Black Women : My Soul Is A Witness

Discussion in 'Black Women - Mothers - Sisters - Daughters' started by NNQueen, Apr 15, 2006.

  1. NNQueen

    NNQueen going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Yes, I know, I'm the "feel good" sister and I believe one of my callings is to work with my sisters and to help them to feel good about themselves, less angry, less depressed. Sisters, I could have placed this in the Religion/Spiritual Forum but I deliberately chose to add it here because it's about you. It spoke to me in a very special way as I hope it speaks to you too. It's a long read, but I think it's worth it.

    My soul is a witness: spirit is the invisible thread binding us to women who came before - excerpted from the book, 'My Soul is a Witness' - 25th Anniversary Issue -- Essence, May, 1995 by Gloria Wade-Gayles


    "MAKING LISTS AT THE END OF EVERY DAY was as necessary to my mother's awakening the next morning as setting the clock to ring at a designated hour. I can see her now, sitting at the kitchen table, holding in her right hand a yellow pencil she has sharpened to an almost-point with a black-handled paring knife. Open before her is a small notebook, wired at the top and blue, red or green, depending on which one she has pulled from the plastic-wrapped package of three purchased at the five-and-dime. She thinks, as if in meditation, and then she writes her responsibilities for a "new beginning." She makes a to-do list, a to-buy list and an important-information list.

    When I was a child, I thought the activity was a boring routine that my mother's penchant for organizing made obligatory. But when I became a woman and, as the Scripture says, "put away childish things," I realized the activity was part of a spiritual ritual: first the lists, then the meditation and, before turning off the light, the prayers.

    It was, therefore, with an unsettling feeling--dread, really--that I accepted the list my mother forced me to take the night before the morning of her death. I would need it, she said. I remember the small notebook, wired at the top and dark blue, and the important-information list she had written with a firm hand: names of doctors and medicines and the numbers of her Blue Cross, life and burial policies.

    My mother's spirituality in life--and in death--started me on a search for my own, giving me a "new beginning." The Spirit, or spirituality, defies definition--a fact that speaks to its power as much as it reflects its mystery. Like the wind, it cannot be seen, and yet, like the wind, it surely is there, and we bear witness to its presence, its power. We cannot hold it in our hands and put it on a scale. But we feel the weight, the force, of its influence in our lives. We cannot hear it, but we hear ourselves speaking and singing and testifying because it moves, inspires and directs us to do so.

    But not always. Sometimes we attribute to luck, to happenstance or to our own abilities that which belongs to the workings of the Spirit in our lives. At least nonbelievers do. I was once among them, vociferous and arrogant in my unbelief. In my late twenties, and maybe even as late as my forties, I thought people who believed in the working of something as invisible and undefinable as "the spirit" were flirting with an illogic that, if they were not careful, could have dangerous consequences.

    They could become disconnected from the real world, which, in my thinking, meant the world we see and hear and move in as corporeal beings. My mother knew that this was my way of demonstrating that I had become an intellectual, that coveted identity that gives a Black woman validation in White America--though not, I should add, inclusion in the small circles reserved for those with power and influence.

    It was my way, I suppose, of demonstrating that I belonged; my way of assimilating, of stepping back from "the folk" when the camera lens searched for a picture of Black people who pray and sing and get happy in their souls; who testify about a "way out of no way" and make that "way" with juju and voodoo and incantations to an unseen power; who speak with clarity and certainty, and in detail, about departed loved ones who visit them from the "other side" bringing advice that, when followed, removes stumbling blocks physical strength cannot budge.

    These are people who read messages in dreams, in sudden changes in the direction of the wind, in a bird that suddenly appears and just as suddenly disappears, in a full moon that wears a gold brighter than gold, in stars missing from constellations, in the rhythm of a rainstorm, in strange happenings that have no earthly explanation. They know that an unseen power directs them to the bosom of the earth for herbs that cure as man-made medicines cannot and that this same power blesses them with songs that heal the soul as surely as herbs heal the body. They see the work of the divine in a patch of collard greens, a bed of petunias, a child "spat out" by a mother, and themselves, and they sing they "don't feel no ways tired" because always morning comes, and man "can't make morning." They believe in miracles, which, like mornings, are the work of the force that governs the universe, which they sometimes call God, other times Jesus and almost always the Unseen Spirit. They are certain deep down in their souls that this Spirit loves them, protects them and dwells within them. Which explains why they refuse to be diminished, and are not.

    Such thinking, such behavior, such a belief system, I learned in college, was out of consonance with White-male Western rationalism, which elevates the body, not the soul. In a sense, then, I sought validation at the cost of my own soul.

    That was not an easy task, given the resonance of the Spirit in my upbringing. Indeed, it is not an easy task for any African-American who has witnessed the spirituality of our mothers and our grandmothers and the women in our community. It is no accident that the songs of our ancestors were called "spirituals"; others describe us as "spiritual" people, "spirited" people or "soulful" people; and some form of the words spirit and soul often finds its way into discussions about African-American women. Nor is it an accident that "Amazing Grace," though written by a White man seeking penitence for transporting our ancestors in the holds of slave ships, is associated primarily with African-Americans. Irony, yes, but the working of the Spirit most especially. We sing this song so movingly, giving it African tonality, because it speaks to our belief that Grace Amazing is the Spirit working in our lives, transforming us and others.

    Today, enlightened and liberated, we make the designs in our spiritual fabric. But the threads we use are gifts from African-American women from the past, untangled by their love.

    Today we gather as enlightened women to celebrate our spiritual bonding, which is also our empowerment. So did they. Today we celebrate the power of affirmations, crystals, herbs, oils, incantations to the Spirit and the blood flood of being woman. So did they. Today we reclaim and worship the goddess and goddesses, rejecting the man-image of God. It is quite possible that, early in our history, our foremothers did so as well. I believe they did. Unfortunately, many of the truths about who they were as spiritual women did not find their way into written records. But I have a sense that we have always been on one ship, even when we gave it different names, and that we were always headed for one destination.

    Focusing on Black women's spirituality raises the question: If we cannot define spirituality, how can we speak of a spirituality distinctive to Black women? Not just to Blacks, but to Black women? Having acknowledged that we cannot see it, how can we suddenly ascribe to it such material qualities as race and gender? We cannot. But we can, and should, celebrate the way our connection to the Spirit bears the lineaments of our race, gender and culture. The Spirit speaks in the voice of, sings the songs of, dresses in the symbols of, wears the face of and moves in the rhythm of the people who receive it. For African-American women, it produces spiritual songs, chants, rituals, movements, symbols, needs and energies that are distinctly Black and woman.

    Clearly, in these spiritually destitute times, we are reaching toward spiritual health and empowerment as did our mothers before us. My reference to our "mothers" does not suggest a monolith. They are not: They do not sing one song, pray one prayer, worship the same God, chant the same mantra, call on the same orisha, heal and meditate and celebrate our spirituality in the same way. They worship in temples, in churches, in candlelit rooms, in gardens, in the light of a full moon, in the quiet of their inner selves or in the music of memory. They are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, goddess worshipers and even atheists. They are priestesses, nuns, preachers, psychics, spiritualists and healers. They are poets, novelists, social workers, administrators, theologians and teachers. They have in common their belief that only when we are spiritually connected can we realize our highest selves, become one with all of humanity (as the Spirit says we must) and transform the world in which we live. They do not define spirituality. They bear witness to it."


    COPYRIGHT 1995 Essence Communications, Inc.
    COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group
    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1264/is_n1_v26/ai_16848116
     
  2. PurpleMoons

    PurpleMoons Administrator STAFF

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    Thank You Sister NNQueen! That was soothing and heartfelt.
     
  3. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    This part resounded with me the loudest>>>>

    :toast:
     
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