One of the most frightening things about the old African traditions is its association with voodoo. The word voodoo here is not a reference to the many variations of the African based religions that developed throughout both American continents and throughout the Caribbean islands among African slaves and their descendants. Indeed, as a practitioner of a Yoruba based belief system, I have to confess that technically my family and I participate in this spirituality.
The voodoo I refer to is the more superficial based on silly superstitions without much in the way of facts to support such beliefs. This bastardized and overly dramatized version of the African belief system gets played in Hollywood with such films such as the Believers, Eve’s Bayou, Serpent and the Rainbow, Skeleton Key, and the James Bond film Live and Let Die. Playing on people’s fears of African spirituality, many people are quick to prey on our collective superstitious and are quick to portray African traditions as something evil and better left alone. As a young Christian in Sunday school I was taught that anything African was to be avoided if you wanted to stay in god’s good graces.
As I grew older I began to realize that a lot of what I was hearing was just plain silly superstition. But that was back in the early stages of me questioning what I was being told to believe and my relationship with Christianity began to wane. As I started to grow in my African based spirituality, I began to earn a better understanding of how the honest reality of African traditions can be manipulated into the silly superstitions that became so popular. While I may not believe the superstition that laying a broom at the door of your house will keep spirits out at night, I do believe that there are spirits.
I have to admit that there are things that I do not fully understand and yet I believe. But it’s not fully necessary for me to understand how things work to believe in them. I don’t understand how microwave ovens work but I believe that they will heat my food when I push that little button. I have faith that someone else understands how they work and my personal experience with microwave ovens gives me faith that I can take to the bank. The same thing is true with my beliefs in the Orisa based spirituality.
Now, with all of that said, I had to laugh the other day when I saw my old landlord driving a rental car. It seems the woman had an accident and her relatively brand new car was in the shop being repaired. My first thought was karma. We moved out of her apartment building at the beginning of September. Because of a post office mix up, despite how many change of address forms will fill out, our mail continues to go to her apartment building. The woman occasionally calls and tells us we have mail waiting for us to pick up. Whenever she calls, we apologize and go pick up our mail. Her house is practically in our backyard so we see each other often.
Well, last month we were expecting one piece of mail that was pretty crucial. It was a notice regarding my son’s health benefits that needed immediate attention and quick reply. We were trying to beat a deadline. Instead of forwarding the mail to us as usual my landlord sent it back to the sender. She said she thought it was too important to forward. By the time we found out what happened we had missed the deadline. Now, for the next year at least, we are paying an extra two hundred fifty dollars a month out of our pocket to replace his lost benefit. That’s an extra three thousand dollars that we need. The misses was upset. I said she’ll get hers.
But the misses wasn’t content just knowing that karma would address the issue. She took the case to Baba Esu and asked for some tangible justice. She didn’t want anything drastic. Just something that would make her life just as inconvenient as she had made ours. Just a couple weeks later, we now see her driving her rental.
The misses felt bad. I continued to laugh. She said that she asked for something bad in a fit of anger and now regrets it. I advised her in the future to make sure she’s calm and rational whenever she asks for such things. She asked me if I ever wished for something to happen to somebody. I said of course. And if whatever I asked for comes to past I will simply say thank you. If somebody pisses me off to the point that I’m asking Orisa to step in on my behalf and take somebody to the tool shed, then chances are pretty good that I felt that they deserved it.
Besides, there is nothing to support the fact that what happened to our landlord has anything to do with us. It’s not like our old landlord has never wrecked a car before. I think in the year and a half since we’ve been here she’s already had a couple fender benders. This is just the latest. Besides, I’ve been asking Baba to help us win the lottery and that never happens. I’m pretty sure that asking for something bad to happen to somebody in a fit of anger doesn’t work either.
But nevertheless, I think I’ll buy Baba Esu something nice today. You never know how the spiritual realm operates. And I’d rather err on the side of caution. Wouldn’t want to piss Baba off, even if I do think it might be nothing more than silly superstition. I might want to do some more superstitious stuff sometime in the future and I would like to stay on Baba’s good side.
“If the police had detained her against her will for safety reasons we would be hearing from jesse jackson about violating the right of black americans women. The national media needs to get the word out and the police and fbi need to find this young american woman asap, regardless of her race.” – A comment from betier in response to Mitrice Richardson Is Just Another Missing Black Woman
Is it just me or do a lot of people want to perpetrate the fraud that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton wield a lot of influence in American culture? Anytime somebody tries to call attention to some disparity that happens to fall along racial lines, somebody is quick to say something like if some racially generic institution that is heavily controlled and influenced by white people tries to do the right thing then Mr. Jackson or Mr. Sharpton will be quick to jump down their throats like the wrath of god. This begs the question, what has either one of these men done to instill such fear into the dominant community?
When the news broke that Rush Limbaugh was about to participate in the purchase of the St. Louis Rams, a number of people on all sides of the racial divides came out to protest the move due to Mr. Limbaugh’s reputation as a race baiter. But to defend Mr. Limbaugh and his insensitivity toward racial issues, people attacked Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as two of the most racist people in America. Why has either one of these men done to earn such a reputation for racial division from the dominant community that inspires people to want to give a racist like Mr. Limbaugh a free pass?
If people take a long, hard, honest look at Mr. Jackson’s and Mr. Sharpton’s long, distinguished careers, what have they really said or done that has significantly helped the black community? Sure they have helped to sue people and bring attention to certain issues of racial discrimination. But other than the high profile complaining the good reverends don’t really deliver much to the black community at large. Mr. Jackson formed his Rainbow/PUSH organization. Mr. Sharpton developed his National Youth Movement. Both of these organizations do much for the black community.
But they also do much for the dominant community as well. Mr. Jackson is on record fighting to keep the plug from being pulled on the believed to be brain dead Terry Schiavo. Mr. Sharpton regularly does his appearance on television on shows like Boston Legal, New York Undercover, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as well being a special commentator for such shows as Meet the Press and This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Both Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton have made a lot of money participating in institutions near and dear to the heart of the dominant community. Both men have done very well financially speaking.
People need to wakeup and take a look at who really benefits from Mr. Sharpton’s and Mr. Jackson’s theatrics. People want to point to such incidents as Mr. Jackson calling New York City Hymie Town for all the Jews that reside there and Mr. Sharpton participating in the discredited Tawana Brawley case. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton are not two super heroes working for truth, justice, and the black community’s way of life. In all honesty, these two men have benefited greatly from the status quo. And people who benefit from the status quo are less likely to honestly participate in its true abolishment.
Some people think that these two men are sitting and waiting, ready to pounce when some institution steps out of line and treats black people unfairly. But in all likelihood, these two reverends rarely go into one of their high profile theatrical productions without careful consideration of the impact to the status quo. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton might work to bring attention to some individual heinous acts. But they really don’t do much, have done little to change the plight of the black community.
High profile civil rights activists worth millions of dollars probably don’t want to do anything that would really jeopardize their high dollar earning potential. And so when people say silly things about police not wanting to do anything to upset Mr. Jackson or Mr. Sharpton and bring down their wrath, who are they trying to kid? Jesse and Al are so far from consideration it isn’t even close to making a difference. Neither one of these men, and no one else either, is some kind of boogeyman that the dominant community needs to fear.
This is not to say that if I was being unfairly treated by authorities I wouldn’t welcome the help attention from either one of these reverends would bring to my case. But I also know that if I’m being railroaded by some racist machine, I seriously doubt if I could count on help from Mr. Sharpton or Mr. Jackson. These two old school civil rights activists are pretty careful with the cases they select to stick their reputation on.
Regardless, to blame these two for the dominant community’s inability to interact with the black community with common sense, compassion, and sensitivity is truly inappropriate and totally inaccurate. These reverends are in no way, shape, or form responsible for the police mishandling the arrest of Mitrice Richardson or Rush Limbaugh not getting the Rams or any of the other racially disparate events people want to give the dominant community a pass on.