On Erasure and Transcendence of Black Women.

Tamika Abaka-Wood
6 min readJun 19, 2020

Barking was the first place I called home on this Earth. Barking existed in a state of purgatory — an in-between place barely noticeable to the naked human eye, but a place in which you could sense souls moving through aimlessly, unsure of their next move. I lived in a neighbourhood that was largely inhabited by first generation immigrants from various countries within Sub Saharan Africa, all over the Caribbean, and from Bangladesh, India & Pakistan. In Barking, the buildings were grey, the cultural hubs were run-down, the housing was linear and often sub-standard, as were schools and healthcare services.

The residents moved through the world as though they were Sims in a more depressing, less vivid and remarkably less Utopian version of the game. Sims move to the rhythm of pre-set coding, algorithms and systems because there’s other choice than to adhere to them. The game is rigged and has life and death consequences. We know that people adapt to the environments and the cultures around them — and here we have a set of people from specific communities rich in deep knowledge about humanity, how to engage deeply with themselves, with others and the Earth they exist with. Those forms of deep wisdom have been excavated and continue to slowly be drained out of the planet through centuries long colonialisation of the world and, perhaps more potently, our minds.

The vibrations of my hometown are ones of survival and functionality. There was never much space left for any other beautiful, subtle but equally as powerful sonic resonance.

Call: Won’t He do it?
Response: Yes He will.
Call: Won’t He do it?
Response: Yes He will.

I was 17 years old when I first stepped into an Evangelical church in the United Kingdom. It was a Friday night in the depths of Winter, I paid 40p to board the 25 red ‘bendy bus’ to get there. I decided to go mainly because there was the promise of free pizza, it gave me something to do and somewhere to be. And, unbeknownst to me, all of my friends had suddenly been transformed into dedicated followers of Christ over the space of 2 weeks.

Naturally, as a kid I wasn’t much of a conventional joiner-in-er, especially not when it came to structured community in which I felt there was no form of individualism, creativity or freedom to be celebrated. Brownies? Smells like plasticine in here and you’re making me wear a uniform after school. Netball? So you want me to pivot on the spot without actually moving in order to play. Kid’s club on holiday? Adhering to a routine when this is the most free I’ve ever been. Interesting propositions, but not for me. My previous experiences with the church led me to believe I’d find myself in a similar streams of mechanical repetition, without full attention or thought for meaning, understanding and evolution.

I turned up with three friends, skinny jeans spray painted to my skinny frame, my hair Eco-styled across my forehead, alongside the standard Air Force lace and belt colour hook-up. The community hall I found myself in, was full of Charismatic worshippers — which means that they believed in speaking in tongues.They also believed in dance, movement, noise, song and physical worship which would involve running up to the stage, falling onto knees in the aisles and spontaneous acts driven by Spirit during the worship service. People were filled with the Holy Ghost at various times during this 3-hour service and there seemed to be no clear boundaries or expectations of when or how this filling with divine power might manifest.

Everyone closed their eyes and raised their hands to heaven, the music was rhythmic, the lights were low, the energy surged and any self-consciousness within the congregation seemed to melt away. I was curious and fascinated by the different sounds they made, the dancing, the outbursts of praise in a dialect that sounded like gibbersish but “felt like the purest form of communication with the Spirit.” My experience, as an outsider on the inside, led me to the (premature and unfounded) conclusion that this was a performative exercise in who could worship the hardest, and be closest to God, whilst appearing the most natural, of course.

But there were moments, in my Winter solstice of Domino’s and spiritual awakening, where I too raised my hands and closed my eyes and felt my heart surge in a way I couldn’t explain but could feel, deeply. I felt part of something bigger than myself, something sacred and divine. Some years down the line, I graduated from Brunel University with a 10,000 word dissertation on my experience, not through the lens of social psychology but through Neuroscience. Speaking in tongues, also known as Glossolalia, looks and sounds nonsensical when looking on the outside in, but for those with faith it activates a sense of religious euphoria. Areas in beleivers brains responsible for emotion are heightened and areas responsible for sense of control are dialled down. Of course, we cannot prove or disprove the causation of this state, but we know something spirituous is occurring, physically.

Drums. Chants. Energy. Emotion. Feeling. Movement. Syncronicity. Hopelessness. Trance. Numbness.

Call: Say. Her. Name.
Response: Breonna Taylor.
Call: Say. Her. Name.
Response: Breonna Taylor.

Time (Is), Solange Knowles

Call: And it gives me hope for the trials
And the fear of the unknown that moves too close
Response: Real close
Call: But we gotta go
Response: We gotta go. We gotta go. We gotta go.

“Afrofuturism is not only a subgenre of science fiction. It is a larger aesthetic mode that encompasses artists working in different genres and media who are united by their shared interest in projecting black futures derived from diasporic experiences.” (Yaszek 2006). Other definitions of Afrofuturism come from Ytasha Womack, in which she defines Afrofuturism as “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation.” Though there are many definitions of Afrofuturism, they all have themes of reclamation, Black liberation, and revisioning of the past and predictions of the future through a specific cultural lens.

Black people have been made Black. Black people have been made to live in a world where not seeing beyond your present circumstances is normal. Covid-19 has seen a blue-light shine on the injustices that have been embedded within our lives all along : technologies (including the technology of race) has led to various levels of dehumanization and alienation, poverty is rampant, and there are fascists with unjust levels of power.

Works of science fiction act as mirrors that reflect our society’s collective anxieties, fears, and dreams regarding our past, present, and future. Alienation and displacement are feelings which reign supreme for the vast majority of the world right now, but these feelings are particularly poignant for the African-American/ Black American communities. The African Diaspora have lived with a lost sense of home for centuries, by design.

As the result of the Transatlantic Slave trade, there is the reality of being displaced, an alien in strange lands, with strange systems and ways of living. The children of the Motherland have been scattered across the globe and as a direct result, culture and history have been slowly but surely extracted from history — it has been written out of the history books, records and archives. But it has not been completely extracted from our collective memory.

Afrofuturism is everything to do with self-liberation, self-healing and mysticism. But more importantly it speaks to the full humanisation and actualisation of Black people in life and in death.

Oluwatoyin had been actively and vocally protesting the murders of Tony McDade, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. She had left some belongings at a local church where she was seeking shelter after seeking justice for Black Lives Matter. A few days after this event, her lifeless body was found in Florida.

Oluwatoyin is Nigerian-American. Oluwatoyin means ‘God is worthy to be praised’ in Yoruba. These image tributes to Oluwatoyin Salau on Instagram reminded me immediately of the Orisha, Yemaya. Last year for my birthday, I travelled to Guanabacoa, Cuba and learned about the rule of Osha or Santeria — a secret religion created by enslaved people belonging to the Yoruba culture found in Nigeria. Santeria is based on the the belief and worship of Orishas who come to represent forces of human nature.

Yemaya represents the uterus as a source of life, motherhood and legacy.
In nature she is symbolised by the waves of the sea.
She owns the waters.
She is the protector of the vulnerable.

Yemaya is always depicted as a Black woman.
A dark-skinned Black women.
She radiantly rules with grace, beauty, and wisdom.
Yemaya has gentle power which transcends the Earthly world.

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