Shared by Smith Center and Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund

By Lisa Simms Booth, Kiersten Gallagher, and Julia Rowland

The Smith Center for Healing and the Arts and the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund (TDJBCF) partnered for an evening of healing on Wednesday, July 15. The evening, hosted via Zoom and live-streamed via Facebook Live, offered self-care and resilience resources to assist those managing chronic illness, Covid-19, or racism in this challenging time.

Smith Center Executive Director, Lisa Simms Booth said, “This year’s convening with the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund was especially poignant given the enormity of issues right now. Our guiding mission is to share healing practices that people can use to navigate times such as these and make life-affirming changes.” 

Following an opening meditation, Simms Booth emceed the evening, which featured conversations and facilitated creativity and healing sessions with Smith Center staff – Cancer Support Program Director, Kiersten Gallagher; senior advisor, Julia Rowland; and program manager, artist in residence, Tamara (Tami) Wellons. 

The evening kicked off with a moderated conversation about the night theme – healing.  Julia Rowland shared that, “For many, healing has a medical focus – curing or restoring health. However, we may need to come to a place of healing while living with illness. It was this belief that Smith Center was founded upon, that each of us has within us the capacity to heal.”  

Kiersten Gallagher added, “At Smith Center, we know that people heal in different ways. We offer a menu of programming – movement, meditation, nutrition, creativity such as poetry, writing, visual arts, and music, plus support groups and healing circles. By offering a variety of tools, people can create their own healing basket. What’s magical about Smith Center is that we offer a sacred space, a space where you can be authentic. We know that healing happens when people feel seen and heard.” 

At the end of this conversation, Rowland challenged all the participants to write down what healing means to them and to ask another friend or family member their thoughts about healing and have a discussion. 

The evening then focused on creativity, and Gallagher led the group through two writing exercises. When asked about the power of creativity, Gallagher waxed philosophical, saying, “Something magical happens when you put something down on paper and get your hands-on art materials. With writing, you can give voice to feelings with words. I can’t explain it but something magical happens in the creative process that is truly healing.” Gallagher also led the group in the creation of the collective poem which accompanies this article.   

The focus on creativity continued with a discussion about the power of music and singing with Tamara (Tami) Wellons, who shared a powerful story with the group. “Growing up, we would visit my aunt who had Alzheimer’s and she would often ask me to sing a song. She would often sing along, remembering every word even though she often would not remember my dad’s name or mine. The music triggered memories. This is how I learned the power of music.” 

For her part, Wellons led the group through some breathing exercises and a sing-along of songs, including show tunes, classic standards, popular music, and hymns. Many of the participants shared that the music touched them deeply and they felt moved by singing together. 

“I’m so happy that we were able to continue our tradition of joining Smith Center for our July monthly meeting. While we weren’t able to meet at their U Street location, we were still able to bring forth the transformative work that Smith Center is known for. I loved the idea of an evening of healing and it was an absolutely wonderful experience,” said Thelma D. Jones of the evening. 

For more information on Smith Center and its programs, please visit www.smithcenter.org or call (202) 483-8600. For more information on the next meeting of the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund, please visit www.tdjbreastcancerfund.org, email thelma@tdjbreastcancerfund.org, or call (202) 251-1639.

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