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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Chicken Little (An Urban Story Haunted Blood Vol. 1 Part 1

copyright K. Omodele 2016 
* (This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual people or situations is purely coincidental.)

It was Doc birthnight we had come to celebrate but every last one of us was tight and frost because, for the second week in a row, the club owner- Mackie, that battyhole, had some new security enforcing people from bringing gun inside The Turntable. So that night we marched into the little match-box dance hall club hard and fast like the Dirty Dozen and posted up in front we wall.

Now when I say "we wall", I mean everybody and they mother know that every, single club night, that space up under the DJ booth balcony, from the edge of that larger-than-life Bob Marley mural over to the women's restroom -all that space is our own. It bought and paid for with sheer testosterone and gun sulfur. Whensoever we popped in, people just slide over to the side and relinquish we space. Regulars knew that; next week, a baby going born in England and he going know that. No long story; no long talk; no big fucking deal.

So, we had we backs to the wall, women's restroom 'pon we right-hand side, dance floor straight ahead. Was me, my cousin Bull, the two brothers Shortman and Doc, Brixton, Dapper, English, Bim, Mammal, Buddy-Bye, Star Boy and Trigger. Buddy-Bye bored through the crowd headed for the bar.

Bull turned 'round grinning and shouted in my ear over the music. "Wha' the fuck do Mackie? A few little shooting and now the damn Secret Service manning the door."
I didn't share the laugh. "I feel naked, no fuck." I looked around the club.
Bull did the same. "Yo, Chicken. Culture and Joe not coming?"
I shrugged. "Ever since Lyla get killed, Joe been acting certain way, like if he is the only man in the whole world raising a youth without a babymother."
My cousin gripped my shoulder.
"It's only couple weeks now. I feel for him; that man have some real big man responsibilities now," he shouted.
I thought about it. True, Joe ain't been around lately. But what about Culture and Ray-Ray and the rest of them? They don't never miss no party.
I shook the them thoughts and turned to Doc. "Blessed earthday, Bredren."
Buddy-Bye resurfaced lugging a waitress and two wash basins full a Moet bottles on ice, plus two cases of Heineken and hot Guinness. Soon as he set them on the floor, hands plunged in and rummaged through the basin and boxes of beer. I came up with two Moet, for me and Shortman, who started crushing weed in his hand, preparing to build a spliff.
The whole crew was hyped. The spot down in Southeast was bubbling over thirty grand a day, more than triple the amount we made the first day we set up shop, which was a month before. Not bad for a set of teens - we was definitely flexing, smelling weself.

So, now we're guzzling bottles. The music was pounding, the place ram-packed with tension and swagger. The air, hot and hypnotic from ganja smoke and spilled-liquor fumes and too many black people cramped in too small a space. Girls were wineing up they waistlines, riding the booming baseline with perfect timing. Knowing full-well a man's eyes would only linger  on any one of them for a couple seconds, the wineing competition between them girls was fierce; you hear?
But as man, we couldn't afford to turn fool over pum-pum; so real road niggas' eyes kept shiftin from predator to girl prey, like young lions scouting the savannah for enemies and food. That possie over there watching that one over there. Man under a constant state of alert.
Shortman reached across me and handed Doc the new-built, big-head spliff, then started building a next one. English roped in some girls, waving them in from off the dance floor. The music slowed to a crawl...then stopped.
Crowd movement settled.
Grammatica The Selector's voice rang out through the speakers.
"Hold tight, all massive and crew. Here comes a chune by the one-and-only Junior Reid, a brand new thing mashing up Jamdung* and Foreign. Turntable LISTEN!"

Junior Reid sing-jayed the intro:
"Moder vamp-ires of the ci-ty/ haunted blood, blo-od/ You coulda come from Rema, you coulda come from Jungle/ coulda come from Firehouse or you come from Tower Hill/ One blood, one blood, one blood..."

When the baseline dropped in, the whole dancehall nearly tear down. It was bare bedlam. Lighters flicked on, aerosol-can torches spewing flames out like some ole, spit-fire dragons. Sirens sounded, a bomb warning wailed. Now, even the lions were prancing, bouncing with gun fingers in the air, busting blanks.
I was thinking, Mackie fucking lucky he stopped we from bringing guns in here tonight, f'real. Or we woulda turn his ceiling into swiss chesses, the amount of gunshots that woulda burst for One Blood.
With the drum and bass and the Moet talking to me, plus the smell of sticky girls and sexy ganja, I was sailing higher than a frigging kite. And right about that time, Bull turned around and said to me:
"Wrangla them over there by the Galaga." He was gesturing behind him.
Soon as he said it, that ole, dutty, stinking crow cawed. Sobered me straight, right and fast. I had to rise up on my Bally boot toes to catch a glimpse over Bull shoulder but I spotted them in the corner by the video game in the back of the club. They were definitely watching us. And when our eyes locked, the four of them fanned out onto the dance floor, skanking like wasn't nothing wrong.
And that was all wrong!

They spread out, bouncing around with some random girls, but we could see them lurking - Wrangla and Glass to the left, Mongrel and Boo on the right. I'm thinking: four of them; twelve of we. Ever since Lyla get lick down right outside the club, Mackie was not skinning or grinning with security, nobody couldn't even slip by the metal detector with piece of cigarette foil paper under their clothes. So, what they could try? We had the numbers.
But then, Glass dallied through the crowd, rushing over to our wall. Off pure reflex and instinct, my gun hand dug down into my pants waist, knowing better, but still hoping to God for a miracle.
Shit! Heard that crow caw again. I definitely wasn't high no more.

Let me tell you, Bull solid like a pillar or post, so it was hard to see over and around his shoulder. Next thing I know, though, Glass was standing with his hands buried in his jacket pockets, ranting and railing off, nearly chest to chest with Bull. I couldn't hear a word for sake of the thumping music; but he was running off his mouth non-stop and I knew it was gun talk, wicked talk, cause he was screwing up his mouth like he sucking a green mango or something so. His hands were poking around in his pockets emphasizing whatever foolishness was coming out his mouth.
On my left, Doc and English inched wide. Shortman, on my right, ain't notice nothing yet and his short rass definitely couldn't see over Bull or the crowd, so he was still picking stems out the weed, preparing to roll.
And then, Mongrel and Boo squeezed through the crowded floor and drew up beside Glass, who on cue, backed a Glock .40 out his coat pocket and carried on chatting even more fuckery, going on like a real, big-pussy gyal, now that he had representation beside him.
I gripped the Moet bottle neck. Doc and English did the same.
Bull inched up, closing the gap between him and yappy-yappy mouth Glass. Which in, caught Glass in a place somewhere between disbelief and feeling disrespected. His eyes bulged with confusion.
Mongrel looked at Glass with sour disgust, spit some cuss words at him and snatched the tool right out his confederate's hand. At the same time, Boo backed out a nine millimeter. In one fluid, in-sync motion, the two of them raised the machines and aimed.

My Journey Getting Published by Kaya Omodele

My Publishing Journey
by Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng #TheAbeng

My book The Abeng and My Conscious Pen: Cries of Redemption is now in the hands of my editor.

The challenges getting a book published while behind a prison fence are many; obstacles jump up outta darkness like duppies/jumbies in the night. A problem will inevitably roll up like some old higue wanting to suck out all your energy and joy, threatening to transform your process into a nightmare.

But don't worry! Problems are mere opportunities to find creative solutions; so, fret not thyself. The ancient Egyptians found ways to time and harness the disastrous overflowing of the Nile; they converted destructive annual flooding into irrigation from which sprang one of the world's earliest and greatest civilizations. In other words, they made sugar outta ssshhhh (shingles ;-)  )

So, right about now, I'm saying "Big up!" to my very own team of ancient Egyptians:
  • My editor Tynisha from Dasheen Magazine and Camelitta Ink & Co...
  • My publisher Sabrina from Beneath The Surface, Publishing...
  • My production manager/marketing and sales specialist Rene...
  • And Midnight Express Books for helping me maintain The Abeng and My Conscious Pen platform, not to mention my sanity.

I give nuff thanks and honor, Ladies.
It takes a village, people.
Bless up,
Kaya Omodele

#TheAbeng #abeng

Friday, November 25, 2016

Abeng Short Story: Amalaika vs. The Council of Elders (The Palm Wine Controversy)

Abeng Short Story
Amalaika Vs. The Council of Elders 
(The Palm Wine Controversy)
copyright K. Omodele 2016

Amalaika, gazelle-like in body but dragged in spirit, chucked her son all the way to the Circle of the Council of Elders. Bursting with vexation, she beat the over-sized boy with a bamboo-cane stick as the people of the village looked on, bemused, but with sinking hearts because Amalaika's husband and her two older sons had been captured and herded away with a dozen others, most likely to the slave fort hundreds of miles to the south. So, all that was left of Amalaika's family was a young daughter and this degge-degge, thirteen-year old son.

Breathing heavy and fast, the woman shoved the dirt-crusted boy to stand and face the elders. She addressed the council.
"Greetings Elders. This one will not stop drinking - he is a drunk." She wrinkled her nose.
The leader of the council was a bald, creaky-limbed man who nevertheless harnessed the presence of a growling leopard within him.
"Woman, this man-child will be initiating rites of passage soon."
"Yes, Baba." She straightened her back. Folded her lips in a fit of restraint.
"Boys will be boys. One rotten fruit now and then will not kill monkey," the council leader said, dismissively.
"Baba, he thinks he is a man but he does not hunt; does not bring food. All he wants to do is drink palm wine, day and night."
The boy dug his chin into his chest. He didn't move or look up; not even a twitch nor hint of protest.
Amalaika pleaded. "Wise One, if YOU tell him to stop drinking, he will obey. He will have to stop."
The council leader assessed the mother. HMMMMPPPH!
Then the whole Council of Elders roped in together, grumbled amongst themselves for a moment or two, then broke their huddle.
The Wise One's voice waded through a swamp of pity.
"Woman bring the boy in seven days. I will personally take care of this matter, then."
Amalaika grabbed her son by the back of the neck like a lioness transporting her cub, and lashed him homeward with the bamboo-cane stick.

Seven days staggered by; then finally, Amalaika, pepped with anticipation, brought her son back before the council.
The boy once again dug his chin into his chest.
The Wise One growled. "Look at me when I speak to you!"
The boy looked up, head still partially bowed.
Now the old man roared. "DON'T DRINK ANY MORE PALM WINE!"
The boy shivered, nodding. "Yes Wise One." Then, he backed away.
The council nodded and grinned, clearly pleased with themselves.
Amalaika stood still, grilling the council over coals of bewilderment.
"Is that all?"
The Wise One turned to her. "Yes...What more is warranted?"
"But you could have told him that seven days ago."
One of the Elders held up his palm. "Woman, you challenge the council?"
Shaking his head, the Wise One drew the man back and then told Amalaika.
"Seven days ago I was also drinking palm wine."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Abeng Chanting: Satta a Massagana, Igziabeher

Satta a massagana, Ahamlack #TheAbeng

I give thanks for my family and loved ones. There is no greater gift in life than the gift of Love.

In Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia), satta a massagana means "give thanks and praise"; Igziabeher means "Lord (or Ruler) of the Universe"; Ahamlack (or 'amlak) is a more common Amharic word meaning "god".

Blessed Love.
Kaya Omodele

Monday, November 7, 2016

Abeng Recent Reads

                             What We Have Been Reading Lately
                                          Kaie "Kaya" Omodele @TheAbeng

An advocate of self-education, Marcus Mosiah Garvey told an audience in St. Kitts, "Read! Read! Read! and never stop until you discover the knowledge of the Universe."

- Artful Journalism - Essays in the Craft and Magic of True Storytelling; Walt Harrington
- Just Mercy; Bryan Stevenson
- Journalism Next - A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing; Mark Briggs
- "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration"; Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Atlantic, October 2015 Issue
- Rise of the Warrior Cop - The Militarization of America's Police Forces; Radley Balku
- Bienville's Dilemma - A Historical Geography of New Orleans; Richard Campanella *

* It's amazing how much Haiti and the Haitian Revolution affected New Orleans and Louisiana

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

#wematter, Sevyn Streeter Barred By 76ers

Abeng Editorial Opinion: Sevyn Streeter Barred From Performing The National Anthem at The Philadelphia 76ers Season Opener
                                   by Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng

A man of God addressed feuding members of his congregation.
"You profess to love God, who you can't see, yet you hold no compassion for your fellow man who you live with every day?"
This whole controversy over protesting during the national anthem before sporting events turned into a fiasco when my favorite NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers, barred singer Sevyn Streeter from performing the national anthem at the Sixers' season opening the other night. See, the Sixers organization (the front office, not the players) felt that Sevyn's sporting a #wematter (as in #blacklivesmatter ) t-shirt during her rendition would be a bad look, break their policy/contract agreement, and alienate a majority of Philadelphia fans (not me, though), who feel that any protest during the national anthem somehow denigrates the flag, dishonors military veterans, and disrespects the good old US of A.

You don't have to look any further than the insults and death threats hurled at Colin Kaepernick (for his kneeling in silent protest during the anthem at NFL games) for examples of how unfavorably many Americans view these acts of protest. Results from a survey questioning why TV ratings for NFL games are lower this year reveal that 56% of those surveyed hold the opinion that people are turned off by the protesting during the anthem.

Maybe these are the same set of people who threw threats at Muhammad Ali during his "unpatriotic" protest and critique of the US government and the Vietnam war; maybe they would've booed Tommie Smith and John Carlos for their black-fists salute during the medal award ceremony at the 1968 Olympic games; maybe they would've howled at the framers of the U.S. Constitution who insisted on freedom of speech and press, and from the tyranny of government.
Maybe for some, institutional symbols (the anthem and flag) deserve more consideration and respect than compassion for human lives and dignity.

*Editor's Note

After the players were upset by the front office's decision to bar the singer, the Philadelphia 76ers organization has since apologized and invited Sevyn Streeter back to perform the national anthem at whichever game she choose

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Poem: Roots - For Women of The African Diaspora

Roots by Caribbean Poet Cicely Rodway 
(from her book of poems Facing The Wind; 2009)


Her roots are deep
many bloods cruise through her veins
yet she can trace with certainty
her beginnings.

She comes from a long line
of strong woman
the spirit of goddesses runs through
the spirit of earth and
sun goddesses
spirits of the elements
the forces
of life
rest in her.

Spirit of Oya
Yoruba goddess of winds
and tempests
The Strong Protectress of Women
Yes, she comes from a long line
a long line of strong women.
She springs from survivors
from enslaved women
from women
who struggled to be free.
made stronger by this history
Bathed in the power of her ancestors
strengthened by the faith
and works of sisters
she shapes the world.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Abeng Editorial: Coronated Queens

Coronated Queens
by K. Omodele @TheAbeng

I'm drawn to strong, steely queens who bend but don't break, who may crack but don't shatter; practical, can-do, will-deal-with-any-situation women; Women who throw hands akimbo and laugh in the faces of hurricanes; though a continent removed, women who gather skirts and frock tails, bend over and toil soil under sun; one empress who wheeled a truck all day, then on the refill, struggled with the over-sized nozzle at the pump, trying to earn a check that way.

Centuries ago these women would've stood up, gathered hammers, axes and saws, and built a whole girls' dorm for Old Timbuktu; would've encircled, forming council 'round Yaa Assentewaa while she cranked up.
"Since you men won't fight the British invaders, we women will fight them ourselves."
The type of women who ride, like warrior-queens Nanny, Nyabinghi, Nzinga, like Hatshepsut ruling over Egypt and Ethiopia.

Empresses whose I do's ring true through decades; whose heart-fires slow-burn, turning up in time; sisters who step up in courts pleading for brothers, cleaving to brothers, year dragging after year grieving but believing in brothers. Women of resistance who raise right fists in the air, like Assata, Andaiye, Angela and Bonita; women who stand for their men, stand with their men; sit with their men; never trailing behind but, with heads high, walking side by side with their men. Like Waiyzaro Menen, empresses who are coronated on the very same day as their Kings.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dry Cry (Revised): A Writing From Prison

Dry Cry (Revision): A Short Story
by K. Omodele copyright 2004

This is a revision of a short story I submitted as a lesson for a correspondence/self-paced writing class I took through UNC-Chapel Hill, Friday Center. The lesson was description and the assignment was to describe the student's/writer's immediate setting.

10:15 PM
I'm stuck in a block with twenty-six convicted felons who never shed no tears. Ever.
I'm not writing in my cell right now, I'm in the dayroom, a rock-hard twenty by thirty feet with a concrete-slab floor and solid-brick walls painted in more layers than make up on one of them frozen-faced geisha girls. Tables are lined in rows. Hanging in a locked, metal frame, a JVC boob tube lords down on its faithful followers. Even with earplugs, I can't drown out all the buzzing anticipation, the constant babbling and laughter leaking through as A.I. and Lebron shoot it out. A muted shout slips into my thoughts here, gasps of conversations seep through there.

Right outside the bathroom, Rasheed hangs up the wall-phone.
"Man, it's brick-cold up in Philly right now. What's up with all these warm-ass winters down South?"
His voice barely sifts through my earplugs. From my table in the back, it's like watching a drama with the volume turned way down.
'Sheed barks. "Yo Frizzle, Grab the horn."
Looking like JJ- Kid Dynomite from Good Times, Frizzle drops a pair of dice and hops on the phone. Must be calling Virginia Beach; yeah, he's cheesing bright as hell. Virginia Beach the only one can get him smiling like that.
The next man up in the dice game scoops the bones, shakes and tosses them against the wall.
'Sheed strolls over to the table right in front of mine. He meets my eyes, shakes his head, sighing under the heaviness of  bars and walls, missed birthdays and anniversaries.
I nod knowingly. Holidays are always rough up in here.

At a table to my left, Wolf and Bass shield hands from one another, dropping cards, piling and scooping them, then shuffling and dealing. Casino - every time you see them at a damn table. Bass is this ever-cool, surfer dude with skin that always looks sun burnt. Wolf is Grizzly Adams from the Mountains of West Virginia and when he opens his mouth, he sounds like a Harley, idling; smells like one too, exhaust fumes like stale Camels. Last week we jumped on him; made him hit the showers. 'Bout time for another fresh any day now.

The Uptown Saturday Night hip-hop mix on Power 98 outta Charlotte must be jumping because the younger Brothers got their headphones up on blast, doo-rags flopping, heads bopping and bouncing, while they catch the basketball game, or shoot dice or strategize over chessboards. They're spitting Jay-Z and Young Jeezy lyrics and, what the hell, I might as well pick smoking back up 'cause the room is totally fogged up - a mish-mash of Newport, Camel and Tops. My lungs are vex and I gotta suck some relief from my inhaler, quick.

Cornered up against a wall, this industrial microwave been humming morning, noon and night, ever since our holiday packages (ordered by loved ones) got hauled off a UPS truck last week. I hear The 'Ville - as in Vomitville, AKA the chow hall, looks like one of them ghost towns out a Louis L'Amour western right about now. Every few minutes the bell on the microwave DINGS and someone yells, "NEXT." The poor thing might stage a revolt any time now. Popcorn, salmon, garlic, jalapenos, sausage and cakes gang up, warring 'gainst a relentless tobacco stench.

In B-block, holidays bring a haunting like forgotten photos and left-behind toys in an abandoned building. Beneath our masks resides a longing only revealed in sunken eyes. Under cloaks of forced laughs and fake nonchalance, we hide our nakedness - our isolation from the world, and we vent this angst in raised brows, grumbles, grunts and gnashing teeth. Everything. Anything. But no tears.

Early tomorrow morning, the big and empty day, we'll rise from our bunks, methodically wash faces and routinely scrub our teeth. One by one we'll bleat, "Who got last?" for the phone. Then, when our turn finally comes around, we'll pull up a chair, burrow into the phone partition and wish our loved ones Merry this or Happy that. We'll carry on catching-up, tender conversations with family and kids. But always, with determination, we grin and smile and absolutely refuse to shed tears.
Never. Ever. Shed no tears.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Caribbean Poet Cicely A. Rodway's Worlds Away From Home

Worlds Away From Home (from her book Sunstreams and Sunsets)
by Cicely A. Rodway
Looking out at snow-capped trees
in the heart of Queens, Jamaica,
worlds away from home
yet home
the heartmind trembles,
rails at the ceilings
lowered by the
for whom the Lady's torch
does not shine bright.

In the heart of Jamaica
worlds away from home,
glimpses of possibilities
sporting chances
level fields
equal odds
dreams of undeferred dreams
fuel the need to challenge
the rigid ceilings
erected for the hounded
lowered on the shadowed
the old new prey
confined by carefully erected
low ceilings
in this new world
where the Lady's lamp shines
shines brightly
only on the chosen.

Cicely A. Rodway, Ed. D, LCSW, CASAC, is a retired English Professor of the Percy E. Sutton SEEK Program at Queens College, CUNY (City University of New York). Currently she functions in two roles: Coordinator of the SEEK Program's Academic Learning Center and the Coordinator of Vocational and Higher Education at HANDS ON Health Associates, an outpatient clinic for people in recovery in East New York, Brooklyn. A daughter of the Caribbean, she was born in St. Lucia, West Indies, and grew up in Guyana.
Sunstreams and Sunsets was published by African World Press, Inc.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The African Oral Tradition of Storytelling in Dancehall: Early B, The Doctor

        The African Oral Tradition of Storytelling in Dancehall: Early B, The Doctor
                    by Kaya Omodele 
(first published in Method Mecca Magazine for @ZigZee)

"When an old man (griot) dies, it is as if a library has burnt down." 
- African proverb

When it comes to storytelling, Early B - The Doctor had lyrics by the bag, plus style in his delivery. I've said it before, I rate a dancehall artist first and foremost by his/her lyrical content - I rate highly the artistry in spoken word. I love it when a lyricist communicates message, experience, and cultural relevance in song. And so, Earlando Arrington Neil was a modern-day griot the way he brought past events to life for his audience.

I first heard him chat back in The Eighties on one of my bredren's dancehall cassettes and I still remember how he related the story of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I's visit to Jamaica in 1966. Since I hadn't even been born back then, my only knowledge of the emperor's visiting Jamdown came from Early B because up to that time I hadn't read any account of the event.
I will never forget the year because the griot sang
"It was the year nineteen sixty-six/ when Selassie I made a visit..."
The artist's words sketched and painted the scene for me.  I saw, vividly,  the rain dripping that day, then easing up once the Emperor's plane landed. I could hear the roar of tens of thousands of people. Early B's words painted the flock of wild birds flying down, then pitching on the plane's wing before Selassie stepped out
"...with him lion an' him stick
inna him military clothes with the sword 'pon him hip..."

Later on in life when I read the details of His Imperial Majesty's visit, the written account only affirmed my mental image which was first created by the storyteller's artistry. Early B, The Doctor, had many songs I will never forget because his descriptions and timing were colorful and exciting.

Other Early B songs that tell stories:

One Wheel Wheely - Early B heralds David Weller and Xavier Miranda (Jamaican National Team Cyclists) and give drama about a crew of youth cyclists riding through town

Sunday Dish - help Early B cook his Sunday dinner; he lists every delicious thing on his menu.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Chatting Lyrics: The Oral Tradition of Storytelling

The Oral Tradition of Story Telling 
(Spoken Word in Dancehall)
By Kaya Omodele
(first published as Lyricist Chat for Method Mecca @ZigZee)

The oral tradition of storytelling is intricately woven into African culture and throughout the ages griots/djeles/jelis have relayed didactic stories, ripe with history and moral values, from one generation to the next. Since many cultures in Africa had little or no written archives, these storytellers were revered, as it was they who transmitted the peoples' history, knowledge, wisdom, and moral understanding. An essential component in African oral tradition is its integration of music, which has continued in various cultures throughout the African Diaspora.

The spoken word aspect in dancehall, calypso, soca and other genres of Caribbean music communicates message, experience, social commentary and parody, much like the griots/djeles of old. And when it comes to dancehall, I rate an artist by lyrical content, first and foremost, even more than feeling the vibes of the song. Captivate me first with spoken imagery- make me think; then, the vibes in his/her style and flow can hold me.
Now don't get me wrong, I have liked songs now and again, when the artist not really saying nuttn much, but he/her is riding the riddim with style. And sometimes a song will grow on me if the lyricist's words have a great flow; because after all, it's not just what you say, it's also how you deliver. Like:

Ting-a-ling-a-ling, school bell ring/dee-jays' ears cock-up when them hear boom riddim... - Shabba Ranking

However, I highly rate the spoken word-sound as power; and since lyricists are supposed to be masters of words, I hope dancehall artists will continue the oral tradition of storytelling. Dancehall culture should never stray from the early years when dee-jays were street commentators, reporting the mood of the people live from the street, relating their experiences and carrying the flame of the African griots, the original sounders of the oral tradition, spoken word.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Perspectives from the African Diaspora: Repatriation To Africa (The Business Climate in Africa in the New Millennium)

African Repatriation: Journey Back To The Continent
Written by Joshua Chikudo; Edited by K. Omodele @TheAbeng

Ever since I was a little boy growing up in Southern Africa, Africans have left the continent in search of so-called greener pastures abroad. These Africans had professional ambitions, sought better living conditions and wanted to explore the world. Many became doctors, lawyers, tech professionals, financial gurus, etc. But then, due to declining opportunities in their adopted countries, some were forced to accept jobs for which they were overqualified. For example, some of these Africans who migrated with advanced degrees settled for jobs as domestic helpers, chauffeurs, care givers, security guards, construction workers. In recent tears, I have seen an increasing number of these migrants returning home to Africa, raising hopes that the brain drain has been reversed.

Whereas previous policies, such as those built on socialist principles, drove away investors, today, Africa offers great economic opportunities, with better governance, improved property rights and respect for human rights.

Economic growth in the continent is expected with governments prioritizing political stability and opening free-market economies, which has in turn lured foreign investment. Of course, corruption is another major catalyst that deters foreign direct investment - by multinational companies and Africans of the Diaspora. Many citizens of African nations now welcome new, relentless anti-corruption campaigns. A noticeable example is Rwanda, East Africa, where President Kagame has introduced a one-stop solution which combines all the government agencies responsible for the investment process under a single roof, thereby reducing time loss, the possibility of corruption and other unnecessary deterrents to investment.

In East Africa, the formation  of the East African Community (E.A.C) has a potential 130 million customers. A decade (2004-2013) of 6.2 percent economic growth rate* has piqued investors' interest. American power-houses like GE and Microsoft have found new homes in East Africa, creating jobs that attract skilled workers and professional talent from the African Diaspora.

In West Africa, market growth appeals to the Diaspora community and encourages foreign investment. The market capital of the West African Regional Stock Exchange grew to US$ 15.1 billion last year, up 9% from 2014 (Wall Street Journal, 2016). The eight French-speaking countries** in West Africa that share a common currency( the CFA franc*** ) also share the stock exchange, which is based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The presence of multinational corporations has created employment, not only for locals, but also for repatriating Africans.

The Southern African Development Community (S.A.D.C) welcomes those returning Africans with open arms. Economic and infrastructural development in Mozambique, Congo and Angola have been attracting an experienced labor force of engineers, etc. Countries that had once possessed heavily-regulated economic adjustment programs have openly debated their policies and readjusted them in order to attract investors. The S.A.D.C has a potential of over 220 million consumers and now encourages free and open trade.

The North African region has experienced the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprising, which initially slowed down economical growth. The region, like much of Africa, has been hobbled by political ineptitude and corruption which contributed to migration. Egypt's government, however, has introduced reform through new investment laws that have afforded investors more protection and have created one-stop shops which eliminate long waiting periods for licenses from government agencies. Today, foreign companies are partnering with North African companies to launch joint ventures in viable markets. Such is the case with Vice Media which, in launching Viceland Africa, has created hundreds of media jobs in North Africa. (Wall Street Journal, 2016)

Because of this new, positive climate in private business sectors, Africans in and around the Diaspora are now considering repatriating. Besides the potential for economic growth in Africa, the xenophobic back lash against African immigrants combined with economic uncertainty across Europe has contributed to Africans, and African descendants, reconsidering the future.  Some have already repatriated and have begun business start-ups, thereby creating more domestic revenue and opportunities for local workers. The future for the continent is bright; the political environment is more stable than ever. The business climate of Africa in this current epoch, this age of information, is conducive to bringing in investment, especially for those in the African Diaspora.

* In the top 20 percent of "the distribution of 10-year growth rate world-wide since 1960." (IMF Working Paper African Department: How Solid Is Economic Growth in the East African Community? Prepared by Nikoloz Gigineishvili; Paolo Mauro; Ke Wang)

** Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo

***CFA - Commicaute Financiere d'Africque (Financial Community of Africa)

Joshua Chikudo began his business career in the hotel and casino industry and has over 14 years of experience in business development. He has a long and successful track record helping investors from all over the globe structure and seal investments in a number of countries in Africa, Europe and across North America. Joshua Chikudo combines extensive entrepreneurial experience in various markets with a deep commitment to rebranding and rebuilding Africa. In 2006, he created Consulting JC, a consulting firm that maintains up-to-date market analysis and data, educates clients about socio-political environments in emerging markets and developing countries while proactively seeking new opportunities. 

Mr. Chikudo is passionate about new construction technology that is durable, affordable, energy efficient, and pest- and disaster-resistant (such as Organo and Structural Insulated Panels) that provide solutions in building Africa and countries in the developing world.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Haitian Revolution (The Revolt That Birthed a Nation - Part 2)

The Haitian Revolution 
(The Revolt That Birthed a Nation - Part 2: Vincent Oge and Dutty Boukman)
                               by K. Omodele @TheAbeng

How the French Revolution Affected the Haitian Revolution

   After the French Revolution toppled the French Monarchy (King Louis XVI) in 1789*, the French National Assembly issued the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens. News of these events were carried from France, off ships and spread amongst the people of the colony of Saint Domingue, stirring hope among the oppressed and disdain among the upper classes. Then in 1791, this new, revolutionary government decreed that free, property-owning mulattos (gens de couleur) in Saint Domingue were to possess the same rights as plantation owners. Saint Domingue's Colonial Assembly (which was comprised of plantation owners of French descent) refused to accept this decree and bucked against the orders from the new French republic.

Vincent Oge and the uprising of Gens de Couleur

   The colonial plantation owners sought representation in the French National Assembly, but wanted no representation for mulatto freemen. The colony's own assembly excluded mulattos from representation, which poured gasoline on already-fuming racial tensions. In February 1791, the gens de couleur, led by Vincent Oge, rushed to arms and rebelled against the white colonials. But their revolt was quickly squashed, and Vincent Oge escaped to Santo Domingo (the Spanish side of the island). He was subsequently caught and extradited to Saint Domingue, where he was sentenced to death by the gallows. Right before he was hung, he was stretched and quartered**; then, after being hung to his death, his head was chopped off.
   But by now, the flames of insurrection had ignited. In August of that year, the slaves jumped in the fight and the revolt roared towards a full-blaze revolution for emancipation, equality and national independence.

"Dutty" Boukman - Hougan (Vodou priest)

Dutty Boukman was a vodou priest (hougan) in the northern Saint Domingue  countryside, holding clandestine meetings in secluded areas around plantations. His gatherings were intense with vodou worship and charged with talk of rebellion. Dutty Boukman preached with insight and persuasion; his mystique was powered by spiritual, esoteric rituals passed down from ancestors. 
   In Saint Domingue, many slaves were either African born, or one or two generations removed from the continent and as a result, their ties to the African motherland were still strong. Vodou priests were respected, revered as leaders, spiritual griots linking slaves to their African origin. Boukman's oratory skills captivated his audiences; and at Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman) on August 14, he incited the slaves to revolt - from rebellion to revolution to freedom.

The Haitian Revolution (The Revolt That Birthed a nation - Part 3)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Caribbean Culture: Where Does Winding Come From?

Where Does Winding Come From?
by Kaya Omodele .@The Abeng (first published in Method Mecca @ZigZee)

     A while ago, I stumbled across a website where someone was asking "How do you wine dance?" (you know, winding, wineing, wining, however you want spell winding your waistline) Then in the comments/replies, X-amount of people jumped in with they own answers, without thinking, knowing or even considering logic before opening their mouths. ;-)
     Trinis, Yardies, Bajans, GTs, people from the biggest to smallest islands, everybody claiming is they island, and their island alone, that invented winding. And what's more, nuff of them insisted their island wind the best.

     Then, somebody interjected, writing how "Africa is where the dance originated." But, that comment just sat there, unnoticed, midst the bag of noise that surrounded it. So, make me set the whole controversy straight:

     Winding didn't start with dutty wine (dutty wind) nor go-go wine nor dollar wine nor even tiny winey. There's a reason every island knows it, from Jamaica to Trinidad, down to even Bahia in Brazil; even if people perform it with different styles and in different fashions. And it's because of the one thing we all have in common, but nuff of we choose to forget.
     Africa. Africans. Yes, them - the ancestors.

African Dance

     You see, from the earliest times, dancing has played significant roles in African societies. In day to day tribal life, dances were used to ward off evil, express emotions, display fertility, ask for blessings in peace and in war, and even worship in rituals. Not to mention, dance throughout the continent was also used in celebration ceremonies such as marriage, birth and harvest. In other words, dancing affirmed life.

     African dance is distinct in some ways from dancing in other parts of the world where a dancer's entire body acts as a single unit (you ever see people waltz?). In most areas around the world, dancers are taught to keep strict lines in body flow and movement. Not so in African dancing, where the dancer is almost always moving different sections of his/her body to different counts within the rhythm itself. The movement in African dance is much more complex as the various segments of the dancer's body move in conjunction with each other.

Caribbean Dance

     Now compare this to Caribbean dancing. Notice how in dancehall a woman will move her waistline in a different timing than her shoulders and arms. Just like in soca and calypso.
      Now except for spiritual dances like Nyahbingi and Shango, the dancing most of us do here in the West is celebratory and not so much spirituality. But you can still see Africa in the winding skill Caribbean women possess.
     Some things are just imbedded in the genes. Know thyself and recognize!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Longing for, More

"I was cold and I danced to keep warm."~ Josephine Baker
"Ms. Josephine-" Kaya Omodele replies, "this is why I write."

Suffered a thousand deaths!
caged in an eight-by-ten
a bull in a pen
pacing steps, grunting
confined in concreted spaces
designed to
gut spirit from ribs
and plastic wrap thoughts
in stifling loneliness.

When Lonely oozes through
these cinderblocks
and tussles with my dreams
sucking warmth from conscience;
your photos spark the darkness
with so much soul-rousing light,
your taste lingers, sweet,
like tongue kissing time.

Though you're not here in my arms tonight
your memory I hug tight
I'm so longing for-
a hint of your scent
in that Egyptian-cotton, white sundress
wispy whispers, "Yes,"
of you.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Blessed Earthday, Rastafari

There is no night in Zion, there is no night there
HalleluJah there is no night there
Rastafari is my light
I&I need no candle light
HalleluJah there is no night there.

"Let Jah arise and let his enemies be scattered: let them that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of Jah. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before Jah: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Sing unto Jah, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Jah (Rastafari) and rejoice before him."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Abeng Tribute: A Grandmother's Love

Abeng Tribute To A Grandmother's Love
by K.Omodele@TheAbeng

My grandparents' love was pure, over half-century cured. I don't mean theirs was the definition of love because dictionaries only spurt out academic verbiage. And my Grandparents' love wasn't that rhetorical, I-love-you kind of love; words lightly strung together to be routinely regurgitated on some exam day: subject, verb, object; sometimes dangling pacifiers, sometimes carefully placed manipulators, sometimes careless whispers. My Grandparents' love was none of those.

My grandparents' love lasted a lifetime- I witnessed this myself. They really and truly were best friends for life. Ever heard  about that love-you-til-we-old-and-gray love? They had that in real life.

Sure, they sucked teeth and threw words at each other from time to time, but they were forever doting on one another. He suffered from diabetes and she was riddled with arthritis. And so, every night they had this love ritual:

Since she could see the cc marks on the syringe better than he, she'd draw his dosage of insulin for him then pass him the needle. Then, she'd drip eye drops to treat his glaucoma and gently dab the excess that leaked out his eyes. Next, he'd break out the rubbing alcohol and ICY HOT and massage all her joints - knuckles, elbows, knees, ankles - for bout a whole hour while they watched TV. Every night they loved each other up this way. I saw it with my own eyes.

Granny's love is a living, being, doing thing, natural like breathing. Like, minding* a baby grandson so his mom could properly educate herself. And like, showing him how to use a rolling pin when making roti; how to grind real scorching scotch-bonnet and blazing bird peppers to make a loving batch of fire-pepper sauce. And how to dry pepper seeds by putting them out to sun; then once dried, she told me where and how to plant them (oh sorry, "sow" them) in soil.

Granny's love never wavered. Over decades, across borders, from Berbice to NY, raising children and grandchildren, through good and tough times, it never waned.
Even when mischief was tickling her bones.
"Grandma, I'm dapper like my grandfather, right?"
"Nah Boy. When that man used to walk down The Strand, every girl and they mother stop and stare." Smiling, eyes closed, face beaming at the recaptured image. "You handsome though, close."

Growing up, I loathed bringing strain to Granny's eyes. Couldn't begin to account the amount of wrinkles I etched in her face.

- "Ow Boy. How you could do something like THAT?"
- "You hard ears or what?"
- "You don't have no shame? You mustn't treat woman like that. You wouldn't want nobody treating your sister, or mother, or daughter so."
"But Granny, you don't see how she-"
"Go and tell her you sorry! You just like your father."
- "I was washing your pants and, here, what is THIS?!" As if she didn't already know the answer. "How much for this?"
"Ten dollars, Granny."
"For this lil bit a thing? You schupid or what?" Shaking her head.
I felt smaller than that bag of weed.

My grandfather transitioned twenty-three years ago and all them years my Grandmother laughed, and cried, and chastised, and ached, and cussed Donald Trump (long before he began popping up daily on CNN); and tantalized, and cooked, and gardened; and loved me, and love us all, our whole tribe, until she was ninety-four, going on ninety-five. And in all them years, she lived her life with fullness. But I always got the feeling she was waiting to see my Grandfather again.
On July 4th, she told my aunt she was tired.
"You hear that band playing?"
"What band, Mommy??" My aunt asked.
"You don't hear it?"
Then my Granny ascended to the ancestors. Left me in a total lunar eclipse - that's when your moon gone and you're left with a black and empty night.

But I know my Grandfather's grinning now. I hope he stocked up plenty of rubbing alcohol and ICY HOT.
They're never really Gone!
Never Forgotten!
Jah Bless.

* taking care of; raising

Monday, July 11, 2016

The African Diaspora: Scenes from Cuba (Vol. I)

The African Diaspora: Cubans of African Descent

The Caribbean island Republic of Cuba is culturally both Latin American and Spanish Caribbean. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade brought Africans whose massive contributions in culture have shaped Cuban culture as a whole.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CARIBBEAN POETRY: If We Must Die by Claude McKay (Jamaican Poet and Novelist of The Harlem Renaissance)

If We Must Die
by Claude McKay

Strange Fruit

If we must die - let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die - oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

More about Claude McKay

Jamaican Claude McKay: Writer of the Harlem Renaissance

Caribbean Writer Claude McKay: Poet Laureate of the Harlem Renaissance
by Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng

Writer Claude McKay was a pre-eminent poet and novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. His experiences coming up in Colonial Jamaica in the late 1800's to the early 1900's heavily influenced McKay's writing; and his encounters with racism in America affected him deeply, just check out his defiance in "If We Must Die", one of my all-time favorite poems.

Claude McKay was born to farmers in the Jamaican countryside in 1889. In 1912 he published two books: Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads; both are volumes of poetry written in patois (Jamaican dialect patwa) and reflected McKay's belief in the resilience, self-sufficiency and strong community values shared by people of his rural Jamaica.

Claude McKay Comes to Harlem
Although migrated from Jamaica to the United States in 1912 to study agriculture at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, by 1914, he had move north to Harlem, like tens of thousands of African-Americans from the South, and immediately began writing poetry again. In 1919, he wrote the sonnet "If We Must Die"- a call to arms for African Americans to stand up to the violence being unleashed on blacks in that post World War I era. In that same year, Claude McKay became contributor and editor at The Liberator magazine.

McKay in Europe (Turns to Communism)
McKay grew angry , rebellious and increasingly more radical in his views against the oppression of blacks.  He attended the  Fourth Congress of The Third Communist International in Moscow in  1922 and by 1923 was living in Western Europe and Tangiers. But soon, he grew disillusioned by, and then became critical of, American, British and Soviet communists. By the 1930's, he abandoned communism altogether. In his vocal criticism of international communism, he never wavered in his championing of the cause of working-class blacks and never stopped bigging up the need for community development. By 1934 McKay was back in Harlem, USA, where he continued to write and publish.
The Claude McKay died in Chicago in 1948.

On June 2, 2016, in a proclamation that June had been declared National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, President Barack Obama stated "...the legacy of Caribbean Americans is one of tenacity and drive... and by carrying out Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay's call to 'strive on to gain the height/ although it may not be in sight', we can enable more young people, at home and in the Caribbean, to reach for the change that is within their grasp."*

* The Weekly Star (June 9-15, 2016 North American Ed., p.19): June Declared National Caribbean-American Heritage Month

Cooper, Wayne F.. Claude McKay: Rebel Sojourner in the Harlem Renaissance: A Biography. Baton Rouge, LA, 1987

Claude McKay's Works

Songs of Jamaica (1912)
Constab Ballads (1912)
Spring in New Hampshire and Other Poems (1920)
Harlem Shadows (1922)

Home to Harlem (1928)
Banjo (1929)
Banana Bottom (1933)

Collections of Short Stories
Gingertown (1932)

A Long Way from Home (1937)

Collection of Essays
Harlem, Negro Metropolis (1940)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Perceptions in The African Diaspora: Black History

African Diaspora 101: Black History
by K. Omodele .@TheAbeng

"It's not all that glitters is gold/and half the story has never been told..." 
~ Bob Marley; Peter Tosh

They gave the whole, entire month of February in recognition of Black History? Wow; Imagine! One problem with the whole dolly house, though; feels like somebody hand-picked history and white-washed the story with a set of sanitized plots. Now it's like viewing a cropped, air-brushed photo through a borrowed, out-of-focus lens. Our story needs narratives from our perspectives. Since, history hasn't delivered our Truth, we must demand our writers and djeles do so. (Calling all Diops, Fanons, Jan Carews and Rodneys)

You see, people's perceptions are based on our experiences and affect how we relate with each other and the world in general. As independent thinkers, our views shouldn't be founded on the mainstream; status quo views should not define our experiences for us. We must examine and discern from our experiences then propagate our own perspectives. And we don't need nobody else to validate our views.

Photo-cropped Heroes and Sanitized Plots: Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro

Take Nelson Mandela's visit with Fidel Castro, for instance. Soon after he was freed from prison in 1990, Mandela went to Cuba to meet the Cuban leader. Tata Madiba's face was beaming with reverence as he shook Castro's hand and asked why the Comrade  had not come to Africa as yet. Right then, BRADAP, a whole slew of politicians, media and Cuban exiles started ranting and railing, bawling 'bout how Mandela friending-up this "evil dictator" so. Some of us who didn't know the fullness of our story, black history, might have scratched our heads wondering the same thing.

But see! Look how history done blurred up the lens and fogged up we views. In reality, Fidel Castro supported the African fight for liberation from colonialism way back in the 1960's when Che Guevara set up camp in the then, so-called Belgian Congo; then, Mr. Castro supported Africans again in the Seventies and Eighties by sending tens of thousands of Cuban troops to Angola to fight  alongside the MPLA* against the Portuguese and an invading South African army.

Now for those of us who can't remember, in them days, Britain and the U.S. backed the racist, apartheid South African government and opposed Mandela and the A.N.C.**, branding them terrorists, subversive elements, etc. Back then, Madiba was vilified by many in the West, let's not forget. To many, he was on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, the left side of the Cold War. It didn't matter to them that he was fighting for black people's human rights, fighting against racist oppression and colonialism. And so was the MPLA.

In its December 20, 2013 edition, THE WEEK magazine reported Peter Beinert stating on that "America isn't always a force for freedom," and pointed out how Reagan and other conservatives viewed the plight of Black South Africans "through a Cold War lens," when they politically supported the murderous apartheid regime.

So see? People need to learn what's going on for ourselves and stop relying on the mainstream media to shape our views. I am not necessarily endorsing Castro nor condemning Reagan; I'm just making the point that the status quo and popular opinion are subject to change. Mandela, like Muhammad Ali, was reviled by many in the mainstream at one time. Slavery was legal in most countries at one time. Black history is our story and we must not rely on someone else to relay our stories. If we do, then expect that our perspectives might be distorted. To paraphrase The Right and Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, we need to  see the world through our own spectacles. In other words, through our own lens, in our own voice. "None but ourselves can free our minds."

*Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola
**African National Congress

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