We had the good fortune of connecting with Lahronda Welch Little and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lahronda, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I think that in life every move we attempt involves risk. If this were not so, faith wouldn’t be necessary. In this sense, risk, I believe, incites our faith. It enlivens us.
I also must say that when I talk about risk, I am talking about calculated risk. Just because we think about changing or making a move does not mean it is any less risky. It’s still a risk. But wisdom says that we should “count the cost” and weigh our options.
When I made the decision to leave my corporate job to pursue another degree and a different career almost 6 years ago now, it was definitely a risk. Looking back, that was the best decision I could have ever made. In the past 6 years, I have traveled, researched, and worked in spaces I never dreamed. To be certain, every risk is not a categorical success. That’s why it’s called a risk in the first place. However, the gift of every risk is in trying. And if things do not work out, we learn, we grow, and try again.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am the co-founder and director of Per Ankh Wellness. We provide professional services that facilitate wholeness and enables physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Dr. Emmanuel Y. Lartey, professor of pastoral theology and spiritual care at Emory University, and myself design and teach programs and conduct workshops for vocational discernment, spiritual renewal, and community development. We work with students, clergy, teachers, and general audiences, including churches.
It would be inaccurate to say that Per Ankh Wellness came into being through a formal business plan, that came later. For many years, we were doing our own individual work. Dr. Lartey was teaching, pastoring, and literally shaping the field of pastoral care and counseling, and I was working as a chemist, operating my own organic skincare company, and providing service as a personal health partner. When I took the risk to more deeply explore my call to spiritual care, Per Ankh Wellness evolved quite organically as we began to find resonance in our respective fields.
The past year has been very challenging for all of us for a variety of reasons. However, we at Per Ankh Wellness were able to pivot and adjust to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic by teaching meditation and other spiritual practices virtually. We provided spaces which allowed people to come together. Though we were a part physically, we were still able to form a communal space within which to simply breathe. And because people were familiar with our work prior to the pandemic, Per Ankh Wellness continued to receive opportunities to facilitate important discussions, one of which was with a group of students at the University of Georgia engaged in vocational discernment. We also held panel discussions on essential matters, such as education on COVID-19 vaccines and indigenous African integrative practices.
I think we have learned many lessons this year, among the most important ones, I believe, typify ‘resilience.’ We continue to grow in our understanding that resilience is not only about the individual; resilience is personal, communal, social, and environmental. My ability to be resilient is connected to others. This is why social distancing, hand-washing, vaccinations, and institutional awareness are vital. We do not live vacuous, disconnected lives. We are interconnected beings.
Whether it is during pandemic or times of “normalcy,” the work we endeavor to do is not easy. Nevertheless, it is our commitment to promote health in body, mind, spirit, and community which reminds us to keep asking questions like, “where does it hurt,” “what do we need right now to survive,” and “what does flourishing look like given the present circumstances.” What we do is not necessarily unique, as much as it is intentional, and we take contemplative practices seriously. Through contemplation, we discern what is next. Even if what is next is our own need to rest and reflect, we do it. By this we demonstrate the overarching ethos of Per Ankh Wellness, which is connection – within self, to others, to nature, and to the Divine.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The beauty of Atlanta is in the diversity of scenery, people, and food. From most places around the city, one is within an hour drive from the nearest park, farm, or cultural center.
A visit to Atlanta must include the King Center, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and Coca-Cola. But there are also lesser known hidden gems such as The Georgia Guidestones in Elbert County, GA and Providence Canyon (the little Grand Canyon) in Lumpkin, GA.
There is no lack of places to eat in Atlanta. Now that things are beginning to open back up, restaurants are starting to regain their footing. Three of my favorite food spots are Slutty Vegan ATL, Desta Ethiopian Restaurant, and Kimball House.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am inspired and encouraged by womanist and Black feminist thinkers such as the late Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, who says, “we must do the work our souls must have.” In the book, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens by Alice Walker, Walker defines womanist, in part, as “…committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health.”
Dr. Cannon and other Black women who are laypeople, scholars, and clergy embody what it means to be holistic and to deeply value the stories of people. We all have a story. And these stories hold how we come into being and why we do the things we do. They inform our decisions to maintain the status quo or when we must deviate from prescribed norms. Our stories carry all of who we are – gender, ethnicity, sexuality, beliefs, and social standing. To deny any part of that is to deny one’s humanity.
My work as a spiritual care provider depends on my ability to see people and myself as we are. Unless I can see and embrace holistically, I am ineffective in my call to teach and care for others. Womanist and Black feminist thinkers give shape and form to my work and help me to maintain a sense of grounded-ness through the stories of people.
Though there are many, I recommend three books written by Black, Indigenous, and women of Color which, in my opinion, exemplify the importance of story through the eyes of women: This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherríe Moraga (Author, Editor), Gloria Anzaldúa (Editor); I Bring the Voices of My People: A Womanist Vision for Racial Reconciliation by Chanequa Walker-Barnes; and In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith, and the Stories We Inherit by Yolanda Pierce.