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Yemaya, the original mermaid
Image of Natasha James as a mermaids

Natasha James, mermaid.

Contrary to what Disney says, you don’t have to be a white girl to be a mermaid or merman. Actually, one of the most important African goddesses has been depicted as a mermaid. How can we forget Yemaya, the Yoruban deity who was also known as the goddess of the living ocean? She was known as the ruler of motherhood and all waters of the Earth. According to Yoruba beliefs, all life begins in the sea — and so all life begins with Yemaya.

Yemaya, the first of the mermaids

Detail from a mural of Yemaya in San Francisco, California.

Eric Montel, aka Blix, and his godmother Natasha James are honoring Yemaya by connecting to their souls’ desires by living the mermaid life and encouraging others to do the same.  Montel discusses the importance of his lifestyle in his YouTube video. “Being a merman has taught me to just be free, not to care what anyone thinks … Be like the ocean, just be free, follow your own current, no matter what ANYBODY says.”

Meanwhile, James designs mermaid tails for a living and has continued pursuing her dream, despite encountering several naysayers. “People told me I was crazy when I started doing this,” she says. Somewhere in history, mermaids were co-opted and became known as just a “white girl thing,” but Montel and James are only two examples of black people who are proudly connecting to their African ancestry, challenging gender norms and expressing a mermaid lifestyle. Check out Montel and James’s interview below: 

Heather was born in Chicago and raised in Pasadena, California and proudly claims Oakland as her adopted home. She has a B.A. in African-American Studies from Smith College (proud Smithie), and a Masters in Education Leadership from New York University. Heather's spent the past decade working in the field of educational equity and advocacy. She currently teaches Child and Adolescent Development at San Francisco State University and manages a blog called What's Happening Black Oakland? She also contributes to Blavity, a blog for black millennials. Heather's committed to writing interesting and relevant stories that aren't being covered by the mainstream media, while straying away from the single story that is usually imposed on people of color. In her free time she enjoys traveling and going to live shows.

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