Isa Beaulieu is a Portland-based Radical Community Wellness practitioner who educates on herbalism, trauma-informed care, and accessibility in food and wellness.
As I begin to draft this, I am reflecting that today is Halloween. In my spiritual tradition, we call today Samhain and today is the day I honor my Ancestors. It is a day, where I give praise and thanks for the gifts I have inherited from those that came before me. My People over the Ages have origins in Indigenous America, France, Germany, Ireland, Britain, West Africa, Central Africa and South Africa. In America, they hailed from Mississippi, Canada and Massachusetts. As you can see, I have A LOT of Ancestors to feed tonight!
The notion of honoring Ancestors feels deeply complex in America, particularly as a Multiracial Woman. It’s not a practice we have adopted as a Cultural Collective. And I am guessing it is because the racial and immigration narratives of most Americans are problematic and for many, traumatic. For certain, we cannot even begin to consider a practice of Ancestor Reverence without acknowledging the bloody legacy of colonialization that created our Nation. Most Americans really struggle with recognizing that our very existence is tied to the annihilation of groups of people. We inhabit Places which carries the memories of centuries of brutality, while failing to recognize the extent that Indigenous Communities are still fighting to have their way of life respected and preserved after centuries of genocide, forced displacement, and betrayal. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, indeed.
Sadly, the idea of acknowledging our roots is often considered blasphemous to the concept of what it means to be an American! To me, this is Tragic! Without our Ancestors…their Stories, Witness and Struggles…we would not exist! And our Ancestors would cease to exist without us…through us passing on our DNA & genetics, our traditions, our folklore, our foods, etc. To honor my Ancestors as a Multiracial Woman has not been without some internal conflict. The dialogues about race in America have largely excluded the Mixed-Race Experience. In a society that praises itself on being a “Melting Pot” of Communities and Cultures, the reality is that to acknowledge that there IS a Mixed-Race Experience, again, confronts the notion of a homogeneous racial society, be that society White, Black, Asian, Indigenous, or Latin. While there can be tremendous pressure for the Mixed-Race Individual to identify as “Of Color”, there seems to be an equal amount of discouragement to own other racial identities. This has always seemed counter-intuitive to me.
Many Americans can trace their Ancestry, particularly those of European decent, to a handful of countries. And chances are they may tell tales of Ancestors who felt compelled to give up Traditions, Language, and even Names, in order, to gain acceptance as a White American. I think of my Great-Great Grandmother who emigrated to the US from Sweden: She changed her last name to make it sound “more Anglo”. And then I think of my Great-Great Grandfather, who was forced to changed his name each time he was sold as a Slave in the Deep South. The themes of migrations, struggle, loss, identity, assimilation and preservation seem to be universal. It is those themes, as a Multiracial Woman, that I chose to focus when giving praise to my People.
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