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Sunday, June 1, 2008

We are Queens of Heaven and Earth

Hello Sister Aviators.
It is the start of a New day, a new week and a new month.
I think it is the perfect time to tell a very old story to a new audience.
I maintain that we must know more of our history in order to have a platform to launch from.
I give a speech from time to time called, "African Goddesses and Queens, including 7 Cleopatras, not one of whom looks like Elizabeth Taylor."
I always end that speech with the only American Queen I speak about.
Queen Califa, the Amazon Queen the state of California was named for.
What's that I say?
Califa, the Black Queen.

A book by Garcí Ordónez de Montalvo, called Las Sergas de Esplandian (The Exploits of Esplandian), which was first printed in 1510. This romance was the outcome of De Montalvo's translation of Amadis of Gaul. In the story, Esplandian, the son of Amadis, has many strange adventures, among which is a meeting with the Amazons.
The fascinating and forbidding queendom of California was a central part of one of the first tales of chivalry to receive wide circulation in Spain. In 1510 the Spanish Editor Ordónez de Montalvo added his own sequel...
All this would be quite unimportant were it not for the fact that, in De Montalvo's story, the name "California" appears in print for the first time. Since De Montalvo's story was extremely popular and passed through many printings during the 1500's, it was familiar to any fairly well educated Spaniard of the period. It should be noted that the name California appears in many passages of the book -- for example, Sergas, chap. 157:
Know that, on the right hand of the Indies, very near to the Terrestrial Paradise, there is an island called California, which was peopled with black women, without any men among them. because they were accustomed to live after the fashion of Amazons . . . In this island called California are many Griffins, on account of the great savageness of the country and the immense quantity of the wild game there . . . Now, in the time that these great men of the Pagans sailed (against Constantinople) with those great fleets of which I have told you, there reigned in this land of California a Queen, large of body, very beautiful, in the prime of her years....

Yup, A black Amazon QUEEN. One of the largest states in the US is named for her and how many of us have never heard about her?
California is the only one of the fifty states named after a deity, saint or mythological figure.
If you and I had been raised knowing we were descendents of an Amazon Queen and not just slaves, (and no, I am no knocking any of our enslaved African foremothers...) how much prouder would our carriage be? How much more value would we place on our bodies, our souls, our selves? How much more willing would we have been to be out in front, instead of waiting in the wings?
The story of Calfia, is as much of our proud history; it has been hidden from us.
It is time to throw open the windows and reveal and revel in our stories.
I learned about Queen Califa in 1975 when I was 15 years old. A History Prof gave me a book, with the brief entry about Califa marked and said, "You might be interested in this."
I was floored. Happy. Excited. I always knew I must have been descended from royalty and here was proof. I was not sure what to do with this knowledge, so I named my black Doberman Califa... I needed to say the name a lot...
I was 15 then but I knew that one day I would try to use this information to empower other women.
When I got my first computer I starting looking on the web for more info about Califa. There was little, and all the info seemed to quote the same sources.
I wanted a picture.
Now, one would think that the person an entire state is named after would be depicted everywhere, right? Including the California state flag?
Four, (4) artist renderings was what I found.
This is a link to one of them by TheAuthur Wright

My favorite is the one of Queen Califia, whose likeness is on a mural painted in 1926 by Maynard Dixon and Frank von Sloun in the Hall of the Dons at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, 1 Nob Hill, San Francisco. Please make it a point to see it if you are ever there.

Historian John William Templeton: “She’s (Califa) in these places but nobody knows about it. That’s kind of the whole point of it. Where she should be, she is - in the Senate Building at the State Capitol - but still nobody knows about it, so that’s why it’s important to reinforce it with... different images where people won’t dismiss it as some sort of old wive’s tale or something like that.
“She’s a metaphor for what I call the ‘thin air hypothesis’ of California history, (that) basically nothing happened until white folks got here. And so that’s why we have Miniver on the state seal instead of Queen Califia, because Miniver was the Greek goddess who was born full grown. The only problem is that she has no relationship to California history."

We must reclaim our history and our pride.
I have a burning passion and desire to create my own art quilt to celebrate Queen Califa and her Amazon sisters. I will one day succeed.
How much higher, faster and further could we fly, if we knew we were flying a trail to greatness that had been blazed by a Queen that looked like us?
Califa, Virgin Goddess Amazon Queen. A myth we can carry proudly in our hearrts.
Today, go out and start creating your own Queendom, and FLY!


doretha said...

Thank you for sharing the story! i had never heard of it (big surprise).

dlg said...

Wow!! This is wonderful. Before reading this, I never knew of this woman. No one ever mentioned her in any of my history classes. If I never read this, I never would have known. Thank you for posting this. After reading this, I searched the internet for some more information on Califia, other than what is on wikipedia. This has sparked my own interest in this woman.

How much higher, faster and further could we fly, if we knew we were flying a trail to greatness that had been blazed by a Queen that looked like us?
I don't know the answer to this question for all African descendants. For me, I want to fly even higher than I ever dreamed. Today, tomorrow, and in the future, my head will be held a little higher. Thanks again for posting.

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