Honor your ancestors as a way of healing

BY JESSIKA WARD, Dream Defenders Press Secretary

Being a person of color is often a draining and humbling experience filled with pain and adversity. As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, I’d also like to encourage those who are reading this to honor their ancestors — those who are from your actual family.

Honoring our ancestors can make our daily experiences easier. It is gratifying to acknowledge our forebears who came before us. As we remember the lives of our ancestors, we can mentally experience their journey and gain an appreciation for our lives. Our ancestors lived, thrived, loved, and suffered before we did, and their sufferings and accomplishments are relevant to our lives today. If it were not for them, we would not be.

Indigenous peoples and cultures worldwide honor their ancestors often, and many cultures communicate with their ancestors daily through rituals. Our ancestors hold great wisdom that can guide our lives if we learn to tap in with our family members who are no longer physically present but present in spirit.

It is easy to forget and even harder to accept that death is a natural part of life in our daily life. We need to remember not to fear death but embrace it as a form of energy that can help us while we live if we interact with it in the right way.

This week, take time to remember the friends and family who have died. Think about how much they have contributed to your life and remind yourself of their role in your life and the community. Celebrate our ancestors who have paved the way for us to be present where we are today, and honor them by being a positive force in your communities.

Here are five ways to honor your ancestors:

  1. Remember Them: Recall memories you have of them. If you have never met them, talk to your parents or family members who have met the person to gain knowledge about them.
  2. Build an Altar: An altar can be as simple as having a picture of your ancestor. You can add candles, water, flowers, and items that speak to you.
  3. Call on Them for Support: You are linked to your ancestor through blood and spirit. In your greatest time of need, you can call out to those who have paved the way.
  4. Give Them Gifts: What did your ancestor like when they were alive? Give them a gift they enjoy. You can leave the gift at the altar you created or go to their gravesite.
  5. Write Their Names & Tell Others: Tell people about your ancestors. Simple.

Jessika Ward is a journalist and the press secretary for the Dream Defenders, a youth-led organization that organizes Black and Brown youth to build power in Florida communities to advance a new vision the Dream Defenders have for the state.

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