For the first decade and a half of my life, I did not identify as Black. I grew up in Nigeria, and I had no understanding of the meanings attached to racial differences because I was surrounded by people who looked, more or less, like me. I saw white people (and occasionally Latinx and Asian people) in movies and on television, but because Blackness is necessarily given meaning through sociocultural contexts, I had no understanding of the concept. Since, in my world, race did not exist, neither did racism. Even after I moved to the United States when I was 13, I saw no reason to identify as Black.
It took someone dying for me to recognize my Blackness. I remember the exact moment – I descended the stairs from the exercise facilities at my alma mater and saw the news playing on a large television. I stood frozen at the base of the stairs and stared at the scene unfolding on screen — masses of people flooded the streets to protest yet another death of a Black person at the hands of police. The victim this time was Michael Brown, the latest in a violent history that stretched back hundreds of years before my arrival in the United States. Michael’s death got to me. He was a young man with about the same skin tone as my younger brother, and only a year or two older. In Michael Brown, I saw my siblings, I saw my friends, and I saw myself.
I got Blacker as the list grew. All the people who looked just like me in life and, scarily enough, in death. I choked under the weight of being Black in America. My back bent and I cried tears of regret, mourning, and every emotion that comes with feeling a target on your back. My depression worsened, further bending my back and stealing my words. For the first time since I was a child, I could not write. When I tried, my words came out broken, sad, and sharp — telling tales of woe that would cut anyone who dared to read them. My pain leaked onto the paper and instead of making me better, it hurt me even more.
I found Osun – the goddess, not the character – in the summer after my third year in college. She came to me randomly, without pomp and circumstance. She flooded my brain with thoughts of what if? What if I stopped letting the world tell me what Blackness meant? What if my Black womanhood was actually a source of strength? What if Black women have a divinity and a power that is innate, that can never be taken away?
I made the decision to write this reality then. That was the summer where it seemed the country was intent on littering the streets with Black bodies — Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Charles Kinsey. Simply existing as a queer, Black woman in the country I had made my home caused such painful and visceral trauma that walking around in my own Black skin felt close to impossible. It was hard to drive down the street without wondering if I would get pulled over; and if I was, would I live to tell the tale? I reached out to a writing professor at my college, another Black woman, with barely a plan. I wanted to write a reality that didn’t fill me with the kind of despair the real world did. I wanted to create a reality from the what ifs that Osun had posed. What if, despite all the pain, the oppression, and the loss, Black women remained divine? What if Black women went toe to toe with our oppressors – and won? What if the key to our liberation is us – our divine, holy, amazing, selves? What if the very essence of Black womanhood is our superpower?
With these questions, I started writing the script of Osun: The Graphic Novel.
To support and pre-order your copy of Osun: The Graphic Novel, go to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2099161845/osun
This script would have been impossible to write without Ibeyi, Princess Nokia and Jamila Woods. Their music reminded me of my divinity when I was at risk of forgetting.
— written by Ayomide Omobo
author of Osun: The Graphic Novel