This book contains a two-fold purpose: it shares the experiences of an African woman who developed from powerlessness to great empowering heights, and it also attempts to communicate to the world the experiences and stories of the many voiceless African women and their children. The book is an introduction to a five year on-going research on the African Women and Psychology of Oppression. The contents are mostly stories, beliefs and philosophies of African women. They are true experiences. Some of them are breathtaking; some are heartbreaking.
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The Woman in MeThe Struggles of an African Woman to Discover Her Identity and Authority
By Mama Sophia
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Mama Sophia
All right reserved.
It was cool evening. A gentle breeze was blowing. The weather was so cool—it could have been 70 degrees. My compound—in fact, the entire village—was beautifully peaceful. Mother Nature could have been one of the sleeping beauties at this hour. The sounds of insects, birds, goats, sheep, and other creatures orchestrated a harmony that predisposed the afternoon as being evil free. So I thought.
It was our market day, and most of the adult members had gone to the market. On market days, it is common to see the very young and the very old home alone. My cousins Matthew and Angela were living with us at the time. They were in the backyard preparing palm nuts. Samuel, one of the notorious boys from my village, entered my father's compound (In 2000 when I started my personal life search, I found out that Samuel could have been 10 – 12 years older than me). Honestly speaking I do not remember how old I was, but that experience drew an indelible mark on my memory. I ran out to see who was at the gate. I could have been no more than four or ve years, but age is not as important as the experience. At that age, I was a very curious child; maybe more inquisitive than a monkey.
I regret that day—the day my inquisitive nature was crushed. Samuel picked me up and sat me on the front porch rail. I wanted to scream but was too scared. He held me on the rail with one hand and started to unzip his trousers with the other hand. I sensed evil was looming. I suspected he was going to do something bad when he started to unzip his trousers in my presence. At first I looked into his eyes, as if to remind him that what he was about to do was sinful. My religion had taught me that boys and girls should not do improper things such as I suspected Samuel was about to do. The look from his eyes was more mean than human. I started to cry, pleading, "Please! No! Please! No!" He raped me. I could not help but let out a loud cry. He quickly let me down and pulled up his trousers. By the time my cousins came to the scene, I had already run into the house and hid under my father's bed. I could hear him say, "I didn't do anything." I became more frightened when I heard him lie. Immediately, I started to blame myself, "I should have run away. I should have yelled as loud as my voice could carry". It was my fault," I whispered to myself. I was so scared and frightened. I started to shake. I must have passed out because by the time I woke my mother was sitting beside me on her bed. She asked me what happened. I said, "Nothing." She pressed and I insisted there was nothing. I became ill for the rest of the week, too scared to be left alone. From that day, my mom did not allow me to be home alone until I was old enough to defend myself.
I am an African woman. My growing up is not that great a story. During my girlhood and adolescence, I was a weakling. I was a timid and extremely shy adolescent. Like many traditional African women, I started out feeble and fragile. Now people look at me and see a strong African woman. I am full of energy and highly motivated. "She is rarely angry," they say. They perceive me as always being happy. They think it would take great evil to break me. Many of my colleagues admire my calm, serene aura. Some think it is not natural. However, I know it is. I have stopped trying to explain because I do not explain well. The source of my serenity is deep within. The secret is prayer. My staff of authority is love. My joy is deep-rooted and indescribable. I have not always been in touch with this me, but I believe it has been there from the beginning. I only needed to discover it. I did not fight for it. All I did was tap into the source and there it was–where it has always been.
Who I am is stronger than what you see. It is immortal. The image and likeness of CHINEKE— the unknown, infinitely powerful, indefinable supreme deity who encompasses everything—in us is indestructible. That was why I could not be maimed by those cultural injustices, abuses, and victimizations. Those long-standing cultural practices are too many to count and too complex to explicate. Now I am liberated and free. To understand who I am is the highest freedom. To strive to live out who I am is the optimum liberty. I have discovered my authority. But I am not alone. I still think of my African mothers, sisters, and daughters. I do not forget those who may still be in shackles. I am determined to stand by them until they too are liberated. As long as they are still in chains, I am not yet free.
When experience becomes overwhelming, reasoning goes on break, and we become speechless. The pen dries up and writing becomes impossible. That was my situation for a very long time. And that is still the situation of many African women and children. It was dif cult to be logical about subjective experiences. I was so immersed in the "pot" of injustice, dehumanization, degrading abuse, and victimization that I could not be analytical about my situation. The culture was and in many cases still is unjust toward women and children. Conversely, it is even more dif cult to be objective about something that one has no commensurate knowledge of or experience with. If you have not experienced it, you might not be able to understand it. I hope this essay will help you journey with me so that we can join hands in the liberation mission for African women.
Learning MySelf: Have you experienced suffering? Do you know someone who is going through unbearable pain as a result of loss, neglect, or abuse? Are you or is someone you know beginning to believe an ugly situation will not go away? Are you struggling financially? Do you feel financially secure but think something is missing? Do you ever feel like no one understands you or your situation? Have you felt like you should write a book about your life and the experiences you have had? Are you an African woman—or maybe any woman? The following tribute is for you. It comes from the bottom of my heart.
It is the tribute that empowers me to liberation. It reminds me who I am. It is this tribute that shapes my belief for myself, and not others' belief for me. From the moment I heard it whispered in my ear on behalf of African women, I became healed, strong, beautiful, and bold. I have discovered my authority, and my wings have developed and are strong. From that moment, I understood I am an eagle, not a chicken. For many years I was callow but now I know I can y. And since then I have been flying. The sky is no longer my limit. My sky is the limit. And I will continue to soar until death, when I will be united with my Maker, never to be separated again.
If you accept this tribute and see yourself in this way, then rejoice and allow the Spirit to lead, direct, and empower you to the Creator's greater glory. If you do not see yourself in this tribute, work toward it. It is you, believe me! If you pay attention and pray, in time you will find out.
The Tribute: As a child of a virgin mind, she is born as a prodigy—a paragon of moderate giftedness. Blessing is embodied in her being as well as in what she will become. Even though she is a blessing, everywhere she goes it seems as if a curse follows her. The enemy knows who she is. Her life is a threat to the kingdom of darkness. But her defender is mighty, and her guide is wisdom. She learns who she is by looking into the eyes of others. She learns who she is through fears and struggles. Like every woman, her vocation to girlhood, womanhood, and motherhood is a gift as well as a calling. She has never known evil, but evil has haunted her for years—in her family, in the community, in the church, in school, everywhere she goes. Oftentimes the devil would sit on her shoulders and taunt her unceasingly. Her KABUMBA-WESU allowed it for the glory yet to be revealed. Occasionally, these taunts come in quick successions without a break. And it looks like it will never end. Like a mighty wind blowing high, which sometimes form tornadoes. These experiences bend her, but she is never broken. She is graced with pliancy. She bows in total surrender as the storm ragesand when it is quelled, she rises and stands tall because Mother Earth and Father Heaven stand by her.
The Great One is her teacher. She is schooled under the instructional master called hammer-blows of experience. Wisdom incarnate is her teacher. She becomes enlightened by the hardship that blinds many. Her tractability is beyond compare. She learns to run from the suffering that cripples many. She is a learner par excellence. She has allowed herself to be schooled by everything and everybody. Her other name is Sophia. To the great, a look into her eyes reveals a goddess. And when the lowly look into her eyes, they behold a compassionate mother. To her colleagues, she is an indomitable and amazing sister. She may look feeble but is puissant.
She has come to own her authority. She radiates power and love. Her identity is no longer hidden from the wise. Like many women, she has discovered her inner beauty and strength. Her outer self has been, like gold, tested by re—except she is more precious than all the gold the world's money can buy. For the sake of the beauty that lies inside, her body was sent to hell. What she goes through is uncommon. This is so she can live. She lives to tell the story. She is only a voice. She is not the storier, nor does she claim to be the story. The storiers are the original owners of the experiences. She is only the storyteller. She is speaking because it is time. She can no longer keep silent.
She was born again and then again, three times. First she was a mother. Second, she was a midwife. Third, she was the baby. Each of these births was not without pains, agony, confusion, and cries. As a mother, she suffered through labor and birth pangs. As the newborn, she cried helplessly at birth. She cried for fear of the uncertainties of her new world, her culture, and new environment. She cried because she was forcefully ejected from the comfort of Mother Earth. As a newborn, she did not know that Mother Earth does not abandon any of her children. We live in her for a limited time before we are born. She prepares an eternal bed for our body after we die. Her welcome does not discriminate. High and low, men and women, children and adults, young and old, black and white, good and bad, righteous and sinners—everyone is welcome to sleep on the bed Mother Earth prepares for us when we die. A mother does not forget the child of her womb; even if she does, Father Heaven and Mother Earth do not.
As the midwife, her heart palpitated while she watched mother and child at the cauldron of death and life. Her heart trembled as she watched the separation process between mother and child, and she was happy to sever the umbilical cord. Gently, she put the newborn on the mother's bosom. Sweat and blood mixed to welcome the wonder child. The midwife donated her wrapper for covering. It became the newborn's swaddling cloth. At her birth, there was no gun salute. It was not a boy. If it was a prince, there would have been twenty one gun salute. It was a girl. But there was a cry. In the labor room we heard the cry. They were two persons but only one cry. Mother and child cried for the same purpose but for different reasons.
The Word Speaks: I have spoken. Yes! I spoke and you came into existence. I want you to speak as I did when My Word gave being and body to your matter and form. I want you to speak as I did when I spoke you into existence. I want you to speak as I taught you, my queen. For the sake of those whose daily lives are filled with drudgery, and for all the injustices they must face, I want you to speak, my love. Speak for those who suffer in silence because no one notices. You too have been there. Please do not forget, my Mother Earth. Arise, daughter! Arise, lovely sister! With you I can do a lot. Without me you can do nothing. I will always be by your side, whispering, prompting, reminding, admonishing, and encouraging. You shall live! All your daughters and sons as well! Freedom and beauty are your divine blessings! Authority is your birthright! Remember who you are! Claim your authority and everything else will fall into place. Rely on your second-chance spirituality. If you do not remember, never mind. Eventually, I will remind you about second-chance spirituality which will be discussed in the book Mystery of a Call (the diary of my spiritual journey). Remember, the mystery of your calling is when your future marries your past, and the power of the present is born into a wonderful energy. An energy that is loaded with authority and filled with peace, joy, freedom, equanimity, fruitfulness, wisdom, reverence, and indescribable beauty. Remember that the power of your authority is love. Please use it!
The Woman Responds: All these energies! Now I know that your gifts in us are not for keeping. I can't wait to share them with others. They are many and about to overwhelm me. I am ready for this dance. And I cannot stop dancing with you, my friend. I promise that all these energies will be channeled to developing KATONDA's trademark in all the children of the earth. This is our hope. We believe we can do it—you and me. This is our song! It is a song of love! We will sing it over and over—until the mission is accomplished. I urge you to begin to dance. At last, victory is ours. Let us dance!
Setting the Stage: I thought this, my first book about the African Woman, would present the findings from my ongoing research on her psychology of oppression. No! I cannot wait. That will be for the scholars; this book is for everybody, especially African women and girls. No matter how insignificant it may seem each of us needs to commence our individual participation in the liberation of African women.
Earth and heaven unite in their efforts to make the world the place our Mighty One intends for all the children of the world. We are all charged to make our world a better place. There should be no room for rancor and useless debate over who is important. Every age or group is important and has a contribution to make. Quite often I want to believe that the children and the elders are the most important groups, even though they do not represent the workforce. One of the models designed to take care of elderly women (the Golden Age Movement) holds that the elders are the custodians of traditions and culture. No society survives without the wisdom of its elders. Any generation that does not take good care of their elders wallows in darkness. If they neglect or abuse their elders, their women, or their children, they are in trouble. You may think they are vulnerable and maybe not as productive. But the truth is you can't do without them.
The world is a universe. Humans and all other created things form the unique rhyme in this verse that makes our world a beautiful music. If I may play on these words, I can say that the world is also a uni-vase. We all form a bouquet in this uni-vase. Different classes, races, ages, cultures, and ethnic groups make up the humanity of society and the functioning of it. Humanity is not made up of one class, one race, one age, one culture, or one ethnic group. The ef cient functioning of any given society or culture depends on these different components being active participants in leadership and followership. It does not make sense for one group to think it is superior over another. As a matter of fact, it is a conscious violation of fundamental human rights when one class or group assumes perpetual dominance over another.
In African societies, the elders and children are supposed to be cared for by those who hold the batons of intergenerativity, the active adult members. There are two ends to a spectrum. I do not want to use the word opposite. The two ends are held together by the bar, or their life in between. Life is full of spectrums—heaven and earth, male and female, white and black, young and old, leader and follower, yesterday and tomorrow, past and future, and so on and so forth. For the most part, we fall into either end of a spectrum. The majority of us cannot be at both ends at the same time. At times, one might be at the bar in between. With this position comes enormous responsibility with respect to holding both ends of the spectrum.
Excerpted from The Woman in Me by Mama Sophia Copyright © 2010 by Mama Sophia. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1. Awareness....................1
Chapter 2. Storytelling....................11
Chapter 3. Will It Take a "Witch" to Save Child "Witches" of Africa?....................28
Chapter 4. The Cry of the Heart....................40
Chapter 5. A Witch and a Saint....................53
Chapter 6. Power Versus Authority....................71
Chapter 7. The Power of Authority....................77
Chapter 8. Mission Versus Employment....................85
Chapter 9. Standing on Your Feet When They Cannot Touch the Ground....................99
Chapter 10. The Secret of Her Strength....................107
Chapter 11. They Rule, We Lead....................123
Chapter 12. They Have Power, We Have Authority....................133
Chapter 13. The Lost Innocence in the Land....................137
Chapter 14. The Missionary....................141
Chapter 15. African Women and Religion....................147
Chapter 16. Colonization of the Mind....................153