Festivals and Community

First I want to start with saying that I am grateful and I am lucky.  I have had the pleasure of integrating into a beautiful community of various types of Pagans and have never felt as if who I was wasn’t good enough.  I know that others have had to deal with feeling singled out in the crowd of Pagans because they were other than white but I haven’t.  I have been lucky.

I think part of that is living in the Bay Area.  Before I identified as Pagan, I was still the Black girl that didn’t “act Black”.  I never really understood that, especially when I was younger.  I didn’t “talk Black” or dress “Black” or even “act Black”.  I remember asking what it meant to talk Black after being told that one time and the response I got back was that I talked too proper.  To this day that saddens me and I have continued to hear that throughout my life.

I use to wear crystals, listen to alternative music and hang out with a multi-cultural crowd.  I think I was being groomed to become a Pagan.  Truth is, being born and raised on the West Coast (specifically in the Bay Area) I didn’t identify with racism and didn’t see why I had to be scared of others who were not like me.  As I got older I began to understand a little more and yet still feel completely comfortable being who I am among others that don’t look like me.

So when I joined the Pagan community, I didn’t feel any different than I had before.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to the yearly Pagan Alliance Festival and Parade in Berkeley, California and had a blast.  There were plenty of different races, beliefs and preferences all together in celebration of deity and one another.  I was not the only Black person there and there were Hispanics, Native Americans, women, men, straight, gay, transgendered, professors, teachers, tarot readers and therapists.   There were so many different types of people there that I didn’t even think about being anything other than a Pagan and a Priestess of the Gods.  It was beautiful.

As I mentioned before, I know this is not always the experience of others who walk the worlds between culture and spirituality.  I know that different areas around the world have different levels of acceptance and different types of people around.

I found myself wishing that all African American Pagans could have this experience of community with other Pagans.  I am going to continue to hold that space for all people to find peace within their own communities, it is a wonderful feeling.  As many of us have heard before, look for the commonalities and not the differences.  Community should be about acknowledging the commonalities and looking at the differences as the additional spices that make us all unique and valuable.

And with that, I say I am truly blessed and lucky.  I love being able to have my culture walk and my spiritual path walk along side me together.

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PantheaCon 2015; Pain, Healing Work, Allyship in Action and Coalition Building
  • Nouvelle Noir Goddess

    I can relate to the “acting white” “sounding white” “talking white” bit by BOTH ethnic groups. I believe majority of the time when individuals from who are Caucasian that do use such statements it is from a state of “shock” due to their perception of “what black people” is. A place of misconception and stereotype: although many use it as a “compliment” I find it personally offensive. As for black folks who use such statements it is often from the “same place” of stereotype and often times derogatory. That is not to say that I’ve heard these phrase used in a “positive” sense from black folks—just it is, my personal experience, far and between.

    Overall, the statement is a general glorification of “ignorance” and being smart and/or talented is “taboo”. Most black children who excel in academics would be called “Uncle Tom” or “sounding white” Where white children would be called “nerds” or “geeks” (whatever the new phrase is for this generation). I’m often amazed and baffled how intellectualism is frowned upon by many (not all). Especially when you hear individuals on the right (GOP) demean “intellectualism” by use of “elitism” and bashing prominent universities and individuals who graduate from such university (Harvard, Stanford, Yale).

    As it is in “white communities” So it is in “black communities” with individuals using words that hurt: ghetto (aimed towards individuals in black communities) and trailer park or redneck (aimed towards individuals in white communities). As if there is no such thing as a white person living in predominately black communities and subsidizing housing development. Likewise, no such thing as a black “redneck” or black folks who reside in trailer park communities. Both are use to degrade individuals who come from such environmental/geographical locations that are typically impoverished. Both are use in a segregated mentally of “white folks live here” and “black folks live there,” as well. A place of misconception of “types of groups” and how those groups “should act”

    Thank you for this piece!

  • http://www.cultureartist.org Chuck Hall

    That’s one thing I love about Pagan festivals…the sense that there is no ‘black’ or ‘white,’ or ‘straight’ or ‘gay.’ Everyone is welcome, and everyone gets along…except those damn ADF Druids. :)
    Just kidding. :)

  • lynn

    Lucky you for being in the diverse Bay Area!

    I grow up in NYC, so I had a similar experience being friends with all different kinds of people. Since I’ve been pagan though I’ve been living in a very rural, majority white area and while people have been very welcoming, I personally do not enjoy always being “the only black person.” Especially in a spiritual context. But that’s just me.

    Great post.