ETHNIC AND CULTURAL GROUPS
I want to take a moment to define what the African Diaspora means to me. There are a couple of definitions, but I want to define it from the global African experience. Then I want to give some examples of how we as Africans, African-Americans, and Caribbeans share cultural norms across all three geographical areas.
Some define the word diaspora as people who have left their homelands to inhabit another area outside of their home country. Myself and many others define the African Diaspora as Black people all over the world that have origins in Africa. For Africans, willfully leaving is not always the case. Being taken from ones homeland by force leaves a group of people who have not been able to define themselves for a long time. The definition of Africans in the diaspora have been changed again and again by people who do not share the same experience. For example, negro, Afro-American, and African American have been terms used to describe Africans in America. So I’d like to submit today that in the African Diaspora, we should not leave out people who did not get to travel outside of Africa on their own. I’ve said this in many of my videos; if I have a child, and that child moves to China and starts a new family, those children will still be my grandchildren and that child will still be my child. Our bloodline and heritage doesn’t change because the child is on another continent.
If you’ve noticed, most of the cultural practices of African-Americans and Caribbeans that I’ve discussed over the past month have been rooted in African culture. Obviously, we live in a melting pot, made up of many cultures, but the overwhelming dominance of African culture in our traditions is not something that can’t be ignored. What’s the importance?, some may ask; well, we were all created for a purpose, everyone on this earth; our heritage teaches us about our contributions and what we can do to build on the accomplishments of our ancestors. We can also learn from the mistakes, and build new legacies. The fact that there is division is an act of the enemy, so we are now putting in the work to be one with one another, and one with everyone on the earth. There is no reason for me to have more respect for another culture without respect of my own. This is why I celebrate my culture and the cultures of those who look like me; I also try to learn about and educate others about the experiences of other cultures in the African Diaspora.
I found a great article that exemplifies what I want to discuss today. I want to give 4 excerpts from the article, and provide the link for you to read the article in full, http://tip.drupalgardens.com/sites/g/files/g764316/f/201307/Middleton%202_0.pdf, please read!
—–“Another African musical conception that influenced African American music is the view that music is a communal activity. Music is an interactive human activity in which everyone is expected to participate: there are no detached listeners, but rather a communion of participants.” This communal effect of music can be witnessed in the African American Baptist church. “Music-making is conceived as a communal/participatory group activity. Black people create, interpret, and experience music out of an African frame of reference-one that shapes musical sound, interpretation, and behavior and makes black music tradition throughout the world a unified whole.” The involvement of all the participants is a direct West African inheritance. The participation of everyone in the musical activity builds a sense of belongingness and community. “The notion of “inclusion” in the music-making process becomes another “extra-musical” dimension of the performance process in both African and African American music.” The communal quality of African American music also serves as an example of the call and response form of music so distinctive in African music. Very early on music had the tendency of functioning not only as a social venue, but also as a tool providing the enslaved African with a sense of humanness.”(Middleton, Keysiah M.)—–
—–“Despite scholarly findings to the contrary, a widespread belief persists that the transatlantic slave trade and the institution of slavery destroyed the use of any African language in the Americas. However, American English is saturated with Africanisms. “In the process of re-creating themselves, these New World Africans invented new forms of communication. Because the languages that had served them well in Africa did not serve them in the new environment, they created throughout the Western Hemisphere new language systems at variance with the English, Dutch, Spanish, French, and Portuguese of their colonizers.” Several words and phrases of African origin evolved as a result of this interaction between Africans and the Europeans that enslaved them. “If North American slavery eroded the Africans’ linguistic and institutional life, it nevertheless allowed them to continue and to develop the patterns of verbal art which were so central to their past culture.”(Middleton, Keysiah M.) —–
—–"Many of the foods eaten in both the African American and Caribbean communities are dishes containing African foods and continue to be prepared in the African tradition. “Africans in several regions of the continent played significant roles in developing agriculture, domesticating plants, and dispersing food plants and culinary styles to other parts of the world.” Holloway explains that crops brought directly from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade include rice, okra, tania, blackeyed peas, and kidney and lima beans; Africans ate them on board the slave ships. Other crops brought from Africa included peanuts (originating from South America), millet sorghum, guinea melon, watermelon, yams (Dioscorea cayanensis) and sesame (benne).” These food items are currently very common to African American and Caribbean cuisine.” (Middleton, Keysiah M.)—–
—–“Another African culinary contribution worthy of attention is okra. “Okra, which is indigenous to the continent, was used both fresh and dried, appeared in soups and stews, and was used to thicken sauces.” Okra is particularly prevalent in American southern cuisine. As a southerner born and partially raised in Savannah, Georgia, okra is a dish that my family eats regularly. Okra soup with oxtails or fried okra and shrimp both served over rice were regular dishes found on our family’s dining table. “Okra arrived in the New World during the transatlantic slave trade in the 1600s. Okra or gumbo as it is called in Africa, was commonly used by American whites before the American Revolution.”“The word “gumbo” derives from the African term for okra, “gombo,” (either Congo or Angola) and first appeared in print in 1805.” Gumbo, a dish where the main ingredient is okra, is a very popular food item in New Orleans, Louisiana.“ (Middleton, Keysiah M.)—–
As we can see, many aspects of Africa can still be seen in both African American and Caribbean culture. We must embrace the fact that our similarities are still dominant and the differences just make us more unique as a diaspora. We can look at the African Diaspora as an extension of greatness, and appreciate the many different ways we can add our own spin to something our ancestors worked so hard to hold on to. The legacy hasn’t disappeared, it’s still alive through all of us! We must be intentional about getting to know the aspects of our culture that were intentional hidden, why were they hidden? Because they knew there is value to those things that make us who we are.
Remain Blessed Loves! 💜