Story by: Sandra L. Blood


In 1937, Jamaican Black-rights activist Marcus Garvey said in his speech, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” and on September 12, 1962, to the New York State Civil War Centennial Commission, American Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The proclamation of inferiority has contended with the proclamation of Emancipation, negating its liberation force.”


   Today, in 2023, Ph.D. history-maker, Trinbagonian Liseli A. Fitzpatrick, has her say. The professor’s contribution at the UN’s 7th Meeting of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent held in June, is said to be a gift to the world, a blessing, and one to deepen consciousness.

   Within, this, the international decade for people of African descent as declared by the UN in 2015, the Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, USA, left her footprints in the Ph.D. history book being the first in the Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS) at the Ohio State University.


At the 7th meeting, it was The Adoption of the Preliminary Conclusions and Recommendations of the 2nd Session, held at the UN’s Headquarters in New York, at which her delivery was highly appreciated.


Trini Doctor/Professor speaks at UN Meeting


  Fitzpatrick opened, “I speak in the language of Ifa and in the lineage of those who came before me,” then made a “fundamental” point:


“We cannot talk about reparations and healing of any kind without addressing and redressing the worldwide desecration and dishonor of African sacred cosmologies – our eco-centered, eco-conscious, and cosmic way of life; our right to live – to be and breathe. If we do not recognize and respect the spirituality of African peoples and the inflicted injuries and injustices caused by centuries of spiritual and physical violence, any exercise in reparations is an exercise in futility.”


  Fitzpatrick referenced the reaffirmation of Haiti native Dr. Bayyinah Bello – Haitian and Pan African history expert, teacher, writer and humanitarian worker – ‘African peoples do not live by flesh alone,’ and explained, “the spiritual and physical are inseparable, and the spirit makes us human. When we create, we honor and venerate our God-self.

Take a look around!



  “Just take a look around!” She invited her audience to do so, gaining a round of applause.

  “The African spirit is formidable, dynamic, and ingenious. We have proven this, time and time again, but we are also humans, and as spirited humans we feel, we carry, and express our feelings. We experience pain and trauma as intensely as we experience joy and triumph.”

  She stressed, “through the deleterious passages of enslavement, colonialism, and their vestiges, violent and systemic attempts have been made by enslavers, colonizers…., to dehumanize Africans. The enslavers feared the one thing they could not control – the resiliency of the African spirit, and so, they have relentlessly sought to disembody, disempower, disorient, and dispossess the African Spirit through physical brutalities, fear tactics, dislocations, and unjust and discriminatory constitutions and institutions, that criminalize and stigmatize African spirituality, which still pervade our psyches and societies.”


  Among other types of miseducation, she said, “lingering and prohibitive slave codes continue to defile our sacred rituals.

  “We’re here today, not on a whim and fancy, but due to the sacred wisdom, medicines, dreams, sacrifices, and ingenuities of our ancestors. We are here today because of Ifa, Candomble, Obeah, Comfa, Akan, Vodou, Hoodoo, Dagara, Santeria, Lucumi, Winti, Rootwork, Spiritual Baptists, and The Black Church. Our Africanness is not merely the color of our skins or the clothes that we wear, but rather, the spirit that we embody. We cannot heal ourselves without spirit,” she concluded.


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First Preparing Future Faculty Fellow and Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the James Madison University, 2022-2023 HistoryMakers Faculty Fellow, and first-ever PhD in the Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS) 2018 at the Ohio State University, Liseli A. Fitzpatrick, after graduating with her doctorate degree.

Dr. Liseli A. Fitzpatrick playing mas in 2020 in Trinidad.

Liseli A. Fitzpatrick PhD, professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, USA, making her contribution to The Adoption of the Preliminary Conclusions and Recommendations during the 2nd Session of the 7th Meeting of the UN's Permanent Forum of People of African Descent, held at the UN Headquarters in New York on June 2, 2023.

2020 poem: a favorite

 

She said she’s passionate about resilient education, and has sacrificially placed herself within the walls of western institutions, consciously setting out to correct the perils of miseducation and injustice by diversifying, humanizing, and harmonizing the tone, texture, and complexion of the curriculum. Her pedagogy is grounded in African sacred cosmologies, ontologies, and cultures, and centers the gamut of Africana experiences and expressions.

   Through her embodied and experiential teachings, Fitzpatrick’s sacred vocation is to co-create a compassionate, colorful, breathable, and equitable world for all. The poet, altruist, and cultural enthusiast at heart, is an overt lover of love, music and nature. As a theatre-lover, Fitzpatrick said she cherishes her childhood Trinidad Theatre Workshop and Lilliput Theatre memories, and playing mas stands tall, but while ardently plays pretty mas, j’ouvert summons and permeates her spirit, and as poet, one of her favorite works is: We’ve Been Here Before (The 1619 Project)

   Written and recorded in 2020 as a reflective and redemptive piece to honor the ingenuity and resilience of the ancestors, it addresses the harrowing past of enslavement, lived conditions, racial disparities, and injustices while casting light on our cosmological strength and understanding of the world. “It is my trust that we as African peoples, and all peoples, can tap into the trove of ancestral memory, wisdom, and creativity to engender the world we imagine, as we navigate these saddening times. Because of them we cannot fail."

  Fitzpatrick further stated that she’s very respectful of the well-being of her family, students, community, and the Cosmos, and is unreservedly and passionately extending her 2023 UN address and the poem – empowering literature of reflection and resilience – as special gifts to T&T for Emancipation 2023.

    Noting the theme of this year’s celebration: Creating Opportunities to Achieve Our Full Potential, the 2022-2023 HistoryMakers Faculty Fellow advised:

“We can only go forward from here in the Spirit of Sankofa. In the wisdom and words of our ancestors, ‘if you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, go together’.

  “Happy Emancipation T&T!”


We’ve Been Here Before (The 1619 Project)

 

We’ve been here before,

 Bound face to face with the unknown, shoved into tight spaces; shackled.

Strangled by the suffocating un-sanitized stench of capitalism and communicable diseases.

Unable to breathe.

Muzzled behind iron masks savagely uprooted and scattered across sugar plantations and white cotton fields.

Forced to reimagine home in slums and shanties, with no running water or happy birthday songs,

To wash our hands or toilet paper or food, because we could not eat what we reaped,

Gathered bones, black and brown bodies thrown into unmarked graves.

 

We were here before!

Carried in the resilient blood of our ancestors, who with girded loins,

Transported us across their backs dismantling systems with their own tools,

Quilting fabrics from scraps,

Soul-stirring delicacies like songs, divining altars and organs in their lungs,

Because, the earth is a tabernacle, and the body an instrument, and the heart a beat,

And God only comes alive when we dance.

 

We’ve been here before,

Standing on the shoulders of the ancestors,

Who taught us how to make something out of nothing, and summon,

Light out of darkness, fear not,

We’ve been here before…

 

(Credits)

Author/Narrator: Liseli A. Fitzpatrick PhD

Audio Production: Neil Bernard

Creative Input: Annette Fitzpatrick

Video Editing: Kyle Stephens