African Spirituality and Black Liberation

chokweI am still shocked, and heartbroken, over the news of the passing of Baba Chokwe Lumumba.  I got the news through text.  I was sitting on a bench on the platform at 30th Street Station in Philly, waiting for the 34 Trolley to take me to an event in West Philly, where Abayomi, Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire (one of my favorite news outlets) was speaking about imperialism in Africa.

I never made it to the event.  Once I was above ground, I called my sister friend Akanke, who also knew Baba Chokwe.

“Did you…did you…?” I couldn’t get the words out.

“Yeah, I did,” she responded heavily.

And then we ended talking for over an hour about how this could have happened, what’s going to happen next, and what this means for the movement.  I sat in an Eritrean restaurant down the street from the event, eating a salad, and trying to process, mentally trying to put all of these pieces together.

There are still many unknowns but one thing I know for sure:  African spiritual and cultural practices cannot be separated from any movement towards African liberation.

I will never say that Ifa practice, or any African spiritual practice, will eliminate all pain and suffering in life.  If anything, African spirituality is extremely practical and always emphasizes the necessary balance between light and dark forces.  We all have to leave this physical plane through death; no amount of divination or ebo (sacrifice) will eliminate the inevitable.

However, if we included African spiritual practice within liberation work, a person in Baba Chokwe’s position would automatically have his own personal diviner, no if’s, and’s or but’s.  Such a position of leadership, especially when opposing the current social order of racism and imperialism, needs to be able to know what’s coming ahead and how to navigate the good, bad, and the ugly.  Even corrupt in leaders in Africa who aren’t doing shit but cow-towing to white folks have their own diviners, because they want to make sure their food isn’t poisoned or their people aren’t staging a coup.  So why not our leaders?  Why not someone like Baba Chokwe whose very politics elicits many enemies?

We will never know what would have happened if Baba had had his own diviner and I am not one to dwell in the land of “what ifs.”  However, I do hope that as we move forward, the consideration of African spirituality being central to the movement will be taken seriously.

May Baba Chokwe rest in peace and power and ascend to the realm of the ancestors.



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