A Discussion With Local Creatives: My Interview With Paige Arneson

My lovely friend Paige Arneson (IG:@pge.rn) created a project where she interviewed local creatives where she documented their thoughts and experiences about being creators in their industries/platforms, and their insight into what motivates them towards their endeavors. I was honored enough to be featured in this project, and I wanted to share this to my website in hopes this will share a little more insight into who I am, my intentions, and where I hope to take AfroTarot in the coming future. The interview is pasted below.

Photo of Sydney Lee taken by Paige Arneson.

Q: Can you introduce yourself and your service?

My name is Sydney Lee and what I do is I’m a spiritual adviser and divination

practitioner. Essentially what I do is, I encourage the practice of discernment

through divination services.

Q: What has your experience been like as a spiritual adviser?

I haven’t even had AfroTarot for a year. I’ve been practicing this since around

May of 2020 but started to take it more seriously by October-November 2020.

It’s been really good. I’ve met a lot of cool people in the spiritual community

through this and I’ve also learned a lot about the spiritual community through

working as a spiritual adviser. That’s been really helpful to me and also

helpful in addressing the issues in the spiritual community that I want to

actively fight.

Q: What are some of those issues?

Whitewashing. The issue of the globe, honestly. Particularly the whitewashing

of sacred cultural practices. Especially being a black person, and of course

knowing, loving, belonging to black people. I experience my culture being white-

washed, exploited, sexualized everyday. So seeing that not just in my own cul-

ture but other cultures as well, them being whitewashed, really, really bugs me.

That’s a big issue in the spiritual community, especially in the U.S., I mean

this is the western idea of these sacred cultural practices. When things become

commercialized and popularized it opens doors for them to be whitewashed and

erased and changed. It’s important to acknowledge these practices and be aware

of them and that’s what I also want to do with AfroTarot. That’s also why I came

up with the name AfroTarot. My blackness is something that I can’t take off in

anything that I do including my work and it’s something that I don’t want to

take off in my work. I want to also wear my blackness proudly in work and also

use that to empower other black people.

Q: You mentioned that you found a community, can you talk more about that?

When I started expressing that this is something that I really cared for doing,

I got a lot of support especially by the people of color in the Gainesville com-

munity. I also know a lot of people through Dream Defenders and the Civic Media

Center, and they’ve been extremely supportive of me, as well as the community

in general with uplifting black and brown voices and fighting injustice. Having

the support from that community means a lot to me because I’m not just trying to

practice tarot and tell everybody about themselves. I also want to spread aware-

ness and bring visibility to injustice but particularly in my area of work, the

spiritual community.

Q: Do you have anymore to add on what influenced you to start AfroTarot and what your aim is with it?

This isn’t work that I initially sought out which is really interesting. I’ve

been on a spiritual path for like seven years now, that’s very much evolved and

changed. As I’ve grown into myself, that’s inspired me to promote what I’ve dis-

covered which is that the western idea of spirituality is very whitewashed. I

came into AfroTarot, because it kind of found me. As my practices have devel-

oped, it’s inspired me more to bring awareness to liberation, black liberation.

I don’t have all the details on exactly how I’m going to do that, but I know

that I want my work to target black people and black healing. I’ve found that my

spiritual journey has really reflected the journey of how I view myself and how I

want to heal, and I’ve started to include being a black person in that. When I was first someone who was spiritual, like at age 15 I considered myself

spiritual, it was all crystals and third eye, very western, even though third

eye isn’t a western idea, it’s a whitewashed western idea, but western, white

washed ideas of what spirituality was. I adapted that, but the more that I’ve

grown and become aware of injustice the more aware I’ve become of how careful

I have to be with my spiritual practices and push to be more culturally aware.

This is something that I didn’t think about before, especially being used to my

culture being whitewashed. As I’ve become aware of how my culture is whitewashed

and stolen, it made me look at spirituality and think woah this is also like the

same thing; this is also another aspect of colonization and whitewashing. I knew

coming into this work I couldn’t put that to the side. I’m so used, as a black

person, putting my blackness to the side to assimilate to what is “normal” which

is just a code word for white.

Q: You were talking about the crystal industry, can you talk more on that?

I would be delighted. So the crystal industry has primarily been booming with

the alignment of the emergence of new age spirituality. Crystal healing has al-

ways been a thing, especially in other cultures, and it has a pretty extensive

history. But when it comes to crystal healing and the demand for crystals par-

ticularly in the U.S., the emergence of the new age spirituality movement has

really greatly popularized the use of crystal healing. Basically the crystal

market is booming right now. It’s been booming for a handful of years nows, es-

pecially in quarantine people wanted to get into spirituality and buy crystals.

And the thing is, crystal consumption is not sustainable and it’s not ethical,

and I mean that on a global, longterm scale. People mining these crystals tend

to be, not just people living in poverty in other countries, but also black and

brown bodies that live in these countries. I know particularly Madagascar is a

place where a lot of these crystal businesses are getting their crystals from,

and people in these mines are dying, they’re having lung problems from inhal-

ing the dust from mining them, they’re getting hurt, and they’re not being paid

shit. They’re being paid cents. I don’t know the exact number of what they’re

getting paid, but I can tell you with confidence not shit, and it’s terrify-

ing. It’s a terrifying reality for these people living in other countries and

nobody’s thinking about that because a lot of people don’t think that slavery

still exists. But slavery still exists. It’s a living example with these people

in other countries, especially having to work and work and work, being forced to

work literally to death, to move towards sustainability, and they’re still not

even stable after that. The thing is, a lot of people are like “oh they’re so

pretty” and a lot of people are making money off of this. I feel like the crys-

tal industry is a great reflection on how the new age spiritual movement is main-

ly consumerist. It’s about what you can buy and what you can gain. If you get

this amulet or this crystal or this thing, if you attain this thing, you will

reach this place, and that’s an overall western lie. If we work hard enough,

we’ll get to retire and live our lives free, if we pray hard enough, or re-

pent hard enough, we’ll get to heaven, if we use crystals, if we meditate hard

enough, if we do blah blah we will get to here. If we do point A, and point A

usually involves suffering, we will get to point B which is some sort of liber-

ation. The thing is, the new age western spirituality movement really, really

ties heavily onto this and it even shows in crystals. Western spirituality talks

a lot about mainly mental liberation, like from the mind, you’ll hear the world

mindfulness a lot, and a lot of people like to meditate with crystals, but it’s

like, how can you focus on elevating yourself when your practices are tied to

human suffering? Your spirituality shouldn’t be at the cost of someone else’s