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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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New student organization ‘brews’ a space for cultural healing, individual expression

Jennifer Igbonoba | Staff Photographer
New student organization SoulfulBrewing encourages students to find comfort in healing while sipping on herbal beverages.

A new student organization allows students of color to converse about their cultures while sipping tea and creating nontraditional art.

The SoulfulBrewings Club promotes cultural healing among students of color through journaling, discussions about individual experiences, and activities like sharing cultural music with brewed tea. Zaraia Fabunmi, a sophomore and the president of the organization, co-founded the group late last semester after feeling like other cultural campus groups met too irregularly to form connections.

“I would go to meetings for these clubs and they would only happen once or twice a month and because they were happening so infrequently, I wasn’t getting a chance to really meet and connect with the other people of color on campus who were a part of these orgs and wanted to,” Fabunmi said.

Cultural healing is a process that seeks to reconnect individuals to the strength of their communities, especially ones that have faced historic traumas, according to the Network for Public Health Law, a nonprofit organization focused on public health policy. Generational trauma refers to the inheritance of stressors, often the result of harmful experiences, from one generation to the next and can present itself in different ways, including PTSD and anxiety.

Fabunmi said they asked the group’s financial officer and co-founder — Xochitl Barragan, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice who also felt something was missing from existing cultural organizations — to help create SoulfulBrewings.

“That’s really impactful to what it means to reconcile with yourself and be a person of color, or a queer person, or whatever intersectional identity and fill that role of leadership that is often taken away from you or is not often an opportunity,” Fabunmi said.

The organization also created a “cultural healing box,” a repurposed blue shoebox covered with glitter paper and decorative tape, where students can anonymously submit topics of discussion each meeting on cultural issues or traditions like how to make puff-puff — a Nigerian pastry — without fear of judgment. 

“The point of the box is really for it to be a learning experience and people can put in whatever they’d like and as long as it gets drawn, we’re going to do it as wholeheartedly as possible,” Fabunmi said.

Fabunmi said the group’s next meeting, during the week of Jan. 22, will focus on New Year’s resolutions regarding the positive and negative aspects of cultures and families. Fabunmi said they hope SoufulBrewings will host all-day retreats at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters for members to meet each other and visit new places in the DMV area.

“It’s a place that people can feel safe and feel like they’re a part of something and feel like, if GW doesn’t have your back, we have your back,” Fabunmi said.

Barragan said the group currently has 18 members on Engage but 27 in the SoulfulBrewings’ GroupMe chat. She said members plan to include tea for attendees to drink at the organization’s meetings as well as icebreakers and questions written by herself meant to generate conversation about aspects of members’ cultures that may induce prejudice or employ stereotypes, like traditional views of women or LGBTQ+ people.

The group’s first meeting, which took place a week before winter break and hosted 21 attendees, included introductions, three icebreaker questions, an exercise identifying cultural norms and a prompt where students wrote down what made them angry — followed by crumpling the paper for other members to later read aloud. Barragan said journaling prompts like the paper-crumpling activity are ways to evoke conversations about how to heal cultural harm, characteristics of a culture that may cause some of their community members to feel unsafe in their identity.

“We had a set of questions that prompted us to think about things in our culture that harm us and things like that, and that’s a way of healing,” Barragan said.

To end the meeting, Barragan said she gifted each attendee a “Mal de Ojo” or evil eye bracelet — an eye and belief in various cultures that looking at the eye will cause misfortune but when gifted as an offering is meant to deter negative energy. Barragan said the group plans on incorporating activities like cooking sessions and sharing meaningful items from various cultures as a form of bonding, adding that cultural healing does not always have to be “heavy.”

Junior Bongani Ndebele said he enjoyed being in a room with other students of color, especially with those who have a shared experience involving racism.

“There aren’t a lot of spaces like that at GW where I felt comfortable to talk about my experience with race, especially my experience as an immigrant, which has different challenges with regular American racism,” Ndebele said.

Camille Murray, a sophomore and a member of the organization, said the diversity of cultures represented in SoulfulBrewings makes it stand out from other intended safe spaces on campus. Murray said that she observed people from African, European, Asian and Hispanic backgrounds, among others, at the first meeting.

“There is an opportunity to connect with a lot of people that are not in your culture, but are willing to learn your culture and aspire to it,” Murray said.

Negest Fisseha, a sophomore and member of SoulfulBrewings, said she hopes the organization continues to grow because of the diverse community it cultivates.

“It was such a fun experience, and that was only the first meeting, so I’m really excited to see where it goes,” Fisseha said. “I’ve already met so many cool people from that.”

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