This photo was taken at the March Against Religious Intolerance in Salvador de Bahia in 2014. I titled it, “The Secret” because at first glance it looks like a celebration of Christ. Hence the bold red letters over the church, “Jesus Cristo E O Senhor”. But if you really know what’s up, this photo is a misnomer. The people in white are practitioners of African Spiritual practices or supporters of peoples rights to practice whatever religion they’d like. Candomble and Umbanda are the more dominant Traditional African Spiritual Practices in Brazil, but this walk was about religious tolerance for all peoples.
Far too often its’ people of color, specifically black people who are persecuted for practicing the religion of their ancestors. Especially in the Diaspora, Traditional African Religion and it’s offspring ( Vodun, Candomble, Lucumi, and Yoruba) are seen as “evil” “dark” and “black”. Ain’t it funny how these same words are used to physically describe black folks? And yet, so much of what these religions stand for and teach us are then white washed and commodified by the descendants of those who persecuted Africans for practicing in the first place.
My hot take is that, this spiritual shit really works. That’s why it’s kept hidden. That’s why we’ve been made to fear our own power, because it’s potent. Just research the Haitian revolution. I’ve been attracted to Traditional African Religions since I could remember. Being raised in the black arts community meant interacting with people who practiced all types of religions. As I got older I realized how natural and practical Traditional African Religions really are. From ancestral worship to respect for the physical earth, to even using the spoken word as manifestation I feel that this path is something I’ve been practicing for a while without knowing it. Although my family is deeply Christian and I was raised in the Methodist church I still research Traditional African Religion and try and incorporate what I can in my life as I wait patiently for a teachers to appear.
What has happened in my life as I wait and research on my own feels like a strong foundation. Ever since I was young and my mom encouraged me to write, not to published or for other people, but to release and remember, I’ve been manifesting the life I’m living and the life I want to life. From my initial move to Brazil to the new apartment I just moved into, to the timing of artistic opportunities, sitting with my desires, writing them down and then presenting them to my ancestors for approval has served in my best interest. The secret is, this spiritual shit really works.
A few weeks ago I went to an Anti Blackness in the American Metropolis Seminar .
It was as insightful as you’d think it would be. Organizers, scholars and journalists convened for two days in Baltimore and confirmed what I knew to be true growing up in an urban city. America is built on the backs on black lives and continues to profit from us. Urban poverty is/was a tool to “fuel and grow” the economy and it is literally more expensive to live in a majority black city. There was so much to ingest but what has been sticking to my ribs more than anything was something Dr. Ashante M. Reese said about self sufficiency as collective empowerment. As I heard it, she seemed to be saying that when a black person practices self sufficiency; ,meaning not waiting for the city to do it’s job; starting a community garden; picking up the trash and disposing of it properly; they are practicing self sufficiency. Which quickly turns into a collective experience. And this is something that improves the qualify of life for everyone around them.
Contrary to the way self sufficiency and self determination was theorized as individualism during the enlightenment period and then practiced by white men (to the detriment of the literal world) when practiced by black folks it becomes a means to collective empowerment. (I see you Kujichagulia.) Anyway, I’ve taken that to heart and been sitting with the vulnerability that comes with envisioning collective empowerment. Because what if I take that scary step of becoming self sufficient and determined and fail? It is then I remember the legacy of Zumbi dos Palmares who fought tirelessly to free himself and subsequently others and won. He – they- did the work and won. I’m keeping that same energy as my pitches to large news desks get rejected and remembering I built my own platform for a reason. Ya’ll goin get this work no matter the medium or website.
This post is a rededication to myself as I am building my own and continuing to sustain my own as a means of collective empowerment in the legacy of Zumbi dos Palmares.
In the words of Octavia Butler, so be it, see to it.