We are preparing for our inaugural pilgrimage to Avila, Spain which will include 16 people of color traveling together on a spiritual journey into the heart of Spanish history, of mystical lineage, and the complexity of history and the present moment. This journey is a dream of ours, and our pilgrims, come to life. A space to have spiritual pilgrimage in community with all POC, inclusive of QTPOC. We want to create space that has never been visible or accessible before -- made for and by POC -- and taking us deep into the heart of the mystical tradition that can inform the powerful work these pilgrims are doing in their daily life -- lifting up their communities through education, advocacy, activism and organizing, healing work, and leadership formation.
We lift up this community so that they can lift up their worlds and be a part of healing and changing the world in their everyday lives.
Below is a little sharing from a few of our Mystic Soul Pilgrims who were willing to offer up some of their own story so that you might know us better:
MEET DOMINIQUE BROWN:
I am an educator and advocate who is passionate about the power of dialogue to transform us. It is my personal mission to pursue work that generates deep connection through bridge building. I believe that people not knowing each other leads to mistrust, mistrust leads to hate, and hate fuels violence. But these powerful forces can be leveraged in the reverse to foster empathy. In my student development and community work, I have seen these positive forces at play, I am now pursuing scholarly development of these ideas through doctoral research in the Educational Leadership, Culture, and Curriculum program at Miami University. I am a true mid-westerner who grew up in what I like to call the pseudo-south near Cincinnati, Oh but on the other side of the river in Kentucky. Like the region itself I have a complicated relationship with my own mix identities. I live with my silly little dog named Princeton and am lucky to share my life with a loving group of friends and family who keep me grounded and whole.
MEET JEANNIE STONE:
Jeannie is an artist and poet who creates art that speaks of place and belonging. She uses art to challenge the infrastructure of our communities and to build richer spaces. Spaces large enough to hold neighbors who look, talk, and think differently. These beautiful spaces are sacred and magical because the land is magical and alive, still absorbing our blood, sweat, and tears, still amazing us with visions of death and rebirth. Jeannie was born to a Puerto Rican mother and a father from Arkansas on a Navy base in Maryland. After living in Puerto Rico her first three years, in 1964 her family settled in Arkansas. Her promptly forbade Jeannie and her mother from continuing to speak Spanish, her birth language. Jeannie has raised four sons, one who is deaf and transgender, and has returned to school after earning a B.A. in Fine Art and an MLA from Arkansas Tech. She is now a doctoral student studying community-building through the arts and has dedicated the rest of her life to building platforms for communities to come together and expand our notions of community and examine our understanding of neighbor. She believes if we do not succeed at creating home for every soul in our community, we are destined to wander the world homeless, unable to carry the seeds of community, unable to create a place called home.
MEET KARLA HERNANDEZ THUT:
My name is Karla Hernandez Thut. I was born and raised in Honduras. I came to the US in 1994 to go to college. I'm married and have three children. I love cats. We just got a Laperm kitten, they have curly hair and are very smart and sweet cats. I love reading, hiking, listening to podcasts, going to the Orchestra and spending time with my family and friends. I have lived in Philadelphia for almost 18 years. I'm a family therapist and also teach in a counseling psychology master's program at Chestnut Hill college. I enjoy my work very much. It's my vocation. My family and I attend a Mennonite church in the city. My husband is ethnically Mennonite. Fun fact: we have a 15 y/o, a 10 y/o and a 20 month old. Our 20 month old was not an accident! :)
MEET MANON BULLOCK:
Hi! My name is Manon, pronounced (muh-non). I am a poet, hip-hop emcee, spiritual seeker, community builder, social justice advocate, mystic, a lover of God and Her Universe. My physical home is in Indianapolis, Indiana and during the days I spend my time working at a non for profit organization which uses the power of relationships to help individuals transitioning out of homelessness, incarceration, and youth aging out of foster care, achieve stability and reach their goals.I also spend much of my time writing and performing poetry, much of which peeks into themes of social justice, such as police brutality, homelessness, rights for individuals with HIV/AIDS and many others, questions of the nature of reality, the spiritual life and the intersections of being black and woman. I deeply enjoy the quietude and tranquility of nature, collecting and listening to vinyl records (jazz among my favorites), experiencing various kinds of foods from all over the world, loving on my dog Lilly (half Dalmatian, half English pointer) spending deep time with my friends and loved ones, traveling and reading books. I am always having an affair with a several books simultaneously. Anything by Rumi is fair game.
MEET BRIANA QUARLES:
I'm Briana Quarles, a 1st grade teacher from Charleston, SC by way of Seneca, SC. I'm passionate about creating equal opportunities for children, particularly those who are queer, of color, and/or have a lower SES. At my school, I am in contact with hundreds of young minds every day and have the power to positively influence the direction of their lives with my words. I take that power seriously and try my best to use it for good. I truly believe that I am teaching leaders who will change the world for the better. Growing up, I have always had a deep admiration for the earth. I grew up near the mountains in a heavily-wooded area with lots of lakes and wildlife. As a child, I loved animals and was conscious of my own footprint on the earth. As I got older, I became more conscious of the relationship between the food I eat and the earth. The Lion King was my favorite movie growing up and I clung to the idea of the circle of life. The earth provides us with everything that we need and in turn, we should be giving back to the earth. Everything in life is divinely connected.
MEET ALLISON JOHNSON HEIST:
What I do: I'm a program officer at a Minnesota-based social justice foundation and in graduate school at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities for my master's degree in leadership for social transformation. I'm an active member in my church and serve on a national board for an organization that works toward the equitable redistribution of wealth, land and power. I am a busy person but relationships fuel my drive, so I make time for people and things I care about. In my spare time, I help raise money for causes I care about in my community, including supporting women and people of color to run for local office. What I love: my spouse, food!, travel, my 5-year old goddaughter Frances, the water, reading and learning about the Enneagram (I'm a 1), and staying active through yoga, Crossfit and running.
MEET JEANETTE SCHIPPER:
Hi, my name is Jeanette, I am Mexican American. I have 3 doberman pinchers (Lacy, Cleo, and Magnum), I have 3 children, Marcella (21), Austin (17), Liliana (11). I am care taker for my mother, whom lives with me too. I am married to a handsome blue eyed Dutchman. I am passionate about what I believe in and put 100 into what I do. I am a fierce advocate for mental health, LGBTQ, and Racial justice. I believe that love conquers all. I reject exercise. I love wine and dark chocolate. I am interested in political theology and liberation theology. I enjoy painting and occasional poetry. "I just want a lobster tail" is becoming my life mantra.
MEET REGGIE WEAVER:
I am an organizer, son, friend, and growing contemplative. My people are black slaves in Alabama, who became sharecroppers then domestics, educators and entrepreneurs. My life began in a community called, “Liberty Park.” Today I am trying to find my way back there, not in a literal sense, but through my own liberation from trauma, white supremacy, and self-destructive patterns.
MEET KAREN WARD:
I'm Episcopal priest, nonprofit arts director (Portland Abbey Arts), and beloved community organizer in Portland Oregon. I'm a friendly introvert, thinker and dreamer, who seeks to turn dreams into reality whenever I get the chance. When not plotting revolutions, I enjoy time with a friends, film, sci fi of all sorts, camping in the NW, travel, food, tea, and amateur laptop DJing.
Images of some of our pilgrims - left to right: top row 1: Jeanette, Manon, Jeannie, Dominique; bottom row: Briana, Reggie, Allison, Karla