African American Culture: The Well We Draw From


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A pictorial/quoted exploration by Footsteps of the process and substance of African American culture

African American Culture: The Well We Draw From

  1. 1. African American Culture The Well We Draw From
  2. 2. Definition of Culture • “The way we do things around here”
  3. 3. Definition of Culture • “The way we do things around here”
  4. 4. AA Cultural Platform • The basis of AA Culture is Spirituality/Sociology as played out by our Double Consciousness – It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others. . . . One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warrings ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder • W.E.B. Du Bois, 1903
  5. 5. AA Culture: Form Becomes Content • How: The Process of our Culture – Amalgamating Africanisms with European content – Connecting to the spiritual world – Creative improvisation – Individual expression within a communal environment • What: The Substance of our Culture – A style of living
  6. 6. Spirituality Process • “There is that in us, call it a spirit, which is not now and never has been caught up in earthly troubles of our bodies, emotions, and minds. And so it is free to undertake God’s business for men on earth. Whoever has this career has everything that he can have. Whoever lacks this career lacks everything, no matter what else he may possess” – Jean Toomer Substance
  7. 7. Religion Process • The black man’s pilgrimage in America was made less onerous because of his religion. His religion was the organizing principle around which his life was structured. His church was his school, his forum, his political arena, his social club, his art gallery, his conservatory of music. His religion was his fellowship with man, his audience with God. It was the peculiar sustaining force which gave him the strength to endure where endurance gave no promise, and courage to creative in the face of his own dehumanization” – C. Eric Lincoln, 1962 Substance
  8. 8. Soul Process • “Soul is the ability to feel oneness” – Johnetta Cole, 1970 • To the African singing and dancing are the breath of the soul, no matter where he goes or what kind of life he is forced to live, these two things he will do and in an African way” – James Lovell, 1972 • “Let me tell you something about soul. Soul is something creative, something active. Soul is honesty. I sing to the people about what matters. – Aretha Franklin, 1991 Substance
  9. 9. Rhythm Process • “Rhythm is the architecture of being, the inner dynamic that gives it form, the pure expression of the life force…It is expressed through corporeal and spiritual means; through the lines , surfaces, colours, and volume in architecture, sculpture, or painting through the accents in poetry and music, through the movements of dance. But, doing this, rhythm turns all these concrete things towards the light of the spirit. In the degree to which rhythm is sensuously embodied, it illuminates the spirit” – Leopold Senghor, 1956 Substance
  10. 10. Nature Process • The man who interprets Nature is always held in great honor. I am going to live and talk with Nature and know her secrets. Then I will be powerful, no matter where I am” – Zora Neale Hurston, 1939 • “Man is a child of Nature. He cannot long separate himself from Nature without withering as a cut rose in a vase” – Howard Thurman, 1971 Substance
  11. 11. Diaspora Process • “The roots of our (Jamaican) distinctive music, religion, politics, philosophy, science, literature and language are African” – Carolyn Cooper, 2012 Substance
  12. 12. Life’s Challenges Process • “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” – Langston Hughes, 1926 • “Those things in life that matter will give you pain as you learn to understand life” – KeorapetseKgositsile, 1975 • “To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering” – Roberta Flack, 1989 • “Black men are not going to cringe before anyone but God” – Marcus Garvey, 1923 Substance
  13. 13. Striving Process • "Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them--a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last- minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill” – Muhammad Ali • "I really don't think life is about the I- could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don't mind the failure but I can't imagine that I'd forgive myself if I didn't try” – Nikki Giovanni • “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise” – Maya Angelou 1978 Substance
  14. 14. Life’s Celebrations Process • “Believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life” – W. E.B. DuBois, 1957 • “Life loves the liver of it. Life loves to be taken by the lapel and be told: “I am with you kid. Let’s go” – Melvin Chapman, 1976 • “There is hope for the future because God has a sense of humor, and we are funny to God” – Bill Cosby, 1978 Substance
  15. 15. Style/Image Process • "For me, music and life are all about style.” – Miles Davis • Then I saw Miles ... Miles was so great. He played so good. He was so amazing. Physically…he looked so good and was strong. He has so much charisma. You would look at him all the time. Even when he wasn't playing everybody kept looking at Miles. He was really attracting the eyes of everybody. Me too. I was fascinated... – Enrico Rave Substance
  16. 16. Cool Process • "Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you are behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory. ” – Arthur Ashe Substance
  17. 17. Creativity Process • "Being black has a lot to do with my being a good designer. My eye will go quicker to what a pimp is wearing than to someone in a gray suit and tie. Most of these designers who have to run to Paris for color and fabric combinations should go to church on Sunday in Harlem. It's all right there” – Willie Smith • "I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning . . . Every day I find something creative to do with my life.” – Miles Davis Substance
  18. 18. Beauty Process • “The main thing is the YOU beneath the clothes and skin--the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world” – W.E.B. Du Bois Substance
  19. 19. Humor Process • “Humor may not be laughter, it may not even be a smile, it is a point of view, an attitude toward experience” – Howard Thurman, 1953 • "My way of joking is to tell the truth. That's the funniest joke in the world” – Muhammad Ali Substance
  20. 20. Community Process • “An individual who can’t relate to the black community, understand and be understood by her own people, isn’t well educated” – Johnetta Cole, 1972 • "That's how we do it in the black community; we give back to the people who made us who we are. We never forget that” – Snoop Dogg Substance
  21. 21. Family Process • “The institution primarily responsible for the survival and advancement of black people from slavery to present times has been the extended family” – Robert Hill, 1988 • “In the church, we think of ourselves as all part of God’s family. That means we think of the people where we worship as brothers and sisters – part of our family” – Benjamin Carson, 1990 Substance
  22. 22. Black Men Process • “We are men; we have souls, we have passions, we have feelings, we have hopes, we have desires, like any other race in the world” – Marcus Garvey Substance
  23. 23. Black Women Process • “Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits” – NtozkeShange Substance
  24. 24. Black Children Process • “The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not” – Marian Wright Edelman, 1992 Substance
  25. 25. Work Process • “Never let work drive you, master it and keep it under control. It is necessary to learn the difference about being worked and working – to learn that being worked meant degradation , while working meant civilization” – Booker T. Washington, 1932 • It is ironic that in a society based upon the work ethic, the worth of an individual is often confused with the work that he or she performs” – John Conyers, 1987 Substance
  26. 26. Money Process • “The eagle flies on Friday” – TRADITIONAL • “People ravin’ about hard times/Tell me what it’s all about/Hard times don’t worry me. I was broke when they started out” – The Blues • “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” – Puff Daddy, 1998 Substance
  27. 27. Music Process • In the African tradition, music has three different functions: moral and spiritual order and a means of self expression – Daniel Aldridge, 1988 • “Black music is not only conspicuous within, but crucial to black culture…Music is not only a reflection of the values of black culture, but the basis upon which it is built, the investigation of the black mind, the black social orientation, and, primarily, the black culture” – Ben Sidran, 1971 Substance
  28. 28. Singing Process • “The spirit will not descend without song” – African Proverb • Singers are saying things that the public wants to be able to say, but they don’t know how to express themselves. We’re like the voice of the public – Oleta Adams, 1990 Substance
  29. 29. Words Process • Music is the most shared experience –the most vital commodity among Afro Americans. And poetry is its twin” – Eugene Redmond, 1976 • The roots of hip hop are found in African American and West African music. The griots of West Africa are a group of traveling singers and poets, whose musical style is reminiscent of hip hop and who are part of an oral tradition dating back hundreds of years” – Aces and Eights, 2011 Substance
  30. 30. Dance Process • The dance is strong magic. The dance is spirit. The body can fly without wings. It can sing without voice” – Pearl Primus, 1964 • “Americans will be amazed to find how many dance steps are relics of African heritage” – Paul Robeson, 1934 Substance
  31. 31. Art Process • “Art for art’s sake is an invalid concept; all art reflects the value system from which it comes; for if the artist created only for himself and not for others, he would lock himself up somewhere and paint and play just for himself” – Ron Karenga, 1968 • The black artist by defining and legitimizing his own reality becomes a positive force in the black community – HakiMadhubuti, Substance
  32. 32. Dress Process • “Man has the power to define himself against the ravages of time through artistic style” – Ralph Ellison, 1986 Substance
  33. 33. Food Process • Soul food is our personal passport to the past. It is much more about heritage than it is about hominy:” – Sarah Ban Breathnach • “It you want to be real technical on the subject, while all soul food is southern food, not all southern food is 'soul'” – Bob Jeffries 
  34. 34. The Myth of Black Culture Process • “Americans don’t want to admit that they owe much to black culture. That goes back to slave systems, racism, distorted thinking, and how people like to perpetuate the myth that there is no such thing as black culture” – Tevis Williams, 1987 Substance