The University of Texas at Austin
March 26-28

Many Thanks to our Sponsors

Convened by Dr. Toyin Falola
Coordinated by Ann Genova
Department of History
Center of African and African-American Studies
Office of Graduate Studies
The Louann and Larry Temple Fund, English Department
The Frances Higginbothom Nalle Fund, History Department
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Texas Cowboys Lectureship


Professor Toyin Falola, Elders, Educators, Ladies, Gentlemen, and Students

It is a very great honor for me to be invited to give the Invocation for this Conference on Perspectives on Yoruba History and Culture.

I am a descendant of Yoruba people that were brought to the Western Hemisphere as slaves and free men and women. The trans- Atlantic Slave trade, unfortunately contributed to the mis-conception that the culture, political structures, and spirituality of the many ethnic groups that constitute the peoples of Yorubaland was primitive and had little value to offer the world . For hundreds of years academicians ignored the complexity of Yoruba life and thought. Today, we begin a three-day journey that will reveal only a small percentage of the contributions Yoruba people have made to the evolution of humanity.

I thank the University of Texas and Professor Toyin Falola for providing a forum for all of us to hear, and explore the history, intellect and spiritual perspectives of my ancestors. At the most basic level, the appeal of this conference is as complex as our history and our perspectives vary.

I ask you today to celebrate with me an awakening of those who came before us and left their footprints for us to follow. It is my hope that it will be easy for all of us to apply the spirit of the words that were written as part of the Indigenous People's Earth Charter in Brazil in 1992 which states --

“We, the indigenous peoples, walk to the future in the footprints of our ancestors.”

This gathering will attract the spirits of those Yoruba who came to the west hundreds of years ago and those from the native soil of Yorubaland. They will surely be with us for the next three days as we walk together through the portal of the many great minds that have gathered here to share with us what they have learned and experienced about the Yoruba people. I welcome ancestors from Western and African experiences to be here with us in spirit as we examine their deeds and legacies.

Although my ancestors came from another continent, I am an indigenous Yoruba person of the Western Hemisphere . In the spirit of the continuity of our culture and spirituality, a masquerade that is characteristic of the uninterrupted connection between the past and the present will join us. This masked figure personifies our common elder. His appearance gives us permission to begin our three-day journey and acknowledges that there is more to this experience than what we see.

As a daughter of those that came and contributed to Western civilization I have chosen to learn and then maintain the culture and perspectives of my ancestors. The words of Maya Angelou are appropriate as I ask you to take these moments to remember the spirits of those who came before me

Out of the huts of history's shame I rise Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.   Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978

Africa Conference 2004: Perspectives on Yoruba History and Culture
Convened by Dr. Toyin Falola for the Center for African and African American Studies
Coordinated by Ann Genova Webmaster, Technical Coordinator: Sam Saverance