restricted access 8. Healing the Spirit: Embodying an African Historicity
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8 Healing the Spirit: Embodying an African Historicity For the CWCleaders and other active participants,1 the body was understood as a sort ofvessel that carried ancestral energy, perpetuatingwhat was seen as core African cultural principles and practices over geographical space (place) and time (history) .2 The body was an active agent in the retention ofAfricanness. This embodied ancestral energy wasthe foundation of African community. Multiple examples of the role of embodied African energywere provided by aweeklysupport group to promote women's leadership and explore the connections between spirituality and leadership. Called Leadership and Spirituality for Women, the sessions were regularly attended by about six women, three of whom would be described as "African" in the CWC's framework (including me, two other African Americans, and one woman from the Caribbean with African heritage) and three "European" women. The sessions started at about 7 A.M.and ended at about 9 A.M.For the sessions, the room wasdarkened, incense burned, and a candle waslit and set in the middle of the meeting table. According to the African participant who facilitated these sessions, the candles and aromas "establish a peaceful atmosphere and help bring the ancestors to the room." There wasan unusual stillness in this otherwise bustling section of town as the daily routine for the office and surrounding neighborhood wasjust beginning. After regularly attending these sessions for several months, an exchange between a European and African CWC leader during a particular class provided a critical understanding of how the CWCperceived the transmission of "African culture" across time and space. SUSAN, EUROPEAN LEADER3 I want to tell a story. There is this story about a little girl who scraped her knee in the playground and started tocry. She called out to her mother, who yelled, "Stop crying and act like a big girl!!!" So, just like that, [snaps fingers, suspends hands and pauses] the little girl stops crying—she cuts it off! Now what has happened is that that little girl has an unresolved issue that she car- 140 Creating "Africa" ries with her into adulthood. Anytime she's in a similar situation, she will remember this unresolved issue. This historical energy will hold part of her back in the past. It's like we each have this allocation of energy and if some of it is stuck in the past, we can't fully use our energy . We can't fully realize what it is we were meant to be. JCC I'm not sure if I know what you mean by "historical energy." SUSAN That's the baggage—all the stuff—unresolved stuff you carry with you from your personal history. It's not just spiritual; it also has a physical component. It sort of resides in your body and if you don't deal with it, it can make you sick. jcc Is this kind of historical energy what you mean when you talk about the history of your people?4 SARA, AFRICAN BORN IN AMERICA cwc LEADER Yes [speaking emphatically while gently pounding the meeting table], they are related. But different traditions have differentbeliefs about how this actuallyworks. One wayof thinking about it is the whole notion of reincarnation. You see, I am part of a generation of all fifty-five-year-old African women wherever they may live throughout the world. Mywork [by the term "work" she means her life purpose, her spiritual goals—a term commonly used by CWCleaders] is to get in syncwith all those other fifty-five- year-old African women and take on the role of elder to mentor those who are coming behind me and prepare for those who are coming after me. Now, I may not complete mywork in this lifetime.Any unresolved issues are passed on to the next generation. And I, and other members of my generation, may have to relive these issues until they're resolved. So, mypersonal historical energy and the historical energy of my people are interconnected. If I don't do mywork, I'm leaving if for someone else of my people to deal with. Not dealing with it holds you back as a person and as a people. It stays with you.5 Another example, taken from a discussion at a local conference on African female circumcision, also clarified this notion of historicity. In the summer of 1998 the CWC cosponsored a two-day conference on African women's reproductive health, focused especially on the issue of female circumcision . This issue was...


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