Updated: Mar 31
A few years ago, I took a trip to Nigeria with my Oluwo that changed my life. The path leading towards Osogbo was completely disrupted, however. So Baba and I did the only thing we knew to do when things become challenging, disruptive, filled with twists and turns... we paved our way there with prayer and... Kola Nut.
Let me go backwards a bit.
I have to start this post by admitting that even my entrance into the world wasn't completely smooth sailing; but for as long as I can remember, I knew that I came here with a purpose. I knew that my life was intentional, and that the sacrifices my mother made for me during her pregnancy and then through the birthing process: all purposeful. My family has told me many times that my mother constantly prayed over me while she was pregnant. They have repeatedly shared stories of how, due to complications that would ensue for her or me or both, that the doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy. And mom has shared with me multiple times that she told the doctors she would not terminate the pregnancy, because "This child is being called to do something great. And she has chosen me to assist. So we will go through this pregnancy together". PURPOSEFUL MIC DROP.
Fast forward to 2021 and upon reflection, my life has been pretty amazing. I have performed in various parts of the world, premiered at recital and concert halls with classical music performances and had some pretty decadent soprano roles on some opera stages. I have produced and directed some theater, and have discovered that I love teaching children! On many occasions, I have accepted invitations instinctively to perform in places even when I didn't know energetically why I was being invited there. I have also become a genealogist, carefully researching stories of my mother and father and the legacies they left behind. As of this moment, I can name at least 1,000 family members from memory, dating back to the year 1817. I am proud of this legacy I've inherited. And my biggest accomplishment is giving birth to an incredible ray of light, my son Xman, who I can share that legacy with. Motherhood has taught me a great deal about myself and about others, and I have learned that the words we speak into our child's life matters. The whispers, the songs, the state of emotional being we put ourselves in during pregnancy; all of these things matter. The ways we speak to our children in our grief, in our frustrations, in our joy, in our good times...these matter and get implanted in their emotional DNA somehow. I have tried to honor my mother's prayers for me by praying for my own son, and by speaking love into his life daily. He is beautiful, kind, wise and thoughtful....and I am learning that my prayers matter. I am blessed that he is emerging into the world with a clear purpose of his own.
It has always intrigued me that I can do so much research here in the United States, yet still can't name the birthplaces of my ancestors in other parts of the world. People who are able to do this are fortunate; many of us who descended from those who were enslaved can only name our family's settling and resting places. Many of us don't know that we could have descended from places in Africa where everyone in the village or tribe looks like we do, or that the food we eat now is a dish that an auntie prepared for her family at festival hundreds of years ago. My family history is rich with roots that stretch into the South for hundreds of years, and every year, I make my way back home to re-connect to my roots. For years, I have known that we have white ancestry from somewhere in Europe but I had no idea how to connect with this before dna tests were a thing. Both of my parents have shared stories about our Native American Creek ancestry and some relatives have confirmed this by revealing the places where our family lived. So has DNA, affirming my Native American roots along with a connection to the Mayans... And then there is Africa.
I came to my Oluwo through my spiritual godmother, Iyanifa Patricia Oba L'enu Ifagbemi Jokotifa Clarke, who I have loved for over 20 years. She understood my desire to know more about myself, and purposefully offered wisdom that would lead me to something bigger than the expectations I had for myself. No words can describe what Iya’s guidance and love continue to mean to my life.
As I grew into an understanding that included my African history, Iya connected me to Chief Ayanda Ifadara Clarke, Ajibilu Awo Of Osogbo, my Oluwo. He has connected me to IFA, the wisdom of the universe. Baba: Adupe Ooo!! For your tutelage, your prayers, and your support, I am forever grateful.
During the years of studying this very sacred, wonderfully old and remarkably intact African tradition, IFA has taught me more about my purpose and destiny than anything I've ever accomplished or discovered on my own. Growing up in the church and singing in what feels like 30,000 churches since the age of 5, I thought I had religion on lock... until IFA brought me bountiful blessings and the divine essence of myself. I have learned to stop calling an embracing of African culture and tradition -“religion” for example.
In our spiritual house, Baba teaches us that obi is the antidote to sickness, to challenge, and to struggle. Obi is kola nut and we use a lot of it as we make petition regularly. I have prayed for myself, my son, my family on a regular basis. Prayer changes things when it is purposeful and intentional.
When it was time to go to Nigeria for the next level of my development where I would also become an Iyanifa, I could not believe that all of the years of study, all of the obi eaten, all of the investment of time, energy, self reflection and adhering to the advice given would align me to the path of finding my way back to the place I had been longing for. My people were here.... I just knew it. Rather than a tourist trip I thought I would take some years ago, this trip was purposeful. I would embark on an intentional moment that would connect me to my ancestors in a far more meaningful way than looking at a photograph or genealogy record; I was about to continue the work they once did.
From the moment I arrived in Nigeria, I saw myself in those people. I saw my parents and grandparents in the way they walked, in the regal way the women carried baskets of everything on the top of their heads. I smelled my mama's cooking in the kitchen as meals were prepared. Baba Agbonbon Fakayode Faniyi and his beautiful family were so gracious and welcoming. I wondered daily if they knew the moment of meeting them for the first time was not lost on me and how grateful I was to be with them. I tried to say thank you as often as I could. I tried to sit quietly and just absorb the sounds and the rhythm of the environment so I wouldn’t forget. I was now home and I didn't want to leave. I loved everything, even the sound of the broom sweeping outside of the temple, the yard, the common areas, just like my Baba instructs us to prepare our spiritual space before any work happens. Swish, swish... I never knew how peaceful the sound of a broom rhythmically moving could be until I spent time in Nigeria. I did not use an alarm clock once and there was no jet lag. That broom swish reset me every morning and I moved to get dressed quickly in anticipation of the day.
Two weeks before we left for Nigeria, I received an update to a DNA test I had taken a few years ago. "We have an update to your DNA ancestry" the email read. I opened the update to find that they identified that I not only had African ancestry, but that I had a significant amount of Nigerian ancestry. I immediately gave thanks through my tears, shouts, happy dances and hollers as I recognized how full circle this moment was for me. My mother's prayers... my prayers for my son...those genealogy records that pointed me towards studying Africa...the happenstance way of meeting my godmother...the truth in my Oluwo bringing IFA into my life...all on purpose. My Road To Osogbo Has Always Been Paved With Obi... but you can call it Kola Nut... or BISSY. As you sip our tea, prepared purposefully and with the best intentions, may you receive all of the blessings paved for your life as you align yourself to DESTINY.