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Calling on Our Ancestors: The Truth in Our Bones

Calling on Our Ancestors: The Truth in Our Bones

Calling Ancestors into Social Justice: Performance or the Truth in our Bones? The term “Ancestors” is popping up in mainstream media more and more often. It is becoming a commonplace term, but what does it mean? The use of altars, the naming of ancestors, the pouring of libations have become commonplace in social justice circles, at convenings and gatherings that often marginalize these very sacred practices. These practices have become trivialized in certain spaces and also placed on agendas as requisite bookends. While these practices have also become universalized, there can be a dangerous unintentionality and spirituality without full understanding. While the invoking of ancestors cannot and should not be policed, it is a practice that should be handled with intention and handled skillfully, using the tools to responsibly engage with the ancestors. Ancestral accountability, evolution and communication is bi-directional, meaning that invoking the ancestors is a call-and-response as there is often a response when our ancestors are called. There is a tending to and a caring for our altars and our ancestors that is required when they are called into a space. There needs to be safeguards for those not ready to engage with ancestors, theirs or yours. Agreements and safety discussion are often needed especially in multiracial spaces or in spaces where there may be past violence, sexual abuse, or other ruptures in relationship with ancestry or heritage because of historical trauma, or historical harm caused by an ancestor/s. This session will offer a path for navigating the triggers and fears that need to be addressed, as engaging with ancestors may provoke a traumatic response, feel emotionally, spiritually or religiously charged, or may even feel like an unwanted encounter, depending on who the ancestor is or what they represent.

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