Sweet Water Oshun and the Black Feminine

So, we’re celebrating Women’s History Month and I want you to quickly list the first three things that pop into your mind when you think of Women’s History Month.

Here are mine:
White Women
Old Women
Work/Career

Hmmph not very inspiring. And you can judge me all you want but whenever I hear Women’s History Month or Feminism or The Glass Ceiling or all that stuff. I immediately think of white women fighting to be seen as equal to men and that equality being mainly measured by how much money they make and how much power they can obtain.

But for the last couple of years, I have chosen to celebrate the Divine Feminine, during March well really all year long. Oooh, what do those words bring up for you?

For me:
Goddess
Nature
Power
Oshun

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Oshun is the Yoruban Goddess of sweet water. Honeyyyyyy chile, yes, sweet water. Oshun is said to be the Goddess that makes life worth living. She provides the sweetness, the honey, the joy, the pleasure and splendor of life. Oshun loves herself, often seen looking in the mirror admiring all her glory and beauty. Without Oshun, everything on earth dies. She is the official and original Goddess of Love.

Take a minute to learn a bit about Oshun from the video below.

On Tuesday, I introduced some of you, for the first time to Mama Yemaya and the Yoruban belief system in an attempt to encourage you to include indigenous and African based spirituality in our instruction. And honestly, there is no way  I could talk about Yemaya without talking about our Goddess Oshun. Especially when she has become so mainstream, made possible by our own Goddess Beyonce.

Haters go on and skip the next couple of paragraphs.

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When Beyonce dropped Lemonade among many things that album did, one of them was to bring African Spirituality to the minds, hearts and souls of all of us. Buzzfeed outlines how each song is inspired by the energy of various Orishas. Even though they did miss my favorite song on the album, All night long. Which I’m going to say is Oshun inspired.images-2.jpg

Remezcla makes the connection between that controversial trip that Beyonce and Jay Z made to Cuba in 2013 to her new found wokeness about African spirituality. And engages us in a conversation around how this album reiterates the importance of Black Lives Mattering and asks us to look deeply at our own spirituality and practices.

Beyonce is full on embodying Oshun.

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One way Oshun displays her power is by embodying all that is wonderful about being a woman, utilizing the tools of the Divine Feminine as represented in the story below:

imgres-7.jpgAccording to legend, Ogun is the traditional warrior, a fiery spirit, similar to the spirit of Ares in Greek mythology. As such, he is mighty and powerful; yet, he can also exhibit rage and destructiveness if disrespected. He is not a deity to play around with. He is associated with blood and is often called upon to cure diseases of the blood. Ogun gives strength through prophecy and magic. It is Ogun who is said to have planted the idea, led, and given power to the slaves for the Haitian Revolution of 1804. Ogun played a vital role in the process of creating the world as we know it. Without Ogun’s ache (essence), there would be no evolution.

imgres.jpgOgun brought technology such as iron and steel to Humans to help them improve their society. A fierce and hard-working blacksmith, Ogun withdrew from the creation of the world and retreated into the forest when he saw Humans use technology for war and oppression. When he left the world, creation stopped. Without Ogun, the Orishas and Humans lacked the technology they needed for planting new fields and they could not flourish. Society became stagnant. Despite the best efforts of numerous other Orishas, Ogun would not emerge from the bush…

Finally Oshun, the Goddess of love, art, dance, and the river, went into the woods with her five scarves and her gourd of honey. She found a clearing in the woods and began a beautiful and sensuous dance, which caught Ogun’s attention. With every seductive movement, Ogun was drawn closer and closer to Oshun. When he was upon her, she smeared his lips with her honey and continued to dance and lure Ogun out of the forest. Of course, Ogun followed her, and resumed his work. This story is a testament to the awesome beauty, and power of Oshun, who is the only one who can renew the process of creation.

Yeah, that Divine Feminine there. Shout out to all the Ogun’s I know reading this today.

So, yeah back to WHM or as I am calling it Divine Feminine month. I want to ask you, who do we celebrate and honor and center in our conversations around being powerful women of the African Diaspora? Do we ever celebrate and center the women who activate and use their Oshun energy?

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Mama Maya Angelou was a calypso singer and a madame before becoming an author and giver of all good advice for life. Earth Kitt who ooozed honey until her death at 81, singer, actress and philanthropist. Sister Josephine Baker and that banana outfit, honey, if she were alive right now, she would be breaking the internet. Bad gyal Rih Rih who was just honored at Harvard with the Humanitarian of the year award we already know she is fully herself. Janet Mock is a trans gender  activist goddess and my homegirl in my head, honey pours out of skin. And I stan for Beyonce so of course she gets in on the Oshun collage. She needs no description.

These women do not shun their femininity. They don’t hide it. They aren’t ashamed of it. They stand in their full power and I honor them for it. I wished we honored them for it during Divine Feminine Month, in our schools.

Oh, and let us be very clear, any effort to relegate Oshun to only powers of the feminine would be very short sighted. Oshun also has power and influence over the market place translation she is about her coins, her bills, her stacks, her paper. Children of Oshun stay with dinero, everything they touch turns to gold, effortlessly.

imgres-6.jpgAnd so let me dig even deeper, just for a minute. Black femininity, black girlness, black female sexuality is so often shunned,  dissected, disrespected and defiled in our culture. Historically Back women are seen either as Mammy or Jezebel, one to be ignored and used as a servant and one to be used as a sexual servant, feared and not to be trusted. Neither are to be loved, cherished, cared for, or protected.

In Monique Morrison’s phenomenal book Pushout: The criminalization of Black girls in schools she dedicates an entire chapter to the way schools craft that Jezebel narrative around our girls and how that narrative helps to push Black girls out of our schools. I challenge you to think of ways to engage our Black girls in these narratives that are crafted around their attitudes, their intellect, their sexuality, their passiveness, their dangerousness, their ghettoness, their ratchedness and their very Blackness and I offer to you Yemaya, Oshun and Oya (you will learn about her soon) as the lenses with which to dissect Black femaleness but even deeper than that Black Divine Femininity. If we dissect and use a colonized, Euro centric lens, we ain’t really dissecting. I mean the Virgin Mary and Oshun, how that gonna work?

I know some of you are like, wait, is this an education blog? I mean, I came here to learn about the latest CRE pedagogical tool that I could institute tomorrow.

Sorry. Not. Sorry.

What this is–is a lifestyle. A mindset. A belief system. An ideological approach to support your ability to craft educational experiences that will lead to the liberation of students from the African Diaspora.

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Let me leave you with something Mama Maya penned for us:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean,
leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling
I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Now look at that!

I think there is a complex set of lessons…really a unit in this one post. Hmmmph, Oshun, Yoruba, Beyonce, Maya Angelou, Pushout, Poetry, Gender, Identity, Celebrations, The Divine Feminine Month aka Women’s History Month any Common Core Standards under reading, writing, listening, speaking and writing. English, History, the Arts, Science, Middle School, High School…a really cutting edge creative and thoughtful elementary school educator.

Look at all the possibilities.

In solidarity.

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Posted in 21st Century Tools, Black Literature, Holidays and Celebrations, Indigenous People, PRIDE, Women's History Month, Yoruba.

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  1. Pingback: Oya: Wind and War – Culturally Responsive Educators of the African Diaspora CREAD

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