With a heart full of joy, excitement, and profound gratitude, I welcome you to the first installment of my Joyfully Bea Healing Arts Blog!
This blog is created with the intention of giving readers a glimpse into whatever awareness is cooking in my pot at any given moment. These words are a channeled event that I am trusting flows from Divine Source through me to meet the unique and precious needs of your soul.
Each entry concludes with an invitation to meditation and reflection. So take a deep breathe, relax, and enjoy the journey into yourself.
Be good to yourself,
Let’s Get Free Y’all. Let’s Get Free.
At this time of writing the words of Bernice Johnson Reagon’s magnificent recording Lend Your Hands to Struggle fill my consciousness. These lyrics delivered by a woman whom I consider to be the most important living cultural worker in North America today, swirl together in my head in one polyrhythmic testimonial to the history Black people’s struggle for freedom in North America.
In my hands I hold the strength to build a new world in a new land or die tryin’…In this circle there’s gotta’ be room for all. The cycle will break down if there’s no room for all. Roooooom for all…They are fallin’ all around me. They are fallin’ all around me. The strongest leaves of my tree. It is your path I walk. It the record you set that makes me go on. It’s your strength that makes me stand. You’re not really going to leave me.
Last week I returned from a 10-day trip to Ghana. A week into the journey I visited Elmina Castle, a former bastion of the Portuguese slave trade in what was then called the Gold Coast. Ever since, the following question has been consistently running through my mind: What am I to do about the historical weight and modern-day impact of slavery upon my life?
When I looked through the black bars between me and the shores of the Atlantic Ocean upon which Elmina Castle sits, I tried to put myself in the place of the African ancestors who experienced the tumultuous journey to the “New World.”
Daring to empathically enter their experience to the extent my post-modernist, diasporic mind would allow, I tried – as Thich Nhat Hahn tells environmental activists who ask him how to save the Earth – to bear witness to the pain and struggle by feeling it in my body. In short, to let it break my heart.
It was hard. The centuries of numbness that I have inherited as a “New World” survival strategy made my desire to be an empathic channel at best an intellectual event.
I realized the narrative of “the search for roots” that is projected onto Black Americans who visit West African slave castles – by our longing for a homeland we can name and know and by others who often take their own connection to a definitive homeland for granted – is somewhat of an illusion.
My authentic search for roots would have to extend beyond a two-hour visit to a former slave castle turned tourist attraction whose revenue stream is part of what makes tourism the third largest industry in Ghana today.
In addition to investigating the significance of Elmina in my life’s trajectory, it would mean having the guts to ask my maternal grandmother about the part of our family that decided to pass for white in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It would mean sitting down with my paternal grandmother – who as a teenager migrated North from rural Hardeeville, South Carolina and cleaned Jewish women’s homes on the Upper East Side of Manhattan – and asking her to tell me every single story about her childhood. What was it like to be abandoned by her parents as a baby and sent to live with her grandfather on a farm in the belly of the Jim Crow South?
It would mean nothing less than a lifetime of honoring the path the ancestors walked through study and reflection, something that extends far beyond the quick and dirty cliché of an African American breakdown at the Door of No Return.
In an interview Saidiya Hartman did with Tavis Smiley about her new memoir Lose Your Mother, she said one of the gifts (my word, not hers) of slavery was that the struggle for freedom links Black people in North America with other people’s freedom struggles around the globe.
As terrifying and ostensibly traitorous it is for me as a Black American person to say: we have to own the whole picture of African enslavement in North America. That is not to dismiss one of the most harrowing experiences of dehumanization the world has ever seen.
And yet, with nearly two centuries of emotional and psychic distance from the catastrophic rupture that was slavery, I am willing to say that some good things did happen as a result.
I get to be a self-employed healing artist who lives in a home with a wonderful lakefront view because of the path the ancestors walked. I get to live the life that historical precedent never told my grandmothers they could live. The music of Bernice Johnson Reagon, which now stirs my soul may never have been written were it not for the set of historical challenges which created the Jim Crow South and Civil Rights Movement that gave birth to the cultural and political brilliance within her.
I don’t think that I – and perhaps people of African descent as a whole on either side of the Atlantic – can begin to heal from the abuses of the past and too often present without acknowledging the whole picture of slavery.
As more and more revelations about the search for roots continue to unfold in my experience each day, it becomes more and more important to me to be the freedom that my ancestors knew was their birthright and struggled against many obstacles to experience.
Why am I wasting time on the small stuff? What is it that keeps me from going after and opening to that which I truly want? Why do I keep punishing myself for past mistakes that are no longer relevant in the present? What will it take to manifest the vision of freedom that has been created for me? When will I make the decision to stand in it right now? When will I decide to no longer withhold anything from myself that my heart truly desires? To finally with open arms and both hands say ‘yes,’ I accept the goodness that Life has to offer? What will it take for me to finally know that right now I am free and live from that place?
With deep gratitude for the Ancestors, my living kin, and my Self, I vow to live a life that answers these questions.
As you let these words soak in, I invite you to deepen your breathe and quiet your inner and outer environment. Close your eyes and let whatever has reached you from this sharing fill your consciousness and transform any places of constriction within.
You may want to sit quietly in meditation for a few minutes, or take out some paper and write. Some of you may want to put on your own recordings of Bernice Johnson Reagon and do some movement! It doesn’t matter what form your reflection takes. Just don’t let any revelations pass you by.
Now is the time. Today is the day. Let’s get free y’all. Let’s get free.
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