by Etecia Brown
Our reality is determined by the questions we ask. So I constantly ask, 'why am I here?' 'what do i want?' 'what do I need?' These three questions get me to think about the source of my being. Exploring the answers to these questions help me to take off the layers of programming and socialization and focus on my spirit. What messages am I here to deliver to the world? I too am somebody's ancestor. I must memorialize my calling so that 7 generations from now my future decedents will still reap the benefits of the actions I have taken in this life time. Who were my ancestors 7 generations in the past? My great-great-great grandma. Doesn't really seem like that long ago. What I do know for certain is that my family came from the segregated racist South of United States and migrated here to California 4 generations ago for more opportunities for upward social mobility. Which means that they were too driven by their future and their descendants and this idea of hope. Not a complacent hope where you say 'Dear God can you please save me', but an active hope where you affirm what it is you will do or who you are. 'I am whole perfect and complete' is an affirmation I say to myself daily. I remind myself that I have the power to shape my life and I am not lacking, I am abundant. In my quest to develop a deeper spiritual practice I have made a conscious effort to reconnect to my ancestors.
I think of my grandmother and her mother. I think of Harriet Tubman. I think of the ancestors whose names I do not know from Africa. I think of all the events that occurred to create me. The DNA of these strong warrior spirits, these survivors, innovators, these believers, exist in my DNA. I am full of possibility. It is like when Michelangelo said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." We have ancient wisdom inside each of us and it is our duty to discover it. There is a generation of Black womyn and men still seeking and still searching. We are in a struggle to resurrect a lineage that was shattered during the enslavement of our people. Spirituality is who we are. Often times in the Western world we are taught to compartmentalize and see things such as, sex and love or religion and state as seperate. We create these dichotomies and we in turn exist as fragmented beings. The "Matrix" (our material possessions, our titles) is not who we are. Our spirituality has been manufactured and sold back to us. We are now on a quest to discover the truth of it all. Religion is the vessel that holds your spirituality but it is not your spirituality. Spirit is who we are. How do we step away from our colonized spiritual programming and begin to discover our ancient spiritual practices undiluted by patriarchy, racism, and capitalism?
Throughout my life I have seen Black womyn suffocate spiritually. I have witnessed African traditions trying to squeeze their light out through superstitions and old wives tales, habits, and subtle household rituals. Black womyn have tried to carry on traditions that were taught to them by their mother, but all throughout the Americas propaganda was used aggressively to indoctrinate African peoples to give away their power and divorce their connection to Africa doing away with all African traditional religious practices. This propaganda was reinforced by fines, beatings, torture, and death. Laws made it so that speaking African languages, building, altars, and making instruments such as drums was strictly prohibited. This forced the priests and priestess of our Ancient African Vodoun traditions who survived in America during and after slavery to practice discreetly and often under the guise of Christianity as you see in the case with Santeria. This underground practice also made for much rumors to be perpetuated, deeming "Voodoo" as it was mockingly called, to be 'evil' and 'hedonistic'. This misconception of the ancient practice gave way to Hollywood portrayals of a dark religious practice with no structure and no gods. This could not be further from the truth. According to the book New and Alternative Religions in America, Voudoun is ancient African ancestral nature based religion dating back about 10,000 years with complex deities and cultural and spiritual traditions. But what does this mean to us today? What can connecting with our ancient spiritual traditions teach us today? These indigenous spiritual practices first offer to us that collectively we are Source consciousness. This means that even deeper than "we all come from Africa", we all come from the same mother, "Mitochondrial Eve". We are all apart of the same tribe, the same cosmological 'mind', and thus God/god/gods exist in everything and everyone. Thus it is natural to be spiritual. It is natural to live in symbiosis with nature. It is natural to pray and commune with Spirit. Because god is the source. The first cause that didn't have a cause. This notion that individuals are god is not meant to inflate the ego and the arrogance of man, but rather to spark our sense of agency as individuals to be of service to our own lives and to humanity.
Today there is a natural hair movement, a Black Lives Matter movement, and an active reinvestment in Black culture by Black people. Many young Black people have began to read about Kemetic Theology (Egypt), Orishas, and other West African deities and have tried to put together pieces of their traditional spiritual practice. Often incorporating Ayurvedic practices such as yoga and chanting and Native American practices such as smudging with sage, this spiritual movement to connect to ancient indigenous practices is evidence that we know the truth from which we sprang and will stop at nothing to get back to that source. This movement is so strong you even see corporations like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters selling stones and crystals and sage without any context or connection to the people of whom these tools come from. This vulturization has reduced these tools to products. Reading is fundamental to our spiritual growth. We must not limit our understanding of spirit and Source to a religion. Connecting to our ancestors opens a whole world for us to begin to discover all the way back to Mitochondrial "Eve". Why have our ancestors written down stories for us to remember? They are maps to the beginning. We are all divine, on display for one another. There are lessons and understandings we must learn and heal from so we may flourish. Let's do the spiritual work!
Gallagher, Eugene V., and W. Michael Ashcraft. Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006. Print.