Atlanta Pagans react to the protests

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ATLANTA – Much like in other major cities around the United States, Atlanta has had peaceful protests turn violent as people protest against police brutality with anger at the lack of fair treatment and justice at the hands of the police, especially in regards to unjust abuse. 

With the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer who chose to disregard George’s dying cries of “I can’t breathe,” protests sprouted up not just in Minneapolis and major cities like Atlanta, but also around the world in support of protestors and the injustice in their own communities.

In downtown Atlanta, there are broken plate-glass windows barely covering up the damage behind large boards. Various small groups plan their marches in coordination to meet up as the groups march to become bigger groups to get their voices heard. They speak out and chant in support of Black Lives Matter and against racial injustice including police violence and the cycle of abuse that perpetuates it.

 

Meanwhile, many cities have experienced their peaceful protests being disrupted not only by tear gas but also by white supremacists instigating violence and looting to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement.

This “accelerationism” is “the idea that white supremacists should try to increase civil disorder — accelerate it — in order to foster polarization that will tear apart the current political order.”

We talked about the protests with three Atlanta Pagans of color, two Black women and one Hispanic woman. Tiffani Thomas is Wiccan. Amanda Turner describes herself as a Pagan and Root and Conjure Worker.  Delena Silverfox describes herself as a family, traditional Witch, she adds, a”Swiss Army Witch.”

We listened as they shared their thoughts on what has been happening in Atlanta but also on everything that is occurring with the protests, the escalation of violence at the hands of the police, the political atmosphere, as well as how their respective spiritualities inform their understanding of the protests and the challenges ahead.

On the Protests

Tiffani Thomas: I first and foremost want to say I do not push for violence for either side to get their point across. To me, the protests represent hope for change. Not just for us, but for everyone. If we are treated this way, what are the chances they’ll do the same to anyone else?

People around the globe are watching and they are sending their energy to this country in hopes that we get this right. Racism has no reason being anywhere.

Delena Silverfox: I love the protests, this national movement for true equality for POC. It’s been a long time coming, and I have been wishing for this revolution for decades. At the same time, I’m aware that this level of national outrage for George Floyd’s murder didn’t happen when Latin workers were being arrested by the thousands and Latin immigrant children were being locked in cages. Socially, we aren’t at the point yet where we’re as valued. That’s just how it is. I don’t say this to diminish the BLM movement, only to point out just how much disparity there is for people of color in this country. And we’re all tired of it.

Even still, I want with all my heart to go protest. However it’s come about, it is finally our time—people of color—and the Black community’s success will also be our success. We all will benefit. So I support the protests wholeheartedly.

Amanda Turner: To me, the protests are the signal of the beginning of a much overdue revolution. The pandemic placed everyone on a timeout and removed the distractions. For the first time in a long time, people had to sit down and pay attention. What they noticed disturbed them. And now they are taking a real stand. 

I believe the protests to make a difference. I believe the completely different response to these protests in comparison to the ones barely a month earlier is helping these protests gain traction and allies.

 

How their spirituality informs them.

Silverfox: As for my spiritual life, this revolution has become the center of it. All of my magical work and devotionals has been focused on helping any way I can. My largest work so far was giving my literal blood, sweat, and tears to the protesters and people rendering first aid, through a days-long spell still currently in effect. I’m exhausted and in pain, but alongside monetary donations and boosting signal for Black voices, it’s what I can do. I’m currently writing a ritual for my local Grove focused on Unity because we are stronger together.

Turner: I am a 39-year-old mother of 2 living in East Atlanta/Decatur. I am a reiki/ chakra healer, reader, spiritual advisor, life coach, minister, end of life doula, and rootworker. I rely heavily on my spiritual beliefs especially at times such as these. It is our faith that keeps us strong and brings us through the storms. I have noticed my clients digging deeper into their faith as well. I have also noticed more people of color abandoning Christian belief systems and returning to the ways of our ancestors and I find it refreshing.

Thomas: It hasn’t affected my spirituality too much. It has helped strengthen it more. So many things have been left unbalanced and this is the tipping point.

For me, being Wiccan, I have been finding myself becoming more grounded in my beliefs and how I am viewing the protests and riots.

What Do You Hope People Take Away from Everything Going On?

Thomas: Everyone needs to understand the whys. Why are Black people so angry? Why do Black people feel they are constantly targeted? Why are Black people always being blamed first before all the evidence comes out otherwise?

History is repeating itself. We, along with other PoC, are constantly fighting for rights and equal rights. Yes, the Civil Rights Act has passed, but we still have to fight for it to be granted to us when we are stopped by police officers or asking for help.

Silverfox: It’s making a difference in that my privileged friends are finally –finally– willing to talk about uncomfortable issues and listen to us. They’re actively seeking out sources to learn about the racial divide, asking questions, speaking out where they were silent before. It finally got us talking, and that fills me with so much relief. I’ve always been that noisy, angry, “extremist” friend. Now my friends are seeing that I actually had a point. We all have a long way to go but breaking that silence and social complicity was a huge first step, so this movement has already made a difference.

Turner: How can non-POC can help: Stop talking and really listen. Hold space for us. Do the shadow work. Have the uncomfortable conversations. Recognize that having privileged doesn’t make someone bad but not using that privilege to help or worse using it to hurt does.

All three women emphasize the need for listening and a commitment to hearing what people of color are saying as well as education about racial inequity.

Racism did not evaporate once the Civil Rights Act was passed. In fact, yesterday in Atlanta people stood in line for hours to vote. The Georgia legislature closed 216 polling places this year, 80 of which were in Atlanta. The majority of those closed 80 polling places were in minority neighborhoods–pretty much a textbook example of racial inequity that borders on voter suppression.