In the Footsteps of Empress Menen of Ethiopia

The most important events in my life feel very private. They usually overwhelm me and prompt me to hold the experiences close and near to my heart. Often I have hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of photos and videos that document these most precious times. For example, there is a Women’s Retreat I attend every year, and each year I take so many pictures that they call me PAPARAZZI. But no one has seen the photos beside the few I share with the retreat host.

Additionally, I have been to South Africa three times and have hardly shared any photos at all outside of close family and friends. The last time we visited our family there, we had a traditional Zulu wedding that was SO AMAZING… Yet it has been over a year and I have only shared a couple of photos. I am promising myself that I will share the experience next month for our 25th wedding anniversary, because there are so many that ask about it and others that would appreciate sharing  in the blessing of making and connecting with family on the continent, so look out for that.

I am not sure why I hold these most cherished experiences so dearly. Perhaps I am a bit ‘old school’ in that way and longing for the days when we kept physical photo albums where we kept our most important photos to share with those who visited our home. I also think I want to make sure that whatever images I put out are portraying the messages that I intend and those that will work to my highest good. But perhaps there is a part of me that acknowledges that in the current age of social media, putting sacred, personal things out there leaves opportunity for them to be defiled by others who don’t hold them in the same in high regard.

With this blog post, I am doing something different… I am going to SHARE, primarily because I want those who presented me with this AMAZING AWARD to know how meaningful the entire night’s experience was for me and because there are so many other people of African descent need to know about Empress Menen.

In honor of Empress Menen

The award I am referring to was presented to me by the Rastafari Council of Chicago in honor of Empress Menen Asfaw, the co-regent of Emperor Haile Selassie I, the last Emperor of Ethiopia of the Solomonic Dynasty. If you are a woman of African descent and you don’t know about Empress Menen and her legacy, you should. I would take the time to try to describe who she was, but Dr. Asantewaa Oppong Wadie already explained it so well on that Saturday evening, so I will share her dynamic words with you.

By the time it was time to receive my honor, which followed Dr. Wadie’s presentation on Empress Menen, I was overcome with gratitude for the legacy that this amazing woman had left behind for us to follow. She saw the world clearly and positioned herself in it to help her people. Not only was she a powerful African woman lived so close to my lifetime, but she was also as a co-regent with her husband who understood the importance of wielding her influence effectively in order to help, heal and save her people.

For the first time, I heard my bio in a different light. As I listened, I felt a heavier weight of responsibility.

This evening turned out to be so much more special than I had anticipated. What made the honor so special? Well, after hearing Dr. Wadie’s presentation on Empress Menen, I understood even more clearly how honoring it was to be associated with such a woman on the day that her legacy was being celebrated. All of a sudden, there seemed to be very dynamic shoes to be filled. And as I listened to the life and work of Empress Menen and how she used her influence to “come to the rescue” of her people with her knowledge, skills and expertise, I knew I was being charged to continue to creatively use my influence to do the same. Dr. Wadie made such an appealing case for the need to celebrate the life and legacy of this amazing woman, that I have purposed to make sure that I continue to do so.

It was also special because of the four other dynamic women who were being the honored that night along side me, namely:

Bernadict Quarles, an educator who has developed a Black Diaspora Curriculum, was the co-founder of a charter school and the founder of the Black National Honors Society with scholarships awarded of over $80,000.

Barbara Allen, an Emmy Award winning filmmaker who is known throughout Chicago, the nation, and the world for her work that highlights the untold stories of Black people and their persistence that showed greatness in the face of adversity.

Martine Caverl, the co-founder of Ujimaa Medics (UMedics), a volunteer based Black-health collective developed to address the health disparities that follow trauma in Chicago’s Black communities.

Queen Mother Helen Sinclair, a 98 year old elder who continues almost 75 years of service in prison ministry.

But most of all, this honor was precious to me because it was given to me by MY OWN PEOPLE. I can hardly describe the feeling of being applauded for my work by a room full of people where our greatest commonality lies in that almost all were people of African descent. The appreciation for one another that was tangible in the room was so different than what most prefer to showcase when diverse Diasporic African people are gathered together, so I will show you.

I know some may not understand why being honored by other Black people is so significant to me. I liken it to the teenager who trains and works really hard to excel at a sport. The crowd is usually full of admirers affiliated with her school and perhaps those cheering for her success because of the love they have for her sport. Nonetheless, when she looks toward the bleachers, the faces she looks for and desires to see the most are those of her family… her kin.

On April 13, 2019, FAMILY celebrated the work that I am doing to support Black women’s abilities to help, heal and save ourselves. I am most grateful and appreciative for the recognition. It is a blessing to be seen.

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