Body, Soul, and Spirit: A nourishing conversation with Debra Baker and Victoria Santos

From May 17 to 19, Victoria Santos and Debra Baker will be at the Whidbey Institute hosting Nourishment: A Gathering for Women of Color. I recently had the opportunity to speak with them about the program and their vision for what women will experience here this spring. —Marnie Jackson


Victoria Santos, on how this program came into being:

I have been thinking of women of color . . . the amount of work we’re doing and have done in this society, and the amount of stress we’re carrying. I realized how important it is for women of color to come together and engage in nourishing practices. This is life-giving, and we really need to make the time to do it.

Reflecting on this idea, I asked myself, “who do I know, personally, who is living into the principles that need to be amplified right now in this culture, for all people but especially for women of color?” That’s when I thought of Debra. She really embodies a way of being that we need right now—for all of us. We ended up having dinner and I approached her about the idea. She said yes!


Debra Baker, on what women of color need:

Victoria’s proposal was in full alignment with what I had already been thinking: that women of color in particular need and deserve a place where they can heal. Then, beyond healing, a place where they can have a conversation with themselves around their leadership, how they’re showing up, and who they’re being. So often women of color are on the front lines whether we want to be or not. We never really have an opportunity to recover. We carry the responsibility of supporting our communities, feeding our families, and leading in predominantly white spaces. Self care is usually the thing on the bottom of the list.

As women of color, we’re so resilient. We can work in a harsh environment one day, then get out of bed and do it again the next morning without missing a beat. We may lead with a smile, but there’s an impact and a cost that is exacted upon us that we don’t really acknowledge. I want women of color to have a place that’s truly nourishing, a space that asks questions so that we can reflect, so we can find healing and support for our bodies, our souls, our minds, and our spirits. A place where we can eat good food and gain a renewed ability to stay in and continue to do our best work.


Victoria, on what’s being offered:

When we thought about where to offer this retreat, the Whidbey Institute naturally came to mind.  I’ve been on the board in the past and I’ve led programs there. Debra is on the board now. We know the power of that land, the place, and the space that the Whidbey Institute creates, supporting deep transformative community and transformation. When we can bring women of color together and create this community, we’ll experience every kind of nourishment including the delicious, healthy food that is always part of Whidbey Institute programming. That’s the space we’re carving out and committed to offering.

We’re starting out with a very spacious schedule on Friday morning while people arrive. Women will have ample time to orient to the space and eat lunch together. From there, we’ll move into engaging in circle conversations and dialogue, doing some meditation and walking, journaling, and practicing other kinds of somatic awareness experiences. We want to be able to access different parts of ourselves. We’ll play and move, and we’ll access our joy. Women will experience a wide range of offerings to help us both unwind from all we’ve been carrying and tap deeper into our own wisdom and the energy of the field we’ll be cultivating.


Debra, on the power of connections:

Those who attend will do this together with women who share some of the same purpose and heart intentions. I believe we’re going to develop connections while there, so that women can walk away from the offering with a sense of community.

Women of color face a lot of shared experiences and challenges in our culture. We will co-create space through our experiences, and use this common ground to help us feel into what wants to emerge. Victoria and I are  feeling supported by the gifts we have in common, and by the work of planning the retreat.


When we access our own deep resources, we touch freedom, power, and joy. When we are fundamentally nourished and when we integrate genuine self-care into our daily lives, we also grow our capacity to help shape a healthy culture that truly works for all of us.

Victoria, on “why”:

I keep going to “why?” Why a space specifically for women of color? When we come together as women of color, there’s a shared acknowledgement and an understanding of what we face living in male-dominated society where whiteness is the standard. We’re creating a space for letting.release, deep rest, inquiry, and the healing of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves. Creating such a space is not an indulgence, or something extravagant.

When we access our own deep resources, we touch freedom, power, and joy. When we are fundamentally nourished and when we integrate genuine self-care into our daily lives, we also grow our capacity to help shape a healthy culture that truly works for all of us.


Last notes:

Scholarship support is needed to help make program participation possible for all those who wish to participate. Everyone is invited to donate, and all women of color are invited to apply.

In terms of economic well-being, women of color are statistically likely to earn less money and have more demand on their income than men and white women. Your donations to this scholarship fund are greatly appreciated. Email [email protected] to contribute.

Program details, including costs and registration instructions, are available at

January 30, 2019

People & Partners
Social Justice