HISTORY. Guanabacoa: Abakua.

Museum of Guanabacoa: a six room journey through the development and rich history of Cuban religion and sacred practices.

Abakua: an all-male society compared to free-masonry. While there are distinctions amongst this practice to those of Masons or fraternal organizations, I appreciate the similarities and homage each paid to our African ancestry, whether done in a more devote or organizational approach.

The root of Abakua stems from the African tradition or understanding of mystery, rituality, and masculinity within its culture. A sacred alliance comprised of selective men, its origins and rituals have remained secret in nature for centuries, passed on to those men deemed as worthy and acceptable amongst the ranks. The way in which one even goes about being apart of this sacred alliance includes a deep look into one’s past, relationships, moral character and more. A typical picture displays a ceremony being conducted in which those deemed worthy of bondship within the organization were granted membership, something taken very seriously and recognized as life changing. Outside of this, though, was a brotherhood, a means of connectivity to those not of one’s immediate family where men within the society would always be recognized as apart of this organization, keepers of its most disclosed secrets, traditions and symbols.

I was exposed to Abakua by a Cuban guide. I began to identify this group as one similar to my own sorority and its council, even more so to the brothers within the Divine 9. The Divine 9, a coalition of African American men and women striving to achieve the highest moral and ethical standards of life embodied Abakua, or this group of African-ness that emanated excellence, honor, and reverence.

Before the journey to Guanabacoa, I didn’t really take into consideration the true historical aspects of my organization, or the culmination of Divine 9 in general. I knew that we were created to uphold our brothers and sisters that sought more for themselves and their families/counterparts, organizations developed to withstand the test of time to challenge the notion that Blacks weren’t worthy of these type of accolades or participation. But, even deeper than that, dating back to our ancestors, was the establishment of these type of societies, or groups where Africans, or Blacks, were able to not only cultivate their own traditions and practices, but were able to sustain something for themselves that would be generational and impactful in so many ways. They built the foundation for our groundwork to continue in many different avenues, including those for women and children.

Knowledge: the experience and exposure I continue to have truly open and shift my thoughts on my allegiance to organizations I am apart of. I now have an even deeper appreciation and love for my history, organization(s), and Blackness. I am now, even more than ever, in awe of my people, and the ways in which we come together and innovate when we have nothing at all. It is truly refreshing to cultivate a space where Blackness is celebrated in many ways and forms, from dance, to food, to clothing, etc.

Because of them, we are.