By Christopher Johnson
In the suburbs of Seattle, an ancient West-African religion is gaining followers. Yoruba, from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, has been spreading across the U.S. for the last 50 years.
The religion is particularly popular with African-Americans who find it offers a spiritual path and a deep sense of cultural belonging.
Looking For Answers
Wesley Hurt’s Yoruba story begins the night he met his wife, Cheri Profit. It was nearly eight years ago, not long after a tour in Iraq. He had just gotten off for weekend release from an Army base in Tacoma, Wash.
Hurt was ready to go out and have a good time. He and some friends went to a club, where he saw Profit. She avoided him at first, but eventually he got her attention. Not long after their meeting, they were a couple.
They bonded quickly — over food, politics and religion. These two seekers were constantly rethinking their relationships to the divine.
“With my mother, we were Jehovah’s Witness, we were Pentecostals, we were Baptists, we were Seventh-day Adventist,” Profit says. “It did not work for me.”
Hurt had been a Southern Baptist for most of his life.
“And a lot of things have brought me to try to find my spirit,” he says. “So … of course, you start off in church asking questions, and, you know, I didn’t get the answers that I wanted.”
So Hurt, a 32-year old Atlanta native, started exploring — first Judaism, then Islam. He was looking for something that spoke to his spirit and to his blackness. About two years ago, he found a home in one of Yoruba’s esoteric branches, called Ifa.