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Cleo Wade brings “Heart Talk” to Oxford women

Poet, activist and author Cleo Wade made an appearance at the Graduate Oxford Wednesday night as part of her cross-country Courageous Love Tour.

Designed to help women create a braver connection with themselves and their communities, Wade said the tour came about following an experience she had at her “Are You OK?” booth earlier this year in New York City.

“When I sat down this year, it was just person after person, no matter their age, background, gender, tell me they were really alone and were having a hard time finding spaces with like-minded people,” Wade said. “In a world where everyone’s saying, ‘Find your tribe, get your girl gang,’ people were consistent asking how they find that and cultivate those relationships.”

After that day, Wade called her business partner and detailed an idea she had for a nationwide tour based on her experience. Graduate Hotels, she said, had previously reached out to her, and the two partnered to make the tour happen. In addition to Graduate Oxford, Wade is traveling to every other hotel in the Graduate brand.

Termed the “Millennial Oprah” by New York Magazine, Wade said she wanted each stop on the tour to be a free, intimate event for no more than 150 people, and the Graduate delivered. The crowd for her Oxford stop was approximately 100, with women coming from as far as Memphis to hear Wade speak.

Overall, Wade said, she wants people – all people – to know she loves them, and believes in love above all else. A tattoo along Wade’s left thumb reads “Love. Why wouldn’t you?”

The New Orleans-native uses Instagram to get her message of love to the masses, counting celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Bush among her fans.

In her talk, Wade addressed the recent phenomenon of self care, but did so by framing it as a form of community care. Self care, she said, can be an idea, an act, an object – something that makes a person feel good when they need it.

“Women don’t have historical examples of caring for ourselves and doing things just to give ourselves a therapeutic space to think or be in community with each other,” Wade said. “I think this generation, especially, is the one that is going to push what the concept of caring for ourselves looks like, and how it’s actually not selfish at all, because it benefits everyone, and carve out a space for the next generation of girls.”

Wade also read from her new book, “Heart Talk,” a collection of what she described as poems,  mantras, affirmations and “kitchen table talk” advice that is more companion than object.

“‘Heart Talk’ is the object version of me, because it’s not just a compilation of my poems,” Wade said. “When I was writing it, I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a single thing on that page that wasn’t advice I would say, take or live by.”

Wade has seven more stops on the “Courageous Love” tour, and is heading to Graduate Charlottesville on Oct. 2. Her book, “Heart Talk,” is available at Square Books and wherever books are sold.