The Sun is Still Going to Shine…

My young cousin Felicia died at an early age, a victim of a car accident.  I remember how broken-hearted her mother was, my Aunt Louise.  The whole extended family participated in the consolation of Aunt Louise and the funeral, burial and family activities surrounding my cousin’s death.

I remember sitting at the funeral beside my mother.  There was a quartet-choir of children that began to sing a plaintive, soul-reaching song with the refrain: “The Sun is Still Going to Shine.”  For some reason I decided to give myself over completely to the notion of death and the intense loss that one can feel when confronted with death.  The song and the picture of those beautiful children singing directly from their hearts fostered my grief and I gave into it wholeheartedly.

I remember crying so unreservedly that my mother put her arms around me and said “brace yourself”.  I remember thinking, ‘it should have been me’; and I allowed that thought to foster my grief.  I remember after the funeral my relatives were commenting on how ‘broken’ I seemed and how I had handled my grief in such an uninhibited fashion.  Although I was aware of those whisperings I don’t remember being embarrassed by them.

I have come to realize that I had chosen to fully engage myself in this early lesson of death, grieving and healing for the experience of it.  I also held the lesson of knowing that grieving ends and healing is a part of the loss cycle.  This message was communicated to me in the song previously mentioned by the children’s choir messengers: ‘The Sun is Still Going to Shine’.

I remember visiting my family one Christmas Day many years later.  My Aunt Louise was there laughing and making merry.  I was reminded of how gracious the life process is no matter how dim it seems at certain times.  By the time I began losing other close family members; other cousins, my grandmothers, aunts and uncles, my mom and dad, my two brothers; I had been steeled by the many previous losses including the loss of loves, a marriage and many of my youth-fed dreams.  Thus, in my later life I was able to handle the grief of death in a more graduated and moderated fashion.

Many less final losses and challenges often spark the grieving process: moves, job changes or losses etc.  These types of incidents are common today in many of our lives.  Recently, we had about two or three winter-overcast days here in Houston.  I had to struggle to be productive and mildly enthusiastic on every one of these days.  When I woke up this morning I looked toward the window and saw the sun peeking through.  Although I usually awake in prayer and consideration of my current challenges and undertakings, the vista of the sun helped to brighten my mood and outlook.

I remember the song sung so convincingly by the youth choir at Cousin Felicia’s funeral.  The words continue to carry me through even these days a half a century later.  One day by God’s decree, the sun will no longer rise.  Until that day, we are all graced with the opportunity to continue through our earthly term.  It is then our responsibility to live, work, give and love as we see fit.  I am presently attempting to challenge the issues that I am currently facing in the spirit of faith and hope; and I am still remembering that soulful and soul-saving message: “The Sun is Still Going to Shine”.

February 23, 2013

©Linda Tauhid

For Linda Tauhid’s Journal

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Uncle Friday (Baba Jumah)

My Grandmother Dora used to tell me stories of her grandfather, my great-great grandfather. His name was ‘Uncle Friday’.  Nana Dora told me that Uncle Friday was directly from Africa.  She didn’t mention the name of a place, but that is not unusual.  Many of our forbears that were brought to this country were brought, as many know, from different parts of West Africa.  To look at my grandmother Dora who had beautiful dark skin and high cheekbones, one would be reminded of someone from the Yoruba cultural groups often seen in what is today called Nigeria.

I have never invested in DNA testing to identify my ethnic lineage, but in my travels around and across the African continent I have been recognized and claimed by many cultural groups in West Africa, East Africa and South Africa.  I generally can negotiate the African continent without being recognized as an American if I modify my dress and minimize my verbal contact.

Since I heard about Uncle Friday from my grandmother, I became interested in his name as well as his origin. From my studies in West African culture I know that people are named for the days of the week on which they are born.  This of course is only one of the many cultural naming traditions of African.  The Akan or Ewe people of Ghana are especially known for the day of the week naming tradition.  Male and female names that represent children born on the different days of the week are often adopted.  There are also other cultural beliefs and traditions attached to the significance of being born on a certain day of the week as well.

In the Islamic tradition, quite prevalent throughout the African continent as well as elsewhere, male children are often given the name ‘Jumah’ which represents the day of the Friday congregational prayer.  As many know, most African captives who were brought to the United States were discouraged from using their birth and cultural names.  In an effort to retain some of their heritage and dignity, many captives sought to construct a semblance of their birth names that were more acceptable to their captors.  Thus names like Friday or Jumah as Friday would be called in the Islamic tradition; or Kofi, as Friday would be for a male named in Ghanaian traditions; were translated in to a more acceptable forms for the captive experience.

When I traveled to East Africa I was given many names by friends of different cultural groups.  A friend from the Luo cultural group of Kenya gave me the name Adiambo, which means a female born in the evening.  Another friend from the Kikuyu cultural gave me the name Ngina (pronounce Genna), which is often translated as ‘the serving one’ or one who gives service. We chose this name because my middle name is actually Jean and it seemed to parallel.

I am also a girl-woman born on Friday, so there are other cultural names such as Afua, the name which can be given for a girl, in Ghanaian cultures, born on Friday.  My first name, Linda, is the namesake of my great grandmother Belinda.  In Spanish the name means beautiful and it also has meanings in some East African languages as well.

This is all to emphasize the richness and importance of naming in African traditions as well as in many other cultural traditions.  Also to demonstrate that naming is life-long.  Our birth names often serve us and honor our parents and forbears.  The names that we adopt or accrue during our lifetime represent our marriages, faith traditions and often our personal growth and transformations.

With this being said, I would like to‘re-call’ my great-great grandfather who was known as Uncle Friday, Baba Jumah.  This name represents the life cycle of my own development and culture as well as my awareness of the losses that we have suffered as a former captive culture by the denial of our true family names.  I believe, as well, that this also honors the origin and secrets of my great-great grandfather, Baba Jumah and my Nana Dora and our family beyond; whose history and traditions have inspired and sustained me as I hear their voices speak through their stories their hearts, and their names.

©Linda Tauhid

For Linda Tauhid’s Journal–

An African History Month Comemorative.

February 20, 2013