Grab your glass. Take a sip. Savor the story.
Grab your glass. Take a sip. Savor the story.
>>Submitted for Social Foundations <<
Passages to inform the revision:
As I sit here reflecting on what transpired during the Artists’ Talk at Elsewhere (READ Portfolio Piece), I am comforted by Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake. The following passages form the foundation of my revision:
The day before, I read Sharpe and learned about the work of sitting. Although Sharpe referenced sitting (together) in the “pain and sorrow of death,” I took that passage literally and thought about what it meant to sit with someone. To be present. To be inclusive.
On the night of the 13th, I found myself sitting with people and still feeling alone. There was a singles, conversational ping pong match that dominated the space. Additionally, I, as the oldest person at the table, just could not connect with some of the references. I have kids that are nearly the ages of those around the table.
While walking back to the residency, I knew something had shifted. I knew that my scholar identity had shifted to address feelings of isolation among Black womxn and how sitting (together) can represent a form of wake work. I felt my artist identity being birthed. And I felt that this new awakening and subsequent revision would cost me an extra semester in the PhD program at Florida State University.
Even with all of that occurring, the exposure to Sharpe is becoming instrumental to my identities. I would go as far as to say that it is even instrumental to my spiritual development.
*rationale listed above
>>Submitted for Social Foundations: Reading Response<<
It is 12:17pm on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. As I sit to write this response, I am finding myself still hyped from the group discussion of hegemony* and religion. Never did I think that I would willingly enter spaces of conversation that address such “hush hush” subjects like religion. But here I am. I’m holding my own. I’m listening with an open ear and heart. I am not just speaking my truth, I am walking in my truth: the truth of eco-spirituality.
*Before we proceed, hegemony is a word that I would NEVVVA use in my everyday discussions. Nevva Evvva. My working definition of the word refers to a power structure. A domination of one group/practice over another. A system of power. If you need more than that, you can click here.
If you’ve read my other work, you already know a little bit about how I arrived at this space of spirituality versus religion. As a quick recap:
>Submitted for Story Log #2 in Narrative Inquiry<
During the Fall of 2020, I was asked to write a subjectivities statement in my arts-based research class with Dr. Sara Scott Shields at Florida State University. This was the first time I was ever asked to clarify who I was in relation to what I was studying. It was rather exciting to figure out my own why. Through this assignment, I was led to open my family bibles to find inspiration that supported my divorce from the dominant Black Baptist narrative.
On that day, I opened my personal bible and the pages were crisp. Sad to say, my bible did not get much mileage. I opened my Mama’s bibles and saw more engagement but not a lot. The first bible had a McDonald’s Monopoly game piece in it; I think we won some fries. I wonder if there was an expiration date on it? Nuthin’ better than some good ole hot fries and cold Dr. Pepper. In her second bible, there were dog-eared pages and highlighting. Now that I had a chance to explore our bibles, the significantly smaller of the four, it was time to open the master bible. The family bible. The big ole coffee table type bible that belonged to Grandma. What I found on the first page would be the frequency that would carry me into a true and grounded space of eco-spirituality while granting me permission to release my inherited religion.
How did I get here? (Revisiting and refining Story Log 1)
On April 16, 1973, 607 days before I was born, Grandma wrote the following words on the inside cover of her bible, “Never be afraid of trees. We will never leave you.” In another paragraph she wrote, “Rest. Uncle SAM will tell you more.” I do not know all my family members but I never remember hearing of an Uncle SAM. With black folks and our quickness to “adopt” people, Uncle SAM could have been a blood OR bond relative. Who knew? But there was something in her writing that made me wonder if her reference to this uncle was not a reference to a person at all. My spirit felt that there was more of a link between my use of the term Mother to respect Earth, a term that definitely did not reflect the person who gave birth to me, and her use of Uncle to respect SAM.
I was right. Correction. My spirit was right! As I continued to read, I learned that SAM was an acronym that represented Sun, Stars, And Moon. WOW!! Grandma communicated with nature!! She was told to rest so that she could receive the wisdom offered by the cosmos. I was absolutely floored to learn of her connection to eco-spirituality because all I ever knew was that she was a super devout Christian. Grandma documented each time she finished a chapter and literally knew her bible inside and out. But that wasn’t all she knew; there was another side to Grandma that I never knew and no one ever talked about.
Reading Grandma’s words put me in a very emotional state. It made me sad to think that it took over two decades to open my family bible. I was disappointed in myself for not keeping Grandma in my immediate memories. I cried because I knew that Grandma was institutionalized at the Topeka State Hospital - an institution for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. Then, I was angry because I felt that her ability to communicate with the sun, stars, and moon ultimately cost her her freedom.
I am interested in writing about my relationship with nature and how this informs my walk with eco-spirituality. I know that Mother Earth is here to teach and I am ready to be her student. I am ready to absorb her wisdom. I am excited by the opportunity to share this wisdom with others, especially Black womxn. My research question is, “How is nature experienced as a site of learning and self-restoration among Black womxn?”
My eco-autoethnography involves trees, plants, bodies of water, flying and crawling spirits, and any other storyteller of nature.
This narrative inquiry is important because it serves as a significant space of permission. It gives permission to those looking for a different form of spiritual engagement, especially Black people looking for an alternative, or even supplement, to the dominant Black Baptist narrative. It grants permission for relationship building with the more-than-human kind. It creates a space of acceptance for a tribe of individuals who once thought they were alone or even questioned their sanity. Most importantly, my eco-autoethnography honors a freedom that was denied my Grandmother.
https://www.wibw.com/video/2021/04/30/chris-omni-tedx/ 3:22 - 4:15
Homework submitted for Jeff Broome's Narrative Inquiry
Greetings Souls of Love & Light,
In 1974, I entered this world through the vessel of a Black womxn because of a union with a Black man. Mama intentionally spelled my first name, Christal, with C-H-R-I-S-T to represent her religious foundation and belief that he is in ALL of us. Secondly, my dad named me Mischelle. Mischelle comes from the Hebrew name Michael meaning “Who is like God?” This question is answered by my last name, Omni, which means “All.” When placed together, “Who is like God? All,” the answer gives voice to the power of god being neither womxn nor man. Nature can be god.
Being raised with Black Baptist expectations, I found myself fearful of fully exploring the reality that there were alternative avenues of spirituality. It was not until my Mama took her final breath on March 31, 2016, that I felt a new freedom to explore a spiritual practice that made me feel whole and connected. It took some time, nearly two years, because I was still afraid of what she would think. Nonetheless, this journey has revealed powerful messages provided by Mother Earth that have assured me that this path IS for me. To paraphrase the words of Janelle Monae, I have “Embraced what makes me unique even if it makes others uncomfortable.”
Besides the permission offered by Monae, I have received additional confirmation of my decision to explore and accept eco-spirituality while observing and listening to my dad. Dad, just like my Mama, identifies as Christian and constantly gives thanks to Jesus Christ for granting his current healing from a life-threatening bout with COVID-19. However, Dad also attributes his healing to a deep desire to return to his favorite playtime – gardening. I believe Dad is also an eco-spiritualist although he would never admit it.
Today, I stand firm in my own spiritual practice – Eco-spirituality. This practice centers me through communing with Mother Earth and more specifically through the art of gardening. In this space, I honor the legacy of my ancestors – truck farmers five generations back on Mama’s side and sharecroppers two generations back on Dad’s side. Now that you know how my name speaks to a pre-determined walk in the land of eco-spirituality, let’s look at what happened when I “physically” got here.
Chris Omni, MPH