Last year I wrote a piece called “Flesh and Bone: Honoring Ancestors” for State of Formation. The article, and the issues I raise in it, have continued to haunt me. Our disconnection from and fear of our dead: why is this so often the stuff of horror movies? Why do we make our dead into monsters? These are our departed loved ones, our community, our history. Why do we fear them? I felt like the article was the start of something but I didn’t know what else to do. Write another article?
We were brainstorming new ideas for the Fifth Annual Anba Dlo Halloween Festival at the New Orleans Healing Center: how can we make the spiritual principles represented by Halloween fun and engaging? How can we recognize and express our heritage while doing some good for people in the city we all love? I was trying to think of an interactive project to host in the Spiritual Space.
BAM! It hit me. Messages to the Ancestors. An easy, practical and beautiful way to reach out to our departed ones. A way to ease our guilt and fear, to forge a small connection based in love. To say what might have been unsaid, to soothe our regrets. Maybe a way to make a small peace. I envisioned messages sent as a blog comment, via email, or written out by attendees on the night of the festival, then displayed in the ascetic but resonant 4th floor Spiritual Space. Even more fitting, the adjacent rooftop space will be hosting the 10,000 Bones exhibit (these bones represent a protest against genocide). So we’ll have the symbolic bones of our ancestors keeping company with the created bones of artistic protest against the harms we do to each other. I like that.
I had the idea roughed out and ready to go…then I got (Viral) Meningitis and lost nearly a month of work time. As recovered and scrambled to get ready to leave for Burkina Faso for a month, I kept worrying about this project. It got pushed back and back. I finally got the website launched the night before I left…and realized that now, the timing felt right: the eve of my departure to Africa, home of all of our ancestors.
So, please: visit Messages to the Ancestors. Reach into your history, reach within you, reach forward into a future where you are at peace with your past. Leave a message.