ANNUAL SACRED LIBATION CEREMONY FOR OUR SISTERS: The community remembers Black women lynched in America

ANNUAL SACRED LIBATION CEREMONY FOR OUR SISTERS

The community remembers Black women lynched in America

Spiritually-conscious women and men of African descent will gather 3:00PM sharp, Sunday, March 29, rain or shine, at Congo (Washington) Square, 7th & Walnut Streets in Philadelphia for the Second Annual Sacred Libation Ceremony in remembrance of the 150 documented Black women who were lynched between 1870 and 1957.

2015 SACRED LIBATION CEREMONY FLYER 3
Flyer for the 2015 Sacred Libation Ceremony to be conducted at 7th & Walnut Streets in Congo (Washington) Square Philadelphia, Pa.

In March 2014, the first annual Sacred Libation Ceremony for the women was conducted by Iya Marilyn Kai Jewett and a group of priests of Philadelphia’s African American Yoruba/Orisha community. Although it rained that day, approximately 30 people came to witness the ritual – some from as far as New York and Washington DC. The ceremony has now been instituted as an annual ritual on the last Sunday in March as part of Women’s History Month.

In addition to libation being poured by Jewett in the Yoruba tradition, women from other traditions also will participate. The Queen Mothers of the Philadelphia Asante NationNana Afua Afriyie Kyeiwaa, Philadelphiahemaa and Nana Akua Oforiwaa Amanfo, Philadelphia Asonahemaa, will pour libation in the Akan tradition from Ghana. They will be accompanied by the women of the Philadelphia Asante Abusuafoo. Other holy women participating includes well-known healer/education activist Mama Gail Clouden and her godchildren.

How did this all come about? Last year, while perusing stories on Dr. Boyce Watkins’ “Your Black World” news website, Jewett came across a story entitled, “Black women were lynched too!” written by blogger Yolanda Spivey. Although she was a student of history and knew about the list of 5,000 documented lynchings of people of African descent in the U.S., Jewett wasn’t aware of the number of women who were included. Neither was Spivey.

I can’t begin to tell how shocked I was to learn the depths of what happened to lynched Black men and women in this country,” said Spivey.  “I wasn’t naïve about the lynchings, but I was definitely naïve to learn the circumstances surrounding their murders.  The Black women in some cases were pregnant — and that didn’t matter to the white people who murdered them.  They were, in all circumstances, murdered for the silliest infractions or implicated in crimes that they did not commit.” 

Spivey’s story (http://naturallymoi.com/2014/02/yolanda-spivey-lets-not-forget-that-black-women-were-lynched-too/) led Jewett to a website owned by Brother Nnamdi Azikiwe, that’s dedicated to Henrietta Vinton Davis, a prominent leader in Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The website (https://henriettavintondavis.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/recorded/) provides documented information on these women – their names, dates, places, why and with whom they were lynched. After reading details of the lynchings, the Egun (ancestors) began speaking to Jewett and instructed her that she must do more than send an email informing people about the history.

Amy Jacques Garvey, Henrietta Vinton Davis and Marcus Garvey
Amy Jacques Garvey, Henrietta Vinton Davis and Marcus Garvey

They needed libation poured for them to uplift and bring light their souls,” Jewett explained. They wanted to be remembered and have their stories told. They wouldn’t let me rest. It was physically and spiritually painful. I couldn’t sleep for the two weeks leading up to the ritual. I kept asking them why me? They replied that it was part of my destiny and that I had to do it.”

Jewett contacted Azikiwe who revealed he had been trying to get some Black women to pour libation for the lynched Egun for years but no-one wanted to do it. In the 1990s he received a pamphlet by Dr. Daniel Meaders entitled “Black Women Who Were Lynched in America” that gave him details of the lynchings and posted it to his website.

He was happy to help Jewett with the libation ceremony. “I posted a transcript to the Henrietta Vinton Davis blog of Dr. Meaders’ pamphlet,” explained Azikiwe, a staunch Garveyite who lives in Washington, DC. “It began to get noticed. I felt it was important to post the names because they deserved recognition.  I realized there were others who were curious as to whether Black women had been lynched in America.”

Jewett, Spivey and Azikiwe, who worked together on informing the public about the ceremony, realized that they were chosen by the Egun to bring this to the people and that the Egun were speaking through them.

I continually tell people that I did not plan this,” Jewett said. “The Egun planned every aspect of the ceremony. They were relentless. Neither Nnamdi nor I could sleep until it was done. I was tempted to postpone it because of the expected inclement weather. However, the Egun reminded me that rain didn’t stop the mobs from lynching them, so why should it stop us from praying for them? They are channeling through us to do what needs to be done for them and our communities – healing. The Egun are not an abstract notion. They are just as alive as they were here in this realm we call Earth. Many of us can hear and communicate with them, but most of us ignore them. However, they have determined that they are no longer going be ignored. So, people get ready!”

Azikiwe said going to Philadelphia to participate in the first ritual was not a choice, it was destiny. “This is a process of growth,” he explained. “The Egun/Ndiichie/ancestors are reaching out to us. They are calling us to use them in the struggle for the triumph of the righteous. The sacred libation ceremony opened me spiritually to view life from a whole new perspective. It is happening because we heeded the call of the ancestors to engage in a process to condition us spiritually for the work that needs being done.”

Laura Nelson is the only woman of whom a photograph is known to exist who was lynched in America.
Photograph of Laura Nelson’s lynching in Okemah, Oklahoma. This is the only known photograph of a Black woman who was lynched in America.

Reading the details of these lynchings is hard and painful, but necessary for those who want to know the truth,” Jewett said. “This is part of our history that must be taught to our young. They will not learn this in school. It’s up to us to teach them the true history of our people and this Godforsaken nation.”

Spivey concurs. “These atrocities that were committed against them have been hidden from us and it’s a shame because we are presently being lynched, just in another way. The late, great educator Ida B. Wells once said, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of TRUTH upon them.” I agree wholeheartedly with her.  We must shed light on all the atrocities that befell our ancestors, no matter how sad, grim and ugly they are. We must not repeat history.” 

In 2010, The Mary Turner Project (http://www.maryturner.org), a diverse, grassroots volunteer collective of students, educators and local community members, established an annual commemoration in her honor and had an historic marker erected at the site of her murder.

Jewett said the Egun want people all over the nation to establish these ceremonies to remember and uplift them. “Although none of the women were lynched in Philadelphia, the ancestors want to be remembered with sacred libation ceremonies throughout the nation where ever people of African descent reside. It doesn’t matter whether they were lynched here or not, one of those women could be your ancestor.”

Jewett is asking people to come on time and wear white or light colors – no black! The ritual will take approximately 60 minutes and will culminate with a drumming for the ancestors.

“This is not a protest so please leave the angry voices at home,” said Jewett. “The Egun don’t want that. This is a sacred ritual to bring light and love to the souls of our martyred sisters and begin healing ourselves and our communities. No anger. This ritual is about love, light and healing.”

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