“I love my husband. He is my rock. But my girlfriends are my sanity.” How many of you remember Michelle Obama’s message, which we shared as the inspirational quote alongside her portrait in our first issue? This newsletter is powered by sisterhood, and that same loving, amazing Black girl energy can help each of us to power through tough times and push forward toward health, prosperity and happiness.
In August, for Sisters’ second anniversary, we invited readers to enter this essay contest for a chance to win up to $2,000 in Visa gift cards while celebrating Black women’s special and sustaining friendships. From all over the country, you sent in photos of your besties and gal pals, along with sweet, surprising and inspiring stories. You found the love of [your] middle-aged life, started modeling at 66, beat breast cancer, completed a half marathon at 53, healed grief, prayed together, got healthy together. I read every single essay and discussed your trials, triumphs and transformations with our team. Picking four winners wasn’t easy, but it was so affirming of who we are when we bond together.
If you’re ready to make a positive change — starting a side-hustle, losing weight, committing to fitness, creating a support network — let these lovely ladies show you how it’s done. When we support each other as Black women, we’re all winners. Congratulations!
Essays have been edited for length and clarity.
Grand Prize: $2,000
Tonia Kinsey, 51, New York
Sisterhood Helps Me to Keep the Faith
My sister circle keeps my mental health intact and helps me progress toward health and wealth goals. I know many of these friends through First Corinthian Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York.
We established a virtual check-in on Zoom. Weekly meetings give us the opportunity to share helpful information, see one another’s faces and discuss our days, good or bad. We lost two women in our church due to COVID 19, so we make sure this check-in happens. We also have a wellness group-text. Some people live alone, lacking support systems or the tech savvy to connect with social media.
It is important that we take care of one another.
Sometimes, we share tips on how to minimize stress, how to identify triggers of stress and anxiety and even contact information for Black therapists. We also share information on starting small businesses at home, to increase the income in the household and to be able to sustain ourselves during this pandemic. We share recipes, coupons, free events, yoga classes. It is important that we take care of one another. This has assisted me with my everyday tasks, knowing that I am not alone when I am feeling down, anxious or depressed. We cry together, have virtual brunches together, provide food for our seniors, as well as others. I thank God for my gal pals.
First Prize: $500
Yvonne Andall, 66, Georgia
Sisterhood Helps Me Stay Healthy as I Age
My "tribe" as I love to call them is a group of 13 sisters I met through GirlTrek.org. We are retirees ranging from 52-80 years young. We all walk together for our health. We call ourselves the Retirementville Trekkers.
These ladies and I encourage each other to do and be better. We have insightful conversations as we walk. Absolutely no drama. We converse about issues pertaining to Black women and our society in general.
We walk together. We call ourselves the Retirementville Trekkers.
We have traveled to cross the longest U.S. extension bridge — the Gatlinburg SkyBridge in Tennessee. We also climbed Stone Mountain and Arabia Mountain and hiked several new trails. We have continued to safely socially distance and walk for our health during the pandemic.
Second Prize: $300
Lisa Price, 56, Florida
Sisterhood Helped Me Lose 90 Pounds
What a blessing it is to have besties, gurlfriends, sistahs, homegirls ... I’ve had the same crew since grade school. We even had an official organization called the Mercedes Ladies. We had the illest parties and the DJ would shout out our nickname. I giggle now just thinking about it. We grew up in a small town on Long Island, New York, and we did everything together.
As I got older, the pounds seemed to jump on me. I woke up and I was two pounds shy of 300. I knew I had to make a change and quickly. During a girl’s trip, I’d noticed that I stayed behind a lot while the others enjoyed sailing and other water sports. I asked them, ‘Why didn’t you tell me I had gotten so big?’ They replied, “Girl you are beautiful.” And, “We love you, and your size doesn’t matter.”
I was two pounds shy of 300. I knew I had to make a change — and quickly.
At first I didn’t share my plan for my weight journey but after a while I did ... and I’m glad. No pressure, just support. No annoying questions like, “How many pounds are you down?” Or, “Are you sticking to it?” Nope, not my sisters. With their support, I’m learning a new way of eating. Water aerobics has been a big part of my success, because I stand at 4 feet, 11 inches and the weight was overbearing on my joints. I cried many days but I stuck with it. It’s been a five-year journey. I still struggle but refuse to go backwards. I lost over 90 pounds, and while I’m not at my goal weight, I feel better.
As friends, we have cried, held one another, rocked and even screamed from the pain we’ve all been through. Leaning on one another makes the hard times easier. I’ve had two divorces, a heart attack and recently my son passed. I truly didn’t think I had the strength to go on, and I didn’t want to. This pandemic has kept us apart physically, but they called, prayed and sent texts. Praise God. As I felt their strength pouring into me, I gained hope.
I don’t have any biological sisters, but these ladies have shown me what true sisterhood really is. I’m a truly blessed woman of God. Love is the invisible thread that ties us together.
Third Prize: $200
Radhiyah Ayobami, 43, New York
Sisterhood Helped Me Rewrite My Life Story
I met Zoe while she was facilitating a women's circle. For a writing exercise, she gave us little slips of paper and placed a candle in the middle of our table. When each woman finished writing, Zoe burned her slip of paper in a candle flame. I wasn't happy about burning my work, so when it was my turn I said, "Why are we burning our words?" She said, "Because it's the past. Women carry so much. Go create something new, and let that go too, if you want!" She wiggled her eyebrows behind her cat’s-eye glasses and I had to laugh. I burned five slips of paper that day, and I left feeling light.
While others criticized me, Zoe said, ‘You have a right to find your happiness.’
At that time, I was a single mother raising a son, an Africana studies major and a writer exploring cultural communities. This meant that I was always worried about, reading about or discussing some sort of trauma about being Black in America. My friendship with Zoe taught me that healing can be light. She initiated me into Reiki, a practice of hands-on healing that helped to calm me and whoever else would be open to my energy. Over the years, I moved often. While others criticized me, Zoe said, "You have a right to find your happiness." She once moved from one city to another to write a play that became successful, so she understood my search for a place where I could write, raise my son and be at peace.
Once I was complaining about life being hard and she said, "So make up another one." I said, "I can't make up life just like that." And she replied, "Well who made up the one you have now?" The eyebrows wiggled again, and I laughed. Much like the paper we burned so long ago, I knew it was time to leave some things behind and create a new story. And I'm thankful to Zoe for being on the journey with me.