Let the Words Be Seasoned

Photo by DapurMelodi from Pexels

There are times when Black authors find themselves fighting against those who wish them to edit their soul. Take the salt out the meat. Take the voice out the work, and leave it seasonless. To quote Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “People still have a white, western idea of how intellect is ‘spose to walk in the world.” 

Let it not be lost that how Black people speak, including how we write, has been under fire since the days they forbade us to read and write. Considering us fools (and hoping we’d believe we were), they told us our language was broken. Told us massa was some jumbled version of master to justify our alleged stupidity and inhumanness. (Note: Massah is a Hebrew word meaning burden or oppressor. We called them what they were.)

The audacity to dilute language rich in culture by “correcting” it is just as brutal as stripping away someone’s name and replacing it with your own. What does your Ph.D. in poetry have to do with my grandmother’s tongue?

The way our slang terms do not always mirror what is heard or written within collegiate circles.

The way proverbs and parables roll off the tongue only to be shackled to some white scholars’ standards of brilliance. He think it’s nonsense how Jay Jay and Man Man ‘nem talk about how they be chillin. Or how Aunt Lou tells one of her grandchiren to go wrench off this spoon. She puts her hands on her hips, waves and says ‘How you?’ (She means it the way she says it, leaving out the ‘are.’) 

The way the world attempted to tuck knowledge away from us, hide from us its secrets. (Though, we already knew them.) 

Black writers do not need to sacrifice their soul or shapeshift into white standards of intellect to create something beautiful. They need only to be who they are and let the words be seasoned.

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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!”

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.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Capturing the Good in Harlem

 

Yes indeed, twins make history again. Meet Marvin and Morgan Smith, painters who focused on capturing the positive side of Harlem during the decline of the Harlem Renaissance and the birth of The Great Depression.

“During the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, Harlem spread itself before the cameras of Morgan and Marvin Smith like a great tablecloth, and eagerly they went about devouring what it had to offer.”

– Gordon Parks Sr.

We often discuss the writers of the movement and the musicians while the artists are often left out. Names like Kwame Brathwaite, Aaron Douglass, Lois Jones, and Morgan and Marvin Smith, are not as well known.

Morgan (right) and Marvin (left) Smith were born on February 16, 1910 in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The boys found a talent for art but wouldn’t pursue it much until the sharecropping family moved to Lexington in the late 1920s. Here Morgan and Marvin attended Dunbar High School, the only Black High School in Lexington at the time, and developed further their artistic abilities. They worked with oil paintings and sculptors until eventually, cameras.

In 1933, Morgan and Marvin graduated High School and pursued their art full time. However, Kentucky at the time provided little to no support for the young men and as I imagine, they could not grow in the way that they wished. They moved to Cincinnati with hope of a better future but not finding opportunities there, decided to move on to New York.

Marvin and Morgan

When they arrived to Harlem the twins did manual labor for the WPA or Works Progress Administration and took art lessons from Augusta Savage (another sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance) at her studio. Through Savage the twins became connected with the 306 Group, a collective of African American artists who worked and socialized together in Harlem, New York in the 1930s. The name of the group came from the address of a studio space, 306 W. 141st Street, used by two of the artists, Charles Alston and Henry Bannarn.

Marvin and Morgan became acquainted with prominent figures through Savage but it wasn’t until 1937 when the twins really came into the public’s eye when Morgan won an award for his photo of a boy playing.

Awwue!

After 1937, the twins decided to focus their attention on the  community of Harlem overall. Their interest was in capturing the good instead of the bad. With the stock market crash of 1929 and The Great Depression smacked down in the middle, there was plenty to complain about, I am sure, and much of the glitter and glam of the Harlem Renaissance had begun to fade. People weren’t as interested in Black culture and art during these tough times which brings Marvin and Morgan into focus.

They look more alike as old men than they did when they were younger…or is it just me??

Over the next 40 years with their paint brushes and cameras, the brothers would record what remained, refusing to document anything negative. What’s cute is that the brother’s married identical twin sisters on the same day and three years later both divorced on the same day. They would die exactly ten years apart, Morgan smith at 83 and Marvin at 93. I am happy to see that they both lived full lives.

The 306 Group

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The artists of the 306 W. 141st Street WPA Art Center. Back row, left to right: Add Bates; unidentified; James Yeargans; Vertis Hayes; Charles Alston; Sollace Glenn; unidentified; Elba Lightfoot; Selma Day; Ronald Joseph; Georgette Seabrooke; ——— Reid. Front row, left to right: Gwendolyn Knight; unidentified; Francisco Lord; unidentified; unidentified.
© Morgan and Marvin Smith. Reproduction from the Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundation, http://iraas.columbia.edu/wpa/introartists.html

Writing 101: Assignment #5 – Hook ‘em with a Quote: Natural Revolution

In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
― George Orwell

I remember the first year I got my hair loc’d. It was 2009, about three months before Chris Rock’s debut film “Good Hair”. There are moments in your life where people speak and you never forget what they say. When I read Orwell’s quote it reminded me of something I heard in that movie. One of the women interviewed said, “It’s like wearing natural hair is seen as revolutionary”. She didn’t say it as if she agreed, she said it from the perspective of why? Why is Natural Hair seen as being revolutionary? Why do we attribute people with natural hair as being part of some kind of Afrocentric movement? Those are good questions. Especially since I think we all have the common sense to know that every black person with dred loc’s is not necessarily positive or conscious for that matter.

Angela Davis
Angela Davis

To use the word “Revolution” for many black people is to hearken back to the days of black fists, panthers, pride and Afro’s. It is to wear hair that is natural, to welcome skin the color of coal, African garments, medallions, and to be at ease with the urban tongue. The word ceases to mean “to change” but also “to become” or “to transform”. Whenever black people get to a point where they want to embrace the truth concerning themselves one of the first signs of consciousness is natural hair and it stems from many of these movements where African Americans sought to do away with the pretentious manner in which we carried ourselves. Most importantly however, it stems from our welcoming of the truth concerning ourselves and this is why, whether conscious or not, natural hair is often seen as a revolutionary act because natural hair involves embracing the true state of ones hair and thus ones identity.

cutebaby
Random super cute baby I found on the internet

I should not be placed in the same category with Afrocentricity or Rastafarianism because I use the word “revolution”. At the same time, we cannot throw the baby out with the bath water and in this case the baby is Natural Hair and it is a form of revolution or change. Revolution is change and it is truth and because it, the truth, is so absent in this society the word “change” morphs into something that’s deeper. To change becomes more than to adjust or to amend, but to change becomes a movement and revolution then becomes simply a movement to change. This is why, in my opinion, Natural hair is seen as revolutionary because it is a change in perception and in thought. It is a movement back to the original state not just of a hair style, but of a way of thought and a way of life. My hair is not naturally straight so by wearing locs I am exposing a truth concerning myself; that truth being that I was born with thick and kinky hair.

cropped-seal_v2-03***

I rest on Saturdays so this is my last assignment until Sunday.

In Case You Missed It: This Week’s Assignments:

Assignment #1: Why I Write

Assignment #2: Write a List

Assignment #3: One Word Inspiration

Assignment #4: A Story in a Single Image

#Book #Review – Eternal Traces by Shonda Brock @Shondabrock by @ahouseofpoetry #yecheilyah

Title: Eternal Traces (e-book)

Author: Shonda Brock

Website: http://www.shondabrock.com/

ISBN 13: 978-0-9904242-0-8(ebk)

ASIN: B00KH8VGT4

Published: May 20, 2014

Publisher: Shonda Brock

Pages: 248

Genre: Romance, Paranormal, Multicultural, Multicultural Paranormal Romance, Fiction

Rating: 4/5

A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review:

Eternal Traces is a Multicultural Paranormal Romance novel surrounding the life of Veteran and Cardiologist Meryt Brownstone. Brownstone is an African American woman who, despite professional success, struggles to lay claim to her personal and mental life. While Meryt dreams of a change of scenery, she does not like getting too close to people and prefers to fly under the radar. She has not been involved in any serious romantic relationship in some time, and frequents daydreams of an ancient world. Hardworking and driven, Brownstone is also an undercover agent for the government, and divides her time between work, chatting with her friend Cindy, secret missions, and experimenting with synthetic blood.

Speaking of blood, Meryt’s life takes a dramatic turn when she is introduced to two brothers, Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Rene Daniels, who begin work at the hospital and are highly interested in her synthetic hemoglobin research. Instantly, Meryt is caught in lustful trance at the mere sight of Rene. His attraction bonds with her soul on multiple levels and she is unable to take her eyes off of him. Guarded with her heart, Meryt dismisses Cindy’s nosy assumptions that she has feelings for the new doctor and is not easily willing to let love run its course. Yet, Dr. Rene’s allure surpasses her expectations and the tingling of physical wanting drives her up a wall. Not only are Rene’s dazzling blue eyes mesmerizing, but after meeting her for the first time he seems to avoid her at all cost. This only further ignites Meryt’s interest in him as her mind begins to ponder why. And while Meryt is an ex-military trained solider who spends occasional time conducting secret missions, Rene has a secret of his own to worry about; a secret that, despite his voracious wanting, keeps him away from Meryt.

As the story begins to unfold, I enjoyed the Egyptian and African connection and the parallels between the past and present as expressed by the author. As the story picks up, we see that ancient Egypt is a key figure in Meryt’s visions and an important mission to the Sudan becomes a major turning point in the novel as the lines between dream and reality become blurred. Historically, Egypt is blood brothers to the Nubian and they both descend from Ham whose name means hot, burnt, and black. This means the Egyptians would have looked just like the African American today. In addition, the Kushites (Ethiopians or Nubians), whose name means burnt face, lived south of Egypt in what is called the Sudan today. Meryt’s mission to the Sudan, therefore, was a nice complement. I also enjoyed the symbolism’s, of which there were many. One example being Meryt’s temper when she’s upset and her career as a cardiologist, paralleled against the details of Rene’s life. I think it created an interesting bridge of commonality between the two. How so? You’d have to read the book to find out.

As my first ever Multicultural Paranormal Romance novel, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a plunge on this one. Not only am I not really into Romance novels, but a Paranormal Romance was extremely left field for me. However, I must say it’s one of those books where, even if you don’t agree with the concepts, is hard to put down; you just must get to the end and see how it all plays out. It also has a unique storyline so I am glad I took the chance. While some parts left me anxiously anticipating action, when similarities arise between Meryt’s life and that of Queen Nitocris, I was happy to see that my thirsts for answers were quenched as the plot thickened. Between Dr. Daniels charm, Meryt’s stubborn ways, and their colliding worlds, Meryt’s carefully composed life is sure to never be the same again. Shonda makes sure to have readers holding onto their seats and holding their breaths for one adventurous ride of Eternal Traces.

Ratings: Plot Movement / Strength: 4/5 Entertainment Factor: 4/5 Characterization: 4/5 Authenticity / Believable: 4/5 Thought Provoking: 4/5 Recommendation: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4/5 Also check out Part 2 “Eternal Burns”. To learn more about Meryt and Shonda, visit them online: Website: http://www.shondabrock.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/shondabrock

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