The aim of Softer Side Seminars is to bring women and girls together in order to uplift, inspire, encourage and motivate each other. Led by founder and director, Renee P. Aldrich, the fourth annual event took place at the Wesley Center AMEZ Church Fellowship Hall.

The morning portion of the day of empowerment was lead by Kim El, a local actor, poet, director, and playwright, who shared her talents with the audience by reading her poem “Shine.”

WOMAN-TO-WOMAN—From left: Jacqueline Sledge, Nikki Coffee, Vernadine McCray-Tot, Renee P. Aldrich, Celeta Hickman, Tia Baker, Kim EL, Lakisha Wolfe and Erin Perry (Photos by Rossano P. Stewart)

The program, intended to challenge women to enter into a “softer, more loving relationship” with themselves, included an opening talk by Aldrich encouraging women to shed the weights that prevent them from spreading their wings to fly. The women were then invited to participate in a journaling exercise where in three segments; participants wrote affirmations about themselves and were invited to read them.

Several women expressed gratitude for blessings in the areas of health, success for children, professional transitions and spiritual well being. In the next segment, they were instructed to write an affirmation about a sister-friend or relative who has made a significant impact in their life. In the third segment, they were instructed to write about an old hurtful thing they wanted to put behind them. They were instructed to tear the page out and throw it away, symbolizing casting away that hurtful thing and moving forward.

As an activity in conjunction with the Wesley Center Women’s Ministry, Aldrich also partnered with the women of the Ujamaa Collective; the creative energy and artistry of this group, added a special dimension to the day. Tia Baker, manager of the Ujamaa Collective Boutique at One Hope Square in the Hill District, led the journaling process and the afternoon portion of the event, which included a collective dance started out by Celeta Hickman, president of the Ujamaa Collective.

Participants also witnessed a skit which was essentially an informational piece on heart and breast health, these were presented by Jacqueline Sledge, of the American Cancer Society, and Nikki Coffee, who is involved with the American Heart Association. Other presenters were Tammy Thompson, of Neighborworks Pennsylvania, and Rhonda Fleming of the Women’s Center and Shelter, who spoke to participants about financial education, and the importance of protecting themselves from Intimacy Partner Violence.

Aldrich says she began the program four years ago as a forum for sharing the Softer Side Seminar Message with women and also providing an opportunity for participants to hear other voices on topics particularly relevant to issues that face women and girls that impact self esteem.

The guests across the board felt that the morning and afternoon was time well spent.

“The variety of topics and the organization of it was very thorough and empowering.,” Marlon Overton, of Chartiers, stated. “I feel different in a positive way from the experience.”

Joyce Rollins, a local Traci Lynn Jewelry representative and Emerald director, said, “It was informative, well-orchestrated, and enlightening. I thought the dancing was beautiful and it was nice to participate in a corporate dance. I applaud Renee’s efforts to make a difference in the lives of others.”

The Softer Side Seminars is 8 years old, but the Woman to Woman Symposium will celebrate its 5th year in 2012. Aldrich said, “I hope to step up the activity and next year may include a male voice in the manner of self-esteem in women. Men can give a perspective that women and girls don’t always see.”

When asked how large she wants this to get, she said, “I thought I wanted 100 or 200 participants, but I’ve found it is good to have 50 or 60 who are able to connect with the concept, and leave with a different perspective and headed into the direction of enhancing their sense of self.”

Softer Side Seminars will host its “It’s a Lavender Affair,” a celebration of Moms, daughters and other women related by blood or love, in May.

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