We cannot talk about Black lives and neglect the well being of Black spirits. We are not just Black bodies. We are whole beings. We are spiritual beings. We must take care of our selves and our spirituality in the ways that are most fulfilling and true to us.
Spirituality means something different to everyone, but is often thought of as our relationship with our creator or that which is larger than us. Though spirituality is something that extends beyond religious involvement, it is often most supported and cultivated in our society within traditional religious spaces, like churches or mosques. As a result, finding and accessing sources of spiritual healing and support can be difficult and confusing for Black communities. Religion as a tool of oppression and colonization is a poignant part of how many of us understand our history as a people. For many of us, our lives are pierced with personal testimonies of trauma, discrimination, and rejection within church communities and at the hands of faith leadership. This can be especially true for Black queer, trans folks and Black women.
Fortunately, spiritual practice does not have to occur within the silos of traditional religious institutions and communities. Whether we practice within African spiritual traditions like Ifa, Black liberation theology, Islam, or a creation of our own, it is important that we prioritize our spiritual selves in our lives, communities, and work. The practice of improving our spiritual wellness, and building a healthy relationship and engagement with the spirit world—whether that is God, ancestors, or nature—can look many different ways.
Below are 6 examples of practices that may be helpful. You may also follow The Fireline, an online community I created, dedicated to promoting the spiritual growth and wellness of Black people in the struggle for liberation, for ongoing information and inspiration.
1. Build an Altar or Shrine
Whether a prayer room or an ancestral shrine, the act of creating sacred space makes us more spiritually open to the sacred and provides a physical space for meditation, prayer, worship, or performance of ritual. Find a small room, closet, or corner of your home and adorn it with pictures, notes, offerings, letters or other meaningful objects.
2. Practice Intentional Storytelling
We are surrounded by stories and every day we choose which ones we allow to take root in our minds and hearts. Stories can trap us or provide important purpose and meaning to our lives. Engaging in the practice of authoring, telling, and retelling our own stories ensures that we are do not allow the stories others create about us to define us. Intentionally sharing stories with others is also a way of building spiritually with others. What is your favorite story of someone you have lost? What is your favorite story from childhood? What is your favorite story that someone has told you?
3. Read Sacred or Spiritual Text
Sacred text can be essential in providing guidance and direction. The Internet Sacred Text Archive is a great free resource where you can access many electronic versions of cultural and spiritual texts from various religions, cultures, and regions. You can even start a reading group with your friends, family, or community.
4. Make Intentional Sound
Sound is vibration, which is the movement of energy. Because all is energy, sound can alter mood, experiences, objects, spirits, people, and even events. Repeat a quote, song, scripture, or mantra to yourself. Alter how loudly or softly you repeat it, speed, level of passion and vigor, level of awareness and reflect on how these changes impact you and your surroundings. Whether it's a collective chant at a protest, drumming, or belting out Beyonce’s Formation in front of the mirror, there is power in sound.
5. Practice Gratitude Instead of Complaining
Practicing gratitude connects us to the source of all that is good. It is a way of claiming all the goodness that is present in our lives and that is to come. It can lessen our need for wanting more or reduce the feeling that we are somehow lacking in what we have. By taking time to express thanks for life’s gifts, big and small, we cultivate our sense of fulfillment and appreciation for all that is around us. This may look like giving a compliment, keeping a journal noting one or more things you are grateful for every day, or taking a hiatus from complaining and criticizing.
6. Trust Your Intuition
We all can think of a time (or multiple times) when our “gut” told us not to start a new relationship, or to take a particular job or even to take a different route to work, but we didn’t listen, and maybe were regretful later. Intuition is inner wisdom poured into us by the Divine and our ancestors. It can become a valuable resource if we make it a practice to listen and trust it. Partly this practice means taking time to experience silence and solitude. It also means practicing observation of yourself and others.
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Jamari White is a blessed visionary, social worker, mental health therapist, and self-coined black liberation healer. His work and interests unfold at the intersections of Black liberation, mental health, spirituality, healthy relationships, social institutions and systemic change. He received his Western education and training from The University of Chicago and The Ohio State University College of Social Work. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and at his online community The Fireline.