by the Secretariat of the ICAAD
Marking her one-year anniversary, Her Royal Majesty Sêmévo 1st Dr. Dòwòti Désir, Queen Mother of the African Diaspora, Bénin Republic, was accompanied by a delegation of women from the United States to Cotonou. The women are the first cadets of the Imperial Corps Agoodjié of the African Diaspora (ICAAD) who are continuing the bridge building work of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024.
The Agoodjié (also spelled, Agodjie) are the legendary female warriors of the historic Kingdom of Dahomey popularly known as the Amazons of Africa. They have recently gained popularity as a result of films like Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and The Woman King. Their complicated history has been controversial as it relates to the enslavement of fellow Africans. Their fierce anti-colonial exploits against the French on the African continent, as well as their role and influence on Black female resistance movements in rebellions, and wars in the Americas such as the Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War is little known.
The 5-day February pilgrimage was conceived and organized by the scholar/educator, human rights activist and an interfaith leader, Queen Mother Désir. She launched the Royal Palace of the African Diaspora’s campaign to lobby for a year of reconciliation as the theme for Benin’s pending, Year of Return. The call to the diaspora from the continent for a “Year of Return” is a constitutive act of the, African Union’s African Diaspora Decade of Return 2020-2030, which Her Royal Majesty advocates.
The delegation visited important sites in Bénin such as the Holy City of Cana; The Route of Resistance; the former battle fields and mass grave of the Agoodjié, and more. Their training took place under the Queen Mother and Queen Mènon Kpodjito Zognidi’s oversight at the Royal Palace of Sedessa. Their meetings with other royal figures such as their majesties: the new central king of Hwegbeja (Abomey), Dada Dëwênondé Gbêhanzin, descendant of the last king of Dahomey; and King Langanfin Glele Togbe of Cana, culminated in a benediction and naming ceremony at His Majesty the Agonlinhossou Yêto Kandji, King of Agonlin.
HRM Queen Mother Sêmévo, Dr. Dòwòti Désir of the African Diaspora, member, and Representative of the Haut Conseil de Rois du Bénin, said:
“Our voyage to Bénin is the start of a series of trans-Atlantic public and educational programs proposed for 2023-2024 which promote cultural diplomacy by clearing up misunderstandings within global African communities. Our objectives include excavating complex historical dynamics that underscore the deep ties between Bénin Republic and the Americas. The female warriors known as Agoodjié are a part of the history that speaks to the struggles against colonialism on both sides of the Atlantic. At the same time, within and outside of its historic kingdoms, we encourage economic development projects from the African Diaspora in Bénin Republic via heritage tourism and renewable energy projects.”
The four participants, Leanna Brown, Alanna Morris, Ramona Ndlovu include Delisha Marshall, who is a descendant of the last known Africans who arrived illicitly on the human cargo ship, Clotilda (1859-60), and is herself the progeny of an Agoodjié, shared, “…Although I have visited Bénin previously, it has been this experience that has allowed me to truly immerse myself in the culture. Speaking with historians and walking the actual paths the Agoodjié marched on has helped me to clear up previous misconceptions and better understand the important role these amazing women played in history…”
A mission of strategic importance supported by the Haut Conseil des Rois du Bénin (High Council of Kings of Bénin), Queen Mother Dòwòti met with members of civil society to discuss next steps related to the Right of Return for African descendants, and the pending United Nations Permanent Forum for People of African Descent conference scheduled for May 2023. Finally, because Dr. Désir also supports a local institution which formulates public policy focused on preventing religious violence, and the trafficking of children, the cadets on the tour had community service included on their itinerary in the Village of Kenouhoué. In a moment of levity, the cadets exchanged dance moves with the orphans and the Founders of the Solidarity Orphanage, Gilbert and Antionette Djofin, after the delegation worked on the beautification of its gazebo, and in its food garden. Cadet Ndlovu added, “I’m so glad I came. To see the people and the land, so similar to my father’s country (Trinidad and Tobago) is both a balm and a simulant to my spirit.”
A second edition of the ICAAD trip is planned for August 2023. The website www.imperialcorpsagoodjie.org provides more information on the initiative.
The Imperial Corps Agoodjié of the African Diaspore was founded in 2022 by Her Royal Majesty Queen Mother Dr. Dòwòti Désir. The ICAAD is an educational and leadership program for women seeking personal transformation in the pursuit of social justice. www.imperialcorpsagoodjie.org. To learn more about the future plans of the Royal Palace of the African Diaspora see: www.queenmotherdowoti.org