The color white is often referred to as the source of pureness, cleansing, hope, and good… while the color black has been synonymous with evil, filth, and corruption. Keep in mind this is a certain type of thinking, which doesn’t necessarily make it everyone’s truth. Many people uphold the color black as a core of equality and strength, and in the same breath will hold white to malevolence, dullness, and oppression. Even more so, there are people who think both black and white work together as agents of love. The only reason I mention this is to point out my own struggle with the term “white witch” and how I came to use the term in my day to day work.
I work for BreakOUT!, an organization with a focus on supporting queer youth, specifically Black youth, in ending criminalization while building a stronger, more cohesive community. The organization was born out of resistance to violence and a lack of mobility for transgender women in New Orleans. When I joined the organization as a wannabe member, I had no idea the journey I was signing up for. By journey, I mean making the transition from volunteer, to member, to Core Member Leader, to Healing Justice Coordinator. A year ago, I assumed the position of Healing Justice Coordinator, and the very first thing I asked myself was, “What do I know about healing? I better not mess this organization up!”
I spent my first five months on the job talking to elders, mentors, practitioners of healing, and continuing to build my analysis. The first thing I set out to do was create a Mission Statement, something that would assure that I could at least not fuck up majorly, right? As the ever growing document evolved, I realized that it still felt like I was missing a component. My next project was a storytelling theatre production based on the lives of five Black transgender women in New Orleans. This was a major success and took our members into a new realm of healing, which was also profitable for our membership. With all this behind me, I knew something was still missing when my mentor asked me the question, “How are you directly helping members to facilitate their own healing and wellness on their own terms?” It was here that I began to switch my analysis of healing and wellness, creating healing space for membership through memberships’ healing and wellness needs.
But the question was, what were the needs? Of course, my answer was right around me. People were already facilitating their own healing and wellness. It became apparent to me over the next few months that healing and wellness is a community effort, and that everyone is a practitioner of healing in their beings. I began to wonder how I could be intentional about creating a space where wellness is key and is integrated into the lives of our membership. I began to notice the different methodologies that the membership began to practice. Singing and performing Beyonce could be heard, slaying from the back of our organizing space and bringing positive energy and happiness to everyone who shook their hips and whipped their hair. In the same room, a circle of girls had begun to talk about what happened on the street that night, relating to each other and creating a space for shared experiences. Outside, a staff member was smoking a cigarette with an angry member, using breathing and empathy to help the member facilitate their own deescalation.
I began to see the magic in the people around me, and how they were making community happen everywhere. As I began to navigate the wellness initiative in this format, I saw one of the members looking at me. “You are such a white witch, you bring goodness, as opposed to them black witches,” she said, referring to all the people who put negative juju in the world.
This shocked me for a few reasons actually. I have been struggling with balancing my Blackness and queerness, so I misunderstood her use of the word white, hence my opening paragraph…and secondly, I was not expecting to hear such a positive reaction to both myself and the work I have been doing in my organization.
And it dawned on me, the queer and trans people of color, as colorful as they are, are all white witches, casting spells of growth, and through it all helping me to facilitate my own healing and wellness, and in turn, theirs.
Healing Justice Coordinator