Archive for heritage

Reclaiming Our Names Reclaims Our Identify

Posted in Awareness, CULTURE, HISTORY, Spotlight with tags , , , on September 22, 2010 by Mijiza Zeyzey

Some ask, “What’s in a name?” The answer is, “Our identity.” Names signify one’s origin. Most African names have meaning and were traditionally given with that in mind. African names were a reflection of the child’s personality, heritage, or birth.

Colonial names have replaced traditional African names since the 1700’s. Countries, rivers, natural wonders, and kingdoms of Africa were routinely renamed by European colonizers. Even school children of Africa were renamed with ‘Christian’, English, German, or Spanish sir-names by colony, missionary teachers or baptisms. As a result of the slave trade, people of the African Diaspora were given the names of plantation owner’s as a sign of his ‘ownership’. After 300 years of slavery, the people of the African Diaspora no longer knew their forefathers’ names. Heritage records, family trees, and often even birth records were not kept on enslaved people. Records of heritage were maintained better on horses and dogs.

Since the 1960’s people of African descent have been returning to names of their forefathers. Of course for people of the African Diaspora, these are not actual family names, yet they serve as a link to lost family ties. Independence of African countries won:

  • Independence
  • Renaming of the country
  • Renaming of  her children
  • Renaming of  her landmarks

Many people understand the need to return to our natural names. Others do not. Some think it is a dishonor to our parents who named us. Consider it a gift of honor to our parents.  Honor for all those before us that had no real choice in the lost of family names. Consider it honoring our parents with names that reflect pride in our identity. Consider it a way of saying “thank you” to all those who came before us. This is my gift:

  • A bridge to our forefathers
  • Pride in our identity
  • Independence  of the effects of slavery

My identity is not reflected in Deborah Mazon. My identity is in Mijiza Zeyzey. I am part of the African Diaspora. I am reclaiming my identity. I am giving the gift of independence, pride, and gratitude to my family.

Defining One’s Self

Posted in Awareness, CULTURE with tags , , , , on March 10, 2010 by Mijiza Zeyzey

Commentary –

Who are we? Says who? There have been several movements that aimed to define African Americans. From the Pan-African movement that called for pride in our heritage and encouraged us to return to our roots, to the Black Nationalist Movement that said to reverse what was intended as an insult (being called black) into a statement of pride, we have searched for our identity.

In the Jeremiah 2:21, the bible says, “Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into degenerated plant of a strange vine unto me?”

We are of a noble vine; we have a noble seed, a noble God. So why are we so lost? Why have we turned our backs on our own identity? Why are we still searching for what to call ourselves? Why have we taken up new religions? I came across this video and it made me think of this. It is just another example of us not knowing who we are and just another stop on the search for our identity.

Did You Know . . .

Posted in Awareness, CULTURE, HISTORY, South America with tags , , , on March 9, 2010 by Mijiza Zeyzey

I write a HubPages, hub, I call Did you know . . . On there I highlight parts of African American history that has been left out of classroom American history books. This is something else that has been “conspicuously absent from view.”

Did you know that . . . Brazil has the largest population of African descendants in the Western Hemisphere? Brazil’s population of 60 million African descendants, are only second to the real thing of Nigeria’s population of 115 million Africans.

Brazil was one of the destinations of ships carrying African captives. Here it was Portuguese colonizers invading the native Brazilian population. Brazil’s history includes its own “melting pot” party line. Race and racism is not defined the same as in the United States. Many people define themselves with descriptions based on color such as Light Tan, Yellow-Brown, Black, and White. Among those who refer to themselves as white, are those who have enough African ancestry to be called Black in the United States (roughly 80 million). Census in Brazil has over 100 categories of color.

African descendants in Brazil, although are huge in numbers, take a low profile in the nation. Stars like Pele, World Cup soccer champion, Gilberto Gil, musician, and samba dancers of the Carnival celebration are front and center in the national profile. Political and commercial profiles (including television and print ads) of the country are missing of the African descent population. This is something that makes you say umm.

Alex Haley’s “Roots”

Posted in HISTORY, Mother Africa, North America with tags , , on March 3, 2010 by Mijiza Zeyzey

This “landmark in television entertainment” reveals history in more than one way. The introduction alone revealed the same attitude towards Africans that was later seen in the movie held by the character called Slaughter. The narrator’s description of Africa as being “primitive” covertly belittled African civilization; Slaughter overtly characterized African civilization as savage and cannibal.  Americans got a look into the ugly face of enslavement and early racism as never before seen on television.  At the time, programs on television with all-star African descent casts were few. Especially rare was programs by an African descent writer about the culture and ways of  Africans.

Roots gave us insight on whom Africans were before enslavement, colonialization, or any type of Diaspora occurred. Roots gave us a glimpse on religious and cultural aspects of life including birth, naming, puberty, responsibilities, and war.

Thanks to for sharing these Alex Haley “Roots” clips.

Harlem Renaissance

Posted in Awareness, CULTURE, North America with tags , , , , on February 20, 2010 by Mijiza Zeyzey

From 1919 to 1926, a large number of African Americans moved from the rural South to northern cities such as Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC. Many of these African Americans were leaving poverty-stricken living conditions of dirt floors, news papered-walls, and one room shacks. Upon arrival in the urban cities, they found a difference in life-style. With new opportunities came a spirit of celebration. This spirit was encouraged and artist of all media blossomed.

In 1925, Alain LeRoy Locke coined the term The New Negro after a book of the same name, to describe cultural celebration that was occurring. Later the term changed to Harlem Renaissance. Poetry, art, jazz, blues, and literature went into new directions that expressed the feelings of the time.

Artist of the time include Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker. These were the days of the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.  America was influenced by the expressions of African American culture. The legacy of these and other artist influenced artist of the forties, fifties, and sixties.

You can find collections from this period in the Library of Congress as well as their website.

Exhibits include:

• African-American Odyssey: World War I and Postwar Society: The Harlem Renaissance and the Flowering of American Creativity

Harlem Renaissance and the Flowering of Creativity

This exhibits resources about the Harlem Renaissance.

• William P. Gottlieb: Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz

Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz

This exhibits photographer Gottlieb’s photos of jazz musicians and singers such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie.

• American Treasures of the Library of Congress-William  H. Johnson. “Street Musicians”

“Street Musicians”

This exhibits paintings by Harlem Renaissance artist William H. Johnson.