Rhea Calhoun, IUP
You know what they say: you can’t know who you are without knowing where you come from. My sense of self has always been lacking. I lacked a grounded, unbreakable foundation of connection, belonging, and identity. What is interesting is that it’s not like my house was completely void of culture. In fact, my house has always abounded with African/African American art, literature, magazines, dolls, sculptures, carvings, statues, artifacts, and African ceremonial masks. My parents told stories of my family, taught me lessons and mindsets from the black community, and passed down many traditions from years ago. Cultural appreciation was practically screaming in my face. I couldn’t’ see it because I was being blinded by American society’s expectations for being black and being a woman, separately and jointly. I was even more blinded by my desperate desire to fit in with my affluent, white peers. I pushed my culture away; I truly couldn’t see what was right in front of me.
Then one day, I had a vision in my dreams. It was of a young woman, my age, staring into my soul with deep, dark, abyssal eyes that held wisdom and history and secrets of past lives. She stood half hidden behind the trunk of a large, ancient tree, but I could still see her dark, glowing skin and her intricate tribal garb. She would then pull away from the tree to dance sacred, ceremonial dances. She was me, from thousands and thousands of years ago, coming to visit me in my dreams. She was my ancestor.
This vision was fleeting, but reoccurring. Each time I saw her I felt more and more connected to this young woman than the last time I saw her. She was calling me, silently, to revive my ancestral energy. She was telling me that they were, and still are, alive, and that their spirits watch over me. But I have to accept them. I have to let them in, and let them guide me. I have to let their ancestral power flow through my mind and my body. I have to connect to that primal energy source.
It was after I awoke from this dream, that I felt a rebirth happen within me. I knew who I was. Where I came from. What I stood for. I relinquished all concerns about those individuals and things that did not cater positively to my identity. I didn’t care what people thought of me much anymore. I was a brand new me, with a brand new sense of fiery self. A proud, intelligent, creative, bold, and kind African American woman who is proud of the skin she’s in.
Sense of self affects your perception of the world. Sense of self creates better communities. Sense of self allows for appreciation of other cultures, heritages, and ways of living. It helps one to better interact with the world around you, and it helps one to better introspect within oneself.
Sense of self allows one to understand his or her purpose, gifts and talents, and how to use those gifts and talents to serve his or her chosen purpose. Every living being in existence has a one, and if you are not serving your purpose you are not putting the proper energy out into the world. One who is not serving his or her purpose is lost, and more susceptible to judging others and doing negative things unto others.
Without true sense of self you are just floating in reality without any foundation or grounding. This true sense of self comes from knowing your people, your history, your culture, your heritage, your traditions, and your ancestors. It comes from allowing the energy of your people flow through your mind and body and channeling that energy to make positive change.
African Americans cannot forget the history of our people. It does not begin or end with slavery. It goes all the way back to Pangaea, and all the way up until now.
We must continue to read, talk to people (family, elders, professionals), do research, track your ancestry using websites and other resources, and genetic testing if possible. We must be knowledgeable of our ancestry, and that could be from thousands of yeas ago or your grandmother. Either way, we must take pride in our identity and continue to fight for respect. To have a true sense of self is the purest form of love.