According to the British, the year was 1619. I don't know how African peoples counted that year. I don't know how the Arabs, the Hebrews or the Chinese counted it. But to English colonists living on stolen land in Jamestown, VA —it was 1619.
Amongst the "twenty and odd" African people sold to the Virginia colony there was a woman "Angelo," as she was first called, later Angela.
Scholars know that she survived a 100 mile forced march from the interior to the coast of Angola; that she survived horribly overcrowded conditions on a ship owned by Portugal; that she was kidnapped by English pirates on her way to Veracruz, Mexico; and that she was ultimately taken to the stolen land "Jamestown."
And so started the four hundred year experiment of African descended people in what is now called the U.S. We now know that such trauma experienced, witnessed and even that of the inflictors is passes on to multiple generations unless healed.
According to Resmaa Menakem, the author of My Grandmothers Hands, our bodies hold non-verbal stories of white supremacy violence. Today these non-verbal stories tell our bodes when to fear and when to relax.
Menakem argues that in the U.S. white bodies have been trained over time and generations to fear black bodies on sight. And black bodies have been conditioned to feel hyper vigilant, careful and uncomfortable around white bodies. It's what the bodies do despite what the conscious mind might choose or know.
He goes on to argue that before you can begin to heal, you have to settle the body because an unsettled body resists healing.
I'm thinking about you.
It turns out we have this organ that Western-Euro-American medicine has only recently identified--the vagus nerve. It connects to our guts, our heart, our spine, and our hind brain. It reacts instantly. It's not connected to the conscious mind. It holds the impulse to survive. It keeps the score.
I met a Black spiritual teacher once who told me that she made a commitment to heal her lineage. Not just herself and her kids and her parents but her entire lineage. She took a seven year sabbatical to do that.
I'm thinking about fires burning in the Amazon, what some traditions call the lungs of the planet.
But the English brought you here.
Now today, I acknowledge the icy fingers in my gut. The low grade anxiety. The constipation. My inheritance.
So how did we not become a "race" of sociopaths, narcissists, and other self-destructive patterns?
Our bodies also reach toward settling and healing.
Our bodies also passed down singing, humming, making music, rocking, touching, protecting, breathing, and chanting,
These practices don't remove slavery or jim crow or lynch mobs, but they give us the capacity to recover without completely breaking.
I don't know what you did to survive all that you did.
But I re-member you.
And I offer this prayer of forgiveness:
Please forgive me.
I love you