N2N Spotlight: Wonder of Women International
Creating sacred space that unapologetically centers Black women and people
December 23, 2021
By: Aileen Balahadia, N2N Program Consultant and Elaine Chu, Senior Philanthropic Officer
During a Neighbor 2 Neighbor (N2N) virtual site visit with Wonder of Women International (WOW), we got a glimpse of their gallery space in downtown Seattle, and we immediately realized that Zoom just didn’t do justice to the kind of space so lovingly curated by WOW leadership. Some of our staff had to take a trip to see for themselves. As we walked in, you could immediately feel the sacred space created by the founder, Veronica Very, and her co-founder Hiawatha D.. The gallery exuded the presence of a safe and brave sanctuary, giving us a sense of belonging and self-identity.
WOW is one of 10 organizations funded by N2N for Fall 2021. Their mission is to restore and empower Black people by creating a beautiful sanctuary dedicated to Black love and art, that also serves as a cultural institute where they can experience hospitality, renewal, holistic healing, agricultural, and lifelong learning. This sacred space also provides leadership and learning opportunities for non-black people, corporations, and organizations to engage race and equity work at a beautiful place intentionally centering African American culture. WOW has served 1,862 Black women and girls through retreats and workshops since 2016. If you include their national work and partnerships, this number grows to several thousands.
A Culturally Centered Community Pillar
We often begin our site visits, especially when welcoming new organizations to N2N, with questions about their journey and passion for their organization. Khianna Calica, a member of WOW, shared, “With a mixed heritage and background, I needed to find a place where I could honor my Black identity, allowing all parts of me to thrive.” WOW co-founder Very also shared that the creation of the organization was borne to empower Black women and girls to stand in their truth and tell their story in a place of culturally centered healing and community.
WOW is laser focused on their community and chose to prioritize its primary services on Black women and girls because they are the ones subjected to the greatest health, economic, and racial disparities. Black women are undeniably foundational community builders and caretakers for Black people, and the exhibit’s Pacific Place location is a physical manifestation of how WOW is centering their contributions. The decision to site the current gallery location at Pacific Place in the heart of downtown was intentional. When the opportunity presented itself, Very knew it was the right location.
“We were all part of the racial reckoning uprise and protests after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. It made total sense for us to ‘take up space’ in a former Victoria Secret store in the economic corridor of downtown Seattle where the streets were filled with protestors demanding change,” Very said. “This is our way of protesting for healing and mental health through stories and art. Because the power of Black women should be seen, and their voices should be heard in boardrooms and every vital space in the heart of the downtown financial district.”
Reaching and Empowering More Black Women
N2N support will allow WOW to continue the central work of the WOW gallery as a space of community healing, engagement, education, and mobilization. These activities empower Black women through sisterhood connections, support, affirmations, love, leadership, and other skills. This kind of healing allows Black women to grow stronger and more liberated to be leaders, thinkers, and activists in the quest for a healthier life and community. These women in turn will strengthen and empower their communities, their families, their workplaces, and friends.
While reflecting, Very proudly spoke of WOW and its impact. “We have created a beautiful space that centers Black women and girls for the entire community to heal, learn, and be inspired by history making Black women ancestors, elders, and queens to disrupt the rotation of emotional grief and racial traumas with stories that bring us all the hope we so desperately need.”
To learn more about WOW, please visit them at: https://www.thewonderofwomen.org.
Fall 2021 Grant Recipients
The full list of N2N Fall 2021 grantees are listed below. For more information about N2N, please contact Program Consultant Aileen Balahadia at 206-250-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The full list of N2N Fall 2021 grantees are:
- BIPOC Sustainable Tiny Art House Community*: To develop and support a new BIPOC "tiny house" Residency Center in South Seattle by focusing on Artists at risk of displacement, connecting and educating the community on sustainability, homeownership models, and equity.
- Center for Ethical Leadership*: To support BIPOC South Seattle and South King County leadership development and support of cross racial and ethnic connections.
- Eagles Nest Community Kitchen*: To empower and educate Black and BIPOC youth in Kent and surrounding areas on cultural farming, nutrition, plant science, and food equity in order to improve health, wellness, and connections in our communities.
- Education for All*: To support the East African community in and near White Center's Hope Academy to engage in community healing circles around mental health via a Community Cafe model of organizing.
- Eritrean Health Board*: To support the Eritrean community in South King County (and beyond) by conducting extensive outreach and listening sessions to best understand the health concerns, challenges, and opportunities of our diverse community and guiding the future of the new Health Board.
- Flyabove Athletics**: To empower BIPOC families and youth in select South Seattle and Kent schools by connecting health and physical development through professional athletic development, health and nutrition, social justice education, and leadership development.
- Minority Veterans of America (Seattle Chapter): To deepen support for minority veterans (people of color, LGBTQ+, women, religious minorities) in our communities through the "People to People" program that addresses food insecurity and heath, increases access to necessary resources, and ultimately builds the membership of MVA to effectively advocate for our interests.
- Restaurant to Garden Project*: To support a food equity pilot project that identifies the best way to process food waste locally in the Chinatown International District neighborhood into compost for elder Asian American Danny Woo Community Gardeners to grow culturally appropriate food.
- Wonder of Women International*: To cultivate an art sanctuary and cultural space to restore and empower Seattle area Black women and people towards liberation, free from racial inequities, and invested in education, renewal, holistic healing, and learning.
- Your Money Matters Mentoring*: To support the reentry of Black and brown justice involved youth in the Kent and South King County area with culturally appropriate financial literacy education and peer mentoring with those with similar lived experiences.
*First time grantee of N2N
**Also, the first grant ever received by the organization
Italicized organizations will receive funding provided in part by Meta, as part of its ongoing commitment to support Black business, creators, and nonprofits. Learn more about our partner’s impact, here.
Neighbor to Neighbor,