This year mollywhopped me — personally, professionally, spiritually and mentally. After what felt like a three-year winning streak of fulfilling side projects, multiple income streams and serious relationship growth flowing purposefully into my life, I unraveled.
Grief I thought I’d long ago assailed came leaping back; a sense of anxious restlessness I was sure I’d assuaged crept around the corner. Finally, my old, familiar companion — quiet, watchful and dogged depression — snuck through my carefully constructed self-care rituals, making a home for itself once again in my bones. Like the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, I couldn’t work, shop or sleep this away. Journaling didn’t help. Neither did a vague gratitude practice. None of my go-to distractions proved efficacious and I was alone with myself.
What I alternate between calling a breakthrough, a breakdown and an awakening has not-at-all coincidentally coincided with the creation of Moon Shine, an intentional place of rest and healing centering Black women, femmes + folks. Each painstaking step to bring this rich, soft landing into existence has been a mini-revelation for me, a hint of the magic I now know I was born to make.
Since it was conceived on a birthday visit to Los Angeles three years ago, Moon Shine has consistently shown me what it needs to be — challenging my own assumptions about my power to create the things I wish to see in the world. That fateful trip was full of mysticism, mystery and marveling at nature’s bounty. Once I got back to Washington, DC, the paltry options to shop for mystical goods were laid bare. Among them were kitschy witch stores far in the ‘burbs that certainly got the job done, but didn’t feel like home. On the other end of the spectrum, super-clean wellness spaces seemed too stringent, especially for a Black woman in an increasingly white, wealthy and unwelcoming District.
We started with a one-day pop-up. My best friend and I wanted to translate some of the juicy #blackgirlmagic that thrived in Instagram comments and on private Facebook groups to an IRL space. Super simple, super transactional. An ephemeral space never to be repeated, so we didn’t bother with a website or social media handles. We created a Facebook event page for Moon Shine and instantly saw the demand went far beyond our immediate circles.
We gathered on Halloween weekend 2017 at A Creative DC’s light-filled studio. Black women who were gifted artisans, creative conjurers and healers shared their gifts so generously to the hundreds of people — of all genders and identities — who came to the space that day.
The first summer weekend of 2018, we did it again. Same, same, same. Love, love, love.
We looked up and Moon Shine had emerged as a gathering that more than 400 people had attended and nearly 20 entrepreneurs had vended. Feedback poured in — on social, over email and, mostly, in-person. I couldn’t have a conversation of any length with someone who’d been without a mention of Moon Shine. I heard things like, “I didn’t know I needed to be there, but I’m so glad I went.” Or, “I was really busy that day, but something just kept telling me to go, so I did. And I got what I needed to help me with XYZ.”
This affirmed what I felt in my spirit: Moon Shine was needed. I needed it, sure, but so did others. What we’d created as a pop-up marketplace had organically become a social, mental and spiritual retreat. Moon Shine had a soul of its own and its mission was just getting started. Amid an intense period of self-realization, I got to work on behalf of Moon Shine. The next era of Moon Shine is a 6-week odyssey into healing goods + gatherings by Black women + femmes.
We’re taking over A Creative DC’s studio again to offer indie products from more than 15 Black women brands. The goods range from handmade hair products to stylish home decor to books by Black authors, all created with the intention of honoring our roots, celebrating our futures and holding space for our community trauma. The gatherings are intimate workshops facilitated by our healers-in-residence, who are spirit-led in modalities that range from poetry to astrology to shamanism. We are grateful to also be supported by women-owned brands centering wellness: The Sill, Dame Products, Girls’ Night In, Cultured Kombucha and more.
In typical marketer form, I struggled to box all that Moon Shine is into a single word or phrase. It gnawed at me for a while before settling neatly into my consciousness, completely comfortable and as if it had been there all along, like all good ideas. Care. We are modeling what care looks like for us.
The care gap for Black womxn is well-documented. From the Black maternal health crisis to the stinging realization that #MeToo has simply shifted the aim of harassment to more intensely impact us to the unending news of Black trans women prematurely slain, it is clear in the outcomes that we are a chronically undervalued demographic. Our lives — and by extension our well being and happiness — have not been deemed worthy of study, legislation or protection. It’s not surprising that we experience some of the highest levels of depression and anxiety, even as we struggle to receive accurate diagnoses and helpful treatment.
I was fortunate to have the support of a knowing Black woman therapist when I realized things had shifted for me. I am in the slim majority (56 percent) of Black women in this country with private, employer-based health insurance, which helped subsidize that treatment. When I feared my physical health was also being affected, a Black woman doctor listened patiently and took my concerns seriously. I was blessed to have a support system, including my sister and best friends, who validated my experiences and offered an emotional safety net. I am cared for by a network of Black women. And I’m honored to offer Moon Shine as a place for care, a space for rest and a bridge to healing.
May we all take care,
Whitney // Founder + Curator of Moon Shine