By Artaymis Ma’at
Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer
Copyright 2008. The Jackson Advocate, Jackson, Mississippi. Posted with permission.
Is Black History month over? What is Black History? When did it begin? Why do we celebrate it mainly in February and what are we celebrating? Is there a country or continent called Black, Negro or Colored? There is a continent called Africa, the land of Kemet, where it is said African/Afrikan history really began. Research and gather the real facts about what is true and what is not. The story continues to be told and the struggle continues.
Have you ever heard of libation? Of course. Ser Seshs Ab Heter performs a libation, as like no other, that you will never forget! He is well noted for his extensive and thorough description and meaning of the what, who, when, how, why and where’s and the seriousness you take on when doing libation to honor positive ancestors. Ser Seshs Heter explains what libation is and the crucial and spiritual importance of it. “Libation starts off with acknowledging a source of all things and coming on down the line to the point where you energize those who are living, particularly those that have made sacrifices or contributions. Libation can be an offering of plants, flowers, incense, food, a statement or any of those kinds of recognition. We do it when we take flowers to the grave. That’s libation. That’s a tradition of honoring and remembering. Some do it when they break crackers and drink wine. That’s a form of human sacrifice. These ceremonies go back to Ancient Afrikan origins. Some people get together and pray and light candles and meditate. Along the same lines, meditation is a science of going between two states of consciousness, being able to arrive at an awakening state and a sleep state. You are not fully asleep and you are not fully awake. At that state your body comes to a particular kind of rest where it is able to do the kinds of things that the divine creator created it to do. It helps with stress and helps you to maintain more of a healthy living. It also can take you into a deep state of withdrawing your conscious from the external world and yoking to your divine consciousness. You are connecting with your spiritual consciousness. You call their names and make an offering to them and to the energy—not just any ancestors, but the ones who lived truth. You can’t just pour to any energy because that energy could have been a dark energy in the universe. You want to try to uplift anybody out of darkness and that means also any energy of darkness. This prayer or ceremony honors the spirit and energy of our ancestors by calling out the labels that you call names that they may have carried. That’s a long, long, hundreds of thousands of years old scientific tradition.”
Ser Seshs Heter calmly pauses and reflects on a point. “If we cut out all the noise, sometimes they (ancestors) can get through to us. There are all kinds of ways the energy comes to us. But we got so much distraction with so much gaze try, so much noise, so much stupidity going on…til we won’t be still. Thus, we can’t feel and see and hear and internalize to get in touch with that part of our being that’s ‘all knowing.’ God shares a drop of everlasting life with all of us. A drop of all knowing, a drop of power to be and do all things. The process of creation that he instills in us goes on and on. We create. We procreate. Although some people are messing with that system trying to do some other things. Where are we these days? Why are we here? Who are we? What’s our purpose here? How does your materialism help you to explain your God-existence here on earth? How does it help you express and achieve your goodness here on earth? You can start by finding truth. Live truth, love, reciprocity, balance, harmony and peace.”
Says Ser Seshs Heter, “Everything has its place and time, but we have people who are disturbing the balance in the universe and consuming all kinds of things to the point where there are catastrophes and everything else going on.” I visualize a picturesque déjà vu utopia as Ser Heter says in a sweet-tempered manner, “People would have never have done that when Black men and women ruled the world.”
Ser Seshs Ab Heter -Clifford. M. Boxley’s house is a museum—in which he is dutifully trying to put on the universal map, so people can come to see him! His most talked about and best known work is related to his historical and artistic documentation of the truth of Afrikan history and he is utterly careful in how it is portrayed. His gung-ho attitude of leaving no stone unturned to get at truth is astonishing, amazing, desperately needed and very welcome to say the least. It couldn’t have come at a better time. “Yes, my house is a museum. If you would like to visit, it’s located in Natchez at 52 Providence Road. It’s called ‘Afrika House Ya Providence Educultural Museum and Gallery’ It was a former plantation of a former ancestor who was a congress person. ‘Educulture’ means we deal with both education and culture when you come to the museum…and it’s a gallery as well.
Ser Seshs Heter’s focus point seems to emphasize the trials and tribulations that Afrikan people overcame. Not only that, more precisely he gives good reference to the contributions they made and are still making. “You’ll see a large number of pictures, drawings, graphics that tells the story of Afrikan origins of people going back two million years or more and coming forth with generations of free people that elaborates on who they were and what they did. We must understand that just about everywhere we went that’s where we have to study and look for our history and culture to put the pieces back as such. You can go from the pyramids of Kemet or the Nile Valley. from the kings and queens of the Nile Valley and the civilization of the Nile Valley all the way to the wash boards of Mississippi to the bug-eyed mammy dolls. Understand the dehumanization and denigration. Understand that and put it in focus. You will also be able to put the Confederate Flag in focus.”
Startling Ser Heter exclaims, “I don’t care about the Confederate Flag! The Red, Black and Green is my flag! Checkmate, OK? The Confederate Flag colors are colors that have a history of Europeans who traveled around the world oppressing and continue to do so. I don’t concern myself with their flag. I raise my own flag. The red, white and blue are the colors of the white supremacy system that has dominated the world before enslavement, during enslavement, since enslavement and even now. It is nothing new that those colors come from ancient Europe. It’s a known fact. Those are not our colors if you ‘Know Thyself’. When you come to my house you will all kinds of Afrikan flags. You are going to see statues in the yard and everything looking like ‘Black.’ That helps my mentality. That keeps my sanity. That helps me know who I am. Therefore, I stand on my history and culture and on the shoulders of my ancestors. As the saying goes it’s not the kind of ancestors we had, it’s what kind of descendents our ancestors have today. Our people have surrendered the culture. Some have sold out. We got some fools going around today that don’t have clear channels systems in place, but the struggle continues.”
Ser Seshs Ab Heter was born July 23, 1939 in Natchez Mississippi to Edwina Boxley and Peter Allen. Quickly regrouping as Ser Heter states, “Didn’t matter if they were married or not. What’s the difference? What does that mean anyway? We get hung up in all this European stuff about bastards, etc cetera. Whoever was there was the father, whether it is biological or what. The person that plays the role of the father is the father.”
“I have a Nile Valley Ancient Kemetic system going that I tie into the Ausar Auset Society. They refer to the male and female as Ser (male/Elder/Baba) and Ser-t (female). These are your elder-wise people who have lived that life, talked that talk and did the walk. What we do in the Ausar Auset Society is go back to the earliest beginnings possible and then come forward. There are other terms like Nana (Ghana) and Baba (East African), but I prefer Ser. So, there are many terms for elder in the African culture. We simply go back to the earliest terms rather than the other. They have the respect of the younger generation. Reaching eldership is a most honored level of being and progression in life. It is recognized and you refer to your elders as such in those African traditions. When you call me Ser, that refers to the years of struggle and contributions. It refers to spiritual growth and other kinds of life growth. Seshs Ab Heter means ‘balanced joy unites us.’ Ab is an ancient kemetic term for heart. Seshs means ‘balanced’ and Heter means ‘joy’. C.M. Boxley connects me to the African Maafa experience in America that I would call, the name of the enslaved people, ancestors and what-have you that has been taken from some Europeans and labeled on ‘my person’. That is just simply a label, because the name that goes with the spirit—the energy that ensoles ‘my person’ is Sehs Ab Heter. Naming comes by the energy that is taken from the first breath of the child and that energy is given a name and a sound. When you call that name it sounds throughout that person’s life and vibrates that energy and it reminds everybody what your mission is on this earth planet. It should be the kind of name that people would look at in terms of supporting your mission in life and your objective for spiritual growth or what reason were you sent here to the earth for. We’ve lost that science as a whole people. When you call my name Sesh Ab Heter…that vibrates and animates me and at the same, my mundane mission. That mission would be to help bring about the truth of our ancestors through artistic and historical means.”
“My Earlier life? What was it like during that time? HELL!—No, I take that back. You can actually go online to Jim Crow.org; go to Teachers Resource and go to Narratives. You will see an interview there that will tell you a lot about my childhood. In a nutshell, my early childhood was poverty, female head of household, no money coming in, except whatever my mother could make as a maid. There was starvation, lack of food, lack of clothes, lack of electricity, lack of indoor toilets, lack of running water and I especially remember there was no heat. However, we created happiness with the childhood that we had. We created things to do. Our toys were rings that we took off a wagon. Then you took a clothes hanger and you bent it. We used pet milk cans and strung wire in them and put them on and walked on them like stilts. We used sling shots, pop-guns, elm and a piece of a rod that we got from a broom stick and made many things from that. Our toys were stick horses and Cowboys and Indians. And we also went hunting and shot guns. I’m speaking from a male view point. Although I noticed some of the girls had rag dolls made with coca-cola bottles, clothes pins and horse hair. We imitated what mama and papa were doing,”
What is so astonishing and reminiscent is hearing Mom talk about the three mile walks to school; how they only had one pair of shoes that had to last for the year; how they had to wash their clothes every other day so they would have something to wear and so on. About the aforementioned, Ser Heter talks about a similar ordeal and takes me down that road once again. “When you got a pair of shoes, you had to wear them sparingly. When you walked to school you didn’t really want to walk in them. If they had holes in them, you’d put cardboard and paper inside to try to make them last. We had one pair of pants and a shirt, but they were clean. We did everything to try to create fun even if it was just jumping off a loft from a barn onto a pile of hay. We played Hop Scotch. We all had gardens, farmed, washed on the wash board and you cooked on a wooden stove.”
Our life and direction was one of finding ways to make things happen…to make gay, joyful and playful things was the essence. We had direction and role models through our ancestors, elders, parents and the men and women in the community. The school systems that we were in helped shape and mold us into a generation of people who could see properly despite the adversity. We found a means of achieving and striving to make things better. We overcame the obstacles. We made it better for our children. I think we made it better materially, but on the other side of the coin; we didn’t prepare them to do the work in order to understand what gaining that material meant. We have a bunch of young people that don’t want to do nothing’, as people say. That’s our fault as adults. That’s not their fault if they don’t have a mission and a purpose and a sense of being other than immediate self-gratification. We learned as much as we could. We were in a segregated school and they would not let black people go to school with white people. That was OK for me because I never missed it (segregation)! We were happy and it was wonderful. The people cared about us. The teachers wanted us to be somebody and they insisted that we be something. And we tried to be something. When we graduated from high school, we were ready to face the world as adults.”
Since Ser Seshs Heter came home from California in1995, he has essentially been carrying out a campaign that is designed to try to bring about equal history commemoration and some kind of democracy and tourism. Says Ser Heter, “The history that is preserved and presented and interpreted makes it look like European descendants have done all the work or done everything all by themselves and therefore, we, are not in existence—It would seem that we were never in existence as a people as humans, because our of ancestors status as enslaved people. We were denied our humanity as well as our culture. Even today as descendants of those enslaved folks—not that it’s our whole history at all, I would beg to say that. I never start off our history as descendants in America or anywhere else as a history from someone who derived just from being enslaved. We were never as a people ever completely enslaved.”
“If you look at our history and culture which is two million years or more in existence, you will see that we had high points and low points in our culture and in our existence. The enslavement and destruction of our people and taking us out of Africa and the destruction of the African system, institutions and our economic well being had been a low point that we really haven’t been able to climb out of. We are probably in one of the lowest points in our history as a people in this stage today. We are in real bad shape historically as a people.”
Currently, I am working on compiling my seven year research. I am searching through old 19th Century newspapers where the enslavement deals at the Forks of the Road advertised in those papers. One paper said, ‘I will be at the Forks of the Road in January with one hundred fifty Negroes.’ There are several enslavement deals like that listed in those papers. I was able to find the actual ads in the library. I am also researching how many people resisted and sought freedom once they were sold down the river which was dismissed when they talk about chattel slavery. They say we couldn’t and didn’t run away. They say we couldn’t resist. That’s a myth. I have been going to library to library, museum to museum finding facts on how our ancestors resisted enslavement. Sure enough they ran away by the thousands. They were constantly running away. There are jails up and down the Mississippi River, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and all over the place. We obtained certain levels of freedom. For instance some slaves hung out in little maroon communities where they could survive for about a year or so.”
Ser Heter reveals another piece of history. “On July 4th, 1863, Vicksburg surrendered to The Union Army. Our people who were enslaved from Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, run away by the thousands to get behind the lines of The Union Army. Many volunteered to become what we call ‘Freedom Fighters’ or Union Army Soldier Freedom Fighters. We became the Calvary. We became Navy. We became infantry. We became nurses. We did a lot of activities in support of The Union Army. Eventually the south surrendered and that’s why we are not slaves today.”
The next project I am working on is to have a Black Civil War Encampment at Jefferson College in Natchez. I issued a challenge to the Mississippi Department of Archives to start having an equal history commemoration—that is to start funding and doing things to show Afrikan descendant contributions. In Natchez each year there is a civil war reenactment that takes place in December called ‘The Battle of Natchez’ that had to do with The Union Army and the Confederates. There are no reenactments there. But, here in Jackson, there are reenactments.
Ser Seshs Heter adds, “I am continuing to do the research to try to identify a time line for different enslavers or traffickers who sold our people to dealers and who sold our people at the forks of the road and other markets in Mississippi. I’ve traveled to different places to look at their archives and find the names of the enslavement dealers in the forks of the road. That’s currently where I am right now. .
Now we build better things but not better people. Our people built better people. My words of wisdom are ‘Know Thyself.’ Within every one of us is the image and likeness of the He/She Divine Creator. The wisdom is to become the Gods and Goddesses that we are. The key is the ancestors were not so arrogant as to define what God or Goddess is. You come into existence with the principle of unity, oneness, all knowing and all powerful and you have a faculty of a sense of justice and a sense of law. You have a freedom of will which helps you to identify with the higher part of your being against the lower part of your being which is your imagination, your visualization and your spiritual makeup. Find the truth and justice that the universe is trying to say. If you know your beginning… well, then the end will not trouble you. That will help us out of this. Look back Black! Look back to the higher points of our existence. See what we did and how we did it and who did it when we were at the high levels. And look at what happened to us when we fell into the valley of death. “What helped us in my generation was a rural environment where much of what was left over from Africa and the days of enslavement were still in place. We became disciplined, hard workers by NOT having, by wanting to have and inspiring to be and do something. The struggle continues.”