Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving - Remembering our Ancestors, African and Native Descendants

This Monday, many folks have Thanksgiving on the brain. I made my run to Whole Foods this morning to avoid the crowds that mount the closer we get to Thursday. Other women had the same idea. Still, the energy in the store felt light, wagons and bodies could maneuver without colliding, challenging patience, or lip-tightening. Good food, good company, and good connection are on the way for many of us. There is much to be grateful for, even in the face of adversity. My daughter and her husband will be flying in from North Carolina, my son will travel from Brooklyn, and we will be spending Thanksgiving with our extended family (by connection, not blood) and friends. A cousin, their age, will be flying in with his wife and twins from California, other family and friends will come from Connecticut, and from the local area in New Jersey. I tear up thinking about the love, laughter and communion that will be present when we gather.

Yet for many years, I’ve felt ambivalent about this holiday, rooted in the arrival of the Pilgrims to this land. Native Americans offered their generosity to these newcomers, and in return, got Wounded Knee and reservations. When the food and clothing drives associated with Thanksgiving start up for those less fortunate than others,I never hear anything about Native Americans who may be in need. In fact, I don't hear much about Native Americans period. I’ve come to believe that they are the most invisible group in this country, except perhaps for trips to their casinos, a key hole view at that.

Thanksgiving invites us to reflect more deeply on our blessings and for a more extended period than usual. And so, I give thanks not only to Divine Spirit for the abundance of life that I have been granted but to the ancestors of African and Native descent, who collaborated much more than we know. Thank you is too small for their ability to prevail through the Maafa (The Middle Passage, Slavery), Jim Crow, The Westward Ho massacres, The Trail of Tears, by wit, prowess, wisdom, audacity, love, transcendent faith, stamina, and creativity. I am in awe of them. I love and laugh because of them. Ase.

Photo courtesy of Bernadine Tolbert

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