Be Brave, Go Deep, & Grow : Honoring Our Black Herstory

By Ester Nicholson

Photo of Ester Nicholson

My reflections on being brave, going deep, and growing in recovery – in honor of Black History Month.

I think I was a slave in another life time. I was either a slave or a slave owner because from the time I was a small child, I remember being absolutely phobiatic about avoiding black history movies.  If a trailer came up on a movie screen about slavery, I would literally leap over ten people to get to the nearest exit.

My family and friends knew to warn me about any potential “whipping” scene when watching a movie together so that I could RUN!

There was a time in my life if I even heard about whippings, like in the movie “The Passion Of The Christ, (which I REFUSE to watch), I wouldn’t be able to get it out of my mind for months and would have to tap (EFT), and pray my ass off to get to sleep.

Sometimes I can still energetically feel the whip coming down on my back in the shower. I’m a lot better now, but still…. I’d rather take baths.

The lash of the whip now comes in the form of our words, our ignorance, and our judgement.

~ Celia Williamson ~

My father once told me a story about his great grandmother who would be severely whipped because she would sneak away from the plantation to visit her children, who were sold to another slave master on another plantation. That story is still firmly imprinted in my mind.

This is my black herstory.

My parents were born in the deep south and were very familiar with “white only” water fountains, hotels and restaurants. They were six degrees from lynchings and beatings.

So, you see, I was born into a family that was traumatically wounded by slavery, the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights Movement, and racial trauma was firmly embedded in my subconscious mind. This trauma had a lot to do with my spiritual malady and mental obsessions of anxiety, unworthiness, shame, and ultimately to my addiction to crack cocaine. It wasn’t the only trauma I suffered from, but it was definitely one of the CORE traumas operating in my life.

This is our black history.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

~ Dr. Maya Angelou ~

I think that may be true for a large percentage of the planet. Even when we’re not aware of it.

Racial trauma can be so firmly rooted in your unconscious mind, that even after doing all you can do to create “quality” recovery in your life, there’s this unnamed, hidden and invisible fracture of racism that keeps you stuck, angry, victimized, and afraid – and until it is fully addressed, will continue to dictate your ability to experience the depth of recovery you’ve worked so hard for. Racial trauma and racial beliefs create emotional and spiritual dysfunction and blocks you from connecting to your authentic higher self.

I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply inside. I will no longer act as if I were less than the whole person I know myself inwardly to be.

~ Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Activist ~

Racial trauma doesn’t only affect black, indigenous and people of color.  It also deeply affects white people.  The moment anyone buys into the belief of superiority on any level and uses this illusory belief to discriminate, separate or withhold from another because of the color of their skin, their psyche has been traumatized by a vicious lie that has become indelibly imprinted upon their consciousness and has greatly damaged their moral compass. That’s trauma!

Anti-racism is not on the rise to make white people ashamed for being white. If your soul has manifested in a white body, then that’s the perfect place for you to be. However,  it’s the white consciousness of bias, racism and superiority that needs to be addressed and healed.

In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.

~ Thurgood Marshall ~

And for black, indigenous and woman of color, I’d like to say that you must be just as invested in healing the deep subconscious wounds that keep you enslaved to racial trauma.  In order to experience anything differently, you must see it differently.You must tap into a higher concept of your more-than enoughness, self-value and self-love, so that who were created to be before trauma,  becomes the driver of your life. That’s when real change happens.

Bias and Racism affects all of us in such insidious ways, that we could be traumatized, racist and bias without even being aware of it. And if we’re not aware of it, we can’t heal it.

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.

~ Ida B. Wells ~

Ironically, I a black woman found myself presenting all over the world as a keynote speaker and facilitator for predominantly white audiences.  I have been “the only one” in the room on occasions too numerous to count.  And my racial trauma expressed as my own distorted version of superiority. I thought being the only black in the room somehow made me special.  I didn’t realize that I was in deep denial, and was really being victimized by systemic racism.

How was “feeling special” a manifestation of racial trauma? Well, during the times of slavery, if you were a dark skinned black, you had to work in the fields under extremely brutal conditions.  If your complexion was light (which meant your mother had been raped by her owner, who was white), you got to work in the “Big House”, the master’s house – and that made you special.

Even though I am not a light complected women, I thought being the only one in the room meant that I was good enough to work in “The Big House”.  A woefully ignorant assumption.

I had to get real. I needed to go deep. I needed to grow. And in the process of growing and healing, I’ve been catapulted into a new way of seeing myself and my ancestors. I no longer see my ancestors as victims, therefore I am no longer a victim. I see them as warriors, kings and queens. Therefore, I am a warrior queen – you are a warrior queen.  I revel in a sense of pride for my ancestors who showed strength, courage, ingenuity and a spiritual depth that I cannot even imagine during such brutal and demeaning times. You and I have come out of so many dangerous and demeaning experiences, that we marvel at how we made it out alive.  We continue to rise up no matter how circumstances have beaten us down.  I revel in you. I revel in me.

I’m not just proud to be a black woman. I’m proud to be a part of this movement of recovering women. Women like you who are ready to face the deep dark demons of racism – whether you have been victimized by it or the perpetrator of it.  It’s going to take a deep shift in the conscious of all of us to honor our unique and magnificent differences, our inherent birthright to freedom, equality and unconditional love for all.

We need each other to Be brave. Go deep. And grow.

Let’s make herstory – together.

If you are a woman of color, being in or seeking recovery doesn’t have to be an isolating experience.

Gather with Ester and other fellow travelers each week @ 11AM PT / 2PM ET in the SHE RECOVERS Together BIWOC Online Gathering.

Join the SHE RECOVERS Support Group for Black, Indigenous, & Women of Color – an intra-community closed space designed for women of color to connect and heal.



Ester Nicholson | Volunteer Contributor

Ester Nicholson, SHE RECOVERS Spirituality in Recovery Advisor, SHE RECOVERS Coach, International Speaker, Spiritual Counselor, and Author turned her incredible journey from addiction to freedom into a practical program that heals the root causes of unworthiness, shame, and trauma. Her life changing program, Soul Recovery – The Roadmap Home, bridges the gap between the 12 Steps of Recovery and universal “spiritual” practices that have assisted thousands in living a new inner freedom beyond their wildest dreams. Ester’s story of addiction and recovery was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Her appearance on Super Soul Sunday’s “In Deep Shift” touched a nerve for those who suffer from the debilitating experience of shame and “not enoughness”, and those who seek to connect in an authentic, healthy, and whole identity – free from suffering and all forms of dependence.

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