Photo credits, clockwise from upper left: Time Magazine, Wikipedia, CBC, The Boston Globe
by LISELI FITZPATRICK
The Earth is Feminine, and She is Black
(For Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson)
© 2022 by Liseli A. Fitzpatrick, Thursday, March 24, 2022, 7:55 a.m.
You lovely one…
You Black fertile one…
You Black brilliant one…
a world that
is fabricated and entrenched in the
violence and falsities of white supremacy…overrun by war…will not breathe until it honors your name, sex, and Blackness…until it honors your divine wisdom and supreme judgment…
all that you bring forth and birth from the boundless depth of your melanated womb and conjure up within the breadth of your capacious consciousness, baffling brilliance, equitable intellect, and ancient memories…
weapons of mass destruction have been waged against you, repeatedly…
misguided mouths and missiles targeted to defame and deface you with their salacious and rapacious pornographic minds and hands, and flaccid egos
erected buildings that scrape skies
with monumental lies
that trample and strangle the lungs of the Earth/Black Earth
in an obnoxious and toxic attempt to test, try, silence, and erase you
empty vessels and clanging cymbals
void of Love
but your African name,
your African name…… K e t a n j i
will save you
and we will say it and sing it
we will say your name…… K e t a n j i
you, you lovely one
and rejoice in rhythm and song
your Oríkì will be l o n g …
a long prayer
a freedom march
and you will persevere
confirmed and affirmed by the people
who have seen and heard you
for the eyes and voice of the people are the eyes and voice of God
and the next time they question or ask you about your faith
you, you would undoubtedly and resoundingly respond….
A F R I C A N.
The Revolution continues…
(For my mother, Annette, and all mothers)
If there was ever an original sin, it would be the defamation and defacing of Mother Earth/the Divine Feminine, predicated on the erroneous patriarchal notion that woman was crafted from the rib of man. No matter how we identify, or our sacred/sexual orientation, all life is conceived in the womb – human and non-human, tangible and intangible, atheist, orisa, christian, jew, muslim, hindu, buddhist, black, brown, white, yellow, gay, straight, non-binary, two-spirit, terrestrial and/or extraterrestrial. The belief that woman was born of man opposes the natural law of creation, and destabilizes the cosmic synergy of the Universe.
There is an odu within the sacred orature of the West African Yoruba cosmology of Ifa that foregrounds the centrality of the Divine Feminine or Àjẹ́ – the ubiquitous, generative, creative, sensitive, invigorating, transformative, and sustaining force of life. She is the life force that is alive in all of us, in women, in men, and all beings. She is the enlightened spark of consciousness and creation. The endless winds of change, transformation, and (re)birth. She is seen in the menstruation of women, and all movements, developments, expansions, and evolutions of life. In the trees and nectar of plants, and the many faces and phases of the moon. In the vibrancy and splendor of the sun, the alternating tides, and seasons. In anthills and mountains. She lives in all waters: rivers, lagoons, oceans, rain, clouds, and the tears and joys of humanity; in the play and laughter of children, in art, in food, in music, in dance, and in dress. In little boys who wear pink, and little girls who wear blue because sexuality is not coded or determined by color. She is all that we create. Àjẹ́ also has the power to deny and take away, congruent with the often misused saying, “I brought you into the world, and I can take you out.” Everything that is done to the Earth is done to us. Everything that impacts the Earth impacts us.
The odu foretells and explains what happens to nature and all life forms, when the feminine principle is dishonored, mistreated, and neglected; and cautions against such deleterious actions. Unlike colonial doctrine, the teachings of Ifa and other African sacred practices venerate the womb and Earth as the incubators, portals, and custodians of life. Life that is not merely exclusive to the human form, sex or gender, but rather, life that concerns itself with the procreation, regeneration, and rejuvenation of spirit and science jointly expressed through the arts, technology, and nature – seen and unseen. The Earth, therefore, is feminine by its very cyclical and revolutionary nature to wield creative energy, produce, and transform life. As such, one does not have to give birth to another human to be considered mother or feminine, one only has to create, and love. That being said, by virtue of their wombs, however, women are regarded as the protectors of the Divine Feminine and Àjẹ́, whether they bring forth physical life, or not. There is an African cosmological quote by Teresa N. Washington that says, “the womb is a cosmos and the cosmos a womb.” Thus, any assault committed against women, sexual, or otherwise, is an outright assault against Mother Earth – the cosmic womb. Once, a Trinidadian Babalawo told me that heaven is in the womb of a woman. To that I responded, “indeed, heaven is also a state of consciousness and beingness.” Naturally, because Africa is the birthplace of humankind and evolution, it follows that African women are the direct progeny and primordial owners of Àjẹ́. Creation was born and is constantly being reborn in the cosmic womb of darkness: Blackness. Light and life are conceived in the dark. Blackness.
Over the years, we have witnessed a devastating intensification of environmental disasters, animal extinction, forest depletion, desert expansion, sandstorms, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, fires, and infectious disease outbreaks – clear indications that the Divine Feminine has been desecrated through acts of racism, sexism, classism, vandalism, terrorism, hate crimes, military wars, land exploitation and pollution of all kinds.
“The male leaders of Earth appear to have abandoned their very senses … They murder humans and other animals forests and rivers and mountains every day they are in office and never seem to notice it. They eat and drink devastation. Women of the world, Women of the world, Is this devastation Us?” – Alice Walker
Now, male leaders of the world … Women of the Earth, Women of the Earth, Is this devastation Us?
The confirmation hearings of The Hon. Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson and Russia’s ongoing attacks on Ukraine are glaring reflections and shattering images of this grueling and dreadful reality, and a long history of unmasked racial, sexual, and environmental violence that has perilously plagued the lungs of our existence and the world. Savage and senseless acts that have treacherously tilted and disrupted the cosmological, ecological, and ontological balance, and pulsating cadence and dance of life. Heinous crimes against humanity and creation.
While it cannot be overstated how drastically the pathogen of Covid-19 has affected and altered our lives from the loss of and separation from loved ones, hospitalizations, invasive tests, scarcities and shortages of basic supplies, job insecurity, restrictions in movement, physical and social distancing, and the accompanying dis-ease and discomforts of face masks – amid all of these harrowing afflictions have been the continuing absurdities and violence of racism, sexism, discriminatory laws and practices, and the wrecking of Mother Earth/the Divine Feminine. The saddening reality is that Black and darker skinned women: Black Earth, have carried and faced the brunt of this oppression and violation where their melanated bodies have been, simultaneously, desexualized and hypersexualized through the salacious passages of slavery, and racist sexism. There are countless lived experiences and told and untold stories of Black women who have suffered and strove under the depravation and degradation of the interlocking systems of injustice. The recent confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson, now confirmed as the first Black woman to ever serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, was and still is a public testament of this, as she endured the harassment and badgering of Republican senators in their warped and fixated interrogations on child pornography, gender, and race. And, despite her extensive and compelling record and sterling accomplishments, by their own admission, the very pale Republicans had the unmitigated gall to vote “no” against her nomination.
The exceedingly credentialed Judge Brown Jackson has outperformed the long bench of senators in the entire history of the U.S. Supreme Court and has accomplished everything and more that would make one successful in this country except for two things, she is Black and woman. An abysmal reminder that race and gender, rather, racism and sexism are the underpinnings of this constructed and constituted North American society. We should also not forget that the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court of the federal judiciary of the country, is a 233-year-old white-male-dominated institution with a historical record of 5 female justices. The 5th being, Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson, confirmed on Thursday, April 7th in the year of our Lord 2022.
As these debased strategies, structures and systems of oppression, and mass destruction, hideously and obnoxiously reveal themselves, I hold firm that we must, indeed, heed the wisdom and (up)hold the vision of the Black woman – the Black prophetess who, many years ago, in Harvard Yard, Boston, peered into the future and whispered the invocation persevere into the ear, and heart of a then young, uncertain, and nervous Ketanji Brown. Unfailingly, we must persevere in our collective strides to preserve our planet and dismantle all forms of inequities and transgressions in the co-creation of a colorful, compassionate, equitable, inclusive, expansive, harmonious, just, lush, textured, and breathable world. We must steadfastly and fervently combine our creative energies and spirits to unearth and remove the dead loads and scaffolds of all injustices and hostilities built on a concocted system of white patriarchal supremacy. A system that has long profited and prospered off the “myth of the minority,” i.e., the manipulation and miseducation of the politically disenfranchised, disempowered, dispossessed, and disillusioned, which constitute the many spiritually powerful and beautiful peoples of the world. Peoples who have been subjected to the violence, tyranny, and amoralities of slavery, colonialism, capitalism, racism, sexism, terrorism, and all legions of isms and schisms – divisive antics and tactics intended to separate us and leave us in a state of perpetual conflict and competition – within a country purported to have been founded on the ideals of Christianity and liberty; when the history, voices, and lives of the majority people who were subjugated to build this very country, tell us differently. Peoples who were brutally taken away from their lands and whose lands were taken away from them. Peoples whose sacred cosmologies have been deliberately maligned by the hands and insecurities of racist imperialists, and capitalist greed exacted through the reckless and rampant exploitation of life and the expropriation of the land in the name of the colonial church. A gross corruption of Christianity, and an abomination of the word. As grand ancestor, truth-teller, anti-apartheid activist, South African Anglican Archbishop and theologian, Desmond Mpilo Tutu so incisively put it, “When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible, and we had the land. They said, “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible, and they had the land.”
Within my consciousness, minority does not exist. I am one of many – seen and unseen. African and indigenous peoples never walk alone. The myth of the minority is a fabricated notion designed to undermine the diversity, fertility, creativity, richness, and dynamism of our lives, and planet. We are the textured tapestry of creation interwoven by a common, energetic, all-encompassing Creator. Consider the vitality of the Sun, and its countless brilliant rays or the cosmopolitan arc and spectrum of the rainbow. Now imagine who we are, and our place in the world. Though scattered and dispersed, we are a collective people whose sacred lineage and reverence for God are deeply embedded and widely expressed throughout our impassioned veneration and stewardship of the Earth, its cardinal points, and natural elements – the vast, vibrant, and boundless eco-system and cosmos where respect for the Divine Feminine is true throughout all universal, eco-centric, earth-based cosmologies.
Ironically, when African and other indigenous peoples pay homage to the land and the environment, when we communicate with the divine, hug trees, sow seeds, conjure medicine through our ingenuity and intimate understanding of plants, speak into the water, pour libations directly into the earth, feed and name the ancestors and nature spirits, bathe and baptize ourselves in the sweetness, coolness, maternal protection, and warmth of Mami Wata; when we lift our voice and make a joyful noise unto the Lord, and sing unto the hills, and drum and dance, and make sense of the world with our God-given senses, and rotate our hips and whole bodies in tandem with the universal rhythm of our planetary existence, when we carve images out of stone and wood (not without permission) to honor, invite, and invoke the presence of God…we are vilified, purely because, as a people, we know and understand that we are wonderfully and beautifully made in the image and likeness of God, and when we create, we honor our God-self, and the feminine principle. It is this intrinsic power, freedom, and consciousness that the enslavers, colonizers, racists, and oppressors feared and are still, barefacedly, threatened by today, i.e., the unfettered and formidable power and movement of our illuminating spirits, creative imaginations, intellect, and bodies – the heart and essence of our existence, which they, relentlessly, sought to suppress.
The enslavement, rape, and scarification of Black and Brown bodies; the non-consensual intercourse and entanglements with nature; the pervasive conflicts and toxic gas and chemical emissions; the contamination of our water expanses and streams over centuries have all, undeniably, desecrated the Divine Feminine. Mother Earth and humanity have been pillaged and plundered by cold hearts, rapacious hands, and heated wars further compounded by a raging pandemic and a system built on sacrilege, which have disproportionately and adversely impacted the respiratory lives of Black and Brown peoples and all those who do not conform to the myth of white supremacy be it by sex, gender, religion, race, or class. An asphyxiation enforced by the murderous “knee” and pestilence of anti-Black police brutality, and all the various forms of inequities and injustices that have made black and brown communities more susceptible to dis-ease, all yearning to breathe, and to find refuge in something better and more beautiful.
For the past two years, we have been compelled to live in a world where the sound of our voices has been muzzled behind masks; though for many of us, the silencing of our voices under repressive racist regimes has been a lived reality – where such muzzling was not to protect us against the dangers of an invisible virus, but a gagging interlude and imposition orchestrated to crush our humanity, dignity, and divine spirits, and sense of self and style. However, we are a resilient people. I holdfast that while the oppressors may have been able to chain our bodies, they could never, to date, shackle our spirits.
In the words of poet and friend, Nikki Giovanni:
“Style has a profound meaning to Black Americans. If we can’t drive, we will invent walks and the world will envy the dexterity of our feet. If we can’t have ham, we will boil chitterlings; if we are given rotten peaches, we will make cobblers; if given scraps, we will make quilts; take away our drums, and we will clap our hands. We will prove the human spirit will prevail. We will take what we have, to make what we need. We need confidence in our knowledge of who we are.”
Certainly, we can think of so many rich delicacies, music genres, musical instruments, languages, fashion, and dances that we have created out of the depravity, which we have endured as a people to have them stigmatized, distorted, denied, yet, culturally exploited and appropriated. Still, spirit and style are irrepressible. You see, the unshakeable truth about spirit is it’s either you have it, or you don’t.
The God within, below, and above us does not desire for us to be subordinate or subservient, but rather wants us to be of service, and in communion with creation. To live and love in color and harmony. We were not granted dominion to oppress and marginalize but rather we have been given a body and mind imbued with a dynamic spirit that is capable of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and expression – wisdom to discern and care for the Earth. And so, I trust it is evident that it is only when we honor and observe the practices of African and other indigenous eco-centric cosmologies and venerate the fundamental feminine principle of the Earth that will we be able to breathe, live, and rest in peace.
“Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea”
“In God We Trust…”
Liberty is not founded in the offices we hold but rather it is conceived and expressed through the faculties of our consciousness. A celebration of the Divine Feminine is a celebration of the Divine Masculine – a recognition of our freedoms and wide-ranging harmonies, hues, ethnicities, sexualities, religiosities, rituals – the wholeness of our planet and beings. The Divine Feminine does not oppose masculinity, on the contrary, she celebrates masculinity – she denounces patriarchy and all systems of injustice, indignity, and degradation. She delights and thrives in the fullness and richness of creation, i.e., the vibrant and diverse energies that make us who we are.
“As we go into ourselves, we come to ourselves, naturally.”
“The Voice of the Black Writer/Poet” and founder of Kuumba Theatre, always and all ways.
Liseli A. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D. is a Trinidadian poet and professor of African cosmologies, sacred ontologies and cultures in the Department of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, MA. Through embodied wisdom and experiential knowledge, she teaches what she lives and lives what she teaches. The name Liseli is of African Lozi origin. It means God’s Divine & Guiding Light.
- Mama O – Annalie Prime
- Negro Mother (Langston Hughes) – Val Gray Ward
- Ego Trippin’ – Nikki Giovanni
- Masa – Thato Jessica and Mpho Sebina
- The War Goes On/Nobody Wins A War – Singing Sandra
- Your World and Mine – Luciano
- Mother Earth – Brother Resistance
- Morena Osha – Mavis John
- Kasandra – Freetown Collective
- Breathe – India Arie
- we’ve been here before (The 1619 Project) – Liseli A. Fitzpatrick
- Welcome Home – India Arie
- My Love – Stevie Wonder & Julio Iglesias
- One – India Arie
- Colors of the Wind – Vanessa Williams
- Imagine – John Lennon
- Spirit + Bigger – Beyoncé
- Make Them Hear You – Rodrick Dixon (Three Mo’ Tenors)
- Lift Every Voice & Sing – Bebe Winans & Gladys Knight