Photo Cred: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan
I remember very vividly how after my first communion in the 2nd grade, while attending a Catholic school, I was laying on my bed in the M-section of Brampton, looking up at the popcorn ceiling, feeling like I was being watched by God.
I didn’t share a room then. A family member came to live with us sometime later, but I had my own room at the time. My brothers shared a bunk bed in the room next door, and my parents, a room across the hall.
I remember I had an altar already, though I didn’t know it by that name.
I had gathered the different plagues I got from my first communion, rosaries, a bible, and other knick-knacks, and set them on my bedside table. I remember someone bought me a plate that you placed on a stand, with a school photo of myself, that was on my altar too.
I guess I can say that my first encounter with spirituality or a spiritual awakening was in the 2nd grade. Something about receiving the host really sparked something for me. It shifted me. Though I was always a highly sensitive child.
One of my aunts who raised me when my parents moved abroad told me a story about when I was younger, we went to someone’s house, and I refused to go inside. Later it came out that he was abusing his wife. But for some reason, she said I refused to go inside. Likely, I was sensitive to the energy in the house, and the vibes were off. I’ve always been the type of child to speak up and advocate for myself, so I said no. I’m sure I was framed as a difficult child and probably punished for embarrassing her and going against adult orders. But the truth is, I have always been gifted with extra sensory knowing, feeling, and sensing.
There was this one time in high school I remember very precisely. We had gone to a party, and I had a bad feeling about something bad happening during the car ride home.
I won’t get into the details of the story, as it is not my story to share. But I will say, the icky feeling I had, revealed itself sometime later. I remember feeling both satisfied, like, “I told you so.” And also really scared at me for how I had known. I had a dream just last night about that incident and it was revealed to me that something even worse could have happened and that I wasn’t the only one in the car that had a bad feeling about it. There were prayers said that protected us that night.
That’s the lineage I come from. Intuitives. Prayer warriors. Women who sense things before they happen. Who pray and alchemize as we move through life. But these old ways have been framed by white Europeans as bad, as evil, as demonic. I’ve been thinking recently about African traditional spirituality and how demonized it was.
I just attended a session this afternoon presented by Olivia Alaso Patience titled, Internalized Oppression and Why it Is Detrimental to Black Communities. In it, she said something I was saying just recently, that many others have said before, which is that traditional African ways of knowing, how we lived before the European colonizers showed up, it’s now seen as satanic. They have successfully convinced us that our ancestors were evil. They were bad and demonic. That we cursed each other and put hexes and did wild and unruly things. Turn away from those African ways the Christian missionaries told us, and now, we tell ourselves and teach our children the same way.
I often compare our stories of colonialism with those of other Indigenous communities, including right here on Turtle Island, as different as our stories have been. But as Olivia reminded me today, we too were told that our Blackness made us bad, wrong, evil, and sinners. She spoke of getting beat when speaking her local language. She shared that she didn’t teach her own son her native tongue at first. That at the age of 3, someone came over and greeted him in the language of her Ugandan ancestors, and he couldn’t respond. That moment brought her a lot of shame and guilt she said, and she then decided to teach him the local language.
But this story is familiar to a lot of us continental Africans. Where the "African" was beat out of children by missionaries, who internalized the anti-Black and anti-African racism and subsequently did not pass down many of our teachings. Some of us are ashamed of ourselves. Want nothing to do with the African way. Some of us even find Black Americans and Caribbeans way cooler and more acceptable than we are.
I have struggled with this same internalized oppression my whole life. It showed in how anti-Black I was toward myself and other Black people. In how I pushed aside my intuition. How I felt ashamed of being highly sensitive. Didn’t trust my inner knowing. Including when I felt like my handwriting was being watched.
I said yesterday it's weird people don’t think it will ever happen to them, but I was one of those same people. I didn’t think it could happen to me. I refused to believe it. I set so many destructive and immature traps that truly got me in a lot of potential trouble. I was willing to risk a lot just to find out if what my intuition told me was true, was true.
I just attended a session presented by Lady Danni called, "Foraging for Food, Medicine, and a Reconnection to Nature. She paraphrased a quote that touches on this blog post. I'll share it to wrap up. She said, “What the daughter forgets, the granddaughter wishes to remember.”
Like Olivia, what my mother's generation forgot, or rather, was violently forced to forget, I wish to remember. Reclaiming my intuition has saved my life. It has been both a blessing and a curse. I hope to continue listening to my intuition without internalizing the negative myths surrounding it.
Until next time, in solidarity.