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Creating healing spaces and communities with Kisai Henriquez of Comm(UNITY)



Have you ever been burnt out? Work gets increasingly overwhelming, your boss is toxic, you’re underperforming because your environment sucks the energy out of you and you’re just over it!


I don’t know about you but I’ve been there at different points in my professional and personal life. What’s interesting to note though is that being surrounded by the right people with a positive mindset and sense of clarity can perform nurturing yet healing wonders that transform you from the inside out.


That my friend is the power of community, the power of unity, and the power of healing.


Today's guest Kisai Henriquez aka Frisco Sunflower has spent over nine years devoting her life and time to creating the healing space, Comm(UNITY), where folks can feel rejuvenated, revived, and restored. Stay with me as she shares her life-changing and empowering journey with us.


I believe the takeaways here today is to don’t be afraid to put in the work of healing and self-development. As human beings, let us always strive to live a healthy and balanced emotional, spiritual, and physical life. It’s even more achievable if we find shared spaces with people on the same mission as us and that in and of itself is Comm(UNITY).


Feel free to leave your comments below and share your journey to healing and wholeness.


P.S. Did you miss out on the goal-setting workshop from last week? I'll be offering the virtual workshop online so you can set your own goals for the year. Sign up for the mailing list to be the first to know when it is available.


Connect with Kisai and Comm(UNITY):


Resources Discussed:

Root to Bloom - Holistic training for service providers


Show Notes:


Question: Introduce yourself and tell us why and how you started Comm(UNITY)?

I am Kisai Henriquez the daughter of Nancy Valencia, Jose Henriquez, Nora Ortiz, Pete "Elegua" Rivera, Isabel "Chavela" Henriquez, and Jose "Cookie" Henriquez. You can describe me as San Francisco born, bred, and buttered, my nickname is Frisco Sunflower.


I was a case manager for Huckleberry's CARC, which is a community-based justice diversion program here in San Francisco, supporting youth at the point of arrest. And so at that time, my coworkers and I would often, you know, go out after work, to decompress the process and to talk about what we were going through in our lives and work. Doing work in the juvenile justice system is challenging because it's an oppressive system.


I realized after much reflection as well that we often are fighting over the same money but we aren't organizing or collaborating. Neither are we given or creating opportunities to connect and build relationships. It occurred to me that it’s our responsibility as individuals to do that on our own.


I then started talking to my peers about creating meeting spaces that support each other, and care for each other. Everyone thought it was a great idea and that was reaffirming for me.


We began at one location and it evolved to be more mobile. It centers on us building community within this field and also our collective healing and care. The offerings in Comm(UNITY) consist of monthly community builders as I call them. And that’s the foundation of Comm(UNITY). I also partner with Raynelle Rino of “Hike It Out Coaching” to offer personal, professional, holistic transformational training called Root of Bloom.


We’ve done special events or workshops retreats and also healing hikes thus incorporating nature and the outdoors. The aim is to focus on doing more system change and working within organizations to center our health and wellness versus just the work we do and being productive.


Question: You mentioned being mobile, is that because of COVID, or was that already happening?


So being virtually mobile is in the land of zoom meetings due to Covid. However, another layer of mobility is the fact that the community builders are hosted in a different neighborhood in the city and in as many locations as possible. I strive for it to be in the communities we live and work in.


There are so many beautiful people, places, and resources that need to be explored. Meeting at the varying location, it’s a way to expose people to places that they may already be in touch with or to expose them to someplace different. It’s also a medium to help uplift businesses that have been in existence for a long time. I do focus on places that are not new for example, gentrifying type spots-that represent the displacement and gentrification that we've been experiencing in the Bay area and places that are already kind of rooted in community work.


Question: Tell us about Comm(UNITY) members. You often describe them as lovers, healers, hope dealers, change-makers, anyone who is helping their community to shine?


In the past few years, I coined these words together and I think they're empowering and affirming. I’ve always battled with what titles do I use to describe who's a part of Comm(UNITY). So I often say community workers, service-based providers, educators but it’s not limited to those persons only but anyone who encompasses the labor of love that we do in our communities.


The people that come to the community builders are part of the training or can relate to whatever offerings we have. These are also people who are already doing radical work in their professional lives, tapping into their potential and personal power.


They’re looking for a space to connect, learn, share, build, and create. We have folks that are healers and have been doing therapy, holding healing circles, uniting people through the ceremony, and different indigenous and ancestral practices. There's actually a couple that they met at a community builder. They both work in the education system and eventually got married. It’s not a dating scene but to know they connected via mutual interest is very much beautiful.


Question: Comm(UNITY) is all about healing. So the things that jump out to me are Tarot, astrology, and meditation. How do you personally play with these modalities and how does it show up in the community?


In the community builders, I try to diversify my offering of Comm(UNITY) to anything that is accessible, expansive, and dynamic. I focus on things that I incorporate into my life and what others are also doing that we may not get exposed to in our workday. I love connecting with nature both in my home or outdoors and being in the Bay area where we are surrounded by nature, there are lots of opportunities to connect with nature and listen.


On a spiritual level which I think incorporates meditation and astrology, I utilize the medicine or tools that I own in my daily life. I’m a lover of affirmations and mantras. Mantras are sometimes what helps me to sleep. I just repeat them. Being connected with my ancestors is pivotal to me and in my spiritual practice, I indulge in meditation, tarot, and astrology. These are tools that are helpful for us to not only heal and take care of ourselves but also to connect deeper to ourselves and our spirit.


Question: Talk to me about expressive arts and creativity.


There are multiple ways to be creative. I think expressive arts is just one way and it's more hands-on which is easy to do when we were meeting in person or incorporating multiple people.


One activity I’ve hosted is to get leaves that had already fallen, then you would cut shapes out similar to papel picado, but it's using the leaves. You can do whatever design you want to do, cut it with the scissors, break it by hands, and then attach them to a string and then hang them up.


Also, we have done collective affirmation making together. So those are kind of the ways to bring in expressive arts, and it subtly challenges people.


On zoom, there are fun things you can try to do to make things more engaging but I found online to simplify things and it feels almost like a healing circle, even though we're in these square boxes, but that's the energy that we can create. I want to add that the community builders are co-created.


I’ll help hold the space and develop the theme or their activity and sometimes I partner with somebody to do it, but it's semi-structured. I don't control it too much. I have things planned and prepared, but it's very flexible and fluid. Especially when we're meeting in person, I just let people do their thing.


Question: Especially with the events happening in the Capitol this week, I would love to talk to you about how Comm(UNITY) incorporates activism into healing. How is it serving the activist community and then how do healing and activism relate to you?


This is a really powerful one. Activism or organizing is doing change work and what I've grown to believe is the value of the work that I'm doing in Comm(UNITY) is integrated into one. The idea of creating and curating spaces for us to connect and build and to be exposed to a different kind of caring and healing modalities combined with the opportunities and experiences; that in itself is activism.


Being in this field of the helping profession, our care, our needs, our personal lives, our harm, trauma, and pain is placed at the center as well. Our well-being and need to evolve and heal from those experiences are also connected to our professional lives. The reality is, we're humans working with other humans in their human experience so it overlaps. I think that working to center our healing, care, and relationship building is going against the grain of only focusing on productivity. All of that is naturally integrated into activism and healing.

Uplifting people who are doing the work is really powerful and strengthening. I think that a form of activism is not letting my ego get involved so I often share the resources that exist for people so they can choose what they want to tap into. They're getting exposed to all the work that people are doing to make our communities more loving and caring and be liberated by that.


Question: Can you share what has been the biggest challenge in growing Comm(UNITY)?


The most challenging or the most potent is believing in myself. I think loving and embodying my truth, power, magic, medicine, and doing that unapologetically is challenging. Irrespective of the various entrepreneurial activity or creative projects people engage in; they may not realize it all the time, but that could be a challenge or a barrier. The more healing work prioritizing our care and needs; the greater the shift you'll see.


Another challenge that isn’t necessarily unique to Comm(UNITY) is shifting the narrative and creating something that's against the kind of the culture, the norm, or against the grain, so to speak and in a field that focuses on productivity and work instead of the balance of self-care or healing which to them should be done on your own time. In actuality, the less that we're taking care of ourselves and healing ourselves, the more pain that we're going to perpetuate into these communities that are already experiencing harm and oppression.


Question: How can people find you and get involved?


I'm open to collaborating and partnering with people in different ways and exploring what makes sense for both of us and the community. People can reach out to me about that and any resources people want to share for example board games donations, any useful material is welcomed.


You can find my website at communityunitysf.org and on Instagram: Communitysf.

So that’s a wrap, folks. I believe the takeaways here today is to don’t be afraid to put in the work of healing and self-development. As human beings, let us always strive to live a healthy and balanced emotional, spiritual, and physical life. It’s even more achievable if we find shared spaces with people on the same mission as us and that in and of itself is Comm(UNITY).


Feel free to leave your comments below and share your journey to healing and wholeness.


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