One Sunday evening in spring, my landlord knocked on my door and said, “Come with me, I have something to show you in the park.” Although I had made it a point to not enter the park after dark, I was intrigued. I grabbed a jacket and followed him down the stairs and out the front door. We crossed Ocean Avenue and entered the park at Lincoln Avenue. From there we walked onto the grass and into a lightly wooded area.
From a distance I could hear a crowd of people, and as we got closer, I saw a long table laden with flowers, candles, and food. The people milling around it were dressed all in white. The ladies wore long white skirts with long blouses over them and white scarf turbans. The men were in white pants and shirts.
My landlord whispered, “It's a Voodoo meeting.” Voodoo is a Haitian religion, and I was thinking this group could be practicing Candomblé, a South American religion begun in Bahai, or Santaría a creole Caribbean religion. All three of these religions are based African religions – Fon, Yoruba, Bantu – brought to the Western Hemisphere by slaves.
As we got closer to the group, a very friendly woman approached us and said in a Caribbean accent, “Would you like something to eat? Please help yourself?”
I thanked her and declined, feeling nosy and out of place. The landlord had some food.
“We are having a healing ceremony for a friend who is very sick,” this woman explained. “We just finished.”
I had only seen these kinds of ceremonies in the media – television and movies – and I was sorry I missed it here in the park, mainly because I know that the media exploits African religions, making them scary and silly – a holdover from slavery days. And I would like to have seen this healing ceremony. I never heard about or saw another one.
We only stayed that few minutes and then returned to the house. I doubted I would ever recognize these women if I saw them in the neighborhood. But certainly these people in the park were friendlier and more welcoming than the Christian church members near the house who glared at me, if they looked at me at all, if I happened to pass through the crowd while church was letting out. I never considered attending a service there.
Members of this church near the house were legally permitted to double-park on Sundays, blocking the neighborhood cars until noon. I don't know if this happened with other churches in Brooklyn, but it seemed to me that since public transportation ran on Sundays, they might have been “legally permitted” to ride the subway or busses. Not my call.
I only ever entered the park after dark once after that night. A tall, husky male friend and I walked from Park Slope to Lefferts Gardens at 10 o'clock one evening. We were on a narrow, hilly, dirt trail between a dense wall of bushes and trees on either side. It was really dark and I was really glad when we reached the flat area near Ocean Avenue. I'm pretty brave, but I would never take that walk alone.
Post by Alana Cash