DCP EP. 87 Black Witches: Blue Telusma
Transcribed by: Sydney Henriques-Payne
Completion date: October 27, 2021
Shana Pinnock [00:00:02] Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast that gives you news you can trust for the culture, I’m your co-host Shana Pinnock, Social Media Director here at theGrio,
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:00:09] and I’m your co-host Gerren Keith Gaynor, managing editor at theGrio. And this week we’re asking “Dear Culture, Who you calling a witch?”
Shana Pinnock [00:00:25] Love that. But before we get into this week’s show, G, please tell me what’s on your mind this week.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:00:33] I have to take a deep breath, Shana. I’m sure by now everyone saw Boosie’s tweet to Lil’ Nas X. So just to backtrack ,Lil Nas X, he tweeted a joke that he and Boosie have a collaboration song coming out because we all know that Boosie has been harassing Lil Nas X, dissecting his sexuality; Bit by bit. And it’s gotten pretty volatile and nasty. We’ve had Ernest Owens write for theGrio about this topic. We’ve covered extensively. But I honestly was so disturbed by Boosie’s response because not only did he call him, the F-word basically wished him to commit suicide. And was like “If you committed suicide, it would basically do us all a favor. No one wants you here.” And of course, he made a reference, a sexual reference tom you know, what…What Lil Nas X does in the bedroom; And it was very triggering for me, so much so that it was the weekend and I had to start writing an op and I wrote an op ed for theGrio is published this week. So please be sure to check it out. It’s so funny because our our question for this week is “Who you calling a witch?” And my piece starts out in the headline “Who you calling a faggot?” And I was very triggered by that tweet because as a Black queer man, having been called the F-word and knowing what that feels like, I had to really take time to like, create space to help people understand why that word and why these jokes and why homophobic attacks are so critical and harmful to Black LGBTQ people, especially Black gay men. You know, I was called the F-word around the same age as Nas X is right now, and I was in Harlem walking down the street, minding my business, walking to my car, and these two older men were sitting on the stoop talking about gentrification. And one of them was like, You know, I’m so sick of all these White people, you know, coming into our neighborhood. And as I got closer, he looked at me. He was like, And all of these faggots. And I, you know, if anyone has experience in anxiety or has experienced trauma or abuse, you know that when moments like that happen, you kind of your body just tenses up, you freeze up and it’s kind of like you have an inner body experience, like, because you’re now you’re now in like, you know, survival mode. And I didn’t know if they were going to say more or come after me. So I started walking faster and just walk to my car. But that experience was so traumatizing to me, and hurtful I would say, that I got in my car. I drove back home across the street. I changed my clothes so I can look “less gay” because I was going to a straight event and didn’t want to encounter any further abuse. And these are the kind of decisions that we have to make for survival, whether you’re Black and trans, whether you’re a Black and queer. And oftentimes the people on the other end of our abuse and pain are Black men. And so in this piece, I really wanted to just really communicate how as a society, as a Black community where we say we are, we’re for Black lives and we want Black liberation, we will never achieve that when we have people like Boosie; men, Black men like Boosie– who perpetuate homophobia and misogyny and transphobia because Black liberation includes all of us. And when you think about the most influential, transformative movements that pushed the Black community closer to to freedom and to liberation, it’s been Black LGBTQ people who have led those movements. It was Bayard Rustin who, who was integral McKay’s march on Washington. You know, two of the three founders of Black Lives Matter are queer women. And not to mention, last year’s historic protests in the George Floyd protests were largely led by Black women, trans– Black trans women and queer Black men. And so we are always on the front lines fighting for our liberation, which includes Black men. And yet there are the one always causing us harm and by causing us harm, you’re causing the collective community harm. And so I wanted to do a piece that didn’t just like, say, “Bossie’s a bad person. He’s homophobic.” We know these things, but to really give it a more human lens because it is happening– it’s happening in our communities. And many of us who are at the receiving end of these afflictions are dealing with depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts. And thank God for me, psychotherapy and yoga and meditation and self-love practices have helped me find my own voice and be comfortable in my own skin, but when I was Lil Nas X’s age, I certainly wasn’t as confident as he is, and I’m so grateful to have that young Black LGBTQ people, especially young Black gay boys, have a Lil Nas X to look up to because if I wish I did have a Nas X when I was when I was coming of age because he is not only bringing visibility, but he’s censoring Black queer identity in a way that is so needed. And kudos to Nas X, and I just say to him, Don’t let Boosie or anybody stop you from what you’re doing, because what he’s doing is powerful and it’s freeing people and it’s even freeing people like me who’s like almost 10 years his senior. But, but please, please, we got to do better as a community. Especially our Black men.
Shana Pinnock [00:06:21] Yeah, and something that I loved— first off, y’all need to go ahead and read the article. It is poppin. As a matter of fact, we’ll ask our producers to drop a link to that or something in the description on YouTube and as well as like where you wherever you’re listening to this podcast. But something that you acknowledged was, you know, listen, if Boosie is dealing with his own kind of trauma or his own internal “whatever,” that’s for him and his therapist. And for that, I want to say, we need to start moving away from…. Although I do believe, you know, it is quite possible that there there is a lot of internal self-hatred on that level or something going on there. But…
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:07:02] Oh, I talk about that too!
Shana Pinnock [00:07:03] Yeah, you know, but on… But on its face, it is something that is violent and vile and hateful. And we don’t say that, you know, racist white people are secretly trying to be Black. Like we… It’s like, “Oh, they, they’re secretly Black. That’s why they’re, you know, so hateful against Black people.” No, we don’t say that at all. So why are we saying that people who are blatantly violently homophobic are secretly gay? No, I’m not giving them any cover for that. I’m not giving them any empathy for that. Again, that is a conversation for you and your therapist, and that is a conversation for you and your God or whoever you choose to believe in. But don’t… Don’t think that doing harm to people who are just minding their own business and living their lives has anything to do with you. And it’s and again, let’s stop talking about these children and “Oh protect the kids and [inaudible] because you weren’t protecting children when you were paying for prostitutes to give oral sex to your nephew and your son, but cool. Anywho, we’re going to pivot a little bit….
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:08:05] Fine Shana. What’s on your mind this week? I want, I want, I want to hear about this one.
Shana Pinnock [00:08:10] So we’re going to pivot a little bit. Insecure came back this week. It is season five. I’m actually very heartbroken. I… I… I Love this show. But you know, just when I was thinking that the show was on, the episode was a little “mid” in terms of, “Oh, there’s nothing that’s going to be an uproar where people are going to be on Twitter acting a fool. Lies. Lies, lies and more lies because you know —- us. We find things to complain about. And part of that were members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., who were complaining that the character that Amanda Seales plays — Tiffany — who was an AKA and, you know, it’s kind of explored a little bit in this episode that she was like wearing pink and green, and she’s wearing the AKA letters and the shield and they’re like, “No, this is so disrespectful. And you know, HBO and Issa Rae, don’t do this again, please.” Whoever was that original tweet —first and foremost, this season is recorded already, sis, number one. Number two, if you are not a member of a Black Greek letter organization, I don’t know why you’re talking. I don’t. But number three, as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., y’all are doing the most. Calm down, relax. It’s not that deep. It is a character of a Black ass show. So they’re going to talk about Black ass things like… Like Greek letter organizations, number one. Number two. We also knew that Molly and Tiffany were like sisters and AKAs in season one. There was… They were in the Alpha house with a whole bunch of Alpha stuff in the back, like nobody said a word. When on “Best Man Holiday” —- and you think I wanted to claim Shelby as my fictional soror? As a member of Delta Sigma Theta? But no, but Mia … Morris Chestnut’s wife. Go watch the show. Go watch the film. But [inaudible]. You think I wanted to claim Shelby? No. Did we– did we cause a stink? Did any of this happen? No. Relax. It is art. I think there’s also the idea of like, had an actual AKA played that role and then something unsavory happened on the show. Yo, you’re putting her letters at risk. You see. And again, GDIs — you don’t know what you’re talking about. Please hush. And I get it. It became a let’s rag on all the Greek orgs, blah blah, whatever. That’s fine. That’s your, that’s your piece. I’m just saying— in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. But to be honest, I’m also 13 years in the game as a Delta. This sounds like the concerns of someone who was less than five years in this Greek letter organization. Like, I don’t care. I barely wear my nalia as it is because of drama like this. But yeah, it’s —enjoy the show, y’all. Y’all are draining. And please can we, can we just get back to like whether or not, if Lawrence is trash or Condola if that baby is actually Condola’s since… You know, like, let’s talk about that. That’s what I’m interested in.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:11:11] Speaking of getting back, you know, this week’s topic is about spirituality. And for me, I think it is about coming back to, you know, one’s self about what it means to to be a human being, what it means to be religious, what it means to be spiritual. And I’m glad we’re really having this discussion. And, you know, Halloween is also coming up and I am not celebrating, but many will be celebrating it and are preparing for the trick or treating in horror movie marathons. But the history of Halloween and All Hallows Eve has roots and religious and spiritual practices. If you didn’t know. For many, spiritualists it iscelebrated as a period of reflection on death and rebirth and believed to be the period in which spiritual activity is at its highest. While it’s clear that there is some alignment between religious and spiritual practices, the differences can run deep. This week, we’re joined by writer, producer and spiritualist Blue Telusma and Blue will be giving us more insight and understanding into the differences between religion and spirituality. And share her experience being a Black witch in a generation that is looking beyond the Bible and redefining Black magic. So, let’s get into it.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:12:32] So, Shana, you know, I religion when religion comes up, is a very touchy subject, especially especially in the Black community. I grew up in the Black church, and so I grew up in a household where it was all about Black Jesus and anything that did not align with Black. Jesus was the devil. That’s kind of how things were a summized in my household. And, you know, at thirty two years old, I am one of those people Black, young people, millennials and Generation Z who are like, I’m actually more spiritualist than I am religious, more spiritual than religious, I should say. And you know, I have my personal pathway as to why that is, but I want to highlight this Pew Research study. It reports that church membership among non-Hispanic Black adults has significantly declined over the past 20 years, dipping from seventy eight percent to fifty nine percent between the year of two thousand and twenty twenty. Within twenty years– that’s a big drop in people who identify as, as religious. And I think that is generational because because surely people like my mother and, you know, aunts and uncles and grandmother and grandfather, they’re not changing their religion. It’s like they’re set in their ways. They believe what they believe. You know, I and as the son of a minister, I am still.. I still consider myself to be a Christian. But a lot of my… My spirituality is rooted in something that is something that goes beyond Jesus Christ. And I think maybe it’s because I personally, you know, as a young person going…as a young Black gay boy, growing up in the church and having people stand at the pulpit and preach me the hell, it was difficult for me to embrace the church completely, wholeheartedly because in my heart, I didn’t really believe that there was something wrong with being gay. And when I got to that age where I decided, Yeah, I’m gay, this is not like– This is not the devil. This is not some demon in me. I’m like, God made me gay. I’m going to accept that I’m gay. And it was really it was falling in love and feeling what that really felt like and knowing… And I didn’t have the language for about the time, I was like, “I… If this is love and I like the way this feels, this is where God is.” And for me, God is love and God go so much more beyond religion. And that’s why I started reading about Buddhism, and I started reading books that weren’t necessarily tied to Christianity. And I did turn to the church, you know, during difficult times in my young adulthood. But it was this discovery that my spirituality runs deeper than the Black church. I mean, I started getting into practices like yoga, which are which to me is intrinsically spiritual, but that has nothing to do with Christianity. I started reading books from writers like Marianne Williamson and Pastor Michael Beckwith and Deepak Chopra, like so many like spiritual leaders who… Who have kind of expanded my understanding of spirituality. But, Shana — do you consider yourself religious or spiritual? And did you ever go through a similar transformation?
Shana Pinnock [00:15:55] So, funny enough, in my family, no one really went to church. My grandmother was very, you know, very, very churchy. My mom and dad grew up in very, very churchy households. But my dad, somewhere along the line, got turned off by religion and it kind of just permeated throughout the household. So we would, you know, it’s like, “Oh, thank God,” and you say your grace and then that was pretty much it. When I turned 16, I… Something pulled me to the church. So I started going to this United Methodist Church, of which now my mama is like an usher over there. She was just out here. She and turn me into a preacher’s kid because she just …this past Sunday, she was just doing the lay speaker like, sermon, you know? And my relationship with God has been a transformational one in terms of believing— I’m not arrogant enough to believe that we’re just around in this world. And, you know, forces of good and evil don’t exist. They do. You know, and there is certain things in my life that I know I had to have a higher power watching over me. At the very least, my ancestors who, when holding a girl down, I’m not in prison, I’m not dead. I don’t have no, you know, incurable diseases, you know, great. But religion has always been really gross to me, and I see this as a Christian. I say, this is a person who got baptized— I was in the water, OK. We were here. But. I think, for instance, like biblical texts and the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of different versions of it means that there is opportunity for men to be able to put their own agenda in there. If we want to talk about the gay agenda, let’s talk about the church agenda. OK, what? What was the purpose of this? You know, you got to get into history. Why is it that when you go into certain households, there’s this blonde headed white man—- that don’t look like hair like wool? What is this like? You know, I’m like, No. So I I’m a… I’m a Christian. I do not believe in certain aspects of the Bible. I just don’t. I don’t follow certain aspects of the Bible. I’m sorry. I’m going to smash. I believe that the Lord loves, you know, making you feel good. Smashing feels great. Thank you. You know. And you know, those type of things. But I’m certainly more of a spiritual person, and I’m a firm believer that my God is not necessarily the god of somebody else’s. My God is not homophobic. My God is not transphobic. My God is not a racist… Like. And whoever these white people God is..[inaudoble] my God tells me to take showers and baths. It’s like, I don’t know what y’all got going on over there. But yeah, I think it’s it’s just it’s so funny because I’m wondering… are people actually taking this shift of like identifying as “spiritual seriously?” Or is it just a trend? Right. So all of a sudden, you know, here we are. Everybody is “We’re going to, you know, dabble into African spiritual practices and let me let me talk to the the 15 gods that exist” and all this other stuff. And then “Here are my crystals.” You know, everybody has one Ho-Tep who is like, “You can’t touch this crystal, OK, I can’t have you. Yeah, energy messing with it.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I do carry crystals. I do believe in Sage and Palo Santo when I move into my new place, that’s the first thing I’m doing. I’m opening up windows and we — Uh uh. Y’all got to get up out of here. This is an all new place, but I’m wondering if is it actually like people taking this seriously and …the world, especially right now, is so lost? I understand wanting to feel connected to something bigger and higher than yourself. But are we doing this because it’s actually like where our our spirits and our our history and our ancestry is pushing us to? Or, you know, did you see something cute on Instagram and you were like, Oh, that you know, that will work? Let me let me do a Tik Tok video of of all my, my crystals and my my new moon rituals. Like, No.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:20:16] Yeah, I think I think both are true. I think that there is a reckoning, especially when when you think about the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been around for several years now and then four years of Donald Trump and Black people, especially young Black people, being like, “No, this ain’t it. This is not that this is not the direction that our country is going in.” And I think that with that, that consciousness being raised and the movement of like Blackness really being center in a real way, it’s also led people to shed these white supremacist ways of being. And some of that, to some people, is Christianity. Because if you want to get into it briefly that no, we were we got the religion from Europeans, from colonizers, our religions. Our spiritual background in Africa wasn’t Christianity, even though there are certainly parallels with Christianity and many other different types of religions. And I think that that’s, I think, is a great thing that we are, you know, that we are starting to be more aware and that consciousness is being raised. But you have people who are, you know, being introduced to it in a commercial way as well through Palo Santo and Sage and, you know, on on Tik Tok and on Instagram. But I think that’s a good thing. I think that is leading people to these spiritual practices, even if they’re not really fully committed. But it’s a great gateway to open up our hearts and our minds and open up our spiritual lens offense because I think that ultimately, as spiritual beings, we… We need we need to have some type of spiritual roots. And I’m all I’m all for as long as it’s leading people closer to their spiritual selves.
Shana Pinnock [00:21:50] Yeah, G, and I think, you know, spiritual self is all what we need, and I mean, hell, that’s that’s kind of what we’re going to talk about with our guests today. Why don’t you let let us know what’s poppin?
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:22:01] Yes, indeed. Well, I’m very excited about our featured guest today because not only is she well versed in spiritualism and a self-identified Black witch. She’s also a part of the DCP family as our executive producer, Blue Teslusma Thank you for joining us on the other side of the camera today. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome.
Shana Pinnock [00:22:22] Hey, Blue Blue.
Blue Telusma [00:22:24] This feels. So weird! Like, Why am I in front of the camera, guys? I’m supposed to be in my pajamas sending notes in the chat, but it’s fine.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:22:32] So I love this topic because I’m always that person. I… would say, for the past several years, I’ve identified more as someone who is spiritual and not someone who is religious. I grew up in the Black church. My dad was a minister and, you know, as a queer Black man, the church did harm to me, and there were times where I didn’t feel safe in the church and then I found spirituality, which I find to be distinct from religion. Could you break down the difference between the two?
Blue Telusma [00:23:04] I once had this really interesting quote, but before I answer the question, I just wanna thank you guys for having me on. You guys know I do not like being in front of the camera. One time a year, you guys get to have me as a guest. I think this topic in particular was the one that I felt compelled to show up for. There’s one quote when it comes to spirituality and religion that I think sums it up. Religion is for those who are scared of going to hell, and spirituality is for those who’ve already been there. So for me, spirituality, it takes all the fear and hell and brimstone out of the equation and says, no, the worst thing already happened. Now what? And I think that’s why a lot of folks who were scared of worst case scenarios when they were being super religious and then life came at them fast, find themselves leaning toward spirituality because they want to know what comes next. Like what comes after me being scared of the inevitable. And so I think that’s why a lot of folks are calling themselves more spiritual because fear based, fear mongering, type of Bible thumping— and I was raised in the church, So this is not an anti Christian rant, —- But when you use fear as a way to get people to conform eventually, in a very woke age, they’re going to bristle against that. So you’re you’re right on brand, Gerren.
Shana Pinnock [00:24:10] So I’m glad you brought up the Christian aspect because I mean, you know, and you also have like the Caribbean aspect, right? Like, I.
Blue Telusma [00:24:18] Very Caribbean.
Shana Pinnock [00:24:20] i got cussed out by my family. By my dad once. I brought like a candle– like, you know, one of the large, like Catholic candles or something like that. And I don’t even remember. I was like in junior high and I was like, Oh, somebody had had, you know, bought me one, and I just wanted to light the candle and like, do a little praying or something. And my father is like, absolutely nine. He’s like, he’s look like one of them Obeah woman like, “No.” And like, “Get that out of this house.” Like it was shut down central. So, I guess here’s a question for you is –first off, what does it actually mean to be a witch? And where does witchcraft fit in like relate relation to religion and spirituality? Can you be a witch and a Christian or part of any other religion? Yeah.
Blue Telusma [00:25:08] Well, here’s the funny thing is, and then I hate to hurt people’s feelings. A lot of Christian, particularly Black Christian people are doing witchcraft and calling it prayer. So you have to be really careful about acting like they are mutually exclusive. The way history works, And I love history because it’s fact based, right? We had traditional African religions that we subscribe to when we were living in our natural habitats before we were colonized, right? And when the slaves were sorry, not the slaves, when the enslaved people, because I want to humanize this — when the enslaved people were brought to different places, because you know, that joke we wre all on one boat and we get dropped off in different places and we call that our ethnicity–So when they were being dropped off in different places, the best way that they could use fear tactics and propaganda to scare them was to take away their religion and to take away their spirituality. So a lot of times the slaves would get beads, but they would pray and they would show up and empowered the next day. And they were like, OK, this is actually very dangerous. Because whatever they’re praying to whoever they’re praying to, it’s making it hard to break them. They used white Jesus as a way to beat the spirituality out of African people, out of enslaved people because they realized that once somebody is disempowered and you tell them, “Hey, don’t fight for freedom in this in this life. Wait ’til a white man hugs you under a white light in the afterlife so you can still be a slave.” That was a way of keeping us docile, so a lot of times civility would see African religions as a threat because an empowered African was someone who couldn’t be a slave for much longer, right? So a lot of times the slaves were like, OK, well, how do I keep on doing this thing that’s keeping me alive? And I very like Life Force kind of way, but doing it in a way where massive won’t beat it out of me. And so Slave started hiding their African traditions within Christianity. So there’s a lot of things that Black Christians do that come from witches that they didn’t realize that their grandparents were hiding and building into the fold. So a lot of times when you go to a witchy, spaces, you’ll literally see seven day candles. that your father was scared of the same seven day candles that I used as a witch. You go and you light it at the church. A lot of times people say, Oh, you’re manifesting. Manifesting as a pretty word for prayer guys. So we have to be really, really, really careful about not falling in love with the packaging. But at the roots, when your grandparents were trying to keep themselves alive while systemically, they were being having the life force beating out of them. It was traditional African religions that were keeping them afloat, and they still snuck into the sauce when it comes to Christianity. So a lot of Christians are witches and don’t even realize it. Your superstitious grandma is Low-key a witch?
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:27:39] Wow, wow. That makes so much sense. I feel like nowadays at that thirty 32, I feel like I’m a witch. I mean, I feel like when I’m burning, when I’m burning my, my sage and my Palo Santo and you know, I got my singing bowl…. It feels more like, what I grew up watching what was depicted as witchcraft, right? And and it’s it’s it’s been popularized the way that we think of witches. But I want you to kind of go down the ladder and explain like, what are the specifics of the things that witches supposedly do when people typically refer to someone as a witch?
Blue Telusma [00:28:17] Well, the one thing I always say is be careful of insta-witches. As someone who’s an actual witch, sometimes I get on Instagram and I get very nervous like, “Ooo baby, what is you doing?” Like, I get very nervous. If you realize that witchcraft came from Black people, right? And that we are the source… Which we tend to be in general. If you realize that we are the source, then you have to think about the language that is used. Like the occult, by definition, just means “not mainstream religion.” So when you the word occult within demonic. No, it just means it’s not white Jesus, right? And so even the word occult has been given this like tinge of sinister-ism. Anything that that society tells you as sinister is probably just Black. So be careful about that. And so I think we you have to think about how we tried to survive as Black witches in the mainstream. So those of us who went to the West Indies, we did voodoo like in places like Haiti where my mom is from. Then there are folks who went to Latin America, like in Cuba, where my dad is from and they did Santeria. Then we had my African-American friends in the Louisiana areas who were a mixture of the Spaniards and the white people and the Haitians. And like, they mix it all up and did hoodoo. Right? So all these different names are just different iterations of what came from our motherland. So if you have somebody who’s doing Santeria, somebody who’s doing voodoo, someone who’s doing any of that stuff, they’re just harkening back to their ancestral lineage. And some of us just have it in our DNA. Like, they beat it out of a lot of us. But there are some of us who— we showed up whole; like whatever happened, it didn’t take. And we showed up whole. So for me, I was raised Christian. My name, you know, Blue is just my pen name that was given to me when I was younger. My my my government name is Maria-Manuela (Marie-Emmanuelle) . Maria-Manuela is a very Spanish name. But when you translate it to English, it’s Mary Emmanuel. My mother literally named me Mary Jesus. It is not it is not more Christian than that. I am named after everybody except for Joseph in the nativity scene. My mother is super super Catholic, and she is scared of anything voodoo related because she was taught that is bad because it’s “too Black,” right? Unfortunately for her, she ended up having a baby with a Cuban man with a long line of Santeria witches. So I’m not a witch by choice. I’m a witch by lineage. So a lot of times you’ll meet somebody who is Christian or Buddhist, which is ironically my… My chosen religion and whatever you might choose, it’s fine. But you still Black as hell and it still lives inside of you. It lives inside of you guys. And so I think a lot of times people like, “Am I a witch?” Which if you are a Black or brown person who finds yourself feeling some kind of pull to it, that’s probably your ancestral DNA speaking to you, regardless of what you’ve been told religious wise.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:30:50] So how do you get in touch with the inner witch inside of you?
Blue Telusma [00:30:54] First of all, I’ll start talking to your elders. Start talking to your grandmas, your grandpas, your aunties, your uncle’s, your cousins and asking them questions about their own relationship to religion and spirituality. Ask about that weird, you know, auntie who would be doing stuff and making sounds and suddenly nobody sick anymore because we all have, witches in our family, that are hiding in plain sight. So the first thing is to find out about your own lineage and find out what facet of it speaks to you. If you’re African-American, you might find yourself wanting to learn more about hoodoo, right? Whereas if you are someone who Latin American, maybe Santeria, or if you’re Caribbean, maybe voodoo, whatever it is, find out what’s in your family in general to personalize it. Once you’ve done that, then start doing research about what kind of magic you want to tap into. Because here’s the thing Magic is the wor fdor free agency. That’s all. Magic means, magic is just free agency. The thing that religion has done to a lot of us that we don’t want to talk about is that it’s tak aenway our free agency. It’s saying that everything is fated, everything is predetermined. We have no power and we’re just going to wait for God or whoever to later decide what we deserve. Witchcraft takes that away, and there’s free agency, and it also allows anger because remember earlier I said, they took away our Black religions to make us docile so we would be better slaves. So what they also taught us was things like “Turn the other cheek.” That’s a white Christian thing. Actual witchcraft actually lets you be angry. Right? But anger leads to revolution. So a lot of times Black Christians have the revolution beaten out of them. Think about that.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:32:19] Wow.
Blue Telusma [00:32:19] So if you are a witch, you’re allowed to get angry. I’m allowed to think about what makes me upset and say, no, I’m not turning the other cheek. I’m going to do a spell to protect myself. Oh, yeah, just always think about Magic just means free agency.
Shana Pinnock [00:32:32] So and you know, what’s funny is because, yeah, and I’ve always kind of laughed about it. My mother’s side of the family especially are very— for lack of a better word. You just call them very intuitive. There’s you get either one or two. They’re either really unstable or really into it.
Blue Telusma [00:32:55] It’s a thinn line. a thin line.
Shana Pinnock [00:32:56] Yeah, my mother has eight brothers and sisters. It’s either really unstable or really intuitive. And so like, little things, I think even as a… As a… As a… as a young person recognizing like, “Oh, I need to follow my intuition. It’s never lying to me” and finding that it has led me to very powerful spaces. I had a very good vibe about theGrio, for example, and it’s now been three years that I’ve been here, you know, despite other people in my ear trying to tell me something, this has probably been– I went with my intuition and this has been the most fulfilling place, career wise that I’ve, you know, found myself.
Blue Telusma [00:33:41] Oh, you love us. aw!
Shana Pinnock [00:33:45] You know, but like in the same breath, I mean, especially like, A number of years ago– maybe like four or five years ago, I got really into, you know, collecting like stones and stuff. So here I am with like a rose quartz in my pocket and stuff because “I’m gonna get me a man.” You know, it worked. You know, we we got there was a former producer of DCP who went and gave myself and Gerren like, just a words of affirmation thing. It was… It was basically a spell in my mind of this is what I’m going to do to, you know, to like bring love to meI did that. I’ve done full moon rituals, new moon rituals, you know, candle rituals, etcetera, etcetera, and never really thought of it as like, Oh damn, this might be a little witch craft.
Blue Telusma [00:34:36] Do you know why even think it was, Shana? Because it’s Black as hell. witchcraft is so Black that sometimes you’re like “Am I just being Black or my witch?” You’re both.
Shana Pinnock [00:34:44] I was like ,”wht is this,” you know, and having all of those things doing, you know, even audio cleanses and everything like that. But then it makes me wonder, you know, when did witches become witches as we see them in the media? Like, I’ll tell you my first indicator. Well, there’s two. One is, Oh gosh, it’s this stupid movie with all three white women who come back from the past and trying to eat children an stuff — Hocus Pocus. OK? Hocus Pocus is, you know, was one of my first, and then after that was The Craft. Now I’ll tell you, that was when I was really like, “Oh no, I’m a find three other broads and we to call these corners. I’m going to levitate. I want to change my face. I want to, you know, put a cast of love spell not have that may be crazy or nothing. But let’s let’s figure this figure all this out.” I was out here binding my enemies. OK, this is listen, I apologize. Erica Cruz, Alright. “I bind you” You know, “To stop you from doing harm to others… Harm to other and harm to myself.” You know, whatever. That girl, she on Linkedin. She’s my LinkedIn friend. we fine, But — so I mean, I guess again, the question is like, so when did which has become this… The weird thing that’s either, like, really ominous or scary, you know, in the grand scheme of things, like in the media.
Blue Telusma [00:36:21] So there’s a lot… That question is an excellent one. It’s also I’m going to try my best to be nuanced about the way that I answer this. You know that anything that is amazing and Black is going to be colonized, right? So I think what ended up happening is there was two approaches to witchcraft in modern media. The first approach was to demonize us because if something is Black and powerful, you’re going to make it demonized. And so when I watch these movies from my childhood of witches who eat children’s souls, I’m like, “Yeah, all my friends are witches, we don’t really do that.” So of course, they’re going to have the scarier version of witches where they’re just fire and brimstone, and they want to kill everybody. They did that because they wanted you to be scared of anything that’s occult. Remember, occult is not a bad word. It just means anything that is not white-based, white gaze affirming and mainstream, right? And so making the occult scary was a ploy to say that if you meet a witch ever in real life, you know to be scared of her because she’s going to baby’s souls. Then white folks said, “but wait, though, these witches are kind of poppin. How do we get in on this?” And suddenly it went from demonizing us to then glamorizing us and then taking over. And that’s when Wiccans took over. And I need you to know I’m Black. I’m not a Wiccan, OK, I’m a witch. And so a lot of times Black people who felt like what they were hearing in church wasn’t enough and who were feeling the ancestral call to what the spiritual magic of their ancestors was we’re looking to mainstream and they were being sold Wicca, and they were like, “Oh, OK, I guess I need to find three white girls and we can be like The Craft and do that. Like, think about that movie one Black girl doing what is ancestrally in her DNA and three white girls who want in on it. And the gag is when The Craft does any kind of promo in real life, guess who’s the one actress? They never invite. The Black woman? She’s literally gone on Twitter and said she’s being iced out of the legacy of something that’s based on her ancestors. And so we have to be really, really careful about when we deify these Wicca centered things. There’s nothing against Wicca. If you are white, yes, stay in your lane — do, do wicked stuff. That’s fine. But for Black folks, we don’t have to do that. We actually have the source, right? We actually have a much richer like ancestral DNA that we can tap into. And so, a lot of times people who want to get into witchcraft, who are Black find themselves leaning towards Wiccan ideals because they’re being taught that in the mainstream. And that makes me very nervous. Also, you mentioned something about ritual that harkens back to Gerren’s question. Ritual is about self-care. So when I do a new moon ritual. That’s me saying, “OK, energetically speaking, we all recognize that Mercury retrograde is real.” Nobody, nobody’s arguing. Ten years ago, people would tell me, Blue You’re crazy. Now, suddenly you are believ in Mercury im retrograde. Am I crazy? Or was I ahead of my time because I’m listening to my ancestors. And so everything that Black, witches were saying in the 80s, is now popular and in an Old Navy T-shirt Now, in 2021. I’m on the right side of history.
Shana Pinnock [00:39:05] I got to tell, you know, Blue, I think you should have probably been in the writers room for Lovecraft Country. Now for the listeners, if y’all, if y’all haven’t watched it, too bad. I’m about to spoil some things for you. Go ahead and watch it and just hush. But you know, what an excellent show because you made such a crucial point of, you know, even in the concept of that show and understanding that those there were white people that were right white characters, a white family trying to steal magic from this Black family, this Black lineage of family was like, “Oh no, no, we know how to…. We know how to change our identities. We know how to live forever. We know how to, you know, make you pay. We know how to do all these things”.
Blue Telusma [00:39:56] Adversity? Sounds Pretty Black to me, ah-huh. Go ahead.
Shana Pinnock [00:39:59] You know what I mean… And so it kind of it almost makes me wonder. Well, I guess this is a question for you. One of my favorites? Well, I’m not. I’m not such a huge fan of the show. I was a particular fan of this season— American Horror Story Coven,.
Blue Telusma [00:40:14] Right?
Shana Pinnock [00:40:15] So, not sure….
Blue Telusma [00:40:16] I love that season though. I love that season.
Shana Pinnock [00:40:17] Listen now, that was perfection. You know, so you had your Angela Bassett, you had your Gaby Sidibé, you know, and I’m like, “Oh Lord, they got the Black, witches up in here.” Like, how did you…I guess — that’s a question. Like, Do you think that was a show that — yeah, because it was an abundance of white people –But do you think that they in their own way were able to do justice to the history of Blackness in witchcraft? And, you know, witches in general? Or is it just more,… Or is it just more whitewashing?
Blue Telusma [00:40:56] So, here’s the thing. I’ve always said this, and this is a controversial but brave opinion so, so bare with me. If I had come to this world as a white man, y’all could not make me feel guilty for shit. I’d be like, “Yeah, I’m white, I’m a guy. It’s poppin. How can I help you?” I don’t believe…If I was a white person, I would have zero white guilt. I’mb e like,” OK, I’m in the winner’s circle. How do I help you?” All right. Because white guilt doesn’t serve anything but feeding people’s need to, like, be oppressed. I like white folks who recognize they have privilege, who don’t lie about having privilege, and then they use it to let us in the room. And so for me, when Ryan Murphy was like, “OK, I am a rich, gay white man, I want to write about witches. Where are the Black people at?” I love that he brought us into the room. I will say this, though again, I keep. I’m belaboring this point, and I hope it’s the one thing that the audience gets is when you are a Black person who is in touch with witchcraft, you are literally doing everything the colonizers feared. You are fully, fully aware of your power and how to leverage it to get what you need. It’s the scariest thing that mainstream society to be a Black witch because you are unashamed of where you come from, right? And so when Ryan Murphy did that show, one of the things he had to recognize was he was trying to give us a platform, but the Black people in the room, particularly Gabby Sidibe, was like, We’re about to be saying spells on camera. You know, energy doesn’t know that was yelling cut afterwards, right? Like energy, just hears energy. And so she was like, I want to protect myself on set. And if you actually do some Google searching, a lot of weird things happened on that set while they were doing witchcraft for the sake of the show. And so it got to the point where there was one thing where Gabby said she heard scratching on the door. She’s like, Yeah, I’m going home.
Shana Pinnock [00:42:23] I’m out. Shut it down. Smudge the room… Smudge the room and get me out of here.
Blue Telusma [00:42:33] I love that he had Black people involved. I just wish she had Black witches who had been around to do protection spells and to tell them, “Hey, let’s not say this whole incantation on camera,” you know what I mean? So he was halfway there because again, energy doesn’t give a damn about production. It doesn’t give a damn that we’re playing pretend. You call it, it’s going to show up. So if my ancestors hear that I’min trouble and you were playing with me? They thought that you were made, but you were playing with me. You know what I mean? And I’ve even said this before. Some of us are highly favored. There is a hierarchy, so it’s not like anybody who wants to be, witch can be witch those of us whose ancestral DNA chose us in spite of society working against us, we’re heavily protected and it’s our job to bring back what our ancestors lost, right? So as somebody who is heavily protected whenever I’m dating someone or making new friends, I always say, Please tell me the truth. Please don’t lie to me because you don’t understand what people lie to me. I wake up in the middle of the night with tea about folks like that without knowing. I know things about people that I’m not supposed to know all the time, and I got to sit across from me at dinner and play stupid until you tell me because my ancestors mad at me, because you tried to play me, you know. I mean, so we have to recognize that with what you come… A lot of power is also a lot of responsibility that comes with it. I don’t get to crack jokes the way you guys do sometimes. I know if I… If I say the same joke over and over, I might accidentally cast a spell. So I literally am intentional about pouring love and people that I’m around. If I appreciate you, I would literally say, Yo, I really, I think I did it to you —Shana and Gerren a couple of times like, Yeah, I really appreciate y’all. I do. Like, if I appreciate somebody, I recognize the power of the tongue is so powerful that it is stingy of me to think it and not to say it and to pour love into somebody. Also, if somebody has me effed up — we’re not going to swear in the show. I always warned them. “Please don’t be funny with me because my guides are real Goon-sh about me and they gone come for you, even if I don’t do anything. And so a lot of people are scared of witchcraft because they’re like, “Oh, angry witches are going to come and get you.” Even if you’re a good witch like me, I’m not going to come and get you. It’s not me. I… I am saintly, OK, I might as well be a Christian. I’m very saintly. But my goons, though, they don’t play about me, and I’ve actually had other witches in South Africa and Haiti, a couple in Atlanta, because, you know, witches always find each other and every time another, witch reads me they’re always like “Blue, don’t ever do magic mad because your ancestors are super protective.” And that’s because my family is so docile that we have ancestors who are like “Nah, yall are too nice. Let us take care of this” So be careful if you mess with a witch, because even if she’s a nice person, her ancestors might not be.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:45:06] Oh Lord. That’s hilarious. But transitioning from talking about witches in media, let’s talk about witches in real life, because there’s a… we We’re talking about a Pew Research earlier, and this …research has found that more people, and especially women in the Black community, Black women especially are exploring spirituality and identifying as Black, witches more and more. Why do you think we’ve seen this increase in interest over the past few years? And do you think we are seeing this trend in communities—Why do you think we’re seeing this trend in communities as it relates to Black and women and this interest in spirituality? Because I’ve been scrolling through my Instagram. I see so much, so many Black women doing tarot readings and they’re really into it and it’s becoming a trend I’m noticing,.
Shana Pinnock [00:45:55] Although I feel like sometimes that’s more Instagram than what you’ve got going on.
Blue Telusma [00:46:01] Yeah, to Shana’s point, though we have to, and I love that you kept on saying the word “trend” because I do want to unpack that a little bit. We have to be very clear the difference between a trend versus visibility. So we’ve always been here. But Instagram realized that we were marketable, and that’s why we’re getting more visibility. So it’s not a… I’ve been doing this since the 90s, right? So for me, it’s not a trend because I’m 30 years in. But for those who realized there was a market for it suddenly were being commodified and turned into a trend for the sake of being marketable, which is why I say I get sometimes a little bit nervous about people who are only Insta witches. Let’s be honest, we all know that girl who has natural hair and she wears crystals in her bra, and she sells holistic things in X, Y and Z. And she’s the most toxic person, you know— because she’s she’s wearing witchcraft as a costume like it’s Halloween for her three sixty five, but she’s actually not double clicking about what it means to live and walk in that life, right? So be very careful between those who are putting on a costume who are appropriating their own culture, which is very ironic, versus those who are actually living it. If you’re actually living in this way, you walk different. You’re very mindful. People always say, you’re hyper thoughtful. I’m not hyper thoughtful. I’m a witch. I recognize my words have power, so I have to be hyper thoughtful. So if you meet somebody who’s toxic as hell but who’s always talking about, “Oh, I’m so holistic,” if her words and her life don’t match, she’s doing it for the gram. Because those of us who do it in real life. Literally, we had an old employer–You guys know Amy–and she does not believe in none of it. I think she’s agnostic. And she said to me one time, she’s like, “Blue. I don’t know how to ask you this, but are you a witch?” And I was like, “Excuse me?” And she was like, Because every time we talk, you’ll randomly share something with me about my son or a vision you had. And it’s always true, and I’m not really into religion like that, but you like. Are you a witch?” And I was like, Actually, I am. I never told her that, but the way that I move kind of speaks for itself. And also to what we call the trend is actually an awakening. I think Black women and Black men, we have to also give Black male witches a shout out as well. I think witchcraft is very matriarchal and we’re not used to seeing women be in charge. So we assume that if women are in charge and must not be any men around, no. There are men around who are who are actually witches themselves, but because it’s a matriarchal kind of thing, we assume there’s no space where a man can actually defer to women which is sad and a whole other podcast episode. And so what’s happening is I think Black women are becoming witches in droves because it’s a response to white feminism. We try to align with white feminist and saw the erasure that took place. We had no voice in those circles because they kept on saying, Are you white? I mean, are you a woman or are you Black? Right? They never let us be both. And that’s why I call myself a woman. I’m not a feminist. I’m a woman ist. It’s a term that was coined by Alice Walker. For those of us who understand the intersectionality of being a feminist. And so as a woman, this witchcraft made sense for me because it’s a place where as a Black woman, I don’t have to choose. I’m fully empowered. My Blackness is actually leading the conversation, but my womanness is always enhancing the conversation. So I think people who didn’t find any solace in white feminism and who also didn’t find solace in the church and who also didn’t find any solace from their toxic, witchy presenting wicca white friends, was like, “Yeah, how about we remember that we actually started this and come back to the source?” So I think that’s why it’s become popular.
Shana Pinnock [00:49:10] Well, I’m so glad that you mentioned that men can be, witches as well. Shout out to American Horror Story — Warlocks and American Horror Story was showing us warlocks. So here’s my final question for you Blue, especially now that we are tiptoeing into spooky season, right? And there are some people who are like, “Oh, let me embrace my inner witch, let me pull out this Ouija board” now Imma let you offer your advice to people about it, but I’m just going to say I’m going to go on record and say, “Don’t bring…” I have a Ouija board in my house. We don’t touch it and don’t come out. I don’t want to play them games and I don’t know who all died in this house. No, thank you. I’m straight. But what is your advice to those who are like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to embrace my inner witch, let me pull out this Ouija board and get to asking questions to the universe.”
Blue Telusma [00:50:07] This is how folks get hemmed up. There was a story last year that was being shared with all the witch groups that I’m a part of. It was about this white girl who I guess wanted to get into witchcraft, and she started like doing incantations and doing spell work and people… Her Black friends like, “Girl, don’t do that.” And she kept on doing it, and she went crazy and disappeared, and they haven’t found her. Be careful what you call in. Be very, very careful because the spirit world is not like what you see on Netflix films like It’s a it’s a different kind of place, right? Light and dark exist everywhere. And I think when people try to focus on only the darkness of witchcraft to villainize it– i’m like let’s notplay that game because Christianity has some darkness, too. Right, so let’s not let’s not ever judge a group based on their worst, right? But recognizing that spiritual realm is a very complicated place, you don’t want to be calling out Papa Legba or anybody like that unless you are clear that you are dealing with a practitioner who can do it responsibly. So for for the Halloween season, please recognize that whatever you’re calling, it might come with other stuff. I would say instead of being worried about being a witch or levitating or having a Ouija board, be focused about what ancestors do I have that I want to uplift right now, right? And Latin American culture, we have altars for our ancestors. We believe in the day of the dead. So for me, it’s not just Halloween, it’s the day after Halloween. I have several of my Latin friends on November 2nd, we’re going to be doing stuff to like, be grateful to our ancestors. I want to be of service of the ancestors who are protecting me. So think about your grandmother, your grandpa, even if it’s a person in your family who you never met, but you feel a strong presence around you find a way to honor your ancestors. Find a way to ask yourself what is intuition versus what is unresolved trauma? We’ll get into that another time. A lot of times what we think of intuition is just unresolved trauma like, No, sis. That’s not a voice from your ancestors, that your paranoia comes from a bad breakup. Like, don’t get them mixed up. So keep a journal of what times you’ve had an intuition that was correct versus what times where you were just tripping because you were insecure. Because when you have a journal like that, you can start to see what’s intuition versus what’s projecting. And you can lean into your intuition and from like a clean standpoint, also find friends who have good juju. You do not want to be around bad juju or on Halloween. Because the veil, the veil is very thin. If you’re in relationships that are unsteady, be mindful not to have that person around you because spell casting also happens. I tell my male friends all the time, if you’re dating a woman who you don’t want to be with be careful about not having sex with her on her period because blood work happens right when you have sex with a woman. While she’s that’s literally a spell. I’ve had male friends who have dated girls I didn’t want to be with. They had sex with her without with her on her, her cycle, not realizing that the blood is binding when it comes to witchcraft. So any body that you don’t really “F’ with — anybody that you don’t really “F” with, please avoid them during the Halloween / day of the dead time because that veil is thin. And if they are trying to emotionally manipulate you, that’s the time when they can do it the best. So protect your energy and only be around people that you 100 percent trust
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:53:05] Blue, you have dropped so many gems actually really inspired me to get to tap more into my spirituality, even though I feel like I’m pretty spiritual. There’s just so much, especially the connection between spirituality and witchcraft and just Blackness. I think it’s so important for us to…
Blue Telusma [00:53:21] Oh, and the LGBT, by the way, Gerren… as part of the LGBT, a lot of Black African communities, it was usually the people who were trans or gay, who were seen as the priest or the priestess. So not only does white Christianity rob us of matriarchal spaces where women are in power… Of Black spaces, where Blacks and in power. It’s also a space where the LGBTQ was seen as being godlike. So just know that every marginalized group that white Christianity or even mainstream religions beat down, were considered gods where we come from. So, claim that.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:53:52] and the Bible says, “The first shall be the last and the last shall be the first.” But thank you so much Blue, for joining us on Dear Culture. We’re so happy to have you. You’ve just really just opened up a whole different conversation for our listeners. And if you want to hear more from Blue, you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter. @BlueCentric, that’s Blue-Centric together, one word. And for more commentary on the culture, including Blue Telusma, visit theGrio’s website at www.theGrio.com.
Shana Pinnock [00:54:33] We want to remind our listeners to support your local Black businesses and donate to your local organizations and religious institutions. The business that we will highlight this week is Of Quartz jewelry. Of Quartz jewelry is a small, Houston-based boutique owned and operated by founder, Anastasia Harris, a certified crystal healer. Of Quartz specializes in the design of custom healing crystal adornments, including earrings, necklaces and wraps. They also provide piece programing, jewelry repair and chakra alignment services. To learn more about, Of Quartz Jewelry, visit their online shop at of quartz jewelry dot com or follow them on Instagram @of quartzjewelry that’s O-F. Q -U- A -R -T -Z, J -E -W -E L- R -Y. The Grio has published a list of 50 plus Black businesses to support during the coronavirus pandemic. If you’d like your business to be featured, email us at Info at info@theGrio.com. That’s G – R- I – O dot com.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:55:31] Thank you for listening to Dear Culture. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review and subribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcasts and share it with everyone you know.
Shana Pinnock [00:55:40] And please email all questions, suggestions and compliments. (We love those!) To podcasts at the Grill dot com. The Dear Culture podcast is brought to you by theGrio and executive produced by Blue Telusma and co-produced by Taji Senior, Sydney Henriques-Payne and Abdul-Quddas .