How My Trip To New Orleans Awakened A New Spiritual Path

I'm embracing Afro-Caribbean roots, and shifting toward a journey of faith in self.


New Orleans is popular for many things — Mardi Gras, Cajun-style cooking, and jazz music to name a few. But when my friends and I took a trip to NOLA during Halloween, I was surprised to find myself more connected to my spirituality than ever before. 10/10 would recommend visiting New Orleans, at any time of year. It was my first time to ever visit the famous city, and I was eager to eat great food and experience the Blackness of the city.

I had been living in Denver, Colorado for the past two years, and after going to an HBCU you could say it's was sort of a culture shock. The lack of Black culture, people, and representation made me really appreciate the places where we can take up space and celebrate ourselves.

I felt like I'd lost parts of myself over the past half-decade. I lost myself to failed relationships, to school, to motherhood and to other people's expectations of me. I felt very disconnected from myself, and what I should be doing in life.

What was my divine purpose? I had recently lost my job---one that I was very good at and very proud of. Being fired from my steady 9-5 and choosing to focus on my PR company was scary. I felt anxious and doubted that I could survive off freelance and contract work. For the first time in a long time I had no idea who I was, what I wanted, or where I needed to go.


I grew up in a very Christian household, with momma forcing me to church every Sunday. I had a "say your prayers and God will take care of the rest" type of upbringing. From a very young age, I realized that wasn't going to work for me. I didn't grasp the concept of blind faith too well, and whenever I asked questions about the Bible or probed on the contradictions within the text, I would be scolded by my elders. It was apparent to me that asking questions that challenged the Bible was not acceptable.

After having my son, I was pulled toward researching different religions and spiritual practices that are practiced throughout the diaspora. In my readings on voodoo, santeria, and obeah I realized how connected I am to these spiritual practices and the ritualistic habits that even my own mother practiced. I officially gave up on Christianity in 2017 and started identifying as spiritual (just as many other young Black people).

I refused to revert back to believing in a religion that had never served me, and in my eyes had not served my community much either.

While in New Orleans, I knew I had to visit the botanicas and voodoo shops that the city is popular for. I knew I wanted to experience some Black-ass culture and NOLA is known for just that. What I was not expecting was to feel energetically and spiritually charged after my trip. It felt like the city was alive. I walked down to the French Quarter and into Jackson Square, which is a crowded area, depending on the day. I looked up to find a massive white cathedral across from the park, which immediately made me think of the slaves and post-slavery culture that heavily influenced the city—especially the spiritual connection to African spiritual practices such as voodoo.

Photo by Giphy

I visited the Reverend Zombie's House of Voodoo in the French Quarter to look for supplies such as herbal blends and books on magick. I was immersed in a very authentic experience that didn't feel like a tourist stop despite the popularity of the place. Unlike other voodoo and occult shops I visited on my trip, this shop educated visitors on proper etiquette when dealing with alters, herbs, and offerings. You're allowed to leave offerings to your ancestors or the saints on various alters within the shop. By leaving dollar bills, coins, or treats for your Orishas and ancestors, you're showing gratitude and feeding them for protecting and guiding you. You're not allowed to take photos of the alters as it is said to steal the magic(k) and scare away the Orishas, or spirits.

I later stopped by Botanica Macumba, a small spiritual supply shop for practitioners of various Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices. They offer spiritual services and doubles as a café and event space. When I walked into Botanica Macumba, I immediately realized that their alters were not like the ones at Reverend Zombies, there were barely any offerings and the shop tenders said I could take photographs which suggested the altars were merely for show. I saw a shrine to the saint Erzulie Freda, a spirit (or loa) who I have felt very spiritually connected to since the start of my journey. She rules over material success and abundance, and I felt like it was a sign from my ancestors that I was on the right path with love and would be abundant.

My spiritual journey led me here to a place that would remind me of the spirits that have guideded me and protect me my whole life.

Photo by Giphy

It's almost a priority to visit the famous priestess Miriam Chamani at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple in New Orleans. The spiritual temple was loosely depicted in the movie, The Skeleton Key, and the priestess had been given plaques from the mayor of New Orleans. I went to the temple on Halloween night, not intending to get a reading, but after speaking to the priestess for 20 minutes it was as if she had given me one. She spoke in lucid-like conversation, almost as if she was in and out of this realm or relaying messages that were coming from multiple mediums. She questioned me and was intrigued by where I was from and what I was searching for though I never said I was from out of town or that I was searching to connect deeper to myself.

My trip to New Orleans allowed me to connect deeper to Afro-Caribbean spirituality and find my way back to my divine path.

I felt like everything I wanted for my life was in question. The priestess told me to focus on the messages from my guides and decide where I wanted to go, what I actually want to do with my life and who I wanted to be. I left in a haze, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the conversation with the priestess — mostly because it was hard to follow along with everything she was saying as she went in and out of her slight delirium. Although it was a challenge to follow along with her, what she said really resonated with me and the entire experience was very eerie.

Photo by Giphy

The trip had been filled with signs that despite feeling lost before landing in NOLA, I was on the right track spiritually. I was reminded to trust myself and to manifest the life I wanted without limits. My guides and the orishas have provided me with constant messages that they were there with me along my journey, protecting me. My trip helped me to stop doubting myself and my intuition, and I felt more in touch with myself and the purpose I should be focused on in life. Voodoo and other Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices have a reputation of providing strength and prosperity to the African descendants of the diaspora, and New Orleans was a great reminder of that. It allowed me to see how powerful our African traditions and spiritual practices truly are. It reaffirmed my own power and faith within myself.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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