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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)
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