Mulembe… an African greeting meaning “Peace”
Welcome. My name is Malaika Mutere. I am a speaker, cultural scholar & consultant, author, and university lecturer.
Years ago, at a writer’s conference in New York, a fellow-author struck up a conversation with me during a break from the boot-camp session we were both attending. She felt led to share about a moment when her mother held and squeezed her hand. It was a sweet recollection of a familial gesture that became indelibly memorialized because her mother was deceased at the time of this occurrence. The hustle and bustle of conferencing pulled us out of that 10-minute break, and we didn’t get a chance to follow-up with each other. But I too have had my experience with physical contact from the etheric realm.
On the morning of March 23rd, 2010 – almost 9 months to the day after his transition – Michael Jackson [MJ] came to me, held me, and spoke…
MJ’s visit was at once affirming and defining for me, and the reason I decided, somewhat naively, to launch my blog a year later. But the ancestors checked me, and I began to realize that I hadn’t properly processed this experience either in terms of my own journey – which had begun with a “call” that came through MJ – or that of my larger community. (MJ had not arrived solo on 3/23/10.) So, I then pulled my initial narrowly-focused posts on Michael Jackson and went into hermit-mode to meditate on the larger meaning of his unexpected visit. I instead began posting on topics [see BLOG] that both evolved my consciousness and collectively built the cultural context within which such an unconventional relationship and visit would even have occurred.
“I’ll Be There” – the Jackson-5 song through which I felt summoned – was only one of hundreds of songs from “Young, Gifted and Black” America that I fell in love with as I emerged into my womanhood in Kenya, where I’m originally from. The colonial high-school curriculum worked to counter-program the oral histories of my people which record our kinship with ancient Egyptians downriver in the Nile Valley. Meanwhile however, my cultural ears were organically tuned to and irrevocably drawn by the dynamic musical narrative of my BaNtu [‘people’] from across the Atlantic.
As an undergrad in America, I enjoyed the HBCU experience though I wished my music program had ventured beyond the standard curriculum on western classical traditions. My masters’ program in ethnomusicology fit the bill, but from within the context of a campus in which ancient Egyptian, African, and African-American studies – AKA my past, present, and future timelines – were formally segregated from each other in separate academic programs. It had been a perplexing learning experience so far for these reasons, but thank goodness for my Ph.D. program which allowed me to reintegrate and place Africa-centered cultural and intellectual frameworks front and center…
Within the context of the African oral traditions I’ve taught my courses in Black Pop Music from over the years, Michael Jackson’s role as a catalyst [my “call”] is not remarkable in and of itself. It’s one of several communication devices employed by cultural custodians or mediums of this oral tradition, particularly in leader-chorus forms of “call-response” interactions such as those which millions of the King of Pop’s concert-going fans no doubt enjoyed participating in over the years. Our ancient cultural folkways have always been interactive and inclusive like that, but for reasons way beyond what we’ve been programmed by industry interests to consume as a mere “entertainment” commodity.
UbuNtu – an African unity-conscious term meaning “I am, because We are…” – is real! I’m pretty sure I would not have been visited in the wee hours of March 23rd, 2010 if it weren’t, or if my “response” to the particular “call” that came through MJ was not required. As King of Pop, Michael Jackson made HIStory…
I welcome you to my story.