ANNUAL SACRED LIBATION CEREMONY FOR OUR SISTERS The community remembers Black women lynched
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 29, 2016 — Spiritually-conscious people of African descent will gather 3:00 PM sharp, Sunday, March 20, rain or shine, at Congo (Washington) Square, 7th & Walnut Streets in Philadelphia for the Third Annual Sacred Libation Ceremony in remembrance of the 150 documented Black women who were lynched between 1870 and 1957.
In March 2014, the first annual Sacred Libation Ceremony for the women was conducted by Iya Marilyn Kai Jewett and a small 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 in March as part of Women’s History Month. Last year close to 100 people participated in the sacred ritual.
In addition to libation being poured by Jewett in the Yoruba tradition, Nana Okomfo Akosua Nyo Agyiriwah will pour libation in the Akan tradition, Rev. Renee McKenzie of Church of the Advocate and female priests from other African traditions also will participate.
How did this all come about? In 2014, while perusing stories on a Black news website, Jewett came across a story entitled, “Black women were lynched too!” written by blogger Yolanda Spivey. Although she 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.
Spivey’s story (Yolanda Spivey: Let’s 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.
Most people don’t know about these women, but we must never forget women like pregnant Mary Turner who was lynched May 17, 1918 in Brooks County, Georgia to teach her a lesson. After her husband was lynched, Mary threatened to have those who lynched him arrested. She fled, but the mob pursued her and found her the next morning. She was eight months pregnant when the mob of several hundred took her to a stream, tied her ankles together and hung her from a tree upside down. She was doused with gasoline and set on fire. One of the mob took a knife and split open her womb so that her unborn baby fell to the ground. The baby’s head was then crushed under the heels of her murderers. But, that wasn’t enough for the demonic mob. They finished Mary off by riddling her body with bullets – to teach her a lesson.
“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 first ritual. I kept asking them why me? They replied that it was part of my destiny and that I had to do it. They have been with me ever since.”
Jewett contacted Azikiwe who revealed he had been trying to get 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 first 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,” said Jewett, a marketing communications consultant by profession. “The Egun planned every aspect of the ceremony. They are relentless. During the weeks before the ritual, I am consumed with thoughts of them and their plights. I have no choice and must give them what they need even if there is no-one there but me. The first year, neither Nnamdi nor I could sleep until it was done. I was tempted to postpone it in 2014 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. The ancestors are commanding our attention!”
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.”
“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, American 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.”
“What has been hidden is now being uncovered and revealed by the universe, and the history of these lynchings is just the beginning. It is important for spiritually-conscious people to receive the messages being transmitted, understand the times we are living in and stand together for truth, justice and righteousness. Black women in America are still being lynched. This year we will include the names of Black women like Sandra Bland, who was recently lynched by police in Texas.”
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 in Georgia.
Jewett said the Egun want people of African descent 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. If you can’t join us, pour libation, call their names and pray for them at 3:30PM on March 20 where you are. What a powerful healing that will be for all of us – praying for the Egun at the same time!”
Jewett is asking people to come on time and wear white or light colors – no black or dark colors! 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,” she reminded. “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. Bring your love, your light, your prayers and your instruments. No anger. This ritual is about love, light and healing.”