Recently, the news of Rachel Dozeal has made headlines all around the world. The once distinguished president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP stepped down when it was revealed that she was really of European American descent, and had fabricated her past to make it seem as though she was African American. I personally found the entire episode to be extremely bizarre and surreal, somewhat like something out of a Dave Chappelle show skit or a Boondocks episode. But it motivated me to finally write this long overdue piece about another person that I know who has fabricated their past in order to gain followers: a man who goes by the name Papa CE.
Who is Papa CE?
This individual started a show on Blogtalk Radio a few years ago, and claimed to not only be a descendant of an Igbo trader who migrated to the the Americas in the 1800s to trade, but also an initiated dibia and a king of a village in Igboland (seriously), where he used to live. He also claims to have been born in Louisiana, and at the age of 3, was declared “two headed” seer, which meant he was clairvoyant, and was trained in the art of hoodoo, which is African American folk magic. Furthermore, he claimed that he was in contact with the “7 spirits of Obasi.” But is any of this true?
What is his real name?
Papa CE is short for Chukwunyere EzeNdubisi. That’s the name that he goes by, but his real name is John Willis. The EzeNdubisi name was taken from the alleged last name of his Igbo ancestor who settled here in the 1800s (which he has not shown any proof of by the way), and he came up with the Chukwunyere name by simply finding an Igbo name with the same meaning as his real one (which means “God is gracious”): In a private conversation with John Willis, I asked him exactly what his ancestor was over here to trade (with full knowledge that palm oil was the main export out of Igboland at the time). His response was that they were trading “eze ego & other artifacts”, despite the fact that those things would have been practically worthless at the time in the United States. When I pried for more information, he kept on stating that it was secret. The reality is that this ancestor never existed. John Willis learned about Igbo culture via a group called Ekwe Nche, in Chicago, where he lives. It was from this group that he learned the history, politics, culture, and even a bit of the language of Ndi Igbo. When he first met this group, he was a Christian minister, eventually referring to himself as Reverand Ezendubisi. One of the the emails actually reveals his real history: He even admits that he was once looking for his identity and decided to identify as Igbo in another email: In the very first episode of his Blogtalk Radio, he claimed that his father’s family came to the US to trade, and in another episode, he made the claim that didn’t come from a slave family and doesn’t have the “slave consciousness.” But if the above emails are to be believed, all of that is shown to be a blatant lie. Besides that, his knowledge of Igbo history and culture also seems pretty suspect:
- Willis deliberately mispronounces the name Igbo. After pronouncing it correctly earlier in the show, he pronounces it as “E-boo”, in order to try to make it sound like Hebrew. This is a clear sign of a deceit and a person with a nefarious agenda
- Willis spreads debunked misinformation about Igbo people being descendants of Jews/Hebrews including claims that Igbos say that they are descendants of 3 brothers (Eri, Arodi and Areli) which are 110% fabricated
- Willis claims that the so called Jewish genes (J1) have been found in Igboland, despite the fact that all the DNA studies done on Igbo people have shown them to be 100% African (Haplogroup E1b1A specifically)
- Willis claims that his family knew this information this entire time, but the reality is that he picked it all up from Ekwe Nche, which also promoted the debunked Israel hypothesis
Where was he really born?
Due to its reputation as Hoodoo Central, it makes sense for John Willis to claim to be born in New Orleans in order to add to his credibility. However, besides providing no proof of this, he also never seems to mention places like Congo Square, or the influence of the Congo at all on New Orleans or Hoodoo, which are central to its history. This is most likely another fabrication on his part. Did he ever live in Nigeria? For a person who claims to have lived in Nigeria, he seems to not have an even basic understanding of Nigerian geography or history. In his second episode, he makes several errors:
- Willis does not know the difference between the Benin (Edo) Empire of Nigeria and the Kingdom of Dahomey, which is now part of the neighboring Republic of Benin
- Willis has NO CLUE that the Oba of Benin (who is regarded as one of the top 3 traditional rulers in all of Nigeria) never owned any part of modern day Benin Republic, and still doesn’t to this day, especially not the entire country
- Willis makes the claim that Vodun is Yoruba tradition, when its really practiced by the Fon & Ewe of Benin & Togo
- Willis confuses Haitian Vodun with Dahomian Vodun by using the term Loa, which is a Haitian term, not a Dahomian one
In his third episode, it gets worse. Willis repeats alot of the same misinformation as he did in the second episode in regards to Nigerian history and makes even more basic errors:
- Willis makes a huge mistake in stating that Benin was the largest kingdom amongst the Yoruba when its common knowledge that it was ruled by the Edo. The two largest Yoruba kingdoms were Oyo and Ife (which is also common knowledge)
- Blatantly lies and says that the Yoruba word for sacrifice Ebo (pronounced Eh-bow) was named after the Igbo people
- Says that Africans didn’t expand their territory” or build empires until European colonization, despite the presence of the Aro Confederacy, Benin Empire, Sokoto Caliphate, Oyo and Ife Empires in Nigeria alone
Its pretty clear that John Willis has never lived in Nigeria, most likely has never stepped foot there. Even if he had, there’s no way in hell that Igbos would allow a non-Igbo person to be king over a village of theirs. And even if such an abomination was to happen, John Willis never provided even an image of his alleged coronation.
Why would he fabricate his past?
John Willis’s target audience was black and white Americans. With all the competition out there now in the psychic/spiritualist arena, he needed a way to distinguish himself. Since most Americans weren’t familiar with Igbo culture or spirituality, Willis pretending to be one would make himself seem more exotic, and protect him from being called out on his lies and misinformation. However, when people like me would raised too many questions in regards to his credibility, we were cut off, while Willis searched for new people to scam. John Willis thinks that Americans (black ones in particular) are idiots, who won’t do their research and will accept anything that he stated.
John Willis was pretty much aspiring to replicate the success of “Miss Cleo”, an African American lady who pretended to be Jamaican “shaman” in order to boost her profile on the Pyschic Readers Network.She achieved fame as their spokesperson in the late 1990s and early 2000s until they were sued by the FCC for fraud and deceptive advertising. The parallels between them are so similar that one could almost call John Willis “Mr. Cleo.” Its almost a gurantee that John Willis aka Mr Cleo aka Papa CE will not come clean and tell his viewers the truth. From talking with him, he’s been lying for so long that he’s actually begun to believe his own lies. Nonetheless, the veil has been lifted and his fabrications are coming crashing down.
In the follow up to this post, I will debunk John Willis’s claims of being an initated Dibia, as well as the so called “7 Spirits of Obasi”