American African Spirituality in 2017

Mixed feelings after reading the  announcement of a panel for the upcoming Afro-Latino Fest (http://remezcla.com/music/afro-latino-festival-symposium-preview/)

This is just one in a series of recent panels and articles about Diasporic African religions that have been highlighted since media and a more general public have “discovered” symbolic meanings in Beyoncé’s iconic Lemonade video.

I’m glad to see more pan-Africans being educated about the religions, but I’m also seeing very Westernized, capitalist versions being codified in various ways, including the aesthetic representations. It reminds me of what has happened to Native American spiritual traditions entering the mainstream and being co-opted to varying extents.

We survived the horrors and upheavals of the Diaspora and all that it wrought through a painful, necessary secretiveness, and by the creative genius that allowed our Ancestors to preserve and adapt. Yet I can’t help but wonder if the ostensible “freedom” we’re witnessing and experiencing  will destroy essential ways of knowing and being in the world. In a society where the Federal Court recently legalized discrimination against hiring folks with locs (https://www.google.com/amp/www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/amp/u-s-court-rules-dreadlock-ban-during-hiring-process-legal-n652211) and where black folks are incarcerated and killed with impunity by authorities, and where every creative work is colonized and exploited for the benefit of the dominant culture, I find myself questioning the type and quality of Africanisms and resistance that is tolerated or “allowed” to flourish. In my experience, our cultures are tolerated just long enough to turn them to profit in some way, or to be used as evidence against us.

Make no mistake: I don’t question the aims of the sisters and brothers seeking solidarity, community, and a spirituality rooted in our ancestral cultures and it makes my heart sing to hear the names of the Orishas spoken without the long needed camouflage of Christian saints. And yet I’m wary…Our long history here leaves me feeling that our beautiful, brave, and uncloaked young ones are standing in the crosshairs of racist capitalism in a new, albeit familiar way. Are they, in a manner of speaking, the new Ghost Shirt dancers, empowered and empowering, just moments before their deaths? My pessimism has nought to do with those true souls and everything to do with too many decades/centuries of observing The Others (#ThoseWhoDoNotLoveUs) And no, my pessimism doesn’t cool my fervent belief in Resistance. It does, at its best, make me want to entreat us to carefully consider what we’re creating for the generations and take particular care in weighing what we choose to ignore or leave behind.

But I guess my less agnostic beloveds would  hush their Aunty and say  that as always, this is the crossroads where Olofi, Elegua,  and the Potencias will manifest their will…

One thought on “American African Spirituality in 2017

  1. Well said! Thank you for saying what many hearts feel and cannot or just dont have the words to say.
    On a personal note. I am saddened by the reaction by some professionals to my locs and cant even imagine someone denying me a job based on how I choose to wear my hair.

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