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Earthseed Black Family Archive Project: Roots and Reflections

Earthseed Roots & Reflections is an offering from members of the Earthseed Black Family Archive Project, a national cohort of black changemakers and cultural workers who spent a year delving into their collective and family history. With the intention to heal through exploration, history and storytelling panelists Christen Smiley (R) and Jakalia Brown (L) will discuss their experience and the importance of documenting historical legacies of black intimate life in creating liberated futures with Earthseed founder and 2021-2022 Women’s Center Feminist in Residence Fellow, JeShawna Wholley (center). This webinar features a screening of showcase shorts and conversation with the artists who created them.

Currently, there is a collaboration between the Earthseed Black Family Archive Project and BlackRoots Alliance, this project is an intellectually artistic exploration of transgenerational healing and future world making. More specifically, this cohort will focus on questions pertaining to reparations: what does it mean for black families in Illinois? what would it look like for our ancestors? what could we imagine as a collective? As the conversation of reparations shifts to "who" is qualified to receive reparations, some attention is being paid to the fact that many Black Americans cannot trace their lineage back beyond a couple of generations. As we work to make the case for reparations, it is important for us to support people as they unpack their lineage and discover more about where and from whom they have come. In order to heal ourselves and create a healed system, we have to work on healing generational trauma. This project creates an opportunity to those interested in delving into their family history and creating an artistic representation of what reparations could mean through a healing justice lens. Applications are due November 7th., click here to apply. 


Je-Shawna Wholley, she/her

Earthseed Founder & Coordinator


Je-Shawna spent the last 10 years learning, serving and growing at the intersection of social justice, education and group facilitation. She recently served as the Assistant Director of Brown University’s LGBTQ Center. She currently serves as the founder and lead coordinator for the Earthseed Black Family Archive Project. In addition to this work, Wholley is a freelance workshop facilitator and project manager. She has a Masters of Arts in Gender and Women’s Studies centering black and queer feminist theory and experiences, and a proud graduate of Spelman College, a Historically Black College. Her educational background gave her a framework for her creative approach to problem solving. She has served as a Project Manager for national organizations, colleges, and universities across the nation. Dedicated to the healing and empowerment of marginalized communities, Wholley now serves as the Feminist in Resident at Northwestern University Women’s Center where she has partnered with the Auburn Seminary Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle to actualize Earthseed, a black family archiving cohort.


Christen Smiley, she/her

My name is Christen Smiley and I am an avid seeker of truth, inspiration and self. I am a deeply spiritual being actively working to navigate my human experience and my spiritual existence in the ways that feel good to me and serve my family, loved ones, community and higher purpose. I am a light worker in both my personal and professional life. I am an initiated Osun priestess within a traditional ATR and am relishing in the lessons and journey along the way. By day I work in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and in between and beyond that I am on my lifetime journey as a light worker determined to discover and live out my Divine purpose through Ancestor veneration, healing and constant evolution and growth. I have had the opportunity to learn how to create home in a myriad of places as a military child and now have the privilege of learning to create home and foster foundation within self on this journey. .

Christen Smiley (she/her) - The Medicine Within...

The Medicine Within... is centered around connection, acknowledgement, affirmation, healing and restoration. I will be taking the audience on a journey through tea meditation, herbalism and conjuring. Inspired by a 7-generation mediation journey led by Alexis Pauline-Gumbs I will be showcasing a 7-generation guided tea meditation and healing ritual centered on my maternal lineage. Each generation will represent a theme and corresponding herb(s) used in a hand-made tea blend that will be personally prayed over using an original poem, prose, and/or incantation written and spoken by me. I will simultaneously play specific music related to each theme during the ritual tied to my belief that music is a deeply spiritual experience. From there, I will offer the prepared tea to my ancestors through placement on their altar and also partake in it with them allowing the healing and energy to permeate the invisible and present realms while sitting with them in meditation. I will record the downloads and personal emotions for each ritual and weave it into my ancestral healing work as a priestess and spiritual worker for my lineage.

Jakalia Brown , she/they

Jakalia Brown (Sankofa Jewels) is a community activist that has been organizing in Atlanta Georgia for the past decade. She is a Data Manger by career and photographer by passion. Jakalia is dedicated to capturing the active history of Black people in the United States, specifically the archiving of Black families.

Jakalia Brown (she/they) - Earthseed: The things I went back to get, the things I can't leave behind

A visual representation of my journey in the Earthseed cohort and researching my family history. How I've changes, what I've appreciated and what I had to let go.