Saturday, June 9, 2012

Libations for the Ancestors June 9, 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area

It's that time again, our annual ritual pouring libations for our ancestors. We join communities in Charleston & Georgetown, South Carolina, Portobelo, Panama, West Indies, Cape Coast, Ghana, and Brooklyn, New York, Seattle, Washington, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, West Indies, Hampton, Virginia, Atlanta, Georgia (?).

Stop what you are doing Saturday, June 9 at 9 a.m. PST and pour libations for our African ancestors who were taken against their will from Mother Africa. Ask them for strength and endurance. Freedom is a constant struggle. For those who'd like to pour libations in unity. Join us at 8:30 a.m. We will pour precisely at 9 AM. Bring your drums and other percussion instruments to celebrate our ancestors' lives. Bring flowers, breakfast pastry and fruit to share. It is traditional to wear white, but for those who know me...bring yourself; it's what's inside that counts.

Feel the power of that moment as we recall their greatness of spirit and give thanks. Ashay!

Last year we met at the fountain at Lake Merritt in Oakland, across from the Merritt Bakery where the fountain is: E-18th Street at Lakeshore Drive. We can meet there again this year. It is a nice spot, easy to locate and wheelchair accessible.

This is our fifth or sixth year participating in the international remembrance of the African ancestors who were bought and sold during the European slave trade. This is also an opportunity to reflect on those subsequent ancestors like Mama Tubman and Baba Denmark Vesey, and ancestors elsewhere in the African Diaspora. It is, a prayer for our survival and an opportunity to greet and support one another in this important work: healing from enslavement: socially, politically, and economically. It is also an opportunity to reclaim our personal and collective power, plus long overdue justice and equality.


Listen to Wanda's Picks Radio Friday, June 8, 2012 8-10 AM where I speak to Sisters Deborah Wright (Charleston, SC), Chadra Pittman Walke (Hampton, Virginia), Afua N'Diaye (Seattle, WA), Kefentse Chike (Detroit, MI), and Dr. ChenziRa Davis Kahina (Virgin Islands); Brothers Osei Terry Chandler (founder of Charleston, SC Remembrance) and Azikiwe Chandler (Charleston, SC); and host: Wanda Sabir (Oakland, CA). Follow the link:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Maafa Reflections at 16 Year Anniversary

This 16th Year for the Commemoration was like starting all over again. It has been like getting ready for a game only to find out that your teammates stayed in the dugout and left you all alone in the outfield. I have been really encouraged by the Pelican Bay Strike, those men who have been living in solitary confinement, men who are allowed a photograph of a loved one, a hug or a kind touch at a visit. Men who haven’t seen sky in decades, these men, supposedly the incorrigible have been able to form alliances cross racial, ethnic and philosophical lines, something nearly impossible to achieve outside.

They are a model being replicated around the country, first with longest state government shutdown in recent history ended with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signing the budget July 20, 2011, now Occupy Wall Street and Monday, Occupy Oakland at 4 PM at City Hall. These are people who agree that something has to change in a country where corporations are given the same rights as people, all natural resources are legislated or privatized –this includes food, a place where waste is the biggest crime, that and mediocrity. Rev. Edward Pinkney stated on a recent sweep through California called the Justice Tour, that when he was organizing in prison, he spoke to everyone and those groups he sought out, such as the Skin Heads and White Supremacists groups thought he was weird until Pinkney explained that one doesn’t have to like his ally. More is at stake that friendship today, and while we are letting petty disagreements keep us at odds, the men with the suits and hard hats take everything. There is a war going on both internally and externally – and the enemy is winning. Every time we stop speaking to another person, every broken tie, every bitter thought against another person, we’ve lost and Satan has won that round, if not the battle.

Hanging onto one’s rights is the hardest part of being free, and staying free now that the chains are gone is harder than when they were visible. Today, this 16th Maafa Commemoration Ritual, the word I want you to retain is “remember.” Remember. . . those things you want to forget. Memory is all we have—our perceptions of a reality, not many share. It is only by returning to that place, that trauma that one is able to evaluate and grow taller for the experience.

When we started this journey, a few of us called the parent organization: Lest We Forget. The idea is the Maafa or the Black Holocaust will continue to replicate itself because we do not remember. Remembering is essential to the cure—and a lot ails our community presently within the Pan African Diaspora—its malignant and its spreading, the cure: Maafa, Sankofa, Ayaresa, a Twi word meaning healing. It is an on-going journey.

Earlier this month two nations celebrated the anniversary of their independence: Nigeria with 51 years (1960), Uganda’s is today, October 9, with 49 (1962). Baby nations, just as African Americans are new at this freedom thing with just a little over 151 years post Emancipation Proclamation experience. Today would have been Troy Anthony Davis’s 43rd birthday. I am still finding it hard to believe that Georgia executed him Sept.21 in the face such legal uncertainty. Umoja or unity has always been a problem for black people whether they were in America or Africa or Europe—it’s just something we have to recognize and work through, but to organize, one doesn’t have to like the other person, speak to the other person, empathize or love the other person, all one has to do is get on board or get out of the way of the train. It is much more pleasant when there is comradery, but comradery is not necessary. There is no reason why children are allowed to have firearms and shoot one another. There is no reason why so many children are serving 25 years to life sentences. There is no reason why so many black children are in foster care. There is no reason why a child can go to school in Oakland and graduate and cannot read or write. We can work to eliminate these problems without once inviting the other person to lunch or over for dinner. Liking me is not a prerequisite to working with me.

The world is changing and the only people who are going to survive what I hear is a time worse economically that the time at hand, are those people who know how to organize and get things done. As long as I agree like most decent human beings agree, to walk softly on the planet and to do as little harm as possible with my oversized carbon footprint, then I think was can work together. We all have issues, this is why the Maafa Ritual is important, this is why a month spent looking at these issues without makeup, before cocktails, after one wakes up, is crucial to our people. We need to look more at the image in the mirror in front of us and beside us, next to us and behind us as it shifts form.

Currently at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is a play called Day of Absence. In this fictional period, all the black people disappear for a day. On that day, the day of absence the world stops in that town, because black people are the key to making everything function and without them nothing goes as it should. We don’t have to disappear physically, but Africa is a wonderful place to live—life might be as easy in one way, but in all the ways that matter, Africa is a better home for one’s soul and one’s spirit, but back to the scenario--imagine if we disappeared from this world philosophically, imagine if we made our lives and well-being a priority and ignored all the noise and chaos this world tempts and distracts us with. Imagine if we reordered our lives and made love, peace, happiness, joy priorities because we deserve these things and joy,peace and happiness are not states one can purchase or inherit—they are states one has to cultivate.

One can have joy and still fight for justice and equality for her people. One can have peace and still maintain one’s convictions to freedom for all people, especially African people. Let’s reflect on those principles and values that are most important today as we honor the memories of our ancestors who suffered long for this day we live in now and for them for their tears and their pain and their devotion and their faith, we do not want to throw this opportunity to make them proud away.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Maafa 2010 Reflections

Today was the 15th Maafa Ritual at Ocean Beach. I awoke at 3:15 AM. I set my clock and my cell phone and my mind and woke on time. I still hadn't written my message for this year, after thinking about it before retiring the night before, the catalog for the exhibit Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas (currently up at the Cantor Museum at Stanford University) on the bed next to me. I was trying to see how to tie it in--water, black mermaid deity--hum? I also pulled Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photographs in America off the shelf for a little mood music--I didn't even get to the photos; the brutality of whites toward Sam Hose, in Leon F.Litwack's essay, "Hellhounds," stopped me. I just couldn't go on afterwards . . . and so I fell asleep after glancing briefly through Gem of the Ocean, August Wilson's first play in his 100 year history of black America, in ten-year cycles.

Black people are the gems of the ocean.

So there we stood this morning on the west coast recalling our ancestors taken from the west coast of Africa, Dr. Penn said in the guided meditation this morning. I thought about this as I breathed in peace and breathed out rage, eyes shut mind listening to the waves . . . their cleansing spirits washing over me, my hair dripping with their whispers . . . later they caught me unaware and like in the game of catch, I could feel the laughter . . . my feet wet.

The morning was light . . . tide so far out we couldn't see it. We knew it was there and after Sunrise and Ebun and another singer led us in the Maafa chant we made our way over the horizon for the treasure, which was there--just as we'd imagined.

Two visitors--friends of friends from Miami shared wonderful songs for the ancestors--both husband and wife drummers, while Haben's prayer in Amharic was an additional treat.

The drummers were in the house, strapped with djembes and djundjun . . . the egungun and other transcendental spirits were dancing. Our friends from Miami said the Atlantic doesn't dance like Pacific. . . .

Maafa 2010

Maafa Prayer by Mandaza Kandemwa:

In English: God the Creator and all the Holy Spirits of our ancestors: We are here today to offer you your children who are lying and resting in this water. Let your will be done. Thank You.

We meet again. Too many funerals –it would be great to meet on other more joyous occasions—like new births, not the tragic circumstances that bring us here today. However, within the sadness is a joy—because without the great Maafa we wouldn’t be here today, so for that we say Ashay, Amen and Hallelujah!

Maafa is Kiswahili for Great Calamity and reoccurring disaster and is a term used to describe the European Slave Trade or Middle Passage—our Transatlantic Trail of Tears, our Black Holocaust—

The Maafa is connected to Maat or Truth and Reciprocity as well as Sankofa and the Healing aspects of remembrance. We think about the residual psychological effects of slavery when we talk about Maafa and how today we enslave ourselves and allow our children to be enslaved each time one is captured by the judicial system and imprisoned or kidnapped by substance abuse whether that substance is alcohol tobacco, marijuana, crack or the more deadly miseducation.. The world too often plays a major role in our self-identification, thus we make poor choices because we do not employ critical thinking and trace the lies masquerading as truth back to their source—

The nooses are many in the 21st century and freedom is an action word, because the bounty hunters are plenty and when we look in the mirror, they often look like us. Sometimes the duality scholar W.E.B.Dubois spoke of as the “problem of the 21st Century—the color line,” is us. We have to live a conscious life, one where we make good choices—impulsive behaviors are not an option for black people, because there is often no clemency—one mistake and one’s child can face 25 years to life in one of Californians many slave camps or prisons. One mistake and one is dead.

We have to hold onto each other—kids, black children are being kidnapped by sexual predators and sold into sexual slavery, boys and girls, and undocumented immigrants.
On the eve of Indigenous People’s Day, we want to remember the resistance movements waged by our ancestors along with many of the free nations.

The Maafa Commemoration is a time to take stock of our lives and rededicate ourselves to the liberation struggle which is a daily intention fought by the ancestors we come here to honor today.

I was in Haiti twice this year and since the earthquake in January the country still needs to be rebuilt, thousands are still homeless and with the recent storm, it is worse than worse. Haiti is not a third world country like Senegal is a third world country—Haiti looks like here, except there is no infrastructure which means if you have no money then you have no clean water, no place to cook your food and no bed to lie down on—pre and post earthquake. The children are not in school, because school costs money. Sick women can’t afford all their medications and sick children remain ill.

We might have it bad in the Alameda Country, but we do have a Highland Hospital and in San Francisco a General Hospital—in any countries like Haiti, our worse is not close to their best.

We have to count our blessings and make blessings happen by being a blessing to each other whether that is a smile, a helping hand or in-kind support for one of the many institutions we have in our communities set up to make our neighborhoods and streets safe and productive havens for all who live there and if such institutions don’t exist, then we need to start them—call an Mbongi or meeting and see what the community wants, prioritize the list and then set about making the necessary changes.

Remember: FREEDOM is an ACTION WORD.

All photos are: Sara Marie Prada

Thursday, September 30, 2010

15th Annual Maafa Ritual 2010, October 10

The term "Maafa" is Kiswahili for "terrible occurrence" or "reoccurring disaster" and has been used to describe the European slave trade or the Middle Passage. The term "Maafa" also references the Black Holocaust historically and presently. In the San Francisco Bay Area, October is Maafa Awareness Month--it is a time to reflect on the legacy of slavery: victims and beneficiaries in the short and long term and look at ways to mend, repair and heal the damage to Pan African descendants of the enslaved and their New Afrikan societies.

The toll has been tremendous: psychological, economic, social, physical, emotional and spiritual. The Maafa ritual, October 10, 2010, is an honoring of our past and a prayer for our future. All black people are invited to come and share in this time of remembrance. We ask for this one event, those who support the well-being of black people respect our desires about the commemoration ceremony and mourning ritual.

Attendees are encouraged to wear white, to dress warmly, bring their children, flowers for the ceremony, vegan or vegetarian breakfast items to share afterwards, (along with dishes to serve them on), hot beverages and cups, drums, chekeres, rattles, and positive energy. Fire wood is useful for the bonfires Sunday morning.

The organizers will not be responsible for security if attendees decide to spend the night. If anyone needs a ride or can pick someone up please call (641) 715-3900 ext. 36800#. All donations are tax deductible and checks can be made out to: Wo'se House of Amen Ra and mailed to: Maafa San Francisco Bay Area, P.O. Box 30756, Oakland, CA 94604. Check our blog and calendar (

641) 715-3900 ext. 36800#, or visit

Photo credit: Alan Kimara Dixon Maafa 2009

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Libations for the Ancestors: Oakland, CA

Today, at Lake Merritt the Libations for the Ancestors was really lovely. Everyone got a chance to share reflections and pour. Unlike the larger ceremony in October, this one is small enough for all gathered to participate.

Afterwards, some of us continued the conversation over breakfast at a new restaurant across from Children's Fairyland. Brother Alaman Haile brought a prayer which we read together at the close of the ritual. I'll post it here later.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

National and International Libations for the Ancestors in the San Francisco Bay Area

Saturday, June 12, 2010 is our Annual Libations for the Ancestors. It is an international remembrance that takes place nationally and internationally, the time synchronized. Locally, we meet at Lake Merritt at the fountain across from Merritt Bakery on the Lake side about 8:30 AM, so we can pour at 9 AM exactly.

Bring drums, poetry, reflections and your great spirit to this commemoration. If you cannot be present, pour where you are.

I had an interview with some of the founders of the ritual in New York, Charleston, and another ancestor ritual in Philadelphia last year in June.

Broadcast 6/5/2009 listen at

Today we'll be talking about the Remembrance Ritual, which occurs next week, June 13, worldwide. African Diaspora communities pour libations at the same time for departed ones, especially those who were not mourned during the period called the European Slave Trade. We'll be speaking to Osei Terry Chandler and William Jones. Chandler is founder of the "Remembrance" in Charleston, SC. Jones is one of the organizers for the Remembrance in New York on Coney Island @ Bay 18. Joining the discussion will be Oshunbumi Fernandez, host, of the Odunde Festival in Philadelphia. Odunde means in Yoruba: Happy New Year! All the Remembrance rituals occur June 13 at 12:00 noon, EST, which is 9 AM PST. Artisans from "Honor the Basket" follow. The demonstration and exhibit is a program sponsored by the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, 94118, Friday, June 12, 2009 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. The event is FREE after admission into the event Gallery Admission: Adults $10, Seniors 65 and over $7, Youth 13-17 $6, College Students with ID $6, Children 12 and under FREE. PUBLIC INFORMATION:(415) 750-7694 and or nschach@famsf.orgThe show will conclude with a conversation with choreographers: Caprice Armstrong and Naomi Diouf, both staging work in the 31st Annual Ethnic Dance Festival in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts (Week 2). The EDF is June 7-8, through June 27-28, 2009.