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Igbo Landing in Georgia: Liberate and Figh

Igbo Landing is a historic site at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia. It is where the Igbo people who had taken control of their slave ship refused to become captives of slavery in the United States. They took their lives in order to accomplish this resistance. This event marks a very important time in African American history as a strong symbol of resistance to slavery by Igbo people.

In May 1803 a ship arrived in the middle passage holding Africans that had been stolen from Igbo land; they were to be auctioned off at one of the slave markets in Savannah, Georgia. The ship included around 75 Igbo people from the bight of Biafra in West Africa. The Igbo were known for being fiercely independent and resistant to slavery.

During the journey, the Igbo slaves rose up in strength and took control of the ship, drowning their captors in the process causing the Monrovia ship to be grounded in Dunbar Creek at the site now known as Igbo Landing.

Floyd White, an elderly African-American interviewed in the 1930’s is recorded as saying:

“Heard about the Ibo’s Landing? That’s the place where they bring the Ibos
over in a slave ship and when they get here, they ain’t like it and so they all
start singing and they march right down in the river to march back to Africa,
but they ain’t able to get there. They gets drown”
.

The Gullah people, a people said to be descendants of Igbo’s, with many claiming their Igbo ancestry, live and dwell in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. They speak an Afro-Creole language and continue some Igbo customs as seen in their food and cultural traditions such as the Masquerade that I told you all about, deriving from Igbo culture and is present in Caribbean cultures. Here is an excerpt I found describing the Gullah description of the Igbo experience.

“The West Africans upon their situation resolved to risk their
lives by walking home over the water rather than submit to the living death
that awaited them in American slavery. As the tale has it, the tribes people
disembark from the ship, and as a group, turned around and walked along the
water, traveling in the opposite direction from the arrival port. As they took
this march together, the West Africans joined in song. They are reported to
have sung a hymn in which the lyrics assert that the water spirits will take
them home. While versions of this story vary in nuance, all attest to the
courage in rebellion displayed by the enslaved Igbo.”

It’s important to know that, Igbo slaves, were most prone to be runaways. Why is it important? Because it shows strength, to resist evil and not succumb to the west and their divide and conquer tactics!

I find so much courage in this story. I thank my ancestors for their resistance….

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Aba Women’s Uprising – Liberate and Fight

Ok, The Aba Women’s Riot. Well, let’s change the language here; the Aba Women’s Uprising – ok, that’s better. In 1929, Igbo women of what is now known as Nigeria fought against colonizer imposed policies and as a result, they won, and were appointed to high courts. It is described as the “launching of the most serious challenge to British rule… it became a historic example of feminist and anti-colonial protest”. Although I don’t agree that it is feminist, as we don’t view African concepts in european lenses, as you will see below, it was a moral duty to a spirituality and divine calling.

That was a summary, but let’s give a little background. The Aba women’s Uprising, or Ogu Umunwanyi in Igbo, was one of the most significant historical events during British inferiority in Nigeria. Remember, we are no longer giving life to colonization in a positive light, it’s inferior behavior. Igbo women were challenging the inferior behavior, and they decided to organize around Owerri and Calabar, the palm oil belt, in the eastern part of Nigeria also known as Igbo Land. In that part of Igbo land, the population was around two million people. The Igbo’s largely occupied and lived in mini-states where men and women exercised varying degrees of political power. Village council meetings involved men and were held in the habitat (community centers) of the Igbo earth-goddess known as Ala (the most important deity according to Odinani – Igbo religion). To make it plain, just like someone may go to church or a mosque to enter the presence of God, these centers held the presence of Ala. As mentioned above, it had nothing to do with feminism, but balance; Igbo women had nothing to prove to Igbo men, who honored and valued them, as it was British men who imposed their women oppressing worldview onto Igbo women.

Igbo women had their own sociopolitical organization. They held weekly meetings on the market day of their community (there were 4 market days in Igbo Land), where they created and enforced laws that they mutually decided on. However, British colonialism changed the fundamental structure of precolonial Igbo societies, which eliminated women’s political roles. Igbo Women saw themselves as the moral guardians and defenders of the taboos of the earth-goddess, Ala, understanding that they naturally embodied her productive forces (biologically). This helps understand the outrage that Igbo women had against the destruction of society by British colonizers, because it took away the impact of their spiritual and physical voice.

The initial protest started against a British imposed tax that created an increased inability to buy food and goods necessary for survival. They called an emergency meeting and engaged in a traditional practice where they danced around a man, or men, and chanted spiritual sayings repeatedly until he became miserable and fed into their demands. The British submitted to their demands for fear that it may get out of hand. Protests spread as the situations got worse, and a British soldier harmed two Igbo women. The Igbo women raided their factories and banks, and were eventually killed by British policeman. With all the protests, the British eventually conceded and hence, the first paragraph of this blog post. These women’s protests were modeled throughout 1930s and 1940s against the introduction of factories that took away from the interests of the Igbo people but only benefitted the stolen wealth of British colonizers.

I have updated this post because I recently learned of Igbo women’s victories again, in the elections being held in Igbo land right now, November 2021, specifically in Anambra state, the state of my patriarchal ancestors and lineage. They refused money from bribers during the elections, stating that they won’t accept the money from a party that has been bad to them – resistance! I’d like to further this by saying, every democratic election in the united states has been won because of Black women. Our tenacity to carry movements throughout the diaspora has been well documented, even if a lot of parts have been left out. I write these stories to encourage Black women, not to divide from Black men, but to say, there is a divine calling about us, that when we tap into – both spiritually and physically, we’d have the power to take down forces. We have so much divine power that the world has tried to take from us, but we continue to multiply. This is not some fantasy story or some power that ancestors had in the past, we have it now!

Let us be like our ancestors and continue to understand our power as women, we are warriors too! So many men inbox me to say that only men are warriors, and tell me I should focus on helping the children, I laugh in various laughs because I know my history as an Igbo woman, and I know my strength as a woman. When we have one common enemy, we bring out the people who are willing, based on skills and qualifications. Save the submission stuff for the colonizers. Peace!

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Refocusing Black Culture

photo of couple dancing together

We can acknowledge that something unfavorable is happening within Black communities due to slavery & colonialism but it’s irresponsible to say that it must continue. It’s not part of our culture, we’re not “taking it back”. If it was beaten into us, we must rid ourselves of it. There’s so many things I can think of, namely, the “N” word, perming our hair, celebrating certain aspects of religions, and so much more. I am not here to condemn anybody, but say, consider why you’re doing what you’re doing. There are many things we do that were actually beaten into us, ex. many black women perm our hair (I stopped in 2009), because employers discriminate against our God given hair, that is a form of beating. However, after slavery, they implemented laws requiring us to cover our hair, because the presence of our hair invoked jealousy in the white women – I experience that today. A lot of us carry on narratives that were meant for evil and are trying to make it good, ex. “we have to straighten our hair to look professional”. It will never sound good to me to do something out of fear rather than a sense of pride. It will never sound good to call each other the “N” word, especially if we know better and we know the trauma that was attached to that word. We need to bring back words and practices that gave us a sense of pride. When I have friends, calling me a B word as a term of endearment is unacceptable, but people think it’s excessive if I refer to my fellow sisters as Queens? All because they say we are not all queens, well we’re not N words and B words either, so which would you prefer? I always say, why not just say the positive word, it can’t hurt at all.

Even rap music style was proverbially beaten into us. There was a time when rappers rapped about meaningful content, just as we’ve always used music for liberation purposes, then the white owned record labels started discouraging us from making those kinds of songs. They encouraged more of the mindlessness that creates the songs we have today. We can see in history where Black artists such as Billie Holiday who spoke up about issues in their music were even jailed. Again, as I teach about in my Decolonize Your Mind class; everything we do is demonized, stolen, copyrighted, and sold back to us as something else; so now we have eminem being hailed for being so thought provoking, when we have greats who have been doing that, but not promoted or discouraged, or punished. So we owe it to ourselves to uplift our own who are doing original things, and stop accepting things that were forced on us to do it their way. We owe it to ourselves to use our big voices to make influence with our culture, our way, and not listen to society beating a way into us. Authenticity translates way better than a copy.

Have you seen our ancient hairstyles and studied our traditions that I’ve written about extensively in this blog over the span of 10 years, take some time to read, such as this one. We have too many originals and we need to get back to the enjoyment of that.

Toodles!

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Call Yourself the Right Name

What I notice is, people love to call their ancestors slaves but hate the idea of calling themselves African. Those slaves were enslaved Africans. How can one consider themselves a descendant of an African slave, but deny their Africanness?

I always say, if you take a Chinese person who has 2 children, one goes to live in another country and never returns, never talks to their parent again, but has children and grandchildren in their new land; that does not cut the blood ties, it only cuts the location. So many people have traced their habits/talents back to tribes in Africa. For example, I met a lady who was so into basket weaving. She stated that she did her DNA ancestry test, and she found out that the tribe in Africa she is from is known for basket weaving. There is noting wrong with acknowledging your roots. People are only ashamed to identify with Africa, because America teaches that African American history starts with slavery, no, Africans have a long history, part of it is slavery, but we were enslaved as victims, that is nothing to be ashamed of, but something to continue to fight against. We take no blame, although society likes to victim blame, we are not to be blamed for the repercussions of slavery, only to be blamed individually if we know better and don’t do better. But let’s not get it twisted, we have done better, extremely better, thrived throughout evil imposed circumstances, revolted at every chance – we never accepted our status as slaves, and have made major world accomplishments that are not credited to us – copyrights and patents stolen. We are so busy listening to narratives by people who are not us, mainly white people, that we forgot, they are paid to paint a negative picture of us, but would never paint that negative picture of themselves. They are so calculated that they framed rapists, murderers, and enslavers as “founding fathers”, and “revolutionaries”, if anything, that is something to be ashamed of. Instead, they want us to be ashamed of something that happened to us, and gaslight us into believing that being loyal to america, one of the countries that enslaved us, is patriotic. Never! I am patriotic to the nation that birthed me, that great nation is Africa, and it will never change. Africa is the reason I am resilient, the reason I am brown, the reason I have tight coily hair, the reason I have a place to call home always, and the reason that the entire earth has resources. Let’s not be fooled, every cell phone you hold is thanks to Africa and Africans. Therefore, being African is nothing to be ashamed of, but everything to celebrate. No matter the current status, we are still the only people in the world who shape every single institution with our ideas, energy, vernacular, style, and resilience. The world would simply not be without Black people, and I mean that.

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