Nurturely’s Aerie Sanctuary

Learn about Nurturely’s Aerie Sanctuary and the importance of BIPOC spaces.

Nurturely’s Aerie Sanctuary is a peer-to-peer sanctuary space for new or expectant parents who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and/or from other communities of color (BIPOC). The collaborative effort between Nurturely and Eugene’s NAACP has fittingly reimagined (and redecorated) the historic Mims’ House in Eugene into a space for a free, virtual, drop-in support and community-building group that focuses on topics around perinatal wellness topics like mindfulness, parenting challenges, birth options, postpartum preparation. As one of the oldest houses in Eugene, Mims’ House previously “served as a safe-haven for African American travelers from 1948 – 1966 while there was race separation in Eugene,” according to Travel Oregon. The Aerie Sanctuary program continues this legacy in providing a safe space (albeit a virtual one for the time being) in Eugene for people of color.

Jocelyn Stimac, the lead peer wellness navigator at Aerie opens the weekly gathering for questions, discussion and shares from BIPOC-authored perinatal books. She said, “Having a space like that specifically for the BIPOC community, that is peer-led, is important to us because we can feel safe to be ourselves, with no judgment or stereotypes, and build a strong support group within our own community, where we can all encourage and help one another as new parents.” Roshny Martuscelli, the lead coordinator of Aerie added that the space, even while virtual, “creates a nurturing, wholesome environment for communities of color to come be with each other and share knowledge about all things but especially parenting in the now.”

Organized BIPOC affinity groups, while not new, have grown in number, fueled by recent shifts towards centering diversity and inclusion within working groups and schools. While no studies were found addressing the effects of these groups on health, studies on the importance of community to overall health are plentiful. In addition, anecdotal evidence including from Nurturely’s Ayisha Elliot, who is guiding the development of the Aerie Sanctuaryshows the importance of these spaces for BIPOC individuals: “Black spaces are essential to diffuse the racial, emotional and spiritual tension of living while BIPOC.” Published toolkits to address a lack of diversity in various spaces, such as workspaces, such as one by Dawson et. al, includes the creation of affinity groups as a to-do for companies to promote antiracism. 

The Aerie Sanctuary is an open space “to be what we make out of it,” said Martuscelli. She invites “more friends to join our conversation and be a part of this unique and important space” to build that all important community. Nurturely’s Founder, Dr. Emily Little added, “Racism affects every part of the parenting journey, making culturally-specific support groups especially important during the foundational periods of pregnancy and postpartum. Nurturely is committed to co-creating these spaces by and for parents to promote wellness and disrupt the harmful cycles of white supremacy.”

Join the Aerie Sanctuary every Thursday at 11am PST. The space is hosted on a drop-in basis and is free, virtual and open to all those new or expectant parents who identify as BIPOC.