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Demystifying Our Stories: Resistance and Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Traditions

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Public Programs

Demystifying Our Stories: Resistance and Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Traditions

June 3 2017

This talk by Rose Sackey-Milligan considered the relationship between resistance movements and the Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions. From the Haitian revolution to contemporary struggles against racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and ableism, Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions have been a source of strength and healing for a community of grassroots organizers fighting for political empowerment. Attendees were introduced and invited to explore the Ifá, Òrìsà, and Lùkùmí traditions through ancestral connection, song, music, and story, and to reflect on their meaning for personal healing and collective transformation.

Rose Sackey-Milligan became politically conscious when she was sixteen, during the period of decolonization in Africa and the Caribbean and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. She previously directed the Social Justice Program at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she focused on creating space for other activists and organizers to find health, centeredness, and well-being. She currently serves as co-director, with Raúl Quiñones-Rosado, of c-Integral in Puerto Rico. “Political struggle is not separate from the individual,” Sackey-Milligan has said. “The path of spirit is the path of becoming a better, more aligned human being.” She is excited about the heightened interest among movement activists in combining spiritual practice with political work: “We didn’t have the awareness that I see now during the period of worldwide African liberation during the 1960s. It feels like youth are learning from the mistakes of older generations about how we treat the Earth and interact in community. It feels like we are returning to traditional ideas of community love, support, and care.”

This talk was organized on the occasion of the exhibition and residency “RAGGA NYC: All the threatened and delicious things joining one another,” presented through the Department of Education and Public Engagement’s R&D Season: BODY. RAGGA, a platform founded by Christopher Udemezue, connects a community of queer Caribbean artists working across a wide range of disciplines—including visual art, fashion, and poetry—to explore how race, sexuality, gender, heritage, and history inform their work and their lives. A vibrant community deeply committed to education and grassroots organizing, RAGGA fosters a network and an extended family that make space for solidarity, celebration, and expression. Their residency explored Afro-Caribbean diasporic traditions, bringing together works by a group of artists who trace their own relationships to Caribbean history and take up Édouard Glissant’s claim that “the language of the Caribbean artist does not originate in the obsession with celebrating his inner self; this inner self is inseparable from the future evolution of his community [in which] he is his own ethnologist, historian, [and] linguist.” The exhibition title quotes Glissant’s description of a world in which beings can come together under a veil of opacity and create a new model of relation that preserves difference.