From the Slave Ship to the Mother Ship

As a student in Dr. Katie G. Cannon’s Code of Ethics in Freedom Narratives class at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond VA, I participated in a field trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. When we found out that the demand for the free tickets for April necessitated multiple attempts and finally a three hour wait on the phone in January, you can understand how excited we were to have a chance to go.

Having visited the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England and the Elmina and Cape Coast slave dungeons in Ghana, I hoped this museum would bring the story of enslaved Africans and African Americans together, complete the triangle, and bring closure. I was not disappointed. There was no cognitive dissonance for me, it was cognitive harmony, congruence, and resonance. I was impressed by the building, the presentation, the artifacts, the beauty. The thoughtfulness and intentionality and detail of the research was overwhelming. I remembered, back in the day, when we had few resources to make something memorable for Negro History Week in our all black schools, churches, and organizations. But as if they had been waiting for a place to give their precious items, thousands of donors pulled family artifacts out of trunks and attics and basements and they are here, up close and personal.

I knew I could not see everything in the time allowed, so my plan was to spend as much time as possible on all five floors in the museum. The three underground levels represent Slavery and Freedom 1400-1876, Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom 1877-1968 and A Changing America:1968 and Beyond. The upper two levels are the Community Galleries: Making A Way Out of No Way and the Culture Galleries:Tradition and Innovation.

As I was coming down the escalator from the upper levels to rush back to the bus I felt like I had been in a flower pot. The museum does resemble the shape of a three tiered flower pot if you think about it. We had to spiral our way up the three levels in the basement just like I would imagine shoots from plants have to do before they break ground. Underground were the slave ships, shackles, whips, coffels, bibles, sugar, cotton, and tobacco. Buried deep in the soil were the artifacts describing the rebellions, black codes, Jim Crow, civil rights, resistance and resilience. From the very beginning our ancestors pushed for freedom through legal systems, passive resistance, education, protests, and rebellions. In the bottom were roots struggling with a death dealing environment determined to live and grow.

On the upper levels were the “flowers” produced from the struggle. Upstairs were the blossoms of our beauty, spirituality, art, music, politics, literature, science, fashion design, architecture, technology, entrepreneurship, sports, sculpture, poetry, and community. They were the fruits of our ancestors’ determination to live and be free represented by Willi Smith, Toni Morrison, Tina Turner, Ruby Dee, Gil Scott Heron, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Black Panthers, Alvin Ailey, Mahalia Jackson, Mae Jamison, Public Enemy, Beyonce, Ella Baker, Patrisse Cullers and so many more. One of our class assignments was to pay attention to what artifacts caught our attention. To my surprise it was George Clinton and the Funkadelics’ Mothership. Having “landed” on the top floor it was in stark contrast to the slave ship underground. To me it represented the creativity and imagination transformed from the subterranean funk in the basement.

I know I have to go back more than once to see it all. However I did see Harriet Tubman’s shawl and Michelle Obama’s dress designed by Tracy Resse and Nat Turner’s bible and the tape recorder Malcom X used to record his speeches. They reminded me that this visit was an excursion into affirmation and validation. It was about belonging, identification, strength, and resilience. I was not just an observer, I was a part of this history.

I did not realize the importance of knowing my history as child and young adult but I do now. I appreciate my parents and teachers’ insistence in keeping our history alive. I will pass its importance on to my children and grandchildren because as the Sankofa bird represents – we can’t know where we are going until we know how we got where we are now.

Here is the link to the museum website.

Lifting as we climb,


New Title From Paula Owens Parker


 Roots Matter recognizes the impact of transgenerational trauma, as a result of chattel slavery, on the African American community. It emphasizes the importance of discovering the silent stories—those that were overlooked and ignored; unearthing the secret stories—those that were intentionally covered up; and being attentive to the reverberations of the severed stories of slavery and how they influence family members and their historical narrative.     Interrupting the transference of generational trauma through awareness, storytelling, mourning, and prayer accelerates the conveyance of intergenerational resilience. Through celebration and blessing, the fortitude, courage, and determination recognized in the ancestral chronicles moves current and future generations toward healing and wholeness. Roots Matter prunes the family tree of trauma, silent, secret, and severed stories that stunt the growth of its descendants. Tending to the roots and fertilizing them with the recognition of the agency, achievements, abilities, and talents of the ancestors creates a healthier environment for future progeny to flourish.

Paula Owens Parker is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Spiritual Formation at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, VA, and Senior Program Developer, Roots Matter LLC (, also in Richmond.

Remember Your Story

Christian Healing Ministries introduced me to generational healing when I attended their Level One training many years ago. Last October I presented with Judith MacNutt at the Arise women’s conference in Richmond VA. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would be on a program with her! It is scheduled to happen again March 3-5 2016 in Williamsburg VA. This article is in their online magazine. Remember Your Story




     March 25th is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. I was not aware of it until I came across this date while researching generational trauma induced by the transatlantic and domestic slave trade. I discovered that the Native Americans, Armenians and Jews have a day of remembrance for the victims of the Massacre at Wounded Knee (3rd Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day USA), Armenian Genocide (April 24 Red Sunday), and Jewish Holocaust (Tisha B’Av August 4, 2014) respectively. They established an intentional day of remembrance in order to facilitate their healing process by mourning the lives of their ancestors lost during these horrific events.

 Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade

     The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007, declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually. The date was selected because on 25 March 1807 the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act received its royal assent from the British Parliament abolishing the slave trade in the British colonies and making it illegal to carry enslaved people in British ships. The UN resolution also called for the establishment of an outreach program to mobilize educational institutions, civil society and other organizations to inculcate in future generations the “causes, consequences and lessons of the transatlantic slave trade, and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice.”

     In order to more permanently honor the victims, a memorial will be erected at UnitedRodney-LEON Nations Headquarters in New York. The winning design for the memorial, The Ark of Return by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent, was selected through an international competition and announced September 23, 2013.

     2014 also marks the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, launched in Ouidah, Benin, in 1994, which decided to break the silence surrounding the slave trade and slavery. The project has produced multimedia educational materials, available for educators, pupils, and the general public.

The UN sponsors a week of activites in New York each year in remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.  Maybe local commemorations can be scheduled next year to bring more awareness? Just a thought.

Grace and peace,


Welcome to Roots Matter

Welcome to the Roots Matter website and blog.

First of all, I want to give kudos to Nickkol Lewis of Visual Appeal LLC. This website has been a six month project and I personally think the results are outstanding. I admit I am “artistically challenged”. I know what I like when I see it. Trying to interpret what was in my head was no easy task but Nikkol figured it out and made it real. I also want to thank those who made suggestions for improvements and my former students who gave me permission to use their comments.

Providing opportunities to educate, validate, and inspire healing is my ministry. My plans are to post ideas, topics, and events related to generational trauma and resilience and how they affect groups, families, and individuals. I look forward to sharing stories of healing from my Roots Matter classes, lectures, workshops, and retreats.

If you want to know more about how I may serve you, please contact me.

Grace and peace,


“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston