Reflections from PJC BIPOC Retreat

The beautiful view from Knoll Farm

The BIPOC members of the PJC staff, board, and racial justice advisory committee spent August 28-31 at beautiful Knoll Farm in Fayston, Vermont. Knoll Farm was generous enough to donate this weekend to the PJC along with many other BIPOC, those fighting for racial justice, and essential workers as part of the Be A Refuge program. We spent the weekend connecting with each other and the land, but mostly relaxing and enjoying just being. Some of those who participated in the retreat share their thoughts and reflections on their weekend at the farm.

Yvonne, Kina, Sasha, Indi, Joshua, Aris, Kahlia, Jayna, and Hien

Aris Garcia (PJC staff member): What a blessing this time was to my soul. Thanks to donors to Knoll Farm’s “Be A Refuge” campaign, nine BIPOC from our staff, Racial Justice Advisory Committee, and Board of Directors were able to safely stay for four nights at the refuge. The view was serene and inspiring, and the expanse of the mountains allowed space for my mind to be free. It’s not often, or ever, that BIPOC have the opportunity to truly rest their bodies and decompress their hearts in a space that is safe and expectation free. 

Our time together created the space for us to connect how we couldn’t before. For me, the laughter we shared was the medicine I had not realized I needed so desperately during this pandemic. My deepest gratitude to all my fellow attendees. My batteries are recharged because of my time with you. Thank you.

Yvonne and Indi with the sheep

Yvonne Lory (PJC Racial Justice Advisory Committee member): I was so grateful for this generous and timely opportunity by Knoll Farm through the Peace & Justice Center. In a time of constant distress and exhaustion, this was exactly what I needed to find healing and grounding time away from my home and work. For the first time in years, I had time to reflect and focus on myself. I felt so fortunate to connect with BIPOC individuals living in Vermont. Along with tears, we had great laughs that truly created a safe space to share meaningful experiences and concerns, leaving me with a bond that may not have formed as quickly in another setting. The entire experience was also supported by the outstanding views from the farm along with positive interactions with staff who provided healthy, delicious meals. It was one of a kind retreat! 

Joshua Oyetubo (PJC Staff): Knoll farm was a wonderful experience. It was an opportunity to reflect and set intentions for the upcoming year. It was a space apart for healing and connection for the BIPOC communities that we represent. Outside of workshops and circle talk groups, there was a deep bonding over food, friendship, and freedom. It was an honor to share the space and legacy of Knoll Farm with Peter and the rest of the Peace & Justice Center/ Racial Advisory Committee.

Sasha Morrissette (Racial Justice Advisory Committee member): The Knoll Farm Retreat was an enlightening, healing, communal, grounding experience. It was much more than I had imagined it to be. The family-oriented staff was friendly and available to connect with us, sharing their stories and experiences. I was fortunate enough to also be able to bring my 11-year-old daughter along. This was an incredible experience for her as well. She really enjoyed the yurt, swings, and hot tub during our stay. She also enjoyed the farm animals as well as connecting with others around the campfire. 

Aris, Kina, Indi, Yvonne, and Sasha with the sheep

I feel rejuvenated and happy to have made a deeper connection with those who also attended. Friendships are important to me, yet I have been trying to avoid them due to a demisexual aspect of myself, as well as my sexual orientation. I used to wear my heart on my sleeve, but I have become much more reserved and reluctant to allow my love to flow. But, I found myself growing fond of the friendships I had formed and chose to open up. I shared the state of my heart, slowly breaking down the walls I had built, and allowing myself to be vulnerable to the love I had to offer in those moments.

We both enjoyed the Knoll Farm gift shop and I was excited to purchase a Fair Trade solar lantern from South Africa. These lanterns were set along paths to help us navigate our footsteps when the sun had set. I am also so incredibly grateful for the delicious farm-fresh food served three times a day! It was truly a blessing, and I look forward to returning one of these days.

The water temple

Kahlia Livingston (PJC board member): The Knoll Farm retreat was the perfect getaway after months of craving a much-needed vacation. The land was well-nourished, rich with culture, and provided serene energy. The hosts of the farm were incredibly loving and welcoming, and the food was great. Hot tub 10/10.

Kina Thorpe (PJC staff member): The weekend at Knoll Farm was one of the most amazing weekends I have had. It the midst of a global pandemic, the uprisings in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others, and the other horrific things happening in the world, a weekend away to connect with other BIPOC was beyond needed. It served as space for us to disconnect from the rest of the world (almost literally because there was only Wi-Fi in one place), mourn the state of the world, and hold each other as full human beings. There were many people on the retreat who had not met each other in person, only through video chatting, so the connection that was built just from being in the same space was meaningful. Sitting around a table and share a meal with people for the first time in a long time was something that I hadn’t realized I had missed. I am thankful to the folks at Knoll Farm for providing us with such a wonderful, safe, and connective weekend.