One year ago today, I was at home in Barbados. I say “at home” because the leaders of the Gullah/Geechee Nation had planned a homecoming journey to Barbados in celebration of the “Gullah/Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival™” and Black Music Month. We were the first official delegations to return to the island since 1670 when the first of our ancestors from that island laid the cornerstone for what was called Charles Towne and is now “Charleston, SC” in the Gullah/Geechee Nation. From the time we touched down at the airport, we were welcomed by the sounds of similar voices and similar faces and then there were the drums and dancing. Yes, dancing into the country immediately made me know I had come home!
Our entire delegation was grounded and comfortable because we came from our own country-the Gullah/Geechee Nation-safely to another country where folks looked like and welcomed us-Barbados. We came to confirm the historic and blood kinship between our nations and to celebrate with family. We didn’t take having this opportunity for granted in any way, but we also didn’t initially realize the value our visit would have to our people there.
We traveled from place to place including the market where we financially supported our Bajan Famlee. From the children to the elders, they welcomed us with drumming, dancing, songs, and embraces. Yes, the embraces that I now treasure so much more since for months on end, we have been keeping a distance from anyone and not physically touching one another due to the pandemic. We are accustomed to laying on of hands as a healing touch and not a death sentence. So, we continue to embrace spiritually. We also embrace electronically, but I have wondered if this is not contributing to our PTSD.
Some have written that there are 4 stages to PTSD, some say 5, and some say that there are 12 steps.
No matter what number that is chosen, this get multiplied by 2 in the Black community in America due to the fact that there are two forms of PTSD that a large portion of the society are living with. There is not only Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there is also Post Traumatic Slave Disorder. “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing (PTSS)” was published in 2005 by Dr. Joy Leary DeGruy. P.T.S.S. describes the multi-generational trauma experienced by African Americans that leads to undiagnosed and untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in enslaved Africans and their descendants. This PTSD is being compounded due to the on-going replay of lynchings and murders of Black people in the midst of a pandemic while hearing politicians in Washington DC that are safe indoors tell the people that they need to keep the protest going so that something can change. My thought is how is all that we are witnessing via television and social media while being concerned about going outside due to the coronavirus changing our collective psyche? How is this changing the way the children will view their lives and their future? Will we realize that we have to continue to not only protest, but to progress? Will we realize that we can end systemic racism economically if we that are part of the Black community work collectively in support of our own community and our own nation? We have to collectively admit that we need to heal within so that the enemy without can do us no harm, but I can say that because I have been brought up in a nation wherein collective healing is a natural part of our cultural heritage-the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
In the Gullah/Geechee Nation, we literally live on land that was plantations. As a result, there are consistent spiritual energies at war here and they can be felt and some with a third eye often see this as well. In the outward world, there is the warring between the descendants of the enslaved and the descendants of the enslavers. In the inward world amidst the family compounds, there are the warriors of freedom that fight to continue owning our land and to continue our African and indigenous American traditions of working that land and being self-sufficient and there are those who have been indoctrinated to be “American” which means to be melted into a pot with others and to assimilate into some amalgam that is not distinguishable and which does not have an international connection to other places especially not back to Africa. This means accepting a narrative in which your story begins in bondage. I caution that the way you start is the way you end.
If you accept that your story begins in bondage, then maybe you have been negatively impacted by seeing buildings burning as you sit safely at home and watch on screen. Think about the very home that you are sitting in is doesn’t have your name on the deed, but that instead bears the name of the bank to which you pay the mortgage. That bank gives money to others that build around you and have displaced many that you know. Think about knowing that all that sits outside your window was built with your blood, sweat, tears, and money, but you don’t own any of it. In fact, when you walk into what is built around you including stores and restaurants, you are treated as if you have no right to be in those spaces. If you felt that trauma over and over and over again, you might very well do as many of our ancestors did and burn the plantation so that the folks that didn’t see you before would now see you in the midst of the heat and light.
When the outstanding iconic scene in WGN’s Underground was shown of the entire plantation burning down, many Black folks cheered. Last summer before and after my journey to Barbados, I received tags on Facebook and Google alerts of plantations in the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the deep south that had suddenly burned down. Many Black folks, especially Gullah/Geechees, cheered. As I walked through that sugar cane plantation in Barbados that had been harvested and i.e. slashed and burned, I couldn’t cheer because there was an energy of enslavement still there. As I see the videos on the screen of fires in cities, I shake my head and I cannot cheer, but instead I feel the trauma of my people because without the economic investment and their ownership of those spaces, these places will remain ruins as is the case in Watts all these generations after a previous hot summer where the people were simply tired of being tired and tired of being not heard and tired of not being seen and they decided to bring some light through fire to see if that would change the situation.
This time it is being acknowledged that just like in the past, the ones lighting fires are those connected to their ancestors-white supremacists. Since Reconstruction, white supremacists have used lighting fires to everything from crosses to buildings including Black peoples’ homes, businesses, and churches as tactics to destroy Black pride and advancement. The fact that they have morphed from the KKK to Antifa and these white supremacists and racist interlopers are interfering in the protest over the continued murders of Black people at the hands of police shouldn’t be left out of the narrative of this moment nor of the current movement to end racism. The story has to be known and told in its totality, but to do that would mean to go back and study what happened here in the Gullah/Geechee Nation in Wilmington, NC in 1898 (See the film “Wilmington on Fire.”). It would mean studying Black Wallstreet in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Keep in mind that was only one Black Wallstreet. We had them all over America.). It would mean studying Rosewood, FL (See the movie, “Rosewood.). It would mean studying the bombing of Move headquarters in Philadelphia, PA. It would mean studying the life of Ida B. Wells and the countless names of lynched Black folks that she documented. It would mean looking at footage and images of lynchings and seeing truly that the knee is now also the noose and that the noose never stopped being used as was illustrated this past week when the mainstream media barely reported that 5 different Black people were found hung from trees again in America. It would mean taking all of this in and then attempting to believe that you are not traumatized by what you’ve seen and heard and and what continues to be done to those that are Black like you.
Many have opted out of knowing Black history in the Black community because they say it is too painful. So, what about your life daily, especially now? This will be the history of tomorrow.
How does the Black Family come together collectively to heal so that we can go forward in the planning and implementation of nationhood and an economic sustainability for this new system of self-sufficiency? First, we have to admit that there is PTSD being compounded by a pandemic and that our outlet for the first level called “outcry” is manifesting itself as protests.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’s stages have been documented as
Stage 1: Outcry Stage – Something happens and you feel like you are in imminent danger. This could be from a memory in the past or a trigger of yours. You feel super anxious and don’t feel safe. You may start to rapidly breathe and your blood pressure might increase.
Stage 2: Numbing – You try to push away all emotions that might trigger another episode. Your thinking that if I push a memory into the furthest corner of my mind that it can no longer come back to hurt. You’re constantly in denial of your previous experiences.
Stage 3: Intrusive/Repetitive – You start to experience Nightmares, Flashbacks, and might continue to be anxious and jumpy. All these symptoms continue and continue to happen again and again. At this stage, you will finally want to start confronting your PTSD head on, in order to finally get over it.
Stage 4: Transition – You start to try to accept your PTSD. Constantly seeking ways to treat it that may include therapy, medication, and avoiding triggers. The primary point of this stage is to accept that you have PTSD and that you need to do something to fix it.
Stage 5: Integration – You get your family and friends involved to help you recover. You are setting up healthy habits that you learned from stage 4. Things are starting to get better and there is hope on the horizon. You have a strong support network or systems in place to make sure that the PTSD continues to shrink away from your life.
These stages also apply to Post Traumatic Slave Disorder and in regard to both, it is time for the Black Family globally, but especially in America to move into Stages 4 and 5. We need to commit to our healing collectively so that when we see one another, we see another person that we trust and that we support and that we know will support us. We will not work to sustain a system that was built on racism and the exploitation of Black bodies and Black intellect. Yes, there are some Black people that do this! (Study who destroyed the Denmark Vesey Rebellion in the Gullah/Geechee Nation and know that spirit is still alive and sick.). The “Willie Lynch Syndrome” is a direct outgrowth of Post-Traumatic Slave Disorder which now has to be burned away in the midst of the heat and flames of the summer of 2020. That spirit cannot be allowed to live amongst a true Black family that stands together united against our real enemy-global systemic racism.
There is no greater time than this International Decade of People of African Descent for the children of Mother Africa, especially in America and the Gullah/Geechee Nation, to rise united. We must rise healed. So, I agree with Dr. Amir Jamal Toure of the Gullah/Geechee Nation who holds a degree in psychology. He spoke out on Gullah Observations about how there was therapy provided for communities of others when they were traumatized, but that is not done in regard to the trauma that Black folks are experiencing. Yet, this is required if we are to live on successfully beyond the pandemic and the protests.
I have led many healing circles and intended to stand on the shores of many places with my people in a circle united as we did last year on our final day in Barbados.
I intended to continue to touch my people and embrace them and infuse love and peace into their souls so that they could begin finding a space in which to release the traumas and to be uplifted. Once uplifted, one can uplift another. So, I continue to recall that circle.
I continue to respond to the emails and the Facebook messages from people from the islands saying “Queen, hunnuh hafa cum bak. De people need hunnuh. Dey waan see hunnuh.” I continue to pray online and off for myself, my family, my community, my island, the Gullah/Geechee Nation, America, the world, and especially the healing of the global African family. It is time that we stand in an unbroken circle together healed, united, self-sufficient, and strong so that this unity and positive energy becomes a part of our collective consciousness and imprints in our DNA so that those coming behind us can live in a world of peace, equality, and equity. So, once again, on this day in the midst of the pandemic and protest, I stand for those that do not have the strength of clarity of mind to stand. Yes, I stand. I pray. I heal.