Being part of a higher socioeconomic class means you have more access to resources. This is a well-known fact that we may have become desensitized to.

Interview with Irene Lo and Harpinder Mann, Co-Creators of the Womxn of Color Summit

On Tuesday evening, January 26, I sat down with the co-founders of the Womxn of Color Summit. Irene Lo, 29, is originally from Vancouver, Canada who emigrated from Taipei, Taiwan is an Asana facilitator and tarot reader. Harpinder Mann, 27, is a Punjabi Sikh yoga and meditation teacher from California. Both of them specialize in helping BIPOC to incorporate self-care practices into their daily routines as coping mechanisms for the anxieties they constantly face. While Lo is in British Columbia and Mann is currently based in New Orleans, they have been working together to put together the second annual Womxn of Color Summit taking place online at the end of February.

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The idea for the summit came to fruition when Lo and Mann met at a decolonization mentorship program, where they were paired up as each other’s accountability partners, where they really got to get to know each other.

“From those conversations about decolonization and decolonizing the wellness space, the spirituality space, we felt there was a friendship that blossomed,” Irene says. “We decided to create the Womxn of Color Summit after having these conversations about the frustrations [we had about] the wellness space…There weren’t a lot of women of color being seen as the leaders, or even being seen, heard, or welcomed in a space where everyone needs healing.”

After the program wrapped up, Lo and Mann kept in touch and worked together to make their vision come to life. Before they even sold tickets, they both quit their 9 to 5 jobs to pursue the passions that allow them to focus on making the summit an uplifting experience for all the women of color that attend. 

 “I quit my job to pursue this full time,” Lo says. “It’s made a big impact on me. It’s been wonderful to be on this journey so far with Harpinder and this community that we’ve built. It’s what’s sustained me, and continuing to do this work is just thinking about everyone that needs this.”

This year, Lo and Mann have arranged for a full 6-day summit featuring a multitude of panels, events, and speakers. The second annual summit has introduced Integration Day, allowing the attendees to participate in a silent retreat. Integration Day will enable attendees to process all of the interactions and information they’ve taken in over the previous days. Lo and Mann even introduced a Soul Buddy program, where they pair different attendees together to form bonds that they hope are similar to their own friendship.

“I feel like we’ve built such a good partnership,” Mann says about her co-founder, Lo. “I trust what we’re doing… I’m tremendously lucky to be working with Irene…Even if the summit completely failed, I still got to work with Irene.” 

“The relationship that we have is so honest and open,” Lo adds about Mann. “We have been able to build this trust where we can say things that may not make us look in the best light or show us in our weakness per se. There are no conditions to the love and the trust, which is really, really nice.”

Lo and Mann expressed how much the summit has altered their lives not only in terms of career but also how it has clarified parts of themselves that are unique to their experiences as women of color and how that has made them more aware of their personal beliefs. They both reflected on their childhoods and how they were raised, and how that has impacted the way they experience the world today.

“My mom is a really passionate, caring person,” Lo says. “A lot of Chinese people, Chinese friends that I talk to, [have] similar narratives that their parents are very physically not intimate and [they] never get hugged, never say ‘I love you.’ That wasn’t really my childhood growing up. [Growing up with] my mom has impacted me and some of the decisions that I’ve chosen to make in my life.”

“As a kid, I began associating religion and spirituality with not great things and spent most of my life up until I was 20 pretty atheistic,” Mann says. “[It was when I moved to] India [when] I started going to yoga classes and meditation classes [again], and it was [formed] such a beautiful connection that now I’ve returned back to my roots of Sikhism and spirituality.”

The individual experiences they’ve identified in themselves is something they’ve noticed is quite relatable to many other women of color. They created the summit to provide a space that they knew they would be comfortable expressing themselves in, and they knew they wanted to do it on their own terms. Lo expresses the sentiments of making women of color feel at home and feel like they’re having genuine and healthy conversations at their summit. 

“Being able to create something, creating our own table is so powerful knowing that whoever we invite, we are lifting up other women,” Lo says. “[We let] that feed into how we’re communicating and how we’re offering things, how we’re treating the people that we work with. I think that’s been one of the most fulfilling things, to know that it’s possible. I can be myself and still make this a success, whereas working in my office job sometimes, it felt like I had to ignore parts of myself or I had to be like that other person in the room because they were the ones that were seen as legitimate and credible.” 

Mann also conveyed how fulfilling the summit is for her, but she was also honest about the hardships they’ve faced and continue to have to overcome. 

“Being able to decide how to run this as I want [is] quite a freeing process,” Harpinder says. “But it’s a frustrating one because I realize sometimes things take more time than I’ve been conditioned to believe, and sometimes deadlines are going to be passed. Sometimes mental health stuff is going to come up, and how do I learn to place that with more importance than productivity? I think that’s been incredibly freeing, but also difficult.”

But even with the good, the bad, and the ugly, Lo and Mann truly appreciate what they’ve manifested and organized with the Womxn of Color Summit. Their goal is to unite and ease away the divide, and they are hopeful about positively impacting other women of color with their warm, authentic, and friendship-bound creation. 

“I’ve been thinking about this Audre Lorde quote that says that we need to move ‘from divide and conquer’ to ‘define and empower,’” Irene says. “I think that even when we are doing our social justice work or tapping into our ancestral lineages, we can still have vestiges of a colonial mindset where there are jealousies, there are shadows, and there is just this competitiveness and this judgment that comes out of other people that look like us… We’re so internally oppressed in that aspect…Recognizing that we have been made to feel separate and divided and that even if we may want to connect, we still need to acknowledge that elephant in the room.”

The Womxn of Color Summit is a virtual summit providing soul care for Black, Indigenous, and women of color, and nonbinary folks. The event takes place from Tuesday, February 23, to Sunday, February 28. You can purchase summit passes here. 

Irene Lo, Co-Creator of the Womxn of Color Summit

Irene is an Asana Facilitator and Tarot Reader currently based on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish People including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Irene’s pronouns are she/her, and she is a cisgender Taiwanese Canadian of Han and Hakka descent, but she is not your model minority. 

Irene helps her students and clients create a sustainable self-care practice because healing is a radical and absolutely necessary act for those fighting for change. Her work is rooted in going inwards, whether it is through the spiritual practice of yoga or the intuitive practice of tarot, because she believes self-care is our birthright. Irene received her 200 training with the Lila School of Vinyasa and teaches in honour of Krishnamacharya while showing up for herself and community. 

Irene is one of the Co-Creators and Co-Founders of the Womxn of Color Summit, where she has created a healing community for womxn of color by womxn of color. The community celebrates and uplifts Black, Indigenous, and Womxn of Color in the healing modalities and empowers community to be seen and heard. 

Through Irene Yoga Flow, Irene teaches playful vinyasa and relaxing sweet yin yoga classes for individual womxn of color to sustain their self-care rituals, and through Womxn of Color Summit, Irene brings her yoga off the mat by focusing on community care for the collective through amplifying and uplifting the voices of Black, Indigenous, and Womxn of Color.  

You can practice with Irene on YouTube, and you can attend monthly live Zoom yin yoga and tarot meditation classes with her. Keep up to date by signing up for her newsletter and following her on Instagram. 

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Harpinder Mann, Co-Creator of the Womxn of Color Summit

Harpinder is a yoga & meditation teacher and decolonizing activist based in New Orleans. The original inhabitants of the land that New Orleans sits on were the Chitimacha, with the Atakapa, Caddo, Choctaw, Houma, Natchez, and Tunica. She works with womxn of color who want to reclaim their power and intuition through the lens of a spiritual, joyful, and sustainable path. 

Harpinder’s yoga practice originates from a spiritual and trauma-informed place, and that is how she teaches. She creates safe and healing spaces where her students are offered choices, guaranteed no-hands on assists, and provided opportunities to get curious about sensation. She reminds students to breathe fully and observe whatever shows up. In this way, we learn how to heal ourselves and become compassionately self-aware.

Her practice is rooted in her spiritual background of Sikhism and Buddhism and ancestral roots in Punjab, India. Her name “Harpinder” means “God’s Home” and true to her name, it is now her life’s work to continue the practice of arriving home to her body with a sincere desire to share in sangha. 

Her studies have spanned from reading the Japji Sahib since she was 3 to over 700 hours of yogic training within the traditions of Raja, Vinyasa, Kundalini, and Prenatal Yoga with a special reverence for the Ananda Sangha where her journey began. Without her teachers, ancestors, and womxn before her, none of this would be possible.

As the Co-Creator and Co-Founder of the Womxn of Color Summit, Harpinder is focused on creating safe and inclusionary spaces for womxn and non-binary people of color to share stories and knowledge as well as make impactful change. She strongly believes part of that journey is to reclaim our heritage, cultures, and recenter ourselves in our lives.

You can schedule a time to chat here if you’re interested in a 1:1 mentorship or keep up to date on her upcoming workshops and retreats by following her on Instagram

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