange of ideas.
This scenario, not imaginary, unfolded at Breaking Bread Café in North Minneapolis on August 29. Medtronic Foundation, Appetite For Change and Breaking Bread Café hosted it.
Katie Troyer of the Medtronic Foundation said, “The idea came [because] there are [only] a few community spaces [where] Black women and new mothers…get together to talk about trauma, healing, our personal relationships with food and how that all plays into how we deal with our trauma and how we heal. [We also talked about] self-care and well-being and being able to have honest conversations about all of those things because they are such intimate personal topics to talk about.”
Because good food and good conversation go well together, the women ate dinner as they talked about the challenges they face each day. The meal included barbequed chicken, beef brisket, black beans and rice, collard greens, cornbread, salad and desserts. AFC’s Community Cooks platform prepared all the food.
Troyer told MSR, “It was an awesome experience, because women opened up about past trauma and having to deal with their mental health on a regular basis. [They also] talked about some of the things they have had to overcome and how they do their best to thrive in a world where new moms and women of color often face day-to-day challenges.
The media and the dominant culture tend to paint Black women, especially mothers, as those who have not dealt with or faced trauma. Troyer said, “I was not surprised by this, but it was really empowering [at the meeting] to know that a lot of the women in the room have identified ways that they can commit to self-care.”
She continued, “I also think it was a great opportunity where the questions were asked, ‘Do you face anxiety?’ ‘Do you face depression?’ Almost every woman in the room raised their hand. I think these are the types of spaces we need to continue to destigmatize this idea that you can’t be a strong woman and also face mental health issues.”
One woman shared she had recently started going to therapy and how was is changing her life. When asked if it was helpful, she replied, “I don’t mind putting my feet up on the couch and talking.” The crowd laughed at the thought of how real that response was.
Devon Nolen spoke about the importance of journaling. “Even if it is only six sentences, try it,” she said. “ I definitely am not a person who takes time to write things down, but I think just starting with even that will be helpful.” Nolen also suggested chi gong, an ancient practice that focuses on breathing and healing.
“A lot of us don’t even breathe deep,” she said. “We don’t breathe from our diaphragm. We get stuck in shallow breathing. Breathing from the specific chakra is important for healing.” Something as simple as taking time to breathe is a coping strategy that has worked since ancient times.
The setting of people, food and conversation provided a great outlet and venue for women with different experiences to come together and “break bread.” Food is healing, conversation is healing, and sisterhood is healing. Medtronic, Appetite For Change, and Breaking Bread Café are working together as catalysts for dialogue, an avenue for community healing and encouraging sisterhood.
For more information about Medtronic Foundation, go to Medtronic.com/us-en/about/foundation.html. For information about Appetite For Change, go to appetiteforchangemn.org. For Breaking Bread Café contact, see breakingbreadfoods.com.
Brandi D. Phillips welcomes reader responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandi Phillips is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.