Oceanside sisters want more women of color in health and wellness spaces
Toni Junious is a co-founder of Soultry Sisters, an arts and wellness collective that provides workshops, community, and resources to women of color. They want to diversify the health and wellness industry by making access to these resources more equitable and affordable.
Toni Junious and her sister, Alyssa, already knew a lot about each other, but as adults they realized there was still more to discover. One of those discoveries was their shared perspective around living a holistic and conscious lifestyle rooted in community healing and empowering other women of color, like themselves.
“We started to attend wellness events together and quickly saw that there weren’t very many people that looked like us in the arts and wellness community in North County San Diego,” Junious says. “Seeing that we needed more representation in the arts and wellness community, we took it upon ourselves to create an opportunity to collaborate with other women and women of color who were also passionate about building a community that reflected our cultures and backgrounds.”
Their response was to start Soultry Sisters, a community organization creating events centered around arts and wellness. As Black and Filipina women, the sisters want to encourage women of color in artistic, creative expression and holistic living through their organization’s events, partnerships and collaborations. One of those events is their Summer Soulstice Arts + Wellness Festival, which continues from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Village Rock Shop in Carlsbad.
Along with her role as one of the organization’s founders, Junious, 28, is also a public health researcher and consultant, leading the organization’s conversations on topics that include women’s wellness, sustainability, and health inequities. She took some time to talk about their work in the community and the kind of wellness experiences people can expect this weekend.
Q: Tell us about Soultry Sisters.
A: Our mission is to address the lack of representation of diverse races and socioeconomic statuses in the wellness industry by providing affordable and accessible events for women of color. We collaborate with female entrepreneurs, women-led businesses, and community-based organizations to increase the visibility of the diverse women in our community and connect women of color to these necessary wellness resources. We strive to make wellness more equitable and empower women of color to live vibrant and creative lives. We believe holistic health and wellness is the connection of mind, body, soul, and community. Our events help reframe health from an individual perspective to a communal approach. Through building community, we help support and celebrate our individual and collective healing journeys.
Both Alyssa and I curate, plan, and facilitate the events and workshops together. We are DIY queens and have taught ourselves how to create our website, design graphics, write grants, and all that goes into being a creative entrepreneur and owning a business. I am also a certified 200-hour yoga teacher and teach our SoulFlow yoga classes to share mindfulness practices to tap into your mind, body, and soul, and I’ve taken herbalism classes with Hood Herbalism and bring that plant wisdom to the holistic healing practices I share with our Soultry community.
Q: Where did the idea for your Summer Soulstice Arts + Wellness Festival come from, and what compelled you to move forward with it?
A: It’s a three-day, guided and intentional festival featuring local artists, creatives, healers, and wellness practitioners. After over two years of predominantly virtual programming, we wanted to bring our Soultry community together to connect, create, and celebrate the start of the summer season. Our motto is “Live Vibrant, Shine Bright,” and the summer season embodies that energy. It’s the perfect time of year to reconnect with nature, take time off of work, and try new things! For our festival, attendees are invited to join us to set mindful intentions, tap into our creative expression, and create rituals that support our holistic well-being as we bring in the summer solstice.
The festival is packed with social mixers, workshops, and live performances. Our lineup features some amazing San Diego and Los Angeles-based BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists who will lead wellness, art, personal development, and movement-based workshops. People can expect to bring in the summer solstice in community and make meaningful connections with like-minded people.
Q: In addition to the networking, music/dance performances, food and drinks, part of what you’re offering at the festival is to help participants develop their own personal wellness practice, a holistic routine, and rituals intended to help people in the practice of self-care. What does your own personal holistic and wellness practice look like?
A: My personal holistic wellness practice includes reading, journaling, yoga and meditation, dancing, being with myself, spending time in nature, connecting with loved ones, and last year I got into walking. Walking has become one of my favorite care practices because it helps me clear my mind and connect with nature. I also love to start my day with reading and journaling to set an intention for my day. My care routine also includes mindful movement practices, such as dancing and yoga. These embodiment practices are a form of release and allow me to connect back to self.
Q: How did you come to develop your own personal holistic and wellness practice?
A: It’s been a process, but I incorporate practices that speak to where I am in my personal healing and wellness journey. I try to ask myself, “What do I need in this moment/day/week?” Then, I do what makes me feel most nourished and supported. Some days, it is reading and walking, and other days, it is dancing, journaling, and going on solo dates. I try to give myself grace and compassion through the different seasons I may be in and choose the care practices that will make me feel most at ease and well.
Q: Why do you think there’s been a lack of diversity in the health and wellness industry?
A: We think there is a lack of diversity in the health and wellness industry because indigenous and ancestral practices from the BIPOC community have been commodified and made into products or services that don’t always honor the roots of their practice. Due to commercialization, it can often exclude people of color through the erasure of history. Yoga is just one example of this.
Q: Why is it important to you that women of color, specifically, have affordable access to the resources in the wellness industry?
A: Women of color experience disproportionate health inequities due to various social and structural determinants of health. To understand these inequities, an intersectional approach is needed. Intersectionality is a framework used to examine the intersecting systems of oppression that influence women of color’s identity, social position and lived experiences. These constant, cumulative, lifelong, and often invisible experiences of oppression — such as medical exploitation, interpersonal violence and wealth disparities— lead to chronic stress that is linked to negative short-term and long-term health outcomes for women of color. Having access to arts and wellness resources allows women of color to be able to process and heal from trauma and negative experiences, and develop healthy practices and tools to take care of their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: The best advice we received was to pivot our programming to a virtual format during the pandemic. It enabled us to expand our community beyond San Diego. We now have a virtual community called the Soultry Sanctuary where we host monthly check-ins, virtual workshops, and provide on-demand arts and wellness classes and workshops.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: People would probably be surprised to learn how many different interests and roles that I have. I got my master’s degree in public health in global health epidemiology, I am a certified 200-hour yoga teacher, I am a community herbalist, and currently in my full-spectrum doula training program. I also dance professionally for Continuum Arts & Pilates, Alyssa’s dance company. Most people are also surprised to find out that I am the younger Soultry Sister!
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: My ideal weekend would include checking out the farmer’s market, going on a hike, reading my book outside in nature, going to a museum, and spending time with loved ones.
What I love about Oceanside...
I love being by the beach! Oceanside is a hidden gem. You can find quieter beaches than the southern area of San Diego, delicious tacos and locally-made kombucha, and you can walk the pier for a beautiful view of the ocean while seeing the diversity of Oceanside.
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