By Norma Adams-Wade
Isis Brantley is better known for blazing trails with natural hair than engaging the moon to bring peace in a South Dallas/Fair Park Confederate Cemetery. But Brantley–one of, if not, Dallas’s leading natural hair care salon and training school owners–is not known for walking away from a challenge with good cause. The hair care and African ancestral guru has taken on the task of informing a South Dallas community and the public about what she sees as the need to cleanse and transform any negativity that may still linger in a small, overlooked Confederate cemetery in the predominately African American area. The long-standing but little-known site is the Confederate Cemetery at 4225 Electra St. between Reed Lane and Pine Street in this South Dallas/Fair Park neighborhood. With no identifying nameplate for years, many locals speculated that it was a pet cemetery. The site’s origin is linked to the Dallas Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a women’s organization that helped wounded and needy Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and whose parent body formerly organized in 1894. Currently and in recent years, the Daughters group has spoken against racist acts and rhetoric and attempted to set a conciliatory tone while sustaining its purpose to honor their Southern ancestors who members say bravely fought to preserve their land and economy during the war.
Brantley said she would welcome a public conversation with group members. Meanwhile, she said she plans to do a cleansing rite at other Confederate cemeteries in traditionally African American neighborhoods once she completes researching their locations. “I accidentally ran across it (the cemetery) while in the neighborhood visiting my aunt,” Brantley said. “I really never noticed it before but it caught my eye this time.” Brantley, aside from using her innate natural hair skills, has studied and trained in African ancestral ceremonies and spiritual rites. She said the cleansing idea came after she and a friend walked over and looked at the cemetery. Various headstones showed that some of the confederate soldiers and their families who were buried there had been born as early as the 1820s and were buried there in the early 1900s. She said she thought about the irony of a confederate cemetery in a now predominantly African-American community considered to be middle-to-low-income. She said she thought about how society currently is awakening to the injustices that still linger from the Civil War and the South’s attempt to break away from the Union to preserve the Southern way of life that included the institution of slavery.
She said the May 25th killing of George Floyd, a Black man by an Anglo police officer in Minneapolis was an example of a lingering aftermath of slavery and oppression. So, she took it upon herself to rally a small group of friends and relatives for a spiritual cleansing ceremony, called “smudging,” designed to rid a space of negative energy and bring peace and healing. She chose the date and time: 8:30 pm on Sunday, July 19 because, as part of the ritual, it was the night of the July new moon–when the moon is invisible from earth and cleansing energy is strong. The age-old practice is kin to burning incense and traced back to various cultures and religions including Native Americans and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Elements of the rituals may encompass fire, water, air, and earth. Brantley added a prayer for peace to her ceremony. I was just thinking…is there value for the nation in Brantley’s spiritual cleansing–and prayer–to change hearts and minds? This while we also make–as the late iconic Congressman and Civil Rights warrior John Lewis said–“good trouble” in our peaceful protests and challenges to seats of power. Can we combine open-minded elements to make a powerful potion that allows us to see common humanity behind the façade of our perceived enemies? You can’t dig up the dead in a sacred cemetery. But maybe, just maybe, you can cleanse the air around it.
Isis Brantley is owner/operator of Naturally Isis natural hair salon and the trailblazing Institute for Ancestral Braiding training school.
Her businesses began in South Dallas/Fair Park, moved to Oak Cliff, and now are at 17290 Preston Road #104 at McCallum Blvd. in North Dallas. Phone 214-329-3820.
Website www.naturallyisis.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.