Written by MacArthur H. Flournoy – February 19, 2017
When I wrote this essay, 17 years ago, as the founder & publisher of Arise magazine, I never expected to look back and discover that the same themes I wrote about then, to be still relevant now. Some topics surface over the span our lives for us discern, and so we continue to challenge ourselves to embrace exactly who we are, we ask ourselves what does it mean to walk in our naked truth, and what do we discover when we decide which traditions work for us in this moment. Just asking.
Tokunbo, my nine-year-old son recently informed the family that he was thinking about changing his name to something easier for his friends to pronounce. Never mind that he was conceived in Nigeria West Africa, and that a Nigerian minister had prophesied his birth 16 months prior to the day his lungs inhaled air on this planet. Never mind the fact that she told me that the child’s name should be Tokunbo, from the Yoruba language meaning “gift from over the seas.” My son is considering changing his name, because it’s easier for those around him.
All too often, we have been asked to be less than true to ourselves. Renounce our own heritage and embrace ideals that foreign to our authentic self. But, when we connect with our true self, we discover that we don’t need to change our name, we simply need to teach the world how to “say our name.” African Americans took hold of the message that to vote is to have power, and we made our voices heard at the polls. Our presence was extraordinary.
This month ARISE magazine honors or traditions and culture, that we might be called by our true name and honor all that has brought us this far. Our traditions are more than what we do. Our traditions define who we are. It is essential that we take time to meditate on what our parents, grandparents and ancestors told us of our heritage. We must reclaim the traditions and cultural beliefs that inherently belong to us.
Our traditions become particularly pronounced as we approach the holidays.
This month we present an address given by Coretta Scott King, a woman whose power and presence is unparalleled on any front. Our cover artist, Rachelle Ferrell ask the compelling and poignant question “Can I be me?” Sharon Bridgforth, author of the Bull Jean Stories, shares an excerpt from a performance piece that takes you to the Bayou, seemingly centuries ago.
We reached out across the country to leaders who have been warriors in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Together, they form a Quilt of Wisdom, no less beautiful than the finest Kento cloth. We pause to honor, acknowledge and value not only the lives of those who have gone on, but also everyone in this world who has been impacted by HIV/AIDS. W have a tradition of a steadfast hope in the face of adversity and we are intimately acquainted with the prevailing hand of a Creator who abundantly loves us.
All over the country, the aroma of a nutty brown roux from gumbo will waft through the air; while in other kitchens, manteca and masa will be folded into one another in preparation for tamales; while yet in other kitchens, collard greens will be cleaned, stripped, and cooked with savory meats. Turkeys will be smoked, ducks glazed, salmon poached, and sweet potato pies will cause many of us to dance with glee.
The beauty of it all is that each dish reminds us of who we are in some way, in some part of the world. Greater still, our traditions and culture give us the courage and inherent understanding that if something is being served that is not to our liking, we have what it takes to get into the kitchen and create a new menu.
After all, we are a people called to ARISE.
MacArthur H. Flournoy