Southern Black Indigenous customs taking root in Long Beach

The Earthlodge Center for Transformation is a non-profit organization founded by Queen Hollins. Naomi Hollins, who is Queen’s grandmother, was a Southern Black medicine woman who used ecology and herbal remedies to heal her surrounding community at a time when segregation made it difficult to seek help at health and medical institutions.

As a child, Queen had difficulty managing her anger. She credits her grandmother for abandoning cultural forms of discipline such as spanking. Instead, she had Queen connect with the earth.

To do this, Naomi Hollins would instruct her granddaughter to take a shovel, dig a hole in the earth and sit in it until she was calm and able to communicate her problems.

Queen went on to take the knowledge passed on to her by her grandmother and couple that with her studies in metaphysics, gnostics and African spirituality. Equipped with that knowledge, she turned her Long Beach family home into the Earthlodge in 2004 and subsequently dug one of the largest Earth Healing Womb Pits in Los Angeles County.

This pit is much different than the pit Hollins was instructed to dig as a child.

“We’ve recreated this pit,” Hollins said. “We can hold up to 50 people in there. We sit and allow the earth to literally clean us off energetically. And there’s a fire in the center. And we speak into the fire what we want to release.”

The property is also equipped with an outdoor bathroom, sink, shower, and soon a kitchen. The goal wasn’t simply to build a space completely off the grid, but to also address the needs of the community.

“This is a small seed that we’ve planted,” Hollins said. “It will give people an idea how to reconnect slowly, and then build the relationship with the earth from there.”

Hollins believes the earth has the power to absorb, regenerate and rebirth. She says that connection to the earth is what attracts people of all races, ages, and sexual orientations to the Earthlodge.

She also believes it is important for children to develop a relationship with the earth at an early age. Doing so would allow children to express and channel their feelings in a healthy way, instead of resorting to violence.

“Teach your children how to plant seeds,” says Hollins. “Get a nice size pot, go buy some earth if you have to, and then grow. And allow your child to see that earth is alive and it grows, to feed us and their allies.”

For Yardenna Aaron, the Earthlodge gave her spiritual healing at a time when she was completely burned out.

“Right out of college, I joined an organization that was doing activism in South Central,” she said. “Working the picket line, fighting for justice. But it wasn’t enough. After working 12, 14, or 16 hours per day for the people, and to better my community, I needed to have that replenishment, sown back.”

Aaron recalls her first time walking into the Earthlodge 11 years ago. About 15 people were sitting in meditation. At first, it was awkward to see them meditating and addressing their mental and spiritual health, she said. But it worked for her.

The Earthlodge is an inter-faith organization. No matter what the religious belief, all are welcomed because the earth welcomes everyone, Hollins said.

Specifically, Hollins created the Earthlodge at a time when “coming out” often meant you were shunned, bullied, and often times assaulted. Her goal was and continues to be to provide a safe, spiritual community center for women and queer people of all generations to transform, heal, restore balance within and celebrate all aspects of our lives.

Through her studies, Hollins guides members on creating and maintaining healthy eating habits, how to create and maintain ritual space, crafting, meditative journeys, as well as teaching Southern Black Indigenous customs, rituals and ceremonies.

The Earthlodge has a few seminars for those who are interested in getting involved during the month of December, including Healing, the Holidays, and the Medicine of Winter Solstice; Cultivating Calm: Refusing the Chaos and Embracing the Silence of Solstice; and Making Medicine to Feed Your Spirit.

You can get involved, volunteer, or donate by visiting the Earthlodge online here. Or, you can follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

You can hear Queen Hollins full interview on the Word on Long Beach this Tuesday and subscribe here.

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Jackie Rae is a multimedia reporter for the Long Beach Post who joined in May 2021.
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