• William Mathis

GATHER UP THE FRAGMENTS - NOTES FROM WILLEMSTAD, CURAÇAO

Understand the energy more than the words . . . our spirit serves as instruments in which the outflow is not only the pain and suffering of our experiences but also the defiance to that pain and suffering that sets us free to life, joy, and thriving despite it all . . . ‘find the things that do not have words and that is what you have to work with,’ John Caltrain told him me.

Richenel Ansano

Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision . . . . [T]hey have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.

Muhammad Ali

For those who know my preaching, mentoring, and teaching are very familiar with Mathis Axiom 22764: Absolutely nothing happens by happenstance or accident, it is all Divinely ordered. God’s hand or as Cheraldine Osepa, a native of Curaçao and presently a member of the legislature in Holland, would say the ancestors hand was obviously at play in my time in Curacao. Curaçao was not on my original agenda, only after finally admitting to myself that I needed to unplug from everything, including what would be my Sabbatical work, I choose to find a place, Curaçao, to just rest - resting in my spirit. I dare say that the Spirit of God, often manifested in and through our ancestors - the foundation of the real us/me/you, interceded on my behalf, directing me to Curaçao and also to the various encounters, via community social settings, I experienced. By a spirit-led meeting with a local celebrity, Ace, I was invited to a lecture, "Jazz African Roots” at the National Archief and there I was introduced to the anthropologist, Richenel Ansano. Richenel, before the beginning of his lecture, tells me he will be lecturing in Papiamento, the local language, and though I may not understand, listen not just to the words, but instead listen to the energy, the spirit and it will serve as my translator so that I might glean that which has been intended, relaying the commonality of us all as people of Africa and the African Diaspora. At the moment, I just thought he was appeasing my inability to speak or understand the native language but as the evening proceeded it revealed the truth of his wisdom not just in the understanding of jazz, gospel, music as I know it in our tradition, but also the many layers of what music means to us and translates for us. It was definitely an experience which revealed a spirit across genres of music within the African and African Diaspora culture, transcending languages as well as geographical boundaries, that unites us, if we would only listen in our spirit, which encompasses who we are, where we are, and how we got to where we are; the spirit of our ancestors, we would receive what is the intent toward advancing us/our community into our greatness, our legacy. Needless to say, it was a powerful lecture and I understood nothing in the natural but everything in the spirit, the ancestors were there, guiding and translating all the way.


My experience with the Spirit of God manifested through the spirit of our ancestors as translator and our obligation to not just hear the words but the energy, spirit behind the words was the major revelation of my time in Curaçao. In order for us to circumvent our displacement and sense of feeling like an outsider of who we are authentically as Black people and community, we must be willing to listen not just to the words but also to allow, permit the spirit of our ancestors to translate in order to receive the more; the guidance and direction to our place of thriving as a people, community. Often while in Curaçao I felt like I was treated by us, my people, based on stereotypes (words, I dare say) about us that not only made me uncomfortable but them as well and it was obvious. By no means are we perfect and blameless but we are more than words, labels and we must be willing to listen to the spirt and engage the spirt of our brothers and sisters as our ancestors calls us together and gives guidance and direction for us. Our ancestors did not have the entire picture of our potential nor do we but they and we too must maximize what we have, the reality of our lived experiences not just on the surface but the internal reflection, guidance, and direction of the spirit of who we are authentically, empowering us from within to see one another beyond the words that have labeled us and/or the various external narratives that prevail in our lived experiences in order to thrive for the greater. John of the book of Revelation thought the Spirit to be paramount for making sense of his place of exile, internally as well as externally, that he chose to spend and dwell in the Spirit, “and I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day, “he that hath an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit has to say.” We must be able to circumvent the onslaught of anti-Blackness, the anti- who we really are by connecting, listening and operating through the spirit, beyond words and labels, to reveal the authentic us. The foundation of our authenticity has been laid before us to build upon, maximizing our present potential to thrive and build on our legacy of greatness. What does this mean practically for us, we must stop listening to the words of others; those espoused by our allies and even our enemies, but instead seek and identify the energy, spirit of our ancestors as a translator, guiding and directing us forward. However, this becomes difficult if we are not creating, intentionally developing and nurturing spaces that commands the spirit of our ancestors to dwell and be about our lives and our decisions toward the driving and sustaining of our own narratives. The scars of displacement and being an outsider of our own selves, perpetuated by the constant onslaught of, conscious and subconscious, policies and paradigms that are anti-Black, smothers the spirit of our ancestors and thus deprives us of their translation in and through all things. We must stop just listening and adhering to the words that sound good, right, legitimate (i.e., “integration,” “melting pot,” “I see no color,” “non-binary,” “diversity and inclusion,” “woke,” "intersectional identities") instead ask what is the energy behind the words and seek the spirit of the ancestors to direct and guide, paving the way for their wisdom and lived experiences to assist us in truly understanding and thus driving our own narratives, paradigms to thrive.


We must create spaces to cultivate the spirit of our ancestors, the things they got right as well as the things they got wrong; their mistakes and failings as well as their triumphs and victories, in essence their wisdom and allow it to prevail. Stop allowing others, outsiders of our community and our lived experiences to make us believe because of the shortsightedness, failings and down right wrong of our ancestors that their guiding and directing spirit is flawed. Listen and learn through the spirit of our ancestors, correcting that which are legitimate issues, building upon from within to further our community’s thriving together, ubuntu: "I am because you are and you are because I am." It is the spirit of our ancestors within that will banish the pain yet offer within the pain a resilience to overcome the pain and yet thrive. Remember, the springs of life is the bubbling up of an internal flow that is a direct result of the journey traveled and the lived experiences, thus, releasing the spirit of the ancestors is necessary for the springing forth of our life, thriving for the well being of our community, locally and globally.


As Coltrane indicated, we must find the things, ideas, narratives, paradigms without the words, allowing the spirit within us, the spirit that unites us to our ancestors and thus our destiny to reign in our being, translating appropriately and thus empowering us to live in the fullness of our authenticity beyond the parameters and limitations of the vocabulary of the right and/or left with its anti-Blackness impact. We are champions in our own right and the more we access the spirit of our ancestors; our history, our community, our struggles, our legacy, and our potential, the more we will be empowered to take what appears to be the little of what we have to create the much of our existence toward living in the fullness of our potential, including our present abilities and resources!

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