American history is rife with barbarisms related to the slave trade and its residual effects. Southern slave masters in America stripped every shred of connection and relationship slaves had with their African motherland by treating them like cattle. To further crush any remaining sense of identity, masters forced slaves to take their names.
Today, most Black Americans still carry last names passed down from slave masters – names with no association to our heritage, no blood roots, and no organic ancestral ties. These names either have no meaning or they trigger repulsion. Both perspectives birth a culture of people eternally in search of themselves.
In my new book, “No Sur: Breaking the Chains that Bind the Spirit,” I paint a high-resolution picture of my journey to finding my soul’s identity through spiritual transformation. Central to this transformation is the detachment from the slave master’s surname and the reclaiming of identity. The process of spiritual transformation can be very painful. I have found that emotional and psychological pain often accompany misfortune and that adversity is the primary substance that fuels spiritual transformation.
The book exposes my struggles with being abandoned by my father and mother, my battle with recovering from a 17-year drug addiction, and my encounters with discrimination in my corporate and academic careers. In each of these segments of my life, identity played a role.
The realization that my surname belonged to an actual slave master and coming face-to-face with a descendant of that oppressor laid the foundation for my identity crisis. My identification as a drug addict served as a powerful, but temporal transforming force that revolutionized my life. And, my experiences as a Black man in corporate America and in the academy underscores realities faced by others who look like me and seek career advancement.
In each of these episodes of my life, the transformative nature of spirituality served to break the chains that bound my spirit. My hope is that by sharing my experiences, others who are bound by the chains of abandonment, addiction, or discrimination can experience spiritual transformation.
It was painful, shameful, and risky to write this book because it lays bare past wounds and traumas that wreaked havoc on my life and the lives of those closest to me. I struggled with the fear of being judged harshly for my choices, and the fear that my reputation would be tarnished forever.
On the other hand, I also know that sharing the whole story of my life isn’t just about revealing the bad. It’s about sharing what enabled my transformation from a miseducated drug addict to a tenured professor at a Top Tier academic institution. How I overcame the obstacles, disappointments, and setbacks along the way is the primary message I want to convey in this book. The purpose of this book is to show those who suffer from issues related to desertion, dependence, or discrimination that spirituality has been transformational, and in some cases, evolutional in my life. My prayer is that others can find the hope, determination, and perseverance required to break the chains that bind our spirits.