The Story

Volume 1: Genesis

Volume 1 of the MOJA saga begins with Innis Ellis returning to America after two and a half decades in hiding to find his grandson Sitano, who is now a well-known rapper. Innis goes to Sitano’s concert in modern-day Los Angeles and plans to approach him backstage to tell him the story of their family. When he gets there, Sitano is performing his latest single, “I Am My Own Creator.”

At the end of the show, Innis makes it backstage and sarcastically congratulates Sitano on being “his own creator.” He tells him that he is his grandfather, and he’s come to tell him exactly why that claim is false. intrigue
Although the self-righteous Sitano initially resists the reunion and criticizes his grandfather for abandoning him after his mother passed away when he was young, Innis’s first song “Paris Promise” explains why he had to leave the country despite how much it pained him to leave young Sitano behind.

Innis also shares with Sitano a song from his parents, “Couldn’t Find You in a Bottle” — the music by his father and the lyrics by his mother — that speaks directly to his heart.

Feeling intrigued and now sympathetic for his grandfather, Sitano starts asking questions. Innis tells him that their family tree goes back further than Sitano realizes — all the way to his great-great-great grandmother, Moja. Their names all represent numbers in Swahili, Moja being number one, Innis number four, and Sitano number six.
Innis begins to tell Sitano the story of Moja — how she was enslaved at just 19 years old, and how she used music as her escape.

After learning what he now knows about slavery’s direct influence on his family, Sitano decides he has to hear the rest of what Innis has to say. He invites him back to his house, where we will listen in on the rest of their conversation over a glass of Cognac. ***

Volume One event

As Innis, Sitano, and his manager, Weedie, drive down the 405 back to Sitano’s house, Innis tells the story of Moja’s wedding. She marries an African man from Kilimanjaro named Joseph, who was an Usambara drummer. They were secretly married in the forest near a waterfall.

Not long after the wedding, two men from Moja’s tribe noticed her natural beauty and athletic body. Ngoro, the chief, and Haji, his soldier, both wanted Joseph dead so they could take Moja as one of their wives.
At Joseph’s funeral, Moja made sure everyone played messages to him on the drums, a sacred instrument in Joseph’s life and their tribe’s culture.

Ngoro hears of Joseph’s funeral and sends Haji to capture her. The Usambara drummers continue to play as Haji chases Moja through the forest and eventually captures her.

Later, Ngoro decides to sell Haji, Moja and her friend, Ndayme, to slave traders from Zanzibar. This means they must walk the Ivory Trail, carrying heavy tusks as well as Ndayme’s new baby. Chained to 124 other captives, they trudge slowly together to their miserable fate.

As he listens to the gruesome details Innis shares about the slaves’ experience on the Ivory Trail, Sitano starts to feel sick. Innis reminds Sitano — the “creator” of himself — that this is what his ancestors had to suffer through in order for him to have the freedom he now has.
Once the surviving prisoners reached the end of the Ivory Trail in the coastal town of Bagamoyo, they knew it was likely the last time they’d ever see Africa. Sailors shove Moja, Haji, Ndayme and the rest of the enslaved into the dhows of the ship that will carry them 20 miles across the sea to Zanzibar.

When they reach Zanzibar, Moja and Ndayme are thrown into a women’s dungeon where they must wait for several days to be sold. It’s hot, dirty, tiny and smells horrible. There is no bathroom, and only one tiny hole in the wall for air and sunlight.

The slave traders sell Moja, Ndayme, and Haji to Nelson Roebuck, captain of the American Clipper ship, storm rider, hauling ivory. Captain Roebuck’s route included a stop in Havana, Cuba, before arriving in New Orleans.
Once aboard, Moja and Ndayme learn their duties on the ship will be as personal slaves to Captain Roebuck — in every sense of the word. The girls, both terrified and grieving the loss of loved ones, make a suicide pact to jump overboard together.
One night, Moja is so depressed that she decides tonight is the night. But just as she steps onto the railing of the ship, something inside — a glimpse of hope — stops her.

***
Are you ready to meet Moja and hear her story for yourself?
Download MOJA Volume 1: Genesis and start your listening journey right now.