Santana Caress Benitez, 31, Freelance Chef and Actress
In the future, I would love to see us thinking about what’s best for us, and what feels good to us. Not caring about white standards of being, their awards, or what they think of us.
Unless it encroaches on how we live our lives.
It sounds really simple, but we really need to worry about ourselves.
How true are you being to yourself? Are there things about blackness that make you uncomfortable or make you feel like you have to make it smaller depending on where you work or live?
We need to be comfortable with what blackness looks like to us.
For me it was really empowering to showcase my Lucumí rituals on She's Gotta Have It.
People have reached out to me saying, “Thank you so much for not hiding and for representing our culture on the show."
It's such a big deal because it's been traditionally practiced in secret for safety and to preserve/protect protocol. Plus, it's been so demonized in mainstream culture.
It made me proud to say, “This is what we practice and this is who we are.”
In the future, I do see a shift in Black spirituality and religion and people are thirsty for knowledge. I feel like people really need healing and want to connect to something in order to empower themselves.
A lot more young Black people are connecting with African diasporic religions because it allows you to reconnect with your bloodline (Egun, or your ancestors) and there's a huge amount of power in that alone. Ritual and cleansings can "cool your head", level you out, reset and ground you. Working with different Orisha energies to get what you need in life can be extremely healing. Also, finding out your path and why you're here is a huge part of healing trauma, doubt or denial.
An example of this showing in mainstream culture would be when I first saw Beyonce’s Lemonade, I knew what it was immediately. There was so much imagery in that film that blew me away. When she came out in the yellow dress with the gold anklet she was so obviously channeling Oshun. In the scene prior, she dropped in the water and spoke about cutting her hair, sleeping on a mat, avoiding mirrors, etc,. It wasn’t completely literal and direct but these were obvious Yoruba principles/themes to me that were laced into the scene.
It’s also okay for people to come to African diasporic religions for different things and not necessarily initiate into priesthood. You also don't have to force it.
Christianity is a huge part of Black American culture and the Black church culturally connects a lot of us; it's ok for people to say "this is what I grew up with and it is part of my identity and spirituality.”
Some people really need that, and I believe that a blend is okay, too.
Whatever your spirit needs is what you give it.
Santana's Revolutionary Picks:
Tracee Ellis Ross. She is Black girl joy personified. She shines, she glows and is so Black and proud.