I’m sitting in the back with my boyfriend, waiting for everyone to simmer down. It’s poetry class and my teacher, a mid-aged black American woman with a strong southern twang announces that the topic of the day is Vodou.
Vo—who? …………. Obeah?…………..ah dat she talk bout?
My boyfriend glances at me. I’m silent.
She proceeds to open up the discussion about different spiritual/religious practices. I don’t wait for it, “F*CK YO VODOU”, I scream, but not out loud. I screamed it in my head (I’m pretty sure Jesus screamed it too). Instead, I stand up and express how EVIL and PAGAN the topic is, after all, I am a child of God and can’t afford to sit here and listen to such blasphemous ideologies. She attempts to calm me down but to no avail is parted with a slammed door.
A letter is sent home. My mom reads it and sucks her teeth,
“yo right fu walk out”.
Last year, I reminisced with my ex-boyfriend and we laughed. Laughed at how closed minded I was, laughed at how paradoxical life is. It’s been over 10 years, I don’t practice Vodou (or Obeah as we interchangeably call it in the islands) but my “F*CK YO VODOU” campaign is gone, supplanted with “F*ck yo evil applications”.
It’s not the essence of, but the application of an entity that makes it “evil”. Inherent evilness is in intention. People use tools for their own purposes, some good, some bad. Is Vodou used for evil? Yes. For good? Yes…. The Bois Caiman ceremony in Haiti sparked a catalyst for the Haitian revolution. A meeting led by a Jamaican born, Haitian raised Vodou priest who used spirituality to fight against the deleterious head of slavery. The “Bush man” in the islands, a healer, uses his “talents” for good. Christianity, a religion that is often used for good, was used at the hands of slave masters, colonialists, to justify enslavement, ethnocentrism, genocide, and a mistreatment of a myriad of people, a sheer incongruity and paradox to what Christ consciousness encompasses; love, peace and unity.
My boyfriend at the time was very much a free thinker. He said to me “we hate and fear what we don’t understand”. Perspective is everything. The story of Moses turning a staff into a snake, parting a sea, or being spoken to by a spirit via a burning bush has a positive connotation; “amazing”. However, if you omitted the name and told this same story to me 10 years ago, I would avow “nuff evil”.
Hegemony and those who own the narrative power tells us what is acceptable, what is righteous, what is wrong. Hegemony criminalizes one thing, often a thing that is feared, a thing that is viewed as a thread and aims to uphold another.
If I could unslam that door, and simply listen and form my own views that day 10 years ago, I would. I can’t……but I can open new doors in my mind……...Thank you Ms. Bigham.
(Note: Obeah and Vodou are similar practices, though not the same they are often used interchangeably).
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?! (y'all better not lie to me)