Ray: What can non-African Americans learn from the close-knit tapestry underlying African American spirituality and culture?
Lisa: I really appreciate that question. I have a large number of friends who are not African American, so I am going to echo some things I have heard directly from them.
First, being in my space, they always feel my essence — and the essence of my family and friends — oozing all over them.
A friend of mine who is not African American said to me, “I want to thank you for teaching me how important family is beyond my immediate family — that the rivers of my blood run deeper than I have been acknowledging and embracing.”
Family is our gas, our fuel, the helium in our balloon. We African Americans make people who are not blood family. I have more cousins who are not really of my bloodline than I have cousins who are.
Family represents unwavering belief in me. Family represents unconditional love and support in me.
So, I think one of the things that the essence of African Americans can teach to our brothers and sisters of other cultures is depth of family and multigenerational love and support. Our spiritual essence and sense of spiritual family run deep.
Second, when there’s nothing else, nothing else at all, African Americans pray.
We learned how to pray early, early on as African Americans. We learned how to pray for anybody. We learned how to put people on the prayer line. We learned how to be accessory-prayer warriors. We learned how to get prayer groups going.
We learned how to surrender to God. Because there was a point where all we could do was give it to God.
I speak on behalf of my ancestors, when nothing looked like it was going to work for them. So, I can say that the essence of African American spirituality — and the essence of being African American — is unwavering faith in the unseen.
It is not to need a tangible in front of you, but to have the knowing inside of you.
Finally, one of the things I would love our brothers and sisters of other cultures to get an understanding of is how we have learned over the years to love the inside of us, because nothing beautiful looked like us in the culture or on television.
So, we had to begin to validate each other and to validate ourselves, regardless of what Miss America looked like and the fact that we hadn’t seen ourselves in our country’s leadership.
For many, many years we had to believe inside ourselves that we were beautiful and worthy, or we would not have felt that way at all.
I really would love for our brothers and sisters of other cultures to grab hold of that, so they can lose the feeling of having to make so many physical adjustments or monetary gains to achieve success or wealth. Wealth is simply abundance, and abundance does not have to look like monetary things.