Stoop Series /

Healing in Trying Times

Healing advocates and practitioners will discuss the ways in which they use radical acts to heal their communities, and lead attendees through brief demonstrations to integrate into their own practices.


Tue, Dec 4, 2018 | 7PM 


  • Rena Anakwe (Photo by Katie Huisman)

  • Juanita Viera

  • Chaya Babu

  • Karen Rose

As interest in self-care grows, acts of healing in community spaces are increasingly important. What does it mean to engage in healing with others? How do these practices support survival in the face of institutionalized violence and injustice? For this gathering, healing advocates and practitioners, including Karen Rose  (founder of Sacred Vibes Apothecary), art therapist Juanita Jenny Viera, writer and healer Chaya Babu, and theatre-maker, vocalist/composer, and cultural worker Nia Ostrow Witherspoonwill discuss the ways in which they use radical acts to heal their communities, and lead attendees through brief demonstrations to integrate into their own practices. Moderated by artist and practitioner Rena Anakwe.


Chaya Babu is a Brooklyn-based writer, journalist, educator, and healer. Her work focuses on power and oppression, urban spaces and culture, systemic and intergenerational trauma, and more. She recently completed her MFA in Writing & Activism at Pratt in May, and her essays, commentary, and reporting have appeared on BuzzFeed, VICE, the Margins, Open City,, and others. She is currently working on her first book manuscript, about the impossibility of return after diaspora and the epistemic violence of colonialism.

Trained in Eastern and Western Herbal Medicine, Master Herbalist, Karen Rose created an outlet for her teachings and healing modalities with the opening of Brooklyn-based Sacred Vibes Healing and Sacred Vibes Apothecary in 2009. Her inspiration for this work began as a child in her native home of Guyana, where she was exposed to how African, Caribbean and Latin American traditions profoundly influenced plant medicine and community healing. The legacy of these lands is the foundation of Karen’s spiritual and healing practice. She has developed authentic and enlightening materials as well as an extensive line of herbal products, all of which are available through the apothecary, apprenticeship classes and mentoring programs. Karen and her work have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including on The FEED, featuring culinary celebrity Marcus Samuelsson, The New York Times, Black Enterprise Magazine, Organic Life, and the New York Daily News.

Rena Anakwe is an interdisciplinary artist and performer working primarily with sound, visuals, and scent. Exploring intersections between traditional healing practices, spirituality and performance, she creates works focused on sensory-based, experiential interactions using creative technology. A member of the artistic collective NON Worldwide, she is based in Brooklyn, New York by way of Nigeria and Canada. Rena is a graduate of: the Interactive Telecommunications Program (iTP) at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (MPS), The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University (MFA) and New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business (BS.) She is a 2018 Signal Culture Artist-in-Residence, and has collaborated, produced and shown audio/visual/scent work at: Pioneer Works, Montez Press Radio @ Mathew Gallery, H0L0, Mount Tremper Arts, La MaMa E.T.C., Danspace Project, Knockdown Center, The Tank, CTM Festival (GER), Europe's Capital of Culture: Turku (FI) And a guest curator for Knockdown Center’s ‘Sunday Service.’

Juanita Jenny Viera is a New York native and licensed creative arts therapist. She uses her training in psychology and the arts to connect people with their own creativity for healing and mental health. In 2016, she joined a collective to release a coloring book titled The Real Art Therapists of NY, which features bios and illustrations created by 50 professional art therapists working in hospitals, schools, community and private practice settings. As an initiative to raise public awareness of the benefits of art therapy, Juanita hosts a monthly adult coloring wellness events. Juanita also works with at-risk youth in a school setting in the South Bronx.

Nia Ostrow Witherspoon is an NAACP-nominated theatre-maker, vocalist/composer, and cultural worker who creates contemporary ritual space grounded in African-diaspora sensibilities that investigate black liberation, the erotic, and ghost(ed) voices. Witherspoon’s work has traveled both nationally and internationally to venues ranging from theaters and universities to activist organizations and non-profits. Described as “especially fascinating” by Backstage Magazine and named as one of Phoenix’s top 100 artists, Witherspoon has been the recipient of multiple awards and residencies, including: Brooklyn Arts Exchange’s Artist in Residence, New York Theatre Workshop’s 2050 Fellowship, a BRIClab Premiere Residency, Astraea Foundation’s Lesbian Writer Award and Global Arts Fund Grant, Downtown Urban Theatre Festival’s “Audience Award,” a Wurlitzer Foundation residency, Lambda Literary’s Emerging Playwriting Fellowship, a CASH Grant from Theatre Bay Area, and a Mellon Dissertation Fellowship.  Witherspoon is also a Restorative/Healing Justice practitioner, and passionate curator of cultural space, including work with award-winning organization, Performance in the Borderlands (Arizona State University), and has produced festivals such as BlackARTSMatter (featured by NPR and Phoenix New Times).  She is currently a Playwright-in-Residence at University of Massachusetts (Amherst).

BRIC’s Stoop Series welcomes you in for dynamic conversations that connect art, performance, media and other creative fields with big ideas that are important to Brooklynites. This season’s Stoop Series tackles the reclamation of culture, of healing, of voices, and of living. Join us on the Stoop—there’s something different every week!

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