This past semester I took a class rooted in Black identity. The theme of the class was called “Sankofa“, which is Twi for “going back and getting it” and was interpreted for the class to mean looking back to move forward. Surprisingly I did not know how true that idea would truly be until I found myself in two completely different settings reflecting on the idea.
The last day of the semester I confessed to my class full of my fellow peers who were all Black that I was bullied by BSU in high school and that I therefore was anxious to attend class and speak my opinions. I felt I wasn’t Black enough because I did not fit into the “Black mold” often perpetuated by the media and people in my own community.
I originally chose to major in Sociology because there was not a Globalization major and also because I hated all of the stereotypes I heard growing up about Black people. I grew up in a multicultural neighborhood with friends that were often first generation and English learners. I found my home in multiculturalism and loved learning about the world around me.
As you can probably tell, I am a big picture type of gal ;), and therefore I knew that while I was happy learning about other cultures there was a part of me that I new had not healed. I shied away from the Black community because of the years of being called an “Oreo”, “racist against my own race” “too dark” “wanna be Asian” etc..
It wasn’t until I chose to submerge myself into the thick of my fears that I was able to overcome them with the help of my peers. I was supported and loved and shown for the first time in my life how the Black community should be. We should be able to come from a variety of backgrounds. Our skin tone, hair texture, interest and political party should not define what makes an individual black enough. Every person in that class had different life experiences and yet we were all able to bond.
On the last day of class I found my self sobbing bearing one of my deepest and most vulnerable hurts not expecting to cry and unable to quickly pull myself together. The tears that flowed were from years of built up hurt, frustration and fear from the years of utter rejection from my community. I love being Black and African American; however, my identity does not stop there. My race is not my Master Status (the main lens through which in individual views the word and governs their actions). My identity as a Christian supersedes my racial identity.
The second “Sankofa experience” I had was tonight. The entire day I was running errands and by the end of the day fear had gripped me so tightly regarding leaving home for the first time to study abroad. To be honest, the Holy Spirit has been calling me to read my Bible for a while. The image that comes to mind is Jesus is waving at me to have a picnic with him and I would pretty much look at him and quickly turn my head away. Tonight God called me and I sat down with him. I listened to an awesome sermon included below: (http://www.epiclife.org/messages/service-type/teaching/)
and immediately I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and the fear turned inside me settled by His beautiful calm. While cleaning and packing in my room I came across my old yearbook and graduation book where my friends wrote such beautiful well wishes for me.
At that moment I found myself looking back, and while I was looking back I was able to move forward. Often times I believed that looking back meant that I was chained to my past and not able to move into new opportunities; however, looking back can be empowering. Decide what purpose your past will play in your present. Will your past be a chain or testimony that continue to strengthen you for the adventures to come. Go back and get your strength from your past experiences.
“Old roads that lead to no where are where adventures begin…”