July 29, 2014

Marcus Garvey Centennial Exhibit Scheduled For African-American Research Library

                                                                                                        Marcus Garvey’s UNIA-ACL: The Centennial Exhibit, a month-long, mixed-media exhibition, will be on view to the public during August 2014 in the gallery of the African American Research Library & Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale. The Centennial Exhibit is scheduled to run from Friday, August 1, 2014, through to Friday, August 29,2014, and will focus on the life, times and modern day legacy of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA-ACL.

The unique exhibition is being mounted by the Rootz Foundation Inc. in association with the Broward County Library and Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s international organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association & African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). The Centennial Exhibit will be open to the public during normal library hours.

Dr. Julius Garvey M.D., son of Marcus Garvey, will be the special guest of honor for the Centennial Exhibit’s opening reception, which takes place from 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm on Friday, August 1, 2014 at the Research Library & Cultural Center located at 2650 NW 6th Street in Fort Lauderdale.

Broward County District 9 Commissioner Dale Holness is scheduled to read a proclamation by the Board of County Commissioners of Broward County declaring August 2014 as “The Right Excellent Marcus Garvey Jr. Appreciation Month” in Broward County, Florida. The proclamation is signed by Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief.

The Centennial Exhibit consists of a large collection of public and private Garvey family photographs; vintage photographs of the UNIA membership on the march and attending organization events; posters and handbills promoting the 1920s Black Star Line shipping endeavor; a variety of press clippings, books and magazines related to the Garvey movement; inspiring quotes by Garvey himself and insightful quotes about Garvey by other famous notables; historical data and timelines; plus looped audio-visual displays.

The informative special exhibit is geared specifically for students and others who are interested in learning more about the life and achievements of the Jamaican and Pan-American hero, the global impact of his organization, and about ongoing efforts by many different organizations and individuals to continue his legacy. One of the most unique aspects of this exhibition is the photographic and other materials detailing the existence of the UNIA-ACL today in 21st century America and showcasing the organization’s present day membership and its current activities internationally.

The opening reception will mark both Emancipation Day 2014 - a day of special significance for many Caribbean and African countries - as well as the start of this year’s extended Marcus Garvey Rootz Extravaganza. The Rootz Extravaganza is staged annually by the Rootz Foundation Inc. to observe and celebrate the birth of Marcus Garvey, the Jamaica-born Pan-African patriarch and hero.

Educational psychologist and Garvey scholar, Dr. Umar Johnson will be the guest speaker at this year’s Rootz Extravaganza on Sunday, August 17 at the Lauderdale Lakes Educational & Cultural Center at 3580 W. Oakland Park Boulevard. The event is scheduled from 4.00 pm to 7.00 pm and will commemorate the 127th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s birth as well as the 100th anniversary of the UNIA-ACL.

Marcus Garvey and Amy Ashwood Garvey established the UNIA-ACL in Kingston, Jamaica in July 1914. After Garvey relocated the organization’s headquarters to Harlem, New York in 1917, the UNIA-ACL became the largest organization of Black people in the world. At its height, with UNIA branches proliferating throughout the Caribbean, North, South and Central America, and Africa, membership in the organization soared to over 6-million people.

Dr. Julius Garvey M.D.

Friday, August 1, 2014 
4:00--6:00 p.m.
Research Library & Cultural Center

2650 NW 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale.

For more information call Rootz Foundation at 754-264-2205.

July 28, 2014

The Path to Akan: An Interview with Barrington M. Salmon (Nana Yao Ansa Dankwaa)

Tell me about your religious history.
Mine has been an interesting journey. I was born and raised a Catholic, did all the stuff associated with that: church every Sunday, first communion, confession, confirmation etc, etc. I attended and graduated from Catholic elementary and primary schools in London and Kingston. I think the thing that first made me begin to question was what I experienced while at St. Francis de Sales Elementary School in North London.  My siblings and I were only a handful of blacks at the school and we got little to no protection from the nuns, priests and teachers at the school against the very blatant acts of racism we experienced there. We were called monkeys, gollywogs--people asked to see our tails and stuff like that.

Then, at St. Richard’s Primary in Kingston, the nuns, almost all who were light-skinned were so classist and immersed into colorism that they routinely granted all types of favors to the light-skinned children, but also to those who parents were wealthy and donated liberally to the church. While serving as an altar boy, I saw a lot of the rituals up close.

I think the last thing that shook my faith was going to church every Sunday at Our Lady of the Angels and seeing one woman in particular, who had like eight to 10 children, all stair step – a year or two apart –she was not wealthy. She had that many children, I thought, because the Church prohibited contraception. It just made no sense to me for anyone to have that many children and the church didn’t really extend its hand to help.

I also thought the church’s stand on sex, intimacy and marriage was quaint. So from the time I was 15 or so, I went on a journey, making stops at churches, synagogues, mosques, revival tents, converted halls, anywhere I could search for a connection: Seventh Day, Jehovah’s Witness, Methodist, Episcopal, Pocomania, Rastafari, and Mormons. I talked to everybody, all the time, in search of that je ne sais quoi.

I “gave” my life to Christ several times, including when the Billy Graham Crusade came to Jamaica. But that lasted a hot minute or only as long as a pretty woman walked by. And after brief moments of euphoria, I still felt a void that nothing filled. 

As a teenager, I rebelled against the idea of a white Jesus and a white God, and I resolved to find a spiritual path that embraced my Africanity and my humanity as a black man. I was drawn to Rastafari as a teenager, started loxing my hair, but my mother put a stop to that. But I have always carried Rasta tenets and beliefs while on this amazing spiritual path.

In 1996, my marriage was in trouble and a friend suggested that we go to a marriage counselor, who happened to be an Akan priest and Reiki master. My ex and I started counseling and at some point I was invited to attend an Akom, a worship service. I liked what I saw, began to feel very comfortable and never left.

In subsequent research, I discovered that my maternal grandmother was a Maroon who traced her ancestry to Ghana. So it was like my journey dovetailed culturally, genealogically and spiritually. 

I began as a general member, trained and served as an Okyeame, a linguist and interpreter for my spiritual godmother who was also a Queen Mother. At some point, during a reading, I was told that I needed to go into priest training. I resisted for several years because I had never thought of myself as possessing anything remotely priestly, but in conversations and readings, I learned of the many reasons people were drawn to the priesthood: to save their lives, heal, help their family, serve the community spiritually and so on.

What sparked your desire for change? 

My life was going along in what I called “splendid chaos.” It was unraveling personally and professionally. I enjoyed some aspects of my life, but sought to find spiritual peace. I was dissatisfied with a consumer- and celebrity-driven society. I have never bought into the materialism that is consuming this country and I always thought there should be more. I wanted more, wished to have a closer relationship with the Creator and I looked high and low, had conversations with friends and strangers, ministers and laypeople trying to understand more. The questions always lingered: Who am I? Why am I here? How can I make a difference? Luckily, the Creator guided my footsteps and led me in the right direction.

I was ordained into the priesthood in 2006 which actually marked the end of the beginning. I went on hiatus and on March 20, 2014, I traveled to Ghana to finish the second and most crucial part of my training. I had a teacher, plus my spiritual godparents, who have taught me, instructed and guided me. He was open, answered every question and showed me how to be the type of priest I’ve wanted to be. My teachers say that in order to lead you have to serve and I am ready to serve.

What is the name of your spiritual path? 

I am Akan. It is an ancient religion that predates Christianity by more than a thousand years or more, I'm told. It is practiced in Ghana, Benin, the Ivory Coast, Congo and other parts of Central and West Africa. We believe that there is one God and a multitude of Angels who are manifestations of the Creator. 

We believe that everyone who comes to earth makes a pact with the Creator (Nyame, Almighty God) to fulfill his/her spiritual destiny while we're here. It doesn't have to be as a priest, but we are called upon to help our families, improve the community, be of service to those around us, and make positive contributions to our growth and development spiritually, economically and in other ways.

We believe in God, acknowledge Jesus and other prophets and respect all spiritual paths. We don't proselytize or force anyone to convert because we feel that if a person is led to what we believe, God, the Angels and our Ancestors will show them the way. 

Our Ancestors are very important to us and we believe that they play an active role in our lives and in guiding us and helping us navigate this world. We honor and venerate them, but do not worship them. They are a part of our foundation and their sacrifices have helped us as we move forward. As ones who have been here, and lived their lives, they can help us avoid the pitfalls and problems they encountered. They are also the custodians of the culture and traditions and the keepers of order in our lives.

How does Akan differ from Christianity?

In Christianity, Jesus is the Son of God and the belief is that Christians can only go to Heaven through Jesus. There are varying views from others who share my beliefs, but I see Jesus as a prophet.

Christians believe in heaven and hell. We believe that honorable people who have contributed to the community and live good lives go to Heaven (Asamando). Catholics have saints which enslaved Africans correlated with their deities (angels). 

Christians believe in conversion. We do not.

Akan Priests are the vessels and instruments of the Spirit and we are trained to possess and hold the Spirit, use that power to heal, divine and help those in need. 

Akan is African-based, Christianity mostly Eurocentric.

How has your worldview changed?

I think I’m more optimistic, desirous of peace and amiable relations with friend and foe. I am fully aware that there is a Higher Power and that we are not in control the way we’d like to think. I continue to work to be honorable, decent, a good father, companion and friend. I’m looking forward to what life has in store for me going forward.

I am more convinced that religion and spirituality as practice is more of a detriment and divider than a unifier which makes me sad. But spirituality, in my mind, has the seeds for our renewal and resurrection as human beings.  

About Barrington M. Salmon.

Barrington M. Salmon (https://barringtonmsalmon.contently.com/) is a British-born Jamaican journalist who has been writing for more than 20 years. He recently completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing and New Media from Demontfort University. Barrington is a traditional African priest in the Akan Akom tradition and has lived, worked, and studied in Washington DC, United States; Miami and Tallahassee, FL; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Leicester, United Kingdom. 

July 16, 2014

sx salon 16: Online

Giving thanks to Small Axe for publishing poems from my latest collection, LETTER FROM MARCUS GARVEY.

I am also happy to share the creative writing space with my talented sisters, Opal Palmer Adisa and Donna Aza Weir-Soley