CultureFamous folksLetter

Dear E! News, Lee Thompson Young’s Death and Yoruba “Religion” Link is Irresponsible

I used to watch The Famous Jett Jackson and swoon because Lee Thompson Young was SO CUTE! The teen me would just get my life from that show, and I couldn’t even tell you the plot. I was shallow then and I’m shallow now (-_-).

Lee Thompson Young

Finding out that Lee died on Monday was incredibly sad since not only was he really young (29) but he took his own life. Well, death is devastating no matter what form it comes in but there’s an extra gut punch to suicide because people ask “What happened?” but the answer is seldom clear. It is NEVER comforting. Plus, it puts a face on mental illness, and it becomes harder for us to ignore this REAL problem.

Lee’s death started the conversation we always have but never sustain long enough. At its most productive, people talk about their experience living with mental illness: what it’s like, what it’s not and what helps them carry on. At its least productive, which is where most of the conversation lingers, people throw around assumptions and what they think happened. And at the VERY BOTTOM are the people who want to demonize the person who made the choice to end their life. GAHHHHHH!!!

Where am I going with this? Well E! News’ Rebecca Macatee wrote a piece yesterday about Lee Thompson Young‘s death. However, instead of adding value to the conversation about mental health, she took the path too often chosen to play Psychic Friends Hotline and tell us all what she thinks was to blame here. And she seems to have placed it on the “Yoruba Religion.” So this sternly-worded letter is to E! News for being ill-informed ignoramuses. They’re welcome in advance.

Dear E! News,

What the hell?? Seriously. We know fact-checking and correct reporting is all 2008 and we’re all 200-late but GAHTDAMB! Make an effort to look past Wikipedia as a source because when you don’t, FAIL happens.

The ignorance that soaked in every paragraph of the piece on Lee Thompson Young’s death was just mind-boggling. It was more problematic than a world map drawn by Sarah Palin.

This paragraph is where I started fighting the air.

ENews Fail

First of all, contrary to what Wikipedia says, Yoruba is not a religion. Let’s get that straight out of the gate. Yoruba is the name of a people; Yoruba is a language; Yoruba is culture. Yoruba people are MY people and that’s MY tongue and that’s MY culture. Yoruba is NOT a religion! Talmbout “practicing Yoruba.” You mean he was outchea figuring out how to say “Ba wo ni” and “e ka le?” That better be it.

I went to my Mom and asked her: “Is Yoruba a religion?” and she hit me with a head shake so hard that I thought she was gon give herself whiplash. She was firm with her answer of “YORUBA IS A PEOPLE.” The Elders ain’t with it so NOPE! WELP!

Ifá is the traditional religion that you probably meant, but assuming that a majority of Yoruba people practice it is incredibly pinhole-minded. Just like we speak different dialects of the language, our beliefs are diverse. Us Yorubas are a religious people and most of us practice Christianity or Islam.

More You Know gif

Even if Lee was practicing Ifa, he would not be encouraged to take his own life. So let me shut this line of reasoning down now. I’m so upset that it even comes up!

To further add insult to injury, you call Yoruba “Africa-based,” because you know Africa is a small region O___O. The Yoruba people are in West Africa, across Nigeria, Togo and Benin. But why be specific when you can just say “Africa?” This whole bit is like saying “began practicing Chinese, an Asian-based religion.” It’s a conflation of history and culture and it’s pretty lazy!

Always relevant: AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY OR A RURAL STATE, JERKWADS!

It’s 2013 and you’re still speaking of the cradle of civilization like it’s some county in Texas. People are gon learn to PAY #AMISH to that epic continent in all it’s glory! One sweet day!

In addition to ALL’AT diminishing of Yoruba culture and Africa as a force, you are implying that Lee’s alleged involvement in this “religion” that is linked to Yoruba (O___O) before he died led him to kill himself.

Ummmmm NO gif

“Death before dishonor” isn’t used just in this context. Some people are walking around with the Japanese symbol for that phrase tattooed on them as we speak. Doesn’t mean they’re gonna go kill themselves!

It’s pretty ballsy to insinuate this and it’s the biggest crock of bullshit. Methinks it demonizes Yoruba people as advocates for suicide. It’s irresponsible, full of bigotry and plays into the “Africans are barbaric” trope. For you to even dedicate an article to talmbout how a celebrity who joined some “African” religion killed himself possibly from the belief that he was sacrificing himself for honor is just outrageous! The thought just gave tylenol a headache and I’m not here for it.

AND on top of that, it’s only been 2 days since Lee was found dead. Why are you so thirsty to report on the WHY right now? Tuck in your dehydration, E! Sip some gatorade and relax.

You’re bloody IJOTS for that rubbish article! It is careless, wrong, stupid and unnecessary. More importantly, it’s dangerous. Instead of placing weight on the severity of depression and mental illness, it places onus on faith that you know nothing about. It minimizes the real issue here and spotlights something that is probably of little to no relevance. Be ashamed of yourself for depressing the dialogue about depression and doing the most with the complete least.

Oh and WHO WAS YOUR JANKY SOURCE?!? Ugh! I don’t care. Have ALL the seats you can find and do better.

Stay Classy, E! STAY GAHTDAMB CLASSY!

Stay Classy San Diego gif

Yours in Proud Yoruba-dom,

LuvBug

P.S. Not only was this reported online but E! News talked about it on air. UGHHHH!!! The wackness is too much for me to handle.

P.P.S. I asked my Mom what it means to be a Yoruba Priestess like folks call Iyanla and she said “that means nothing.” OOP.

So what are your thoughts on this E! article? Many of my Yoruba friends hit me up LIVID about it.

Edit: Rebecca Macatee, the author of the article tweeted me that she made the following update to it:

Update: Sources confirmed to E! News that Young was a practitioner of the Yorùbá religion, a faith based on the ancient traditions of the Yorùbá people. It should be noted, however, that Yorùbá more commonly refers to the West African tribe which is made up of Christians, Muslims and a multitude of people from different faiths.

NOPE. That’s not enough.

UPDATE #2: Rebecca emailed me a nice note and apologized for this article. She wants us to have a conversation so she can learn more and I’m open to it. And I do appreciate her for reaching out and trying to understand what I was saying here. We’re going to chat.

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124 Comments

  1. mochazina
    August 21, 2013 at 10:03 am — Reply

    fwiw, luuvie, i came across an article on bella naija where in the comments some folks noted that in some central/south american countries yoruba has indeed become the name of a religion. doesn’t negate the ignorant vein of the e! article, but may shed light on where she was trying to go.

    • August 21, 2013 at 10:06 am — Reply

      Yoruba people in general, especially those who are not young do not consider “Yoruba” a religion. Misinformation is real. It’s like calling Chinese a religion.

      • mochazina
        August 21, 2013 at 10:34 am — Reply

        yup. but if there are some non-Yoruba folks out there with a religion calling it “yoruba”, it’s still real as well. unfortunately religious freedoms and such allow folks to co-opt the name of a great people for such purposes according to their silly whims. again, doesn’t negate the ignorance of the article, but there may be a few out there “practicing” such a religion.

        • Abi
          August 21, 2013 at 2:49 pm — Reply

          I am unfortunately one of those dinosaurs (people) without a Twitter account (actually I lie, a friend opened one in my name and puts up my poems on it) but ask me to identify its page or how to operate it and I would be completely lost.
          Just said all of that to let you know I can’t twit but as to why I am writing a reply here is to say that I too have read of a people in the Cuba and deep
          South Americas refer to their religion as Yoruba which made my eyes bugle but reading further, I realized that it was their entire culture which hangs entirely on their mode of worship that is called Yoruba, so in a way, they identify themselves as Yorubas, living, speaking and worshipping the entity of their identity-Yoruba.
          Their spoken dialect is close to the Benin , (pronounced Be-neh) make up, it is almost a Yoruba laced pidgin with their natural language; something Yoruba lends itself very closely to (check out how Yoruba speakers add the language effortlessly into any other they speak e.g English-Comon kon the coconut jo! as in common break a piece of the coconut)
          However, the origins of Yoruba very clearly is the people and their identity however not their religion or moral practices so I am Yoruba, of the Yoruba culture and I speak Yoruba and I practice … whatever religion is out there. Yoruba however would not be referred to as a religion. Our forebears didn’t and we won’t.

          And to use one of the lesser agreed statements as the theory of a religion(iku ya esin) and state that the Yorubas endorse suicide is just lazy, unintelligent and moronic reporting. There isn’t even a word for suicide in Yoruba, there is the word for death (iku) and the description of the process of death (o pa ara e-he killed himself) or the detailing of the process (o je majele-he ate poison) (o po’kun so-he hung himself) (o yin’ra’e nbon-he shot himself)etc.
          I hope I haven’t overstayed my welcome but made clear points. Thank you

          • Dee
            August 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm

            Good job Abi! I like your comment

            Luvvie, aargh! I am as mad as you right now, I could fight the air! Why are theses idiots even allowed on TV? Oh I know, because even their bosses that had to approve this idiotic report are freaking morons as well. It’s bad enough that these people talk about Africa in all the negative light at every chance they get based on “dem say, dem say” reports (meaning hearsay), especially Nigeria, now they cast aspersions of “suicide-causers” on a whole ethnic group?!!! MY ETHNIC GROUP! Excuse me but WTF?!!

            People, google is your friend but not the source of all truth. I bet there are a gazillion Yoruba people in LA or wherever E!’s headquarters of incompetence sits, and all they had to do was seek one out and ask intelligent questions. But I’m sure that was too much to do considering it’s only about some young African-American man and an inconsequential tribe in unimportant Africa, let’s just say whatever we heard, nobody cares. Well guess what E! (For Emus), you just insulted the cultural heritage/foundation of many millions of people and your ignorance, like hard nipples on a cold winter day, is glaringly apparent. As a tv channel that’s viewed in many countries, much more is expected of you E!

            Good thing you wrote about this Ife (Luvvie) thank God for people like you who put the spotlight on such dumb foolery.

            May Lee Thompson’s young soul rest in peace.

          • mochazina
            August 21, 2013 at 6:18 pm

            please note that my intent was never to instruct the Yoruba to not feel insulted or offended that their name has been possibly co-opted. it was simply to note, as some have noted in comments further down here, that there are some who consider the name of their religion to be “yoruba”. that the Yoruba are offended doesn’t impact that fact.

            similarly, but on a smaller scale, i’m from new orleans, but no longer live there. when i see things advertised in my local area as new orleanian or cajun or creole, i can often point out how it is totally not authentic to those cultures, BUT i (nor the population of those cultures) can’t force them to change their name or advertisements. we can boycott, we can circulate petitions, but our offense on its own does not negate the existence of the thing (and even then may not impact their nomenclature).

            until this story broke, i only knew of the Yoruba people and language(s) from my convos with various Nigerian friends and coworkers. i’d never heard of the religion. but if someone says they practice the “yoruba religion” all i can say is “ok” until somehow the practitioners choose to rename their religion (possibly due to the collective Yoruba activism).

      • August 22, 2013 at 10:45 am — Reply

        Luvvie,

        You might learn something by reading Dr. N. Metzger’s letter to Ms Macatee!

  2. August 21, 2013 at 10:10 am — Reply

    That’s the laziest load of bullshit I’ve heard in a long time. Really, E!? Disrespectful as hell to the proud Yoruba people and disrespectful to Lee’s memory. I wish I had a side-eye gif of my undergrad history professors telling us never to use Wikipedia as a source. Damn.

  3. August 21, 2013 at 10:11 am — Reply

    I was so sad to hear of his passing and to know that there are some that are trying to vilify him is just sad and hurtful. I had to exit twitter when people started grouping him in with the Lohanian antics of ex-Disney stars. This man was obviously in pain and now his family is in pain and people want to go and start causing more pain.

    As for the nitwits at E! for 1> Making up a religion 2>Not realizing Africa is a whole damn continent 3> Quoting God Knows Who The Family Member they can have the whole Barclay Center full of seats. And I just did a Google and so many outlets are repeating this dumb mess.

    Oh and I am totally here for all the shade given to Inyala & her “Priestessness”.

    • Serenity
      August 21, 2013 at 10:46 am — Reply

      But they must vilify dead Black folks. Ijs…..

  4. August 21, 2013 at 10:12 am — Reply

    i don’t agree that the religion should be blamed, either, but if those close to him said he’d changed since beginning to practice it, what was she supposed to do? not report that part? i mean, obviously him practicing that religion could’ve coincided with a number of things, but so what if this is what his friends are saying…

    • August 21, 2013 at 10:18 am — Reply

      NO NO NO NO NO NO. Yorubas DO NOT advocate suicide! Even if he WAS practicing Ifa, he would not be encouraged to take his own life. So let me shut this line of reasoning down now.

      • August 21, 2013 at 10:20 am — Reply

        Love the Freudian slip, or was it. LOL.

        • sade
          August 21, 2013 at 11:28 am — Reply

          what slip?

      • August 21, 2013 at 10:28 am — Reply

        she didn’t say it does. she said some have questioned that, and in light of someone committing suicide, if that’s a phrase held in whatever religion, then it’s not unlikely that out of the billions of ppl on earth, SOME have questioned whether that advocates suicide. i still see no problem in what was reported. if she concluded that’s what it meant, i’d understand.

        • August 21, 2013 at 10:40 am — Reply

          “Death before dishonor” does NOT mean “kill yourself!” You just took a phrase that isn’t even the capstone of something to define it. And you simplified it too much. Lee was not part of a Heaven’s Gate cult where he was told to sacrifice himself. I can’t e’em…

          • August 21, 2013 at 11:01 am

            i didn’t take the phrase n do anything. death before dishonor isn’t the capstone phrase for bushido, either; the main tenets of samurai don’t advocate suicide, but if someone were to question whether their beliefs, such as death before dishonor, suggest suicide is an acceptable way to preserve family honor, etc., i see no problem in those questions being reported.

    • August 21, 2013 at 10:19 am — Reply

      I know a lot of people close to me that changed after they got heavy into Christianity, but had they taken their own life I wouldn’t utter those words as a hypothesis as to why they had. Reporters also don’t have to report everything that “people are saying”, that’s not responsible journalism.

      • August 21, 2013 at 10:36 am — Reply

        if those close to u said u changed after u got heavy into christianity, got depressed, whatever, who cares? if someone said the same of u ever since u started dating a certain person, who cares? it’s not saying one caused the other, but if ppl noticed a changed after what they consider a defining moment, then so what. we wouldn’t be up in arms if it were said that ppl noticed he “really changed” after beginning to practice satanism. we really wouldn’t.

        • milaxx
          August 21, 2013 at 11:53 am — Reply

          Actually it is. It’s implying that because of the association with the new religion or new person a situation was created in which you felt it was better to kill oneself.

        • Kell
          August 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm — Reply

          Ma’am–“who cares” is not an intelligent response when we have a society and culture insistent on denying the presence, effects, and relevancy of mental illness. You need to reevaluate your position. Responsible journalism does not allow for supposition. It gives fact based information that can not be left up to the common person to draw their own conclusions. If she was writing a PERSONAL blog, that’s a different story. What we have here is inflammatory implications masquerading as news. Nobody is here for that.

          • August 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm

            who cares wasn’t the entirety of my response. she gave facts. unless you’re disputing the fact that some of his friends said he’d really changed…or disputing the fact that some have questioned the meaning of one of the tenets of his practice, whether it’s a capstone one or not. anyhow, i don’t agree with you, so, no position changed, but regardless that’s me..i’m fine with u holding your position, too. :)

        • Abi
          August 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm — Reply

          We Yorubas care when our identity and culture gets blamed due to a statement taken out of context for the death of a young man in his prime. Its as moronic as saying: Dare moved to England and worked in a rope factory and died. It was noted that shortly after, his friends said his behaviour started to change when he started practising the religion English in which one of its proverbs is ‘Give a man enough rope and he’ll hang himself’ Dare hung himself.

          I can imagine the uproar that would happen if anyone gave that kind of report. This ‘reporter’ has done exactly that and that is why we the Yoruba care.

          • Erin
            August 21, 2013 at 4:23 pm

            I know that this is a serious topic, but this made me laugh.

          • Dee
            August 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm

            Very well said! *round of applause*

          • Cilgen
            August 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm

            Abi, that was an absolutely wonderful analogy. Perfectly demonstrated the absurdity of the reporter’s thesis and suppositions. Thank you.

        • August 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm — Reply

          Makes a lot of sense. I too don’t think the reporter was out of line. When we don’t have facts, all we are left with is speculations. And nothing the reporter said was out of bounds. At least not enough to be angry about it.

    • Serenity
      August 21, 2013 at 10:48 am — Reply

      If he HAD killed himself for “religious” reasons… Then he wouldn’t be allowed to enter the realm of the ancestors. and NO ONE wants that upon their death.

  5. NeNe1
    August 21, 2013 at 10:17 am — Reply

    Ummmm.E.NO! Instead of drumming up a reason for Lee’s death via blind pick-areason-roulette why did they not focus on the hurt and the pain that Young Hollywood is obviously feeling? Between Corey Monteith, Lee and the poor girl that was on the Bachelorette? Miley going crazy? Speak on that. Find out what’s wrong with the media spotlight and how to help these people handle fame and hurt instead of turning their demise into sales for the news media. I can’t. I’m out. *smh*

  6. August 21, 2013 at 10:20 am — Reply

    …it would have taken her an extra two minutes to find out that Yoruba is a culture and not a religion.
    Two.minutes.

    • Randomly Jazzy
      August 21, 2013 at 3:42 pm — Reply

      If even that long…they were just messy.

  7. Jeremy Beardsley
    August 21, 2013 at 10:28 am — Reply

    Luvvie, Thank you for this post/letter. From reading your tweets yesterday about this post from E!, I was admittedly confused. I had not understood why you were so upset, and as a follower of you, I know that you only get that passionate about something, when it is truly a travesty. Reading this post clears things up and explains to me, as naive as I am, what was so wrong with their reporting.

    Keep Kicking Ass!

  8. August 21, 2013 at 10:30 am — Reply

    I watched The Famous Jett Jackson, too, so I’ve been a fan for a while. When I saw the news on Monday, I was stunned. We will never know what really happened.

    That article was a mess from start to finish. I understand E wants report the information they have, but not doing basic research before reporting is irresponsible and poor journalism. I can just hear somebody talking about the Yoruba “religion” and passing along this misinformation.

    Iyanla as a “Yoruba priestess”? I called BS on that back in the 90s. That sounded made-up to me from the get-go.

  9. August 21, 2013 at 10:35 am — Reply

    TEACH! and please thank your Mom for being a soldier source of knowledge for us!

  10. August 21, 2013 at 10:37 am — Reply

    Wow, this is really unfortunate. There is a lot of disconnect when it comes to western media trying to understand and report on religions indigenous to other places (especially black.)
    Is it somehow possible that religions affiliated to Yoruba culture have now taken on the name “Yoruba religion” outside of the countries it originates from? Perhaps, this is a new development? That being said, I think the problem mostly lies in the implication that Yoruba values and concepts are what pushed him to kill himself. It’s sensationalism and just ignorant.

  11. Lene
    August 21, 2013 at 10:37 am — Reply

    I had seen you tweet about this yesterday and I was talking about it to my parents who are both Yoruba people in their 50s. And when I was like ‘there’s not really such thing as a Yoruba religion’ they responded with a “well…not reaaaaly”. I continued with the death is better than dishonor saying and they both instantly rattled off the saying that E!Online posted. However the both were highly confused as to why anyone would think that meant suicide was advocated by Yoruba people. That yes, that saying is a thing, but people a misinterpreting it.

    There are other religions with strong Yoruba roots like Santeria, Voodoo, Candomble and etc. and at first when I read the article I was like “did they mean one of those and not know the name?”

    After thinking about it for a while…I’ve never heard of any of those religions advocating suicide either. I can understand a family being concerned if their child converts to some religion that they’ve never heard of but I think E!Online and the media in general should hold off on this type of speculation.

    • Lene
      August 21, 2013 at 10:41 am — Reply

      Whoops, sorry for all the spelling mistakes. Guess that teaches me to type really fast and not proofread.

    • Lene
      August 21, 2013 at 10:46 am — Reply

      On that note, I wanted to address that I think that Ifá is something that people, like Babalawos do. It’s not the actual belief system/religion. It would be like calling people practitioners of the Communion instead of calling them Catholics.

  12. Danielle
    August 21, 2013 at 10:41 am — Reply

    Luvvie, thank you for your defense and cultural clarity. I read the E! article yesterday, and had many “For Why’s?”. I find this cheap shot at news by E! extra offensive because I am currently going through the same faith-based process of all-white as L.T.Y., and I now feel a personal attack. I live and work and date in a world where most do not understand my process, hurling insults and fear. But I have also strengthened relationships with those who are truly loving and supportive. I’d be more than happy to explain the process to you, for your own understanding. That way, you can have the facts that many news outlets find frivolous. PS – you had dinner with my sister, Deanna, and some other bloggers earlier this year in NYC.

  13. Serenity
    August 21, 2013 at 10:44 am — Reply

    You know once white people say something, that makes it the gospel unchangeable truth no matter how much proof is brought forward….

  14. Lee
    August 21, 2013 at 10:46 am — Reply

    I did scratch my head a bit when I heard people repeating that mess. I wasn’t quite sure they knew what they were talking about, but they “swore” it was on tv so it had to be true. *sigh* Urhm nope.

  15. August 21, 2013 at 10:59 am — Reply

    Good post Luvvie,
    1) There is and has been a conflation of Ifa and Yoruba in the transatlantic context. Quite frankly, you are more likely to here a reference to Yoruba than Ifa or it myriad of derived pan-Diasporic practices (particularly because of synchronization and migratory patterns). There’s a good deal of writing on how this happened but your point stands about the “confusion” here.

    2) it’s hella sloppy to assume that his suicide was an honor suicide. we see that concept in many cultures (this has been a way of creating a civilization-barbarism divide for centuries). E! sadly (and simply) plays right into this with the way it’s presented. basically “hey, you know he was doing weird, foreign, dark, African spiritual stuff and there’s this saying…so you know it was probably that.” Xenophobia at its best.

    3) It would be more reasonable and responsible to go to some elder in the Ifa community globally (I’m going to assume, though I do not know, that he would likely been initiated outside of yorubaland) and get their analysis on the saying to gain a better understanding. I’m an academic who loves scholarship, but you don’t make the link the life of a person in the US in 2013 to the communal socioreligious ideas of a particular pre-colonial/early colonial space separated by 7707 miles and hundreds of years. It’s like saying, “The Catholic Crusades of the Middle Ages began in Muslim Spain, so today if we see a White Catholic commit a crime against a Muslim it’s likely based on the doctrine of the crusades.” Nah son.

    4) While I know many practitioners of Ifa derived practices who have beef with Iyanla, i’m not sure I can say it means “nothing” (no disrespect to momma luvvie). It’s really about asking the community of practitioners and believers what it is that an initiate/priest/priestess does, then using those multiple voices as basis for “meaning making”. It’s hard to call from the outside.

    I say that all to say, you’re right. This was a very bad look E!

  16. Ra
    August 21, 2013 at 11:05 am — Reply

    Blah to all of the back and forth.

    We live in the most slack jawed, backwards, bs sensationalizing country ever. With a history of importing brown skinned people and selling them like cows and horses. It is in the fabric of our history. And no matter how much shalack you put over all our “racial tension be-gone” the fact of the matter is, that’s some eye catching shit to be like “African crazy mumbo jumbo religion sacrifice responsible for cute brown boys suicide!!! boogalie boogalie!!!” and the TRICK knew she would get a TON of people checking for her with that… cause it’s NATURAL in our American culture, to think less of Africa and it’s people and traditions. Facts be-gone. Logic be-gone. That hoe was SUPER out of pocket. And should be schooled. Properly. Psh! Send your letter to her DIRECTLY, so she can understand just how unintentionally boneheaded she is being.

  17. Em.
    August 21, 2013 at 11:07 am — Reply

    Apparently, he could not merely be a troubled young man of color dealing with depression. Nope. His memory was going to be dragged regardless. Funny how it’s different for the Cobains, Ledgers…

  18. JN
    August 21, 2013 at 11:12 am — Reply

    I think it is really convoluted. Us Yoruba people don’t know crap about the religion, but there are in fact people who do place “Yoruba/Santeria” as a religion in the African diaspora. That is an undeniable fact; I think once it migrated to the West into places such as Brazil, it took on a life of its own.

    • JN
      August 21, 2013 at 11:13 am — Reply

      *practice

    • Sevenseas
      September 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm — Reply

      Yes there are new world religions based on the worship of the Orisha,right from Nigeria to the new world during slavery. None of our religions is called Yoruba,rather they each have their own name: Santeria or Lucumi in Cuba & the US, Candomble in Brazil.About a decade ago some folks who claimed to have gone to Africa to be initiated began selling initiation in what they termed “Yoruban Traditional Religion”— a new comer to the US.Perhaps the media spoke to someone from a TRY house or the deceased belonged to one ? No one from Santeria/Lucumi or Candomble would call the religion itself Yoruba,though they might describe the cosmology,ritual language and music as being based on Yoruba culture and having evolved during slavery and its aftermath into their current forms.

  19. August 21, 2013 at 11:27 am — Reply

    This comes as no surprise. E! has been off their rockers for a long time. I stopped watching their news show at least eight years ago when their lead story was who Hugh Heffner was shagging – no matter what was actually going on in Hollywood.

    Shame on them for putting their mouth on that troubled young man, and tearing apart the people who grieve for him. Speaking of which, the last five minutes of this week’s Rizzoli & Isles was heartbreaking.

  20. sad
    August 21, 2013 at 11:42 am — Reply

    It’s really sad that you even had to get into a back and forth with the young lady above. This has been going on for DECADES. When Timothy McVeigh blew up that building in OKC he wasn’t called a “Christian extremists” but Muslim extremists gets tossed around like street booty. But there is the issue when you have no idea of who you are. You have no issue with what was said because you are clueless to who you are. True there are beliefs out there that by a person killing themselves they save their families from disgrace, again feel out the source first it was a Graeco-Roman belief and when you have several people who are well versed in the Yoruba culture and they all say suicide isn’t something that is upheld…I would believe them…but hey that’s just me.

  21. sandra
    August 21, 2013 at 11:55 am — Reply

    just so you know, the article has been updated.

    Update: Sources confirmed to E! News that Young was a practitioner of the Yorùbá religion, a faith based on the ancient traditions of the Yorùbá people. It should be noted, however, that Yorùbá more commonly refers to the West African tribe which is made up of Christians, Muslims and a multitude of people from different faiths.

    • August 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm — Reply

      This doesn’t do anything to quell the wackness of the article.

      • sandra
        August 22, 2013 at 8:42 am — Reply

        It certainly doesn’t you are right. The article was out of line. But I just started following you recently during the Scandal Season and I guess I didnt realize how strong your pen was. I was a little excited to see that because of your article they were trying to backtrack. Didnt mean to make it seem as if it was enough that they acknowledged that maybe they might have messed up.

  22. Joel
    August 21, 2013 at 11:55 am — Reply

    Of course, bash Afro-based religions!

    So… If we follow that logic to its conclusion, are all other deaths caused by Christianity then? I think more Christians die on a daily basis in the U.S. than those that follow Yoruba.

  23. KayMac
    August 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm — Reply

    Yoruba Priestess, like Iyanla means nothing?! WEEEEEEEEELLLLPPP…..

  24. Yinka
    August 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm — Reply

    I love how non Nigerians and non Yorubas are experts on this

    • Randomly Jazzy
      August 21, 2013 at 3:49 pm — Reply

      I ain’t either one, but seeing people calling Yoruba a religion is really making my left eye do that mental patient tick.

  25. August 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm — Reply

    I know that Iyanla Vanzant has referred to herself as a “Yoruba priestess,” and that always confused the heck out of me because I’ve always known of Yoruba as a people. She’s not the only one who does this, but she’s the first to come to mind.

  26. Oyafemi
    August 21, 2013 at 1:10 pm — Reply

    I just wanted to say that as an African descendant residing in America, your mother’s comment is heartbreaking along with the sentiment of other Africans I encounter. I meet a lot of Yoruba people who not only do not practice Ifa, but disrespect it. Ifa outdates Christianity and Islam. The Odu Ifa is written in Yoruba (originally), not Hebrew/Ahmaric/ Greek(bible’s original language) or Arabic(Q’uran) which to me indicates that Oludumare set it especially aside for It’s special people. Iyanla means a great deal since she went to Naija to undergo a traditional initiation and made a commitment to Orunmila, her Ori, Egun, Orisha,to walk in iwa rere, and it appears she’s doing a pretty good job at it, healing millions of folk and putting Ifa on the map. Can we really be mad at others who lie, distort and dishonor the blood, culture, and power we possess when we’re doing the same thing by the minute? What do we think our ancestors are doing when we denounce our lineage and refer to Ifa as rubbish, demonic, and foolish? If people were to think of returning to Ifa both in Naija and abroad, that might mitigate some of the killing and dissension between those practicing Christianity and Islam since those are ideologies that are not your ORIGINAL ways. Yes, some ancestors definitely practiced the two religions above but take into account how long it’s been since Africa was colonized by the Arab and European world. There was an entire spiritual system in place before these folk came along to stray us from our power/greatness. Maybe we should look in our own backyard for blame before searching elsewhere for it. May Elegba open the roads for the truth to be told and accepted-Aṣe

    • Chika
      August 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm — Reply

      Good post. However, as I’m aware, Iyanla was initiated in America…and by a white man at that.

      • Oyafemi
        August 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm — Reply

        Hi Chika, I’ll share with you what I shared with Yao below….save your fingers some scrolling…

        Thank you for putting things into context. I am very familiar with her path. Regardless of who initiated her (know of Neimark’s history as well), it’s obvious (in my opinion at least) that Orunmila and Oshun have accepted her as their daughter and work extensively with her. Even more powerfully present at her initiation (than ol’ dude) were her ori, egun, and orisha who accepted her path and her responsibility on it. No I wasn’t there but Neimark could not have birthed her alone and I cannot fathom Babalawos, on their own soil, stood back and didn’t participate in her initiation. There are a lot of questionable godparents who birth fabulous baba/iyalorishas, iyanifas/babalawos.

        • Dee
          August 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm — Reply

          I don’t normally get into back and forth arguments on people’s blogs, but Oyafemi you are way off the mark.

          First off, Iyanla is not the main point of discussion here, but if she were, calling herself a Yoruba priestess means nothing, she should pick one deity and stick with it. In my understanding of Yoruba history, she can’t serve them all, that’s BS! So, if she claimed to be an Oya priestess, or an Ogun priestess or wtv, it would be easier to take her seriously. For example, Austrian born Susan Wenger was taken seriously as an Osun priestess in Osogbo.

          Secondly, Iyanla is simply practising psychology and nothing else, so please get off that bandwagon of all the deities in the old Yoruba kingdom working and healing through her because the old deities were not popular for working together.

          Thirdly, this post is about “Yoruba religion” (which means nothing) being directly responsible for the death of a young man (who was probably mentally ill) and Luvvie has done a good job pointing out the loopholes in the news report and educating people. It is not a post about the relevance of historical Yoruba deities in today’s world. So there is no need for you to feel heart-broken about what Luvvie’s mom said.

          I rest my case

          • Oyafemi
            August 21, 2013 at 6:04 pm

            You can be initiated to both an orisha and Orunmila as one is the level of iyalorisha, the other, iyanifa. I’ve sat with Iyanla at one of her lectures, discussed the order/seniority of odu (I just happened to have it with me in the binder I was taking notes on). If she’s only working with psychology why would we have a discussion about odu? Do general psychologist study odu/Ifa/orisha.

            Last time I checked I am allowed to talk about whatever I would like wherever and since LuvBug put her mom’s thoughts on her commentary, it is fair game for me to comment. You’re right, I shouldn’t be brokenhearted at all about anyone or place that is falling because they have turned their backs on their ancestors and ancestral ways. Thanks for removing that burden off of my back…and the post CONTAINS info about the “yoruba religion” (that’s not what I call it) therefore my comments are relevant.

            As far as the bandwagon and which deities work with which others; Ifa is a very complex system and since one’s ori is guiding the path here on earth you’d be amazed at the allowances orisha make in their “new world” children. There are patakis that speak of Oya and Yemoja “beefing” but my Oya (I am her daughter) and Yemoja have always worked together to heal, strengthen, and bless me along my path. I just did a reading for an Indian woman and Oshun asked her to bring marigolds (a sacred flower in India which happens to be gold in color) to the river for her, proof that the orisha work with folk to the degree in which they understand. This woman knows nothing of Ifa but Oshun was willing to help her regardless.

        • Chika
          August 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm — Reply

          Thank you. In response to this “I cannot fathom Babalawos, on their own soil..” I believe it was already mentioned that she was not initiated in Africa though. What perplexes me is why she felt she had to go to Neimark to become “initiated” especially with the access that she had and in knowing that these traditions are ANCESTRAL, meaning it must be in the blood. But, I don’t mean to derail the topic into Vanzant’s path. Nor was this an attempt to drag her.

    • Ajamu
      August 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm — Reply

      Ase’!!!

    • August 22, 2013 at 10:34 am — Reply

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wonder why the author asked for replies from her Yoruba countrymen/women and did not include the African American community who have embraced African culture?

  27. Chika
    August 21, 2013 at 1:39 pm — Reply

    As a traditionalist, born in the so-called diaspora, it is very heartbreaking to hear other Africans demean their own ancient traditions but get upset when others demean those traditions. This is not a jab at anyone in particular but as black people especially when we have access to our traditions for instance via our parents and elders who were born and raised on the continent, I would like to ask what is holding you back from returning to your traditions?

    • August 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm — Reply

      Where in this whole thing did I demean my ancient traditions? Please quote my words where I put down Yoruba tradition.

      • Shantrelle
        August 22, 2013 at 9:38 am — Reply

        Luvvie,

        I concur with Chika, to a degree. It seems like you asked your mother without being totally informed about African spirituality. One can “practice” Yoruba, despite the fact that it is, indeed an ethnic group. Since most Nigerians now practice Christianity or Islam (thanks to colonization), many Nigerians in a present-day context, no nothing about those sacred traditions (because they have abandoned them). I not only am a practitioner of Yoruba, despite the fact that I have Igbo ancestry, I have engaged in academic research about the derivatives of Yoruba/Ifa that can be found throughout the Diaspora (Cuba, Brasil). There are millions of people of African descent who identify as Yoruba practitioners and who are not Nigerian (at least not directly).

        I think that your outrage is valid as a Nigerian woman regarding the ridiculous connection made by the news but I think that you should educate yourself more about the African spirituality. It seems like you have been grossly misinformed. I’m not saying this as a diss, I’m just reflecting on the comments that you made which can come off as offensive to many who hold the traditions of our (your) ancestors, sacred.

        • Abi
          August 23, 2013 at 7:33 pm — Reply

          Sorry to butt in but you still haven’t quoted Luvvie on her ‘diss’. Do read her prior question and give it a reply please. At least if you must ‘educate’ her on where she’s gone wrong, then you must be able to quote how she went wrong.

          Just very interested because I can’t see where and I’d like to know. Cheers

          • Chika
            August 23, 2013 at 8:33 pm

            Abi,

            Is this in response to me? I clearly stated that my post was not a jab to anyone/her in particular. I guess that was totally overlooked. I did raise a question though, which I would love to read yours as well as Luvvie’s input on as well. The question essentially was are you practicing your own indigenous traditions? #Nobeef

            It’s a simple question really, which shouldn’t cause anyone to be defensive. And actually could make for an interesting discussion. The unfortunate reality is that far too many, NOT ALL, of us Africans when asked about our traditional ways quickly turn up our nose and say things like Oh no we don’t do that anymore, or that’s demonic, bad, etc. I’ve seen this more so from my parent’s generation. It’s quite sad considering there are many blacks in the so-called diaspora who are deeply immersed in African spiritual science.

            I did not say that Luvvie herself looked down on certain traditions (I would hope not and if I felt her post indicated such I would certainly would provide supporting quote(s) from the post), which are not only found among the Yoruba by the way. Certainly, the Yoruba have made their spiritual system (the system whose more esoteric name has not yet been mentioned here) quite popular in the so-called diaspora as a result of the Maafa and later commercialization efforts on the basis of making the “religion” “universal”.

            The part where the post says “‘P.P.S. I asked my Mom what it means to be a Yoruba Priestess like folks call Iyanla and she said “that means nothing.’ OOP.” did make me wonder two things 1) Was her mom saying that Yoruba priestess itself meant nothing because there is no such thing as a “Yoruba priestess” and/or 2) Was this a downplay on priestess/priests in general?

  28. Jabari
    August 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm — Reply

    (Heavy sigh with a vigorous head shake)

    First off, why we even count anything serious that E! News reports as relevance in a mystery beyond me. Stick to fashion and celebrity gossip, it’s what your good at…

    Suicide is not of God, so religion isn’t even in this equation. Suicide is a mental illness that allows people to feel as if the only way to cope with the mess that they perceive their lives to be is eradicate said life. Once SOME the American people (mostly the Tea Party dickwads and their sheep) pull their collective heads out of the sand and stop pretending that we live in “Leave It to Beaver”-ville, we can finally begin to have a productive conversation about what causes it, what are the signs and how it can effectively treated.

    I am sadden that this young man had to lose his life because he felt that he had no other options. I am equally discouraged with the US because if we don’t do something soon, we aren’t going to have much for too much longer.

  29. Rogerclark
    August 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm — Reply

    Yoruba is a religion, Iyanla Vanzant practices it and its been a religion for centuries

    • August 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm — Reply

      Oh. Ok. O__O

      • RavenJ
        August 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm — Reply

        I love your response.

    • emti
      August 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm — Reply

      ok…there, there bless your heart

  30. Chika
    August 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm — Reply

    Luvvie, please read my post again, particularly this part:

    “This is not a jab at anyone in particular…”

    I understand your anger in fact it’s very justified because the E article is downright dumb. But from this discussion a very good question arises for anyone that is upset about what E wrote. Are you yourself following your indigenous traditions?

    • Ready
      August 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm — Reply

      Madam Chika,
      I don’t mean to be rude, but e pele, e kaabo, e joko. One does not have to follow indigenous traditions to respect them; e.g. I respect Chinese traditions, but I’m not gonna follow it. You don’t know people’s lives, so alladis indepth, spirikoko enquiry isn’t necessary. The Yorubas value respect for elders..that could be a way that one respects & adheres to tradition; being an Ifa or Osun worshipper isn’t necessary.

      • Chika
        August 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm — Reply

        Ready,

        E se. I respect Shinto and I respect the fact that millions of Japanese follow their own spiritual traditions. Many are not Shintoists but at least they are following an Asian tradition. The numbers of Japanese compared to the overwhelming majority of us following non-African traditions is quite low for the Japanese (please don’t ask me to provide stats, you can look them up yourself and you can look around you and take polls to see how we feel about our traditions. :) I have.) I just use the Japanese as one example, but they are a very good example of people who though by no means have suffered to the extent that we have as Africans (and we still do face many, many obstacles) have been able to excel in technology, auto, electronics, etc while following their own ways and showing a great respect for the traditions they call their own and even call a way of life. Meanwhile, you have many of us destroying our own cultural artifacts and our own shrines (yes this is happening) so that to me does not demonstrate respect.

        There is no need for me to follow another person’s spiritual system when I have my own system that I am proud of and that is ANCESTRAL.

        With all due respect, I don’t understand how we as a people can continue to get up in arms whenever someone says anything bad about our culture, when we ourselves are half steppin’.

        Africans are fighting and killing each other in the name of FOREIGN religions, so yes it’s important and the time is crucial. I raised a simple and very valid question. We are a proud people right? I can’t tell you how many of us call our traditions demonic, the old ways, useless but are so immersed in other people’s cultures. It’s shameful when you hear it from your parents or anyone of that generation or another generation. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it, although I disagree to a large extent.

        • Yao
          August 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm — Reply

          Very powerful and salient points Chika. You are indeed an Afrikan women. I am confused myself as to why would a person be upset concerning an article concerning a tradition they don’t practice. For instance, I am an Afrikan and there are MANY Afrikan christians. Why would I get upset because people say something about Afrikan christians and I am not a christian? Hmmmm…maybe it’s just me.

          • ifeoluwasimi
            February 22, 2014 at 10:26 am

            Yoruba is not a religion. It is an identity. I am a Yoruba girl living in Nigeria. I do not practice the religion but I speak the language. It is on my birth certificate. It is on all the certificates I have and will ever recieve as long as I am in Nigeria. Abroad it may not matter whether you are Yoruba or not but in Nigeria it matters. It is part of who I am. Removing the yoruba from me is like removing the girl from me. I can choose not to be a christian tomorrow but I can never choose not to be a Yoruba girl. The phrase ‘iku ya jesin’ is not a phrase in the Yoruba religion but a phrase in the Yoruba language which i speak (even though I do not practice the religion). You cannot tell me not to defend Yoruba because I do not practice the religion. Now the Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, Brazilians who practice the religion are not Yoruba. No matter how much dancing they do or sacrifices they make or Yoruba they speak. They are still Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans or Brazilians. The same way a muslim jew is still a jew not an arab.No matter how much bible I read or churches I attend or prayers I pray. I still am and will forever remain Yoruba.

      • Yao
        August 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm — Reply

        There is no tradition greater or even valid for an Afrikan than his/her own traditions. Let’s do the simple math. Look at what Oyo/Danxome/Kumasi WERE (as a COLLECTIVE people within each of their own societies) before their acceptance of the foreign religions of their colonial masters and look at them NOW COLLECTIVELY? And for those ready to state something negative about the spiritual practices of our own people I simply say two things: 1) say the same things about the negative aspects of the foreign religions and 2) if something in an Afrikan tradition is negative and does not fit the times then trash it. You do not have tp get rid of the ENTIRE tradition. Trust me. Look at white folks and their christianity. They obviously overstand this concept thoroughly; moreso than we do COLLECTIVELY.

        @Ready…You say Osun is not necessary. Tell that to the hundreds and hundreds of non Afrikan people trying to get inititiated to Orisa everyday. This is no way validates our traditions as we only need our Ancestors’ validation. However, looks like these non-Afrikans may know omething that seems to have passed YOU by. Just saying.

        • Chika
          August 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm — Reply

          Thank you Yao.

          You said my main point better than I even could.

  31. Marge
    August 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm — Reply

    Im confused at the ‘Moon Crickets’ insult since the person that wrote the article is a white woman…and Moon Cricket is actually a derogatory term that was used against african americans. ‘AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY OR A RURAL STATE, MOON CRICKETS!’

    • August 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm — Reply

      Hey Marge. I actually didn’t know that Moon Crickets was used like that. I will change that IMMEJATELY! Thanks for alerting me to it.

      • peave
        August 25, 2013 at 3:54 pm — Reply

        If you didn’t know it was an insult to AAs then where did you learn it? It’s clear that you are not only ashamed of your own culture, but you have a beef/jealousy thing going with the AA community. Maybe because you are a lost child and don’t know where you fit? You knew what the term meant and are probably just surprised you got called on it.

  32. Shani
    August 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm — Reply

    I was so in love with Lee on his current gig on “Rizzoli & Isles” and being that I received a Texas education thank you for educating me for I had never heard of it before. I don’t watch ilyanna whatever her name is…

  33. James
    August 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm — Reply

    Luvvie, sorry. If I could hug you I would. This article by E! was deeply hurtful and shallow. I hope there is some catharsis in blogging about it.
    The irony about the US of A is that almost no one there is indigenous to that country. You would think that it would be a country full of ballerinas going around on tippie-toe trying not to step on each others cultural toes. Instead it is a huge cauldron of intolerance and disrespect.
    The current flare up in Nigeria is over just TWO RELIGIONS. Shouldn’t that have made Yoruba more “google-able”?

  34. Indiasworld
    August 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm — Reply

    these people are ridiculous. my kids’ father is Yoruba and is a practicing muslim. and you are exactly right they know nothing of what they speak. Yoruba is a language, a people. and they are DUMB!

  35. Yao
    August 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm — Reply

    @Oyafemi….Your word are truly appreciated. However I wish to clarify that Vanzant (“Iyanla”) initially received initiation to Osun in America by Black people. A few short years ago she was “initiated” again to Ifa by a WHITE JEW named Philip Neimark who makes up things as he sees fit (bad enough he is a non Afrikan falsely claiming an ancient AFRIKAN ANCESTRAL tradition)

    @Chika…good question. No offense to anyone but I notice a lot of native Yoruba who only speak out concerning the spiritual practices of the Yoruba when it is assumed that Yoruba are being attacked. Most are not practitioners themselves. So mostly it is just a pride thing that gets you nowhere fast COLLECTIVELY.

    @All….Sister Lene is very correct. Ifa is only an aspect of the tradition. It is not the name of the tradition any more than Yoruba is even though it comes slightly closer.

    • Oyafemi
      August 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm — Reply

      Thank you for putting things into context. I am very familiar with her path. Regardless of who initiated her (know of Neimark’s history as well), it’s obvious (in my opinion at least) that Orunmila and Oshun have accepted her as their daughter and work extensively with her. Even more powerfully present at her initiation (than ol’ dude) were her ori, egun, and orisha who accepted her path and her responsibility on it. No I wasn’t there but Neimark could not have birthed her alone and I cannot fathom Babalawos, on their own soil, stood back and didn’t participate in her initiation. There are a lot of questionable godparents who birth fabulous baba/iyalorishas, iyanifas/babalawos.

  36. circa1908
    August 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm — Reply

    oh Luvv bug… when I die please write my eulogy…

    This whole article resurrected me. First of all let me just say that this line right here “a world map drawn by Sarah Palin.” gave me life cause I know the difficulty that would look like.

    And your explanation of the ignorance this “journalist” decided to report with or rather without regard to report accurate information about a people, land, culture, religion, illness; I mean damb who shouldn’t feel offended? As a former mental health worker and an educator I feel your pain like big momma’s bunion in a new pair of Easter shoes. It’s real and raw.

    on a serious note though. “Instead of placing weight on the severity of depression and mental illness, it places onus on faith that you know nothing about. It minimizes the real issue here and spotlights something that is probably of little to no relevance. Be ashamed of yourself for depressing the dialogue about depression and doing the most with the complete least.” This should be written in the book of Revelations because it is truth to that degree.

    thanks for always keepin it one hunnet

  37. WhiskeyOnTheRox
    August 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm — Reply

    Well written ma’am. Well written.

    • Caitlyn
      August 29, 2013 at 9:10 am — Reply

      Actually that’s the problem. While the author has very good points and educated me on numerous things I did not know about (which I truly appreciate) – this is actually very poorly written. “Pay #AMISH”? I assume she meant Pay HOMAGE. This article would have been so much more impressive if it were well-written. As it is, I struggled to comprehend what she was trying to communicate (I sat and stared at Pay #AMISH for a good 30 seconds before a light bulb went off on what on earth that could mean and I am still not sure my interpretation was correct).

      • August 29, 2013 at 9:23 am — Reply

        And your comment would have been so much more impressive if you realized that the author chose to write in this style on purpose and the hashtag before AMISH is to show she was being facetious with the word switch. Also, get familiar with DumbestTweets.com, which is where that word mix came from.

  38. Jon
    August 21, 2013 at 4:27 pm — Reply

    I’m from Puerto Rico where they practice Shango, Santeria, and others, all of which are bastardizations and/or borrow heavily from Western African beliefs. If you do any academic religious research at all you would soon find that it is certainly NOT uncommon to denote the beliefs springing from that region as the “Yoruba religion”. A cursory search in JSTOR, Google scholar, or any academic journal datable will prove that. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to say than to constantly write something like “The Way of The Orisas” or “The Beliefs and Deities of The Yoruba People of the Western African Regions”, etc. That it conflates the ethnic group and the tenets of their faith is not some attack born from racial ignorance but, rather, convenience. So though modern, American journalists (and citizens) may be lazy, they aren’t necessarily out to denigrate or disdain an entire culture who didn’t have the foresight to name their religion for posterity; to wit, Ifa is NOT the name of their religion but rather the name of the divination system used by the Yoruba people to interpret the texts of their deity of wisdom, Ifa, via Ifa’s priest or oracle. I appreciate your passion, Luvvie, but I had to do a double-take when I read this article. SMDH

  39. RavenJ
    August 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm — Reply

    Hmmm…checking in from a county in Texas…

    • Snuffy
      August 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm — Reply

      Me too! I was like, why she gotta call out my state?! Anyway, glad the original writer is open to education. Rare move these days.

  40. Farida
    August 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm — Reply

    Though I appreciate the analogy that you used comparing Yoruba to Chinese, it’s still not right and you too are comparing banana to apples. Saying that “Youruba is a religion” is like saying that “Chinese is religion”, you are comparing an ethnicity with a nationality. The Chinese are the citizens of China and though many non chinese people think that all the chinese are of the same ethnicity, they are not. There are different ethnicities and dialects in China just like there are in many other countries of the world such as Nigeria where the majority of the Yoruba people reside today.
    Maybe a simpler comparison would have been “Arabs” vs ” Yoruba” for example. Not “Yoruba” vs “Chinese”.

  41. Naija passing thru
    August 21, 2013 at 10:59 pm — Reply

    I will address a couple of issues with respect to the whole “Yoruba” as a religion or a people

    As a people: the Ife kingdom was a strong kingdom that expanded throughout the southwest of Nigeria (and interacted with the Benin Kingdom greatly). They also spread to what we today call Togo and Benin republic. There are many great things about this people.

    As a religion: Yorubas sold slaves via the Badagry slave route (among others). The arriving slaves maintained some aspects of their heritage. As the years progressed their practices became known as Yoruba. Today, they can be found in places like Brazil and Cuba.

    One day as a kid (in the 1990’s) we were surprised to find Brazilian voodoo dancers chanting in Yoruba during a performance for a Nigerian ambassador. Further questioning showed that they were practicing their ancient religion. It was when many Nigerians realized this lost tribe (so to speak).

    Today in my travels I have come across Yoruba and Igbo (another Nigerian tribe) words in various languages and broken forms of English/French in the Caribbean.

    I like that you replied. Though you were a bit angry. ;)
    But, that’s where people probably get off calling Yoruba a religion. It is practiced that way as mentioned above in former slave colonies.

    • James
      August 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm — Reply

      You lost me after, “as a religion”. Have a pew. Selling slaves is not a religious practice. You could say the Yoruba have had “cultural influences” much in the same way Christianity spread through africa.
      I am not at all surprised that there are people speaking Yoruba in the Caribbean (isn’t that were free slaves went?). Those are not a “lost tribe”. Slaves were taken DIRECTLY from west africa and given the size of the Yoruba, I would not be surprised if those people in the Caribean were actual authentic Yoruba who were taken as slaves and somehow their culture, language and some practices survived.
      When we listen to jazz from New Orleans, and The Blues, we KNOW there is a “West African Influence” to that music as well as certain religion to it.
      If you watched the “biopic” Ray, you will recall that, that checky heathen got his original inspirations from “black spirituals” and “standards” of religious worship in the black community.
      Voodoo itself has its roots in african and african religious practices. Indeed the link between west africa and the “Americas” is still very strong to this day much like the link between east africa and indo-asia.

  42. August 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm — Reply

    I don’t like the fact that they are calling it a legitimate religion or even grouping it as a body of religions including Christianity. I am fine if you say a country has a body of belief systems but to call it a religion is stupid in my opinion.

    Most people claiming that it is a religion are Not actually Yoruba who read books titled “Religions of the Yoruba” or “Yoruba Beliefs” and indicated that it is a religion from their understanding.

    I have been saying this to most of them repeatedly that calling Yoruba a religion because all different beliefs have an ultimate GOD is silly.

    Under this understanding, all religions that believe in an Ultimate GOD are all the same. There will be no distinction from Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc. This is what most people do not understand. You cannot group religions based on things like that.

    I do understand the slaves that were moved around, they would hold on to older traditions and as time passes, lose little tracks of it. They will cling to what they remember in times of despair. People who no longer despair for that kind of freedom, who have the freedom to move around and learn the truth should do just that.

    People do away with traditions, and that’s what most of these belief systems are, traditions, rather than branches under a big umbrella/tree called the “YORUBA RELIGION”.

  43. rotimi
    August 21, 2013 at 11:41 pm — Reply

    I just checked on the E! Story and found out that an update has been made as follows ‘Update: Sources confirmed to E! News that Young was a practitioner of the Yorùbá religion, a faith based on the ancient traditions of the Yorùbá people. It should be noted, however, that Yorùbá more commonly refers to the West African tribe which is made up of Christians, Muslims and a multitude of people from different faiths.’
    Admission of ignorance?

  44. August 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm — Reply

    Three words – disrespectful, ignorant and dangerous.

    Disrespectful – Lee JUST passed away. This is not the time for speculation. Let the cops handle that; the media can just memorialize for now

    Ignorant – Africa base- NOPE, not today

    Dangerous – now we’re promoting these ‘Africans are primitive voodoo doctors’ stereotype. *slow clap*

  45. Witchsistah
    August 21, 2013 at 11:54 pm — Reply

    So basically they’re trying to be slick (and not very subtle at all) and say, “That oogah-boogah, nigger shit done killt dat boy!”

  46. Jennifer
    August 22, 2013 at 3:26 am — Reply

    I’m so very tired of the onus being placed on us to educate people, like we must take the moral high ground when it comes to their ignorance/laziness. Do your damn job. Do your damn research.

  47. Flora Suites Osogbo
    August 22, 2013 at 8:29 am — Reply

    One would wonder why this news bit and the ignorance that promotes it still surprise anyone. Mass media in the West sells on sensationalism and I am not bothered by it – maybe because I am not confronted by it on a daily basis like those in the diaspora. That said, religion among the Yorubas has never been a one-size-fits-all and in my travels across Africa and some other parts of the globe I could see that the Yorubas rank very high among single monolithic ethnic groups with the most diverse religious beliefs. They had Ajayi Crowther and Soyinka and Abiola and Adunni Olorisha etc and all are celebrated. By the way, Osun Osogbo festival finale is tomorrow and unless the Imam insists otherwise, a good number of people will watch the Arugba’s procession from the central mosque along the route to the Osun grove.

  48. Oladunni
    August 22, 2013 at 9:08 am — Reply

    Thank you!
    My mother was so upset when I told her about the E article. But I found your post , so she’s glad you set them straight.

  49. Shantrelle
    August 22, 2013 at 9:42 am — Reply

    Luvvie,

    I completely concur with the sentiments of Oyafemi, and concur with Chika, to a degree. It seems like you asked your mother without being totally informed about African spirituality. One can “practice” Yoruba, despite the fact that it is, indeed an ethnic group. Since most Nigerians now practice Christianity or Islam (thanks to colonization), many Nigerians in a present-day context, no nothing about those sacred traditions (because they have abandoned them). I not only am a practitioner of Yoruba, despite the fact that I have Igbo ancestry, I have engaged in academic research about the derivatives of Yoruba/Ifa that can be found throughout the Diaspora (Cuba, Brasil). There are millions of people of African descent who identify as Yoruba practitioners and who are not Nigerian (at least not directly).

    I think that your outrage is valid as a Nigerian woman regarding the ridiculous connection made by the news but I think that you should educate yourself more about the African spirituality. It seems like you have been grossly misinformed. I’m not saying this as a diss, I’m just reflecting on the comments that you made which can come off as offensive to many who hold the traditions of our (your) ancestors, sacred.

    And why was Iyanla even brought into this? That was confusing.

    • JN
      August 22, 2013 at 8:16 pm — Reply

      Do you really call it Yoruba though? Or is it meant to be called Ifa? I get the sense that there is not much consensus across the African diaspora–whether the person speaking is a Nigerian born and bred Yoruba, a priest/priestess/practitioner of Ifa, or someone from the diaspora.

  50. Oyafemi
    August 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm — Reply

    Shantrelle,

    I don’t know if your question was for me or LuvBug but I brought Iyanla up because Luv wrote, “P.P.S. I asked my Mom what it means to be a Yoruba Priestess like folks call Iyanla and she said “that means nothing.” OOP.”

  51. Islandista
    August 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm — Reply

    Luvvie, I’m usually on board with you but in this instance, I think your cultural outrage at the article led to you being pretty dismissive of some New World religious traditions.

    I have Nigerian friends who are ethnically Yoruba and I also have Caribbean friends who practice the Yoruba faith.

    Chika, Shantrelle and Oyafemi dealt with it well and much more knowledgeably than I could.

    For you to say so definitely “Yoruba is NOT a religion” is to dismiss all those for whom it IS a religion. Furthermore, your tone was pretty exclusionary, with all the insistence about it being “my culture, my people” etc.

    In the Caribbean, I know there are many Yoruba followers in Trinidad for example and that the term is used interchangeably with Orisha. But it is most definitely a religion and I have a Trini friend who practises the faith.

    For your own purposes, here is an article from the Newsday newspaper in Trinidad about a visit by Leader Araba Agbaye Chief Adisa Aworeni Mokoranwalei. http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,51127.html

    And just a last point. Not everyone who practises the Jewish faith is ethnically Jewish. And all those who are ethnically Jewish do not necessarily practice the Jewish faith (John Kerry anyone?). By the same token, not everyone who practises the Yoruba faith is ethnically Yoruba.

    I don’t think it is necessarily a slur on Yoruba as a people or ethnicity. Rather, it is an indication of the power of Yoruba culture and faiths that they could have survived so much and still come out on the other side. It shows how strong Yoruba is that even 100s of years later, some of us still remembered and held on to it and while we may not have called it by the absolutely correct name, we knew where it came from and insisted on calling it that.

  52. August 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm — Reply

    Sometimes it’s just plain old so-called New World Ignorance. Without the correct instructions, and identifications of what is what, folks are most likely to go off the beaten trail. Especially here in North, Middle & South America, that term gets thrown around loosely because they are taking a Spiritual practice that comes from Yorubaland, but not identifying with the “African Aspect of it”. There is also so much secrecy and shrouding that goes on in terms of learning the true history of the people.

    There was a time when it was considered demonic and folks had to go into hiding to even be a part of the tradition. The words “Yoruba Religion” became the catch all phrase for it. I have even used it myself, before I learned better. And that is what it’s about, being an educated and intelligent practitioner and not a gullible follower.

    The politics is a cesspool of secrecy and backroom rituals. That being said, no wonder there is confusion. But if you are going to write an article, it’s best to get your facts straight, and these days there ain’t no reason why it can’t be done.

  53. Lisje
    August 23, 2013 at 12:24 am — Reply

    Im just asking for clarification here; . Their understanding of that religion may not be what you want it to be; but there are 5 million religions in the world and no one can be expected to know all of the ins and outs of all of them. Now, people in the Caribbean/Central American/South American regions DO refer to Yoruba as their religion. You may be upset because this is not what YOU do; but it’s really not about what you do. It’s about what LEE was doing. If a group of people are practicing a religion and they call is Yoruba and their basis for that religion lies in Africa. Then yes, Yoruba would be considered an African Based Religion.

    As far as E! “Blaming the African religions”. E reported that Lee CHANGED after he began practicing a new religion Why is nothing a change so wrong? Isn’t that what people do after someone committed suicide? Look for changing points in their lives?
    Would you be this upset if they came for a religion that you had no connection to? #DoubtIt. People in the news blame Islam for deaths everyday. Although Jihad has been grossly misinterpreted. Where’s your outrage over that? #IWillWait

    • Doyin
      August 23, 2013 at 10:30 am — Reply

      Lisje,

      I appreciate your comments but I will tell you my perspective. I got upset because someone asked me about it as though it is my daily cup of coffee. They asked like it is something I should know and practice because I am from Nigeria and I speak the Yoruba language. This person went further and started quoting Wikipedia to me and that riled me up further. The mere fact that E and Wikipedia were quoting it as Yoruba religion from Africa is what I did not like. I dug deeper and discovered the people in the Caribbean and the Santeria connections and I’m fine with the fact that they call their practices the Yoruba religion. Most Yoruba people that I know and still keep in touch with call it tradition and belief systems, but none of them come out to call it a Yoruba religion. The people that do call their practices a religion identify the type and call it by that, aka Ifa, or Orisha.

      What got me mostly upset was the generalization, misinterpretation, and stereotype that can be easily picked up by the feeble-minded and uneducated. People more willing to pick up what the internet says than to ask people raised in the situation or a book. For example, the woman who asked me the question quoted me Wikipedia and told me that the Yoruba religion is my religion and I almost slapped her for it. I looked at 2 more sites, including Wikipedia, who grouped Christianity and all Orisha, Ifa as an umbrella for the Yoruba religion. I do know that WIKIPEDIA OFFERS NO GUARANTEE OF THE VALIDITY OF ITS CONTENT as stated on their website.

      You are right that the media blames groups and theologies everyday, but that still does not mean that it should go unchallenged. I have muslim friends from all over and I respect them for it. When the news or some magazine indicates or gives a stereotypical comment related to them, I turn it off and put it away. I do not comment on all the sites because I do not know the details of each religious practice but I will defend the people I know. I do get outraged over all misinterpretations but I do not scream shout and holler about things I truly don’t understand or personally know or that would make a fool out of me.

      It is easier to blame than to do something about a problem. In this case as in many others, outrage from persons about the subject did get the company responsible to amend their statements as evidenced in the Update. I am happy for that since we did something about it rather than sat down all day and complained about it. I love that spirit in people willing to do that. And I hope they will continue to affect those types of changes in the future.

      PS. There are sites that each group goes to in order to voice their feelings and opinions as well. Don’t get upset because people do voice their opinions, those voices can be responsible for making important changes. IF you wish to champion absolute justice for all people, don’t ever trample on another person’s opinion.

      • Lisje
        August 23, 2013 at 10:55 am — Reply

        Im not upset because people voiced their opinions. Im simply pointing out that a fuss is being made from an angry perspective instead of a logical one.
        Im sorry for people quoting Wikipedia to you; but that doesn’t directly apply to anything I said.

  54. Funmi
    August 23, 2013 at 10:44 am — Reply

    She still calls it a Yoruba religion. That is not an update. The whole article needs to be retracted. Period!

  55. Pagan Radio Network Lee Thompson Young, Tabloid Reporters, and Traditional Religions | Pagan Radio Network
    August 25, 2013 at 7:23 am — Reply

    […] E! News, being a gossip tabloid, obviously went for the “weird religion” angle, complete with anonymous sources. Amazingly, they went with it even though they partially debunk their own theory. This prompted pop-culture/celebrity/fashion blogger Luvvie to blast E! for the irresponsible and ign…. […]

  56. Adwoa
    August 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm — Reply

    have you seen that NPR just hopped on the bandwagon??

    http://www.npr.org/2013/08/25/215298340/ancient-african-religion-finds-roots-in-america

    Ancient African Religion…. sigh.

  57. Ajaguna
    September 2, 2013 at 12:34 am — Reply

    Greetings people ,I just happen to stumble across this article and got quite confused by all the bickering. The real beginning was with the young mans death and what was said as to how and why he died. But as things progressed it turned to the name Yoruba and Iyana etc; etc; I would just like to express my thoughts and facts on certain things said here. Note: I don’t know all but what I do know I speak on and you all can agree or disagree. First of all for E to make a blanket statement like that is totally wrong and disrespectful. We as a people have always been subject to the media making inappropriate statement about how we walk talk, eat, shit, and breathe. I am a Ifa practioner, it is not a religion but a WAY OF LIFE. It has been tagged Yoruba religion in the USA because of certain laws that had to be incoroporated due to certain rituals that are performed. For one to say that it changed a persons life , this statement can be true because an individual experiences an awakening to who they are, what ancestor linage they came from and what there CULTURE was and is all about, first and formost. We are a people that settled all humanity on this planet so there is no way that any of his practices in his culture led to his death. All Ifa practioners know that there was surely an underlining reason for his behavior and not because of his belief system. This culture is fast growing in America because our ancestors did not go thru the struggle to be disappointed in our short comings, they are calling us to pick up the torch and take our rightful place on this planet. Those of us that are still under the spell and have not found there way back home tend to want to down play us still as a people with slander and lies. I think of so many years on the tell lie vision we were taught horrible things about vodun only to find out as an adult they were all lies ,fabrications and deceit. This appears to be the same thing E news is doing now by saying Yoruba caused this young man to commit suicide. Please don’t get side tracked about what this article was about and start bickering among ourselves about should we be called negro or nigger. If you truly want to know what the culture of Ifa is about do some research. It is also referred to as camdomble, Santeria, obeah, lucumi, and Yoruba. this system is very ancient and it all belongs to us, so any way we can be discredited and look like the assholes they try to make us out of, they will. E News needs to do a retraction and stop trying to have the nation of sleepers focus on the Yoruba culture and giving it a bad rap. The Yoruba are a group of people that cover a vast area on the west coast of the continent of Afrika, it is not a specific tribe that is titled such. Most all of these tribes of people migrated to the west coast from Kemet and set up many different states and areas of power. Yoruba is a spoken dialect and a short form of identifying with the culture. This wisdom and knowledge is really to deep for most common folks and brainwashed non believers to grasp. It fits right in with the question they are still asking ‘How in the hell did they build those damn pyramids”? We’ll never tell cause it aint for you to know. And just to set the record straight Iyanla is a priest ,being initiated in American does not take anything away from her , what her purpose is, who initiated her, or her title. Unless you have gone thru an initiation yourself you can not speak on the matter it is so complex and uniform you must know exactly what you are doing. The science in this matter is so un believable and ancient, it does not consist of just simple vows or ten commandments. The fact that someone feels that she is being a head shrink , Well that’s what she is supposed to do, help all the ass holes in America that she can to get there heads screwed on right. After 400 years+ of being lied to and mistreated, short changed, disrespected, raped and brainwashed. She connects people with the real world and not the small stuff we tend to build our world around. And really, all you see is what’s on the box you do not know what goes on when not in front of the camera and I’m sure there is a lot more healing going on that the audience is not aware of, There’s a lot more I can say ,but I hope this gives some people a little clarity on the Yoruba traditions. Remember people, “The revolution will not be televised”.

  58. Grace
    September 2, 2013 at 9:12 pm — Reply

    Did you just write an entire article without once saying “Rest In Peace” to this young man? Disrespectful and irresponsible. Get out of your feelings for once in your life.

    • September 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm — Reply

      Yes. Because it doesn’t matter that I defended this man in death. You’re mad because I didn’t use three words “Rest in Peace.” Girl, BYE! (-_-)

  59. Candice
    September 6, 2013 at 11:43 pm — Reply

    Though I am entering the conversation late, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread. Unlike many other bloggers who argue against dissenting views, I admire Luvvie for allowing Chika and others to say their piece to educate others about the Yoruba religion and voice their opinions. Thank you for opening the floor to some fruitful dialogue on this topic.

  60. ifeoluwasimi
    February 22, 2014 at 10:29 am — Reply

    Yoruba is not a religion. It is an identity. I am a Yoruba girl living in Nigeria. I do not practice the religion but I speak the language. It is on my birth certificate. It is on all the certificates I have and will ever recieve as long as I am in Nigeria. Abroad it may not matter whether you are Yoruba or not but in Nigeria it matters. It is part of who I am. Removing the yoruba from me is like removing the girl from me. I can choose not to be a christian tomorrow but I can never choose not to be a Yoruba girl. The phrase ‘iku ya jesin’ is not a phrase in the Yoruba religion but a phrase in the Yoruba language which i speak (even though I do not practice the religion). You cannot tell me not to defend Yoruba because I do not practice the religion. Now the Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, Brazilians who practice the religion are not Yoruba. No matter how much dancing they do or sacrifices they make or Yoruba they speak. They are still Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans or Brazilians. The same way a muslim jew is still a jew not an arab.No matter how much bible I read or churches I attend or prayers I pray. I still am and will forever remain Yoruba.

  61. April 9, 2014 at 6:32 pm — Reply

    […] own life whilst battling with depression. Some media outlets proceeded to make it seem like his “African religious beliefs” played a part in his death. To quote Luvvie “Have ALL the seats you can find and do […]

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