One day while sitting quietly in my mother’s London office, her colleague commented how I looked like an African princess. In my unaffected teenage ears what I heard was “You are beautiful/magical/special.” For were not princesses always beautiful/special/magical and always white. To be referred to as a princess was “Wow!” At that time the “African” was superfluous, a non-issue, but “Princess!”
My mother however retorted, “SHE IS NOT AFRICAN. SHE IS EUROPEAN!” My momentarily empowered, and now deflated, teenage self, was knocked unceremoniously off my “high-horse. Shamed, confused, smarting, my accolade snatched away, I was dethroned, deflated back in to my place.
Aha! To be African was obviously not such a good thing. But could I still be a princess, royalty, divinely regal?
At the time my naïve, unconscious self, reasoned. “Well, I was born in Europe.”
I did not recognize this at the time, but this man’s observation and resultant compliment, had exposed an invisible wound. A wound I would learn, from experience, that exists in a great number of women of African descent. A wound that is proving resistant to cure. But then one cannot heal what one does not acknowledge is broken.
True progress and development, economic or otherwise, cannot happen when stalked by shame. I believe that much of our diasporic dysfunction is fueled by a disconnect from our Ancient African Queens, our warriors, female leaders, heroines. Our Goddesses. It is this disconnect that feeds the socio cultural issues that keep us at a standstill as we desperately attempt to be anybody but the mighty African woman.
While continue to ask the questions, “Why? When? Where did it come from this disdain for our blackness, our African-ness?” We are well aware of the answer(s): Colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy, conquest, control, miseducation, indoctrination, assimilation, immigration, the list goes on and on. In the end it doesn’t matter, that is not our problem. We are asking the wrong questions.
Our problem is in the what is. The now. The question we must ask is, “How do we surmount the destruction of what was and rebuild, our self, our soul, our black, African woman?” I say by reclaiming her African story – her-story. We must find, befriend and proudly reintegrate the characteristics of our Queens, Goddesses and Warriors - her courage, sacredness, rituals and glory – into ourselves.
Her stories must be told. We must tell them first to ourselves, and then to our sisters, and our mothers, and our friends and our brothers. They are our stories.
Imagine had I known of my royal African inheritance, been privy to the stories of Queen Nanny of the Jamaican Maroons, a brilliant military strategist, spiritual healer, Jamaica’s only National Heroine, Nana Yaa Asantewa, of the Ashanti of Ghana, whom held the British at bay in 1900 when they came to claim the Golden Stool, Queen Nzinga, Taitu, Hatshepsut, The Candaces, Makeda, Sarraounia – The Panther Queen, the fearless rider, Queen Amina of Zaria, Beatrice Kimpa Vita – the Joan of Arc of Kongo, I could go on.
Had I known of these warrior women, these beautiful, special Queens whom came before me, I would not have been shamed into feeling I had accepted something to which I was not entitled.
Mark my words, I would have sat straight in my saddle, head held high, dug in my heels, raised my sword in defiance, and galloped off in to my Queendom. Maybe if my mother, and so many of our mothers, were familiar with our African her-story, the might and power of our black Queens, the mythology of our Goddesses - ones whom look like us, with hair like us and skin like us - she would not have been so quick to recoil in disdain when her colleague, a European, paid me, her daughter and yes by default her, (for if I were the African Princess then she most definitely was Queen), one of the highest compliments. Maybe she too would have been able to see what he saw, the light of our myriad royal ancestors shining in me, and she would have been honored and proud.
Today I know I am a beautiful, black, African Queen and I am proud to share our her-story with all the beautiful, black, African Princesses I can.
I am calling all you black African Queens, Angels, Goddesses, Warrior Women, to saddle up your high-horses, pick up your crowns, your shields and your spears, raise your voices as your ride out in to your Queendoms and join me in sharing Her story.