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The Safety of Space & The Shape Up Returns Today at Lee's

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

The Start. A new miniblog series.

The Safety of Space

I have a confession. Safe spaces make me braver. During the height of the pandemic, when all of my systems in place had failed, I stumbled upon a new safe space that not only celebrated the best of me but also graciously made room for the failures, the uncertainties, and the messiness of trying to figure it all out again. But there was something super unique about this safe space- my problems were never immediately countered with advice or easy solutions. Instead, the hardest days were met simply with grace and this ongoing reminder of who I am and the things I have been able to accomplish so far. In turn, I was able to heal and recollect within this environment and find my own feasible solutions, regain my own clarity, and find my own footing. New levels of strength and courage were unearthed within me that will serve me for the rest of my life.

By the time the Fall of 2020 came around, Starting With Today had been paired with our new capacity building specialist, Sawida Kamara, through our Fair Chance partnership. I had leaned fully into sharing the challenges I and SWT were facing due to the pandemic and the immeasurable loss within our communities and families. And you know what Sawida’s response was to my ''everything is broken” session?? She said, “Let’s talk about your strengths, tell me what you are excited about, tell me about your vision for the next phase of SWT.” You may not know this, but in the nonprofit sector, training and conferences typically focus on your weaknesses, so to have dedicated time to explore strengths was a surprisingly, yet extremely necessary step. Those weekly meetings with Sawida have changed the trajectory of Starting with Today and reminded me that even in chaos, I can still reimagine and rebuild without boundaries.

In hindsight, though I didn’t have the language then, strengths-based programming has always been my approach to SWT and our community. We have always established trust through radical transparency and authenticity. And while we have cultivated safe spaces since launching in 2014, we believe the need for emotional safe spaces are even more critical to the wellbeing of our community. It is with this at the heart, that we are passionately moved to return to our beloved community safe space, Lee’s Barber Shop in Southeast D.C., for the return of The Shape Up. Here we will share all the lessons gained from this pandemic as well as our hopes and dreams to create a better and liberated future…for the entire Black collective.

How do you cultivate safe spaces in your family? workplace? communities? ~Charlyn

Founder Charlyn Anderson holding mic at The Shape Up at Lee's Barbershop
provided courtesy of Candi Williams Photography

The Shape Up Returns to Lee’s Barber Shop

Hopefully you are following Starting With Today on social media (links at the bottom of page), so this isn’t news to you! If you are in the D.C. area, join us for this special return of The Shape Up!

While I will be laying the foundation, The Start will be a community-centered miniblog series focusing on real stories & real people. Stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, catch up on all of our podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, & Soundcloud.

Copyright (C) 2022 Starting With Today. All rights reserved. Our email address is:

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