Meet Karmay, the woman behind healing circles for women of color: As I walked into Heal Haus, there was Karmay, greeting me with an inviting smile and warm hug. I instantly felt the spirit of a young woman who was filled with compassion, love, confidence, and poise. Karmay is the founder of Gloetry Assembly, where she provides safe, non-judgmental spaces for women and girls to experience deeper connections with themselves and create sisterhood through women circles. Talking about boys, work, clothes, your most recent vacation or turn up is cool, but having conversations that are “substantial and soul filling” was something that Karmay says was missing. With a force of courage, Karmay decided to invite a group of friends, who had never really met each other, to come together under one roof and simply share. Little did she know, she would be starting a movement that wouldn't only affect her inner circle but would impact many other lives. Black + Well exist because of individuals like Karmay, here is her story.
What made you start Gloetry?
It wasn’t for the sake of like “Oh I need to create a space for women” ...it was more-so like trying to fill a void that was missing in my life. It was at a point in my life where I really needed community, and I really needed connection and space for self-discovery and retrospection. I didn’t feel like there was anywhere I could go where I could get that. In my mid-20s, hanging out in the bar scene and conventional spaces that young people went weren’t really speaking to me at that point in my life. I wanted a space where people were genuinely interested in meaningful conversations deeper than the surface level.
What triggered that need for something much deeper and meaningful?
After working at Yelp for 4 ½ years as a sales manager, I felt a deep desire for self-discovery and reflection. After you get settled in a career you're more than likely to get stuck in that profession. And I was like… I’m not sure if I want to do this forever. So when I left I was like well what else am I gonna’ do? where else am I going to contribute? where do I belong? When I left I was like okay... I belong to nothing, I belong to no one, I belong to nowhere. I was going through a bit of an identity crisis, although a very privileged one (she . smiles and chuckles). I traveled a lot and was able to find myself. Then I had a moment where I specifically asked God “What is my purpose?”. He then revealed Gloetry to me in three separate situations, amongst three different friends and it was like BOOM! I need to bring my friends together and just see what happens.
What makes Gloetry stand out from other women circles?
I intentionally wanted people to have space where we don't simply share relationship stories, stories about your worst tinder date, but to actually dive deep and walk away with at least one epiphany. We have to show the ugly, messy, vulnerable parts of ourselves in order to get to that space of like… Wow, I REALLY see you, I REALLY hear you, and allow that raw nakedness and exposing of self to take us to the next level of awakening. The whole meaning behind Gloetry is to raise collective awareness and collective consciousness.
Were you someone who naturally always spoke up and stepped into your truth?
No, not at all. I was actually someone who didn’t speak up. I was very much afraid of using my voice. I had learned at a young age to not do that. I came from two amazing parents who struggled with emotionally sharing, so my emotions and feelings were very stunted from being shared. I grew up being a child who just listened, obeyed and did what I was told. I saw how that dynamic showed up in my career and how I related to authority. However, my mom was someone who spoke up for herself and advocated for herself whenever it was time, so it’s a very interesting contradiction in that way. I did realize I struggled with speaking my truth in the face of authority, whether that was jobs, bosses, boyfriends, anyone who had some sort of “power” over me, that was my narrative. Gloetry has put me on a path of totally pushing out everything of who I was.
When was a time you had to speak up and advocate for yourself?
One day my job gave a white guy a promotion over me, who wasn’t performing as well as me. I went to my boss and was like… “Hey why did this person get a promotion when their numbers aren't as good as mine?” It's a pretty obvious thing in sales because you can actually see the numbers. She responded with “Oh I didn’t think you were ready”. Long story short, she ended up having to promote me because I approached her about it to her face.
Yes, girl!... So I know you host a circle for women from all backgrounds, but most recently created one specifically for women of color called Soul Sister Circle. How has that been?
Wow. With the Soul Sister Circle, the vibe and energy is just different. The circle keeps getting bigger, and I’m realizing that soon we’ll need a bigger space to accommodate our capacity. We’re getting the most inquiries with the Soul Sister Circles because if you look at all the women circles its recently become a very “white thing”. It’s typically a lot of white women. In London, California, Australia, Canada, literally all over, all white women. I haven't connected with another black sister who does the same work.
What made you decide to create this additional circle for W.O.C?
Spirit came to me when I started Soul Sister Circle. They came to me and said Karmay, you have to create a space for women of color because it’s time for us to connect with the unconditional love which we came from and which we’ve forgotten. We have a different layer of healing than white women. We cannot do our healing unless we take into account the generational aspect of it and ancestral part of it. In order for us to move forward as a people, we have to acknowledge what happened to those people in the past because we are the extensions and expression of those people who came before us. We truly are. All their pain, good doings, wrongdoings, is literally flowing through our veins. If we come from a place of love we’ll experience life joyfully, but if we come from a place of lack and unworthiness and inadequacy, inferiority and a general sense of aloneness then we’re gonna go through feeling as though life isn’t here for us, and a mistrust. Unfortunately our past is tied into the separation of our families, everything was stripped from us and slavery wasn't that long ago! I mean it ended in 1865, that's only a couple of hundred years ago, so our grandparents are still living embodiments of that time period. So there's a lot of expressing that they weren't able to do that we are now doing for them.
I hear you previously mentioned God. Did you grow up in a religious or spiritual family?
No, not at all. However, I did grow up with a grandmother who would always make us say our prayers every night, you know the ‘Our Father prayer’. God was always talked about. I remember being nine, and I renounced God, and I was like God does not exist! God is not there for me! Had one of those moments that I’m sure many others have at that age. I ended up having a dream that night, and I’ll never ever forget it. Ever since that dream I never doubted again. I’ve said my prayers every day for as long as I can possibly remember after that. I truly believe that is what keeps my family alive and well, that's why my grandmother is 100 years old. I realized the institution of the church isn't necessarily for me, but God and spirituality will always be for me.
What was the dream about?
I remember I was in this glass house as a child. But it wasn't me as the child, it was someone else. And it was a dark figure that came into the house. A very dark but benevolent ghost, and he was like... “I heard what you said, and I’m going to show you something”. He took me around to different scenarios of how we're supposed to be as humans, how we're supposed to treat each other, and why we’re here. The ghost went to tuck the child back in bed and the child asks “Are you leaving?”. The ghost said, “You may not see me but I’m always going to be here, I’m always going to be with you”
Wow, that's a word. A lot of people are into saying “The Universe” and using crystals and other forms of spirituality. What’s your take on that?
Well, my parents did meditate, and my mom had her crystals. My grandparents were very conservative church folk. As a child, we absorb so much, so I just kind of blend it all and find that balance between both practices.
What can we expect next for Gloetry?
Well, I’m honestly just figuring it out as I go. There is no blueprint. I really want Gloetry to have a household name in NYC before anything else, by continuing our circles at Minka and Heal Haus. I also want to expand our reach to more school programs for girls. We also work with young girls 7-13 weeks, depending on what the school needs and we do 2hr workshops with girls ages 10-15 to learn more about their sense of self, who they are, and helping them define their values and worth on their own terms. I started that group because a lot of what we talk about in these women's circles always stems back to childhood. And I’m like, what if we could actually start getting girls to talk about this stuff at a young age, what if they already begin the introspection process at age 10 or 11. Where would humanity be then?
That's so amazing and necessary work for our young girls and communities. I really love that. When did you begin this?
I piloted the program last year with 5 girls and it was just amazing how these girls opened up. I had a mixed girl in the session and she would always wear her hair back, she was very insecure about her curls. You know, at that age when you don't really know how to manage your hair, and it's just all frizz? She hated it. And through the workshop which is all about self-love and self-acceptance, she began to wear her hair out towards the end of the program. That was so amazing! Now she's wearing braids, doing all this stuff and truly trying to explore herself. And the girls that I have now, they never want this program to end. I mean seriously, they always ask if I’ll be back next semester and next year. So I really want Gloetry to be in more schools!
What about your Corporate Culture Workshops?
Ok, so corporate wellness became a thing because yoga and meditation became a new hot thing. A lot of corporate spaces now offer yoga as a perk with your corporate job. That's great, but yoga and meditation are still very individual. When I meditate that's my own experience, I'm connecting deeper with myself and I’m finding peace, balance, harmony, and spirit within myself. What's being said now is that the antidote to depression and anxiety is a connection, connection to other people. Loneliness is actually more of a killer than cigarettes. So it's like if you're doing yoga and meditation that’s great, but you still need to talk about that experience with someone, you still need to be able to express yourself and be vulnerable and release whatever is inside of you. So I would really love to see corporate companies start bringing in sharing circles like Gloetry, and let's start changing the culture, and stop making our lives such isolated incidents, because in reality we are so interconnected, we are so much more than ourselves. I believe the world is craving that inter-connectivity. The world is in such an interesting place. We have this unusual paradigm with like so much connection with Instagram and Facebook. I can easily speak to someone miles away, in a whole other country, but like how often am I really talking to that person? Commenting on a post and liking photos doesn't fill that void. It's this interesting paradox of so much connection resulting in absolutely no connection. The core of us as humans is actually being face to face, in a physical space, and sharing.
How do you stay true to your core values with Gloetry?
By just sticking to the ethos of Gloetry that we're not just going to give you this cute thing, and hand it to you in a bow. Wellness is not a cute thing. Wellness is messy, wellness is raw, healing is messy, healing is raw, healing is not a perfect smile, healing is not pretending everything is ok, healing is not trying to keep it all together. Healing is really showing what you're really going through. I think too often wellness is shown as this cute, bow-tied present handed to you because of it being marketable and profitable that way. That's not what Gloetry represents. What Gloetry means to me is finding the light within yourself so that you can spread your light to others. It’s interesting because it has the root word ‘glow’, and it ends with ‘tree’. I really believe that's what we are. We are growing and rooted in the earth. We are all trees, we are all connected to each other by our roots. So Gloetry is a very spiritual and symbolic word in itself. We call everyone who comes to our sessions ‘Glo-trotters’. It's essentially about being a support system for all women’s mental health.
Azalia L. - Wellness Advocate and Coach, Founder of Black + Well
Like this article? Tap the share button below to share with friends.