Today, I get to talk about We Got Soul; We Can Heal: Overcoming Racial Trauma Through Leadership, Community and Resilience in New Bern, North Carolina as part of Tryon Palace’s African American Lecture Series. Thanks to an invitation from Sharon Bryant, Director of African American Outreach, who I had a the chance to meet on a pre-pandemic tour of historic Black, New Bern. An invitation facilitated by my dear Aunt Rosanne.
Each time I talk about the book, I share aspects of it, of SOUL, of the story of Eddy and I in Senegal, that fit where I am and who I am sharing with. Today, I am talking about what it means to be in New Bern, NC. What it means to be in a place that is home sort of. An ancestral home. Current home to my mama and my daddy. And, home of my Aunts Rosanne and Mary. And, home, former, of my great grandfather and his brother. And, to many other Black folks who came to this country at it’s inception. To build it for free. Over time. Decades. Centuries. Home to generations of Black folks well beyond my own maternal lineage.
But, I am not a historian. I am a storyteller. I am a writer. I am a heritage and healing practitioner. And, I am, before all that my grandmother’s namesake. I am here to celebrate her and my family. And, to name in some way how coming home, being in New Bern and restoring our connection to our heritage, to a home place offers us a chance to heal. And, to name ways in which connection to our SOUL, our culture and various aspects of it is part of that healing journey. How that all mixes together, integrates and offers us to chance to feel better. About our selves. About our families. About our futures.
I will speak to how coming home – my Sankofa- now feels like after going home to Senegal and finding my way home back to my true and authentic self underneath a mango tree in an outdoor cafe on the outskirts of Dakar in a Serere enclave called Sebikotane. A place that evokes the ride from Raleigh to New Bern and what I imagine Guilford County felt like for my Daddy as a boy and manchild in the so-called promise land.
That the land, that nature – which divine and sacred has offered me a place to slow down, be still and experience healing. Including of my sense that perhaps that who I was, where I was from was lacking in some way. When all the while it, home, the place I am from, the places we are from, collectively, was exactly what makes me whole and allows me to feel grounded, rooted, centered, supported and balanced.
I will share how choosing to invite her into in my life along with other members of my family who are now ancestors also feeds my connection to the divine and the sacred. A connection that allows me to feel good because I got them, I got SOUL. How ritual offers me reassurance in a world that moves far to fast and far to often the wrong direction. Especially as far as our collective well-being is concerned.
And, at this moment as we prepare to give thanks as Black folks invest in gratitude (not genocide, yes, we are calling it that) I will, of course, talk about Thiebbu Jenn, and how eating from the communal bowl feeds us in big and small ways.