Comforting Words: Emancipate Yourself First!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Emancipate Yourself First!

At first it was my intention to write about the late Coretta Scott King, not simply about how much millions of people around the world will miss her but about the eloquent and forthright way in which she spoke up about the similarities between racism and homophobia.

I was even more impressed when I read her statement supporting same-sex marriage, even while major 'black' pastors were denouncing marriage between two loving people as wrong.

"I believe," the late Mrs. Scott King said, "all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation."

However, my plan to elaborate specifically on Coretta Scott King changed somewhat as I spoke with my dear spiritual guide (she would hate me calling her that) this morning.

I called her just as it felt like my heart was going to give up on me and burst through my chest. As I heaved while reading another email from a woman-friend in Jamaica telling me the latest antics of my mother, it was clear that I needed help.

After her usual cheerful, “Hi my darling Claudette,” Dr. P (no, not Dr. Phil, but close) sensed that something was wrong with me. I sobbed a hello to her greeting and then she launched into her no-nonsense style of questioning, “What’s going on, speak to me!”

Everybody needs a Dr. P in their life, even I, especially one who reminds you to come back to centre and focus on the beauty within yourself, in spite of what the world might be throwing at you. Of all the things my spiritual guide said to me this morning, one point that really stuck with me was how captivating and insidious mental slavery can be.

My compatriot, Bob Marley, wrote a song about mental slavery, entitled Redemption Song.
Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the 'and of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
'Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
Some say it's just a part of it:
We've got to fulfill de book.

Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
'Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

I share these lyrics because they reflect part of my personal story, as a child of the so-called Third World, who grew up with a single abusive mother, as a person of colour who is in a 15+ year committed same-sex relationship and as an immigrant in North America.

More important, however, I share this story as it is reflective of the journey of the people of African heritage and of all those who are living in mental poverty around the world. Mental slavery is such a big issue, especially among people of colour and the economically marginalised and therefore I think it is an appropriate topic as we celebrate Black History Month.

Here is a speech which is attributed to William Lynch (where the term 'lynching' derived from), in which he allegedly described "how the minds of African Americans could be enslaved."

As you read it, you will realize that the same strategies - fear, distrust and envy - are as current today as it was in 1712. Also, you will understand why mental bondage is still an issue and why the minds of people of colour and people who are seemingly ‘powerless’, namely women and children, are easily captivated by the stories that others tell them. Those people might be parents, preachers or politicians (the new slave masters).

What is so startling is how these fear-based, envious and distrustful stories stick like glue to our psyche! How many of you reading this today, can recollect having someone tell you who you are, whether that is:
You are poor!
You will never turn out to be anything good!
You don’t have talent so learn a trade!
You are a whore!
Anything black never good!

How long did it take you to recover from your bondage from that image? Or are you still working through that garbage like I am?

There are too many modern day slaves, particularly children, and we must find a way as parents, as adults to first emancipate ourselves and then free the children from mental and all forms of slavery that threatens to take over families, communities and even nations as the Lynch's strategies of fear, distrust and envy continues to thrive.

Practically, aside from having a Dr. P in your corner or on speed dial to remind you that you are a Child of the Divine, whether you are 'black', 'white', 'brown', gay, straight, man or woman, adult or teenager you can start by taking these words of wisdom from some noted African-Americans to heart:

The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself—the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us—that's where it's at.
--Jesse Owens, Blackthink (1970)

I have learnt over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear.-- Rosa Parks

Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.
-- Muhammad Ali The Greatest (1975)

Fear is a disease that eats away at logic and makes man inhuman.
Anderson, Marian Singer (1897-1993)

Blessings on your journey,


For those of you in Canada, who indicated an interest in attending some events for Black History Month, check out this site.

Photograph available through Yahoo Images


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