My eyes were glued to the colorful Sankofa painting hanging on the wall just behind her in vibrant shades of red, green, black, and yellow, with the exception of the egg resting on the bird’s back. It was brown. I had memorized that painting in the nine weeks I’d been living and learning to heal in that place. I’d even dreamed about it a couple of times.
Go back and get it. Move forward, but don’t forget to bring those left behind with you. Give back. That was one definition of Sankofa, but the one that touched me was: Learn from your past, and with that knowledge, move into the future. That definition spoke to me, hit a nerve, convicted me.
“Don’t do that. Don’t shut down on me, Neil,” said Erica Blake, the beautiful eighties film star and lifelong recovering drug addict who now owned and operated the Sankofa Holistic Healing Center.
I focused my eyes on her. She always looked regal in a bohemian way—loose dress, headwrap that barely could contain her long, graying dreadlocks. Her usual uniform. “I’m listening. I heard every word you said. You think I’m ready to leave. I know I’m not. I was supposed to be here twelve weeks and I need all twelve. I know I do.”
She shook her head. “You feel safe here, comfortable. Comfort is good, Neil. But true growth comes from daring to leave your comfort behind. Here, we swaddle our clients, make them feel safe, because one can’t heal if they don’t trust the healer, but like a mother bird, it’s time for us to push you out of the nest. Now is the time for you to go. Not in three more weeks. I know that, feel it in my spirit.”
My eyes found the painting again as I adjusted my body in the soft brown leather chair that matched the one she sat in. There was no desk in her office, no certificates on the wall, but she was one hell of a counselor—kind, patient, gentle, motherly.
I believe that’s why I’d grown so attached to her and this place. She reminded me of my mother. Damn, I’m glad Mama didn’t see me fuck my life up like I did.
Sighing, I said, “I don’t want to...fail. What if I get back out there in the world and I can’t cope? What if I relapse, start drinking again, gambling again? I messed up so many times before when I was supposed to do better. I mean, I understand why my family never believes in me. Hell, I don’t believe in me.”
She leaned forward, her elbows on her thighs, the layers of gold bracelets on her arms clanging against each other. “I believe in you, and you should believe in yourself. Your ancestors survived a transatlantic boat ride that was nothing short of a vacation in Duat, a trip that many didn’t survive, designed to weed out the weak. Your people lived through slavery and Jim Crow so that you could carry on their legacy of strength. You are strong, Neil, and talented, and when we’re talented like you are, we are so sensitive, so easily convinced that we’re less than what we are. You’re ready. You just have to believe it and receive it. And...I’m not throwing you out there alone. You’ll be returning once a week for counseling. Did you not hear that part?”
“I did. I just…”
“You’ll be fine. You will. Just remember what I told you.”
I chuckled. “You’ve told me a lot since I’ve been here. You know that, right?”
“What did I tell you about your power?”
I lifted my eyes to meet hers, straightened my posture, and said, “I am a king, a black king, and inside me rests the power of every black king who came before me. It’s how I choose to use my power that will either bring me victory or defeat.”
She smiled and nodded. “Asé, Neil.”
I returned her smile, rubbed my hand down my face, and replied, “So it is, Mother Erica. So it is.”