Tag Archives: Africa

Orisha On The Horizon

The year is 1619. On a voyage across the Atlantic ocean towards Jamestown, Virginia, captured African slaves carried with them a disabling sense of loss and a nagging uncertainty about their forthcoming destinies on their journey to the new world. Among the pain these resilient people also held onto various spiritual traditions and ways of relating themselves to the world from their perspective homelands which helped them sustain some sense of sanity within the hellish conditions they were forced to endure.

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Amidst European Christian and Spanish Catholic indoctrination, enslaved West Africans who were transported to various parts of the Americas had enough dignity and audacity to secretly practice various indigenous African spiritual belief systems against the will of their captors. Most prominent of these indigenous beliefs was the worship of Orishas, a Yoruba practice known as Ifa, with origin in present-day Nigeria and surrounding areas. Ifa is a potent method for displaced Africans to rediscover their true identities, claim access to birth-right cultural memories, and empower the world with a religion rooted in humanism, ancestor reverence, and the preservation of Earth. Ifa evolved over time into several distinct spiritual systems known today as Regla De Ocha (also known as “Santeria”) in Cuba, Candomble in Brazil, and Haitian Vodou.

Ifa stands out from the reigning religions of the day, some of which encourage separatism, because of its humanistic aspect. Practitioners of Ifa place all power into the people. While the Orishas are worshipped, it is clear that they are not merely outside entities, but symbols of nature and representations of ancestors. Here is where the value lies, because unlike most European religions where energy is invested into mere ideas, Ifa seeks to empower the individual, the community, and the world at large.

The rediscovery of our true spiritual traditions, rooted in West Africa, begins with the resurrection and globalization of the Black gods known as Orishas, who were almost successfully wiped clean from the communal memory banks of enslaved African peoples by colonizers. Profoundly described by Wole Soyinka as “paradigms of existence,” the following mythical symbols are, in my opinion, the most beneficial to know: Osanyin, Oya, Oshun, and Yemaya. Each of these Orishas teaches a valuable lesson through their various stories and what they represent which can prove to be useful in the evolution of oppressed Black peoples across the globe.

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During these times of critical health crisis’s and medical apartheid within the global Black community, a proper knowledge and respect for the healing powers of nature is necessary. Osanyin, known to be the god who has dominion over wild plant life, especially herbs, serves as a bridge into ancestral medicinal wisdom. Consider him Father Nature who rules all flora and fauna. The spirit of Osanyin can be found at the core of Blacks like famous botanist George Washington Carver, urban gardener and food activist Ron Finley, and the many other “healers” around the globe. Osanyin’s ashe, or life force, peaks Black interest in the field of medicine in addition to the cultivation and nurturance of plants and herbs. All of which are needed today with the spread of HIV/AIDS, Ebola, mental health disorders, and preventable diseases like diabetes that plague the Black community.

Yemaya and Oshun are two goddesses embody the power of motherhood, protection, and hold the memories of our fallen ancestors. In the Yoruba tradition where spiritual baths and cleansings are commonplace, water, like herbs, is a constant necessity. Though both embodiments of water, each Orisha has a distinct purpose when called upon. While Yemaya reigns over the oceans, full of purifying salt water, Oshun is the essence of rivers and fresh waters.

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It is widely known that Black women are among the most oppressed and disrespected individuals in the world. “Misogynoir,” a term coined by Myo Bailey, is used to describe how racism coupled with misogyny specifically affects Black women. Faced against powerful forces such as racism and misogynoir, the goddess image can be extremely empowering for Black women of the Diaspora. Yemaya and Oshun are not passive mothers. They can be gentle, but are fierce protectors of women and children. These goddesses, as well as Oya, divinity that guards the cemetery, are warrior spirits who not only give birth to nations, but are just as powerful as their male counterparts. Having female warrior goddesses to turn to in moments of strife and hopelessness, for Black women, can prove to be affirming and earn them proper respect from all others.

Ifa is a beautiful religion rich in ritual and adornment, but what’s most important is the devotee’s connection to spirit, the earth, and a respect for the past. Ifa forces its followers to open up to the worldwide community, being a religion of undoubted acceptance and care of fellow man, regardless of sex, gender, religious affiliation, or race. At the core of worship, Ifa would be most rewarding as a dominant force in the world because of its promotion of healing, loving, and respect, for self and others. As a people so stricken with pain, these Yoruba religious practices maintained and taught by those dragged unwillingly across the Atlantic ocean, provide for Black people a home in foreign lands.

Change is spreading across the Diaspora like germinated seeds blowing in wind produced by Oya, searching for fertile ground in which to settle. My ancestors and I share a common surety about the rising of the Orishas, who, like the Costus Spectabilis, are destined to flower in the minds and spirits of reawakening oppressed peoples.

FW.289 Yellow Trumpet, Costus spectabilis, N Zambia

The Music & Metaphysics of Sun Ra

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Sun Ra, the “godfather” of Afrofuturism in music and pioneer of the genre “free jazz,” is in a league of his own. His large body of creative work and personal style speaks directly to the souls of Black folks everywhere, seeking to use art as a platform for Black liberation. With the help of his Intergalactic Myth-Science Solar “Arkestra” (see: band), Sun Ra used free jazz, old Egyptian symbols, and “far out” ideologies concerning the state of Black identity in his 1974 film “Space Is The Place,” which is a total embodiment of what Afrofuturism is all about. Through his eccentric costumes, Afrocentric radical thought, and almost incompressible “transmolecular” sounds, Sun Ra takes his followers on a journey of “imagining possible futures through a Black cultural lens.” (Ytasha Womack)

In the film “Space Is The Place,” what first catches the eye of viewers is Sun Ra’s stand-out appearance. This alone speaks volumes for the energy this man brings through his artistry. By looking at him dressed as the Ancient Egyptian god Ra, you’re immediately taken back to a time when Black ruled the world. Sun Ra’s alternate universal appearance brings the past and possible futures to the present in an attempt to spark both memory and possibilities into the mind of Blacks here on Earth. The film begins with Sun Ra descending from space in spaceship which unifies with the yellow cape and Sun crown worn atop his head. At first glance this is both shocking and exciting for the viewer. His style, in my own words, can be best described as ancient Egyptian Pharaoh meets futuristic space alien. He is clearly not of this planet, as he won’t let us forget throughout the remainder of the film.

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            Sun Ra totally rejects Earth as his home. In an attempt to escape the rigidness of racist white supremacist societies and the many stereotypes forced upon him and his people, he takes the form of an intergalactic god. Bound by no definition or ideology that isn’t his own, he returns to Earth to square off with his arch nemesis “the overseer,” who is an amalgamation of Black archetypes, specifically the Black man as “pimp,” which were commonplace in most Blaxploitation films during the movie’s release. Sun Ra’s god portrayal was an alternative challenge to this archetype. He rejected racist white lens of his Black being and defined himself as “the altered destiny; the presence of the living myth.”

In addition to a bold, eccentric, style and an autonomous definition of self, Sun Ra’s main goal while on Earth was to free those “ghetto” Blacks who couldn’t escape the many labels they were caged by. He teleported into a recreational room filled with “good time” Black youth in an attempt to reach them by countering their accusations of him as “unreal” by confirming:

I am not real, just like you in this society. You don’t exist. If you did your people wouldn’t be seeing equal rights…You’re not real. If you were you would have some status among the nations of the world. So we’re both myth’s…I came from a dream that the Black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a present sent to you by your ancestors.

In this message to his people, Sun Ra forces the youth to think critically about their place in society. He challenges their ease in the identities bestowed upon them by the white man and urges them to be the natural creators they were born to be. In a sense he is saying “you don’t matter here, on this planet, anyway, so why not be whatever you want to be.” This stream of afrofuturist thought is one of the most standout scenes in the film, for it is the crux of Sun Ra’s “job” there on Earth.

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            Sun Ra’s music, much like the language he uses throughout this film, is seemingly nonsensical. He continues the traditional use of coded language Blacks have used for centuries as a tool of communication and survival in order to confuse the listening ears of slavers and government agents looking to infiltrate any plans of liberation. One could describe the sounds of his free jazz genre as purely improvisation. He seems to make up notes and sounds and compilation of the two as he goes along to make the statement that as a free Black, not bound by Earth, he can do as he pleases and present himself in his own choice. Likening himself to the wind, viewers can better grasp the radical essence of Sun Ra’s artistry when he makes the powerful statement of “I, the wind, come and go as I choose, and none can stop me.”

With such powerful messages from both past and the future, one begs the question of where an artist like Sun Ra emerges from. From my viewpoint, he is afrofuturism in the flesh, in that he lives and breathes this “kingdom of darkness and Blackness [where] none can enter except those of the Black spirit.” A kingdom where “nothingness” and boundless sound waves reign supreme in a land, similar to Kemet, where Black is free to just be.

Watch the Brilliant film below to get a better understanding of the “other world” in which Sun Ra dwells:

Foods & Habits to Maintain Radiant Melanin.

As children of the Sun, “melanated” peoples have an inherent glow that needs to be maintained. With the consumption of daily Sun, whole foods, and a useful skin care regime, this natural glow of “Black gold” will effortlessly shine. BlackHealth365 introduces foods and methods Black people can use to help maintain the natural beauty of their skin:

The Importance of Sun Exposure:

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Melanin is the pigment in our skin which makes humans the different hues we have come to be. It’s also present in the hair, eyes of not only us, but other species of animals. It is responsible for the tanning of skin exposed to sunlight. As people of African descent we have some of the highest content of melanin. In places closest to the equator, where sun exposure is more prominent, the people of such lands harbor a darker hue, giving them this glow of “Black gold” raved about. Melanin is produced as a response to UV ray exposure from the sun, so it is essentially protection from the harmful aspects of the life-giving ball of heat. The more melanin you have, the better protected you are from the sun’s harmful UV rays. This also means that in order to get essential vitamins from the sun, like the essential vitamin D, it is important for people of color to spend ample amount of time in the Sun on a daily basis. Sun rays contain rare dosages of Vitamin D, which provides humans with minimal free radical damage and maintains skin moisture and even tone.

Black people with a medium to darker hue are recommended to spend at least 35-45 minutes daily in the sun. For extra protection & moisture during time of exposure, apply either shea butter, coconut oil, or aloe vera gel on skin instead of chemical-laden, harmful sunscreens.

Foods For Skin Health:

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There are many foods that aid in the maintenance of beautiful skin. These are normally fruits high in vitamins A, E & beta-carotene or fatty nuts like almonds that the expansive organ loves. Here are a list of 10 foods to consume which are loaded with the vitamins & minerals necessary to promote beautiful skin:

1. spinach
2. mangoes
3. papaya
4. sweet potatoes/yams 5. raw almonds
6. aloe vera juice
7. carrots
8. blueberries
9. avocados
10. pomegranates

The best way to receive the nutrients from these foods listed is by way of smoothie drinks! This way the nutrients enter the bloodstream easier and can be sorted through the body accordingly without the added task of having to be broken down in the digestive system. In addition to these skin health boosting foods, water is a MUST for attaining beautiful skin. You can also add antioxidant-rich teas (green teas) & fatty fishes like salmon to your regular eating regimen to feed skin cells.

Hygiene Habits:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 7.28.46 PMThis goes without saying, but showering on a daily basis, at least once a day is a must. Skin requires water nourishment inside and moisture provided on the outside. Going through this world filled with germs and bacterias, and harmful chemicals lingering in the air, especially those of us who live in cities, it is imperative that we wash that off our organ every day. In addition, remember that skin is a detoxifying organ, meaning it releases toxins collected within the body through the skin. You need to wash those toxins off or else they’ll linger on the skin and cause possible unwanted bumps & marks. You also want to incorporate sugar or coffee scrubs into to hygiene regimen to scrub off dead skin cells and help maintain your melanated casing’s youthful radiance.

Raw unrefined African Black soap is recommended for daily deep cleansing of the skin. This natural soap not only works better than commercial soaps filled with skin drying chemicals, such as Dove, but it cheaper, rich in real nutrients, and lasts longer. I, personally, use raw unrefined African black soap for facial and body cleansing.

 

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Keeping the skin moisturized on a daily basis is very important! Throughout the day the skin gets dry from movement an exposure to the outside world and needs replenishing. The best time to give the skin moisture it needs is right after a shower or nice bath. Literally as you’re soaking wet out of the shower, apply coconut oil (my favorite) or a shea/mango/avocado butter mixture of some sort and let it air dry into your
skin. Towels drying is unnecessary unless you want to pat dry. An ideal skin oil mixture for appliance after bathing would be a mix of vitamin e oil, almond oil, and coconut oil. I only typically use heavier butters in my hair or during “dry seasons” like winter.

 BlackHealth365 Recommended products:

-organic cold pressed and unrefined coconut oil
-raw unrefined African black soap
-Nubian heritage soaps or other shea butter/vegetable glycerin based soaps
-whipped Shea butter (belle butters, Whipped, or your own homemade mixture)
-vitamin e oil
-almond oil
-brown sugar or black coffee to make scrubs

Following these suggestions will guarantee an improvement in the health of your skin and will surely make melanin shine bright! We must not forget that the skin is also an organ and needs to be fed to be at its best, like every other organ in the body. Remember, if it’s not safe to ingest then it isn’t safe to put on the skin. The skin absorbs so if you’re loading it with chemicals, these same harmful agents will eventually end up inside your body. You don’t want that. Eat right, drink PLENTY of water, spend quality time outside under sun, wash daily, and moisturize and you will glow like the child of the Sun you are!

Half of A Yellow Sun: Week 1 Synopsis.

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Week 1 brings us character development, plot placement, and conflict like no other! In the first chapters we have already faced some issues and learned things about these people that would be panned out and developed over a long series of pages in other books. For this book we are story lining our entire discussion on twitter and it is available to view here! https://storify.com/AfroMadu/half-of-a-yellow-sun-discussion-1-jul-23-2014 If you haven’t participated on twitter with us, we HIGHLY recommend that you read the story line of the discussion first and then our synopsis to get the full experience of week 1!

Summary of Points:

Ugwu’s class shock: It is very interesting to know that only a few blocks away from Ugwu’s village, his new place of employment overwhelms him with modern day technology and a whole new world of professionals, education, and space to discover and explore a life beyond his village. Ugwu’s class shock is super important in this book because it allows us to realize some class privilege that readers have when Ugwu is amazed by libraries and refrigerators. This grants us perspective to how things were during the 60’s in Nigeria and the historical context behind house servants and help around the “richer”.

Dynamics between Ugwu and Odenigbo: Not only did Odenigbo hire the small boy as a house maid, but it is clear that Odenigbo is dropping gems and becoming a fatherlike figure to Ugwu as well. Despite the casual barks and rude comments that are said and demanded when it comes to Ugwu’s job, moments where there are room for intellectual growth, Odenigbo uses his profession and privilege to uplift Ugwu and grant him opportunities. Enrolling him into school, for one, shows the readers that Ugwu is not going to be an ordinary houseboy. What a cool benefit package! 

Subliminal political plug-ins: Adichie has a way with words! the dialogues that are held within the characters aren’t just regular conversations that need to be dismissed during this time. Every conversation is definitely needed for us to understand Nigerian history and other international conflicts during the sixties. This is not an ordinary tale. We are learning about the characters but is being taught about events during that time as well. Conflicts between the Nigerian tribes and European influence seems to leak out of these pages, giving us more insight on race relations and inequalities.

Plot twisting Olanna and company: Just when Ugwu was getting into the swing of life at the home front, Odenigbo’s girlfriend Olanna is in the picture. Not only is she gorgeous, but the amazing love story begins to heighten this book to the next level. Odenigbo and Olanna’s beautiful energy is definitely a breath of fresh air for this story and her family history and drama is very fun to see unfold as well. Things like the small rivalry between Olanna and her sister Kainene, Olanna’s minimalistic ideology while her parents wants to force her into a lifestyle of materialism and credentials, and the search for Kainene’s love life is a great way to enter more people into this beautiful story mix. 

European perspective: Just when we thought drama would be casted onto the characters in the first two chapters, chapter three smacks us in the face with White privilege and stereotypical Whites in Nigeria. We are introduced to the small crowd of colonialistic, (yea, we made that word up) assholes that enjoy deeming Nigerians as barbaric people rather than the human beings that they are. Adicihie’s way of reminding us that there are in fact “those people” who will not allow the country to prosper. We are introduced to Richard, another important character in another important developing love story between him and Kainene. Yes, an interracial couple in Nigeria during the 60’s.

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Chapters 4-16 is up for this week, and although those are a lot of pages to tackle, this book is definitely worth it. Dig deep, and read up on it! You will benefit from it when we are all discussing what went on in those chapters. Keep reading! See you during the end of the week!  

 

I’m Too Sexy For My Farm.

images-149Research by various institutions, such as the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) suggests that global food demand will increase significantly in the next 30 to 40 years. Population growth is expected to be the main driver behind forecasted global food demand; which is reckoned to reach about 9 billion by 2050, with 6 billion being the developing countries.

At this time, the greater number of people are likely to be wealthier, hence creating demand for various value added, high quality (nutritious) products. The positive thing is that South Africa and other African fast growing economies such as Nigeria, Angola, and Botswana etc are more likely to be part of the countries with large middle-class population, hence high demand. South Africa and Nigeria are large African economies and likely to continue experiencing a high level of urbanisation; and of-cause putting increased pressure to agriculture (high population growth and demand).

However, the best part of knowing these expectations is that large part (more than 65%) of African population is under the age of 30. This gives hope that Africa can be the next economic powerhouse in the world. Nevertheless, given the historic incidences of the continent, which most are still visible even today, developing Africa will need inspired, motivated young Africans. Most African countries largely depend on Agriculture. Given the land availability and the expected global demand, that makes agriculture a cornerstone to development.

It should be acknowledged that currently, there’s a wide range of barriers to land accessibility, almost in all African countries. One of the problems that should also be highlighted, at the same time being the motivation behind this treatise is attitudes, “young African’s attitudes towards agriculture; Yes, food production”.

Having had conversations with many young Africans and bringing the subject of agriculture on the table, the attitude that one experiences are those of “I’m too sexy to be a farmer, to be in agriculture”; some people usually utter those words while having beer etc, forgetting that what they are eating, drinking, wearing is actually agriculture.

The reason behind this behaviour is the confusing of thinking that anything agricultural is “cows, tractors etc”, young people forget that agriculture needs scientist, economists, etc that are mainly trained to focus on agricultural issues.

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However, this treatise does not intend to point fingers or anything negative but to open conversation about African future, and the opportunities that she has for her people and the world. Given, African population is younger than the age of 30, this is a right time to re-think the way agriculture is viewed, inspire more to get involved, learn and get ready to feed the world. Thomas Jefferson ones wrote “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness” , lets always keep these words close as we move forward to better Africa.

With such greatness ahead, “I should say, it feels good to be an AFRICAN and I’m too sexy for my farm.

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Wandile Sihlobo is a South African Economist and the International Afromadu Editor; his main interests are Agribusiness, International Trade and Public Economics. 

NON AUX PÉDÉS (“No to Fags”) in Côte d’Ivoire

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Recently, workers at the Alternative Côte d’Ivoire off are being attacked my mobs of people opposed to the LGBTI community. Alternative Côte d’Ivoire is an organization working for the rights of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex) community living with HIV. Just last week alone their director, Claver Touré, and the main office were attacked leaving a few people injured. Not only are these committed workers afraid of another mob attack but have gone into hiding. When will the world learn that each individual needs to be treated as they would want someone to treat them?

Book Review: Sister Citizen.

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Ever read a book that made you reevaluate your life because of the factual information it discussed? Black women! Melissa- Harris Perry’s thought-provoking book CAREFULLY weeds out the problem with Black women and their issues of trying to fit into a society that labels us as second-class citizens. Harris-Perry makes claim that our experiences in society has a DIRECT correlation in politics. 

At first, I was a bit apprehensive in reading a book that compared my experiences (as a Black woman) to the political system, but every detail and argument was super right in the evaluation of Black women trying to readjust in a “crooked room” (you will understand once you read). Each chapter showed real-life events that occurred in a 5-year span that depicted Black women being victimized or scrutinized, and how those events also linked backed to these “second class citizens”. Things like the “Mammy”, “Jezebel”, and “Strong Black Woman” stereotypes are also discussed, arguing that ALL labels are simply a way to gain recognition in a place where Black women are silenced.

It is interesting to have a  book that helps you understand the adversities that are faced from Melissa Harris-Perry, who is a Black women. It allows you to think differently and critically about the conversations that are talked about in your daily life, along with incidents and scenarios that happens on the news and even in your surroundings.

I don’t want to give the book away too much, but this book set the tone for understanding history, contemporary issues, and the problems we face, as Black women if we don’t dissect the many issues that follow. Feeding into stereotypes, or even trying to steer away from stereotypes will both be detrimental to Black women in America. 

AfroMadu, as always, challenges our viewers to read! If you read this book, or want to tell us about a book that you read, email us at afromadu@gmail.com. Let the world know what you’re reading!