I Come from a South
I came to the east
to gauge the dimension of night
in broad gestures
that I devised in the south
watching flocks and plains
like thighs remembered in May
I come from a south
in transparency of tomorrow's fresh water.
From a circular time
free of seasons.
From a nation of transhuman bodies
in the colour of the thorned crust
of a black ground chased in live coal.
-- Ruy Duarte de Carvalho, Angola
from Song of Prisoner
Is today not my father's
My clansmen and clanswomen
Are gathering in our village,
They sit in circles
In the shades of granaries,
But who will make
The welcome speech?
Men drink kwete beer,
Women cook goat meat
and make millet bread,
But I am not there
To distribute the dishes
Among the elders!
The priests throw morsels
Of chicken meat,
They squirt goat blood
And pour libations
To the assembled ghosts
Of the dead,
But how can I address
the ghosts of my fathers
How can they put chymes
On my chest and back?
How can my grandmother
Spit blessing on me?
My age-mates have donned
White ostrich feathers,
They are singing a war song,
I want to join them
In the wilderness
And chase Death away
From our village,
Drive him a thousand miles
Beyond the mountains
In the west,
Let him sink down
With the setting sun
And never rise again.
I want to join
The funeral dancers,
I want to tread the earth
With a vengeance
And shake the bones
Of my father in his grave!
-- Okot P'Bitek, Uganda
The Coming Turning
The coming is the turning,
Weep not like birds
With scattered nestlings.
We know it
By the silence of our children
And the unsettled of our fishy selves.
The coming is in the morning,
Not like herds of cattle
Heading through appetite-gates,
Or like gazelles, running wildly
Into tangled bushpath, forgetting
The route they came through.
The coming approaches
Through the patient anticipation
Of children. It comes, comes,
Quietly to meet our anxious desires.
We will know the when of the turning,
The moonlight will reveal
The erratic flashes of our past,
The kingly betrayals, the
We know the coming is the turning,
When the fences crumble
On the grasshoppers and locusts,
When we handshake with
The warmth of our hearts.
-- Tijan Sallah, Gambia
from Lament of the Drums
Lion-hearted cedar forest, gonads for our thunder,
Even if you are very far away, we invoke you:
Give us our hollow heads of long-drums...
Antelopes for the cedar forest, swifter messengers
Than flash-of-beacon-flame, we invoke you:
Hide us; deliver us from our nakedness...
Many-fingered canebrake, exile for our laughter,
Even if you are very far away, we invoke you:
Come; limber our raw hides of antelopes...
Thunder of tanks of giant iron steps of detonators,
Fail safe from the clearing, we implore you:
We are tuned for a feast-of-seven-souls...
-- Christopher Okigbo, Nigeria
Feline of night
Selling old boot
On wet pavement
In hour-glass baskets
Prostituted fruit of Eve
Edging the Park trees
Like dancing Caterpillars
In folded leaves
Softened by Social Conscience
Hounded by Prudes
Friend of the falling star
Victim of the lonely bed.
-- Lenrie Peters, Gambia
"... Further back, dating to around 15,000 BC to 8,000 BC, single-stringed instruments have been seen in cave paintings and murals. They were struck, plucked, and eventually bowed. From these, the families of stringed instruments developed...." -- Wikipedia
Civilization, of course, as an abstract concept and material actuality first appeared on the continent of Africa, the cradle of humanity in our origin on this planet. Here are our first attempts to coexist in relative peace and productivity while seeking answers to age-old ontological questions of why we exist at all, what our purpose is, and the nature of spiritual forces felt inside and around us variously -- how we will quell or propitiate unwanted and harmful ones, how to entice pleasure and delight from the unknown and unconquerable.
For our survival, at first we constructed rough and simple tools out of materials readily at hand to accomplish desired tasks of which our fingers and feet and teeth weren't capable. Later in idle moments, we adorned those implements and expanded upon basic design for visual and tactile enjoyment and for extended functionality. With these new-found abilities, we also constructed our first "graven images," drawings and figurines believed, at least possibly and if entreated correctly, to bring protection from demonic ills, blessing from revered deities imagined and embodied for success in hunting and fertility. For them we also created ritualized movements of distance, separation and of seduction, and experimented to increase sophisticated employment of sound waves for individual vocalizations and instruments found and constructed. Most likely our first musical implement was a drum, simply a rock or tree trunk beaten with a stick found or broken off intentionally, to call attention -- perhaps to a hunt, or an herbacious edible plant discovered newly or in a new place, or an alarm of attack by beast or weather. Whomever thought to attach sinew to the stick created the first lyre (kora), and we were on our way to a country band and the city symphony just a few millenia or so later on.
Video below: Shew Beli Bileney -Berhane Haile-Roha Band, united Ethiopia and Eritrea 1990
"Although most of Black history is suppressed, distorted or ignored by an ungrateful modern world, some African traditions are so persistent that all of the power and deception of the Western academic establishment have failed to stamp them out. One such story is that of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of Israel." -- Wysinger
"I am black but comely,/ O ye daughters of Jerusalem,/ As the tents of Kedar,/ As the curtains of Solomon,/ Look not upon me because I am black/ Because the sun hath scorched me." -- Song of Solomon
"At the turn of the first millennia, the dominant kingdom was in Aksum. This was a very advanced civilization. They were the first Africans to mint coins...." -- Ethiopian History
"... Under Ezana Aksum became the first major empire to convert to Christianity and was named by Mani as one of the four great powers of his time along with Persia, Rome, and China. In the 7th century the Muslims who originally converged in Mecca, sought refuge from Quraysh persecution by travelling to Aksum which is known in Islamic history as the First Hijra. Its ancient capital is found in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name 'Ethiopia' as early as the 4th century. It is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and the purported home of the Queen of Sheba...." -- Wikipedia, Aksumite Empire
"... Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000–2,500 metres (6,562–8,202 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum...." -- Wikipedia
Most of us are well-aware of the ancient and golden kingdoms of Egypt in Africa's northeast quadrant, although other earlier and magnificent African cultures across that continent are little if ever remarked or known amongst the general public. The African tribe of the dozen of Israel is shrouded in mists and myths of antiquity but perhaps the principality of Ethiopia has the soundest and most intriguing claim, including locus of the Ark of the Covenant, amidst contenders. Architecturally, that religious tradition through the Christian Era is exemplified most stunningly perhaps in the town of Lalibela's 12 monumental hewed-stone churches created around 1200 A.D.
Ethiopia, one of the oldest independent countries in the world with a monarchy dated to the 10th century B.C. and an unusually diverse ecology of extreme contrast, is home to the ancient kingdom of D'mt (800-400 B.C.); Ge'ez is its indigenous semitic language. Having adopted Christianity as its state religion in the 4th century A.D., Ethiopia is also the origin of our modern Abrahamic Rastafari (see holy book/sacred text Kebra Negast) religious movement. Its Emperor Haile Selassie was said to be directly descendant from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The nation defeated an Italian army in the 19th century and, unlike the rest of Africa, has never been colonized. Slavery was abolished by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1942. In the late 20th century famine ravaged the land and population leaving over a million dead. Briefly Communist, the nation adopted a Constitution in 1994 supporting universal suffrage and a multi-party political system of elections and governance. Eighty-five percent of waters in the Nile River originate in Ethiopia.
"The country has one of the most powerful militaries in Africa. Ethiopia is the only African country with its own alphabet. Ethiopia also has its own time system and unique calendar, seven to eight years behind the Gregorian Calendar." -- Wikipedia
"According to Ethiopian tradition, the Ark of the Covenant, with the Ten Commandments on their tablets of stone, remains at Aksum today, under close guard of a priest.... When European settlers discovered ruins of great civilizations at Mapungubwe in South Africa and Great Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe (then the British colony Rhodesia), they concluded that these marvelous stone cities could not have been built by black Africans. In order to justify their oppression of the black majority population, the white imperialists created a grossly distorted history that denied African civilization and culture. In fact, until the recent end of the apartheid era, the official South African version of history maintained that southern Africa was an empty land, completely uninhabited until the first Dutch settlers arrived there in 1652. The government rationalized that the exquisite art and surviving architecture of the Shona and Bantu people of South Africa and Zimbabwe were actually the creations of Arabs, Phoenicians, or other non-African peoples. Similarly, the government of Rhodesia censored guidebooks and until as recently as the 1970s instructed archaeologists to deny that the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe was built by Africans." -- Jamila White for PBS
"... Ethiopian music uses a unique modal system that is pentatonic, with characteristically long intervals between some notes...." -- Wikipedia
Ethiopia is also the original and current home of Lucy, one of the oldest yet-discovered hominid (part of the "missing link" in the long developmental evolution toward higher and wider functioning of ape to homo sapiens sapiens) fossils of this world and an anthropological ecstacy when first found. Called Dinkenesh (wonderful one) in her homeland, she's estimated to be around 3.2 million years old and travels, as should a grande dame, around the world occasionally.
Chicago's Addis Abeba provides a fascinating upscale glimpse into Ethiopian design, style and culinary arts. At 7,546 feet above sea level, that nation's capitol, Addis Ababa founded only in 1886, provides for nearly three-and-a-half million residents who are informal representatives from all of the country's nearly 80 indigenous nationalities -- amongst its total population of around 80 million -- and speaking that many distinctly ethnic/tribal languages. The majority are Oriental Orthodox Christians with 16% remaining being Muslim and another 9% Western Protestant. Addis Abeba (an alternatively acceptable spelling), widely considered generally "clean and safe," also hosts buildings and meetings of the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Like most capitol cities, it supports outstanding museums and educational institutions.
"The dietary traditions of Ethiopia's varied regions and cultures have created a unique cuisine. The essential components include berbere, a spicy, red pepper paste; niter kibbeh, a spice-infused clarified butter; and injera, a flat, moist sourdough bread with a tangy flavor and airy texture. Food is generally eaten with the hand from a communal plate." -- National Geographic
"... Since ancient times, Amharic azmari musicians have recited oral histories accompanied by the krar (lyre), masenqo (one-string fiddle) and washint (flute)." -- National Geographic
"Disks of travertine, a calcium-rich deposit, ring a hot spring in Ethiopia's Danakil Depression. Afar tribeswomen extract water from this forbidding landscape by building small stone towers over the geothermal vents. The steam condenses, and the water runs into a reservoir. When it cools, the women pour it into their goatskin bags." -- National Geographic
"Ethiopia will probably meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the poverty rate by 2015 assuming it maintains current economic growth levels, according to the draft copy of a report written by the United Nations.
The government has 'made an enormous progress in the provision of social services such as education, health, and infrastructure by spending a large share of its budget in the pro-poor sector,' the report said. 'This could be taken as the best practice from which others may learn.'
Poverty reduction is central to policy in a country where half of children are 'chronically malnourished,' 47 percent are stunted and 38 percent underweight, the UN said. Still, economic growth remains vulnerable to poor weather and external financing because of the poor domestic savings rate, according to the report.... Ethiopia is also on target to achieve its goal of universal primary school education by 2015, while it is less likely to meet the targets on child mortality and environmental sustainability. The East African country is unlikely to achieve goals related to gender equality and maternal health, the UN said." -- Bloomberg Business Week
"The total forest cover of Ethiopia has tripled in size since 2000 as a result of large-scale reforestation campaigns, the authorities announced on Thursday.
The impoverished Horn of Africa nation, which suffered from chronic droughts and famine in the past, has in recent years undertaken massive tree-planting campaigns to help reduce land degradation and improve its biodiversity.
"Ethiopia was able to increase its forest coverage to nine percent now from only three percent previously," the agriculture ministry said in a statement.... Ethiopia covers 1.1 million square kilometres and is sub-Saharan Africa's second most populous country.... Ethiopia planted more than 700 million trees in 2007 alone, according to the UN, besting Mexico which planted 217 million and the rest of the world in a drive to combat climate change through new lush forest projects.... The country's high demand for fuel wood and land for cropping and grazing had slashed its forest cover from about 35 percent of its territory in the early 20th century to just three percent by 2000, environmentalists say. Experts say trees help absorb carbon contained in the heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change. -- Associated Press
Video below: Les Ballets Africains dancers and musicians with traditional instruments
Indigenous Art ii.
Acquaintance with and immersion into African art have inspired many well-regarded and lesser-known sculptors, painters, musicians and multi-media artists worldwide. We're fortunate to have in this country on the ground and on-line some extensive and breathtaking collections in museums and galleries for introduction to and exploration of our original and profoundest inquiries into expression of what is human and what is divine, how we commemorate and memorialize events and personages, and our material and digital architectural structures for housing those comfortably and invitingly.
Abeshaon-line contemporary and traditional cultural arts magazine of Ethiopia and Eritrea
"The split between Unionists and Confederates was, if anything, more fractious and violent in eastern Tennessee than in the rest of the state. Politically and geographically, the mountainous East was distinctive. Although there were slaveowners, particularly in Chattanooga and Knoxville, most east Tennesseans lived apart from the cotton economy and strongly opposed secession. Most of the 42,000 white Tennesseans who joined the Union Army were from this section. The East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, joined to the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, was the only railway that crossed the Appalachian Mountains and connected Virginia with the South’s interior. While rivers held the key to west and middle Tennessee, railroads supplied the crucial arteries in the east. This made the region of vital importance to the Confederacy, whose troops occupied Knoxville and tried early in the war to secure the valley towns. An irony of the war in Tennessee was that Federals controlled mostly secessionist areas, while the Confederate Army held sway over a predominantly Unionist region. One of the first acts of east Tennessee Unionists was to burn railroad bridges in an attempt to sever the rail connections with the Confederacy. Confederate authorities reacted by harshly suppressing loyalists – they hung a number of the bridge burners and imprisoned many other Unionists.... The Chattanooga and Knoxville campaigns cemented Union control of the mountain region. Depredations by Confederate raiders continued, but Federal supremacy was never again seriously challenged. In September, 1864, General John Hunt Morgan, formerly a terror to Union troops, was ignominiously shot down in Greeneville. The political significance of east Tennessee Unionism became evident during the 1864 national election, when Lincoln drafted a Greeneville Democrat, Andrew Johnson, as his vice presidential running mate. The selection of a Southern loyalist symbolized the sort of compromise that Lincoln believed would be necessary to reunify the country after the war. East Tennessee Unionists such as Johnson and William G. "Parson" Brownlow would lead the process of restoring Tennessee to the nation – the first Confederate state to do so." -- Tennessee Civil War History Trail
1865: first state civil rights law passed in MA; 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed; KKK formed in Pulaski TN
1869: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony established the National Women's Suffrage Association
1870: Victoria Claflin Woodhul becomes first female Presidential candidate
1872: Southern franchise is restored
1875: Civil Rights Act gives equal rights to blacks in public accommodations and jury duty
1881: the Civil Rights Act is invalidated by the Supreme Court; all-black Tuskegee Institute established by Booker T. Washington
1890: Sherman Anti-Trust law is passed by Congress
1893-97: national financial panic
"The American Revolution in the South is the theme of a potential national heritage area that may be established in North Carolina and South Carolina. During the next two years, representatives from the National Park Service, NC and SC will conduct a feasibility study for such a heritage area and report back to Congress in 2010 with a recommendation. Several criteria apply to achieving the status of a national heritage area and all will be evaluated quite carefully. One important subject area has 'the natural, historic, and cultural resources that together represent distinctive aspects of American heritage worthy of recognition, conservation, interpretation, and continuing use' and that can be best managed through public/private partnerships. 'This is a wonderful opportunity for the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail,' said Paul Carson. 'Not only will we be linking our heritage story with other parks, museums, trails and the like, but we will be able to tell our special story of how the OVNHT has come to be. After all, our Trail, stretching across four states and 330 miles, exists as a result of and through continuing public and private cooperation.... Those wishing to comment without attending a meeting can submit remarks at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/serv. Click on the link for Southern Campaign of the Revolution Heritage Area." -- OVNHT 2008 Progress Report
Video below: Testimony of involuntary servitude into the 21st century from American-Slavery
Graphic above: oil painting by Margaret Gregg, Abingdon VA (Click for We Shall Overcome as sung in the 60s by Mahalia Jackson)
Dr. Dorothy Brown (1919-2004): "In the 1940s, surgery was not a real career option in the south for an African-American female. The person who broke that glass ceiling was Dr. Dorothy Brown. Born in Philadelphia in 1919, Brown was placed in an orphanage in New York until she was 13 years old. Her mother reclaimed Brown at that age, but Brown ran away five times, each time returning back to the orphanage, where she felt comfortable. She was placed in a foster home at the age of 15 and enrolled in Troy High School. Her foster parents were Lola and Samuel Wesley Redmon. They became a major influence in Dorothy Brown's life, a source of security, support and enduring values.
Brown graduated from high school at the top of the her class in 1937 and was awarded a four-year scholarship to Bennett College in Greensboro NC. She received her bachelor's degree in 1947, graduating second in her class. Brown had always wanted to become a physician and enrolled in Meharry Medical College in Nashville TN, graduating in 1948.
After an internship at Harlem Hospital, she set her goal for a surgery residency in the South, where there were no African-American women in general surgery. Brown was accepted into a five-year surgery residency program at Meharry and George W. Hubbard Hospital. She withstood many obstacles and became an assistant professor of surgery and the first African-American woman to be made a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. From 1957 to 1983, Brown served as the chief of surgery at Nashville's Riverside Hospital and clinical professor of surgery at Meharry Medical College.
There are other 'firsts' associated with Brown. She became the first single mother to adopt a baby in Tennessee. In 1966, she ran for and won a seat in the state legislature, becoming the first African-American female to serve on the legislative body.
... The Carnegie Foundation awarded her a humanitarian award.... She considered herself a role model, not so much for all the things she accomplished, but proving to young people that they can succeed no matter what challenges they face in life."
Ernest C. Withers (1922-2007): "Capturing African-American history through his lens was a God-given talent possessed by photographer Ernest C. Withers. A native Memphian, he captured the African-American experiences, immortalizing people, events, and the cultural and societal changes surrounding him. As an African-American man, he was poised to witness and record the struggle for civil rights that enveloped the Memphis community during this time.
His stunning black-and-white images bear witness to the movement's slow but steady progress, from the grisly murder of young Emmett Till to the integration of Little Rock High School. Withers was there for the high points such as teh first desegregated bus ride, as well as the lowest point marked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. at the Lorraine Motel. He is known around the world for his 'I Am A Man' sanitation strike photograph.
... Over several decades he photographed the likes of B. B. King, Isaac Hayes, Aretha Frankln and Elvis Presley. Withers captured them in the heat of driving performances, mugging for his camera and at quieter moments backstage.
As a freelance photographer, Withers often attended Negro League Baseball games where he was treated like an insider. He knew the players, photographing them in action or posed with family and fans on the field.
... Pictures Tell The Story is the first retrospective look at the more than 50-year career of Ernest Withers. The recipient of numerous awards, Withers received two honorary doctorate degrees and was inducted into the Black Press Hall of Fame in 1988. His photographic genius continues to be displayed in multiple exhibits in museums and public buildings across the country."
Graphic below: Photograph of historical marker for Langston High School, Johnson City TN