The GirlfriendismTM Retreat is an annual event that is hosted in honor of National Girlfriend’s Day on August 1st with alternating locations between the U.S. Virgin Islands and a global destination. This year’s international experience was made possible by the 31 women who sponsored their attendance, U.A.W.O., The XauSky Group LLC and My Girlfriend’s Closet/Girlfriendism. Donations were also made by the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (USVIEDA) and contributions to the cultural exchange were made by Designs by Regal.
About the Founder:
Khnuma is the mother of two princes, owner of My Girlfriend’s Closet St. Croix and Founder of GirlfriendismTM! Khnuma is a full time entrepreneur and student who holds a B.A. in Communications and Dance from Hofstra University, an M.A. in Education Guidance & Counseling from the University of the Virgin Islands – St. Croix Campus and is currently a PhD candidate at Capella University where she is completing her dissertation on domestic violence and dance in partial fulfillment of the PhD in Advanced Studies in Human Behavior.
What inspired the vision of The Girlfriendism Retreat?
The Girlfriendism Retreat stems from the overall Girlfriendism concept which is inspired by women, created by women, and ALIVE because of women. Our mission began in part when we opened My Girlfriend’s Closet in 2011. Now…while, I am the sole owner of My Girlfriend’s Closet, I always say ‘we’ because the mission was never about me – it was always about honoring the women who came before me, celebrating the women who are with me and envisioning a ‘living energy of empowerment that would continue to grow in the women after me through the movement…but I digress! When we opened the boutique our slogan was ‘Empowering Women through Fashion, Faith, and Friendship’ but fast forward…we realized that our boutique evolved to more than a place to shop.
In 2020, there were many changes that occurred due to the pandemic including my decision to resign from my full-time job as the Executive Director for the Territorial domestic violence and sexual assault prevention agency to focus on the business. To say the least, I am offering an expedited version of this transitional process but as we say in the Caribbean, ‘to make a long story short (lol), I essentially had the opportunity to reflect deeply on what my business meant to me and WHY I was called to intentionally immerse myself in it.
Ultimately, I realized that it was this ‘thing’ called Girlfriendism – a term that the girlfriends who have supported us over our nine years in business at that point had created to describe the ‘feeling’ that they experienced every time they shopped with us or supported our girlfriend events. It is through this reflective process that I realized that Girlfriendism is more than a ‘thing’ – it is a legacy of what is created when women can be their authentic selves and genuinely support, celebrate and embody women’s empowerment. From that, our mission has evolved to a seven-layered business that provides services through Girlfriendism Fashion (My Girlfriend’s Closet), Girlfriendism Fitness (SoKh Caribbean Dance Fitness), Girlfriendism Wellness (The Annual Girlfriendism Retreat), Girlfiendism Business (Training in collaboration with The Xausky Group), Girlfriendism H.O.P.E. (The Non-Profit, Philanthropic Arm of Girlfriendism that is a Project of the St. Croix Foundation) and Girlfriendism Travel (International Girlfriendism Retreats & Group Travel For Women’s Businesses). Having taken the risk of following my passion full-time AND expanding the business through multiple facets, I wanted an avenue to share fearless energy that encouraged women to follow their passion by engaging with other women who were on a similar journey while highlighting sister entrepreneurs who have dared to do the same and have done so while supporting the brand. To accomplish this, I wanted to create an intimate space that offered a concentrated version of the broad range of services that we offer while providing a ‘safe escape’ for women to detach from the chaos of their daily routines and submerge into self-love, reflection, and sisterhood through intentional experiences crafted by women, for women. From these desires, the Girlfriendism Retreat was birthed!
You have taken groups of women all over the world with your retreat, can you share what message you hope every woman walks away with?
For starters, women…particularly Black women…specifically Afro-Caribbean women…especially women in the Virgin Islands…CAN live, laugh, and love together! The stereotype that Black women cannot get along and are ‘catty’ is simply not the experience that we have witnessed in the last eleven years of business, and it certainly wasn’t our experience in Greece. In fact, the energy was so powerful and radiant, that our group was voted ‘best of the year’ by Culture Holidays/ Tour Greece, and everywhere we ventured, folks responded positively. This speaks to our ‘light’ as a collective and this is the narrative that I want Girlfriendism to represent for all women but especially for Black women.
Secondly, I want women to learn to prioritize themselves and trust their intuition. As women (and this includes anyone who identifies as such too!), our femininity is led by our intuition and in turn, our intuition is guided by our soul. Because our souls are unique and cannot be replicated, that means that when we tap into our souls…our authentic selves…anything that we create will be fueled by our energy – because it is why we were created! So for women who trust us with the Girlfriendism Retreat journey, I want them to know that what attracts them to this brand is simply a reflection of who they are: beautiful, kind, courageous, daring, spiritual, powerful – all things positive! Likewise, it is that same intuition that will inform them of what opportunities to take, which opportunities to be still and think upon and which opportunities are intended for another chapter of their life. We are all that we need. We were born equipped and now we just have to trust ourselves, tap into our intuition, embrace what makes us different and celebrate others who are doing the same (and/or are on the journey to do the same) – the Girlfriendism Retreat has been a joyful space to do that!
Who is this retreat for, can you share a little about your target audience?
Sorry, I’m not sorry – Black women! While Girlfriendism is all about women as a whole, as a Black woman with Afro-Caribbean roots from the often overlooked yet predominantly Black lead territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands, my efforts are inherently about the women who reflect what I see in the mirror. Beyond that connection, however, is the reality that Black women – whether in the U.S. Virgin Islands or abroad – are dynamic leaders in their homes, communities, and societies yet, our history and realities have not always reflected that truth. So while all women are welcome to attend the Girlfriendism Retreat, based on many factors including the origin of the movement (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – historically known for the Crucian Fireburn where four women lead our islands and enslaved Africans to our own emancipation through a revolt and massive fire burn in 1848), our retreat is inevitably created with Black women in mind.
You just wrapped up your second annual retreat, can you share a little about the experience with us?
Absolutely! The Girlfriendism Retreat in Greece was epic on many levels as we hosted a successful experience with an intergenerational group of women ranging from ages 22 to 76 with diverse backgrounds in business from the U.S. Virgin Islands and beyond! One of the many highlights from this endeavor was the cultural and business exchange for women of color hosted in partnership with the United African Women’s Organization of Greece (U.A.W.O.) whose mission is to create awareness of various issues concerning African women and their children living in Greece; support and fight for the rights of second generation Africans in Greece; explore and incorporate the rich African woman heritage into the rich Greek heritage; and to work hand in hand with various social, NGOs and other organizations that stand for justice, anti-racism efforts and equitable society for all. This collaborative event launched the retreat activities and highlighted both cultures as we were adorned in V.I. Caribbean madras and the African women of Greece who represented various countries from Sierra Leone to France to Albania and beyond, wore their traditional African attire as well. In addition to introductions, business information exchange, and collective conversations on women’s empowerment, we also engaged in traditional African drumming and dance, authentic Greek hors d’oeuvres, cultural gift exchanges, and presentations on diversity, equity, and inclusion by the U.S. Embassy in Athens. Essentially, while we the retreat offered the opportunity for personal and professional expansion through travel, we connected with women in business and literally begin building relationships with girlfriends around the globe while simultaneously, putting the wheels in motion for our 2023 Girlfriendism Retreat on St. Croix (which we aim to have 50% of girlfriends from the Territory and 50% from abroad – so yes, you are invited!).
What is next for The GirlfriendismTM retreat, what will 2023 bring?
Anything that the universe has to offer – we’re open! As of now, we are extremely grateful that our first international Girlfriendism Retreat with 31 women from the U.S. Virgin Islands (some residing in the territory and others stateside) in Greece was a success and we are already in motion preparing for the third annual Girlfriendism Retreat which will be held in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our desire is to continue connecting the women that we have met all over the world by inviting them to visit us in our home as we continue to visit theirs during future international retreats. As such, our desire is for the network of Girlfriends to grow and double the attendance while also honing in on the areas of self-love/relationships, legacy building, investing, and entrepreneurship in 2023! Beyond that, we have already begun expanding our Girlfriendism Travel team so we can host retreats for couples, families, and spiritual growth as of 2023 and we are also exploring options to open the boutique in a second location. To say the least…we’re up to good mischief so stay tuned!
How can women in entrepreneurship support The GirlfriendismTM brand?
In the words of one of our U.A.W.O. 2022 Girlfriendism Retreat attendees (from Greece), ‘Girlfriendism is Black Joy!’. In order to support the Girlfriendism Brand, we encourage women in entrepreneurship to first and foremost, find their inner joy so they can, in turn, radiate this joy in their families and communities and especially, in their relationships with other women. In doing so as a collective, we can co-create the spirit of Girlfriendism all over the world while also attracting other brands that are doing the same in their own unique way. Then, we’d encourage women to engage with us – to collaborate through support and/or invitation – by visiting and subscribing to our site at www.girlfriendism.com where they can keep posted on all that we have done, continue to do and how they too, can be involved. Lastly, they can show their support by following our social media pages and handles: Facebook and Instagram: @mgcstx, @allthingsgirlfriendism #Girlfriendism, #GirlfriendismRetreat2021 #GirlfriendismRetreat2022 #girlfriendismretreat2023!