Registered © Michael Oshoosi, 2015
All Rights Reserved
MY AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIBERATION THEOLOGY DRAWS ON MANY SOURCES FOR INSPIRATION. SINCE THIS IS A WEB PAGE OF A PER- SONAL NATURE, IT IS APPROPRIATE FOR ME TO START BY ACKNOW- LEDGING MY OWN HONORED ANCESTORS--MY "EGUNGUN"--IN THE PARLANCE OF THE SANTERIA-LUCUMI (THE CUBAN) VERSION OF YORUBA RELIGION.
My family can be traced--name for name-- directly back to the founders of the oldest community of free African-Americans in the United States: Wetipquin, Maryland-- founded in 1683 by FMC's (freed men of colour)--to my eldest known personal ancestor, Comfort Wright (b. 1720), to David Dutton (b. circa 1730), and to all those descended from them. These fam- ilies of "low country" Maryland watermen and women, including Harriet Tubman, were known for liberating slaves by removing them from the mid-Atlantic "Tidewater" colonies and the states by stowage in their boats or by other means. I was born of that tradition.*
On my mother's side, our lineage originates, in all likelihood, primarily from the Igala or Ngala bantu-speaking peoples of eastern Nigeria ac- cording to our DNA records; though our heritage from the Efik and Efo peoples' areas of southeast Nigeria (Calibari) is a distinct possibility as well. While my grandfather's lineage is said primarily to have been of the Akan people of Ghana, although recent DNA evidence also points to a Nig- erian source for them as well. I acknowledge and honor them all !
Personally, I was born in the former Frederick Douglas Memorial Hospi-
tal in Philadelphia, Pa., and raised by my loving and hard-working aunt and uncle, Maude and John Rutter (both were experienced hunters), in the slums of North Phila., specifically. However, my life was charmed with the blessing of being able to frequenly live in the "tidewater" or "low coun- try" of the rural Eastern Shore of Maryland, among my extended family of boatwrights (which is why my family surname is "Wright") and "water- men"("oystermen") and women, on the one hand, and by having freq- uent visits with my mother, in New York city, on the other.
At an early age I started learning what I would come to know about the politics of cultural despair that, for African-Americans, flows in the wake of racialized capitalism, and for my life-long committment to eliminate its evils.
Though, at a tender age, I did not grasp the full meaning of my grandfat-
her words to me as we spoke while I helped him scrape the barnacles off the bottom of his oyster boats, or looked out across the woods and fields of rural Maryland from the back pantry of our family home: "You are Master Over All You Survey!" I later grasped his meaning. (He was not speaking about any material inheritance; far from it. He spoke of a histor- ical and spiritual inheritance rooted in human dignity).
Indeed as I grew older it became clearer to me how grand was the tradition of the noble working people from which I issued. Through the centuries we--our clan of extended families--owned land and boats and, relative to those times, a fair amount it. Thus, my forebearers were relat- ively fortunate, though not wealthy, when compared to others similarly situated.
As communitarian leaders they were dedicated, nevertheless, to the edi- fication of all of our people. And though we were "always" free, occas-ionally, people in our area were forced into limited periods of indent- ured servitude--from 1700 or so until the 1750's--either because of their refusals to pay taxes, or for having "mixed race" babies or babies out of wedlock. (These periods were 7 years for the African-American mother and 21 years or 31 years for the baby)! In the 1790's one of my great-great grandfathers, "Stephen," was exiled, along with 3,500 other "Negro- es" to Nova Scotia, Canada; probably for having fought for the British
in the Revolutionary War. A few years later, it appears, he would have ret- urned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. A few "loyalists"--as these
Africans-in-America, now exiled in Nova Scotia, were called--remained there in Nova Scotia. But most of them obliged the British to return them
to Africa; where they went on to found Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Many decades ago I was fortunate enough to become re-acquainted with
an African traditional religious and, ipso facto, cultural ethos arising --of all places-- from Nigeria, by being, in my case, deeply initiated in 1989 as a Santeria-Lucumi priest in an Afro-Cuban (Yoruba)religious lineage (La Rama de Las Pimientas) of Cuba by the singular Afro-Puerto Rican priest: the late Roberto Clemente --"Anya bi Osun," (iba-e!).
In my life, to that point, I had worked for four years as an activist with
the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the deep south in the 1960's, studied Marxist theory in that period and, in the next
decade, obtained both a Ph.D. in psychology (The Wright Institute, Berk- eley, Ca., 1976) as well as a degree in law (Univ. of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981). I obtained these degrees while working part-time as the founder and director of the Ethnic Arts Studies Division of the Calif- ornia College of Arts & Crafts (from 1970 to1981) in Oakland, California. Being hired to do this was unique because I had not yet finished my own degree at that point. Fortunately, my role there at CCAC was typically one-half time which allowed me to do many other political and educational things in the 1970's.
And by 1989 I had become a nationally-recognized forensic psychologist; the first African-American in the United States to do so. But little else has meant more to me than that I was--as an adult, in 1983--accepted into the Santeria-Lucumi (Cuban variant) of the Yoruba religion and, as men- tioned, deeply initiated,as a priest of the orishas (deities) Oshoosi and Oya, a few years later.
In 1993, acting under my padrino's ("godfather's") name and authority, and as his chosen 'consigliere' for our 'house' (or 'ile' or 'casa' counselor) I led the cam- paign in the Bay Area of California to repeal the laws that prohib- ited the practice of animal sacrificing (and, thereupon, the consumption of said animals). These rites were of importance to religious practitioners in many faiths; though the laws prohibited only us. We were the first in the country to achieve success in repealing them. Eight months later, after I and representatives from more than thirty religious denominations nation- wide, submitted briefs amicus curie to it, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled un- animously in favor of these rites being done by "Santeros"--the religious practitioners of the Afro-Cuban "Lucumi" version of the Yoruba religion--in the landmark case City of Hialeah v. Church of Lukumi-Babaluaiye. And with that, police harassment against the Yoruba religion stopped in the United States.
I had been in the religion for ten years at that time; with the four most rec- ent of them as an initiated priest. Following that, I authored the book "African Spirituality vs. The African-American" in 1996, that expounded on the issues, difficulties, and joys that most African-Americans might ex- perience in adopting and prospering in an African-informed "bi-cultural" life in the United States. "Alashe" is a title that means "one who owns (or possesses) "ashe" --vital creative force--which is attached to my name as "Michael Oshoosi"; which is why I am known in our religion and the public this way.
I hope that you will enjoy these treatises and may the blessings of Olodu- mare, "God" in Yoruba religion, be with you. From our language:
"A gbo ru ebo atukan eru.
Ko i pe, ko i jinna.
Or'sha ti nse bi alama'ra e"
"We heard and offered the sacrifice
It won't be long. It is not far away...
Orisha will make it come true like a dream!"
Ashe-O!, Ashe-O!!, Ashe-O!!!
*Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia
"The first 19 or so Africans to reach the English colonies arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, brought by the Dutch traders who had seized them from a captured Spanish slave ship. The Spanish usually baptized slaves in Africa before embarking them. As English custom then con- sidered baptized Christians exempt from slavery, colonists treated these Africans as indentur- red servants, and they joined about 1,000 English indentured servants already in the colony. The Africans were freed after a prescribed period and given the use of land and supplies by their former masters. The historian Ira Berlin noted that what he called the"charter genera- tion" in the colonies was sometimes made up of mixed race men (Atlantic Creoles) who were indentued servants, and whose ancestry was African and Iberian. They were descendants of African women and Portuguese or Spanish men who worked in African ports as traders or facil- itators in the slave trade. For example, Anthony Johnson arrived in Virginia in 1621 from Angola as an indentured servant; he became free and a property owner, eventually buying and owning slaves himself. The transformation of the social status of Africans, from indentured servitude to slaves in a racist caste which they could not leave or escape, happened gradually.
There were no laws regarding slavery early in Virginia's history. But, in 1640, a Virginia court sentenced John Punch, an African, to slavery after he attempted to flee his service. The two whites with whom he fled were sentenced only to an additional year of their indenture, and three years service to the colony. This marked the first legal sanctioning of slavery in the English colonies and was one of the first legal distinctions made between Europeans and Africans."