Ray: What is it about the African American soul and spirit that is unique?
Lisa: The African American soul and spirit are unique in that we are a village. We are threads woven into a colorful tapestry. Although I’ve never met my ancestors from Ghana or Nigeria, I very much feel their energy. Our souls are woven together. We are a colorful tapestry in many different ways, and spirituality is simply one.
African Americans share a common ground that we never even have to mention. Just by the sake of our culture, we get what our journey must have been. We know that we dance. We dance the dance of resiliency and the dance of celebration. We dance the dance of frustration and the dance of anger, the dance of sadness and the dance of joy.
That common ground is not in what we say. It is in who we be as individuals, in who we be collectively. I know that’s not the grammar one would use, but I have to say it in this way, because as an African American my essence speaks louder than my words.
Ray: And that essence informs the spirituality, doesn’t it, Lisa?
Lisa: That essence informs African American spirituality in the way in which we are rooted in possibility. Ray, people like you and me come from a space where everything that was our birthright was taken away from us.
We have begun to express a freedom in how we choose to be with God. Whether we call our god Allah or God or Jehovah, we have gotten to a place where we have given ourselves spiritual freedom like we experience physical freedom.
As African Americans, we largely come from a base of old Baptist teaching, whether we know it in our generation or someone else’s generation. Now, we really are freeing ourselves up to worship and to be with God the way each one of us chooses as an individual to be with God. We are trying on the spirituality that fits best for us as individuals.
I think that kind of spirituality is wonderful and very diverse. You can have a stadium filled with 10,000 African Americans, and inside that you have hundreds of different choices of worship, forms of spirituality, ways we honor our God, and names we call our God. We choose to acknowledge our differences, because we understand that God lives in each one of us.
We embrace how we have been with God as a culture, even while now choosing to live with God as individuals.