CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Religion is known to form the foundation of the black community, especially in the South, which is known as the “Bible Belt.”
Here, church isn’t just a place, it’s a lifestyle. That’s exactly how R.S. Cole grew up.
“My aunt was a pastor, my grandmother was on the usher board,” Cole said. “They had me in debutantes, things of that nature, but they kept me in a Christian faith.”
A recent Pew study shows eight in 10 African Americans self-identify as Christians, but now, more and more younger African Americans say they’re not affiliate with just one religion.
“I’ve always felt something was missing and there was so much more to me than the box I felt they confined me,” Cole said.
That’s when Cole opened the door to spiritual readings, meeting Bootz Durago, a celebrity tarot card reader from Charlotte.
“When I’m prompted with a question or a concern from a client I do get inklings,” Durago explained. “I do get intuitive feelings. Because of my education I’m able to portray those with the English language.”
Bootz discovered his gift before the age of 8. Even though he was raised on Christian beliefs, his family embraced his special talent.
“It was a spiritual family,” he said. “They groomed the gift then I became this fabulous version you see today.”
Three years ago, he began displaying his gift publicly. He read more than 75 celebrities and built a clientele of more than 3,000 people, most of them African American women who have turned away from traditional religion. New research shows black millennials are turning to more spiritual practices, such as tarot card readings, which is a sacrificial choice for many.
“I’ve lost about 50 percent of my family and I’m OK with that,” said Cole.
Durago says a common misconception is that he and his clients don’t believe in God.
“Spirituality and religion get lumped together but I was able to dissect the two of them,” he said. “My relationship with God has nothing to do with the way I access God. We do not worship the devil, at least I don’t.”
Infinity’s End, a Charlotte store that sells spiritual reading products has noticed a shift in their customer base recently.
“We definitely have a lot of African-American customers and we have seen an influx of them coming in and dipping their toes in,” said Infinity’s End manager Laura Orsini.
“It is becoming more, not accetable but curious,” Bootz said. “It is up to people like myself who are not afraid to put themselves out there to kind of pave that path.”