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  • Writer's pictureKaitlyn B. Jones

In Preparation for My Transition: A Future Ancestor’s Manifesto




I. Introduction


I was introduced to the perpetual mortality of Black bodies the day I emerged from my mother’s womb. Her survival is the first gift the universe gave to me. The second is my intuition. The third, my purpose.


It took me a while to understand the significance of the first, and even longer to trust the second. The third is a perennial inquiry, subject to change as I evolve.


Mortality isn’t morbid, it’s certitude.


Everything that I am is informed by the reality that I am not an infinite being. Everything that I do is in preparation for the day that I am no longer on this earth (in this realm?).


I often wonder about the memories that will vanish with my existence once I am dead...


The stinging scent of tea tree oil that fills my nostrils when I walk into my grandmother’s bathroom.


The warmth of my father’s palm across my eight year old forehead as he prays over me--operating under the assumption that I am fast asleep.


The smell of magnolias and roses, permeating from the only two plants that have endured hurricanes, winter storms, the Jones Family black thumb and still have the audacity to bloom every springtime.


...and yet somehow I have a deep seeded feeling that my memories and experiences are nothing but the manifestation of what my ancestors asked for seven generations ago. Which means that while my physical body is finite, my energy is not.


Despite my comfortable reconciliation with death, it is not fixated at the center of my practices. In fact, it is quite the opposite. By acknowledging my mortality, I claim my life as the conduit for the energy of my ancestors. I am the altar and the offering that honors the magnitude of their memories and experiences. I am not hyper fixated on their trauma. Instead, I lean into the rebelliousness of their joy.


When it is my time to leave this realm, I hope to leave behind an energy radiant with joy, abundance, and rebelliousness. I hope to have equipped my descendants with the tools, resources, and knowledge to continue working toward a world where liberation and accessibility are guaranteed.


This manifesto is the first iteration of many. It is not a rulebook, nor a guide. It is not meant to be anything other than a series of reminders and tangible asks of myself. Of my descendants. Of you.


It is an ever-evolving extension of myself, as passed down from my ancestors. I am forever arriving at the place where I am most wanted. I am shifting like the moon.


I am preparing an altar for the living.



 

II. Forever Arriving


I am forever arriving at the place where I am most wanted. The place where I am most wanted does not exist unless I make it so. The place where I am most wanted does not carry expectations that do not serve my purpose. The place where I am most wanted does not host anxieties that limit my ability to experience life with joyful conviction. The place where I am most wanted is me.


I am

Dirt.

Sunlight.

Gospel music.

The full moon on a cold night.

The warmth of my grandmother’s 7UP cake.

The tune that my great-grandmother hums while she sips her morning coffee.

The bark of a wax tree yearning to be chewing gum.

The altar and the offering.

The manifestation of my ancestor’s prayers.


I honor

My body and its efforts to keep me alive.

My ancestors’ desire to rest.

The earth and its resilience against human destruction.


I recognize

That ideologies and methodologies are intended to guide, not dictate.

That religion is written; spirituality is felt.

That my intention informs my action.

That my spiritual practices do not absolve me of my commitment to anti-racism.

The privileges I hold within current societal structures.

That I am already wealthy in love, grace, and pleasure.


I practice

Abundance.

Joy as an act of rebellion.


I trust

My power to cultivate community.

My intuition, as guided by my ancestors.

My ability to manifest the life I desire.


I resist

The urge to justify my right to exist.

Thoughts and emotions that can only be rationalized by capitalist and white supremacist constructs.



 

III. Teachings


My life experiences are the culmination of the physical, digital, and spiritual interactions I have daily. The following (abridged) list of teachings, some introduced to me as written texts and others spoken aloud, play an active role in the ways I engage in social, political, emotional and artistic inquiries.

I am a reflection of everything I admire. And so it is.


Articles, Books and Films


Racism may wear a new dress, buy a new pair of boots, but neither it nor its succubus twin fascism is new or can make anything new. It can only reproduce the environment that supports its own health: fear, denial, and an atmosphere in which its victims have lost the will to fight.¹ --Toni Morrison

History is not the past, it is the stories we tell about the past.² -- Grace Lee Boggs

“No” is a complete sentence.³ --Adrienne Marie Brown

The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible. --Toni Cade Bambara

What they (white people) are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality -- James Baldwin

He who finds no way to rest, can not long serve the battle. -- James Baldwin

I talk behind my oppressor’s backs in words not for them. --Aram Han Sifuentes

Oral Histories and Communal Teachings


It is easier to get distracted by who or what your ancestors were than to focus on who you are to become because of it.--Tatiana Skroskis, The Trap Witch

I may be old, but I ain't never forgot where I came from. -- Jessie Mayberry

When you teach people something, you become immortal.¹ -- Gonzo 247

The history of queerness is not exclusive to white people. ¹¹--Lovie Olivia

History is the way in which the present changes the past.¹² -- Roberto Tejada

¹Morrison, T. (2019). The source of self-regard : selected essays, speeches, and meditations  (First edition.). Alfred A. Knopf.


²Boggs, G., & Kurashige, S. (2012). The Next American Revolution : Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century  (2nd ed.). University of California Press. https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520953390


³brown,  a, Rodriguez, & Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. (2019). Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good. AK Press.


Bambara, T., & Lewis, T. (2012). Conversations with Toni Cade Bambara . University Press of Mississippi.


 Baldwin, J. (1995). The fire next time  (Modern Library edition.). Modern Library.


 Peck, R., & Baldwin, J. (2017). I am not your negro. Kino Lorber Edu.



Skroskis, T [@thetrapwitch]. (2020). It is easier to get distracted by who or what your ancestors were than to focus on who you are to become because of it. [Tweet]. Twitter.


Mayberry, J. (2021, March 14). Informal Conversation [Personal interview].


¹247, G. (2021, March 11). Informal Conversation [In-Class Discussion].


¹¹Olivia, L. (2021, March 25). Informal Conversation [In-Class Discussion].


¹² Tejada, R. (2021, April 8). Informal Conversation [In-Class Discussion].


 

IV. Gratitude


I am grateful for Leah Woods Steamer (b. 1850), whose resilience seven generations ago lives on through me.


I am grateful for my grandparents, whose legacy inspires me.


I am grateful for my mother and father, whose love is evident.


I am grateful for my brother, whose presence is a gift.


I am grateful for Dr. Sharbreon Plummer’s ability to facilitate a safe space for inquiry, vulnerability, and learning.


I am grateful for Erica Gionfriddo’s gift of the repurposed methodology, “forever arriving”, originating from Deleuze and Guattari’s Body Without Organs.


I am grateful for Lyn C. Wiltshire, Charles O. Anderson, Yacov Shakur, Dr. Rebecca Rossen, Andrea Beckham, Gesel Mason, Dorothy O’Shea Overby, Erica Gionfriddo, Sara Paul, Millie Heckler, and Dr. Tina Curran for their scholarship and unyielding support.


I am grateful for every introduction, every farewell, and every “see you soon”.


I am grateful for you.


I am grateful for this life.


Àṣẹ.






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