Updated: Feb 6, 2021
As we officially celebrate Black History Month, I have to confess that for me it's a Black Heritage Lifestyle that I am celebrating today and every day of my life.
We all come from a woman, and we all have a woman in our lives that we love, admire and value so I am starting my 2021 "Black History Month" 's celebration with an African Poem called " Black Woman".
I chose an old poem by the late Senegalese author, poet, politician, and Senegal's first president, Leopold Sedar Senghor.
Senghor served as the first president of Senegal for two decades.
Senegal became independent from France on August 20, 1960, just days after my birth country Cote d'Ivoire won its independence from France on August 07, 1960.
Being born and raised on the African continent and having the early years of my life shaped by the passion of leaders like Senghor and Felix Houphouet Boigny our Ivorian president and father, this ode to the Femme Noire " Black Woman" is also a love letter to the African continent.
Black History Month Femme Noire/ Black Woman poem by Léopold Senghor 🎶 Africana Gerilson Insrael - YouTube
On the photo below, courtesy of Google, are three of West Africa's most notable leaders.
From left to right President Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, President Felix Houphouet Boigny of Cote d'Ivoire, and President Sekou Toure of Guinea, where my dad Kadher and his legendary brother and artist, Mory Kante are from.
All three leaders governed their countries with great pride and strong beliefs, imprinting a deep cultural pride to the generations who felt the direct influence of their leaderships.
Many years later, on a very special night in 2005, with all African countries now independent, my proud uncle, Mory Kante, would perform for Unesco, celebrating unity in Africa. Dressed in traditional clothes, and in one of his signature white outfits, he would play his famous kora and perform in front of Eight (8) African leaders and French President Jacques Chirac. On that special night, as a true griot, Mory Kante offered some heavy praises to Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade on earning the Felix Houphouet Boigny Peace Prize from UNESCO and praised Jacques Chirac on being the friend of Africa, and an African!
I decided to read the poem in its original language, in French and will add the English translation below. I don't read aloud professionally, I do it only for enjoyment, but I pray that this reading will delight you, even if you don't speak or understand French.
As I share this poem, I wanted to also introduce you to a beautiful song " Africana" ("African Girl") by a young Portuguese artist of African origins named Gerislon Insrael. I don't even know what African country he may originally be from, but I do know that some of his songs like " Super woman" and "Quarentena" are worth adding to your playlist.
There are only five (5) African countries that have Portuguese as an official language, so we can guess that Gerilson Insrael is originally from any of the following countries: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape-Verde, Sao Tome, and Principe. If you care to take a guess or offer an answer please leave a comment below, but definitely let me know how much you enjoyed the song or the poem.
Translation By John Reed and Clyde Wake
*I put in bold a few of my favorite lines, they are more beautiful in French, and the translation though very accurate takes away the musical melody of the words chosen by the author in his original text.
Naked woman, black woman
Clothed with your colour which is life,
with your form which is beauty In your shadow I have grown up;
the gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes. And now, high up on the sun-baked pass,
at the heart of summer, at the heart of noon, I come upon you, my Promised Land, And your beauty strikes me to the heart
like the flash of an eagle.
Naked woman, dark woman
Firm-fleshed ripe fruit,
Somber raptures of black wine,
mouth making lyrical my mouth Savannah stretching to clear horizons, savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind’s eager caresses Carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom, muttering under the Conqueror’s fingers
Your solemn contralto voice is the spiritual song of the Beloved.
Naked woman, dark woman
Oil that no breath ruffles, calm oil on the athlete’s flanks, on the flanks of the Princes of Mali Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the night of your skin
Delights of the mind, the glinting of red gold against your watered skin
Under the shadow of your hair, my care is lightened by the neighboring suns of your eyes.
Naked woman, black woman, I sing your beauty that passes, the form that I fix in the Eternal,
Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to feed the roots of life.
Some More Black History Fun Facts:
Of the three countries Senegal, Guinea, and Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea was the first to become independent on October 2, 1958.
Harry Belafonte, artist, actor, social and political activist, a very close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King once lived in Guinea and was a big supporter of new African artists during the mid-1960s.
On a personal note, Belafonte who was known as the "King of Calypso" was my first TV crush that I still have memories of, my second one was Sidney Poitiers. Belafonte was irresistible either he spoke, sang, or acted. How could I keep myself from falling in love with him when he had joined forces with our beautiful " Mama Africa" Miriam Makeba, to denounce the injustices of apartheid in South Africa.
Miriam Makeba also lived in exile in Guinea until she could safely return to her country.
Belafonte and Makeba used art to move the world when they recorded their 1965 album " An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba". I always get goosebumps when I listen to " Malaika " ( " My Angel") as the song pulls me back to my childhood and those moments when I developed my love for art and for my cultural heritage.
Take a look at how divine our " Mama Africa" looked and sounded in this live performance of 1969 https://youtu.be/Q1UID0vEeqI
I wasn't even born till years after, but somehow the work of Bellafonte, Makeba, and other activists resonated with me because apartheid was still alive. I watched on TV the release of our cherished Nelson Mandela and I learned very early what Toni Morrison meant long before we all came across her words...
I know that I have mostly shared about art, about where I am from, and artists that have impacted my early life, and that's because for me there is no black history without art. My personal history is entangled in art, music, and cultural pride.
In this last video that I share below, my uncle Mory Kante, also known as a djelabi, a griot, proudly plays the sounds of the Mandingue people on the " balafon", an instrument that was learned by my paternal family for generations.
Though the tradition of learning how to play the balafon wasn't passed on to me and my siblings, music, art, and culture undeniably vibrate in me.
Causing me to believe that there is no Black History without black artists, poets, singers, dancers, painters, writers, sculptors, basket weavers, or artisans, from the continent and from the diaspora wherever they were born or choose to live.
I am a descendant of griots after all!
Whoever you are, wherever you are from, I pray you will share in that Black Pride because we are all beautifully and intrinsically connected. I am obviously not just a proud woman, I am a proud African, West African, American, and global citizen, and Nakivoire was actually birthed from that pride. It's a privilege to share my culture and serve others, and I pray that I have served you well even in writing this post.
While you are here get something authentically African, handcrafted, and made with excellence. Go to the Shop, select a gift for yourself or someone else and have a fabulous Black Heritage Lifestyle (smiles).
Thank you for reading. I hope you've enjoyed your time here, please share this as much as you can and have a Happy Black Heritage Lifestyle (smiles).
Let me know who you are celebrating during this month and beyond and please feel free to share your thoughts below, share something/ someone significant to you, or ask questions.
Love & Blessings. ~N'nako Kande Bacon
Music "Africana" by Gerilson Insrael
Poem " Femme Noire"
Poem reading N'nako Kande Bacon
Headwrap by Nakivoire
African print pillows by Nakivoire
Wall art African fans from Cote d'Ivoire availabe at Nakivoire.com
Wall art by Keelah Jackson of the Keeody Gallery and Latesia
Video shared in this post:
Mory Kante performing for UNESCO 2005 Houphouet Boigny Peace Prize https://youtu.be/wWbcp5AlIqg
Africana by Gerilson Insreal https://youtu.be/fgu9ZPTtzZ8
Poem reading of "Femme Noire" Black History Month Femme Noire/ Black Woman poem by Léopold Senghor 🎶 Africana Gerilson Insrael - YouTube https://youtu.be/qm5zx2Dln44
Mory Kante/ Africa Day by N'nako Kande Bacon https://youtu.be/doPkyuYi9ho
Malaika by Miriam Makeba https://youtu.be/Q1UID0vEeqI
Mory Kante playing the balafon with Manu Dibango playing the saxophone https://youtu.be/SK76c2P7f0E
More Good Music to enjoy
Questions for inquisitive readers
*This is a fun activity to share with youth and children
What does “Femme Noire” mean?
Who was “Mama Africa”?
What is “Africana” and what does it mean?
What is “Malaika” and what does it mean?
Where was the author born?
Where are the author’s dad and her “legendary" uncle from?
Who is the legendary uncle she refers to? Can you find out more about him and what made him a legend not just as an African but globally?
What does black history mean to the author?
What does black history mean to you?
After reading this post, what are you most curious about?
What is apartheid?
Can you find out why Makeba lived in exile and when she could finally return to her country?
What does Makeba and Nelson Mandela have in common?
How many countries in Africa speak Portuguese? Can you find out why? Can you name other countries that speak Portuguese?
Who are the three African leaders pictured in this article? What countries did they lead to independence and when? Can you find out what “independence” meant for these countries?
Who was the famous Civil Rights leader mentioned in the article that Belafonte was a friend of?
Who was the “King of Calypso” Belafonte or Sidney Poitiers? Can you find out why he was referred to as the “King of Calypso”?
All together can you list the names of all the people the author mentions in this black history celebration?
How did the author connect her African Black History to American Black History? What do you think were her intentions in connecting the two?