Just A Thought…

It’s “Black History Month”, the shortest month of the year dedicated to the history of Black people in America.

As a child of Cape Verdean immigrants, some may say that I don’t have a direct connection to the history of Blacks in America, slavery, Jim Crow or even the Civil Rights Movement.

To those people AND my fellow Cape Verdean-Americans, here’s a little reminder…

Cape Verde was once the hub of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Where do we think some of the enslaved Africans who worked tobacco and cotton fields came from??? They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and cousins to the very ancestors that worked sugar cane and coffee plantations in Santiago and Fogo and salt mines of Maio and Sal. Come on now, People!!!

And while I haven’t (yet) found a direct ancestor who picked cotton in the fields of Mississippi, I do know of my great-grandmother who picked cranberries and blueberries for pennies a week in Cape Cod. I know that she and other Cape Verdeans weren’t allowed to live in certain areas, use certain bathrooms or sit in certain seats. And they certainly weren’t allowed to vote.

Cape Verdeans were here before America was America. Cape Verdeans helped build this country and defend it in the same segregated military. It was a Cape Verdean who was the first Black representative of the Maryland Assembly in 1642! It was a Cape Verdean who became the first black Federal Judge, Hon. George Leighton (Leit√£o from Brava), and who was considered for appointment to the US Supreme Court along with Thurgood Marshall, who was later selected!

So the truth of it is, Black History month is about our history as well.

But what do I know… I’m just the proud daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants ūüėä

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The Essence of Caboverdeanidade: The thing that makes us who we are is difficult to put into words so our ancestors put it to music

The morna is synonymous with the concept of Caboverdeanidade. The melancholic melodies and lyrics full of sodade has captured the essence of our culture for at least two centuries. Some might describe the Morna as a musical form that expresses the sadness and isolation of our people but I’ve never perceived it that way.

The Morna is about “Sodade” which is defined as a “nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost”. But it also about “the love that remains”. For me, Morna is exactly that. One of my favorites,¬†“Nos Morna” by Ildo Lobo, says the Morna¬†is the “inspiration of our poets, the princess of our serenades, on a quiet moonlit night, under the window of your love, and the quiet cry of my violin”. Cabo Verde without Morna would be “a land with sun, without heat, a bride without lace, victory without glory”.

The Morna is truly who and what we are.

The love for the country and culture of our ancestors is ingrained in my DNA. That love has remained and been passed down through generations of Cape Verdeans in Cabo Verde and throughout the diaspora, alike. The melancholic tunes immediately triggers the same reaction in me today as it probably did in my ancestors in the 1860’s when the oldest known morna, Brada Maria – Composed by Jose Bernardo Alfama and lyrics added later by Eugenio Tavares, was penned.

Our cousin, Ant√≥nio Germano Lima, professor at the University of Cabo Verde, has written that the origin of the Morna is the “Lundum”, music of the Bantu people that spread from Angola to most of West Africa. It is believed it that was brought to Cape Verde by enslaved Africans to the island Boa Vista.

The Lundum has been preserved in Boa Vista and is traditionally heard during wedding festivities as the bride groom dance for the first time as a couple.

Lundum do Cabo Verde by Karin Mensah

Musicologists point out the connection and relationship of the music of Cape Verde and Brazil, especially as it pertains to Lundum. Today, it is taught and celebrated among descendants of enslaved Africans in Bahia, the northern part of Brazil.
Lundum em Belem do Para

The essence of our Caboverdeanidade, the thing that makes us who we are, is difficult to put in words so our ancestors put it to music.

Enjoy!