By Sierra Lewter, Ashanea Parker and Karla Lozano
Alley Gant spends most of her weekday time with victims of sex trafficking.
She described the common misconception, which she calls “boyfriending.” Young girls, who are mostly runaways, meet boys who say they love them, but soon they also tell them they have to sell their bodies to survive.
It can be traumatizing work, but Gant uses her Saturday mornings for her own mental health. She drove 45 minutes from Upper Malboro, Md. to Northeast Washington this summer to participate in a “H.E.R. Healing” workshop series.
H.E.R. Healing was started by longtime modern dancer Rosalynd Harris, who goes by Ra Nubi. It aims to bring women together through the practice of self-love and expression. One of the workshops is Hall of Flow, which is facilitated by Danielle Simms, who goes by Dani Uni.
“There is a rich ancestral part of healing…that doesn’t involve going to talk about stuff to someone who is the ‘expert,’” says Gant, who has a master’s degree in social work. With the workshop series, “You’re the expert and you’re here.”
Simms’ workshops encourage participants to free their true selves and break out of the expectations society places on women.
Simms has always been interested in spirituality and astrology, but often found herself in spaces where she didn’t feel comfortable expressing those interests.
The first 18 years of her life were “filled with craziness,” Simms said. Her mother was bipolar and had a terrible temper.
Simms began living with a “mother figure” when she could no longer live with her mother, but that woman kicked her out of her home when Dani turned 18. She realized then that, “you never know what’s going to happen.”
She began looking to herself for her own emotional support and started focusing her spirituality. Her mental shift led her to developing Hall of Flow – free form movement that includes mirroring activities – to give other women a space to explore their spirituality.
The workshops took place at Femme Fatale, a clothing and accessory pop-up shop that focuses on empowering women. Through July, it was on the fast-gentrifying area of H St., NE near Union Station.
Yasmin Radbod, Femme Fatale’s owner, said women needed their “own space we were in control of.”
Her idea began October 2016. Radbod was a musical artist who became increasingly frustrated with unpleasant interactions with businessmen. Her breaking point came when a man told her that she would only be able to get a job with him if she performed sexual favors.
Since then, Radbod has devoted her time to creating a safe space for female entrepreneurs like Harris, Simms and others who teach hula hoop dancing and sell clothing and accessories. Although the ventures are still in the beginning stages, Radbod says they are dedicated to expanding to reach as many women as possible.
Edited by Kai Sinclair