Atum Azzahir

Recent Articles

Learning the White way, knowing the African way








“Nothing surpasses your writings! You shall love books more than your mother. No Scribe is ever in want and he is valued for his understanding.” 

(Ancient Kemetic Teaching 2nd book of Khepra)


Going back many years in my memory, I hear the deep anguish in my mother’s voice as she spoke of not being able to read or write. Even as I write today, at this moment, the pain is with me. It is a deep pain that intensifies as I reflect on the interconnectedness of reading, writing and intelligence in this society. Continue Reading →

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Through African American restoration we can heal past trauma

Africans are living with a memory that is laced with a brutally profound pain emerging from the time of our ancestors’ enslavement. Black people have been traumatized deeply as a people. The first traumatic experience is from being torn from our mother/homeland. The second traumatic experience is from a twisting of our nature through the tormenting process of enslavement. The detail of this brutality, which was leveled against the mind, body and spirit of Black men and women, is depicted with clarity in the recently released film 12 years a Slave. Continue Reading →

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Even death speaks to us if we know how to listen

Last year several people came to me for cultural coaching. They made a deep impression on me. I was able to see the changes in their energy level or in their attitude toward life immediately. Miss Sarah Hillier is the first example. Her daughter Melanie called me to make the appointment for her mother, and she sounded afraid that her mother was on the verge of suicide. Continue Reading →

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Seven stages of growth lead to Elder-hood

Conclusion of a two-part column
The Elders are here now in the Cultural Wellness Center. They will teach, coach, share and guide us forward. For this, we are deeply grateful. African culture and heritage anchors the person’s life cycles inside the “Pyramid of Community.”  The African recognizes in this Pyramid of Community seven stages of development and growth towards Elder-hood (Shemsu) and seven stages of development and growth towards Ancestor-hood (Tepa). Each stage is marked by a period of seven years. Continue Reading →

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Our elders are the carriers of our culture

For three-and-a-half years, a group of amazing people have been attending monthly gatherings here at the Cultural Wellness Center. Three-and-a-half years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of seniors at Sabathani Community Center on the topics of culture and wellness. I did not expect such a deep relationship would evolve. I readily accepted the invitation at the time because of the cultural studies that have given birth to my understanding of the value of the Ancestors and the Elders in African thought and spirituality. These two roles epitomize the old hymn “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder, Soldiers of the Lord.”

As we study African culture, we see how our people who have endured horrific treatment, direct destruction, and indescribable pain were able to preserve their spirit by creating metaphors of heaven as a place of refuge and salvation, through songs, stories, life ways and community laws. Continue Reading →

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More than ever, we need to resurrect the spiritual teachings of our Ancestors



“We are in trouble as a People” is a statement that I hear many times over the course of a week from people in the community, both younger and older. I hear stories from children who tell of the painful experience of being isolated from their biological parents, children who have been abandoned by their families and their community.  When I hear mothers and fathers say that they “hate” each other, and that the only reason they interact is to parent the child they have in common, I find myself moaning and groaning just to cope with the heaviness that sits in their words and their stories. I find myself moaning and groaning to release the heaviness which has penetrated my heart, a heaviness that has been transmitted from generation to generation as a result of the experience of living under conditions of restriction, constraint and brutality — conditions uglier than any other to take place in human history. Just as our people created the art of humming or praising in song, I find myself turning to the moaning and groaning as a form of relief, because I know that if our Ancestors were able to survive what the enslavers brought upon us, then surely I can — we can — survive what we are now bringing upon ourselves. During times of great struggle, pain and suffering, the spiritual teachings of our Ancestors surge forward from within us. Continue Reading →

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Our stories and symbols can restore our authentic Black selves

Third of a three-part column

This is the last in a three-part series focused on the effects that enslavement, cultural uprooting, and geographical and spiritual dispersing have had on our culture — Black culture — and the ways that we relate to ourselves and each other at present. During the late 1800s, after savagely ripping many of the human resources from our land of our origin, colonists stripped Africa of its natural resources, which were then divided among the British, French, Portuguese, Italians and Dutch. These European colonists installed a system of imperial rule where they were able to claim these resources as their own. The process of imperialism meant that people were colonized — instead of being African, they were taught to carry the identity of their colonizers and thus to assist them in unleashing the forces of generational self-destruction. One writer described this plight of self-destruction as lasting into “perpetuity,” meaning it would never end. Continue Reading →

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Black women: Reclaim your sacredness as containers for the spirit of our people

First of a three part column

In my last article, I highlighted culture as a resource for healing, building, and creating financial prosperity among African American people. The central message expressed was the importance of a return to an intellectual heritage and ancient self, which I see as the first step in moving toward community development. Randall Robinson opens his book The Debt: What America Owes Blacks with a revealing description of himself as having been born in 1941, but having his Black soul born eons ago on another continent “somewhere in the mists of prehistory.” He writes, “I am the new self and the ancient self, I need both to be whole, yet there is a war within and I feel a great wanting of spirit.”

In my work of establishing cultural wellness as a field of study and an approach to healing the African mind, I am lifting up the potentiality and power that cultureprovides to feed the wanting spirit. In Black America, as we reckon with and heal ourselves from generations of abuse, under development and benign neglect, we will be able to reverse the forces which have impeded our collective thriving. The 400 years (25 generations) of systematic enslavement will cease to have a hold on our development when we restore our consciousness of this ancient self. I realize that many may think that this is utopian thinking, but I am asking Black America to indulge in some serious utopia, because there is always a slender but precious hope that today’s utopia will become tomorrow’s society. In this article, I would like to build on the previous central message by lifting out and examining the role of Black women in our healing and rebuilding process. Continue Reading →

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Civil rights activist keynotes for nonprofit’s Black History Month event


Youthprise uses history to engage, motivate young people

By Maya Beecham 

Contributing Writer


Statistics paint a bleak picture of modern-day segregation unfolding within the classroom. African American youth areexperiencing the negative impact. In October 2011, the African American Leadership Forum Education and Lifelong Learning Work Group (AALF/ELL) released a position paper entitled “A Crisis in Our Community: Closing the Five Education Gaps.”

According to the report, “The State of Minnesota is facing a state of emergency: We have created two Minnesotas. In one, White children get a great education in our schools; in the other, African American children enter our schools behind, fall further behind as they advance in grade, and drop out with alarming regularity.” This discouraging reality is a call to action. Youthprise, an intermediary and funder founded by the McKnight Foundation, seeks to answer the call in tandem with our youth and community. Continue Reading →

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