Elder to Ancestor

It goes without saying: Covid-19, Minneapolis burning, and global rage brought the whole world to its knees in 2020. Our collective human devolution and institutional and political implosions were videotaped and posted on social media platforms. Quarantined and socially distanced, we watched. Powerless. Nobody had any satisfying answers or solutions to the angst of our fears.

I have lived with social inequalities in education, health, housing, and justice. I have witnessed police brutality. At 14, I experienced the Watts Riots in Los Angeles, and 27 years later the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Now, the same issues in different places are still unresolved. This disappoints and saddens me.

My internalized oppressions shamed and screamed, “You did not do enough! Do something! Do more!” What did I not do in my lifetime? I marched. Educated. Advocated. Used my body as a shield. What more can I do now? I have decreasing abilities. I cannot run or scream. Time became an urgency.

I do not fear death. That is not the same as wanting to die. Death has a whole lot of phases. Death is not my adversary. Deathing, which is what I call my awareness that I will die, is always a reality.

I have few memories of languishing in anxiety about anything long. I have few fears because calamity visits Black women often. You strive and survive with family, friends, and community, and sometimes alone.

There is a Yoruba proverb that says, “I stand tall because I stand on the shoulders of my Ancestors.”

Eighteen months into this turmoil, I am still standing. Period. It is their love, guidance, and protection that kept me from losing my grip entirely. They remind me that Olodumare (Creator God) gives every living thing ase. Ase is having divine energy. It differs from the mainstream concept and practice of power: superiority and dominance. Essence. Light. Personal ase is amplified by being balanced: mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Ase allows you to be, do, and live the life that you were destined and born to live.

The year 2020 tested my faith and Indigenous African spiritual practice. I was horrified by the continuous revelation of depravity in people. Especially people I thought I knew well. Were we on the brink of America’s and the world’s destruction? Every day I prayed for an end to this devastating pandemic and for protection from our worst selves. I asked to understand, to grow, and to maintain the love and compassion necessary to help us out of our labyrinth of suffering. I prayed for courage, focus, and stamina.

My Ancestors guided me to look beyond generational harm and trauma. They possess knowledge that has kept their descendants alive in difficult circumstances and times. They told me to work on my Ori.

Ori is one’s divine mind. It differs from the conscious and subconscious mind. Ori is the consciousness that is connected to Olodumare. They advised, “Keep your heart open. You will face times when nobody and nothing feels loving.” Feeling old and tired, I asked, “What can I do?” They counseled, “Only act with clarity and purpose. Trust yourself. Then you can be helpful to others.”

My shrine and nature were my safest places. Rigidly socially distancing, I drove down the Theodore Wirth and Victory Memorial Parkways — early mornings, middays, and early nights. It was important to feel the pulsing promise of a new day or sing praises and gratitude at dusk. I went to the Mississippi River in North Minneapolis. I gazed upon the water, prayed, and offered honey for keeping life sweet. I received messages from Osun, Oya, and Yemoja in the flow of water.

2022 is inevitable but holds no promises. I am continuing my journey from Elder to Ancestor.

My prayers are these:

May my life have meaning and purpose until the end of life as I know it.

May I greet my demise like an Olympic team member relinquishing the baton with my eyes still on the finish line.

May I be welcomed in the Realm of my Ancestral Pantheon.

May I be a revered Ancestor. May I return born in the loving arms of my descendants. Ase. (May it be so).

Amoke Kubat (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist and culture bearer. She is a recipient of the 2021 Minnesota State Arts Board Creative Support Individual Grant, Springboard for the Arts 20/20 Artist Fellowship, and 2021 Jerome Hill Fellowship in Playwriting and Theater. Kubat uses art- making (writing, weaving, dollmaking, and mosaics) to define and hold a position of wellness in an America sick with inequities. She is also the creator and CEO of YO MAMA LLC, which offers The Art of Mothering workshops and YO MAMA’S House Cooperative, a shared nonresidential space for mothers who are artists, community activists, or healers.