This name is both relics of a distant ancestry as well as relevant in African-American cultural history.
Walter Eugene King
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1928, King would become a Christian in the Hartford Baptist Church. He was initially interested in the arts, but especially became interested in African studies at the age of 16.
After graduating from high school, he would become more involved in African religion by studying Haiti and founding the Damballah Hwedo, Ancestor Priests in Harlem, New York.
Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi
At the age of 32, he would become the first African-American to be initiated in the Orisa-Vodun Priesthood, which is entirely Yoruba-based. There are connections to be made, especially when looking at recent DNA tests of African-Americans. Most of their DNA can be directly traced back to the Yoruba nation.
Based on what can be found, the etymology of his name is entirely in Yoruba. Ofuntola means “the whiteness (of the sky-father Obatala) is as good as wealth (or honor);” and Adefunmi means “the crown has given me this (child).” I am not sure about the rest of his name because I do not know Yoruba, though I can definitely see how the Yoruba would compact so much meaning in such names. Since the clouds (what I can assume from “the whiteness of the sky-father” part of Ofuntola’s etymology) can signify wealth, it would show that the landscape is important in Yoruba culture. I thought it was interesting that the Adefunmi surname is also related to his original surname King, in that they both refer to royalty.
He would later found the African Theological Archministry, and would become responsible for introducing the dashiki into African-American attire. However, he did have Black nationalist beliefs and even founded a political party dedicated to creating a Black ethnostate in America.
Adefunmi would also found the village named Oyotunji, which is located in Beaufort, South Carolina. He would become ceremonial king over it while forming a priestly council to oversee education, ethics, and laws regarding the priests.
He passed away in 2005 and would be survived by 22 children, one of whom is Adegbolu Adefunmi, who has taken his father’s place as Oba, or king, of Oyotunji.
I was introduced to House Adefunmi by way of Vice, who discussed Oyotunji:
The village of Oyotunji is definitely a fascinating experiment in re-establishing and reclaiming the African identity after centuries of slavery. In the case of the name of its founder, it is a story of self-rediscovery, particularly when it involves culture and language. However, like El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, he does have some moral greyness, nonetheless he would provide as inspiration to any young African-Americans who appear lost in today’s contentious culture.
Image Attribution: Oyotunji. “Oba Oseijeman Efuntola Adefunmi I.” Wikimedia. October 9, 2000. CC BY-SA 4.0.