In the Caribbean islands
what did I see?
I saw my reflection staring at me.
We spoke the same language
We sung the same songs
We shared the same secrets
We beat the same drum
We shared Nsibidi
We shared masquerade
We shared revolution
With former enslaved
They called me Red Eboe
I called them my heros
We broke Yam & strategized
Our sound traveled far
Across the diaspora
Africa heard us & sent their ships out to us
“My child has called
My child is suffering
How did she know that her symbols would come to me?”
Uncovered messages hidden in luxury
Cultural customs lead to our discovery
Nothing is hidden our spirits display
It’s only the ego that gets in the way.
Our masks held the answers
& covered our pain
Njoku & Ekpe & Haitian Vévé
“Revolt” said Bussa
I showed you the way
Lean on to my example
& make sure to pray
You have all the tools for freedom today
Don’t wait til’ tomorrow
Choose freedom today!
So, I’m back! I want to get right in to today’s topic. I am telling you all an Igbo story, and I have talked about how many of the bible stories connect us to the Middle East as the original Hebrews, simply put, just Igbos. Well, today I want to talk about Igbo’s in the Caribbean, and the evidence of our presence in that part of the world. Nsibidi, an ancient Igbo writing style is known and is contributed to the Igbo’s, having been seen in our architecture, culture, sculptures, clothing, and communication styles. Those communication styles extended to the Caribbean when barbarian Europeans enslaved Africans, and Africans needed a way to communicate with each other and practice spirituality. Enslaved Africans in the Caribbean islands still use a form of the writing today, known as Anaforuana and veve, also known as voodoo symbols. Check out this excerpt on veve below…
——“According to Milo Rigaud "The veves represent figures of the astral forces... In the course of Vodou ceremonies, the reproduction of the astral forces represented by the veves obliges the loas... to descend to earth."
Every loa has his or her own unique veve, although regional differences have led to different veves for the same loa in some cases. Sacrifices and offerings are usually placed upon them, with food and drink being most commonly used.”—-
Veve, a derivative of Igbo Nsibidi, is the unspoken language of voodoo. A veve is a spiritual ground drawing done in Haitian vodou ceremonies to invite the presence of divine spirits. The writings are done using a powder mixture of cornmeal and wood ash, modern day images can be seen using chalk. Veve symbols are central to Vodoo spiritual ceremonies because they are compel the descending or ascending spiritual energy associated with a particular Lwa. An Lwa or Loa is an intermediary between the earth realm and the supreme being, or God. This same Lwa can be found in Louisiana Voodoo. Check out these pictures below, then continue to read about Cuban Anaforuana.
In Cuba, Anaforuana is used by the Abakua society which was founded in Havana in 1836. This secret society, was created by emancipated slaves to buy other Enslaved Africans’ freedom and strategize independence movements against the Spanish. This derived from the Ekpe (Igbo secret society) societies of the Cross River region (Igbo Land) in Nigeria and our Nsibidi script. Abakua, developed from Nsibidi, had the symbolic purpose of investing members with power and the practical use of avoiding the Spanish authorities. In line with my analysis of historic Enslaved African revolutions, they always heavily depended on spirituality to overcome oppressors. Members of this Abakua society were named Nañigos, the street dancers of the society. The Nañigos, were well known by the general population in Cuba through their participation in the Carnival on the Day of the Three Kings, when they danced through the streets wearing traditional attire a multicolored checkerboard cloth with a cone-shaped headpiece topped with tassels. When I read this, I immediately remembered the Igbo tradition of the masquerade, I have attended 3 in person, 2 in Nigeria, and one in Virginia, usually girls are not allowed to attend, but my Daddy let me (in Nigeria). Check out a picture of the Cuban ceremony on the left, an image of a Cuban Nañingo in the middle and the Igbo Masquerade on the right.
Similar to the Ekpe secret society, where certain Nsibidi symbols were taught to them and nobody else, Afro-Cubans speak Abakua which is a Creole version of the Igbo derived language. Carabali is also another name given to Igbo descendants in Cuba, which derives from Calabar in Nigeria, the Capital of Cross Rivers state – (Igbo Land). Enslaved Africans from this region were rarely identified by their “tribal” origin, but their locational origin. Their strongest presence is found in Havana, Cuba (specifically from Calabar, not all of Igbo Land). On another note, this also makes me wonder if this was the reason for the strong support from Cuba during Nigeria’s liberation struggles. At the point of Abakua leading to strong Cuban identity, the whites did what the whites do, began to kill them with the point of trying to eliminate them. Some say that Freemasonry, a Black secret society in America, derives from Abakua, but I have another Blog post coming for Igbo presence specifically in the United States. In 2009, Cuban musical artists released “Ecobio Enyenisón” as an honor to the Ekpe and Abakua cultural fusion and trans-Atlantic connection, singing both Ekpe (Igbo) and Abakua phrases throughout the recording, Check out a picture below!
Join me in my webinar space tomorrow, 5/18/2021 for decolonize your mind!
Hello All! Time, we all have it, we all know it, and to an extent, we all see it; but what lens are we seeing it through?
Let me backtrack, so, did you know that in Ethiopia right now it’s technically 2013? This is true; when I lived in Washington, DC; I met a lot of Ethiopians, and I served Ethiopians as clients who would teach me a lot. The one thing I learned was, Ethiopian New Year is in September! It is celebrated on September 11th. You see, like many African nations, Ethiopia has their own calendar that precedes the Gregorian calendar. Even Igbos, of present day Nigeria, had a calendar based on 4 market days, the 4th day being the Sabbath (prior to Hebrew concept), with 7 weeks in one month – if we can even call it months – as these are all western interpretations of Africa’s superior time system.
The Ethiopian calendar is 13 months, and did I mention that Ethiopia was never colonized? I always find that interesting, that where we can find traditions not tainted by western civilization, is in a place that was never colonized. Also, when I was in Namibia, the Himba people specifically who were not colonized, lived life outside of time. They did not use clocks, or even western interpretations of age. My students told me that their grandmother would say “she was born in the year of lots of rain”, and they were named after events. I watched the Himba people live a sophisticated, simple life; and they were wealthy because they shared their resources amongst Himba people, despite the narrative of them being “poor” due to their non-western systems, and their traditional attire of less clothing.
Back to Ethiopians, I was using my knowledge of other non-colonial African systems to make my point on why the Ethiopian time system is important, because it represents what would have been if we were able to keep the systems that are inherent to us as Global African People; that includes, every person of African descent. We hear things like “black don’t crack” and “colored people’s time (CPT)” or “African Time”, or “Caribbean time”, you know! You see where I’m going? We have always separated our idea of time from what is mainstream, even if it is a joke, we still somehow know that our concept of time is different.
We live outside of time, inherently, things of importance came first. When I was earning my Master of Arts in Africana studies, one of the first things Dr. Sutherland taught us was that, in African worldview, if you are on the way somewhere and you see a person, you take time with them, you greet them, you don’t rush to go somewhere else, what is in front of you is important; everyone will meet up at the appointed time. I tried that for a week, after I came back from Namibia, and it worked! I remember saying, “I’m not going to use my phone for a week, and I want to see what it’s like”. I kid you not, every person I thought about that I needed to see, I met up with, randomly (well, not random but you get it). If I thought about them, the next thing, they were walking past me, and we got to talk about things of importance! I remember the culmination of the week being, meeting with everyone I needed to see at once, we all met up, naturally, no prior conversation, and we chatted for like an hour. We stood in the middle of campus, it was like 10 of us, and that had never happened before. All that was important to me happened that week without a phone.
When things are not aligning, we naturally won’t vibe with it, it is good not to force things. When we force things, especially if it does not feel right or natural, I feel like we hold up time. Once we begin to break free and allow things to happen naturally, I believe that is when time is on our side, and things begin to flow naturally. I believe this concept applies to the Global Black Diaspora as well, our concept of time was replaced with something else, and I believe we are breaking free of it and rejecting it. I am seeing it in the moves we are making, the reclaiming of African identities that we are not even realizing are African, and other concepts that are African, we just don’t have the proper name for it. We are literally getting back to a place of peace for us; one of alignment, one of purpose, and rejecting systems that have been traumatic to us. It is my observation, as the universe realigns, and I feel that we as a people are gaining back our youth, especially for all we’ve been through as a people, our youth was robbed form us as many of us understood and felt the realities of white supremacy (which I now will refer to as an inferior system) from a young age, despite income or status.
I started off talking about Ethiopian time, and tying it into other concepts of time amongst the African diaspora. I then moved into why it is important to maintain aspects of our concept of time the best way we can. I then talked about the revolution and reclaiming of African concepts of time. I think that we should deeply interrogate ourselves, and get down to what brings us peace, living outside of constructed time the best way we can as a solution. When we open up to our true selves and true systems, we allow life to flow naturally. I think we should investigate concepts of African time, and give it a try! This will truly help us become free and begin to unite with those aligned with our designed purpose, just as it did the week I had no use of my phone. Be blessed, Melanated Gems!
Hello All! It’s the last day of Black History Month but we all know DiasporAfri celebrates the Global Black Diaspora all year long. I want to let you, Melanated Gem, know that we are making Black History, and we’ve always made it. We’ve been put in a unique position where just coming out of our house, being ourselves, wearing our hair the way it was created, and being unapologetically us is an accomplishment. Not that I like us to see it that way, but the reality for many Black people is that we are waking up everyday and learning to love ourselves. When I say waking up, I mean waking up to the oppressive ways and brainwashing that taught us to hate ourselves.
Because of you, Melanated Gem, your children and grandchildren will love themselves too, that is why you’re making history. We literally had the whole world screaming Black Lives Matter less than a year ago, and we still manage to overcome in an area where we don’t even feel safe, an area that’s laws are built against our very existence. Consider yourself a history maker, trail blazer, creative thinker, and movement maker. You are it, Melanated Gem, you are rare, and you are the one to make change in your generation. Each day you wake up and decide to be your unapologetic Black self, you make history. Others are looking at you, kids are looking at you, older people are looking at you: anyone can pull from your strength. Then your strength begets strength and we build up that unity we’re looking for in the Global Black Diaspora. Well at least that’s how my life works.
Be proud of yourself, Melanated Gem, whether you impacted your neighbor or impacted the world, your impact is felt and is worth you continuing to wake up everyday. Continue to be unapologetically Black on March 1st, and forever. Black History Month just highlights a very few greats, in comparison to what we do everyday. We are the culture, we set the trends, we create the standards, even if we don’t get the credit, we are Black history.
Well, Melanated Gem, I have something just for you, authentic and handmade by me, Ndidi Love; waist beads, headbands, and bracelets with powerful messages to speak to who you are. You guessed it, it’s called Melanated Gem! Check out this blog post I wrote on the history of African Waist Beads, then check out a few pictures from the collection below and I’ll notify you in a few days when they begin to go on sale!