From a Yoruba family in Lagos State, Nigeria, Babatunde Olatunji, while living in the U.S. after winning a scholarship to study at Morehouse College in Atlanta, wanted to become a diplomat. Thus, after graduating from Morehouse in 1954, he enrolled in the Graduate School of Public Administration and International Relations at New York University.
But two things later moved him towards a career in music. The first was his visit to Ghana as a delegate to the All African People’s Conference organized by Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, who told him he thinks he should be a cultural ambassador. The second was his meeting with Columbia Records producer John Hammond after a concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Hammond would help Olatunji produce his 1959 debut Drums of Passion album which some say may have been the first African music release recorded in a modern U.S. studio.
That album became a major hit, selling millions of copies globally and helping introduce Americans to world music. Olatunji would go on to promote African music, earning a Grammy nomination, being behind compositions for Broadway and Hollywood, as well as appearing on programs including the Tonight Show, the Mike Douglas Show and the Bell Telephone Hour.
In 1964, after performing at the New York World Fair’s African Pavilion, he used the proceeds to open his own Olatunji Center for African Culture in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, where he offered classes in African dance, music, language, folklore, and history. Soon, Olatunji became highly recognized as a pioneer in the fusion of African music and jazz. “…We were playing ‘Afro-jazz’ before anybody called it that,” the recording artiste, who grew up in a fishing village in Nigeria where drumming accompanied every celebration, recalled in an interview.
But while his contribution to music is well known, his commitment to social activism is rarely talked about. “He really deserves to be remembered more for his role as a political activist in the US civil rights movement – before it was even a movement,” Robert Atkinson, who collaborated with Olatunji on his autobiography The Beat of My Drum, was quoted by the BBC in a report.
Indeed, Olatunji’s social activism work started right from his days at Morehouse, where he debunked common myths about Africa.
“They [classmates] had no concept of Africa,” he recalled. “They asked all kinds of questions: ‘Do lions really roam the streets? Do people sleep in trees?’ They even asked me if Africans had tails! They thought Africa was like the Tarzan movies. Ignorance is bliss, but it is a dangerous bliss.
“Africa had given so much to world culture, but they didn’t know it.”
Thus, Olatunji started educating his colleagues about Africa, including its cultural traditions and music. He then went ahead to play African music at university social gatherings while organizing and performing at concerts featuring African and African-American students. These activities were during the height of Jim Crow, and soon, Olatunji was organizing students to challenge the status quo in the south.
Even before Rosa Parks would spark the Montgomery bus boycott, Olatunji was already staging protests on public buses with some of his fellow students.
As president of the Morehouse student body in the 1950s, he was able to meet scores of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. As a matter of fact, when King delivered his historic I Have a Dream speech in August 1963 during the March on Washington, Olatunji was among the over 200,000 people at the event. The percussionist, social activist and educator performed many times for the NAACP and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
And at many civil rights rallies, Malcolm X would request him to drum. The man, who is to date described as “the father of African drumming in the U.S.”, was also on the civil rights jazz album We Insist! with playwright Oscar Brown Jr and Max Roach. Back home in Africa, Olatunji was also a part of the anti-colonial resistance movements that had risen across the continent, attending the All African People’s Conference organized by Nkrumah.
The conference, attended by delegates from African countries, prominent African Americans and liberation movements, held discussions on how to achieve continental freedom. Nkrumah had argued that Ghana’s independence would be meaningless if other African states are still colonized by the European powers, and Olatunji couldn’t agree more.
As stated in a report, his involvement in the civil rights movement in the U.S. was largely inspired by the several forms of resistance to colonialism that was occurring in Africa. “He saw himself as a pan-Africanist who always reached out to unify Africans and African Americans,” his wife, Iyafin Ammiebelle Olatunji, told BBC in an interview.
Olatunji in his last years continued to perform while teaching others about African culture and drumming. Before he passed away in 2003 aged 76, he had become known for recordings such as “Celebrate Freedom, Justice and Peace”, “Healing Rhythms, Songs and Chants”, as well as the 1998 Grammy-nominated release, on Chesky Records of “Love Drum Talk”.
Kunga Kihohia went to one of the best schools in Florida. He graduated, was making money, and then one day lost everything. He ended up homeless in Miami, sleeping in his car. Then a trip to Kenya would change his life.
His parents are from Kenya, but he was born and raised and spent most of his life in Florida.
He traveled to Kenya for the first time at the age of 10 and stayed there for about five years, where he learned his parents’ native tongue. He traveled back to the US for high school and college, where he graduated from Florida International University in Miami.
Kihohia didn’t travel to Kenya for more than 15 years once he was back in the states. After spending some time working in corporate America, he told Travel Noire in an interview that he realized he was “psychologically unemployable.”
“I was in the business-world chasing money, making a lot of money, but I was really unhappy because I had moved away from my purpose,” he said, adding that he found himself overweight and overall, unhappy.
So, Kihohia went on a journey to Kenya to find himself and, ultimately, save his life.
“I started this journey of coming back to nature and coming back to my own peace, which involved coming back to Africa. The lifestyle I had gotten involved with was putting me on a path of self-destruction.”
The trip was only supposed to last for three weeks. It took him some time to adjust, as it was his first time back to Kenya in more than a decade. As he began to settle, he realized that people in Kenya were far more content despite some challenges, than people in America.
Back To Nature Organic Farm
Kihohia said he’s always been a serial entrepreneur, but Back To Nature Organic Farm grew out of his interests and passion.
“The farm is only part of a larger vision, and a larger movement called the “Back to Nature Movement.” It’s part of our philosophy and ideology that states, “the closer we are to nature, the more whole, happy, at peace and at ease we are.”
Through the organic farm and the movement, Kihohia said that his mission is to inspire, motivate and encourage Kenyans, East Africans, Africans, including those from the diaspora, to adopt a more natural holistic lifestyle approach towards maintaining or regaining health and wellness.
With a few other like-minded individuals, Kihohia decided that they wanted to control the food system as they saw a rise in diseases in Kenya, such as cancer, hypertension, and more.
“When there’s a will, there’s a way. We started learning all the components about the soil water systems, harvesting and post-harvest losses, markets, dealing with human resources, human capital […] there are so many components, but we belly-flopped into it.”
2021 will mark the fifth anniversary of his journey back home and back to nature. During this time, Kihohia went from obese, stressed, and homeless to the founder of one of the largest organic farms in Kenya, where he’s happy and living life with no regrets.
“My advice to anyone looking to make a move abroad, especially to Africa, is to follow your heart. At the end of the day, this life is temporary. No one gets out alive. We all sign a contract unwittingly that no one leaves alive. It’s vital that while you have your time on this earth, to make it as significant as possible, give it meaning,” said Kihohia.
Through her company, African Ancestry Inc., Gina Paige is helping individuals curious about their African heritage trace their roots through DNA testing, And in doing so, pioneered a new way of tracing African lineages using genetics, and a new
Regardless of where you are at in your Natural hair journey, there are a few natural hair essentials that will help to keep your strands healthy and flourishing. With the wide range and ever-growing selection of natural hair products stocking shelves, it is easy to become a self proclaimed product junkie.
Here are a few natural hair essentials that can help you to take better care of your hair
It would be hard to find a little girl who’s never wanted to be a Disney princess. Or any princess for that matter. Unfortunately, our media is not very inclusive and the majority of iconic princesses in children’s movies and books fit a very stiff mold that not all children can relate to. But as our society is becoming more progressive, so is the media and art. Hairstylist LaChanda Gatson decided to redefine the image of a traditional princess in a stunning photoshoot that showcases elegant, colorful and brave African American princesses
Regis and Kahran, the duo behind CreativeSoul Photography, produced a series of 14 photographs showcasing princesses with “[their] own dash of style, culture and swag”. Bored Panda reached out to the photographer duo and they provided a brief explanation behind the project. “The princess series was created by hairstylist LaChanda Gatson and child photographers CreativeSoul Photography,” they explained how this project was a collaboration between creative minds.
“The goal is to inspire more girls around the world to start seeing themselves as regal princesses,” the photographers explained. We could definitely spot some similarities with the iconic Disney princesses so we decided to guess which ones they might represent!
The photographers also revealed that people’s response has been great so far! “The social media response has been amazing with currently over 75,000 reshares on our Facebook post and several other pages,” they told Brored panda
The highly anticipated National Museum of African American Music is scheduled to open in Downton Nashville in Summer 2020, the National museum of African American music will be a 56,000 square-foot facility that will encourage visitors to discover the many connections and influences that African Americans have made on America’s music. From classical to country, to jazz and hip hop, NMAAM will integrate history and interactive technology to share the untold story of more than 50 music genres and sub-genres of music. it will be an unparalleled institution, not confined by record label, genre or recording artist, but instead will tell a unique narrative through the lens of black music and bring musicians from the past to the present.
“The perception nationally, I think, is that Nashville is just country music. And while we love country music, I think it’s important to touch base on all the other musical genres African Americans have helped to influence,” Tamar Smithers, director of Education and Public Programs, told Black Enterprise.
There have been several efforts made to push projects that celebrate Black music history forward. Last year legendary music mogul Berry Gordy donated $4 million towards the expansion of the Detroit-based Motown Museum. The museum—which is inside of the record label’s first headquarters—captures the history, impact and influence that Motown has had on the music industry and beyond by highlighting the stories of artists like Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and The Jackson 5.
African American music has a very rich history and originated from slaves during the 1600s who used songs to communicate with each other. In the fields as slaves were working you could hear them singing songs to pass the time. Back in Africa, rhythm was part of daily life and was incorporated into labour, rituals, and celebrations within the community.
It’s time to get the kids dressed and head down to the mall for that most time honoured of traditions—the Santa picture. Whether your baby is too little to know what’s going on or your 10-year-old is phasing Santa out of their holiday joy, this time of year means putting on their uncomfortable but cute holiday outfits, waiting in line for ages, and paying out the nose for another holiday treasure.
Yesterday, Billboard unveiled their “Billboard’s 2019 Women In Music Top Executives” and we will be spotlighting the black female executives who made the list, whose resumes speak volumes to their contribution to the business.
In a beauty industry that too often fails to cater to women of colour, many of those women of colour have taken matters into their own hands by starting their own companies addressing the specific needs of women of color, along with products suitable for anyone and everyone, like nontoxic menstrual hygiene products and SPF that won’t leave a trace.
Do it for the Culture ! One thing we love about New York City is that it’s a meeting point for different cultures and people. Certainly, this island was a prime major destination for African Americans seeking freedom in the early twentieth century and by 1916.
That is to say, New York had become home to the largest urban African diaspora in North America.