Kwanzaa at Black Sun Lodge

This is our second Local Body Spotlight on Black Sun Lodge and our second LBS on diversity initiatives within the Order. It was written by a member of the Lodge and is timely for the season as Kwanzaa starts tomorrow, December 26.

Kwanzaa is a celebration in the U.S. and in other areas impacted by the African diaspora. It is in part, about rebalancing human dignity with local and global communities.

The concept of “Pillar of Community” was coined at Black Sun Lodge, originating with their local body master and is also aligned with Agape in Action.

I had given the project of a Kwanzaa Ritual a lot of thought before and afterwards. It was actually disheartening to realize, while researching, that the celebration is in a sharp decline amongst African-American communities overall, with the exception of a few major cities. In some of my online communities of African-American Pagans, I would find one or two enthusiastic persons who felt inspired to pick the tradition back up as well. As a whole, however, people have forgotten how hard previous generations fought to see equality finally catch up in the latter half of last century. As if none of the hard-fought liberties could ever go away.

I found it ironic, given at the time what was about to be in store for our nation, and what we are going through right now and for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless, I saw an opportunity to celebrate Kwanzaa’s 50th Anniversary and integrate it into my own practices. I shared my idea with members of Black Sun Lodge, and they encouraged me to share this as a public ritual.

The core of the celebration, for me, served as a reminder to live by our doctrines and the oaths I have taken, both within the Order and within myself, and that words can only go so far without action and commitment. Those of us who attended readily agreed that we should hold a Kwanzaa ritual every year. This provides an opportunity for guests and members to experience and appreciate diverse, cultural beliefs that are in alignment with our own tenets on θηλεμα and Αγαπε.

Inspired by Maulana Karenga’s Pan-African holiday and by Black Sun’s pillar of Community, I reviewed the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa and adjusted them with our Thelemic values in mind:

Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. One Family, One Community, One Nation, One Race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as individuals and as a community, as well as to create and speak for ourselves, individually and as a community.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and support our brothers and sisters as we solve our own Mysteries, and find solutions together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together, while inspiring other magical communities to do the same.

Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to exhault our Divinity within each and every one of us.

Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our individual and unified struggles.

Written by a member of Black Sun Lodge.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U.S. Grand Lodge or of O.T.O.

 

 

All are Welcome: Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

In the next few months, the Electoral College Blog will be posting a series on diversity initiatives.

Black Sun Lodge has been a thought leader in this regard, and they are this month’s Local Body Spotlight.

A month or so ago, a Facebook post caught my attention because it had a sign which read:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

“Every man and every woman is a star.” – Liber AL vel Legis, 1:3

“We are all free, all independent, all shining gloriously, each one a radiant world.” – “Liber DCCCXXXVII: The Law of Liberty”, from Equinox III(1)

In accordance with the words of our Prophet, Aleister Crowley, Black Sun does not discriminate against anyone based on their race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identification, or any other petty bias the world may decide to conjure up. ALL person who walk through these doors will be welcomed with the same warmth of welcome that we accord to our brothers and sisters, without exception. We also expect that you will treat all those within with respect and kindness and without bias.

If it is not your Will to welcome ALL and to return the warm welcome that awaits you inside with courtesy, you are welcome to find your enlightenment elsewhere. Prejudice and ignorance have no place within these walls.

Love is the law, love under will.

Respectfully,

The Officers of Black Sun

This month’s Local Body Spotlight is an interview with Sr Lori Lent, Deputy Master of Black Sun Lodge.

Q: When did Black Sun decide to put up the sign?

A: Black Sun has always been interested in diversity, we just weren’t really sure how to do the outreach part.  So we batted around a lot of ideas, but there wasn’t a lot of forward momentum until after Sabazius gave his keynote at the 2015 NOTOCON in Austin.  He talked about our responsibilities to others as Thelemites, and it resonated with us in a big way.  We got a copy of the transcript and read it again as a body (for those who were unable to attend NOTOCON), and afterward we did a brainstorm session together to find ways to put our ideas into action.  We’ve been working on putting implementing these plans for two years now.

In Chapter 73 of Magick Without Tears, we find Crowley himself explaining how racism and classism are both rooted in fear, and how they bring out the worst in people. — Excerpt from NOTOCON X keynote speech

Q: What is the history of the sign? Who created it? When was it put up?

A: The sign was my first act toward fostering a culture of inclusiveness.  I was trying to find a way to announce to everyone at every event that this is what we do here, and this was my solution.  I didn’t really talk to Br Andrew, our body master, about it before I wrote it. I just presented it to him and said: “Can we put this up somewhere?  Maybe on the front door?”

He was really excited about it, and he was happy to let me put it up.  It went up in late 2015, and it’s graced our door ever since.  I love it, because it not only announces to everyone who walks through our door that they are welcome, but it also reminds all of us to do our best to be inclusive, to respect and welcome everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from.  It’s been very effective on both fronts, I think.

Q: Do newcomers comment on it? If yes, what do they say?

A: I don’t know that any newcomers have commented on it, but it has generated a lot of conversation among our membership and in our region.  People here are proud of it, and several local bodies around us have adopted similar ideas.  If it gives just one person that last little incentive they needed to come through the door and stick around, then it’s served it’s purpose.

Q: Have you ever had any push back on it?

A: Actually, we have, though it wasn’t on the local level.  When I first posted the sign, I put a picture of it up on Facebook, and it was shared out by several people, so it got around.  The reaction for the most part was very positive, but there were several people on FB who were asking why we needed a sign, why we felt the need to advertise such a thing, what had happened to make such a sign necessary, and one person even implied we put it up because we secretly wanted to discriminate against people, and it was a case of “protesting too much.”  I remember feeling shocked at the reaction, because I thought what Thelemite can argue the fact that every man and every woman is a star?  It just boggled my mind.

Q: Have you seen any impact on diversity representation because of the sign?

A: We have definitely seen more diversity locally in the last year or so than we have had in the 7 years I’ve been affiliated, but that could be due to  many different factors.  We have several members who are very dedicated to bringing Thelema to a more diverse audience.  We currently have a minority pagan support group that meets quarterly, and an LGBT pagan support group that meets monthly at the LGBT Center here in Cleveland.  We printed postcards with the events for the quarter on them, and we distributed them in every neighborhood in the Cleveland area, which represents a lot of diversity.  We are presenting a Kwanzaa ritual at the end of December. We have a community altar set up in our Lodge with deities and items from nearly every religion in the world represented. We had an Ifa priestess come in and do orisha readings for people. Our local body has also done presentations on everything from African religion to gender and the importance of using preferred pronouns.  We are dedicated to the ideas put forth in our sign, and our efforts and our space and our calendar all reflect that dedication.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U.S. Grand Lodge or of O.T.O.