Recently, I came across a viral video of a young Black girl fighting a young white girl on a school bus. The young Black girl slapped her and yelled, "Don't you ever put your hands on me again! Ever! In your life!" The young white girl was crying, head down, taking the hits. When she found a moment, she grabbed her things and ran away, not before the young Black girl got one more slap in. The Black girl called after her, asking her if she wanted more, and daring her to touch her again. "Bleed out! Die hoe!" she yelled.
Then another video came across my timeline: A white girl beating on a Black girl in a cafeteria. The Black girl tried to defend herself from the other side of the table as she fell over, but the white girl was determined, leaning over to continue the assault. From the right, another Black girl came and attacked the attacker. Within seconds a teacher came to pull them apart.
I'm not the only one who has come across videos like this. I know I'm not the only one who sees the comments of clap emojis and approving memes and gifs. I know I'm not the only one that thinks, even for a second: That's what they get for messing with us! They're always messing with us, taunting us, and violating us! It's about time they fuck around and found out! Then I witness the discourse:
"They are the first to hit and then play the victim!"
"How much can we take before we are allowed to fight back?"
"That's why they don't respect Black people because we act like this!"
"I would do the same thing! Good for her!"
To be clear, I'm not a violent person, nor do I condone violence. Still, I cannot deny that anytime a privileged person reaps what they sow and learns that no one wins in supremacy, something in me feels like justice has peeked its head from behind a very perverse ancient door. This type of justice knows violence as a choice; this type of justice has little patience, is rarely silent, and knows one thing: She will survive by any means necessary.
When we talk of our ancestors, we often speak of spirits that uplift and empower us from beyond, having survived unimaginable injustices and pain and persevered. I think within that realm of empowering ancestors lies an ancestral rage. This hurt lies behind our teeth after every police-sanctioned killing, after each announcement of systematic oppressive statistics that thrive right outside our grasp, after every hard look you get for entering a room. It hides under our eyes when we protest; it covers our thumbs when we scroll and see yet another priceless piece of our culture flipped, turned, and exploited; it sometimes lays dormant in our fists… until it doesn't.
As someone who accepts power from my ancestors, I recently experienced some of that ancestral residue. In March, my fiancé and I moved to a new city on the West Coast. Multiple people told us that this place was nowhere near as diverse as New York and to prepare ourselves. Within the first two months, I found myself not getting quality sleep. I was looking for the nearest exits in every room when I was awake and watching everyone closely, more so than usual. I was alert for anyone who might want to hurt me, because I was sure they were there.
In a safe space of reflection, I noticed this weight in my spirit and heard: Your ancestors are trying to protect you. At that moment, I could almost see them, wide-eyed and alert, determined to keep me safe. The tears began to fall. I felt their fatigue and elevated heartbeat. They ran for miles with little to no rest; I am sure of that. They knew I was in a new place and heard the warnings, so they came forward at the ready to lend a hand. I felt a connection to them and their pain, but I was also drained of my energy. My mom, a medium, asked me if I cleared myself of them. At first, I thought, they are my ancestors, why would I want to part from them? But she was right. Those sleepless and alert ancestors were giving me what they had to give, but it wasn’t what I needed. So, I thanked them, released them into Light, and gave them space in a poem. My sleep quickly improved, and the abundance of caution subsided.
Luckily, I had the resources to identify an ancestral inheritance that I needed to return, manifesting itself in my fatigue. I am grateful for the start of my spiritual journey, which allows me to practice connecting to Spirit at the highest level in order to heal generational and ancestral pain. But how many of us are walking around with this ancestral weight, not knowing its origins or, more importantly, the consequences of how it plays out in our world? But it wasn't until I witnessed this rage going viral online that I began to ask myself: Where does this rage and power come from and what memory is feeding it? What is the remedy?
I have no doubt some of my ancestors were filled with rage when they left this place. My ancestors, who were women, felt something beyond outrage. Maybe you've felt it too on the subway or walking home. There's the fear that you are being followed or concern of the intentions of people walking by. You question how far you could run in your shoes and with your bags. Then there is a resolve that you will make it home because if anybody tried you, they would be sorry, and you won't be. That protection and will to make it home safe has kept me calm during many sunsets on my way home, as I put my key in the door and went inside.
One day, I also felt my ancestors' fear and rage when I saw a group of young white boys in the park. They were laughing and joking with each other, littering with no care in the world. Something in me didn’t want their jovial mood too close, as if I would become a target for their entertainment or worse. My body and spirit were on defense and I watched them like a hawk as they skipped and roughhoused away. They probably didn't even care I was there and I may have had no reason to be afraid at the moment, but my ancestors knew and experienced something that I didn’t.
I am still finding the answers to this question of how to navigate ancestral rage, energy, and memory, but my first step was to ask: Who are my ancestors? This question launched my journey to not only tap into my ancestors' power but also begin to navigate what I wanted to take from them and what wasn't going to serve me on my earthly journey. It is hard to accept that some of my ancestors left this planet and aren't at peace; they are still on the spiritual side with the same rage, pain, and fear they had when they were alive. Yet, I am still here. And I think that is the point. My presence is proof that I don't have to continue the pattern of rage, pain, and fear; I get to choose another path that goes beyond where they left off, and it is that path where the mystery lies for all of us if we dare to ask where the rage comes from and where does it go.
For some of us, advocacy is a form of alchemy from rage to action. In my first year of college, after finding the anonymous message board of alums and current students riddled with racial slurs and insults, I taped a piece of paper with the slurs on my back and went to dinner to end the silence and start the conversation. On the other hand, after my boyfriend and I witnessed a fight between a young Black girl and an older white woman on the New York subway, knowing the police were nearby and the likelihood of who they were going to arrest, we yelled for her to run. I then dared the woman to start more trouble. I wanted her to try it because I had something for her if she did. It’s like my ancestors are in constant conversation with me and I never heard them until now. And this is just the beginning...
I am not afraid of my ancestors' rage, fear, or fight any more than I fear their joy, strength, and love. I know that both had to go hand in hand for me to be here. I am beginning to understand that ancestral power comes to me with the choice to transform and heal so that I can Live, Love, and Thrive since I am their wildest dream come to life.
When those viral videos of Black people defending their humanity with their fists come on my timeline, I don't see those videos the way I used to. The energy is an ancient kinda that we tend to transfer to each other within our community, and ever so often, we are using it to defend our lives in ways our ancestors couldn't. The part that hurts my heart is that, even when these oppressors get a sliver of "fuck around and find out," we are satiating an ancestral thirst that will never be quenched. So we chase this perverse justice with parched throats. I don’t think that is what our ancestors want for us. I think they were reaching for so much more and now, we have an opportunity to reach where they couldn’t.