You Gotta Meet Nana Yaa Asantewaa

Black History Month is important to me. I share it with my kids.

This year, I’m not sharing it with them cuz I think they need it. I’m sharing it with them cuz I need it.

Last week, this approach produced a collaborative discovery. My son’s questions led me to a woman who is now one of my heroes.

Her name was Yaa Asantewaa, queen to the Ashanti Empire of present-day Ghana.

I’m gonna tell you two stories and then wrap this thing up.

First, how my clumsy approach to unschooling led me to Yaa Asantewaa.

Second, why you gotta meet her, too.

Intuiting, Questioning, Listening, Exploring

I like reading Afro-centric picture books or watching a comparable video with my kids during the week.

We love Anansi the Spider, so I thought we’d watch a short video about the Ashanti people and read the story.

This idea birthed another. Before opening the book, I asked my kids if they wanted to look on our world map at the place where our history begins.

We touched and talked about the (inaccurate) size and shape of Africa on the felt map I got from Target a couple years ago.

Elijah started asking questions.

“Did the people in Africa go to Asia and Europe since they’re so close?”

“Was racism so bad that it broke the continents apart?”

“Can we see Africans fight?”

His questions delighted and freed me. There is so much to learn.

His last question led me to search “Ashanti Ghana martial arts.” He’s really into play fighting right now, and I know nothing about African combat styles.

But the only video that looked immediately relevant and short (my kids are 6, 4, 3, and 5 months, so we’re not watching full documentaries) is about the war of the Golden Stool.

The name “Yaa Asantewaa” was in parenthesis. I had no idea who that person was or what I was going to see.

I clicked play, and by the end of the video, I was crying.

Yaa Asantewaa: “We, the Women, Will”

“Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King.

If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, leaders would not sit down to see their king taken away without firing a shot.

No white man could have dared to speak to a leader of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning.

Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more?

I cannot believe it.

It cannot be!

I must say this. If you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will.

We, the women, will.

I shall call upon my fellow women.

We will fight the white men.

We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”

– Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa, Gatekeeper of the Golden Stool

Her words weren’t empty.

As part of her duties as Queen Mother, Yaa Asantewaa advised the king and safeguarded the Golden Stool, a sacred seating place the Ashanti believed held the soul of their nation.

A British leader visited her community and demanded a seat on the Golden Stool. He felt he was entitled to it because… colonialism makes you think everything you can see should be yours.

This incident sparked rage among the Ashanti, but it also reinforced fear.

The quotation above was Yaa Asantewaa’s reminder to knuck if you buck cuz knuck is a must, boy.

And she wasn’t just spitting bars.

Yaa Asantewaa led an army of 5,000 Ashanti in the Ashanti-British War of the Golden Stool.

The Ashanti lost and she was exiled, eventually dying in Seychelles in 1921 at the age of 81.

But her legacy lives on. I’m inspired by her story to hold my values and worth sacred. Most people will probably respect that. Colonizers will try to control it.

That’s fine because I’ve got Yaa Asantewaa behind me, and we knuckin’ and buckin’ and ready to fight.

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