Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dub Poetry: Kwayanna's Meditation (Wisdom of the Drum)

copyright 2015 K. Omodele  @TheAbeng

"The Caribbean tradition, taken as a whole, is a revolutionary tradition. It is the stage on which acted Cudjoe and Cuffy, Accabreh and Accra, Toussaint, Quamina and Damon, Adoe and Araby."* ~ Sidney King (Eusi Kwayana)

Intro:    Yow! Dis meditation/Moves di nation/

I feel de drum-min' of yuh words,
rub-a-dubbin' of yuh verbs,
yuh meditation is kinetic-
medication of de herb
levitates me like a bird-
yuh rebel riddim moves me
depose a titled king, go
liberate like Baba Eusi.
Asante rise up outta shanty,
proverbs, Broddah Anansi**,
yearnin' for Kumasi***
Cuffy burn down half a Canje
Uncle Brian scribed we picture,
painted scripture, sketched the sound.
Uncle Walter woke the people,
lit the city; Tell de town!

Yeah Man. Don't bother call dis no poetry/dis is kinetic flow-etry
Prophets are hardly recognized in their own lands
This rebelution forged by drum-ragin', fire-blazin' sound.

Seethin' like Accra buss 'e chain
want SParK field a-flame
Darke flicks-ing up the protest****
jukked an' gutted from de frame
pickney***** scatter down de lane
Boy, u bet-ter run
policeman ah come
wid bad-mind and gun.
But the soundin' of de gun
can't drown de wisdom of the drum
grind a fool down with a pestle
can't part de foolish from a dunce.
Kwayana's wisdom may taste bitter
cure de sick, move de lame
N'Daiye couldn't tame
cock she crown, lock she mane.

* Caribbean slave revolt/rebellion leaders. Quote from "Birth of Freedom," New World Magazine, Special Independence Issue, 1966
**Anansi, or Anancy, is a spider, a trickster character from African oral tradition, that was
brought over by slaves to the West Indies/Caribbean and lives on in Caribbean
tradition and folk tales. (Akin to Brer Rabbit in the U.S. South)
***Kumasi is the chief city of the Asante/Ashanti, NW of Accra, Ghana
****Father Darke was a priest stabbed to death while photographing government
forces brutalizing anti-government protestors in Georgetown, Guyana

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Where's My Hometown? Parts Unknown

By Kaie "Kaya" Omodele @theabeng

Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain proper served me up some real mind-racking, soul-searching food two Saturday nights ago when they re-ran a show featuring Ethiopia and Ethiopian-Swedish-American chef Marcus Samuelsson. You know how Bourdain does so love to delve down into the history of one of them "Parts-Unknown" countries, exploring its socio- economic complexities, so as to better understand the context of all the pot and pan stirring, finger licking and liquor drinking? (Which in truth is what keeps me hunting down this show because, for me it's not all about food, it's all about the story) Well, this episode a couple weeks ago followed Mr. Samuelsson during one of his returns to Ethiopia as he visited relatives and his wife's hometown. When Mr. Bourdain asked him where he considered home, the blank look that rolled across Mr. Samuelsson's face drew me in like a rum head staring down a bottle of 25-year-old Gold Label.

Mr. Samuelsson tussled with this stumper then teetered a reply like probably Harlem (where he now lives, owns and operates a gourmet restaurant); Sweden- enhhhh, enhhh; Ethiopia- not so much. Maybe he sounded a little bit more decisive than that, but that's all I gathered, disconnection. Which I recognized immediately because I get that same feeling sometimes when I stop and think about where in the world I consider my "hometown." Such is one song of an immigrant.

See, like Mr. Samuelsson who emigrated from Ethiopia to Sweden as a young child, and later on to the United States, I've trotted 'round a few countries, cities and towns, myself. I went to school in six different cities* before I was eighteen years old, seven cities if I count my Pre-K at my tow great-aunts' school in New Amsterdam. My longest stint in any of them was four years at Watooka Day Primary in Linden. My oldest friendships today began on that school compound and my first chups** was under the mango tree. (Big up Nikki and Rosie, Butchie an M-Lo; somehow, someway our friendship has lasted through decades, social mediaed over seas and Skyped clear 'cross continents) We got war-break memories with the boyz and ring-game memories with the girls, so Linden definitely tugs at my heartstring.
But then, I have coming-of-age, rites-of-passage memories floating 'round Brooklyn, where I  kissed the girls then made a one or two cry. Starlite Ballroom, Love People ONE, Village Hut, Caribbean City and Caribbean Dome. The County of Kings is where I began to smell myself, for real.

Whatever his reason for calling Harlem home, I find it hard to connect with one, single hometown. What matters most to me are my connections with people that have touched my life. I cherish moments. My mind drifts to a city and automatically recalls an experience shared with someone in a specific moment. In all my triumphs and failures, in every embrace or fight, through torrents of tears or gut-wrenching laughter, I've lived. "Wherever I lay my hat, that's my home."


** Kiss

Monday, October 19, 2015

Caribbean Poetry: A Rain - Season Morning in Georgetown (a Tritina)

Want cuddle you up this puddled up morn
as raindrops TINK-ing 'pon zinc roof top sound
like dreams DINK-ing in empty Milo tins.

Cozy; senses tingle from steel-pan* sounds
strummin' like fingers, breaths stickle** on pins
drops titillate we up this Georgetown morn.

I stir; your moans drown, rain-coins TINK in tins
Thru sprawled windows breeze caresses our morn-
whispery touches pimple skin to sound.

You never cuddled to the sound of rainfall on a zinc-tin
roof one rain-season morning?

*steel pan (aka steel drum) - a West Indian percussion instrument made from oil drums
** balance

©2015 K. Omodele

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Caribbean Short Story: Mother To Son (Comrades and Thieves II- Mass Games)

In the third row behind his school banner, the Son marched wearing crisp, clean school khakis his mother had ironed the previous night, with her own bare-ring-fingered hand; right before she had hauled back that said hand and slapped all the thiefingness out of him. The mother had scolded her son:
"If you too 'fraid to do something in front somebody face, then yuh coward if you hide and do it behind they back."
In truth, he rathered licks from her hands, any day; licks, after all, would burn and cool. But them words out her mouth always lingered, haunting him like jumbie.*
By this time, the Third-World sun had climbed nearly midday high and was pelting rays upon rays down on wave after wave of marching, perspiring school pickney.** From all over this Cooperative Republic, children like plenty-thousand ants, but in line-tight rows.
Left, Right. Left, Right. So they marched in synch, second nature after months of training drills.
'Just don't miss a beat,' the Son told himself.

Earlier that morning, these primary and secondary school students' numbers swelled under Cuffy's shadow*** as they gathered in Revolution Square. With a late start they flowed like a river up Vlissingen Road, swirled left by Camp Ayangana, then surged down towards the National Park. Marching soaking wet - but with frozen faces straight in-front; left feet forward, right arms up; right foot forward, left arm up - in perfect timing.
In the section ahead, the older National Service teens marched in military gear, lean and green like bamboo shoots in spit-shine boots.
The whole time, the Son thinking, 'Try, don't bother stand out.' The entire school seemed like government supporters- from the Head Mistress straight down to the Prefects. So each morning he just went through the motions with the rest of his classmates, pledging allegiance while a photo of Comrade Prime Minister sat high up on the classroom wall, staring down on them like a god. The son kept his family's Alliance business to himself. Like his mother said, you never know who is who.

The marching river veered right and streamed through the National Park gate. Splashes of applause from the not-far-distance dribbled through to the Son as schools, sections ahead of them, flowed and disappeared into a bowl-like canyon of stands.
Left, Right...Left...
He wondered how his cousins and them were making out marching with their own schools.
His mother's tinny voice pinged in his head. "Must remember in all the Mass Games marchin' and all yuh salutin' that is them same ones lockin' up your uncles and yuh aunties them lef' an' right."
She ain't have to keep telling him; he'd been there playing chinkie with his cousins the day when the Land Rovers rolled up. Brandishing weapons of destruction and wrong-and-strong mentalities, the babylon**** rushed in his Uncle's yard.
"Where the printin' press deh?"
"Yuh slandering' Comrade Leader with your subversive paper, eh? He should hang the whole set of all you for treason." They rounded up every adult present and carried them straight to Eve Leary.*****

Left, Right. Left, Right...Under the flogging sun the youths marched in a steady, mind-bleached rhythm. His school curved 'round a slight bend and finally entered the already crowded canyon of stands. People everywhere; the all-'bout energy slammed him like the Atlantic crashing against the sea wall.
Ahead, the rows of National Service teens rolled by the Grand Stand. As the bamboo-green uniforms passed the Prime Minister's box, they stiffened their backs all together, turned their heads right to face him, and saluted while in midstride. They held the salute 'til  they cleared the Grand Stand, then faced front with perfect tempo, marching on. Left, Right...

The Son's school now approached the Grand Stand. Just a few more yards to go.
"The government boots is not your own, y'hear me Boy?" He could hear his mother say.
At the Prime Ministers' box, one of the banner-bearers commanded:
As one, they all stiffened their backs, turned their heads right and, with a snap of their right hands over their right brows, saluted in stride.
The Prime Minister and his henchmen saluted back, sharply.
As he marched by, the Son squinted into Comrade Leader's box. There, one of the bodyguards, the one with a head bigger than a lorry and a snout like a bush cow; it was Mr. Hang-All-Yuh-For-Treason, himself.
The command was shouted from up front. "FAAAACE FRONT!"
Smirking, the Son swung his head to front a full second before the rest. Chest swelled and he could hear his mother say, "Ow, de boy,"****** with she rebel self.

* jumbie- ghost, spirit
** pickney -child or children
*** referring to the monument of the Revolution of 1763 - a statue of slave revolt leader Cuffy (Kofi,Cuffie, Cuffe)
**** oppressors; an oppressive, corrupt system; or, as in this case, police forces of a corrupt system
***** Eve Leary was the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Georgetown
****** atta boy; like a pat on the back; subtle praise or congratulations

Mother to Son I
©2015 K. Omodele

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Perceptions In The African Diaspora- Latinos of African Descent (Part II)

copyright 2014 K. Omodele the U.S. and the U.K., people in Latin American countries immigrated from all over the world...And yes, some of these Latin Americans are of African Descent.

"No matter where you come from/ as long as you're a Black man, you are an African."~ Peter Tosh

People of Latin America
Beginning in the late 15th and early 16th centuries (1400's and 1500's), Spaniards and Portuguese sailed to what is now known as the Americas. They promptly conquered the native people (Amerindians such as the Taino Arawaks, Caribs Incas, etc.), decimating whole populations of these people through warfare and disease. These Europeans first set up shop mining gold, forced Amerindians into slavery. After the Amerindian population was close to depletion, Europeans imported Africans to work the fields- mostly sugar cane and tobacco plantations in Brazil, Columbia, Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Cuba,et al. By the 19th Century, in Latin America there were three different races/ancestries (Amerindians; Blacks/Africans; Whites/Europeans) and people of mixed race/ancestry (such as Mestizos and mulattos).

Over time, more people immigrated to Latin America- Asians ( Chinese and East Indians), other Europeans (Italians, Germans after WWII), and Middle Easterners (Lebanese and Syrians). But regardless of the diverse ancestry, the common thread that now weaves through Latin culture is language (Spanish and Portuguese).

African (Black) Culture in Latin America
Latinos/Hispanics don't share an exact, uniformed culture because dialects, music and dance, and other customs vary from one region to the next. For instance, some Latin American countries have large populations of Blacks (descendants of Africans) who have heavily influenced culture. Notice how Latin countries in and around the Caribbean , along with Brazil, possess customs steeped in African traditions. African styles permeate music and dance in samba, rhumba, merengue and just check out the strong rhythm of congas in salsa. Notice the spirituality of Yoruba deities and Orishas found in Santeria.

During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, more Africans were imported into Brazil than any other country. If we include light and brown-skinned people of African descent (the so-called "mixed" or Mulatto), then Brazil's Black population is roughly forty-five percent of its total population of 190 million*, which means that Brazil has the largest population of black people in any country other than Nigeria.
Presently, people of African descent make up around 12 percent of South America's population.(McLeish 1997) Counting these descendants in the whole of Latin America (from A-Z, Argentina to Venezuela), more Blacks speak Spanish/Portuguese than English across the Americas, period. And these Africans have made undeniable and significant contributions to the collective Hispanic heritage.

In sum, it's full time we realize that people only "look Hispanic" (or look Puerto Rican, Cuban, Columbian, Dominican) if we misunderstand the meaning of these terms. Knowing that during slavery Africans were widely scattered throughout the Caribbean; Central, South and North America is crucial in understanding the nuances of ethnicity, nationality and race.

*The World Almanac 2012 (states that Brazil's population is comprised of 6% Black and 29% Mulatto)
**McLeish, Ewan. South America. Continents. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, 1997


Thursday, October 1, 2015

PERCEPTIONS IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA 101: Latinos of African Descent Part I

copyright 2014 K. Omodele

"From lack of knowledge my people shall perish."  ~His Imperial Majesty Haile Seassie I

A youth cornered me the other day, talking about his girl.
"She's Puerto Rican and Black", he said, skinning his teeth with pride.  "Model chick -exotic." (His words, not mine)
I saw us 'bout to crash, so I grabbed the wheel, tried steering us toward some semblance or understanding.
"She's a Black Latina?"  My tone urged us to consider his statement more closely. "Like , Latina Negra?"
But his brows narrowed and he mashed the gas - BLAM - head first, straight into a wall of "schupidness."  (As old time people
used to say)
"Nah. Her mama Black and her daddy Puerto Rican."

"In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty"~Bob Marley
Jah knows in this day and age of information, this kind of miseducation is a mosquito NNNINGing in my ears.  Even the
media is at times remiss concerning the differences between nationality and race.  Latin American*  countries such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Columbia and Brazil are populated by people of various races and even mixed races.  Hispanic (or Latino) is an ethnicity not a race.

Saying someone is Hispanic** or Latino*** indicates that he or she is from a country that was once colonized by Spain or Portugal and that they speak Spanish or Portuguese.  How can a person look Hispanic or Latino when these terms don't specify ancestry - whether Amerindian****; African, European; or even mixed ancestry like Mestizo (European and Amerindian) or mulatto (African and European)?
Take for instance Shakira and Celia Cruz (R.I.P). Both are Latinas, but because of their different ancestries, they don't share a similar "Hispanic/Latina look."  Just like in the U.S. or U.K., the people of Latin American countries immigrated from all over the world, for various reasons in different seasons.  And yes, some of these Latin Americans are of African descent.

Sources - Webster's Third New International Dictionary
* Latin American - those parts of the Americas colonized by the Spanish or Portuguese:  of relating to countries of North, Central and South America whose chief languages are Romance Languages (excluding French)
**Hispanic (Latin Hispanicus. from Hispania- Spain Iberian Peninsula + Latin .cus =ic)- Relating to or derived from the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain or Portugal:  often Latin American
***Latino- Latin American
****Amerindian- American Indian (Writer's note: Indian of the Americas; not restricted to U.S. Native Americans)


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Caribbean Poetry: An African Proverb (It Takes A Village To Raise A Child)

                                              Caribbean Poetry: An African Prover 
                                               (Takes a Village to Raise a Child)
                                                    copyright 2015 K. Omodele

It takes a village to raise a child,
In my tribe, loyalties deep and overflow like the Nile
My women- fierce lionesses, bare panther paws-
fang and claw for the light, Yaa Asantewas.*
Queens rinse man-children's feet that done danced with jinn
Violets firm facing 'gainst tree-uprootin' winds
Aunt-ies, Cousins, Sisters, Earths, Moons and Soil
I salute my whole tribe that did raise a child.

You know this village done raised a child
who turned away, an' SPLURT a mad dash fi di wild?
But my tribe's fire lighted paths, beaconed and called
Omowale- son returned like the Prodigal.
When my tribe's seeds spring forth, Earth's nurture fruit
A child's name- first thought so that word breathes Truth
The Son Rises- Omodele- sound em-powers youth
This village raised a child; 'ey, Yo Tribe...SALUTE!

* Asantewa~ Asante/Ashanti Queen who fought against the British in the Ashanti Wars.

K. Omodele

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Caribbean Short Story: Mother To Son (of Comrades and Thieves)

              Caribbean Short Story: Mother To Son (Comrades and Thieves)
                                    copyright 2015 K. Omodele
The evening before he was to march in the Cooperative Republic's Youth Mass Games, a mother ironed her son's newer, khaki school pants as the boy buttered his supper bread. They lived in a 'big yard' with three other board houses, each divided into apartments. While the sun ducked below the tropical skyline of zinc* roofs, coconut and mango trees, the mother lowered her voice and told her ten-year-old son:
"This whole Mass Games business is some play-play, Mao Zedong - Red Brigade type a thing." She squared her eyes sternly on the ironing board; shook her head. "Only thing, our youth have black and brown faces and West Indian lingo.**"
Giving his lemongrass tea time to cool, the boy gobbled a mouthful of butter bread, half-listening to his mother. His shoulders ached and his wrists were a 'lil bit sore from lashing sixes and hooking fours during recess earlier that day.
"Oh, an' the Prime Minister, Comrade Leader, preachin' socialism an' robbin' the country blind, same time." She ironed with smooth but forceful strokes like Clive Lloyd defending the wicket.

Wrapping her words with hushed tones, she reminded him. "You see how they lock up yuh Uncle and your Auntie?" Knotted her speech with short strings of grumbling. "And for what? Eh? Talkin' his mind and tellin' de truth?"
Life in the yard was like mackerel in a tin; always bent her up whenever neighbors got loud and made their quarrels everybody-in-the-yard's business. She'd shrill out in her little, fine voice. "Man, why yuh big an' brawlin' so? You don't have no broughtupcy*** or what?"
But this evening her whispering didn't wear no gown of decency, no; it was fashioned in the fact that subversive talk might drift through spaces between shanty wall-boards and be carried off as conspiracies, way-far beyond the tenement yard.
Her son sipped his tea and she held her breath- it might burn him. When it didn't, she carried on.
"I have a good mind keep you home tomorrow, yuh hear? No Mass Games. No marchin'. No nothin'"

He sipped the tea. It wanted more sugar but she had done stirred in two spoons already- she might flip. He stole a glance. She wasn't looking, just set the iron upright.
"But if you don't march, they goin' kick you out the school? They wouldn't do that, would they? Before you take Common Entrance?"**** She turned her back and draped his school pants neatly over the wobbly-legged Berbice chair.
Quicker than a wharf-rat, he snuck another heaping spoonful from the sugar tin, dumped and swirled.

She threaded a needle. Knotted the thread and took up is clothes-line dried school shirt. "People at the plant done sayin' how the Opposition too damn ungrateful." She placed a new-bought school crest over the shirt pocket, where she'd removed the worn-out one, and began stitching. "'Bout how, if it wasn't for Comrade Leader we might still be using Pound an' Shilling. And how if the government lock up all a we Alliance backside up, it would a serve we Rodney-rass right."
She bored and pulled as she spoke- face tense. Gored and pulled.
"You finish?" She asked, getting up. She came over to her son calmly.
He nodded. Pushed back his chair, plate empty.
She shot him a stinging box***** across his shoulder. "Think I didn't see you thief more sugar behind me back?"

*corrugated tin sheets
** Caribbean dialect
*** good behavior; wasn't brought up (raised) with good ways
**** a placement exam to leave primary school and enter high school; taken by students throughout the former British West Indies


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Christianity in Ancient Africa: Part III (Nubian Kingdoms)

                             Christianity in Ancient Africa: Part III (Nubian Kingdoms)
                                                 copyright 2015 K. Omodele

Nubia Before Christianity: Kingdom of Kush (Napata and Meroe)
Nubia was the region south of the First (and at times the Third) Cataract* up the River Nile and was located in present-day Sudan. Around 1000 B.C., Nubian kings began building a kingdom that would become known as Kush. In 730 B.C., Kushite kings conquered and ruled Egypt for sixty years as the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, which later would also be known as the Ethiopian Dynasty. In 670 B.C.,  Assyrians invaded Egypt and pushed the Kushites back up into Nubia, where the kings then built their new capital, Napata, right below the Fourth Cataract. Then, later in 593 B.C., they moved even further south and founded Meroe between the Fifth and Sixth Cataracts.

Throughout history, Nubians constantly fought against various rulers of Egypt who tried to muscle their way up the Nile and flex their authority on Nubia. But Nubia was relentless in its defense and Nubian kingdoms became proficient in trade with the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. By the First Century A.D., the Nubian (Kushite) Kingdom at Meroe had grown wealthy and powerful, and clashed against the Roman army in towns like Syene which sat by the disputed, contended Nubian-Egyptian border.

Christianity in Nubia (Kingdoms of Makurra, Noba, Soba and Alwa)
Though some of the early Egyptian Christians ran up into Nubia, escaping Roman persecution, it wasn't until the Sixth-Century A.D. that Christianity took root more widely when Monophysite Christians missioned south. By this era, Nubia was comprised of three kingdoms: Noba, Makurra and Soba. All three became versed in the Monophysite, monastic traditions and they developed a Nubian Christian culture that reflected their Kushite/Meroic ancestry. For instance, churches, monasteries and palaces constructed of stone and wood; pottery crafted and painted in Meroic styles and patterns.

After Arab Islamists conquered the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) rulers of Egypt in 642 A.D.,
they then turned their sights on Nubia. When they attacked the united kingdoms of Makurra and Noba, they were stopped dead in their tracks by a large Nubian army comprised of ferocious archers. Christian Nubia would remain intact for hundreds of years. Then in the Fourteenth Century, Arab nomads Islamized Lower Nubia (Makurra and Noba). A century later, the Funji Sultanate gradually did the same in Alwa, Upper Nubia.

Christianity in Egypt and Africa existed long before there was ever a Protestant, Presbyterian, Jehovah Witness, Baptist or Anglican. In fact, Africans in certain regions have propagated and defended, even died for, the Faith. When someone states that Christianity is a European religion, they are making a false claim. Christianity in Africa is practically as old as Christianity itself. Even though it has been presented in the West (and to West Africans) in a Eurocentric frame, Europe was not the origin of Christianity. Knowing the full story sheds light on misconception.
Knowledge. Wisdom. Understanding.

* waterfall or cascade

Christianity in Ancient Africa Part I - Egypt Under Graeco Roman Rule

Christianity in Ancient Africa Part II - The Egyptian Coptic Church; Christianity in Kingdom of Aksum

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Christianity in Ancient Africa: Part II- (Egyptian Coptic; and The Aksum Empire)

 Christianity in Ancient Africa: Part II (Egyptian Coptic; The Aksum Empire)
                         Copyright 2015 K. Omodele

The Egyptian Coptic Church
Many Egyptian Christians in the first centuries A.D. followed the Monophysite doctrine which emphasized that Christ was divine and couldn't be a regular human being. Knowing that ancient Egyptians believed some of their pharaohs were gods incarnate, it's understandable how their religious thinking was conducive to the idea of God within man or God with us (man). However, the newly-formed Roman church heralded the duality of Christ's nature-Deophysitism, that he was human and divine at the same time. This doctrine was spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire, which reached around the Mediterranean world from North Africa all the way to Western Europe.

The Roman church sought to force this concept on North African Donatists* and Egyptian Christians, eventually declaring Monophysitism "heresy" in 451 A.D. Texts written by early Egyptian Christian scholars that didn't fall in line with the Roman Church's doctrine were labeled Gnostic**, and were not accepted by the Roman canon.

As a result, Egypt's early Christians created their own Coptic Church and made their local Coptic language the official language of their independent church (breaking from Rome and Latin). The Egyptian Coptics unrepentantly upheld their monastic tradition and a distinctive Christian culture soon emerged in the land. These Egyptian Christians are among the earliest adherents in Christendom. And unlike the Roman church with its bags of schisms and institutionalisms, the Coptic church has remained constant to this day.

The Kingdom of Aksum (Axum)
Aksum existed in the area that is now Ethiopia and Eritrea. In the Sixth Century B.C., Sabean people crossed the Red Sea from Saba (present day Yemen) on the Arabian Peninsula. They settled in the foothills and valleys of the Ethiopian Highlands, intermarried the Cushitic-speaking Africans and gradually meshed into a distinct, local culture with its own language called Ge'ez from which modern Amharic is derived.
Skilled in agriculture and trading, The Aksum or Axum Empire grew prosperous and the kingdom became a powerful state by the First Century A.D. Though its capital was located inland, Aksum's Red Sea port, Adulis, thrived in trade and exported as far north as Persia.

Christianity in The Aksum / Axum Empire
Around 335 A.D., the Aksum King Ezana was introduced  to Christianity by Egyptian Christians. Ethiopian tradition also tells that a ship-wrecked Syrian Christian, Frumentius, was taken to Ezana and introduced the king to Christianity. In any case, Aksum adopted Christianity and formed the Aksum church, although Judaism had existed there centuries before Christ, especially among the Beta Israel or Falasha.
During the next Millennium, the Aksum / Ethiopian Church maintained strong ties with its Egyptian brother- Ethiopia's arch bishop was appointed from the Egyptian Coptic Church. Even so, the Ethiopian Church developed unique traditions based on its own culture. Some of these characteristics are: religious paintings depicting Ethiopian characters, saints and images; original texts written in Ge'ez then later in Amharic; African-styled drumming; and churches in Lalibela carved from solid rock. Many of this church's practices are steeped in Old Testament rituals. Examples are circumcision, abstaining from pork, the Order of Melchezedek, and the tradition of Zadok the High Priest.

*Christian sect in North Africa circa 311 A.D. to the 7th Century; taught that the effectiveness of the sacraments depended on the moral character of those administering them.
**gnostic- 1. relating to or possessing spiritual or intellectual knowledge. 2. Of or relating to Gnosticism, mysticism, insight above faith
*** The Afro-Asiatic language of the Copts.
Copts- Natives of Egypt descended from ancient Egyptian stock

Christianity in Ancient Africa Part I- Intro (Egypt Under Graeco-Roman Rule)

Christianity in Ancient Africa Part III- Christianity in Nubia (the Kingdoms of Noba, Makurra and Alwa)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Christianity in Ancient Africa: Part I

                           Christianity in Ancient Africa: Part I
                                  copyright 2014 K. Omodele

With political friction sparking in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt over the past few years, religious tribalism ignited when fanatics claiming Islam attacked Christians, and destroyed Melkite and Coptic churches in these ancient lands. Wait! Hold up! Christians in Egypt? Soon as we hear the word "Christianity," many of us begin thinking: Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, even Mormon. Say "Christianity in Africa" and image certain images jump up in our minds: European missionaries converting villagers, fattening them up for the colonial kill.

Yes, Eurocentric Christian traditions are definitely perpetuated in the West. However, Egypt in the First Century A.D. was home to many of the early scholars and thinkers who shaped Christian concepts. African Christian societies existed in Aksum (Axum) and Nubia long before most Europeans even heard of Yeshua*. And when we learn the plight of grass root Egyptians under Graeco-Roman rule, we get a firmer understanding of Egyptians' embracing Christianity.

Egypt Under Graeco-Roman Rule
In 332 B.C., the Greek army of Alexander conquered and colonized Egypt, enforcing a tax system on the Egyptian peasantry that was much harsher than the one imposed by the Egyptian pharaohs. Then when the Romans took over Egypt around 30 B.C., their system was even more rigid and exploitive. The Roman Empire ruled without regard for the humanity of the Egyptian peasant. The abject oppression had many Egyptians marooning from their fields- rather turn into a bandit in defiance than beggar or a slave to the Roman system. It was in this setting, in the First Century A.D., that the Apostle Mark established one of the earliest Christian diocese.

Christianity quickly garnered appeal amongst some of those Egyptians most subjugated by the Romans, offering a sense of hope to the down-trodden, promising deliverance to sufferers who endured affliction in life. Early Christians in Egypt shunned the materialism perpetuated by the Roman Empire and preferred living in isolated communes. They developed a tradition of self reliance. They prayed and meditated intensely, contemplating the complexities of the human spirit.

The Romans definitely considered these early Christians an extremist sect. Being Christian those days meant being viewed as a rebel, a subversive element, a threat to the status quo- the Roman way of life. They were deemed radicals against the Roman machine; so, thousands of these early Christians were persecuted mercilessly, martyred through centuries until the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and established it an official religion. In 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, Constantine then called for the the Roman church to follow one common doctrine.

*Yeshua is Hebrew (the man was Jewish). The Greeks called him Iesous, which became Jesus to the Romans. Jesus is the Latin derivation of Iesous which came from Yeshua, his actual Hebrew name.

Christianity in Ancient Africa Part II- The Egyptian Coptic Church; Christianity in The Kingdom of Aksum (Axum)

Christianity in Ancient Africa Part III- Christianity in Nubia (the Kingdoms of Noba, Makurra and Alwa)

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Birthday Letter to Marcus Garvey

                                                  Earthday Letter to Marcus
                                                  Copyright 2015 K. Omodele

Most Right and Honorable Marcus Mosiah,
Greetings I bring on your 128th Earthstrong*. May the Most High, Jah, shower you infinitely with eternal blessings. Your message has lived on and your impact on the lives of millions all over the Earth illustrates brightly that word - sound is power. Before you ascended, humbly, seventy-five years ago, you told us we could find you in the whirlwinds...Some of us may have wondered whether waves of time might wash away your gigantic footprint.

Emphatically I say, this is not so. Many of us have not forgotten, will never forget. History strung up a lynching but ourstory absolves you. We, the People, trumpet your sound through the ages- even this one of information. Avenues and schools, world-wide, bear your name. We write and sing songs about you; read and write books that convey your story- ourstory (you said we should uplift and celebrate our own heroes). Marcus Mosiah, in Ghana (the former Gold Coast) the flag and the national football team are called the Black Star**; in Jamaica you are the first National Hero; in Rasta you are Prophet, complementing Priest and King.

We herald the principles for which you stood on-square. You uplift us still, inspiring us to see in ourselves the image of God. You shouted that there's nothing the mind can imagine that man cannot accomplish- did you ever imagine the U.S. could elect a Black president, one with an African name at that? And now there's an African Union, but Jah knows we could use your leadership there. Oh, did you see your beloved West Indies when we tried the Federation? Petty minds got in our way but you done already know how that goes. Now Caricom is our feeble response to your call for regional unity.

It's not an easy road we've travelled and we still have a mighty long way to go. But rest assured, Ababa Mose, your sons and daughters stand firm, work proud, walk with our heads high; as we trod Jah Earth your spirits breathes within us. Have a most blessed earthday.

Kaya Omodele

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Abeng Caribbean Poetry: My Church Street Yard (Ode For Ivah)

Copyright 2015 K. Omodele

A black-thorn rose in meh Church Street  yarden.
Smiles bloom there once, then ruff winds hardened.
Wish time would roll back so
I'd mek my old yard know
It's the one place in the whole, wide world I go
when my days darken.
I got meh Church Street yard, now
fold-up in my heart, though
-ripped, torn and broken.

For my cousin- a man named Ivor.
In 'membrance of our final reasoning 'pon de phone,
gyaffin' clear 'cross de Pond:

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the
darkness conscious."~ Carl Jung

Rest now, my blood.
One Love,

Saturday, August 1, 2015

EMANCIPATION DAY: Free Our Minds From Mental Slavery

"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds."~ Marcus Mosiah Garvey

Jah Bless, Bredren, Sistren, massives and crowd of people; today is Emancipation Day. On August the First, 1834, slaves in the British West Indies were emancipated, which was a big thing then and should still be a big thing to all a we now. Why this should matter to we now- 181 years later?

Well, "a people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots." (Malcolm X) And, if we focus only on where we going without having a clue 'bout where we been, we might walk 'round in circles not recognizing we done already trod down this or that road before. Since life is about growth and development, humanity must learn from and improve upon its past.

Whole heap of lessons can be learned from the institution of chattel slavery, too numerous to name them all - from economic exploitation to ethnocentricism. But for me, the most illuminating principles learned from studying our past is to first see, then respect the humanity in people; resist those dehumanizing thoughts and labels that enable subjugation of others. As that old Bob Marley chune goes, "Woe to the downpressor (oppressor), they eat the bread of sorrow..."

There are seven billion people in Jah world. There is only One Love.
Have a Onederful Emancipation Day.

Monday, July 27, 2015


                                          copyright 2015 K. Omodele

When Kenny sent the invitation, the kings were tickled by the gold calligraphy and trimming and the request to R.S.V.P. But family is family, y'hear, so that sabbatical morning Irie, I-bo and Bongo drove from New York to D.C., a three-hour ride that stretched out to five due to them getting stopped and searched twice on I-95. By the time they parked at Union Station, they' just missed the ceremony.
Draped in flowing white Rastafarian robes and turbans, they caught sight of all them stiff-necked senator and dignitary types and realized:
"One day when we bent up and gray, we going laugh at this."
"Right. Laugh 'til we belly buss."
A sign pointed out the Clarke and Weatherman Wedding. The followed it like Wise Men trailing the Eastern Star and entered a world of glass walls and marble floors, where spectacular chandeliers loomed over linen-clothed tables. Someone greeted them and they were ushered to a table carded with their government names, while Black D.C. aristocracy, which now resided out in Montgomery and P.G. Counties, sat frozen with jaws bouncing off the polished floor and eyes spread wide as poached egg whites, taking in the sight of the three kings in dreadlocked beards. One king strapped with a Kete drum.
Joanna, the shiny bride jumped up, grabbed her gown tail and burst a sprint over before anybody could blink. Kenny trudged stiffly behind her.
"Glad you guys made it," she said. "Bongo, you gotta beat the drum for me-"
"Kete. Is a Kete drum." He placed the wooden, hand-painted drum on the white linen table cloth.
Kenny hailed them up, laughing nervously. "Bredren, you just had to walk with the drum? Here? Today?"
Joanna shooed him. "Of course they did." Then she announced, "Everyone, these are Kenrick's two brothers and his cousin, my brand-new In-Laws."
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