Updated: May 16, 2021
Dear Africana Woman,
Hey Gurl! How are you doing this week? I know I sound like I am full of energy but truth be told this week has been a roller coaster of emotions. Literally been up and down. As I write I am grateful to be on a high because I fully believe in hope and beauty rising from ashes. So let me catch you up on what happened this week. As you know myself and some amazing women celebrated Africa Freedom Day on May 25 by having a discussion on the African women's Mental Health. Muma, my co-host and I decided to break down our two and a half hour conversation (it was that good) into a series. I have Part 1 for you right here. Which also means we have started a new YouTube channel called Africa; The Masterplan. We will be posting our monthly conversations to the channel, you do not want to miss out. Please subscribe. Then I threw out my back and have been shuffling around like a penguin, but it didn't stop me from presenting my first Facebook live chat. The topic was Racism in Africa. I told you this week has been a roller coaster.
I feel like every other conversation I have had was on racism. I have seen and felt trauma, fear, anger, pain, frustration, and fatigue. If you are a black person any where in the world, my sincere desire for you is that you do NOT internalize and suppress what you are feeling. Acknowledge it, feel it and speak your truth to somebody, whether it is a confidant or a professional. I really believe we need to learn a better way of handling trauma and stop bottling up our emotions then opting for silence. The silence will eventually explode.
If you are a non black person, and you are wandering what you can do, the greatest act of kindness you can show in these times is to reach out to your black friends and check on them. Not just your Black American friends. I am talking about every kind of black person you know. Whenever a racially charged injustice is highlighted by the press or social media against a black person, it literally triggers black people across the world to re-live racist experiences that they deal with daily. These types of conversations are uncharted waters for everyone. It will not be articulate the first time. In fact it will be uncomfortable and strange, but do it anyway. If you are in true relation with a black person, practice the fundamental principle in any relationship which is communication.
So three chapters later and I feel like the pastor who says let me start the sermon now whilst the congregation are giving each other the side eye as if to say what were you doing for the last one hour. I can totally relate. This week we continue the series to understand KNOW your Roots, Grow your Purpose. KNOW is an acronym for principles I believe are important for African women to truly thrive in life. Often, in the self development world, culture is excluded from the conversation. However, culture is so intrinsically intertwined into our lives as Africans, because we practice what is called a collectivist culture where the needs and goals of the group as a whole is prioritized over the desires of the individual. Therefore, when one attempts to translate concepts that were developed for an individualistic culture, it may be a challenge. Last week we defined what culture is and the different levels to it. The main take away was that in the Africana Woman blog we examine the roots of our culture. Find the link to The Culture Tree.
K stands for Knowledge of your culture and identity. Your personal identity is defined as what you think of yourself. It is the stories that you tell yourself in your mind. Unfortunately, we have not been taught to police our thoughts. What we think about ourselves is an unconscious dialogue on repeat. Therefore, it only makes sense to check that whatever you are repeating in your head unconsciously is positive. If it is negative you should strive to change the narrative and reprogram your mind to work in your favour.
The roots of our culture are described as the Collective Unconscious, which is inclusive of spirituality, the concept of higher power, cosmology, relationship to nature and animals, definition of kinship & group identity, world view, notion of fairness, decision making and preferences for completion or cooperation. We do not get to choose what culture we are born into. As a child we are expected to fall in line and learn by observation. There is a sense of 'this is how things have always been done.' The culture does not make space for questioning the status quo. Therefore, we practice our culture but do not understand why we do what we do. As a child you would question why are you doing this? And the adult's answer was , 'Because I said so.' Who can relate? Guess what that adult probably did not know why either and you as that child eventually got to a point where you stopped asking why and just followed in line.
I disagree that we should follow culture blindly. We need to have conversations around culture frequently to ensure that we realign to the core values and beliefs of our society. Take for example a fitness company whose primary value promotes a healthy lifestyle to its customers. Their activities would include things like exercise, nutrition, and mental health programs. If they suddenly introduced a catering service that served fatty foods and beverages with high sugar content, this would be out of alignment to their primary beliefs. In the same way, does our culture really reflect our core norms and beliefs? For the most part, I have not come across a higher power in prominent religions, that has mal intent for its people. Yet the abuse and oppression of certain groups in a society is justified as culture.
Seek knowledge about the true essence of your culture. This requires effort and research. Speak to elders and gain understanding. Learn about our African history as told by Africans. Pop culture would have us believe that before the white man arrived on our continent we could not read nor write, that we did not have great civilisations that housed great philosophers and intellectuals. Research about how African knowledge was looted and what could not be carried away was burned. Read about how colonialisation legalized the distortion of African culture. Gain understanding as to how your low self esteem is linked to colonialisation. Read your holy text for yourself. Begin to unlearn that which does not serve you. Repeat and reinforce beliefs and norms that will allow you to thrive. Align yourself to your roots. Once you know who and whose you are, you would have began the first step to living the life you deserve and desire.
Take note African knowledge is rarely stored in books which is why some would believe it is of lesser value or non-existent. It is stored in the people, in stories, in names, and in sites. I must say it is also important that we begin to save and docume