Thursday, March 29, 2012

PPPPOC Speak Out, Part Four

Last year, I encountered some troubling racism within the pagan/polytheist/pantheist communities that wasn't overt, but troubling nonetheless. It got me to thinking that minorities within any community have it hard- even when the community is itself a minority or subculture.
I decided to give my blog over to Pagan/Polytheist/Pantheist People of Color (and later this year to pagan/polytheist/pantheist queers and trans folk) to give them an audience for their experiences. All too often, we traffic only in our familiar circles and that lessens the chance for dialogue. This is a chance to hear from the affected folks themselves.
I sent out a series of questions to folks that I know and it went viral. expect several columns like this one as the answers to my questions come back to me.

This interview is with
.  My questions are first followed by hir answers in italics.

Can you please tell us how you identify religiously/spiritually?
I am a priestess of the Dark Mother Auset ordained with the Fellowship of Isis and the Temple of Isis. I am a Mami Wata devotee. I practice Hoodoo. I am a Feri/Faery initiate. My spiritual work and practices are ecstatic/shamanic. My spiritual path is one of creativity and sacred arts.

Can you tell us how you identify as a person of color?

I identify as a Black American, when I'm being "professional" I say African American but I prefer Black American. As a Black American I am technically biologically  multi-racial, so I am many things but  how I identify connects to my cultural heritage more than biology so really I'm Black.

Do you identify with the term "pagan"? Why or why not?

I'm not a big fan of labels but I do understand why in communicating with each other we sometimes need them, so to answer your question -- yes, if by "Pagan" you mean  "one who follows a spiritual tradition other than Christianity, Judaism or Islam", sure- why not. But if by "Pagan" you mean "one who follows one of the pre-Christian spiritual traditions of Europe," nope.

Have you ever encountered what you consider racism (however you define it) while at a pagan gathering, circle, or workshop (public or private)? Can you tell us what happened?I've experienced ignorance here and there (which I speak about while answering the next question) but in general I really only go to pagan gatherings where I know the other people and can be "in the space" having the spiritual experience rather than worrying about racism. Also, I almost always try to attend public pagan gatherings with another person of color. I do not like to be Black by myself. If I'm going to be completely honest I gotta tell you, for the most part I've stopped participating in public pagan circles. I do one large public ritual a year and it's one that I along with four other Black priestesses facilitate.

There's a part of me that prefers working alone anyway, but a lot of my decision to not attend public circles has to do with the lack of diversity in the pagan community. I know leaving the circle doesn't help with making things more diverse but it's where I'm at right now.

Do you believe that there is a bias against any traditions/Gods/types of religious practices in the greater pagan community? 

Yes. You wouldn't believe how often I've heard White folks in the Pagan community say they don't work with deities from Africa (except for the Egyptian ones cause folks still like to pretend those deities aren't African) because they are dangerous, scary and too demanding. Or people say really ignorant things like "Witchcraft is not evil or dark, we don't do Vodou."  Someone actually said to me once "My sister was nervous about coming to ritual, I told her she didn't have to worry, it's not like we're going to be sacrificing chickens or anything!" and was smiling all in my face the whole time she was saying this!

 Do you believe that these biases are informed by racism?

Sometimes it's straight up racism, other times it's just plain old ignorance about the traditions of Africa and the Diaspora.

What would you like to tell white pagans about making spaces more welcoming, inclusive, and "safe"?For the most part I can say White pagans have made me feel pretty welcome in spaces, they have done this by saying hello, making sure I knew what to do, where to sit etc. and by not ignoring or focusing on my "otherness". I'm not sure that there is anything they can do to make me feel "safe", I either feel safe or I don't.  As I mentioned before I do things to make myself feel safe, like attend circles where I know and am close to the white pagans there or I attend public circles with another person of color.

Have you had conversations with "white" pagans about race? Did it go well? Do you feel as if you were heard?

Yes I have,  it has gone well and I know I was heard. But these are white pagans that I know, trust and have had a long relationship with.  I'm kind of in a place in my life where I'm tired of teaching white people things about race and racism in general. So I'm not likely to have a conversation about race with a white person unless I know, trust, love and care about them. They have to be worth my time and energy.

Do you have anything to say about appropriative spirituality? Has your tradition been appropriated?

If I get started on Hoodoo I will write a whole essay. I will just say this- Hoodoo is African American folk magic. I've noticed White Pagans in the community like to emphasize that "Hoodoo is a mixture of things, it has African, Native American and European influences."

This is true, but anything that's African American is going to be a mixture of things- we are multi-racial people of African descent, I have African, Native American and European ancestry, I'm Black y'all.  Black American culture- our foods, spirituality, music, dancing etc. was created here in America and is a combination of what our ancestors brought from Africa and what they experienced/found here in America.  African American culture is a hybrid culture. Hip Hop, Jazz,  the Blues, a mixture of things, yes, but created and developed by African Americans. African American Hoodoo was developed during and shaped by slavery. I'd like people to really think about this.

Anything else you would like to speak to?I'd like to thank you for your blog and these interviews, they are important.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome but moderated. Please be respectful when leaving a comment.