The Question of Soul and Spirit
Contributor
Written by
Stephanie Bird
February 2010
Contributor
Written by
Stephanie Bird
February 2010
Question of Soul and Spirit Since my book has launched I have been lucky enough to have a flurry of interviews. Interviewers ask such compelling and thought-provoking questions at times. Recently I was asked a question built around my book title, “The Big Book of Soul: the Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit.” I was asked what soul is and what is the African American spirit? Have you thought deeply about what soul is and what is spirit in your spiritual journey or in your writing generally? If so, I’d love to hear from you. I bet the meanings are widely varied. I look forward to the conversation. For me, some words are more conceptual than they are easy to define; such is the case with spirit, soul and yes, even African American Spirit. When I think of spirit, I think of many different aspects of the word. I think of Holy Spirit of course but I also consider that part of the self that perseveres and shines—both are spirit. Spirit is very connected to heart, an aspect of the self that I also give plenty of room to in my book. Once it goes plural, “spirits”—then I start thinking nature spirits, the ancestors, elementals and deities but then, that is a story in itself. Soul is so many things especially to a Black person because in one of its meanings it is something largely attributed to Black culture. Hearing someone say, "you've got soul," is a huge compliment. In a universal sense it is a heart-felt spirit that is evidenced through connection to the arts such as dancing, singing, visual creations and music. Broadly, soul is the inner-most part of our being and the element that can live on when our body fails us. Soul connects with spirit making a powerful force. African American spirit is challenging to define because African Americans are an extremely diverse people. Today in America there are communities and individual Africans living in the United States who do not have a history of enslavement. Then too, there are those of us that are here because of the legacy of slavery—and this includes many African-Caribbean immigrants. Just as with the term African American, when you talk spirit you are talking something equally varied especially when you consider spirituality which is at the foundations of "The Big Book of Soul." Still, in my realm of experience African American spirit is intimately tied to survival and resilience. I have found that increasingly as my nonfiction work develops, I am getting involved with etymology, lexicons and definitions, this is an unexpected adventure. So…what does soul and spirit mean to you? Stephanie Rose Bird www.stephanierosebird.com

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