Featured Storyteller

JAMAICA: The Light of Our Royal Ancestors Shines in Me

Sharon Martini
Posted December 13, 2016 from Jamaica
Photo © Michelle Tree

Guided by the stories of courageous African heroines, Sharon Martini celebrates and reclaims her identity.

“True progress and development cannot happen when we are stalked by the shame of who we are.

One day, I was sitting quietly in my mother’s London office when her colleague commented that I looked like an African princess. With my unaffected teenage ears what I heard was, “You are beautiful, magical, and special.” For were not princesses always beautiful, magical, and special?

To be referred to as a princess made me go “Wow!” At that time the “African” attribute was superfluous to me—a non-issue—but “princess” meant everything.

My mother, however, quickly retorted, “She is not African. She is European!” In a moment, briefly empowered teenage me was knocked unceremoniously off my “high horse”. Shamed, confused, and smarting, my accolade had been snatched away, and I was dethroned, deflated, and back in my place.

I then understood that to be African was not such a good thing. But could I still be a princess? I wondered. Could I still be royalty and divinely regal?

At that time, I was naïve. I reasoned, “Well, I was born in Europe.”

I did not recognize it then, but this man’s compliment had exposed an invisible wound existing in both my mother and myself. I would learn from experience that this wound exists in a great number of women of African descent and is proving resistant to cure. But then, one cannot heal what one does not acknowledge is broken.

True progress and development, economic or otherwise, for black women living in diaspora cannot happen when we are stalked by the shame of who we are. 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 keeps us at a standstill socially and culturally as we desperately attempt to be anybody but the mighty African woman.

We continue to ask the question, “Where did it come from, this disdain for our blackness, our Africanness?” But 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 where it came from; that is not our problem. We are asking the wrong question.

Our problem is in 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?

We can do this by reclaiming her African story—herstory. We must find, befriend, and proudly reintegrate the characteristics of our queens, goddesses, and warriors—their courage, sacredness, rituals, and glory—into ourselves.

These stories must be told. We must tell them first to ourselves, and then to our sisters, our mothers, our friends, and our brothers. They are our stories.

Imagine had I known of my royal African inheritance and been privy to the stories of Queen Nanny of the Jamaican Maroons, a brilliant military strategist, spiritual healer, and Jamaica’s only National Heroine; Nana Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti of Ghana, who 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; Queen Amina of Zaria, the fearless rider; Beatrice Kimpa Vita, the Joan of Arc of Kongo. I could go on.

If, in that moment when I lit up after my mom’s colleague compared me to an African princess, I hadknown of these warrior women—these beautiful, special queens who 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 with head held high, dug in my heels, raised my sword in defiance, and galloped off to my queendom.

Maybe if my mother (and so many of our mothers) was familiar with our African herstory, the might and power of our black queens, and the mythology of our goddesses—goddesses who 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 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 herstory with all the beautiful, black, African princesses I can.

I am calling all you black African queens, angels, goddesses, and warrior women to saddle up your high horses, pick up your crowns, your shields, and your spears, raise your voices as you ride out into your queendoms, and join me in sharing our herstory.

Comments 15

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khayimoti
Dec 15, 2016
Dec 15, 2016

All hail African Princesses till the end of time.

Sharon Martini
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 20, 2017

All hail! Hotep.

Kundai Muringi
Dec 18, 2016
Dec 18, 2016

Your story is beautiful, it spoke directly to my heart. The time has truly come for African women to strip themselves of the miseducation and see the beauty in ourselves and in our heritage...thank you!

Sharon Martini
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 20, 2017

Thank you my sister. It is a blessing for me when my story speaks to others. We are beautiful and powerful beyond compare. We must simply claim it all - and therein lies the struggle. But it is, as you say, time, and we will get there, for we are already on our way.

Megha Venketasamy
Dec 19, 2016
Dec 19, 2016

Thank you so much for sharing your story with much

Much love 

Wohoooooo

Sharon Martini
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 20, 2017

You are welcome. And thank you for reading and commenting with love.

Lily Habesha
Dec 26, 2016
Dec 26, 2016

My beautiful Princes, Am glad to hear this. I'll share queen Taitu and Queen Zewditu's story to the whole world today.

With many love

Lily Habesha

Sharon Martini
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 20, 2017

Thank you also for teaching me of another queen I was unaware of. Our story is so rich and we are so blessed. Much love to you too.

Lily Habesha
Dec 26, 2016
Dec 26, 2016

Hey Dear, I was never ever felt ashamed of being an African. Human beings are same, black, yellow or white....soft hair or kinky, beautiful brown eyes or green and blue....we're same.

The blood inside us is running red, our bones and....everything is same.

Discrimination of color and hair type or...for me...is stupidity. If we all know, why we are born and why we die, we could live for the mission we supposed to live.

Protect the land, live in peace, share what you've, the good things will come back to you. Why war? Why hatred? Why....?

NOOOO! let's stand to do the right thing!!!!

Lily

Sharon Martini
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 20, 2017

All you say is so true. Discrimination of any kind is complete stupidity. Unfortunately it is a social construct, woven into the fabric of our lives, often times through the omission of facts and truths and our story. And that is why I believe we must learn and live and share our her-story and as you say, "... do the right thing."

Much love and blessings to you.

Lily Habesha
Jan 23, 2017
Jan 23, 2017

My beautiful Sharon,

Where had you been? I've even forgotten that i wrote about Taitu. When i didn't hear from you for many days, I said: "This princess is busy traveling around, celebrating Christmas and then New Year! Hopefully, you've enjoyed yourself a lot in the caribean cities...lool!

Yes our ancestors are very inspiring, and they've left their legacy to us.

Let's follow their steps and bring great changes among our nations.

Cheers

Thank you for your mail

Sharon Martini
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

Mulatwa, 

"Mi dehya!" As we say in Jamaica (I am here.) In truth I spent the holiday season relaxing, reflecting and connecting with Mama Nature and the ancestors in preparation for what I know will be a magnificent year of bringing forth their legacy in all manner of ways. 

Blessings to you my sister.

LillianVB
Jan 04, 2017
Jan 04, 2017

Sharon, your story is one of those that reminds all of us of the things we need to unlearn to truly embrace our true Africaness and identity for that matter. Because no one chose what they might be born, we all came into being, innocently enjoying the paradise of being alive until that one day, when we met the first encounter of being branded not just different but undesirably different. An understanding of who we are, our identity is a source of pride that anyone must enjoy. Lets share those stories and keep them alive...you are a true African queen...it shows from the glow of your brown eyes, from the luxurious kinkiness of your beautiful hair... from the whiteness of your lustrous smiling teeth ...

Sharon Martini
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 20, 2017

Thank you so much for your kind compliments. As I learn more and more of our her-story, and his-story,  I know that I am an African Queen. Let us, my fellow queen, continue to learn and share our story so that we all can throw of the yoke of miseducation and rise up into our sovereignty.

Beautiful and powerful piece. Keep speaking, continue sharing.

In service to humanity
Sherna