What’s Culture Got to Do With it?

Simply stated culture is an individual’s way of life. It’s an all-encompassing term. Culture includes everything that defines our lifestyle and our way of being in this society. For example, culture includes the holidays celebrated, the food we eat, rites of passage, family structure, social behaviors, spiritual/religious beliefs and gender roles and expectations.

The travesty for African-Americans is that our culture was redefined for us when we came to America. In short, before we came to America we were strictly African with our own very progressive culture. We had great respect and oneness with nature. This connection allowed us to vibrate at an extremely high level determining our abundant individual productivity and the effective ways we related with one another. We were very creative, intuitive, and supportive of one another because we saw ourselves in our brother or sister. The ancient African understood the potency and beauty they possessed in themselves was merely a reflection from their brother or sister.

Our African ancestors left us an awesome and remarkable legacy. Ancient Africans had an advanced written and spoken language long before Europe even existed. Our understanding of our naked bodies was a beautiful thing. There was no sense of shame attached to our nakedness. The lines of how we interacted with others in our nakedness were not blurred. Indeed, we dressed for the occassion and climate in which we lived.

We understood our divinity and connection to the Creator and that connection was evident in every aspect of our lives. We have always been spiritual people!  The essence of our Creator was at the center of all African activity: diet, dress, family, education, worship etc.  In fact, there was no need for theology to try to explain the Creator to the African. Theology is a European concept. Why explain what was is inherent and intrinsic? The Creator was in sync with our being and our actions. We just existed in that power and presence—that was our own identity. That is our awe-inspiring cultural inheritance!

There were African spiritual practices for birth, death, and marriage. Much of what we practice is not African in origin. The result is willfully passing on a common legacy that is uncommon to our souls. We even had our own rites of passage. There were also ceremonies and spiritual practices for young people. Young men and women knew clearly their defined roles and were prepared to follow through with willing hearts. Young people had the utmost respect for their elders always interacting with them with the greatest humility.

The entire African community had a communal spirit. We worked together as a collective. Every endeavor was we centered and not I centered. Men and women worked together as one. The woman was not behind or in front of the man. She was beside her man. The woman was respected and revered in African culture. The African woman was not a bitch, whore or anything of the kind. It was clearly understood she was the giver of life. The Master Teacher Dr. Ben Yosef Johacannan stated within a spiritual context, “Heaven is between the legs of a woman. Feminine energy compliments male energy and vice versa.

When we came to America as slaves in the hulls of slave ships, we were made to forget every aspect of our culture. Our culture was a contrast to the Europeans that enslaved us. There’s not enough space here to tell it all. (More info will come in future post.) Just know whatever we believed Europeans were at the opposing far end of the spectrum. Their belief system was based on principles that were the exact opposite. In their eyes, our differences were barbaric and uncilvilzed. We were in need of a savior. I heard it said this way: when you’ve got your foot on a man’s neck how can you not feel like a son of bitch other than convincing yourself that it’s for his own good.  So, in the European’s mind they were showing us the right way to live because it was in our own best interest. Cognitive dissonance was in full effect.

We were forced to abandon every aspect of our culture through horrendous abuse, mind control and malicious oppressive acts so that we would in turn embrace theirs. Africans were required to revere Europeans if they wanted to survive. The dreadful resulting hope is that we would never be able to reproduce ourselves in the original sense. The plan has been very successful. Most African-American people are ignorant of their history and it is not by accident. It is by design. Lies were created and negative images were displayed to get African-Americans to hate the Motherland and African culture. We have forgotten who we really are. Our educational system has not supported knowledge of self for the African and our parents cannot be responsible for teaching us what they did not know.

We are resilient people and like always we have found a way to adjust. We created a culture for ourselves from scraps and in the spaces of time where we dared to express ourselves while wearing chains like animals, existing in shacks, ripped away from our families, tending well to the slave masters plantation, and singing songs of triumph while picking cotton or working in tobacco, and sugar cane fields all because we are innovative adaptable people. Think about the oppression have endured as people. We have been socially conditioned to believe that we are inferior and white or European is superior . We have been marginalized, underestimated and devalued. Yet, we are still here! Not only are we still here and but we are accomplishing great feats. Through it all, we still manage to culturally influence the masses.

African people are survivors! We are indeed are overcomers. Chattel slavery is the worst kind of slavery every enacted upon a group people. Just because the literal chains are gone, it does not mean we are no longer slaves. We have a personal responsiblity to remove the chains from our minds.  The way I see it, slavery was a debilitating evil distraction that deterred us from living out our truest essence.

When we come to know who we really are as African people everything about our person, our family and our community will change. We cannot be afraid to wake up from our slumber. Have you found comfort in discomfort? For many of us, the knowledge is present but dormant within our DNA on a cellular and spiritual level. Given enough truth we will wake up to our African mind. We can have the families, relationships, businesses, financial power and oneness in our community that we long for. I asked, “What does culture have to do with it?” In my opinion, culture has every thing to do with it!  Rise and manifest!

Master Teacher Dr. Asa Hilliard III author of The Reawakening of the African Mind, said it like this, “A fundamental decision must be made by each African. It is a decision to understand and accept uncompromisingly our African ethnicity. It is not a decision about race or class. Rather, it is a decision to recognize and accept our connection to the human family with all of the responsibilities that come with that decision. Our survival as a people is connected to our unwavering identification as Africans.”

In Love and Peace,

Dr. Free

Authentic thoughts are thoughts that are genuine and sincerely expressed. Authentic thoughts reverberate with other authentic individuals so they have an irresistible urge to ponder and or respectfully respond from their own unique perspective.

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Author: Dr. Free

Dr. Free is a veteran educator. Her area of expertise is African-centered education consulting. She is a life learner who is passionate about truth, liberation, and justice. Dr. Free strives to be true to herself. She expresses herself in a way that enhances the lives of others and she enjoys giving others the space and encouragment to do the same.

6 thoughts on “What’s Culture Got to Do With it?”

  1. I like the read and believe that black people we are a strong race. That we a capable of more. My question how do awaken some of us who are not using our natural strengths and inherit abilities?

    1. Thanks for your reply and sharing your truth. I think sharing is the first step to waking up our brothers and sisters. It’s all about sewing seeds of truth. Then another family member will bring truth to water that seed sown. Ultimately we must allow others to see us walking in the truth we proclaim and witness the fruit of liberation that our proud African living produces.
      At every oppotrunity we must encourage them not brow beat, judge nor chastise but invite them to partake of the fruitful benefits in love. Who can ignore the mental freedom of a free African life. When their hearts open and they begin to wake from their slumber the Creator and the ancestors will take care of the rest. More info on this question will be coming soon in future posts. Hotep

  2. Well-written summary of European culture imposed on African Americans during slavery and the loss of the African culture that was filled with many empowering connections to nature and each other. You could really pick any small aspect of African culture and write books on the benefits of having that culture and the consequences of losing it. My only question is about next steps. While many are on the journey to learn about their true ancestry and ancient cultures, many identify only as “American” and do not have much interest in culture that was not present for most of their lives. There are those who see African culture as something to study leisurely but not something to directly connect to their definition of culture that best represents who they are. How do we bridge that gap in culture for those African Americans that only have interest in culture that has directly impacted their upbringing and currency daily lives? I, for one, consider myself on that culture-discovering journey already, but this question is more so for the many who don’t see the importance of connecting to African culture.

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