Love & Letters: Affirmation & Lettering Workshop With Alex Elle, Ajolique Jude, and calligrapher Josefina Sander

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Love & Letters: Affirmation & Lettering Workshop With Alex Elle, Ajolique Jude, and calligrapher Josefina Sander

By: Derika Crowley

Earlier this month, Twenty Somethin’ & Black had the opportunity to join author Alexandra (Alex) Elle, writer & poet Ajolique Jude, and calligrapher Josefina Sanders, for a day of self-care, sisterhood, and writing at the Love & Letters: Affirmation and Lettering Workshop in Washington, DC. It was a well needed day of transparent conversation, vulnerability, and defining what self-love means to us.

 The Love & Letters Experience…

The first portion of the workshop focused on identifying the areas of our thinking preventing us from experiencing the joy we are deserving of and provided writing lessons, from Alex and Ajolique, around self-love and joy. For Alex’s part of the lesson, we had two icebreakers requiring us to recognize the self-hate words we place on ourselves and replace those words with positive affirmations.

For the first exercise, standing face-to-face, we placed our hands together with a partner and spoke words of affirmation to ourselves (but, facing them) starting with “I am…”, we then did the same exercise again, only this time starting a statement with “I am not…” and finishing it with a negative word someone else has said to us or we’ve said to ourselves.

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After that exercise, we did another one where we linked arms with the girl beside us and used her as a crutch to lean on, as we got rid of all the negative thoughts we carry daily. Hearing myself say aloud the negative labels I mentally place on myself was surreal (especially in front of someone I only met a few hours ago), but it was freeing because after every statement, my partner showered me with a “yes, you’re not that” or “yes, you’re doing good.” It was a type of assurance that I never experienced from someone other than my family or close friends. In between the icebreakers, we had an open dialogue on how we originally developed the negative terms we think and say about ourselves. Many women spoke about tough situations in their lives causing them to falsely label themselves or how one situation caused them to carry those negative thoughts daily.

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After an intense self-reflection session, we transitioned into Ajolique’s lesson on “joy” and looked at whether what we’re prioritizing is positioning us to experience true joy. It was a good shift from examining how to find self-love internally to maintaining that love externally.  Throughout Ajolique’s lesson, we explored what we value in life and whether that allowed us to feel satisfied. We talked about how to gain the feeling of satisfaction by not placing unnecessary time and energy into mentalities and activities that don’t encourage growth. It reinforced you can spend all the time in the world working on yourself internally, but if we don’t place ourselves in the proper setting or around the right people to maintain the peace we work hard to achieve, it’s counteractive. 

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 You must be intentional about the events you attend, people you call “friends,” and what you spend your time doing. We have the power to navigate the direction of our personal narrative. As an end to the writing lessons, Ajolique challenged us to use a prompt within our session workbooks to rewrite our story and take a moment to apply the strategies we learned to create a new perspective of how we view ourselves.

We ended the workshop on a high note, with a calligraphy lesson from calligrapher Josefina Sanders. I’ve never done calligraphy, so I was excited to learn how to letter.

What I didn’t know is calligraphy serves as a good coping mechanism for those who suffer from anxiety or depression because it forces you to slow down and pay attention to the detail.

The lettering itself was difficult. I thought I’d catch on to the technique naturally, but I quickly learned why it takes months to perfect the craft. One letter can have multiple strokes and you must have an awareness of how much pressure your placing on your pen. It’s a lot. Fun, but a lot.

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 This workshop couldn’t have come at a better time…

Attending the Love & Letters workshop was the event I needed to not only see the types of conversations I should have with my inner circle, but also conversations I should constantly have with myself. As women, we need to consistently ask ourselves what “joy” means to us and if we’re truly looking at ourselves from a realistic point of view. We need a tribe of women who are willing to start these dialogues with us and can create these spaces to talk about self-care and what’s happening in our world. Honestly, I probably have about one or two friends who I’m able to have these conversations with right now, so it was refreshing to see women who are open to these deep talks if the environment allows for it.

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For a long time, I thought “self-care” referred to the services and experiences we treat ourselves to, in order to make us feel good (i.e. getting manicures/pedicures, traveling, and taking ourselves out on dates). Recently, I’ve learned self-care extends into the anything you do to better yourself – brushing your teeth, washing your face, going to therapy, saving, paying a bill, etc.

Going into the final stretch of the year, I’m focused on building a firm foundation. God changed so many aspects of my life earlier in the year, including moving to a new apartment, my circle of friends, my interests, and what I want out of life. In fact, a woman in my church perfectly described my situation as God uprooting me from environment and replanting me in another, so my seeds have the proper soil to grow. The Love & Letters workshop allowed me to see how to make the most of my new soil.

All images taken by Erika Layne