Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lavina - In Honor of Black History Month

Lavina: The Saga of an African Princess
By Author O. Wright
Tate Publishing, LLC
268 Pages

I met a master storyteller this weekend! And spent as much time as I could with him, for he told me a sometimes dramatic, sometimes beautiful story of our ancestors. And I shall remember it always!

Lavina: The Saga of an African Princess by Author O. Wright is undoubtedly a new historical classic! The book is written as if an ancient of our tribe, our community, has sat down to tell us of our history. I felt as if I should sit at the feet of this master storyteller so that I would not miss a word. The storyteller takes us back to just before the turn of the century…into the 1690’s. In a quiet, peaceful and family-oriented spiritual community in Guinea, on the coastal plains of West Africa, it is time to crown a new princess of the Bonga people. Thanks to the “Almighty Protector” Lavina had been given to her loving parents and on her 18th birthday, she was to be crowned as the reigning princess. It was believed that this maiden’s reign would bring forth a fruitful land.

While this sacred status could not be dissolved by matrimony, also that day, Lavina became betrothed to Rabboni, prince of his own tribe. They had loved each other on first sight and knew their marriage would be blessed.

But as the crowds gathered to celebrate, there also came, due to a storm at sea, a mighty ship which had been sailing for many days in order to pick up slaves to be sold in America. When the storm forced their landing, they instead stole the people of Guinea, killing many who fought their capture and stealing away a total of 378 innocents—Lavina and Rabboni amongst them.

And so on the day Lavina had declared herself to Rabboni, it was also the last she spoke to him. She realized that she had not told him how much she loved him, but had not found the way during their brief time together. As the white slavers crowded the nearly 400 individuals into their ship, they separated the men from the women and children. There was little food, which they had to eat from an animal trough, with their chained hands. When the stink got too bad, the captors pulled in ocean water to flush away the filth. Even though all were treated badly, it was the young maidens, 60 of them, whose lives were forever changed as the slavers took them to their own cabins where garments were ripped off and they were taken for the evil men’s purposes. One day, Rabboni caught sight of Lavina—she was being dragged to a cabin. He could not rush to protect her and cried out to the Almighty Protector. And as Lavina was thrown on the sleeping cot, which was made to hold the victim in complete restraint, she, too, cried to the Almighty Protector and begged the slaver not to hurt her, which he ignored. As she was sadistically abused, however, Lavina was blessed with a peaceful heart and her prayers were then to just get her through the experience.

After two months, in July 1695, the slave ship entered the Bay of Virginia. After having been kidnapped and abused, all of the captives were frightened, fearful of what was to come. Because of their physical deterioration, they were rubbed with palm oil so that they could appear healthy and strong; some were given medication to make them appear in good spirits. Then they were pushed from the ship and assembled on the auction block where they were sold…like animals.

Fortunately, some white people deplored what was happening to the Africans. A white couple knew she would be mistreated and, as they had devoted their lives to the cause of freedom and human decency, bought Lavina. They knew it was against God’s will to degrade humans and sell them as property so, although they opposed slavery, they bought Lavina to save her. As they lovingly cared for her, they were able to convince her that she was to be their daughter and when she understood and accepted their parentage, they made it legal.

But what of Rabboni? Even the slave owners and other slaves viewed him as a special man, for he carried himself as royalty and spoke with eloquence. Some were afraid of him and tried all manner of torture to break his spirit but could not do it. After many years, he was sold to another slavemaster, who acknowledged and saw his intelligence and began to teach him carpentry and other trades.

Ten years slowly go by and the love between Lavina and Rabboni does not die nor fade. Often they send thoughts of love to the other, and their words are as poetic as the words of the Song of Solomon, between two who are the other’s beloved.

From others, they learn that their Almighty Protector is also the God of some in America. And they learn about Jesus, His Son. He becomes their Savior and they pray to Him that they be reunited with their espousal.

Yes, this is a love story like no other. It is a love that lives strong and true through agony, humiliation and danger. A love that had been blessed. In vivid detail, Author Wright has shared with us a time that should never have happened, a time when evil men who falsely claimed that their religion allowed them to buy and sell other human beings, subjugated God’s people. Into this horrible time, Wright shares the story of human love, covered and protected for many years by God’s love and the sure knowledge that evil will never triumph. A memorable Must-Read for everyone who calls America home!

G. A. Bixler
For IP Book Reviewers