Activism can often take a toll on social justice seekers, and it is easy to get burned out and discouraged. Perhaps this is because activism and contemplation are sometimes seen as opposites. However, following the tradition of social justice movements in the past, contemplation is actually a necessary step of activism.
In Walking with Our Ancestors, Barbara Holmes reveals that the justice movements in the twentieth century came from consistent contemplation practices of those seeking liberation. Contemplation is necessary in the spiritual lives of Africana people to offset the tension of the desire to eliminate oppression while still experiencing oppression. The hope and healing that come with contemplation ease this tension and keep one committed to community and justice. Holmes highlights key contemplation practices of what she calls public mystics, those who led by example and paved the way, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Thurman, and Rosa Parks.
Through both contemplation and activism, our ancestors paved the way while showing us how to continue the fight for justice. Walking with Our Ancestors is an outstanding and relevant chapter from Barbara Holmes's enlightening book Joy Unspeakable, which explores the contemplative practices of the Black church.