Heritage Heals: Waking Up to Chief Mike

I woke up the other morning to a voice that felt like home, an accent, one that I typically recognize and know very clearly. I knew immediately the speaker, Chief Michael Jacobs, was from North Carolina. But, at the same time I was confused because he was in conversation with the host of a CBC show I listen to on NPR – As It Happens.

Yet, in spite of my initial confusion, I was moved. Hearing Chief Mike name the way that his community would be forever changed by the recent finding of a 1000-year old canoe. He describes the tears of his living elders and his own as the canoe was pulled from the lake, which is located a short distance from Wilmington, NC. He explained that “finding the 1000-year old canoe in Lake Waccamaw is going to impact [our youth] and help them overcome some of the trauma that they’ve experienced through being excluded at times, and even counted as not worthy. Our youth now can touch something that’s tangible. They can handle it.”

I know exactly what Chief Jacobs means. About what it means to locate worthiness in our heritage and history. Like him, I know that histories have marked us as less than human and uncivilized. Or excluded and erased us completely.

But, more importantly, I have felt the same joy and wonder as Chief Jacobs. And, pride to be sure. And, like him, Eddy and I have seen the same responses to history and heritage – tears of joy and sorrow. A sense of awe, wonder and delight. And, curiosity. Our elders. Young people. We hear and see how folks respond to their history and heritage when it disrupts how they may have seen themselves before. We hear and see how moved folks are by learning and seeing themselves more fully. As more worthy. As Black. Dope. & All Good. When they recognize and can tangibly touch the fact that they do indeed have SOUL and they can heal.

When they enter community with us at a Communal Healing Retreat for Black Men in Cincinnati and behold the works of Black artists like David Driskell and The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

When they feel a deep sense of awe and wonder as they stand beneath the mammoth African Renaissance Monument or on the top of it. Or when they are moved to tears in the Door of No Return on Goree Island or Carabane Island in Casamace.

Or see artifacts, like the Waccamaw canoe, that reflect our genius, creativity, resourcefulness and capacity to adapt and innovate. And that connect us to spirit, the divine and the unseen that our ancestors trusted so very deeply.

Or how when they visit the Kadiote Museum in Casamace and stand, looking up beneath a canopy of fromager trees and peer inside one, as they learn how these trees served our ancestors in many ways, including giving us a place to hide so we would not be taken.

Or when they meet Mami Wata for the first time and thank her for bringing them home.

How, as Chief Jacobs reminds us, that seeing ourselves more clearly and more concretely through our history and heritage can heal our trauma and the ways that we have been wounded. How we might understand in our own way that, while perhaps not people of the fallen star like Chief Mike and his people, as poet Amir Sulaiman reminds us in “In Tune” we too are connected divinely to all that is cosmically magnificent and magical. ‘That an opportunity to actually handle and touch our history is just a blessing.”

#AsItHappens #WaccamawLake #WaccamawSiouanTribe #1000yearoldcanoe #ChiefMichalJacobs #ChiefMike #NCHistory #NCStateArchaeology #IndigeneousNC

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