Monday, 31 October 2011

Rebirth and Revolution: the Return of Yaa Asantewaa’s body PART II


The invasion of Libya (and subsequent barbaric public execution of its Head of State –Muammar Gaddafi) by US and NATO is a perpetuation of imperialist aggression against Africa. Although some might choose to forget a geographical reality that Libya is part of Africa, the recognition of this reality is necessary if we are to fully activate the vision of Pan-Africanism and confront the forces of imperialism and neo colonialism. The recent experience of the ACCRA 25, which includes members of the A-APRP and CPP (Nkrumah’s Conventional Peoples Party) highlights the persistence of the struggle in Ghana and Africa generally. On the 21st September (which officially celebrates Nkrumah’s birthday) activists began a peaceful, legal march toward the US embassy in Accra to protest against the US/NATO led invasion of Libya. Ghanaian police swarmed the demonstration claiming that the march was illegal because the protesters had disregarded a prohibition order. 25 (hence the dubbing of ‘Accra 25’) of the protesters were arrested, taken to the police station in Accra before being handed over to the BNI (Bureau of National Investigation - Ghana’s FBI/MI5) where they were interrogated and detained overnight. Local and International pressure and the acknowledgement by the Ghanaian officials that the demonstration was in fact legal led to the swift release of the protesters.

A few things are noteworthy here. First –unity of consciousness, that is the Pan-Africanist ideology in action saw the linking together of various organizations and people from across the world who pressured the Ghanaian authorities into releasing the protesters. Second - this unity of consciousness identified the enemy as neo-colonialism and imperialism; for how else must we regard the response by the Ghanaian authorities when their interest of protecting Ghana/Africa and taking a stand against any form of aggression against its sovereignty should have been aligned with the demonstrators. Instead they sought to suppress an activism the like of which Kwame Nkrumah advocated and which led Ghana to independence. Third – and I’ll leave it here (though other conclusions can be drawn) the power of Social Media/Networking was instrumental in spreading the word about the incarceration of these freedom fighters. The significance of this is that activism and the Revolutionary impulses that we’re presently experiencing are taking on new forms which we must embrace. Facebook and Twitter will not seem so technical, pointless or cumbersome when we can use these as means of mass resistance, political education and organisation. But you don’t need to rely on these new forms of technology – forwarding relevant emails can be equally effective in participating in revolutionary activism. Still – we can never underestimate the power and impact of word of mouth.

How does the foregoing relate to my time in hospital as outlined in Part I of this Shout?

The battle over my body was fought during August the same time as the UK uprisings which was catalysed by the killing of a young African man Mark Duggan. I say ‘killing' because I’m tired of the euphemisms used by the IPCC (and the Media) in its claim of ‘independence’ from the Met Police: “it is regrettable that someone has died...” This death did not occur peacefully in his sleep or from any natural circumstance. This was the consequence of an assault; a confrontation. Mark Duggan’s death has the sign of an assassination (murder by design). But why might this be the case? The answer may be found in David Cameron’s words to parliament about ‘empowering the police,’ ‘fighting back’ and identifying the ‘face of the rioters’, about ‘supporting the victims’ of the uprisings. Undoubtedly Mark Duggan’s killing and the ensuing uprisings enforce the image of black (mostly male) youth as the prevailing enemy in our society.

To “empower the police” there must be perceived disorder and chaos (‘rebellion’, ‘rioting’) in society. That disorder must have its face. Who are the victims that will now be supported? Is the government really concerned about small businesses? Of course not! It is orchestrated so that the general population see themselves as the victims who are in danger of attack from black youth. Given that the general population (comprising the working and lower middle class) is suffering socially and economically from the zealous measures by the government, the creation of disorder strategically relocates the image of the enemy. In other words don’t blame your impoverishment, unemployment and disenfranchisement on the government - and its headstrong involvement in invasions into other countries – look over there at those young black boys -rather at black people including community figures like Darcus Howe.

The image of black people as enemy persists through institutions like the BBC allowing so called intellectuals like David Starky unwarranted airtime to vent his incendiary notions solely to add fire to fire. This puts us constantly in a reactionary position. Brazen persistent attacks and offences by Western Europeans have placed Africans wherever we are in a position of perpetual struggle whether we care to identify with it or not. This of course is not to disregard the fact that there are genuine social, cultural and economic deprivations that are impacting us generally and which were the underlying triggers of the uprisings. Cost of living is high; hiked university fees denies opportunities to young people, especially those in African communities; there is a severe lack of opportunities for young people (but also generally with whole sections of work forces being made redundant); public services are severely reduced (closing of libraries, community centres in areas with larger numbers of Africans – like Haringey and Hackney); public sector jobs (where a number of Africans work) are being drastically cut. Although the diabolical squeeze is felt by working and lower middle classes whether Africans or Europeans, the face of these problems culminating in the uprisings has been assigned to African youth.

So while I slept, London burned, but ever so briefly; enough time though to signal a stirring in consciousness. Starky’s comments are simply the code of racism – nothing new about it. This code is systemic in institutions like the BBC. Generally the British Media imposes unconsciousness – tells you what to think, how to perceive the world. In hospital I heard an African patient denouncing the ‘rioters’/’looters’, claiming that they were opportunists and should all therefore be locked up. Contrarily a European patient countered that the uprisings were the consequence of a lack of opportunities for the youth, working and lower middle classes and condemned the government for its blatant alliances with the banks. I am trying to show here that unity of consciousness as called for by Pan-Africanism will identify clearly that the enemy of oppressed and exploited people is racism, capitalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism. Those structures enrich the few through the labour and exploitation of the mass. Some of us may believe the struggle against these forces is outside of our present cultural experience, and therefore remote - in Libya, Iran, Egypt, Venezuela, Iraq, Congo, Ivory Coast, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad, Brazil- an endless list of States impacted by the demonic tentacles of neo-colonial/imperialism/capitalism - and therefore has nothing to do with us. Some of us might think that the Mark Duggans, Smiley Cultures, Mumia Abu Jamals and Troy Davises of our world got something they deserved owing to erroneous criminal charges against them. But for me these are the conclusions of unconsciousness (that is not thinking or rather being seduced into thinking/accepting something that doesn’t make sense) which, empowered by governments to dominate the thoughts of the general public, the Media goes to all lengths to engender.

Thus it is that I have been considering my time in hospital amidst the period of ‘uprising’ in relation to Yaa Asantewaa in her exile and the woman in Revelations 12 who was forced into the wilderness. My body had been under siege (as a site of struggle) by a number of fibroid tumours for years. Though considered benign (in that they wont cause death) they are still harmful and mostly affect African and Asian women. Research about the cause is emerging but this doesn’t appear to seriously consider the specific causes of fibroids as they relate to African and Asian women. Diet is not a lone contributor; hormonal imbalances are also considered (your doctor may not relate this to you though) as causes as well as a stressful lifestyle. I can only allude to what may have caused mine – I have no accurate way of being sure. But removing them was an unavoidable necessity. After the operation to remove them risks manifested and ignited a deepening battle to preserve my life – and ultimately my regenerative function.

The regenerative function – that is life (rebirthing) – is expressed out of Love. Thus a body riddled with tumours can be said to reflect Love in stagnation. It is a body embattled (under siege), confused, stressed and un-liberated. The body has to be freed of limitations imposed upon it by these inhibitors of Love. I’m not here speaking about love in the reconstituted and false form pertaining simply to romance and sex. I’m speaking of Love as the driver of humanity; Love as the apex of spiritual evolution; Love as manifestation of the Universal and Creative Life Force. Full expression of this Love - in essence Divine Consciousness - is realised when its inhibitors are challenged and defeated. Yaa Asantewaa’s struggle against the forces of colonialism (inhibitors - oppressors, colonisers, imperialists) was borne of that Love (of her people and for humanity). The pregnant woman in Revelations 12 was pursued by inhibitors (Satan, the ‘deceiver of the world’ – capitalism, imperialism, neo-colonialism) of the Love she carried in her regenerative capacity. Love then as driver of humanity cannot complement oppression but is relentlessly pursued by such forces (capitalism/imperialism) that seek to destroy it.

This Love of which I speak is that of Auset when she challenged Set (an inhibitor, oppressor – our unconsciousness- reflecting our spiritual and creative dormancy) by collecting the dis-membered pieces of Ausar’s body. Her immaculate conception of Heru (rewritten in the Bible as the Mary/Jesus story) is symbolic of the conquering, transformative force of Love when actualised by Truth, Wisdom and Justice. This power of Love as the driver of humanity underpins the struggle for liberation against forces of oppression; for it was Heru - the son of Auset and Ausar -who eventually defeated the oppressor Set. Victory over Set was not easy. Heru and his followers were outnumbered by Set and his army. But Heru adhered to the admonitions of Tehuti (“Wisdom”). He became conscious that the battle against Set may be won only by his awakening consciousness, developing an understanding of spiritual intelligence and better organising his followers -his angels- metaphoric disciples that are faculties of spiritual consciousness.

In his book Metu Neter Anuk Ausar Ra Un Nefer Amen puts it this way: “[Heru’s] victory came from humbling himself to the intuitive guidance of the wisdom faculty [Tehuti] which is received through perfection in meditation, or oracles, or counsel from a sage. Intelligence has always defeated might and steel...Set will be defeated through truth, but one must stand up to him at all costs, and confront him with all means possible”(pg.151, my bolds). The African Revolution then requires an awakened consciousness that will in the fullest light direct our economic empowerment, social, cultural and spiritual evolution. Our collective activism toward achieving the objectives of Pan-Africanism underlies a powerful act and expression of Love.

Victory over the fibroids and comprehension of my purpose in the Pan-African struggle could not be attained without elimination and renunciation of the inhibiting factors in my consciousness. For that process of elimination would signal my readiness for Love- that my regenerative function was attuning itself for my rebirth. But it would be some time before my consciousness was thus awakened. After the fibroids were removed I was told there was an obstruction in my bowels which initiated the second operation. This obstruction and the resulting laparotomy compounded the length of time I was in hospital. Although the fibroids were removed, their mark of distress (oppressing my body) remained in the form of this obstruction. We recall here the wrath of the ‘great red dragon’ who pursued the remnant seed of the woman who had given birth to a male child (associations between this story and the story of Ausar, Auset and Heru are not strains of the imagination but a reality). In a similar way we may recall the slithery, vile and pernicious reach of imperialism and neo-colonialism aggressing against Africa. The struggle to restore my regenerative function I liken to the struggle to unify Africa; to re-member (bring its dismembered parts or body) into realignment. For this to manifest the objective of Pan-Africanism is paramount. Unconsciousness has to be replaced by consciousness and that consciousness has to become unified. The UK uprisings lacked unity of purpose, and therefore the organisation to make a more significant impact that we could identify as revolutionary. But small steps build pyramids.

Becoming conscious requires elimination/renunciation of redundant ideas and experiences; the relinquishing of harmful emotional and psychological experiences. A bowel obstruction can be said to express an unwillingness to release and let go those harmful experiences that entrap the emotions and psyche. This hinders spiritual development and that awakening consciousness that would enable ascension to the Divine (God within, not without and abstract) through the route of love. For it is Love that opposes oppression; it is Love that must be born (as Heru) to challenge ‘the great red dragon’ (Set); it is Love that must defeat imperialism, capitalism and colonialism in the revolutionary struggle for the unification of Africa and the saving of humanity.

So I was prepped for a third procedure, which I had seriously considered was a signal of my demise. But I chanted to the Creative and Universal Life Force and all my ancestors to relieve me. The result was that I didn’t have to have this third operation after all. We all exhaled. I have had to relearn everything as though I were a baby again. But I give thanks for everything; for the Love all around me without which my body would now be mere bones. I have scars; physical, emotional, psychological. But like Africa, remapped, divided and desecrated the struggle of my rebirth continues. And I know that day will come. Heru will defeat Set; the Red Dragon will be destroyed. The precision of my rebirth was marked by the birth of my grand niece on my birthday 16th October. This for me is a wonderful sign of life’s perfecting rhythm through which I feel most humbled and truly blessed.

Shout Out

Monday, 17 October 2011

Rebirth and Revolution: the Return of Yaa Asantewaa’s Body PART I

Momma yenkafo no eeei,
Yaa Asantewaa eeei,
Obaa basia a oko aprem ano eeei,
Obaa Yaa eeei!’

(‘Hail her!
Yaa Asantewaa
A mere woman
Who fought against the cannon!
The Woman Yaa’)

Folk Chant as homage to Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa

I was told that I would be in hospital four days following the operation. It had taken over two years for me to decide to have the operation but by now I felt assured that I was in good hands (Divine Order). Instead of four days, however, I remained in the hospital for four weeks. Complications from the first caused me to have a further operation. My immune system became severely compromised (it didn’t exactly break down – I was on a drip and unable to eat or drink for three weeks) for which reason the medical team insisted I have a blood transfusion (I had instructed that this should be given only as a matter of life or death). I wasn’t dying but my haemoglobin had fallen way below the level at which they would normally transfuse (my cries of resistance now seemed futile and irrational). As well as this, my wound became infected and had to be opened to release inflammation.

Due to the severity of the infection and the discovery of yet another internal obstruction it was decided that I should have a third procedure. By this time my family and friends feared I might not make it. In truth when I was told about this third procedure I felt that some greater force was seeking to utterly destroy me; not satisfied that the two earlier/major operations had failed to do this. My chanting intensified. I called on my family to add their prayers and chants to mine – rather I needed them to intensify their support -which had so far been remarkable- in uplifting me. Early one morning I was prepped to have the third procedure at which point psychologically I felt I was about to complete the battle with an unrelenting enemy. It would be a final confrontation out of which there could only be one victor. Who would be the victor and what “victory” would mean to me is what I’m hoping to express in this Shout. To do this I will consider the story of Yaa Asantewaa whose name I have claimed as a cultural realignment with my ancestry. I use her story to link some issues upon which I’ve been reflecting since coming out of hospital. These relate to my spiritual development (rebirth), my renewed commitment to Pan-Africanism as a stance against racism, imperialism, capitalism and neo-colonialism and my activism in the revolution which objective is to dismantle these oppressive, dehumanising forces and thus to further the cause of humanity.

Most of us know the legend of Yaa Asantewaa. Her death is recorded as 17th October 1921 so in honour of the 90th anniversary of her transition this very day I will briefly outline her story for those who might not be aware of this remarkable African warrior and ancestor. Queen Mother of Edweso (Ejisu) part of the Asante region of Ghana she led a war (otherwise referred to as ‘rebellion’) against the British Colonials who sought complete dominance of the Asante Empire. This war (1900-1) was the last in a series of such wars between the Asante and Britain throughout the 19th Century. It is also remembered as the last war in Africa to be led by a woman. Having seized power of Kumasi, the Asante capital and exiling its King Prempeh I and other members of Asante government, including Yaa Asantewaa’s grandson, Edwesohene (Chief of Edweso) Kofi Tene to the Seychelles, the British demanded the Golden Stool which symbolised the soul of Asante.

This brazen and offensive demand by Frederic Hodgson, the British governor of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) incensed Yaa Asantewaa. She wondered why members (men) of the Asante Government were allowing Hodgson airtime to insult them by his facetious demand when instead they should be demanding the return of King Prempeh. She declared that where the men exhibited cowardice, contrary to the fighting spirit of Asantes of old, like Nana Osei Tutu I she would rouse other women to fight the British and thus liberate her district Ejisu, Asante generally, its King Prempeh and her grandson from their exile. Her brave campaign lasted a year before she was captured and also exiled to Seychelles. There she died on October 17th 1921. Prempeh I was repatriated to Kumasi in 1924 whereupon he later negotiated the return of all exiled Asantes. Yaa Asantewaa’s body along with others was exhumed and returned to the Gold Coast in 1930 where she received a royal burial.

Following a trip to Ghana in 2002 I adopted the name of this remarkable African woman who sacrificed her life for her people. At the time I didn’t know very much about her. I was born on Thursday, like Yaa so the adoption made sense. It would take me several years later to register a spiritual precision in our birth and death. I was born on 16th October. My name was changed by Deed Poll which was signed 9 years ago on 17th October 2002. This was not a deliberate convergence. I was not aware of her birth and death dates when I chose the name – just about the campaign she led against British Colonials – which was for me inspiring enough. It might be considered coincidental but I prefer to see this as an intuitive activation, a spiritual vibration that signalled the poignancy of my rebirth. Thus more than a symbol of patriotism, resistance, liberation and womanhood, Yaa Asantewaa for me also represents continuity and the incarnatory vibration of struggle. This vibration of struggle would see Ghana achieve Independence in 1957, the first Sub-Saharan African country to do so. Yaa as (earth – “Asase Yaa”) mother, as warrior, as freedom fighter metaphorically birthed a son of revolution, Kwame Nkrumah. The significance of this is that her exile to the Seychelles didn’t halt the struggle for liberation.

The return of Yaa Asantewa’s body (remnants of her spirit one might say) to Ghana in 1930, the same year Nkrumah had completed his theological studies, symbolises a re-memberment of the struggle not only for Ghana’s liberation but that of Africa. Nkrumah pursued the struggle for liberation with a new emphasis – Pan-Africanism. Inspired by the ideas of Marcus Garvey and others he called for unity of all Africans, diasporic and continental for mass organisation and politicisation which movement would confront and ultimately defeat the forces of imperialism and colonialism. This Revolution as underpinned by Pan-Africanism calls for the participation of the mass without which it carries little force. Thus it is that Nkrumah declared that, "all people of African descent whether they live in North or South America, the Caribbean, or in any other part of the world are Africans and belong to the African Nation." Nkrumah called for the creation of an All-African People’s Revolutionary Party - as we find in the A-APRP - which was realized by Kwame Ture, amongst others in 1968 and which continues to activate towards the liberation and unification of Africa and its people. The party also works with other organizations committed to the freedom of all oppressed and exploited peoples across the world.

Yaa Asantewaa’s body then (as depicted here, emaciated and frail) can be regarded as a symbol of struggle and resistance; as Africa under the siege of colonialism. Metaphorically I also relate her story to that pregnant woman in Revelations 12 who was pursued by the ‘great red dragon’ - her pregnancy being a symbol of rebirth, renewal, freedom, the emergence of self, transformation of society, liberation (awakening consciousness)- in essence the battle for humanity. The ‘red dragon’ by which the woman was viciously pursued I relate to the evil hands of imperialism, capitalism and neo-colonialism clutching at every corner of the earth to destroy humanity. Like that woman who had to ‘flee into the wilderness’ whilst a battle ensued between Archangel Michael (“and his angels!” – support from the mass) and the Devil (“and his angels” - forces of oppression/exploitation), Yaa Asantewaa was exiled whilst Ghana remained a site of struggle for its independence. This was achieved when colonialism (‘the great dragon’) ‘was cast out’.

But the story didn’t end there. The last verse in Revelations 12 writes: ‘and the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed.’ An indulgent interpretation sees this ‘woman’ (and therefore Yaa Asantewaa) as Africa (by extension the oppressed world) and the ‘remnant seed’ as Africans who are perpetually confronted by the instruments of racism throughout our lives and the forces of imperialism, capitalism and neo-colonialism (incarnatory vibrations of the ’great red dragon’) which continue to blight our reach toward self-determination.

TO BE CONTINUED: you’ll have to wait for the second installment to hear how I relate the foregoing to my time in hospital which will be posted at the end of the month.