Monthly Archives: April 2013

THREE WIVES AND A SCORE OF CHILDREN THE AFRICAN WAY

In a culture where infant mortality is outrageously high and the average woman has fifteen children, most of whom do not survive, polygamy has been practiced to not only show a mans wealth, but also to assure the continuation of the mans family. It is also considered a strong indicator of a mans virility and need for sexual satisfaction.

Men can also accumulate wives as a result of inheritance. If a mans brother dies, he would take over the family of his brother, including his wives. These women would be distributed among the surviving brothers, based on the preferences of the men and the widows of their brother. It is also common for a man to take the youngest wife of his father upon his death, and a father will take the wife of his son upon the death of his child. This keeps the extended family together and guarantees that the children of the family are raised within the fathers family.

In the common African community, life is hard and women have long seen the advantages of having co-wives to help share the burden. This allowed a division of labor, in which there were more women to build the family home, which is considered a female responsibility, and other work. It also eased the burden of child bearing, as each wife was not carrying the burden of the family procreation alone. Few women wanted to be a lone wife in a marriage, given the multiple burdens society and tradition would require of her.

Women, also being in the position of being held responsible for the sex of their children, risked being returned to their parents for not producing children of the sex desired by their husband. Therefore, women were far more secure in a polygamous marriage where there was less attention on a single woman and the sex of her children. Being returned in disgrace to ones family not only was an embarrassment to her and her parents, but it was also a hardship as the bride price paid to her family had to be repaid.

Women are also responsible for weeding the family food garden, and due to the large size of these gardens, it was not a job for one wife. By tradition, the husband will invite friends and clan members to assist with this chore, so women do not only have help weeding their family garden, but are also obligated to help the women who help them. As this family chore is considered “womans work,” there is no thought of hiring outside labor to accomplish this task.

Despite the dependence of the wifes on each other to accomplish the burden of work and child bearing, there is always unavoidable conflict. A man showing preference for one woman over another, showing more love or favoring her children, would result in jealousies, although actual fighting is very rare. Fighting could result in the demand of the bride price being returned from the offenders family, which could be devastating to her family as the cost to them could be as much as 20 head of cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens. Because the bride price received for a young woman would enable her brothers to pay a bride price for his own wife, it could be very difficult to repay the price paid. This often results in the women finding a way to stay in the marriage without altercations.

In order to reduce conflict, the man often will rotate his nights among his wives, sleeping in each ones house in turn. When purchasing clothes, the same quality and style would be purchased for each, as would be done for their children. Unfortunately, this does not prevent the wives from instigating problems among the children.

Fortunately, this way of traditional marriage is declining, and victims of this in-fighting among the children of polygamous marriage are fewer. But although they share a father, the children always stay with their mother, in their mothers home. Fights and hatred fueled by their mothers is common. If a wife dies, her children are often taken in by the wife she was the closest to, regardless of any prior antimosity.

My father has three wives. I am the oldest child of his first wife. Unfortunately, my father developed a preference for his second wife, which resulted in preferential treatment for her and her children. My birth mother is very close with my fathers third wife, although we, her children, are closer to his second wifes children as we grew up together during a time in which our mother was away from the family.

Education, an important commodity, is also often unevenly distributed. In rare cases, when a man is wealthy enough to provide equally for all of his children, this is not an issue. But usually, the children of a favored wife are given more educational opportunities than the rest.

It is difficult to live in the polygamous family. Grievances are never forgotten, and there are deaths of parents and children resulting from poisoning and witchcraft that overshadow what could be a wonderful experience for a large family. Wives will practice witchcraft in order to eliminate the other wives and gain favor for themselves and their children. And, even worse, some children will kill their father, in order to inherit his wealth and afford more benefits for their mother and siblilings.

Wives practicing witchcraft  to eliminate one another and charm their husband to win over his heart for their to themselves and their children. Children in many occasions kill their father to assume heir of the family so they can have a big share of the family cake with their mother.

Although this form of marriage has benefits to both the men and women involved, it is often hardest on the children, who often end up the pawns of manipulative parents. Being a child of a polygamous marriage myself was difficult, and I feel the opportunities for the potential of a wonderful supportive experience was wasted through petty jealousy and unequal educations for us. I was fortunate to find a sponsor to continue my education, but many of my siblings have not been so fortunate.

Article by Peter Wadri 
Journalist

BLACK INVENTORS By Keith C. Holmes – A Must Read

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Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success identifies black inventors from five continents, over seventy countries, including almost all fifty states in the United States. Citing a number of black inventors from 1769 – 2007, this book is one of the most comprehensive works on black Inventors since Henry E. Baker’s research on Black inventors in the early 20th century.

Overall, the book shatters the ongoing myths about Africa whose history is limited to its continent’s colonial past, and about Africans who have contributed little to the development of world science, technology and agricultural innovations. Black Inventors demonstrates that the inventors, innovators, designers and labourers of African descent, in Africa as well as throughout the African Diaspora, were instrumental in the development of western technology.

Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success is available in over 800 national, state, university and public libraries (over 150), as well as in museums, schools and bookstores in 27 countries (primarily in North America). Black Inventors was selected as part of the reading list by the National Council of Teachers of English for the National African American Read-in since 2010.

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The author, Keith C. Holmes is of African-American, Native American and Jamaican ancestry.  In 1972, he went to the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick as a Liberal Arts Major. In 1980, he earned a certificate in computer programming and system designs at the Control Data InstituteKeith Holmes was born in Queens, New York and lives in Brooklyn. He is married and is the father of four children, three of whom went to university; the youngest is aspiring to do the same.

He has spent more than twenty years researching information on inventions by Black people from Australia, Barbados, Canada, France, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, just to name a few. For 25 years, he worked professionally in the satellite communications industry, and since 1977 he has worked with computers, from main frames to personal computers.

He has lectured in Barbados, California, Canada, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, DC. Holmes is currently working on several projects regarding Black inventors.  This book highlights the work of early black inventors from almost all fifty states in the United States.

The book cites famous inventors of color from around the world, giving librarians, teachers, students and parents a global view than can be included in African History, Black History Month and Caribbean History. Black Inventors documents a number of the inventions, patents and labor saving devices conceived by black inventors. It gives details about the first Black inventor who obtained a patent in both the Caribbean and the United States.

Africans, before the period of their enslavement, developed: agricultural tools, building materials, medicinal herbs, cloth and weapons, among many other inventions. Though millions of black people were brought to Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the United States in chains and under the yoke of slavery, it is relatively unknown that thousands of Africans and their descendants developed numerous labor saving devices and inventions that spawned companies which generated money and jobs, worldwide.

The focus of this book is to introduce readers to the facts, that inventions created by black people, both past and present, were developed and patented on a global scale. This also means that there are inventors in every civilization whose ideas have been turned into inventions. In the past the focus has been on American and European inventors.

Today, the new giants in the patenting process are Brazil, China, India, Japan, Nigeria, South Africa and South Korea. Mr. Holmes documents the creativity of black women inventors from Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and the United States, and provides readers with a comprehensive view of the ground-breaking achievements of black inventors – both male and female.

This is one of the first books that address the diversity of black inventors and their inventions from a global perspective. The material available in this book is an introduction to the world of black inventors. It gives the reader, researcher, librarian, student, and teacher materials they needed to effectively understand that the Black inventor is not only a national phenomenon, but also a global giant.

For more information visit  http://www.globalblackinventor.com

Mercy Obeime, M.D “SERVING THE UNDERSERVED”.

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In January 2004, Mercy Obeime delivered about $800,000 of donated medicine and supplies to her homeland, Nigeria. That was during her ”spare time“ as director of the Mercy Foundation, a non–profit healthcare organization she and several classmates from medical school started in 2001 to help fight HIV—AIDS in Nigeria, which she confides is “a big, silent problem, with lots more out there.”

During her normal “nine–to–five” life and well beyond, of course, like the deeply caring family physician she is, Obeime can be found at the Saint Francis Neighborhood Health Center at Garfield Park, where she has served as Medical Director since 1996. She was nominated a Local Legend by Representative Julia Carson [D–IN–7].

In prior recognition of her dedication and commitment to the inner–city residents of Indianapolis, Obeime was chosen as a National Winner of the 2003 Spirit of Women Awards in the Healthcare category. She is committed to treating the whole person, regardless of ability to pay. “It is very important to treat people with compassion and dignity,” she says “to listen and find out what it is they want. Along with all the technology of American medicine, there is a need for faith and values, especially with older people.”

The Health Center is a family practice providing primary and preventive care to families who cannot afford health insurance and who are charged only what they can pay without compromising their financial integrity. During the past five years, the number of patients served has ballooned three times to 2,500, with almost 70 percent being uninsured.

“The Health Center has been a successful mission for Saint Francis,” says Obeime. “Saint Francis has made health care services more accessible to the Garfield Park community, especially to those individuals and families who don’t have insurance coverage. Every day we’re challenged to do more with limited resources, yet every day we see progress toward a healthier community.”

In addition to managing clinical operations, Obeime aggressively pursues the grants that keep the Center’s doors open. She was instrumental in the Center’s designation as a Hoosier Healthwise enrollment site, part of a state–funded health care insurance program for low-income families, pregnant women and children. With assistance from the Wishard Aesculapian Society for African American Physicians  she also helped institute a health care tracking system for indigents in the Indianapolis area.

She connects resources with under–served populations, seeking funding and treatment for all. In collaboration with the Marion County Health Department, the Saint Francis Neighborhood Health Center at Garfield Park operates a B.A.B.E. [Beds and Britches, Etc.] Store, part of an incentive program to encourage mothers to engage in healthy behavior. By participating in a variety of activities—prenatal exams, practical parenting classes, smoking cessation courses, well–baby and well–child check–ups and immunizations—mothers earn B.A.B.E. vouchers that can be exchanged for diapers, baby, car seats and even baby furniture.

Whether at home in Indianapolis or back home in Nigeria, Obeime’s strong commitment to public health enhances the quality of life for women, their children and families, and their communities.

This article originally appeared on http://www.nlm.nih.gov