Nikki Grant, a supporter of the new healing space, hanging out at Black.Bird. Rising’s soft launch in February 2024. GIH: Maleka Fruean

Black.Bird.Rising, a new healing space dedicated to Black Queer and Trans people, has opened in Germantown, right on Germantown Avenue. 

Chantelle Todman (she/they), a parent and care worker, healer, and community member who owns multiple businesses, opened the space this month after looking for spaces that would welcome and celebrate all their identities.

Todman said several years ago, they were going through a lot of grief at the beginning of the pandemic and looking for spaces for connection and belonging. Even before the pandemic, they were dealing with mental health struggles and were looking for spaces that wouldn’t institutionalize them. 

Many of the spaces they found, including farms and other natural spaces, seemed peaceful but had an entirely white staff. They wanted a space for Black Queer and Trans folks that included wellness resources and a community that would understand and provide cultural competence.

Todman pondered aloud, saying, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a place where Black, Queer, and Trans people and those people who love them can go and be together, connect, heal, rest, play, explore.”

As the years passed, Todman got certified in Liberation Reiki and started exploring yoga, herbalism, and herbal medicine to address different physical, emotional, and social needs.

In the fall of 2023, they found a space on 5838 Germantown Avenue and signed the lease in December 2023. Last month, they had their soft opening, welcoming friends, family, and community into the space. There were free massages, chair yoga, a place to write affirmations, homemade treats by DreamWorldMakes, and a tour of the new storefront.

The space has separate rooms for folks to meet with therapists, bodyworkers, other healing practitioners, and community organizers. Clients and community members can access herbal remedies, book appointments to get massages, have Reiki sessions and do yoga. 

Therapists and other healing practitioners who align with Black.Bird.Rising’s mission can use the space to meet with clients for therapy and coaching sessions, and organizers can also book spaces for meetings and gatherings. Todman’s vision for the space is to have services, community, and professional healers all in one place for folks who don’t have the luxury or money to research and find multiple ways to heal.

“[We’re] trying to address all those accessibilities, both price point, but also just finding resources that are going to be able to be culturally appropriate and speak to your reality of where you’re at,” Todman says. “Because that’s a lot of labor trying to explain to people what it means to live in the body that you live in and the life that you’re experiencing if they don’t have any clue about it.”

Kenya Cummings, an executive director of SC Housing Justice Network in South Carolina, has known Todman for years and, currently, is in community with them in a Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA) study group, learning about cooperative ways to run businesses and organizations. They’ve also seen how spaces meant for healing don’t always allow the whole expression of Black Queer and Trans people to exist in their programming. 

Cummings states that in these spaces, there tend to be a lot of cultural learning curves, and typically, those who are injured or marginalized are Queer and Trans individuals. 

“And so what’s really beautiful about Chantelle’s work is by centering those folks, it creates a lot of safety for everyone who’s coming into the space to experience care and healing and a space to really think about what it means to tend to yourself,” said Cummings. 

Todman says there’s potential for other partners to come on board. Their current participation in the PACA study group is to learn more about the cooperative business structure and hopes to incorporate cooperative structures at Black.Bird.Rising. Todman wanted a business model that would not “commodify healing” but instead be about collective healing and determination. 

Kenya Cummings explains the reasoning behind learning about cooperative structures for the space, saying, “One of the things that Chantelle has been really serious about is getting down to what does it mean for us to create spaces where there’s less hierarchy and more community. And so one of their goals around Black.Bird.Rising is to find a space where folks can become members and where the space can be jointly held.”

Todman says they’re currently looking to collaborate with folks who can offer yoga classes, more bodywork practitioners, and others looking for a physical space to offer or house resources. There aren’t necessarily guidelines to collaborate, but the space holds a set of commitments and values. 

“We have three core values at Black.Bird.Rising, and we do want people to be able to commit and affirm those, which would be choosing worthiness, choosing sufficiency, and choosing presence. And the reason why we say choosing is because you have to essentially, every day, wake up and decide who you want to be in the world,” says Todman.

They continue, “And we believe it’s a commitment that you have to make ongoing. And by choosing worthiness, we mean, like, believing that all people, but especially Black, Queer and Trans people, are worthy of rest and of pleasure and of ease, and they don’t have to do anything extra to be worthy of that. And so we want to prioritize that and also prioritize our sufficiency.”

One of their current collaborators in the space is the Philly Herb Hub, a community apothecary that distributes free herbs and herbal medicines to Black people in Philadelphia. They will house their herbs, tinctures, and other supplies at Black.Bird.Rising, and folks can connect with trained herbalists to learn more about how to work with herbs in their everyday lives.

“I spent my childhood in Germantown, I work in Germantown, and I garden in Germantown. Black.Bird.Rising’s support of the Hub, right here on the avenue, gives the project a different kind of grounding. It can take root and stretch,” says Desiree Thompson, one of the main organizers for Philly Herb Hub. 

She continues, “In this space, people can experience a sense of healing and belonging that is not based on our performance or a set of fixed behaviors. As Black Trans and Queer folks, we can learn and grow as plants do–vibrantly, persistently, and in an ecosystem full of abundance.”

Black.Bird.Rising’s website will be up soon, but for now, you can check their Instagram account for their latest updates, including upcoming weekly open houses, to introduce and welcome folks to some of the services they provide. 

Todman knows it can be intimidating to try something new, so they hope the open houses can be spaces where folks can ask questions and explore, see how they feel, and decide whether they want to invest in more. The weekly open houses will provide a chance to try out different services and see what you think of them. 

Cummings encourages folks who may feel a “little cautious,” saying, “I would invite folks to try something new because I think that the work that Chantelle and Black.Bird.Rising are doing is good medicine.”