ON Sunday past, the curtain came down on the life of one of Northern Ireland’s most illustrious intellectual powerhouses, Annie Yellowe Palma. Anne had a late diagnosis with cancer in August of this year and was given a short time to live.
She was a big inspiration to many people, never minced her words and saw something unique in everyone. I have featured Annie Yellowe Palma in my column before, this was in 2020 when i interviewed her about her works of poetry and the autobiographical book she wrote, For the Love of a Mother: The Black Children of Ulster. During her book tours across the UK and Ireland Annie unlocked a new theory that she had coined – the word is raceophilia, which Anne argued was the best understanding of the foundation of a racist person or people.
She believed that such people were indoctrinated from childhood by racism and if, for example, they were of mixed race identity, some would be taught to hate the colour of their skin. So the adults influence children to be racially abusive across the board and nothing can be done about it, the problem becomes irredeemable when they become adults. She often spoke in strong terms during race relations and literary workshops, arguing that anti-racism should not be simplistic but accorded more serious attention by talking about the original problem, raceophilia.
In her family's impoverished life when they were growing up in Portadown, her mixed race heritage and her mother having children out of wedlock was condemned through whispers by the so-called moral society of the 1960s and 1970s. Children born out of wedlock in the then conservative Ireland faced inequalities that their mothers also endured. Annie wrote passionately about her personal experiences and these thoughts and facts should be part of an archived reference so readers and future generations can understand what life was really like in the North of Ireland. I salute you today, Annie, with a sigweya (dirge) from my Luo community.
It is my short sigweya to you, Annie...
Annie, Annie, winja winja winja, aywagi kaa. (Annie, Annie, hear me, hear me, hear me.)
Tho okawi ayudha kendo onega an awuon gi wach. (Death has snatched you hurriedly and has killed my words.)
Okinyap, inyako makanowacho to iwacho! (You ain't afraid, a woman who spoke her mind!)
Chunyi oyie gi mang'eny ma jomoko oluoro. (You are a liberal, not like imposters.)
Annie, niwachoga ni jong'ad bura mondo oyie awinja. (Annie, you would say a judge must also accept hearsay as evidence.)
Korka jojuogi mag rangi, puga gi, niloyo gi te gi riekoni. (Those elements of racial witchcraft, stupid! Your intellectual energy defeated them.)
Ne an janeno kendo nawinjo ma aneno. (I am a witness, I heard and saw.)
Ma en Annie. (This is Annie.)