Everyone needs a getaway. A retreat from the world. But Kwayera Archer has created a retreat with a twist. This year, the Jamaican repatriate and former Brooklyn, N.Y., resident has launched a multi-city retreat series.
The Immersion Retreat aims to provide a sanctuary for adults during the three-day trip. Every retreat is different from the other–some focusing on leadership, self-care, and even boot camp experiences. One upcoming event in Jamaica is the “Wellness Retreat: Self-Care for Executive Women,” and it is aimed at women who work high-level positions and addresses how they can balance work/life with their personal life.
Some events take place in Manhattan, and there will be others in Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington D.C., and Oakland.
The Immersion Retreat has long been a dream of Archer’s, who resigned from her post managing the Flatbush, Brooklyn-based art space Ifetayo Cultural Arts before relocating to her native Jamaica. She built Ifetayo Cultural Arts into a multi-million dollar operation. Archer’s work caught the attention of the Obamas in 2014 and she was given an award at the White House for designing and running one of the best arts and humanities programs in the nation.
Archer, who served as a multi-year appointed panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts, also runs her own international consulting firm, Global Ase.
Archer tells TNJ.com more about her retreats and meeting the Obamas. More info can be found on her site, kwayera .com.
TNJ.com: How did you come up with the idea for the Immersion Retreat Series?
Kwayera Archer: The Immersion Retreat was created as a vehicle to allow professionals to get away from their everyday experiences and reflect while recharging. Typically, we only get an opportunity, if at all, to do one of the two, but to recharge and reflect, creating a reset is the core reason why I started the retreats for professionals.
TNJ.com: Why in Jamaica?
Kwayera Archer: Jamaica is my home that I had the opportunity to grow up in several months every year of my life while living in N.Y.C. as a child and young adult. The indelible imprint that such a diverse experience left on me was the inspiration for my rejuvenation in the middle of a super busy and bustling career and family life. I had a hard time believing that you either had to be totally irresponsible to be joyful, or just wait until after 65 to be happy, if you were to be so blessed to make it to that age.
As a result, I wanted to share where and how I was able to create a desired reality today and not years from now. Jamaica had always provided me that soothing for my soul. To not share such an experience would have been selfish.
TNJ.com: What can one expect from the retreat?
Kwayera Archer: The retreats are designed based on a curriculum that I developed over the past 35 years from my personal and professional experiences as a dancer living my dream, as an administrator, community organizer and CEO living my second dream.
At my retreats, each attendee will be able to work in intimate settings with a maximum attendee list of 5-10 retreaters in each group. I take great care in curating each group to ensure maximum synergy, healing and alignment.
Retreaters begin the process with a welcome greeting designed to inspire ultimate self-care and pampering as we move into gently exploring hidden reasons blocking individual happiness and overall success. Attendees learn new strategies to unblock and live the life you desire today. You will learn proven techniques on self-care, living your passion and being able to recognize self-induced traps that continue the cycle of “the superwoman myth.” Retreaters also participate in very specific self-care treatments specially designed and curated for each member by me, and the retreat concludes with a half-day of designing your blueprint for your new life.
TNJ.com: How did the launch of Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy come about?
Kwayera Archer: In my second life–I am now in my third (laugh)–I launched Ifetayo when I was 24 years old after living in Kenya for one year. I decided to solidify and merge one of my childhood dreams of owning a dancing school with the desire to create an organization that had a political and social focus to assist in transforming communities in sustainable ways. It was important for me to do the most I could with what I had in my hands at 24 years-old.
People often asked what qualified me to believe I could take on such a mammoth task, and I replied, “all I could do is all I could do.” So often, we wait for someone else to come and do something; however if it’s not being done, and you desperately think it should be done, then do what you can do today, and surround yourself with people who are experts at what you don’t know how to do. Now onto my third career (I may have about six in me), I have taken the skills and years of experience from my first career as a professional modern dancer that prepared me to create Ifetayo, and now Ifetayo has prepared me to design and facilitate retreats for professionals trying to make the world a better place for all.
TNJ.com: What does Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy do?
Kwayera Archer: Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy empowers youth and families of African descent to achieve high levels of educational, professional and artistic excellence. As a leading Brooklyn-based institution, Ifetayo inspires future generations to develop a strong African-centered, cultural identity and realize their power to transform social inequity. They are able to achieve this through six major programs serving over 2,000 students and their families annually.
Ifetayo offers gender-specific rites of passage programs, visual and performing arts training programs, cultural history classes, financial education programs, professional youth theater ensemble and arts-in-education programs.
TNJ.com: Why are you targeting professional women for the retreat?
Kwayera Archer: Although I offer co-ed retreats also, the response for the retreats specifically designed for women have been surprisingly in high demand; more and more women are requesting opportunities to participate in my self-care and mindset shift retreats. Research shows that professional women are, unfortunately, leading the way and getting more and more illnesses due to higher levels of stress. They have less money throughout it all, and at the end of their career, they are faced with health issues that arise due to a lack of self-care while their health was good.
Typically, women take time-out moments to experience temporary feelings of happiness (a spa day, a week-long vacation, a shopping day, a good movie, dinner, etc.) however the joy I am speaking about is a sustained joy.
I am challenging women to see how they can be happy and not just have happy moments. The focus on women is due to the strong response to the offerings, as well as the research showing that if we don’t do something soon, we are just going to bottom out. Most of all, as women we tend to be nurturers, which is a strength, however, we want to ensure that we are also nurturing ourselves. We are the ones more so than not raising children, or at least spending more time with children, and aging parents as teachers, caretakers and more.
TNJ.com: You will also host upcoming retreats in NYC, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. How will these be different?
Kwayera Archer: Each retreat has a focus; some are for executives and leaders to tap into being more mindful and compassionate as leaders focused on understanding and becoming a transformational leader. Many of us lead from different places, some are heads of departments, corporations, teachers, leaders in families, on radio, social media, or even in show business. How we accept our responsibility to lead is by understanding your core ideology, going beyond your brand and daily tasks, and figuring out what and who you are is what we will discover. This discovery will inform every choice you make.
Some retreats are specifically for people who are ready to live their passion. They are designed for those who refuse to compromise their inner voice any longer and decide they are ready to listen to the voice inside. We will determine if the skills are present or need to be developed to move into such a paradigm shift and create a blueprint to grow into your dream.
TNJ.com: Please tell us more about being First Lady Michelle Obama’s favorite arts administration.
Kwayera Archer: To be selected throughout the nation by the first African American First Lady of the United States of America was profound in many ways. The experience impacted my life in some special ways: one was knowing that the former FLOTUS was and always will be a stellar example of what being a woman, carrying herself with excellence, grace and fortitude look like, complexly dissolving the negative stereotypes of what being a strong Black woman looks like, as portrayed all around us. She is not only a wife, she is educated, dynamic and extremely clear about how she moves things for the better from where she is.
Also, I was able to bring 11 students to play African drums and dance in the East Room of the White House paying tribute to our collective ancestors, all while also playing drums and dancing for FLOTUS Michelle Obama. As if performing African dance and drums for FLOTUS and her esteemed committee in the White House watching her move to the drum calls of our ancestors was not enough, she topped that experience.
She also took time out to take each of the performers in a private room and, all alone without security or other adults, she reminded them how powerful they were and told them they should continue their education and never give up and never let anyone tell them anything different. She reminded them that they can and will do whatever their minds can conceive.
The students’ lives were changed forever by her thoughtful actions. More than experiencing the honor and being with her and receiving this distinguished honor, being celebrated in the then-Obama White House, was outdone by her generous gesture with the children.
The entire process reminded me that I must celebrate every accomplishment, big or small, and when you are doing good things well, you will always be celebrated and acknowledged. I am forever grateful, as the students are.