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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Renaissance Man: Blessed Earthday, Ivor Edson Brown

 Blessed Earthstrong, Ivor
By K. Omodele @theabeng

"Don't judge the man you see before you by those you seen before!" ~ I.E. Brown, The Love Ethic

Today is my cousin Ivor Edson Brown's Earthday, which means it's the anniversary of the day he drew his first breath on Earth.
I mentioned before, on this blog, our final reasoning over the phone, talking clear 'cross the Pond. I could tell you how, in our catching up with each other's life, he listened tentatively and was compassionate when imparting his wisdom. I could share how we laughed, hard, 'til we belly nearly buss, at a Church Street memory- me, at seven and fresh off the plane from America, gripping a cricket bat over my shoulder like a baseball bat, waiting for my cousin to bowl me the ball.

I could tell you 'bout his mind- BRILLIANT; whenever we'd notice one another Online on FB, we would drop in and chat about history or economics or music, sometimes expound on something that caught his eye here in my posts. See, Cuzzo and me, we shared the Rodway passion for African history, culture and art. And, dissecting politricks.*
I could go on for days 'bout his gifts and talents; our tribe's creativity permeates his poetry and saturates his song, tapping form from hip-hop styles and melting tone from Windrush**/Caribbean themes. I could express what he means to us that knew him, those who came to love him. But here, you can see for yourself, read what people thought about my cousin

Brixton Man

Born in London to a Jamaican father and St. Lucian mother, Ivor also spent years in Georgetown and Vieux-Fort; so, Ivor is truly a Son of the Caribbean. Like the Caribbean sun, he shines passion-hot and flows with his convictions.
I heard, somewhere, that a man's true wealth isn't measured by the amount of possessions he's acquired in life, but by the amount of lives he's touched. Then Ivor, Man, I hope you know how we feel about you.

Remembering Ivor Edson Brown

"For if you always think of me, I will have never gone."
Never Gone! Never Forgotten!
One Love, Cuz...


Ivor's #CaribbeanPoetry

                 Amongst The Architecture
                 copyright Ivor Edson Brown

Let's blaze it up in the name of those that death became
and those who name loved ones amongst the slain.
Aggression is almost instinctive in the city where the blitz* hit,
estates dominate the landscape of every district.
Where men love to boast about crime, bait theyselves up,
Police had done spy them from a mile.
Now, which one of these stooges can come test my heights?
We're fire and ice, like logic and the fool's advice.
My Garveyite foresight, reveals to me what fools see in hindsight.
Looking beyond the hype, price tags and bright lights,
beyond all-a-dat drawing knife and gun fights,
beyond the stereotypes that plague the inner city.
The ignorance only serves to make the crisis worse,
the devil's ways infiltrate even the wisest church.
Me and my people deal with life science, year to year
and still stay shitty and pissy like estate** stairs, for real.

I drink with Africans straight from the continent
and live amongst immigrants in my estate tenement.
Speaking with my pen again, I think in black ink.
Sisters, youths and grown men again, come we make the link.
I wrote this, hoping you will quote this to one another,
take it with you as you travel through this concrete Gomorrah.
In a left hand drive with Dutch plates, my brandy spills,
bunin' lean-up on the right, sliding down Brixton Hill.
Watching the fatherless play crime games in the early hours,
Getting their name mentioned, screw face, sour.
Over estimating power, under estimating their potential,
75% of black youth leave school with no credentials.
Coming off their estates calling that ghetto,
'cause there's coppers on the outside and guns in the middle.
False prophets say the working on it, speaking in riddles,
the average age of killers dropping north and south of the river.
Equipped to kill and contemplating murder, that's a child, lord.
Fools drift to sleep and slide off.
Pseudo Afrocentric baby mothers and fathers clashing,
gwan neglect your seed, I guarantee your revolution ain't gonna happen.
That's the legacy from the black holocaust years.
I urinate on architecture built on the proceeds of slave trade.

Look into yourself for answers.
You better have a plan for your child 'cause the system's
got plans for us.

copyright I.E. Brown

Read more of Ivor's Writing

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Abeng Review: Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (@Tanehisicoates)

By K. Omodele @TheAbeng

"Americans believe in the reality of 'race'  as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism...inevitably follows from this inalterable condition. In this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage or the Trail of Tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other natural phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men. But race is the child of racism, not the father," writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between The World and Me, which was released earlier this year by Spiegel and Grau.*

Ta-Nehisi's book is composed as a deeply emotive letter to his teen-aged son, Samori, in which an African-American father, in the wake of the Mike Brown killing, interprets his perceptions of America's fixation with the idea of "race" and this institution's impact on black bodies and psyches. The author sketches a portrait of how Dreamers (those deeply imbedded in "The Dream") casually regard the entrapment, violation and destruction of black bodies as unfortunate, but natural, events; then, he details the visceral fear black people live with in our own bodies, in our own homes, in our their own communities.
While Between The World and Me is lauded for its eloquent language, well-articulated self-awakenings and revelations, for me the genius of this Ta-Nehisi Coates's writing is his connectability.

Reading Between The World and Me is what it must feel like in a blues joint and realizing a singer/musician is actually harmonizing in the key of your life, riff by riff, tune after tune. When Ta-Nehisi instructs Samori that " are a black boy and you must be responsible for your body in a way other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you," I think many blacks in America nod their heads to that familiar beat. I remember spreading my teen-aged wings around Flatbush, Brooklyn, back in the days and my beloved Aunt anxiously running through her checklist each time I was about to hit the front door:
-"Be very careful out there!"
-"Remember, the Police don't like young black men in America. This country fears you."
-"Don't go out at night with that radio, you'll be a target for police and thieves."
-"I know this is how you all dress, but America doesn't know you like I know you; they only see you as a threat when you dress so."

But as a teen, I flexed invincibly, unconquerably, and even when I learned about Michael Stewart, Yusef Hawkins, and all them countless others, it still didn't sink in- I thought, 'Auntie must be paranoid, for real.' That's until I found out first hand, one night at the end of a DT** gun nozzle, that "stop and frisk" is a jeering understatement of how they kidnap our bodies during the process. We're captured, immobilized and chucked on walls against our wills, then physically violated by search without warrant. So that, many of us feel like criminals long before we commit a crime. 

Although Ta-Nehisi focuses on the specificity of his and other black lives ("Slavery is not an indefinable mass of flesh. It is a particular, specific enslaved woman, whose mind is as active as your own."), his personal truths ring with the universal- from his vulnerability during his brush with street life to the volatility of a routine traffic stop to his awareness and insistence that the consciousness of "children of Trans-Atlantic rape" must make us recognize oppression in the broader sense and empathize with others who are oppressed.

And so, the author relates his African-American experience (from Baltimore, DC, Chicago, Brooklyn) with the maata*** of the African Diaspora (making note that much of France's wealth "was built on the plunder of Haitian bodies, on the plunder of Wolof bodies...") while recalling how the Roma and their children who begged in Paris' streets were addressed with venom.

Between The World and Me is a cause and effect discussion of what it feels like to be inside a body that  has been  marginalized, exploited and disenfranchised; it is an emotional testimony to America's past and present; it is an indictment of systematic racism: school-, zoning-, social-, mass incarceration and prison-; it argues that black bodies matter despite the casual attitude of The Dreamers, despite the violence of attack dogs and lynchings and planned housing policies that created ghettoes that became killing fields. It is a narrative for us, by us, and of us- all. "This is your country," writes Ta-Nehisi Coates, "-this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it."


* an imprint of Penguin Random Howuse, LLC
**Detective; plain-clothes police
*** maata~ the struggle

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Teaching And Learning: A Prison Writing Class

copyright K. Omodele 2015 @TheAbeng

Life is all about growth and development. I've been teaching an ACE* Creative Writing class in a prison for two semesters now and if you had to give me a dollar for each time in my life I envisioned being a teacher or tutor, you'd keep your money and fork over naught. If I'd ever had such aspirations, I'd have prepared myself- read a tutorial or two on teaching, taken some college courses in whatever classes undergraduate teachers take. If teaching had even whispered to me feebly in a dream, I might have at least fished some point of views from my aunt, great-aunt, or grandfather concerning their careers, their life-long passions.

But for me, there was no such calling; just a hard-jolting circumstance that presented me an opportunity to do something new. The only experiences I had to draw back from were a few months of community service with a county recreation center as a youth sports instructor and reasonings with youth about African history and Rastafarian culture. That's it! No literary degree in Fine Arts, no PhD in English or Writing. I stand in front my ACE creative writing class armed with no more than a bow strung with correspondence writing courses, a quiver filled with a lifetime of my own writings, and the passion of an artist with a will to tear himself off the street.

So, last Monday evening at 6 pm, as I defined the nuances of significant and concrete details, an image came to me in flashback; so, I scribbled it on the white board, using a rust-red, dry erase marker, for my students to ponder:

Ma used to make sweet-to-the-heart limeade by squeezing some bitter, sour limes off a spotted-up, old, blighted tree in our front yard.

* Adult Continuing Education

Read Cry Redemption for more "Creative Writings from Prison and Incarcerated Writers"

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Three Quotes by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I (On Universal Brotherhood, Tolerance, Discrimination and Injustice)

His Majesty's words sound resounding empathy and reason the world can use in these hours, in these days, in our times...

"As we do not practice or permit discrimination within our nation, so we despise it wherever it is found. As we guarantee to all the right to worship as he chooses, so we denounce the policy which sets man against man on the issues of religion. As we extend the hand of Universal Brotherhood to all, without regard to race or colour, so we condemn any social or political order which distinguishes among God's children."

"If we raise our voices against injustice, wherever it be found, if we demand a stop to aggression wherever it occurs and under whatever guise and brand the aggressor as such, and if we do so on a wholly impartial basis, we can serve as the collective conscience of the world."

"Let us not recoil in hatred against those who, even while protesting their freedom from bias and prejudice, reveal by their actions that the poison of discrimination has left its lasting effects, and by this reaction, reveal that we, no less than they, are susceptible to that virus which is called intolerance."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Prophets Vexed (A Sonnet)

Caribbean Poetry: Prophets Vexed (A Sonnet)
Abeng Caribbean Poetry: Prophets Vexed (A Sonnet)
copyright 2015 K. Omodele

"The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less."
~ Eldridge Cleaver, Soul On Ice

The Prophets of Paths shudder at voices bawling
from blood-boiled rage unleashed 'pon innocents' shoulders.
In this Reign of Techs compassion's tumbled and fallen
like boots kicked off feet of war-disgusted soldiers.

Prophets shake heads as zealots hurl stones at caskets
Misspoken parables prop up houses 'pon sand
"Knowledge without wisdom is water carried in baskets.
Jah Word shall spread thru bloodshed, with sword in-hand."

Prophets vexed cringe; proverbs bent into gun rhetoric
Trumpeted Truths, now off-key, rankled-ranted sound
slanted words echoed. Bodies bucked, bullets bellowed
Humanity butchered, understanding drowned.

Bare Innocents killed
Ey, Wicked, be still!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Tribe's Traditions: Once A Man, Twice A Child

copyright  K. Omodele 2015  .@TheAbeng

It's my tribe's tradition that we mind our elders; we home them, dine them, clothe them, include elders in life's events - holidays, birthdays, weddings, reunions; we cringe at the thought of placing our elders in nursing homes. In quiet moments, we read with our elders, cook with our elders, and listen, fascinated, by their old-time stories about the British, independence and the train line that ran all the way from Town to country. In our day to day, we turn garden soil for them, turn over mattresses for them, turn on TV shows for them, and twist open mango-achar* jars when arthritis done bend-up their fingers like some old-guava -tree twigs. Sometimes, we chauffer them around: shopping, visiting, appointment meeting, beauty saloning - nails, hair, and spa.

When my family gathers up, generations row like some parakeets 'bout who was the greatest West Indies cricket captain- Sobers or Lloyd?** We wind up to Sparrow, skank to Toots and the Maytals, groove with delight when Tinga Stewart tells we to "Play The Music/Jump like leggo beast!" Oh, and you should see how we all love three-step with liveliness to Percy and Benny and Sam- "Bring It All Home To Me!" Yeah- Yeah... But when we fling on dancehall,*** the elders screwface in disgust and confusion.

When I was a 'lil youth, my Granny, her sister (my Great-Aunt) and my Grandfather took care of my Great-Grandfather, Papa, in his final years. I got ancient-days images of Papa flickering through my memory; he, skin like burnt brass and hair like wool. I recall vaguely, he was fierce when it came to his mangoes, so you better had take your eyes of his mango tree.

I also remember, later, how my Uncle Stuartie (Jah Bless you, me Lion) and his wife took care of another one of my Great-Aunts when she couldn't manage living on her own any longer. And my Auntie has my Granny, who's 94 years old, and her sister, 90, taking care of them the best she can. Been doing this now for three decades, through two marriages, with a lioness heart and spirit. Sometimes despair wells up Auntie's eyes because my Granny now needs help getting dressed and my Great-Aunt keeps forgetting how to make her morning coffee. So, my younger Auntie rises early o'clock, prepares them breakfast, changes what-so-ever needs changing, washes whatever needs washing, with nuff**** love and care, honor and devotion.
One day it will be my generations' turn to care for my aunts and uncles, my parents. This is the way of our tribe. And we gon' uphold this tradition, no matter where on Earth we roam. The younger youth better had learn. This is what we do, in my family, my tribe.

*achar is spicy, pickled green (unripe) mango
**Sir Garfield Sobers from Barbados; Clive Lloyd from Guyana. Two captains of great West Indies teams, representing different eras
*** dancehall reggae is a more uptempo, faster, younger genre
**** plenty; a lot; much

Thursday, November 12, 2015

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

Abeng Dub Poetry: Kwayana's Meditation
(The 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)
Eusi Kwayana #FreedomFighter

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 (1400s and 1500s), Spaniards and Portuguese sailed to what we now know 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  Shakira and Celia Cruz (R.I.P) for instance. 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 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)

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