Vodou Lwa Ezili Dantor Speaks in the Language of Protest
In my Vodou practice, the lwa Ezili Dantor (represented in this illustration of the Black Madonna) is one I am both drawn to and one who frightens me. Actually, she should frighten me--she's one bad bitch. She's famous for her rage, jealousy and fighting spirit, and legend has it that a ceremony for Dantor launched the Haitian Revolution. However, Dantor is also known as a devoted and loving mother, the kind you definitely want in your corner. But she's always felt distant to me, until this weekend. Our Vodou house is doing at-home rituals, and this weekend was in honor of Dantor. As I was singing her songs and listening, a picture of modern-day Dantor came into sharp focus.
With all that's currently going on in the U.S., I feel a lot of rage. I'm angry at the many ways the Trump Administration is destroying what makes America great. I'm angry at the misinformation, the manipulation, the hatred, the ignorance and the lack of empathy. I'm also angry because I feel like I'm powerless to do anything about it. I've been wondering how to channel all of these powerful emotions so that they don't overtake me or break me. And I heard Dantor say, "I can help you."
In our culture, we value politeness, decorum and stability. Any kind of chaos or change feels like a violation or, at the least, unwanted. And yet Dantor shows me that the destruction she brings is actually "an act of love that destroys and transforms what was and empowers growth" (Glassman, 2007, p. 143). I get this. Destruction of the familiar is scary, but it can be a good thing. Is that what's happening now in our country? Is Dantor at work? Or at the least, can her wisdom help me weather what's going on rather than allow it to beat me down?
So the picture of Dantor that came to me is of a African-American woman protesting in the streets of today's America, her fist raised in resistance, the senseless killing of Breonna Taylor on her heart and the phrase "I Can't Breathe" written on her clothing. As this woman "chafes and rages at restriction, [Dantor] rattles our cages. [Dantor] shows us where we must break free into power" (Glassman, 2007, p. 143).
I'm certainly not this African-American woman, but I feel the rage of people like her, and I feel my own rage increasing. With Dantor in mind, how can this privileged white boy break free into power? I'm afraid I don't know what that looks like.
As my time with Dantor ended, a quote came to me that's been going around after the death a few days ago of US Rep. John C. Lewis. In a 2018 tweet, Lewis said, "Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble." Whether Lewis knew it or not, he was channeling Ezili Dantor with that statement.
Reference: Glassman, S. (2007). Vodou Visions: An encounter with divine mystery [2nd ed.]. New Orleans: Island of Salvation Botanica.