Journey to Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan
By Jerhretta Dafina Suite
As a child I dreamt of Afrika,
properly called Alkebu-lan, as a splendid respite from the ways of
my “native” land of America.
I have always thought of Afrika as my spiritual address. I
cannot pinpoint a time when I began feeling this way. Perhaps it
was while sitting on the porch talking with my Grandmother as she
told me about the mistreatment of black people in the United
Despite our indispensable
contributions, she explained, ours was a very tentative
relationship with this country. Perhaps it began with her never
accepting a negative image of Black people and never letting me
repeat negative descriptions I heard outside our home that
perpetuated self-hatred, ignorance, and fear.
I must have been around four
years old and repeated (through a simple childhood question) a
description of another Black person based on complexion.
My Grandmother said to me,
“Honey, we don’t talk like that in this house.”
Perhaps that feeling was solidified when I moved from
Baltimore to San Jose and became not the only black person at the
elementary school, but of the very few of us, the only “not
ashamed to be Black” person attending the school.
Maybe the reason was that I
had to insist then (and now still), to have my history exposed and
extolled as a matter of curriculum, as is the tacit agreement of
Europeans concerning their history, stolen or not.
And perhaps it was all these things and the overt and
covert terrorism that I and other Afrikans born in America are
subjected to daily - aware or unaware. Yes, even as a child, the
Creator blessed me with a longing to know myself and a Grandmother
who inspired the same because of her comfortable sense of self.
eyes held wisdom
Ancestors and triumph
our children’s smiles
I can’t remember a time
when I was not Afrikan centered – even when I did not have the
words, the language, verbal anyway, being locked inside a language
that offered no true expression to describe that paradigm.
I was 29 years old living in
Washington, D.C. and becoming very used to, but not comfortable
with, the idea that I was never going to be accepted as the person
Black, spiritual, female,
intelligent, and nappy headed. Looking and longing for a
connection in this world without having to stifle who I was, and
deflect words and actions of people who refused to acknowledge me
as human, nonetheless feminine, and who chose to misinterpret my
thinking as manly.
I knew that there had to be a
place where a woman with melanin could leave her hair the way the
Creator made it (instead of celebrating the rape of my Ancestors
by giving praise to hair more like the rapists than the raped
naps embrace, they
Creation, and are
A woman who thinks of herself
as part of the whole and not just an individual; a woman at ease
with her complete behind and lips and her feet which were made for
movement, and not be singled out as someone or something other
than who she is; a woman who has learned to define herself.
there no peaceful
on earth for a thinking
A woman tired and sick of the
racism so deeply woven into every aspect of society that even as I
added a hard drive to my computer, I had to choose which drive
would be the slave and which the master.
So, when I heard about a trip to the Motherland, I jumped
at the opportunity to realize a life long desire and applied for
As I shared my excitement
about my upcoming trip, I was often disappointed with the negative
and fearful responses I received.
A managing editor of a newspaper where I was working warned
me not to “expect too much.”
My rebuttal, “I know that wherever Europeans have spewed
their venom there has been disruption and corruption of the
natural order of things.”
dance to the words; instead
to the music
That’s what I was looking
and longing for—natural order. So, passport in hand, shots
taken, I departed from New York on my way home – to Afrika.
On one level I had
“romanticized” or, (to give honor to Afrika), nubianized my
idea of Afrika. Although I knew that it, like everything else,
would not be quite how I imagined.
But when I stepped off the plane to the beautiful city of
Aswan and was greeted with salutations from Nubian brothers who
appeared to be there just for that purpose—to make us feel
welcome, I felt better than I could have ever imagined.
“Welcome home Brothers and
Sisters, welcome home!”
Initially, I had so many
feelings, that if I had tried to describe them it would have been
literally impossible. I
did not feel like I thought I would feel.
I felt better. I
knew it was a blessing to step upon land that was so much a part
of who I was. I was
overwhelmed to be in my Ancestors’ home.
My disappointment came when I
saw that Egypt, properly called KMT (Kemet)—the Land of the
People of the Sun, or Ta Merry, had the official misnomer of the
United Arab Republic. Although I knew this, to see it in writing,
big and bold, hit me hard. Here
again, our land was named for enslavers.
been spewed, the natural
is no more
The Pyramids put in
perspective my relationship to the universe. I knew that I was the
culmination of all things and all time, as each generation is; we
are millions of years old, but to see them with my
eyes, and not through the lens of someone else, made me
want to prostrate myself before them and give honor to the utter,
absolute and complete brilliance of their form, substance and
majesty; these, the triumphant—Khufu, Kafre and Menkaure.
am old as earth
I know all its secrets
The fact that I could also
see them from the window in my room at Cairo’s Hilton Hotel was
sobering to a fault. As was the fact that these ancient burial grounds were sacred
and should be honored
as such, and not trampled upon by tourists or vandals disguising
themselves as “scientists”.
Hypnotically regal, the Pyramids drew people from all over
the world trying to decipher their magnificence, while refusing to
recognize who built them or the genius of our ancient engineers.
The people, the sights, the
sounds, and the food, all of this was wonderful and woeful at
once. It was wonderful because my genetic memory put me in harmony
with the Nile and the civilizations that were born from its
energy. I knew that
it flowed through my blood. It
was disappointing because our Ancestors’ burial grounds were
being trampled and destroyed right in front of me.
From the nose chiseled off
the Great Sphinx—(another misnomer)—it’s proper name being
the Rising Sun or Heru on the Horizon), to
the ones knocked off our faces on the walls frozen in time,
engraved by our Ancestors offering their knowledge and our story
for eternity. Like a
two-dollar whore, neither kiss nor cloth is offered; the only
purpose being to serve, sate, and soil.
These are monuments to Pharaohs and Kentake and should be
honored and preserved with the utmost care and consideration for
the phenomenal accomplishment and tribute that they are.
I often think about my
conversation with a friend from Southern Afrika.
She explained to me, as she asked me to visit, that I would
have to come as an honorary white person.
I would have to go to Afrika
as An Honorary White Person. How about that?
Imagine accepting that dubious honor of imitating the very
same people that rob the graves of the Cradle of Civilization. I
declined that invitation, honorary or not.
In Cairo, Egypt, what was
honored was, as one vendor put it, “My beautiful American
dollars.” To them I
was American. In
Cairo I was American and that was that.
As a matter of fact, most of the brothers, as there were
not many native sisters out and about, did not accept the word
Afrikan as a description of themselves.
They proclaimed themselves as
Egyptian, (leaning toward me, making eye contact in that measured
and stern way that perfidious adults sometimes use to discreetly
discipline and silence children who have caught them in a lie), as
though Egypt and they were not really a part of Afrika. As though
that part of Afrika had literally been lifted up, detached from
that massive and great land and placed somewhere else. That measured, stern stare, I’ve seen before.
It’s the look used to mask and manage an underlying
schizophrenic frenzy; the look of denial. Just the fact that they
were born in Afrika made them Afrikan, but they were unwilling to
claim even that.
My goodness, I thought, no
one wants to be Afrikan, not even Afrikans born in Afrika.
But that was Cairo, a big metropolitan arena, where
everyone and everything was so “sophisticated” that no one had
time to dig their roots. Cosmopolitan Cairo - where the waiters in
the restaurants had dark complexions and the managers were lighter
dance to the words
In Cairo where a waiter
called me “mudha fuck” because he assumed I was not going to
give him a decent tip. I needed change to buy bottled water but he
thought that I was changing the bill to give him his tip.
I’ll admit that some of the words got lost in
translation, but “mudha fuck” was clearly and pointedly
I had to take a look around
because I thought I was back in America, where Sisters are
disrespected daily and service to Black people at restaurants is
based on the assumption that we do not tip well or at all.
But I was not in America, I was in Afrika.
This is not to say that his misbehavior and lack of manners
(especially with company) reflected the general attitude of all
Cairenes, but the ease with which he spewed that venom…
there no peaceful
Luxor, warmer in climate and
atmosphere, offered me a sense of belonging not found in Cairo. I
met a superb tailor during our day trip there, who promised to
make me an outfit and bring it all the way back to Cairo. I paid
him in advance and never had a second thought that he would not
deliver. Of course,
he kept his promise. When he arrived he told me I favored his
people in the Sudan and put his hand on my head. As he touched my
hair he shook his head back and forth saying with regret and
dismay in his voice, “Nubian.” Translation—“Nappy.”
“And, such a pretty child,” he lamented.
naps embrace, they
Oh, but Aswan. In
Aswan I could have lived forever. Such a beautiful and peaceful
place, Aswan is. In
Aswan I was comfortable and black and beautiful. In Aswan I
floated up the Nile in a felucca as I drank tea made from that
historical body of water. I went full circle returning to Aswan on
the final leg of the trip. I thought I could live there forever.
And it was all beautiful and breathtaking and embracing.
And I was a tourist. And lonely. Although I was a part of the land, I was part of the people,
I was lonely. And I
thought what a terrible, terrible thing that has happened to us,
and the world.
So I went home to my
Grandmother’s porch and reflected on her lessons, her comfort
with herself, and regained the strength from Mama, my recent
Ancestor, who is the culmination of all things and all time, to
continue through our Middle Passage here and now.
eyes held wisdom
I regained the strength to
move through the global and perennial disrespect and disregard for
people with melanin. I
regained the strength to move through all the name calling and
learned self-hate and yes, even through the ignorance of racism
that is so deeply rooted in the psyche of the world against people
who look like me. I
regained the strength to keep loving me, my community, and to keep
my thoughts spiritual.
our children's smiles
And, I regained the strength
to go back to Afrika. There’s
a saying that if you drink from the Nile, you will return to it.
I look forward to returning, renewed, more mature, and with
a better understanding of the intricacies of the atrocities that
plague all of us; Afrikans not only in the Diaspora, but in Afrika
I harvested my experiences
and they yielded knowledge. And
with that knowledge, I finally understood that while sitting on
the porch, talking with my Grandmother, I had all of Afrika right
there with me and in me forever and always.
am old as earth
I know all its secrets
* * *
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
A Wreath for Emmett Till
By Marilyn Nelson; Illustrated by
This memorial to
the lynched teen is in the Homeric
tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a
heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan
rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite
formal not only in form but in language.
There are 15 poems in the cycle, the
last line of one being the first line of
the next, and each of the first lines
makes up the entirety of the 15th. This
chosen formality brings distance and
reflection to readers, but also calls
attention to the horrifically ugly
events. The language is highly
figurative in one sonnet, cruelly
graphic in the next. The illustrations
echo the representative nature of the
poetry, using images from nature and
taking advantage of the emotional
quality of color. There is an
introduction by the author, a page about
Emmett Till, and literary and poetical
footnotes to the sonnets. The artist
also gives detailed reasoning behind his
choices. This underpinning information
makes this a full experience, eminently
teachable from several aspects,
including historical and literary—School
* * * * *
The White Masters
of the World
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * *
Negro Digest / Black World
Browse all issues
* * *
Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /
George Jackson /
* * * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding
* * * * *
* * * *
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posted 23 August 2004