By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
Throughout history, people of color have gathered at the water for healing, cleansing and revitalization. Chapter four of the Book of John speaks specifically of Jesus traveling to a town in Samaria, where he sought relief from his journey at Jacob’s well. There he encountered a Samaritan woman and spoke to her of a `spring of water within, gushing up to eternal life.’
For 10 years The Living Well (TLW), has provided sustenance for leaders and healers in Baltimore’s Black community, other communities of color and progressive communities during one of the most critical times in the city’s history.
TLW (located at 235 Holliday St., downtown) is “a community development entity that uses art as a vehicle for individual and community change and empowerment,” according to the website.
“Seeing a vision come to life is amazing,” said Maurissa D. Stone-Bass, TLW’s Social “Artrepreneur.”
“Our mission is to create social and economic vibrancy. TLW’s value as a “safe space” came about by way of engaging community assets such as artists, healers and thought leaders and providing them a platform to build and serve the community. For me, it was important to hold space for truth telling.”
Kenyatta Macon-Moon, a holistic educator and yoga and mindfulness practitioner is one of the vital members of the healing community that has used TLW as a platform to facilitate wellness.
“TLW is so important to the community because it consistently serves as a container for diverse elements of what the city needs,” said Macon-Moon, who is the founder of Holistic Living by Keny Moon. “Run by Black Women, it is a loving and dynamic space where in any given day one can practice yoga, learn something new at a workshop, strategize social policy at a changemakers’ meeting, then close out the night celebrating life at a party.”
Some of those parties at TLW have featured some of the most dynamic artists in the world, including Baltimore-based singer and community leader Navasha Daya, filmmaker Julie Dash, musician Vinx and “photovangelist” Saddi Khali.
Stone-Bass, who worked in academia and community development prior to bringing forward TLW, purchased the business (the original location was on St. Paul St., in Charles Village) from Nilajah Brown, another leader in Baltimore’s healing community.
“I just wanted to support access to social capital and space to build, celebrate and grow,” Stone-Bass said. “I took a leap of faith and built out a space in the middle of the recession in 2009. I wish I had invested in a space that I owned. We really need to own our own bricks.”
Stone-Bass, a native of Washington D.C., with family roots in Baltimore, utilizes what she calls a shared leadership model, which provides opportunities for growth in multiple arenas. “Having access to competent space has been a huge benefit to our local healers, change makers and artists such as Nneka Nnamdi, Munir Bahar, Changa Onyango, Menes Yahuda, Jonathan Gilmore, Ama Chandra, Petula Ceaser, Michelle Stafford, Reuben Green and Dominic Nell, to name a few,” said Stone Bass.
“The Living Well is one of the obnoxiously few spaces in Baltimore City where people of color don’t need to buy alcohol, or foodstuffs to feel at home,” said Changa Onyango, Associate Director of the Alliance for Community Teachers and Schools. “It may well be the only non-church facility specifically dedicated to people of color to gather. It has lately been recognized that space to congregate, a.k.a., a refuge from White supremacy, is a social determinant of health. The facility’s owner is deploying a “patient capital” business model.”
After a decade of service, inspiration and healing, TLW looks to grow its territory and imprint physically and metaphysically.
“As cultural curators we will always serve as a sacred space in community,” Stone-Bass said. “We are looking to expand our footprint in the city and the region.