Partners: Aleah Long and Yaniyah Obatecumsela
Aleah Long and Yaniyah Obatecumsela are Afro-AmerIndian singer-songwriters, performers, ceremonialists, and teachers of spiritual development and the discovery of authentic sound. They have been together for 18 years and live in New York State.
What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship?Yaniyah: We enjoy being together and we enjoy working together. We are astrologically polar opposites which makes us extremely compatible. And when we are not, we are so opposite that all we can do is agree to disagree. We not only love each other but we admire each other's gifts and appreciate how we walk in the world. We are both each other's student and teacher. We have a common purpose so our relationship serves others as well as each other.
I love how you say you appreciate how she “walks in the world”. Can you share more about “the walk”? Yaniyah: I love her spirituality. Some people talk about spirituality, and there are some who are just it. Some people have the knowledge, but they don’t do the practice. Aleah is right there with both. I know that I am living with a phenomenal human being. What she knows, what she can articulate is extraordinary. She is a highly intelligent and –an evolved person, spiritually. Aleah is a transmitter. As a teacher she relies more on intention and intuition, rather than on mental processes.
Aleah: She’s a remarkable person. Energetically, she is highly charged; she’s electrical. She captures energy in an extraordinary way, and she is able to instigate change. She is always conscious. I have watched her work with people who would be classified as “needing help” or “needing development”, and she can do incredible things with them. Her energy, excitement and her deep love/respect for people, help people “stand” in a short period of time. She has faith that what she is supposed to do, she can do. She is very inspiring.
How do you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship?Aleah: We are life partners, so no matter what happens we know we will see it through. We don't avoid conflict because we trust each other. We are willing to go through a period of discomfort to find our way to a resolution.
Yaniyah: We don't hold on to negativity. We don't hold grudges. In the past ten years since we have been working with similar spiritual practices, we have both grown a lot. And, these days we rarely argue and when we do, it’s very brief. In the midst of an argument we'll look at each other and just let it go. We don't allow intense negative energy to get a hold of us.
How has trusting each other provided a foundation to have productive conflict?Aleah: First, there’s no conflict stronger than our love. Early own in our relationship, we set simple ground rules for our relationships 1) Be honest 2) Remember the basis of our union is love. It is the tie that binds us. We know that there are lines that we don’t cross with each other.
Yaniyah: In conflict, there is definitely a line that you don’t cross. You can feel it when you are there. It feels like something- something fragile is about to tear or rip. If you feel it, you don’t go past that. If you feel like you are going to tear something in your partner or in the relationship, you stop. You let it go. For example, 3 years into our relationship, we decided it was time to live together. Aleah lived in the city and I did not want to move to the city. We were having a huge argument one day. We were at that place where it sounded like our lives were going in different directions. That could have made me re-thing the whole move. Instead I listened to that possibility. I was not in agreement with that so I turned to Aleah in the heat of this shouting match and I said, You know what I’m getting from this conversation? Aleah’s face tightened. “No, what? “ And I said “I’m moving to Brooklyn”. And that was that. When you are at a breaking point, someone has to let go. In this case it was me. Three weeks later, out of the blue, I got an invitation to be the director of a program in Brooklyn, 10 minutes from my new home. I was exactly where I need to be.
Aleah: Yaniyah is talking about listening to that authentic voice. You will know a lot when you have self-awareness. When you are self-aware, you will recognize where that inner space is; that’s where the love is. If you are aware of that, you will know where that boundary is and you will know that if you cross it, it will cause irrevocable damage.
Why do you feel that most couples are uncomfortable with discomfort?Aleah: Knowledge of self is so important. As humans, we are uncomfortable with discomfort because we don’t trust what’s on the other side. We don’t trust that the other side of discomfort is comfort, and that it brings relief. If your goal is to release what you don’t need, it is easier to get to the other side of conflict. The question is- what is your goal, what do you need to learn?
Yaniyah: Arguments happen in the best of relationships. But in the beginning we made an agreement to work on ourselves. We understand that we are not responsible for each other’s feelings. It is not a partner’s job, obligation etc. to make you happy. You can comfort them, but it’s not your responsibility to make them happy. I realize that when I get upset with Aleah it’s usually because she is making me deal with something about myself that I don’t want to deal with, something I don’t feel good about in myself. As soon as I admit that, I stop getting defensive and I work through what’s making me uncomfortable.
I never heard a couple say safety is the key to the relationship. Why safety?Safety is key for us. Being a safe place for each other is trusting that your partner wants the best for you. It’s life- sustaining.
Aleah: I came into this relationship with a gem from another relationship. Pressure always creates gems. That gem was how to be a safe place for myself. Creating a safe place is about trusting yourself, it’s about nurturing yourself and it’s about feeling worthy of giving safety to yourself. It is about sitting in the center of whatever is going on and being comfortable with yourself knowing that you are safe.
Yaniyah: During our 2nd telephone call, Aleah said “you are safe with me”. Nobody had ever said that to me before. I took her at her word and I would share things with her that I had never shared with anybody else. I never felt judged. I realized that was exactly what I needed.
What role does spirituality play in your relationship?Yaniyah: Spirituality is the center of our relationship. We are both dedicated to spirituality. We have built a strong community of people with whom we study, pray, and celebrate. These spiritual gatherings are an essential part of our lives. We believe our spiritual connection goes beyond this life time. The performances we do together have a spiritual intent.
What are your similar spiritual practices/beliefs?Aleah: We are so many things. We are Afro-AmerIndians, which is a fusion and acknowledgement of the blending of African and Native American blood. Encoded in our bloodlines are our spiritual DNA and our blood DNA. The blending of bloods created a hybrid….a people…. of unprecedented strength.
Yaniyah: Instead of 1+1=2, it created a 1+1 =3 kind of strength.Aleah: If you look at nature you can see that hybrids produce new strands, stronger strands.
Also, the bloodlines carry information that allows us to negotiate this realm and the blending promoted perseverance and strength.
Is there an Afro-AmerIndian movement?Aleah: No it’s not an organized movement; it is more organic and acknowledges the union of the bloodlines. It is our recognition that we are many things. This encourages us to look outside the box for how we define ourselves.
How has your spiritual practices or your spiritual identity strengthened your relationship?Aleah: In our bonding, there is a natural magnetism; it is natural pull, an energetic attraction. We share a perspective that is individual, blended and rooted in this Afro-AmerIndian bloodline.
Yaniyah: Our spiritual commonality allows us to make quantum leaps together. There was a time in our relationship when we got complacent. I suggested that we take an intuitive medicine class. This sparked a new and deeper conversation between us that has continued; and this has resulted in our creative projects, the spiritual performances and the teaching. We have been fortunate to bring our work to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in a week-long authentic voice and choir intensive. It is also what brought us to the We Are1 conference. Complacency can kill a relationship. It can make people feel like their partner is stopping them from growing and so they look outside of the relationship for that growth or stimulation. We found a way to pursue new adventures together. Instead of separating us, our spiritual studies brought us closer together.
Aleah when Yaniyah suggested you take that class together, how did you respond? You weren’t resistant?Aleah: No. Trying something new goes back to trust. I trust her.
When I see you perform together, it is obvious that there is a spiritual connection. What is happening for you when you are on the stage together?
Yaniyah: When we perform, we are, first and foremost, supportive, not competitive. Like the Bette Mildler song, “You are the wind beneath my wings”. We call it “holding the form” – meaning we hold each other in complete light and perfection which allows us to take flight.
Aleah: When we are performing music, there is intangible information being shared with the audience .It is not just about the words and melody. We sing to the divine Spirit in the room. We believe that something can happen to you by receiving the song. I also do work around sound vibration. Sound carriers intention. When you know yourself, your intention, it aligns with a higher frequency of spirit and things can happen.
What has your relationship taught you most about yourself?Aleah: It has made me more conscious and I have learned that I am “ever-becoming”. I am not stagnant and I am not done; I am always becoming.
Yaniyah: I have learned to strive to be more "full of care" and to be more generous. I used to have a “scarcity mind”, but Aleah has taught me to expect that we that we have what we need instead of focusing on what we don’t have. Now, I am better able to attract what I need and because of that, I am able to be generous.
What did you have to give up to be in a relationship with each other?Yaniyah: I had to give up my nomadic spirit. I have lived in many cities and I have moved around a lot. I have lived here for eleven years and that’s the longest time I have ever lived in one place.
Aleah: I am introverted, and Yaniyah is very social. I had to give up a little of my need to be introverted. I am much more outward now.
When you look in her eyes, what do you see?
Aleah: I see love. I see myself in her eyes. I see her seeing me, and then I see us.
Yaniyah: I see an ancient presence. Something in her eyes feels eternal. I see a tender and
What is the vision for your relationship?
Aleah: We have a lot of creative energy. We create and play a lot together. My vision is making that bigger. I see a big retreat space where people could come to learn new skills to heal themselves; a place where they could learn more about themselves and understand the evolution of the spirit.
Yaniyah: We are working on two book projects, one emphasizing my work with young people and the other on Aleah’s work regarding the discovery of authentic voice. We see our work and Aleah’s music spreading across the globe as more people begin to see a new vision for a better world. I see a long life together and when we grow old we do so with grace, able to take care of ourselves and each other surrounded by a strong and loving circle of kindred spirits.
What word/phrase captures how you feel about each other?Aleah: Honored. I feel that Yaniyah is a gift presented to me in this lifetime. With her I have the opportunity for growth and to experience deeply many beautiful things.
Yaniyah: Honored. I get to watch Aleah perform, teach, have a profound impact on others, but I am the one who gets to drive home with her. I feel honored to share my life with such an amazing person. She’s brilliant. I learn from her and she learns from me. We are each other’s teachers and we are each other’s students. (Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)
Thank you, Aleah and Yaniyah, for sharing your love with us. We appreciate your time, energy and generosity in helping us CREATE LOVE!
Be sure to nurture YOUR LOVE at the Create Love! Conference on February 16th...More info.
Much love to you,
Imani Evans, Creator/Co-Founder
SharRon Jamison Co-Founder