I am not a religious man. Although, I was borne by people of the word and of the book, I do not believe in any form of organized religion. However, as the saying goes, regardless of what any of us may think, faith is in our blood. Never mind that Dr. Charles Drew demonstrated that blood does not work the way we believe it does.
In short, during the forties, Dr. Drew (1904–1950) discovered a way to process and store blood as plasma, which proved to be important and often life-saving, especially during the second World War. While I am deeply impressed and appreciative of the work of Dr. Drew, particularly as he demonstrated that blood is totally unrelated to race, nevertheless, my understanding is that our African racial origins go back thousands of years. Chester Higgins is attuned to the significance of our heritage.
Higgins is a professional photographer who did amazing work especially as a staff photographer for the New York Times. His iconic images of Black people are often reproduced worldwide.
This image by Chester Higgins of Amiri Baraka dancing with Maya Angelou has a special meaning. They are dancing atop a cosmogram on the main floor of the then newly renovated and expanded Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem. Beneath the cosmogram are buried the remains of Langston Hughes. There were literally hundreds of us witnessing the joyous celebration.
I, like thousands of other people, got to know Chester. We all were blessed to be bathed in the glow of his work and especially awash in the luminous generosity of his spirit. He loves his people.
Down in New Orleans, our writing workshop produced a publication, Fertile Ground, that featured creative work with a section on writers in England. Chester agreed to provide us a cover photograph of a majestic African baobab tree.
Of course, when I heard that Chester had a new book based on his many travels throughout Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sudan, I knew I wanted to own a copy. Sacred Nile is a beautifully printed, coffee-table sized photo essay. It far exceeded my expectations. The text includes a breakdown of the linguistic choices the classic languages forced people to make who wanted to translate the utterances of the ancients. There are literally pages and pages of knowledgable background and contextual information, but none of that is as important as are the photographs themselves.
As I sat with the book in my lap, I found myself moved to actually touch the photographs. In awe I brushed my fingertips across the images. Once you see the various people and varied landscapes, you know the greatness Africa has produced. Like many people in the South of the USA, who have a family bible in which are recorded family lineages, Chester’s book is instructive of who we are and where many of us came from.
Like me, you may not be a follower of any particular religion, but this book, with over 150 expertly printed, exquisite photographs, captures the eloquent beauty and magnificence of both the land and the people of our ancestral home. Ashe. Ashe. Ashe ohhh!