When We Were Kings and Queens
by Cassie Ayers
Every family has a recorder of deeds. In my family, it was my aunt, Nefetari. We called her Tee Tee for short. Those outside of the family called her Queen.
As soon as you saw her, you knew why they called her Queen. Tee Tee was drop-dead gorgeous. She was regal in statue, standing just over 6 feet tall. She had a smooth complexion, which was just a shade lighter than coal; she had kissable, ruby-red lips and almond shaped hazel colored eyes, and she wore a short fro which she adorned with gold ornaments that she made herself.
Born with a third eye, Tee Tee was a self-proclaimed prophet who could look into the future and see into the past. Because of this, she knew everybody's business; most of the time she knew your business, even before you knew your own business, and she had no problem giving you the business if you provoked her.
Tee Tee was the one who kept up with births, baptisms, real marriages, common-law marriages, divorces, deaths, and dirty family laundry. Some events she copiously recorded and stored in the family Bible, others remained stockpiled in the vast regions of her memory.
She was also a natural born storyteller, who had the ability to place you in the story with her words. To validate her narratives, she had a well-worn cloth scroll, which she'd hung on the kitchen door near our four-legged white porcelain stove.
Etched into the cloth was our family's beginning which included surnames, dynasties, and noteworthy accomplishments, along with pictures of gold mines, sailboats, handcrafted ceramics, funerary items, and objects made from ivory, incense, and iron ore.
It turns out that our ancestors -- and others who looked like us, dark complected with pronounced lips, high cheekbones, and tightly curled hair -- were the first human race on earth with roots and traditions that could be traced back to the region of Kush or Nubia now known as Sudan and Egypt. The Kushites/Nubians were a matriarchal society that produced strong women of color -- a trait that continues in most Black families today.
Around the edges of the scroll were names of various ancient Nubian Gods and Goddesses -- Amun, the Father of life who later combined with Ra to become Amun-Ra the all important State God, Osisris, Isis, Seth & Nephthys who came from the Creation of the Universe, Ptah who created Heaven and Earth, Hathor, the Goddess of Love, Joy and Music and Horus the son of Isis and Osisris.
As she would read from this scroll, I would sit and close my eyes and become one with my ancestors. When they went about their daily life in their riverside palaces, I was right there beside them, observing the same crystal blue skies, bathing in the majestic blue waters of the Nile, and feeling the warmth of Ra - the Sun God envelop me.
When Tharqa the King of Nubia (the same one who appears in 2nd Kings verses 19:9 and Isaiah 37: verse 9) prevented the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of its inhabitants, by an Assyrian King, I was there.
I was there when Pharaoh Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty professed his love for Queen Tiye and made her a celebrated and wealthy person in her own right. I was there when the Queen extended our family by giving birth to Akhenaten, and when her grandson, King Tut made his debut into the world.
When my aunt's namesake, Nefertari (known for her immense charm, exquisite taste, superb jewelry and stylish gowns) became the Great Wife of Ramesses, the Great Egyptian Pharaoh of the 19th dynasty, I was there.
When Amenhotep IV became a Pharaoh and later founded the first monotheistic religion, I was there. When he married the beautiful Nefertiti, I was there dressed in my finest white linens, with accessories that included gold hoop earring and matching gold bangles. It was truly a wedding fit for a King.
When my great, great, great…, Kushite Queen Amanirenas led her armies into battle and defeated three Roman allies in 24 B.C., I was there. In my mind, I even helped her deface a statue of Emperor Augustus Caesar; bringing the head back to Nubia as a prize.
When Tee Tee told the story about how our family branched out and began ruling other nations, I was there. I watched King David, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba all take their prominent places in history.
When Queen Nzingha of Angola, a brilliant military strategist, captivating leader, and a true Warrior queen, rose to power in early 17th century, I was there. Nzingha lived during a period when the Atlantic slave trade was steadily growing and her ultimate goal was to destroy it. One of her greatest acts as Queen occurred in 1624 when she declared all territory over which she had control to be a free province. All slaves reaching it from any region were forever free. This was to have an enormous impact, as thousands of slaves abandoned Portuguese controlled areas to head for Nzingha's land, strengthening her armies in the process. Nzingha died in 1663 at the ripe old age of eighty-one still fighting for the people of Angola.
As Tee Tee neared the bottom of the scroll, we moved from great, greats…, to grands, and present day aunts uncles and cousins – Grandma Carrie, Uncle Ronald and Uncle Bobby, Cousin Betty, Aunt Sue and on and on and on.
Aunt Tee Tee passed away a few years ago, but our family legacy continues – babies are still being born, folks are still dying, and we still have loads of dirty family laundry that sometimes need to be aired.
Fortunate for us, there is a younger cousin, aptly named, Nefertiti who has now taken over the role of family genealogist; and although she didn't inherit Aunt Tee Tee's third eye, she does have a knack for knowing everybody's business, and she will post it on Facebook if you cross her.