Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Due Season

To say that my life has been eventful this past year is an understatement. So many things have been happening that it has been hard for me to take the time to just sit and meditate, let alone take account of it all. It seems like it was summer only a short while ago and I was bound for Ghana, Africa to see my wife's side of the family. Of course, my experience there was overwhelmingly significant, and there are so many things for me to share and reflect on in regard to that journey. Soon come, that is another story to tell. After our summer it was back to work, teaching the youths, and the months and seasons went by more quickly than I could imagine. Where did all the time go? What happened to my exercise routine? What happened to all of my writings and reasonings… my poetry? I hope to bring them about a bit more regularly again, but all in due season, at least I break the silence with this message. Something special has prompted me to write today on the once in a lifetime date of December, 12, 2012. 12-12-12 is the last major numerical date using the Gregorian calendar for about another century, when three numbers align (as they did on 9-9-09, 10-10-10 and 11-11-11). It is a cool phenomenon, but that is not what makes this day so special for me and my family.

For a very long time, my wife had been working on trying to bring her mother to the United States from Ghana to join her and her father here in Connecticut. This would be the dream of a lifetime, because although they had been living apart for 30 years, her parents remained married and faithful to one another. Her father lived and worked in the U.S. sending money and provisions home to Africa, while her Mom stayed in Accra, Ghana raising their children and taking care of the household. For her parents, time together was few and far between, when her father was able to take some vacation time to travel to Ghana. When my wife and were planning for our wedding, we also filed all the necessary paperwork to initiate the long, long process of bringing my mother-in-law here as well. It was our hope that she would be able to attend our wedding day, but unfortunately there were a series of obstacles in the way that prevented that wish from happening. Dealing with the Department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is a labyrinth of twists and turns that often leads you to complete frustration, I experienced it second-hand. Each time that my wife and father-in-law thought they had completed all the necessary steps, something else came up. After nearly a year of back-and-forth with the government, Mom’s application was processed and we had to wait for an interview date to be determined.

This past summer, my wife and I travelled to Ghana and were hoping that while we were there we would get the date for her Mom’s interview and arrangements could be made to bring her to America. However, once we were in Accra, a notice came stating that the interview date would be in September, once we would back home and working. The interview at the American embassy is an important part of making it through the gauntlet, and it can be a tricky situation when the officials are combing through every detail of the application and all the files that were required to accompany it. My wife was intent on physically being there with her mother since she was her sponsor who filed her immigration application. So, my wife had to travel back to Ghana in September and attend this meeting, with the hopes of bringing her Mom to the States this time. Thankfully, the embassy granted our Mom permission to come over. However, the visa would not be issued until a month later in October. This meant a third journey to Ghana before everything was done! My wife waited until the week before Thanksgiving in November and flew to Africa once more. Mom had her received her visa, bags were packed, and finally after all that time… after all the paperwork, expenses, and physically flying between two continents three times in as many months, she arrived.

This evening on 12-12-12, we celebrated my Mom-In-Law’s first birthday in America. We sat together as a family, eating fufu and light soup, laughing, sharing stories, and being thankful. My wife has not seen her parents living together properly under one roof for her entire lifetime. To see her Mom and Dad on the same side of the table, celebrating her Mom’s birthday, is nothing short of a miracle for us. It has been a few weeks since Mom came to the States and she is happy and well, and getting acquainted with American life (she never left West Africa before). Now she is enjoying time with her husband, her daughter, and her son-in-law. Lives worlds apart were finally united together after so much time.

This amazing story is a story of endurance. What I managed to put forth here, late on a Wednesday night and rusty from a lack of writing, does not do it justice. It is so incredible that we as a family have to pause in order to appreciate that it is reality. The amount of faith, energy, and patience that it took to trod this road and reach this point is beyond measure. However, the lesson here is that everything comes in its due season, and everything will align itself just the way it should be, when it should be, like 12-12-12. With persistence and faith, we can endure the time until we reap the harvest. Patience removes mountains. Something that seemed impossible and insurmountable is now behind us on this journey called life. We all have our own obstacles, whether it is U.S. Immigration or finances or physical distance. An African proverb says, “While there is a mountain in your path, do not sit down at its foot and cry. Get up and climb it.” Our family has overcome a mountain, and we will still have more mountains to climb in this life… but we can do it with a little bit of patience and faith, and so can you! Life is beautiful, and when you think you have it figured it out, it will surprise you once again. Happy Birthday Mom! Let JAH be praised! 


Monday, July 23, 2012

Africa Bound

Today on the 120th Earthlight of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, I prepare for my journey to Africa tomorrow. My wife and I will be travelling to Ghana to spend time with her family and see her homeland again after three years of being away. For me, it has been a lifetime of being away. To claim Ghana or anywhere in Africa as a “home” would be something I could never have imagined before I was married, and although this is my first trod to the Motherland, knowing that my Empresses’ family is there to receive me gives me that joyous feeling of home already. Africa awaits with open arms.

Words escape me as I am writing this because I am overwhelmed with many thoughts and emotions. In fact, I’ve had a hard time articulating anything when people ask me about it. As a Rastaman, this is a dream come true... stepping on African soil, sacred land. I feel like an ancient soul finally finding peace in my roots. Many people in the West do not have the opportunity to travel to Africa, nor do they have the connections to do so with comfort and security. I am very blessed and very fortunate in that regard. More so, I am meeting the rest of my wife’s family, relations that I have only been able to speak with on the phone. To greet my mother-in-law and my siblings-in-law for the first time will be an honor and an experience that I have not yet fully conceived. To spend time learning more about them and growing as family will be the ultimate blessing. In a day I will be enjoying  their company, music, and food in Accra, Ghana... a world away from Connecticut.

A world away indeed... As much as I am familiar with Africa, it is another thing to be there and live it. Everything I understand about Ghana or Africa in general may or may not completely change or evolve. I don’t really know what to expect, but I have a positive mind and therefore I am confident in having good expectations for this voyage. As exciting and new as it will be, I feel that it will also provide the inspiration to reinvigorate my spirit. Going to Ghana will help me to reflect more on my livity and trod with Rastafari. I plan to keep a journal during my stay, and write often. Mental exhaustion has affected my ability to write as much as I once enjoyed, even during these summer months. There will be much to think about, and much to say, this is for certain. From my perspective as constant student of African History, I will see places that I have learned about only in books or documentaries such as the legacy of the Ashanti Empire, the Elmina and Cape Coast Castles, and the resting places of Kwame Nkrumah and W. E. B. Du Bois... just to name a few. I will be completely absorbed in my “dreamland across the sea”, as many reggae songs have evoked.

I know that this will be the first of many trips to Ghana because of my family, but I hesitate to presume too much simply because I am in awe of the fact. It is my hope that I explore and grow close to Ghana more and more, this haven for African Liberation and progress. It is also my hope that I am able to experience other regions of Africa and ultimately Ethiopia. What better way to celebrate the birth of the great King Selassie I than with a trip to Mama Africa? It will be a time of cultural and educational exchange, an opportunity to become acquainted with my African brethren and for them to know me in turn.... something His Majesty always promoted. It is a blessing that I am extremely grateful for. I am so excited to meet new family, and I am so deeply moved to experience this ancient land. I am eager to soak it all in and share my travels with the massive when I return. Until that time, blessings! Mama Africa, we are coming home...

JAHsh, The Obroni Rastaman

“Hello, Mama Africa, how are you?
I'm feeling fine and I hope you're fine too 
Hello, Mama Africa, how are you ?
I hope when you hear these words 
Your greys turn blue, greys turn blue”

- Garnett Silk

Friday, May 25, 2012

African Unity

Africa. When I bring up the name of the mother of all continents with students in my classroom, or in conversations with average everyday people, I can already predict the type of commentary I’ll receive: “poor people, war, primitive, disease, wild animals”, and so forth. Even if we dismiss the attitudes spawned out of bigotry or ignorance held by the international community (which we cannot), at the very least the perception of Africa is a pessimistic one. Why does it appear to so many people as if no good can ever come out of Africa? Why does it seem like the media only reports on the failure and depravity of African nations? How can the richest and most ancient continent on Earth have the poorest people? As a Rastaman and a teacher, I do my best to address the negative attitudes about Africa. Yes, the continent still suffers very much, but now more than ever in modern times there are some wonderful things to say about Mama Africa as she moves toward a renaissance. We celebrate African Liberation Day, or Africa Day, as the beginning of a new independent Africa and the harbinger of good things that are yet to come.

On this day, May 25th, 1963, the charter for the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was signed by 32 independent African nations, just a few short years after they gained independence from their colonial European powers. Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia presided over the formation of the OAU (now the African Union) along with other revolutionary African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana with the goal of urging the African nations to unite on common ground. While some leaders were in favor of more gradual efforts to unify, others like Nkrumah who held socialist and Pan-Africanist ideas, looked to create a strong federation, a United States of Africa. This was a manifestation of the dreams held by the Pan-African Congress first organized by W.E.B. Du Bois, and the efforts of so many other freedom-fighters from Africa and the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and America seeking to eradicate colonialism. The OAU was the foundation for African solidarity, for having a collective voice, for building a real economic and political future, to defend human rights and raise the living standards of Africans at home and abroad. However, political self-determination came with many challenges for the newly independent nations and for those nations still to be liberated. Remember, Britain did not decolonize Zimbabwe until 1980, and an apartheid government existed in South Africa until 1994.

For centuries, Africa, with all of its wealth and its once proud trade empires of ancient and medieval times, had been exploited of its natural and human resources, damaged and segmented by the slave trade and colonialism brought by both the Arab and European world. After so many years of darkness, a swift strengthening and healing could not be possible for these vulnerable nations. Borders were drawn across the African continent, leaving nations with diverse ethnic groups, cultures, and religions that became the catalysts for conflict and control. During the Cold War the United States and USSR competed for influence in independent Africa, seeking resources and strategic locations. Since independence, political turmoil has resulted in frequent military coups, and true democracy is frequently stifled by one-party systems and eventually dictatorships. Natural resources have been exploited by either imperialist economies or warlords seeking regional control. Furthermore, foreign assistance largely ceased along with the Cold War and many African nations were left in debt to the IMF and the World Bank, beholden to foreign governments and businesses, the people of these countries have suffered through poverty and the other problems that spawn from it. 

In the midst of all the chaos and crisis, some heroes of the African independence movement were ousted from power by rivals or became despotic rulers. Kwame Nkrumah, the father of my wife’s native country Ghana, the leader who proclaimed “self-government now”, was one of those. When he became the first president of Ghana, some of his political tactics were considered to be authoritarian, and in efforts to modernize the country, the nation fell into debt which eventually led to him being overthrown (some say with the help of the CIA). Now decades later, many Ghanaians regard Nkrumah as a hero who tried to build up the nation and who promoted the liberation and unification of the whole African continent. Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya was another founding African statesman and the first president of his country who had also been criticized during his reign and yet has been regarded as a hero. Along with Kwame Nkrumah, Kenyatta was one of the first African leaders to get involved and collaborate with W.E.B. DuBois and the Pan-Africanist Congress. Before Kenya’s independence he was imprisoned by the British for allegedly aiding the Mau Mau rebellion. He was also the inspiration of reggae’s Burning Spear. Finally, there is the father of African unity, H.I.M. Haile Selassie I who was overthrown by the Communist Derg leader Mengistu Haile Mariam after famine caused distress amongst the people. Yet, Emperor Selassie I had modernized Ethiopia, promoted education, made the ancient monarchy a constitutional one, and helped lay the foundation for the OAU (and now the African Union), in his own capital of Addis Ababa. Critics who claimed that H.I.M. was an autocrat used fraudulent reasons to take power. Derg supporters and foreign journalists like Ryszard Kapuściński (who was a Communist and sympathetic to Mariam) spread and wrote deceitful things about Haile Selassie I and ignored the arrests and executions of university students, intellectuals and politicians and the forceful exile of the royal family by the military coup. Why can’t the world honor these men and their achievements without discrediting them?

I do not advocate totalitarianism, corruption, or the violation of human rights... but let’s be honest. Many of the same things that African leaders, past and present, have been blamed for are things that go unnoticed or whitewashed in the politics of the Western world.  Particularly in regard to Emperor Haile Selassie I, Kwame Nkrumah, and Jomo Kenyatta, where no violence or terrible infringements of human rights have ever been honestly attributed to them. These great men were liberators and sought the unification of the entire African continent and to say that their leadership needs to be measured against the example of American or Western democracy is unsuited and unfair especially when examples of good governance were absent even during colonial rule (besides Ethiopia). There are many perspectives and authors to history. Some of these views are right and some are wrong... and more often than not, there is a blending of both. Ultimately the Truth does reveal itself, and I believe it will favor those who fought for the rights and dignity of the oppressed by any means necessary. Of course there have been dictators in the truest sense of the word like Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin, Charles Taylor, and others who have used torture, murder, war, and political manipulation to keep power. Fortunately, over the years the citizens of many of these African countries have forced dictatorships to hold elections and transition to some form of democracy. 

Over the past few months the news stories coming out of Africa have been bleak, as usual... and underreported, as usual. The military Islamist organization called Boko Haram is still terrorizing Nigeria with violence, ethnic attacks and a coup d’état took place in Mali, battles in the new country of South Sudan, political commotion in Senegal, and continued problems in the Congo and Somalia. Oh, and of course you had the flash-in-the-pan that was “Kony 2012”, a YouTube popularity contest to find Uganda warlord, Joseph Kony, whom people have known about for over 20 years. In fact there are existing documentaries about Kony and the LRA that are at least 10 years old now. What have been the real actual fruits of this campaign besides a few sensationalized news stories aired for a couple of weeks in April? Not to take anything away from the terrible amounts of suffering that people endure in these war-torn and unstable areas, but this is the image of Africa that we are left with: a helpless, despaired, “dark continent”... unable to rise on its own without the help of some well-intended Western college students, missionaries, and celebrities. It perpetuates the notion that Africa is unable to help itself and become great again. However, on the flip-side is plenty of evidence that Africa is on the rise.

There are many hopeful signs that point to a good future for Africa. Africa is in the midst of a population explosion, middle classes are emerging, business entrepreneurship is evolving, urbanization is spreading, and economies are growing with the help of new foreign investment, particularly from China. There is more freedom from Western influences and more competition in the African economies, which means that foreign interests have to play by African rules. With such changes, livelihoods are changing for the better as well. Many young, globally connected, and increasingly more educated Africans are demanding political changes, better healthcare, functional governments, free elections, and are realizing the necessity for being the creators of their own destinies. Africa is slowly and steadily on the rise. The flaws and failures will eventually even out after many years of growing pains. For all of the negative incidents shown in the news, not enough of the African success stories are highlighted for others to see, like the economic gains of today’s Ghana and Mozambique. It is important to look at these many factors when examining Africa. To do so is not ignoring the problems that currently exist, but rather being optimistic of the things that are sure to come. 

Look to Mama Africa with optimism and hope, just like the Pan-Africanist leaders, Selassie, Nkrumah, and Kenyatta. Like DuBois, George Padmore and Dudley Thompson from America and the Caribbean. No matter who you are or where you come from, Africa is the birthplace of humanity and the foundation of our global future. The whole world is Africa. So, let us hail up Africa, like Marcus Garvey once wrote:

Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
State in perfect sisterhood united,
Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be.
- “Hail, United States of Africa” by Marcus Garvey

Happy African Liberation Day; Africa Unite, 

Kwame Nkrumah & H.I.M. Haile Selassie I

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Adjusting To Jubilation

It is important to know that life is a very wonderful gift, and that we should be mindful of this as we take this journey of ours. While getting carried through the whirlwind of our responsibilities, busy schedules, and daily routines, we need to acknowledge that these stresses are only small and often insignificant parts of who we are and what we do. There are times when it is absolutely necessary to pull out of our micromanaging and take a moment to be aware and give thanks. This year has been incredibly hectic for me, and since it is my birthday today, I celebrate it with an opportunity for reflection on what I have and how I am managing it.

I begin with mentioning that married life is something that I have been really busy adjusting to. It is very different from the lifestyle I once had as a bachelor. I follow that statement with mentioning that nothing could be more satisfying and wonderful than married life. Beginning and ending each new day with the love of my life, my best friend, my Empress, is a truly magnificent blessing alone. I can remember days of solitude, days of wondering whether or not there was that special woman for me... and then here I am spending each day and night with her! We share a home together, this little place of our own that we can take refuge in after long days of work. We have our arms to comfort one another. We have our shared experiences. To an outsider, it may seem boring or ridiculously ordinary. However, it is this constant and steadfast rhythm which is truly amazing. This stability is built on love, trust, and satisfaction. These qualities seem typical because we all desire them and strive for them in one way or another, but they are very extraordinary. So much so, that it seems just... ordinary. I liken it to the earth, spinning each day on its axis... turning day into night, and orbiting around the sun, bringing season after season. We expect these things, we are familiar with these things, but this act literally keeps the world turning. Together with my wife, “moon and sun” as I had written in a poem for our wedding, this daily turn with my Significant Other is significant indeed.

However, with married life comes a newfound responsibility. Being there for each other emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically can be exhausting. A single person meets their own needs (which is often a feat in itself), and then extends themselves to others when necessary. A married person must consider their partner, must make sacrifices, and must meet each other’s needs. Add to this being a homeowner, juggling mortgage payments, loans and bills, for the sake of securing your family. It is a very different way of life, but certainly it is a good type of “different”. Adjusting to that tempo is something that I am still learning. Even though I know that many challenges await us in our long years ahead (JAH willing), we have the commitment and love to succeed.

Adding to the daily rigors of (newly) married life is my life as a teacher. Those of us who are teachers know that the lifestyle of an educator can be very exhausting and very taxing. It has been a difficult year for me professionally for a variety of reasons, one of which includes working multiple jobs. Stability is just as important to a career as it is to personal or married life... we long for having a sense of achievement and a sense of worth, and when we feel stressed, overwhelmed, or unappreciated it can really affect our entire life and our outlook on life. Being in this situation has taught me a few things this year, at least an awareness of how important or unimportant something actually is. Whereas a sense of stability is vital and hopefully expected in married life, there is less of a guarantee for this at work. Changes can come quickly, both positive and negative. Unfortunately there has been a lot of negativity to cope with this year as a teacher, whether on a local level, state and national level, or even cultural level. Add to this the fact that socializing with so many people, and in my case indifferent teenagers, comes with a lot of extra pressures. Yet, although it is a facet of my life, it is NOT my life... not your life, not our life. Life is much more than that, and at times it is very necessary for us to skim it off the surface and reconstitute ourselves. Time for realignment (or vacation, whichever comes first).

As a married couple, having time for our families and our friends is another new adjustment. It is not always easy to keep this component at the forefront of our lives, but I believe it is necessary. Family is very important to me and, along with my wife, I am very blessed to have my relationships with my parents and brothers, my in-laws, and other relatives to all prosper. This is rare for so many people nowadays, so I acknowledge this as a true blessing. The simple fact that my wife and I can address each other’s parents as “Mom” and “Dad” and say it with love and feeling is such an awesome thing in itself. Friendship can be trickier to maintain because it requires communication and understanding to stay strong... but we all need it, and we should all value it. So I say to all my friends and family alike... I love you! As one of my friends has always said to me, “two mountains don’t always meet”.  So distance is no matter when hearts and minds are in tune. I am confident that I will get better at making time for all the people I love and care for, give thanks for the patience.

Now, after making time for my wife, my family and friends, I am working on reestablishing time for myself: Time to educate myself on the things that inspire me, time to strengthen my convictions, time set aside to write (which has been sparse this year for aforementioned reasons), time to read, time to keep physically fit, time to sing, time to celebrate. Time for doing the things that make me who I am... a husband, a teacher, a Rastaman, a friend, a world citizen. Yes these things are very important and necessary.

Finally I end this by saying I give thanks to God, whom I call JAH, Jehovah, Rastafari. Life is great and beautiful, but I can never forget the blessings that I have. For me it is important to acknowledge the Creator’s hand in this life of mine... because it is very real in my sight. When life is good, it is human for us to forget about God. I cannot. After expressing all the new things I am learning to adjust to, one can see how these adjustments are really just growing into the blessings that have been forwarded unto I&I. I have my Empress, I have my family, and friends. I have my health and strength. I have a meaningful vocation. I have a voice. Today, on my birthday, I renew my friendship with JAH and give thanks for life!

Yes, give thanks for another year and for all my blessings. I hope to keep this fire burning... so, all the Massive, check for the reasonings, poems, and lyrics in a Rastaman stylee! I am still here and there are still so many things to say.

More Love,

Monday, January 30, 2012



It tek discipline
To keep you structure thin
And keep up the trainin'

It tek discipline
To get the right nutrition
And eat up ital cookin'

It tek discipline
To keep you dread from trim
And hold the roots tradition

It tek discipline
To know each human you kin
And to unite all African

It tek discipline
To keep on penny pinchin'
And to build up a savin'

It tek discipline
To get the right education
And to guide the children

It tek discipline
To firm up you relation
And love without condition

It tek discipline
To have a life mission
And forward to achievin'

It tek discipline
To leave all the politician
And to hold your own position

It tek discipline
To keep far weh from sin
And stop all the gossipin'

It tek discipline
To hold some peace within
And keep the beast from win

It tek discipline
To trod with the Lion
And bun out the Dragon

Mi beg you, listen
Life... it tek discipline

(c) 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Boko Haram

Boko Haram

Boko Haram, stop planting di bomb
JAH gonna whip down yuh organization
Boko Haram, me seh what a bam bam
Stop antagonizing all of the Nigerian

Boko Haram set upon Goodluck Jonathan
Putting the whole nation inna state of alarm
Boko Haram deh in the northern region
Making the Muslim fight all the Christian

Boko Haram must put down the weapon
Kalashnikovs inna Kano keep firing on
Boko Haram killing men like chicken
See the blood run like oil from the palm

Boko Haram, stop all the terrorism
Africans murdering more African
Boko Haram, setting off detonation
All in the name of your false religion

Boko Haram, you better take caution
And Abubakar Shekau, your wicked imam
Boko Haram, promoting pure confusion
Just wait 'til the day when Selassie I come

Boko Haram, yuh must practice salaam
Allah never tell yuh fi kidnap the children
Boko Haram, stop all the violent action
All of this wrong is only serving Satan

(c) 2012

Boko Haram is a radical Islamic sect which is responsible for attacking communities in northern Nigeria. They threaten to make war on the people and the government until the whole country converts to their brand of Islam, even though Nigeria is almost half Muslim and half Christian. This is one of the many conflicts taking place in Africa that barely gets any coverage in the western world. Rastafari say to stop the war and Africa, unite!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Holy Night

Holy Night

Bredrens gathered around the crackling fire
Inspired to illuminate the cool darkness
And harness the word, power and sound
Found amid the roots of their groundation
Giving ises and supplication to the Most High
JAH, Rastafari; there, beneath the night sky
Each I sending his own thoughts, flying like sparks
Becoming part of the universe, as bright as a star
Seen shining far over distant hills and plains
Perhaps the same way that it had once been
When some shepherd men rested with their flocks
Sitting upon rocks in sight of a light they followed
On to hallowed ground, there, awaiting their king
To come and bring blessings to the whole earth
The birth of the One that they would call Emmanuel
So that every tongue would tell of this moment in time
When a sign was given to sight up the Kristos, Shiloh
And now, even in the warm glow of fiery embers
The Spirit remembers the soul of the same name
Rejoicing in the reign of His Majesty, One In Three
While those who have eyes to see and ears to hear
Have come to share together in burning the sacrament
And commence a new session in the Jerusalem School
Where a few have become that fire in the Holy Night

(c) 2012

January 7th is the day of Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas, known as “Lidet” or “Genna”, the Light of the Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ (Iyesus Kristos). Many within the Twelve Tribes of Israel and Orthodox houses of Rastafari sight up this holiday to celebrate Christmas rather than December 25th because of Ethiopia’s adherence to the ancient Roots Christianity, the faith of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Melkam Lidet!