Tag Archives: womanism

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

Book Review: The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie.

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A contemporary book that captures Black life in the South from a prominent time of Black migration. Each chapter delivering different themes and common concerns that Black people face in their everyday lives. Living through the characters and their moments of triumphs. Finding a truer value of love and the dimensions it takes on. What book does all of this? This one, of course.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie not only made me feel as if I could possibly be the thirteenth tribe (in a creepy allegorical sense), but it was a great book to read and dive into. This book not only showed the impact of self-esteem and love, but through the perspective of family and how love has an effect on future generations.

The book starts off with tragic deaths that lay the foundation of how the story will develop throughout the book. Hattie, the main character, and the mother of the dead children, is shown through each chapter from their adolescent years, illustrating the impact that her actions had on the different characters in each chapter. I don’t want to give the book away too much, because each chapter shows the characters in their rarest forms. Each chapter is FILLED with topics on religion, sexuality, infidelity, womanhood, mental disorders, and soooo much more.

There are many observations and themes that are represented in this book. Womanhood, more importantly is very interesting to look at in Hattie. With the main character being the center of this book, every other character is seen to be a burden on Hattie’s back. If haven’t eleven children isn’t enough, the struggle that Hattie goes through (without barely mentioning) depicts the strong, but very weak, complex woman Hattie is in the text.

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Ayana Mathis, thank you for writing a book that can be so melodramatic but impactful at the very same time. Living in a book and feeling like I was in the story is beyond creative, as a novelist; to be able to make a reader feel as such.

Not really a book review but for a call to actually go out and get you a copy! I tried my hardest to not give ANYTHING in the book away, solely because I want our viewers to go ahead and read it!

Have you read it already? Tell us what you think about it in the comments below!

Guest Submission: Women’s Disciplines.

Author and scholar, Alice Walker, shed light on a discipline that made Black women feel at the center. There are two disciplines, which are broken into two parts, feminism and womanism. Womanism was first coined by Walker in a narrative essay entitled “Womanism: Coming Apart.” In 1983, Walker went into depth further when she explained just exactly who the womanist is.

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Each of the disciplines can be problematic for some. For an example, feminism falls into two categories [white] feminism and Black feminism. Womanism is also broken down into womanism, coined by Walker and Africana womanism, which was coined by Clenora Hudson-Weems. Each of the disciplines have stated the problem, as most disciplines do. Feminism is problematic on so many different levels because although there were Black women who were the first feminists, the construct like many others faced a “manifest destiny.” This meaning that the ideology was removed and stripped by white supremacist though or the social construct of whiteness. 

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When white feminists first began their movement, many of them were abolitionists. Even then, the white abolitionists within the slave period had no understanding that slavery was not the overall issue. Our history has taught us that. Humanity was an even larger issue. Once enslaved Africans were freed they were exposed to another world of problems thanks to what whiteness represented.  Black women were not included into the [white] feminist conversation. Why? Black women, the African woman had agency over herself before slavery, during slavery and after slavery. Enslaved Africans viewed their slaveowner’s wives as defenseless creatures. Even in enslavement, the African woman, knew and recognized her role and how important that would be for her people. Slavery, never allowed for her to lose sight of that. Feminism appeared to be more about working, something that African women were already breaking their backs to do, identity, something that African women were consciously aware of because of the extreme trauma that they faced, and being in the white man’s shoes, which was not a desire of the AFRICAN woman. Therefore, in so many ways many both men and women of African descent view feminists who not only identifies the man as the enemy within our patriarchal society, but within the same breath actually desires to wear his shoes. 

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Alice Walker states in “Womanist” (1983) that the womanist is “committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female.” The question must be asked does feminism do the same thing in both white and Black disciplines? Walker also states that a  womanist is “wanting to know more and in greater depth than considered “good” for one.” This means, that the Black woman is concerned about Black people and not just Black women. She values and loves the Black woman “sexually and/or nonsexually,” but also has this same feeling for the Black man. A womanist has an understanding that we have faced so much together as a people, that it would make no sense within a white supremacist society to identify one another as the enemy. Who is the enemy? What white men and white WOMEN represent is the enemy to the discipline of womanism. Whiteness is the enemy. Walker when she coined womanism did have every intention on the attempt to support Black feminists, because they are our sisters. Hudson-Weems felt as though womanism was still too much similar to the discipline of feminism. Africana womanism, chooses to identify the homeplace, which is Africa. Not only is Africana womanism about agency as women, it is about the agency of being African. Womanism and Africana womanism has many differences, but they both target “whiteness” as the ultimate issue, because of the collective social injustices that we face in this world.

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-Melanie “CoCo” McCoy