5 Notable women of the past and present (special series part 2): The journey

Abbey Lincoln on the cover of her CD, Over the Years.

A tour of Africa in 1972 resulted in the adoption of two more names for Abbey Lincoln. From President Sekou Toure of Guinea she received the name Aminata, denoting a “divine mother.” The Minister of Information, Mr. Sacomi, of Zaire, gave her the name Moseka, meaning “goddess of love.”

It was often as Aminata Moseka that she occasionally performed during the 1970s. She penned the play A Pig in a Poke in 1975 and oversaw its production at the Mafundi Institute in Watts, Los Angeles, in 1976. Lincoln closed the decade with the release of the album People in Me in 1979.

Moving Toward the Modern Era

With 30 years of performing and recording behind her, the artist was able to enjoy an unhurried pace during the 1980s and could spend time traveling, writing, meditating on the nature of the journey that was her life, and rarely recording. But if the 1980s saw Abbey Lincoln take comfort in a mode of private affirmations of her selfhood away from the lights and sound systems of stages and studios, the 1990s saw her re-emerge, phoenix-like, from out of the ashes of past doubts, struggles, and discarded names to produce a substantial body of work that stands both as a testimony to the genius of the woman and as an important addition to the canon of jazz .

Cover of Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach, and Coleman
Hawkins classic protest album, WE INSIST. (from

Rebirth of an Icon

Appropriately enough, Lincoln began the last decade of the twentieth century with a guest appearance in Spike Lee’s film, Mo Better Blues, as well as with the release of the critically acclaimed album, The World Is Falling Down on Verve records. The album marked the beginning of what would prove one of the most prolific and rewarding periods of Lincoln’s career, a time when the public and critics alike would come to recognize her as one of the phenomenal talents and personalities of our time, the daughter of one world-changing movement and the survivor of another.

The following year, in 1991, she garnered further acclaim with the release of You Gotta Pay the Band for the mature phrasings of her lyrics and rich tones of a voice that could now speak from the pulpit of a rare and richly endowed kind of life. Recognizing Lincoln as one of the last remaining torchbearers of twentieth century jazz and black culture PBS (Public Broadcasting System) broadcast in February 1992 its documentary, You Gotta Pay the Band: The Words, the Music, and the Life of Abbey Lincoln.

In virtually every year of the 1990s, Lincoln recorded and released albums, primarily on the Verve label but also as “Private” recordings. In addition, she participated in Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival in 1994 and the Copenhagen radio broadcast, Jazzhus, in 1996. Her creative productivity remained prolific as she carried the legacy of jazz over into the twenty-first century with the albums Wholly Earth in 1998, Over The Years in 2000, It’s Me in 2003, Naturally in 2006, and Abbey Sings Abbey in 2007 in addition to various re-issues and imports.

The great writer Amiri Baraka perhaps, best summed up the importance of Lincoln’s expanded creative consciousness at the dawn of the new century when he wrote the following for Jazz Times in 2001: “As voice, instrument, narrator, dramatist, actress, creator of the mise en scene, auteur, improviser, melodist, poet, Abbey Lincoln moves without peer.”

Speaking on her own behalf with ESSENCE Magazine reporter Jill Nelson in 1992, Lincoln observed of her life’s journey up to that point: “I found out that God was she as well as he, and I wasn’t lonely anymore. All of the power and everything that anybody has is in me, and I recognize it in everybody else.”

by Aberjhani  The National African-American Art Examiner and author/co-author of eight books, including ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love and The River of Winged Dreams.

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