(Farajii Muhammad/AfroLA)

The sound of resistance and healing

It was a cool Sunday evening when several dozen Black L.A.-based healers, griots and local residents–including myself–gathered at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. As we took in the sights and sounds of Mother Nature, we turned our spirits to a healing experience like no other, the inaugural Black Sound Healer Summit

A practice that has been implemented by various cultures for hundreds of years, sound healing has more recently emerged as a new agey-conduit for relaxation, reconnection and realignment. Mindfulness has become a practice of refuge and resistance to the everyday stressors of life, especially for Black Americans. For Black Angelenos, events like the Black Sound Healer Summit offer a salve to those who feel confined by their Blackness. 

The Summit was hosted by spiritual healer and author Zentola’s eponymous group, Zentola and The Sound Bowlettes. This evening, the trio created a mindfulness and sensory experience. The sound of waves, bells and other natural sounds were used to immerse participants, including myself, into a deep meditative state: focusing on the present moment, while clearing the mind of any distractions to realize a future beyond darkness and pain. 

A sound bath meditation.
A sound bath meditation at dusk. (Farajii Muhammad/AfroLA)

A ‘game changer’ for processing racial stress

According to Myeisha Essex, the sacred purpose coach and co-organizer of the Summit, one of the spiritual healer’s goals is making sure that we, as participants and as a people, “feel comfortable in our bodies, feel comfortable in our spaces.” 

“We’re a people who spent 400-plus years in chattel slavery, right?” said Zentola. And so, when you even think about the bodies of a community, of people who have had to labor for generation on generation, our bodies are different.” The problems facing the Black Angelenos gathered lie in our energetic and spiritual deficit. Spiritual reconnection, amid the physical and cultural attacks against the preservation and autonomy of Black bodies, is a goal yet to be attained. 

“Our very body structure and rest looks different. Our rest is spiritually different, and our rest is physically different. So, the tools we need are just a little more attention, a little more love, more God. It’s about making space to make sure our spirituality is honored,” said Essex. 

Monic’ Clare, who describes herself as a “self-help tryer of all things” and an emerging sound healer, said the practice and environment were the perfect way to find balance. 

“Sound healing is music in a different form. There are so many different ways to realign the frequencies in yourself that are out of whack, out of balance. And, sound healing is there to help you rebalance yourself, inside and out,” said Clare. “That’s how I think Black Angelenos can benefit. It’s an inside-out therapy session. Not only is your mind getting healed but your entire body. Also, the energy from the vibrations of sound healing are literally moving all the things that’s not balanced in your body into the position they’re supposed to be, so that you can be the best you,” she continued. 

For Zentola, honoring one’s spirituality and religious background is synonymous with energy work. “You can’t say that your God is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-doing, yet you limit him by writing this book called the Bible. This is all energy,” said the healer. Whether it’s taking a yoga class or listening to a preacher’s sermon, “I think it’s all intentional and all high-vibrational.” Ascent to a higher vibration is the “real thing” we must not lose focus of  “so, we can get to the purposes that we are here to do.”

As Zentola facilitated the session, he encouraged participants to be intentional about using the time and space to let go of their fears and traumas. 

“I say that people fear what they don’t understand. When you understand something, it takes away the fear of it. Seek understanding, and you shall eliminate your fear. Fear cannot be in the presence of God. That’s how you know when you’re in alignment with yourself and God, when you don’t have any fear.” 

A man with long locs speaks to a crowd.
Spiritual healer Zentola addresses Black Sound Healer Summit participants. (Farajii Muhammad/AfroLA)

Zentola said he refuses to allow fear to extinguish his faith, as he continues to put out his message. He’s the author of a meditational journal for newcomers to mindfulness and energy work to learn how to perform meditations that foster personal growth and progress. The healer also offers his philosophy and programs to the next generation. Presently, Zentola works with schools in Los Angeles and Baltimore, his hometown. 

“I go into the Charles Hickey School, a detention center for Black young males in Baltimore. I do meditations with the young guys. This is a transformational thing for me,” said Zentola. And, he doesn’t want this work to be a one-off experience. “It would be good to create a program where I can send my meditators in there because this is something that is needed.” Working in the Hickey School hits close to home for the mediational healer. His older brother went to school here WHEN, and he remembers the days when he used to visit. 

“Coming back to that school is full circle to me,” Zentola said as he reflected on visits to juvenile detention facilities then and now. “Nine times out of ten, these guys don’t mean no harm. They have a lot of energy, but they don’t have no guidance.” 

A father of two young Black men, Zentola hopes that his personal story and efforts to expose Black youth to healing practices will reverse cycles of violence, self-hatred and disconnection in their lives. 

“I tell people all the time: Life is a party. Have fun, but don’t forget to leave your gifts behind.” 

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