Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Community of Africatown

I am always fascinated by the all Black communities African Americans have built over the years. It means that we are capable of coming together economically to build something of our own and have been doing so for some time now. Communities like Black Wall Street, Rosewood, Blackdom and Israel Hill are examples. To learn of more communities, visit a recent post 7 Black Communities that Prospered.

To add to that list, I’d like to talk today about Africa Town, a place I didn’t know about until it has recently made news after suing an industrial plant claiming it released toxic chemicals linked to cancer.

On this day, March 2, 1807, The U.S. Congress passed an act to “prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country”, banning the Slave Trade. A group of slaveholders then, made a bet that they could still import slaves and could do so without being caught. 110 Africans (Israelites) from the Yoruba Tribe from the interior of Nigeria were taken and held captive aboard the Clotilda, allegedly the last slave ship to bring captives from Africa to America. Led by Timothy Meaher, a shipbuilder and landowner, the ship made it to the port of Alabama in July of 1860. The slaves were removed from the ship and put on a steam river boat and the Clotilda was burned to hide the evidence.

The enslaved were divided between the men who had made the bet but they eventually got caught. Federal Authorities prosecuted the men but the 1861 federal court case of US v. Byrnes Meaher, Timothy Meaher and John Dabey was thrown out because of lack of evidence. After the Civil War Meather freed his slaves and allowed them to work his property. This is the beginnings of the community of Africatown.

The city of Mobile’s Africatown Neighborhood Plan, a blueprint for revitalization and preservation prepared in 2015 and 2016, offers a quick summary of what came next for the community:

“Working in local shipyards and mills, they saved money to buy land including some from their former owners. African Town originally included a 50-acre community in the Plateau area and a smaller one, Lewis Quarters, which consisted of seven acres over a mile to the west of the larger settlement. Lewis Quarters was named after one of its founders, Charlie Lewis. The settlers appointed Peter Lee as their chief and established a governmental system based on African law.

The residents of African Town built the first school in the area. In 1872 they built Old Landmark Baptist Church, which is now Union Missionary Baptist Church. While the community retained much of their West African culture, construction of the church signaled the conversion to Christianity of many of the Africans. They were a tight-knit community known for sharing and helping one another but reportedly had tense relations with both whites and African Americans and so largely kept to themselves.”

Personally, I wish they had stuck with their West African Culture (which is largely Israelite Culture) as many West African Tribal Nations (such as the Yoruba, Congo, and Ashanti) still maintain the laws of the Old and New Testament apart from Christianity. After emancipation, the group reunited from various plantations, bought land, and founded Africatown. They ruled it according to ancient Biblical laws, spoke their own language and insisted on using their original names.

“A Press-Register reviewer wrote of Diouf’s findings: “The old interviews make abundantly clear that Lewis and his comrades were terrified and traumatized by their kidnapping and trans-Atlantic voyage. Their life in Alabama was very difficult, first for a few years as slaves and then in freedom. Not only did they have to contend with prejudice from whites, but their black neighbors considered them to be oddities who were crude, fierce and inscrutable.

Despite the challenges, Africatown’s story is too special to be lost. In fact, it recently was catapulted back to national attention via an unexpected connection on the PBS geneology show “Finding Your Roots.” In one episode the influential musician and author Amir “Questlove” Thompson learns that his personal family heritage includes an ancestor, Charles Lewis, who was taken aboard the Clotilda and became one of Africatown’s founders.

Where the Clotilda’s story ended, Africatown’s began

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis; the last known survivor of the Clotilda, the oldest slave on the ship and also a chief. Details of this interview has been compiled in a never-before-published work by Hurston by Amistad Publishing called Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo. (A Barracoon is a type of barracks used historically for the temporary confinement of slaves or criminals.) Another book about Africatown is Sylviane A. Diouf’s Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America. The book is the Winner of the 2007 Wesley-Logan Prize of the American Historical Association, the 2009 G. Sulzby Award of the Alabama Historical Association and a 2008 finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

Today, Africatown is struggling with the new attention it’s getting from the discovery of pieces of the ship and the pollution to the air of what residents are saying is causing cancer. “Hosea O Weaver & Sons, an asphalt manufacturer, backs up on to some residents’ properties and is a business that has recently caused most concern. On days when trucks are leaving the plant, some have covers and some don’t have any. If you have a north wind the dust is everywhere,” said Varner. “It gets everywhere and you have to breathe it in.” (Christopher Harress)

Residents of Africatown see it as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, those companies provided jobs for the community and the town flourished economically. However, this also meant dealing with the noise and pollution. Though, according to one of the community’s leaders, environmental concerns are less of a worry now.

“Pollution has been an issue for over 100 years in Africatown, but at this particular time we’re moving to a more clean air environment because we lost some of the contributing forces, like the International Paper Company and all kinds of sawmills, and things of that nature,” said Cleon Jones, Africatown’s community leader and former New York Mets player. “We still have Kimberly Clark but they don’t process wood the way they used to. Our big fight has been against the oil companies, but I think that’s all in compliance now, according to the city and state. It’s always been about creating a buffer between our town and the companies, the noise, pollution, trucks.”

Advertisements

Black History Fun Fact Friday – How I Almost Learned an African Language

Welcome back to another Black History Fun Fact Friday. Technically, I am still doing research on the article I had hoped to finish in time for you today. (I am actually sitting here trying to finish it.) Instead of publishing anything, I am going to push it back to next week. However, I don’t want us to miss out on any episodes! So, with Black Panther as the latest craze, here is how I almost spoke an African language. (This is also a lesson in not giving up!)

When I was in College I mistakenly signed up for a Twi class. I walked around my house repeating “aane”, “dabi” to my husband (then boyfriend) like my cousin did in first grade when he learned to spell cat, house, and dog for the first time. I eventually dropped the class but I still remember “aane” and “dabi” which means: “yes- aane” and “no-dabi”. Twi is a dialect of the Akan language spoken in Ghana by about 6–9 million Ashanti people as a first and second language. I had no idea.

The Ashanti Empire was a powerful Akan empire and kingdom in what is now modern-day Ghana and they were rich in gold (i.e. The Gold Coast). According to Wikipedia:

“The name Asante means “because of war”. The word derives from the twi words asa meaning “war” and nti meaning “because of”. This name comes from the Asante’s origin as a kingdom created to fight the Denkyira kingdom.

The variant name “Ashanti” comes from British reports that transcribing “Asante” as the British heard it pronounced, as-hanti. The hyphenation was subsequently dropped and the name Ashanti remained, with various spellings including Ashantee common into the early 20th century. An alternative theory is that the name derives from the Hindi word Shanti, meaning peace, the opposite of which is Ashanti, meaning war.”

Ashan was also the name of a city located in southern Israel. The word Ashan in Hebrew means “smoke” “smoke city” or “burning city” which makes Ashanti “the people of Ashan or the people of the smoke city”. This was a reference to the city of Ashan after the Israelites took it over during the conquest of Canaan (1 Ch 4:32, 1 Ch 6:59) but that’s not all. The Ashanti people also had many Hebrew customs and traditions as part of their way of life. For example, for eight days after the birth of a child, the Ashanti mother is considered unclean. It is only on the eighth day that the child receives his/her personal name, and on the 40th day, a still further ceremony has to be observed. This mirrors Leviticus Chapter 12. Further, the Ashanti women were also unclean during their menstrual cycles as instructed in Leviticus 15:19-20.

In brief, the Ashanti were an organized and disciplined people who spoke both Akan or Twi and I sometimes wish I’d endured the class a little while longer. In 1701 Osei Kofi Tutu, chief of the small Akan city-state of Kumasi helped form the Ashanti Empire by unifying other Akan groups under the Golden Stool which is the Ashanti Seat of Power. He unified the people and conquered several other neighboring states, expanding the Ashanti wealth, power and influence.

If ever you have an opportunity to do something, do it! Even if you don’t end up liking it, there is still something you may learn from it in some way. You can also mark it off your bucket list as something you did.  Although I only know two words, it still feels awesome to say: “I know how to say yes and no in Twi!”

6 Reasons the Black Panther Movie is Popular (and it’s not even out yet)

Black Cast

  • 90% of the cast members are Black. This isn’t a racial thing. It’s just that people are tired of seeing movies where the heroes are white. Even biblical movies refuse to reflect the real identity of the people who lived in that time. The Samson movie is also about to come out but Samson was not white. It’s not about skin complexion it’s just a fact, the people of the Bible were Black.

Warriors, Not Slaves

better

  • The Black people in the movie are not slaves, maids, housekeepers, and farmers (though there’s nothing wrong with farming, just saying). The Black people in this movie are warriors, Kings, and Queens.

Women Warriors

MLD-24055_R.JPGblack-panther-character-poster-slice-600x200

  • The Panther women go just as hard as the men without losing their femininity. They are supportive of their men, smart, fierce and they are fighters. Not to mention a showcase of the women’s natural beauty. I love how (far as the trailers go since the movie is not out yet) the movie shows them being beautiful while swinging those swords.

Historical

  • The Panther’s first appearance happened during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and I am sure the newscasts that showed Black Americans getting brutalized by police was a motivator for Marvel. This movie Black Panther comes at a  sensitive time politically which further makes it reminiscent of revolutionary movements in Black History such as Huey Newton’s Black Panther Party For Self-Defense and Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, both of which promoted the freedom of the so-called Black people.

DEomw_qXcAA4-3l

Educational

  • Speaking of history, Black Panther is educational for today’s youth, many of whom know nothing of the Black Panthers of the 60s, Marcus Garvey of the 20s or anyone of or before the era. The release of this movie at this time, therefore, makes it easier to start conversations about Black History (especially being it releases February) and inspires liberation among Black people in general. The men and women even have accents reflective of their “African” heritage. When you’ve spent nearly 400 years being afflicted and not seeing positive representations of yourself in textbooks, on television, in schools etc., it makes it difficult to have a positive image of yourself as an individual. My hope is that Black Panther delivers and helps to spark a resurgence of consciousness among Black youth.

Empowering

black-panther-1920x1080-cast-marvel-comics-2018-4k-10763

  • Wakanda is empowering and reminiscent of the Israelite nation (not a race of Blacks but a nation of people) and their position as rulers. It represents everything we could be if we embrace who we truly are. This movie, if done right, is not just a movie, it is a biblically powerful representation of Israel on the top and not the bottom for once. The birth of a nation and the rise of a people. It is our time.

About Black Panther

After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

Yecheilyah is an author, blogger and poet. Be sure to pick up your copy of I am Soul, her latest collection of poetry on Amazon.

Slavery in Libya

Deu 28:68 “And YAH shall bring you back to Egypt in ships, by a way of which I said to you, ‘You are never to see it again.’ And there you shall be sold to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one to buy.

“The United Nations (UN) revealed on Wednesday that hundreds of migrants from Nigeria and other West African countries passing through Libya enroute Europe are being bought and sold in what it described as modern-day slave markets before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.”

I haven’t had the chance to sit down and share my thoughts on the slavery taking place in Libya. I usually take my time with such things. I don’t want to echo what everyone else is saying or jump on bandwagons. I want to be logical, spiritual, and develop my own thoughts about it so I’ll just keep this short until then.

If you are new to what’s going on, The Slave Trade has basically reopened and Israelites, so-called Blacks / Africans, are being taken back into captivity throughout Libya. You can catch up on what’s going on HERE   and HERE.

Since I started this blog I’ve spoken about Slavery, the Enslaved and the horrors of this time. I talk a lot about The Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow, Police Brutality, and the overall mistreatment of Blacks in America and the mistreatment of Blacks period. For three years now I’ve tried to give as much historical information as I am able to inform you of these things and in return, I get people who are tired of hearing about slavery. Tired of seeing movies and TV shows and reading books where slavery is present. We believe it is an eyesore that must be covered up and hidden underneath our beds. We want to forget about this time and sugar-coat the details. And when good men seek to help those who need it they are called dictators and thus removed from power.

Few people know that Khadafi tried to help Blacks in Libya before his death. He wanted to protect them and for this, he was called a dictator and killed while American’s cheered their ignorance in front of TV screens that told them lies. (Wag the Dog is a good movie on how TV often controls our perception of reality.)

If there is one thing we should know about slavery is this: At least we knew we were slaves and fought collectively for freedom. Today, we think we are free so we don’t fight anymore. It usually takes us to experience something as traumatic and tragic as this for us to understand and realize where we stand not just in America but all over the world.

While what’s going on in Libya is heartbreaking, I hope that finally, we can see why these stories are worth telling and why these reminders are still necessary. I keep saying there’s nothing new under the sun, that what has been done is what will be done, and that we should not be shocked but to pay close attention to what’s going on in the world. Our eyes may very well witness more tragedy and our hearts more pain.

(FYI: Black History Fun Fact Friday continues next week….been busy but I haven’t forgotten.)

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Crossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda Edited by Christopher Conte

Title: Crossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda

Editor: Christopher Conte

Print Length: 180 pages

Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1507680228

Publication Date: August 30, 2015

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ASIN: B014QBPALM

*I was gifted a copy of this book by the editor*

Crossroads is a fascinating anthology comprising autobiographical essays by several Ugandan women. I loved the opportunity to learn more about the Ugandan culture and the upbringing of African women and how it is different (and in many ways similar) from the upbringing of Black women here in America. Rarely do we hear of what these women endure so it was refreshing to read about it. All of the stories have a common Coming-of-Age theme where the women discuss their experiences coming into womanhood among the customs and traditions of their country. We learn about their childhoods, sex, marriage, career, and livelihood.

All of the stories were compelling but there were a few that really stuck out for me more than the others. I enjoyed the opening story, for instance, about the meaning of names and the cashier treating the woman unfairly because of her name. Personally, I can relate to having a unique name myself and I am often asked the same questions that Nakisanze Segawa was asked.

There were two stories that had the biggest impact on me above all the others. The young women taken from their University without a word, abused  and forcibly imprisoned was heartbreaking. I also found the customs surrounding the Ssengas both fascinating and also odd.

By custom Ssenga’s are paternal aunts who assume special responsibilities and help to guide the women, their “nieces” in the ways of society. They teach the women how to behave, submit to a man, how to display class and grace, they monitor their manners and their ways around the house.

Ssengas teach young women about their bodies, about hygiene and sex and ultimately prepare them to be good wives. I love the concept of having someone there to mentor young women and to ensure they grow to be respectable wives and mothers. The fact that the Ssengas take over this role and not the mother is interesting to me. I found myself wondering if it would help for young women in the States, especially young Black women without mothers, to have this kind of guidance and support instead of having to figure things out on their own or in the street.

What I enjoyed least about the role of the Ssengas is that their teachings go too far, at least based on the testimonies of the women. It’s one thing to teach young women about their bodies and how to be wives but the extent to which these women are obligated to serve their husbands is, in my opinion, oppressive. Some of the acts, in fact, were downright disgusting and unnecessary. I should be clear that I am all for submission. I believe that women are to submit to their husbands like the bible instructs and that the man is the spiritually ordained head of the household.

The problem I have is ways in which Submission has been portrayed, defined, twisted, and distorted all over the world. Not only do women in America have a concept of submission that is not, in my opinion, accurate but so do women in other countries. Submission is not slavery and a man’s authority over his wife does not exempt him from certain duties and responsibilities or give him the permission to be abusive. Men are to love their wives as their own bodies and a wife respects her husband.

I believe that if done properly, submission and authority can work well but if not done correctly, can easily look like slavery as it, sadly, often does.

There are some great qualities that are promoted in Uganda that many women across the globe can benefit from but then there are some things that we may find strange if we didn’t grow up that way.

In what way does earning degrees and having an education balance with being good wives? Do the women defy tradition or follow it?

This book sparks great conversation about the lives of women and is relevant considering the social and political climate of our time.

Movement / Strength: 5/5

Entertainment Factor: 5 /5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Crossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda is available now on Amazon


About the Editor

Christopher Conte is an American journalist who spent fifteen years as a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal before beginning a freelance career. He has traveled extensively throughout Africa, eastern Europe, and Asia, as a consultant for the World Bank’s International Finance Group. Conte has also worked as a trainer and mentor to journalists in Uganda, and other locations throughout Africa and Asia.

The First “African” Slaves Arrive in Jamestown, Virginia, Aug. 20, 1619

Screenshot_2017-08-19-20-44-48-1
My messy desk…studying my history

“A Dutch ship carrying 20 Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, on Aug. 20, 1619, a voyage that would mark the beginning of slavery in the American colonies. The number of slaves continued to grow between the 17th and 18th centuries, as slave labor was used to help fuel the growing tobacco and cotton industries in the southern states. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, some 4 million slaves were set free. However, racial inequalities and violence toward newly freed slaves would persist in the country throughout the 1860s and 1870s.”

– Source, BET National News

“The arrival of the “20 and odd” African captives aboard a Dutch “man of war” ship on this day (August 20) in the year 1619 historically marks the early planting of the seeds of the American slave trade.” (Benjamin Banneker also challenged Slavery In Letter On This Day In 1791)

Source, Ioned Chandler, Newsone

“Today in 1619, it was reported by English tobacco farmer John Rolfe, husband of famed Indian princess Pocahontas, that “20 and odd” African slaves arrived at the Jamestown Settlement in British colonial North America aboard a Dutch man-of-war ship. The ship had originated in the Portuguese colonies of present-day Angola, which had been established in the 1500s. Angola was a heavy exporter of slaves to Brazil and the Spanish colonies.”

Source, Infobox

“Newly established English colonies in North America create a demand for laborers in the New World. At first, captured Africans are brought to the colonies as indentured servants. Once their term (3-7 years) is completed, indentured servants are allowed to live free, own land, and have indentured servants of their own. However, this system does not last long; indentured servitude gives way to lifetime slavery for Africans as the British colonies grow and the need for a permanent, inexpensive labor force increases”

Source, This Far by faith

“The Black Atlantic explores the truly global experiences that created the African American people. Beginning a full century before the first documented “20-and-odd” slaves arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, the episode portrays the earliest Africans, both slave and free, who arrived on the North American shores. Soon afterwards, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade would become a vast empire connecting three continents. Through stories of individuals caught in its web, like a 10-year-old girl named Priscilla who was transported from Sierra Leone to South Carolina in the mid-18th century, we trace the emergence of plantation slavery in the American South. The late 18th century saw a global explosion of freedom movements, and The Black Atlantic examines what that Era of Revolutions—American, French and Haitian—would mean for African Americans, and for slavery in America.”

Source, The Black Atlantic, episode one of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 

“In terms of African involvement, it is true also that Africans enslaved others before the coming and demands of the European. But three other facts must be added to this statement to give a holistic picture.. African enslavement was in no way like European enslavement. It was servitude which usually occurred “through conquest, capture in war or punishment for a crime” (Davidson, 1968:181). It could also resemble serfdom as in Medieval Europe where peasants were tied to the land and a lord for protection. They often lived as members of the family, married their masters daughters and rose to political and economic prominence and did not face the brutality and dehumanization which defined European chattel slavery.”

Source, Introduction to Black Studies, Ch. 4: The Holocaust of Enslavement

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller

black-history1

Welcome back to Black History Fun Fact Friday.

Today I introduce to you Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, the first black woman to receive a federal commission for her art. Fuller’s artwork became the precursor to the resurgence of African themes in art seen during the Harlem Renaissance Movement. Not only a time of Jazz, Literature, and Flapper women, this explosion of black artistic culture also included artwork which is not discussed as much as let’s say the literature and the music.

fuller_meta

Born in Philadelphia in 1877, Fuller was the youngest of three children born to William and Emma Warrick. Prominent hair stylists who owned a flourishing Philadelphia store, Fuller’s father was a prosperous barber and the owner of several shops. Her mother was a hairdresser with wealthy white clients who were served in the family’s shop. The family also took vacations to the same places as did their upper-class white Philadelphian clients and lived in a three-story house. Why is it then that Fuller’s name is different from her parents?

Meta was named after one of these clients, Meta Vaux, the daughter of a Senator Richard Vaux. It makes me think about many blacks during the time and whether or not we felt we needed to assimilate into white society in order to fit into the culture of America. For instance, both W.E.B. Dubois and Meta (who was close with Dubois) felt that blacks were capable of the highest achievements but also that this meant to be educated as whites were educated. In addition, despite eventually producing “African” themed art, Meta rejected DuBois initial suggestion that she concentrate on African-American themes when they first met in Europe.

While Meta was successful and is highlighted here as an unfamiliar face, a precursor if you will to The Harlem Renaissance, the movement itself was not all rainbows and whistles. While the artistic explosion is something I love (being a poet and all) I hate that some blacks (as talented as we are) felt at the time that they needed to fit in with White America in order to make it, a truth not everyone is willing to acknowledge but this is Black History Fun Fact Friday so we must keep it real. As Carl Van Vechten titled his book, for many blacks Harlem was, at the time, “Nigger Heaven”.

1-2-227-25-explorepahistory-a0a8l1-a_349
Fuller’s Work: Ethiopia Awakened

Nonetheless, in October of 1889, Fuller arrived in Paris where for the next three years she would study with prominent French sculptors which would have a major impact on her work. While in Europe this is where she would encounter Dubois for the second time and it was the beginning of a friendship that continued for many years. Dubois and Thomas Calloway was organizing a Negro exhibit for the Paris Exposition and visited Meta’s studio to her surprise.

When Meta returned to the States, she established a studio in Philadelphia where art organizations flourished and in the early 1900s through the twenties she continued to do well. In 1928, she was selected to show her work at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1909 she did a 15-piece work for The Jamestown Tercentennial Ex­position illustrating black’s progress in America since the Jamestown settlement. Fuller also received a gold medal for “The Jamestown Tab­leau,” and this  established her reputation as an artist and began a long and committed career. Despite my personal feelings, it is refreshing to study the faces of some of the unknown artists of this most important time in history.