I was born a Baptist in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
on January 29, 1949. My mother Ruth says it was the biggest snowstorm she had
ever seen. My father Howard raised us as Muslims, following the teachings of
the Honorable Elijah Muhammad; dad would later change his name to Abdul Hakim
I have always questioned the
religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the big three. Somehow, they
never seemed to make sense to me though I attended church and the Mosque. Instead,
I always felt connected to something bigger and more mysterious. My dad and I
have had a forty year ongoing religious discussion about organized religion in general and Islam
I grew up on the south side
of Chicago in
what they called a tough neighborhood. I was initiated into gang life when I
was about 12 years old; running the streets and getting into trouble with the
law. When I was 16, we moved to the suburbs and I began to associate with white
people, who I had believed to be the enemy. It was quite a shock, as I had only
seen or known white folks on TV and as the police.
In college I began to listen
to so-called Jazz music in general and John Coltrane in particular. It spoke to
something inside of me that let me know in real terms that there was more to
life than what was seen.
It was here in 1971 that I
was given my African name - Mtuaswa-natural man and began a journey down the
path of my ancestors. I also experimented with mind-altering drugs, all of
them. This too added to my feeling of the mystery. I graduated with a BA in
Radio-TV-Film and went on to grad school, getting a MA in Human Learning and
Development. I have studied all the major religions, from Hindu to Taoism.
One of my first outside
teachers was Metaphysician Delbert Blair who taught me that if I take whatever I
had been taught about religion and life and believed the exact opposite-I would
be closer to the truth. This has proved true for me ever since. I attained the
level of Adept in his studies and came under the spell of the Egyptian
mythologies. I must also mention two other teachers, Nganga Tolona and
Mfundishi Tayari Cassel, who taught the way of Kupi Gani Ngumi, the African
My first real access to
African religious practice was in 1980s with AC Bologun, from Jamaica who
practiced the way of Ifa. Since that time I have also studied with Okomfo Kofi
Afori who practices the way of the Akan. I still carry his medicine with me
today. I have always been an avid reader of Cheik Anta Diop, Credo Mutwa, Carlos
Castaneda, Martine Prectel, Gary Zukav, and Tom Robbins among many others.
In the Army it was Taoism,
and the practice of Tai-Chi, that allowed me to go to the woods on Sunday when
everyone else went to church. Getting my commanding officer to approve that was
quite an accomplishment, but that is a story for another day.
Moving into in the business
world, I began gaining experience in the television and film industry,
producing and managing several nationally televised prime-time specials. In my
20 years in this field, I have created and managed high-end post-production
company divisions, supervising writers, editors, and creative personnel in both
broadcast and cable networks.
In the mid-90s I learned of
the Red-Road, the way of the Lakota, doing sweat lodges and becoming a
Lodgekeeper in the Mankind Project in Washington
DC. I have been a member of this international
mens group (www.mkp.org) that honors the
sacred masculine thru initiation since November 1995 and have staffed some
fourteen weekend Initiation Trainings for men.
am also the founder of Multikulti an organization dedicated to bridging the
divide between race, gender and class, now going into its seventh year.
Additionally, I am a Certified Presenter and Facilitator in the Isms and Issues
workshops presented around the country through the Mankind Project and a
Certified Coach in the Winning with your Inner Coach program.
this period I also wrote and produced a well-received Spoken Word CD and began
performing live in my one-man show entitled Spirit Talk.
So, it was with this
background that in 1994 I stumbled onto the book Of Water and the Spirit, the
story that Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker so aptly calls the shimmering,
missing piece of the story of the earth. (www.Malidoma.com)
For me it was a confirmation of something I had always felt in my bones.
It filled me up then and continues to serve as an inspiration and powerful
reminder of my ancestors and the ways of the first people. Thank you Malidoma
-out loud- for your story and contribution to the path of the spiritual human.
Malidomas story of the Dagara people of Burkina faso, West Africa, also began
the coming-together of my spiritual yearnings and professional life in the
media world. I acquired the world wide film rights to his book in 1995 and
co-wrote the original screenplay.
I am now a graduate of the
Indigenous African Spiritual Technologies program taught by Malidoma and am
offering Elemental Divinations including Dagara Numerology. I put graduate
in italics because one never truly graduates from teachings that are based upon Yielbongura, a Dagara word meaning; the thing that knowledge cannot eat.
Today, I borrow from all I
have learned and continue to learn. I am what I call A Reminder, having my
traditional ancestral umbilical to the great mystery cut by history. So I make
it up as I go along being guided by doing it in a good way and reminding each of us of our innate connection to Spirit.
Now, as an Elder, I have
realized, as Malcolm X said, this is a time for martyrs now, and if I am going
to be a martyr, then let it be in the name of brotherhood.