Alka Arora, Annette Williams, and Arisika Razak, faculty of the online MA and PhD in Women's Spirituality.
Campus News

Women Rising!—and Making Waves

The Women's Spirituality program celebrates its 25th year with a dynamic gathering

Kris Malone Grossman October 23, 2018

We  all form part of a uni-verse, a collection of individual notes in one continuous song; the song that sang all life into being." —Sherri Mitchell, from Sacred Instructions:  Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change

Co-creating a visionary culture and activism that promotes a plurality of voices. Honoring every person's innate divinity. Sharing audacious dreams for creating a more just, equitable, and humane world. These are but a few strains of the potent song raised up at  Women Rising! New Visions for a Post-Patriarchal World, a dynamic two and a half day day conference held at the California Institute of Integral Studies, October 12-14, 2018.

Sponsored by the Women's Spirituality program, now celebrating its 25th  year, Women Rising! gathered about 200 visionaries, artists, scholars, caregivers, activists, and changemakers together to share new and traditional systems of knowledge  for building a post-patriarchal world from the ashes of the burning world of hierarchy and oppression.

Healing and Transformation

Underscoring these and other key tenets of Women's Spirituality, keynote speaker Sherri Mitchell, indigenous rights lawyer,  author, activist, and  founding director of the Land Peace Foundation, called upon us to honor our ancestors and future generations, while calling out the harmful effects of patriarchal systems on all living beings, including the Earth itself. 

In her keynote address, Mitchell, who asserts that everyone  "possesses the ability to shed their illusion and see the world as a unified whole," stressed the inextricability of social justice and spiritual practice, emphasizing that is incumbent upon each of us to embody love, compassion, and empathy, tools critical for enacting transformative global change and healing all Creation. 

It is a theme reflected throughout the  Women Rising! conference weekend, which included more than 40 breakout sessions committed to sharing tools and strategies for dismantling all oppressions.  Women's Spirituality-rooted themes included: Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformation; Sacred Mysteries, the  Arts, and Imagination; Earth-Based Ethics and Relationships; Spiritual Activism and Liberation; and Goddesses, Female Deities, and the Divine Feminist.

Among the many highlights:

  • Opening ceremonies led by Ohlone Kanyon Sayers-Roods, with drumming and chanting by Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits (BAAITS) 
  •  A special  "Once and Future Goddess"  art exhibition curated by Tricia Grame and Mara Kelle
  •  A ceremonial concert by Jennifer Berezan and Friends, featuring Evelie Posch and master drummers Carolyn Brandy, Barbara Borden,  Adwoa Kudoto, and Sena Kugbega
  • From Eve to Me, a one-woman play by Amy Jo Mattheis;
  • The Eahr Joan Legacy Lecture: "ReGenesis: Three Million Years of Sacred Female Iconography"
  • A screening of  The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, followed by a discussion with trans activist Victoria Cruz and executive producer Joy Tomchin, moderated by Michelle A. Marzullo, Program Chair of Human Sexuality at CIIS
  • "Simple Praise," a musical performance by Valerie Joi Fiddmont and Annie Stafford, with special guest Gaby Esensten
  • "New Visions for a Post Patriarchal World" plenary panel featuring Alka Arora, Starhawk, Eri Johnson, Genevieve Vaughan, and Sunshine Michelle Williams reading the words of Ladale Benson.

Women's Spirituality core faculty member Arisika Razak commenced closing ceremonies with a powerful  Spirit Dance to the music of "Spirit Dancer" (composed by Carolyn Brandy and sung by Rhiannon) that embodied sacred artistry, the Divine Feminine, and love. Vocal activist Melanie DeMore continued weaving these threads, leading an exultant closing Song Circle, igniting every soul in the room to raise up her/their voice in song. With a refrain of joy, spirit, solidarity, and love, the chorus formed a  song that, in Sherri Mitchell's words,  sang—and continues to sing—all life, and a post-patriarchal world, into being.

Making More Waves

Women Rising! continues to make  waves, including at the CIIS Laurence S. Rockefeller Library, which will soon house 200 titles for a Women's Spirituality 25th Anniversary Library Collection, chosen for the first-ever Women's Spirituality Book Awards. Plans are underway to make clips of plenaries and performances available on the conference website.

Learn more about Women Rising! and the Women's Spirituality program.

Photo credit: Gaby Esensten Photography. Esensten is a M.A. student in Women, Gender, Spirituality, and Social Justice.

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