Black History Month: African-American, Black Culture

A little note to any of my international readers who stumble across my blog while looking for something else . . .

In America, February is known as Black History Month: a time when Black America celebrates the success stories and contributions to American culture as a whole. Stories of men and women who paved the way to give us hope for our future; to ensure we as a [black] nation received the same benefits and rights we deserved as American citizens when we were forcefully moved from our own homeland; stories of those who opened the [closed] doors on the road to greater achievements. I can go on and on about my people. But such stories are the reasons why we say, “I’m black, and I’m proud.” Black or African (American) pride is nothing we should shy away from. We have A LOT to be proud of as a people.

I’m not the type of writer who can write something heavy and profound and praise-worthy. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re not going to find it here. There’s plenty of that on the Net by other bloggers and columnists who probably get paid to write those kind of topics. But I thought now was the perfect time to share what’s to follow if you’re willing to continue to read anyway.

I’m writing a fiction (creative writing is more of my forte) . . . and please don’t ask me about what because people who write do not approve of others asking them about their creations and definitely would choose not to discuss it unless they voluntarily tell you about their works–and even they do so warily because of superstitions, but I digress.

Months ago, I was trying to come up with some ideas about African American customs and the culture that otherwise non-blacks generally may not be exposed to. And let me tell you, I was stumped! Yes, there is the music to consider and the soul food that we eat, but I needed something more. I even asked a friend of mine who is VERY Afrocentric and even she couldn’t really help me out. Hmm. Why was this so?

I enlisted the help of my other friend, Google, to try and find an answer to my question: what is African-American culture?

No, really. What is African-American culture?

I had never really focused on it before in my younger years. (Maybe because I took so much for granted as so many young people tend to do.) But I was hit with the realization of just how much my people had been stripped of our heritage. Unless our direct, immediate relatives came from Africa, we don’t have the luxury in knowing which tribe we came from. We don’t have the luxury in knowing if one of our ancestors was of royalty. We don’t even know if we’re from Nigeria or Kenya or Mozambique or where! We simply don’t know much about our heritage and that’s because . . . well . . . you already know why that’s so–no reason for me to recapitulate the history here. So understand why blacks become defensive and offended when other cultures, who prefer to not have anything to do with blacks as a nation, want to “borrow” and appropriate the culture we DO have and created for ourselves.

Moreover, I became frustrated, saddened, and angry over this realization during my research of my people’s culture. But then I came across an answer in the most unlikely place. Information I didn’t find from some reputable African-American journalist. I didn’t even find it on a blog. You know where I found it? (I’m not telling . . . you’ll find the source at the end of the read.)

Here is a sufficient answer that returned in the search for my question about the African-American culture. It’s not THE most scholastic answer there is, but on behalf of the anonymous writer, pardon the typos, grammatical errors, and misspellings:

African American culture is one that is s bit complex tro understand if you are not familiar with African Americans. First I would like to just tell you that we may as well be looked upon as immigrsants to fully understand the answer to this question. While a great deal of our culture is that of the mainstream American culture, much of it derives from our ancestors from Africa. African Americans first of all come from a background of many different shades of brown and black. We are descedents of African slaves (which were Kings and Queens from many places in Africa), Native Americans, and a variety of European or Caucasian ancestors because of the frequent rapes of African women throughout slavery.

Here, in the United States, you may find African Americans in each state, with the most African American population in the urban areas or major cities. Unfortunately, this race of people have not had the chance to celebrate or even acknowledge their differences in America because of the harsh treatment and racism in the United States. African Americans usually are stereotyped as loud, rude, uneducated, unattractive, and criminals. This could not be further from the truth. African Americans are proud people that unfortunately does not have a connection with their true heritage. For this reason, the culture is complex and at times, seems a bit silly to others.

Slavery imposed various types of behavior on the African Americans, most of which were survival instincts and mechanisms. First the family. The African American family structure usually consists of Grandparents, mother, aunts and uncles, and children. Yes, I left out the father because unfortunately I would not be being honest if I included them to talk about the African American culture in general though fathers are present in many African American homes. The Grandmother is usually incharge of the family as the parents often take their children to her for discipline and advice and guidance for themselves. The mother is the immeduite care taker of the family. Most African American women are single, never married , with children. These women have to support their families, thus they almost always have at least one job contrary to popular belief that they rely heavily on the government to car for them and their households. The African American woman is very nurturing and strong. Stereotypes suggest that they have short tempers, are bossy and uneducated. All I can say to that is don’t watch so much TV! If you were try to take care of a household of children and juggle that with the common denomintor of the absence of a stable partner (or the father of your children), then you may see why she is stressed and on edge. BUT DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP ON THAT! This is not the typical African American woman. The father, if present also works. Most African American children are street smart and most of the time very athletic (due to natural strengths and body make ups our ancestors have passed on to us) which is now being discouraged and instead trying to get them to achieve just as well academically. Today, it is common for African American youth to go to college and pursue their careers and exploit their own talented selves.

The African American food cooked in the United States is called Soul Food. Why they use the word soul instead of African American can be traced back to slavery. The African slaves were not allowed to eat the food that was served to their masters, however they were welcome to the trash. The African’s ingenuity embodies the saying ,” if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. These slaves gathered the fat parts of the pork pig that was thrown out. They also grew collard, turnip, and mustard greens where they could and cooked them alog with ground cron and wheat which made what we call cornbread today. Throughout the early 1900s when slavery had been long ago abolished, but the Jim Crow Era was in full force, African Americans again made lemonade! The slaves fried chilcken and wrapped them in paper so that they would have food to eat on their trips in which they would walk (very few of them owned cars). Deep frying chicken was brought here from Africa to America with the slaves. Sot here you have it people, African Americans do love fried chicken and that’s ok! These foods mentioned, as we know today, may be the leading cause in many heart diseases, diabetes etc. These foods are not pumped full of processed ingredients and other things that weren’t back in the day. This may explain why the older generation of African Americans may not be as receptive to the “diet” era we are experiencing today. This brings us to the next important aspect of African American culture.

Healthcare simply consisted of herbs and other natural supplements that could cure anything in Africa. These ideas and practices were thus brought by the African slaves. The Native Americans and many other native peoples believed (and still do) in herbal medicine and its connection with religion is also something the Native American and Africans had in common.

Many African Americans (even more so in the Southern states Bible Belt) are Baptist Christians. If you have ever stopped to chat with an African American, religion or the word God/ Jesus comes up. It is common for African Americans to attend church on Sunday (sometimes all day Sunday) and Wednesday for Bible study. African American people are very cautious of their actions and the elderly in the church settings. Elderly people are treated with the upmost respect. The elderly people (mostly women) will be seated on the first row repectfully referred to as Mother so and so and the elderly men will meet you at the church door and show you to your seat. They are called Deacon so and so. The row of elderly women at the front of the church is called the Mother Board. It won’tr be hard to spot them because they will have on huge, but gorgeous hats (i.e. Aretha Franklin’s famous hat she wore at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration which is now in a museum). If you would like more information, sinply visit an African American church and not only wil you enjoy yourself, but you will get a Sunday lesson from an all but too dramtic and dedicated pastor. If you do not like loud enviornments, this may not be for you. Please be advised to bring a hankerchief to place over your legs if you were a skirt (suit) or dress that may expose too much of your legs once you are sitting down. If not, someone from the mother board will do it for you! Don’t be afraid, that’s why they are called Mothers. The African American church is their center focal point pf their communities and homes. It is looked down upon not to be in attendance for at least one of the many Sunday services on Sundays. After church, you are almost always invited to someone’s home for Sunday dinner and it is considered an honor if the pastor comes by. Most churches have dinner (at lunch time though) in another part of thr church so that you may eat at church and stick around if you desire. Many people do as it is also looked upon as rude to leave after someone has invited to eat. This is an unwritten rule for churh goers and it mainly happens in the South.

Music is very important for African Americans as it has always been a form of expression that may have other wise not been available. First, the African slaves brough the drums from African and to make a long story short, we still feel the beat! Hip- Hop, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Rap, soca, dance hall and many, many more genres of music derived from the influence directly or indirectly from the complex beat(s) of the African drum. The dances related to hip hop and rap are also. The African American body is one of the most beautiful things in the world, thus has been exploited carelessly in our music and music videos. Some of these provocative dances though are directly related to the fertility dances African women do perform in Africa, thus brought here with the slaves. It was only when the European slave traders and plantation masters were being excited and ignorant to the meaning of these dances did they get such a negative connotation. You may wonder why African American woman have such wide hips , plump lips, various skin tones, as well as notably big posteriors for the lack of appropriate words. You may easily look up these dances.

African Americans has had a surge in pride as the first African American (technically bi racial) President took his oath to be sworn in as the 47th President January 20, 2009. Though African Americans faced and still face multiple set backs since their arrival, they are a strong, determined people. African Americans are the only people in the United States that was kidnapped and brought here as slaves…meaning not being paid or recognized, and have survived living and learning in unbearable conditions, bias laws, and gentrification both here and in Africa. The lkatter does not even include the many diseases that plague the community for known as well as unknown reasons.. that’s all I’m going to say. You may read up on HIV AIDS, Crack Cocaine etc and how it came to be so destructive to the African American communities. The African American race is not the race most mixed with others. Accordoing to many statistics, in the near future, the African American race may be non existent , and may fall under the “others” or “bir racial” catergories.

And there it is! I liked the answer so much, I wanted to share it. As a black/African-American, Southern woman, I can definitely vouche for what was said. The answer wasn’t enough as it sparked an even bigger curiosity to dig deeper for more information about the customs of the African-American culture . . . my culture.

Guess I have a reason to spend a day at the library now.



Judge not. *laughs*


4 responses to “Black History Month: African-American, Black Culture

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