First of a three-part column
How long ago the African came to earth is a different question than how long ago the African came to the shores of the Americas. The first question takes us to the following fact: Africa is known as the Cradle of Civilization. It is the birthplace of humankind and humanity.
African people gave birth to the human family, and by extension, African culture is the eldest culture of elder cultures. Archeologists have provided evidence through examination of the oldest human remains found in Ethiopia. This amazing skeleton was given the Amharic name of “Dinkenesh,” which means you are beautiful or you are wonderful.
We at the Cultural Wellness Center are implementing a cultural wellness recovery strategy that includes a written educational and spiritual curriculum steeped in knowledge gathered while understanding the origins of our cultural ways and our people-hood. We are working to rebuild a collective consciousness of our Original “Self.”
We hypothesize that “Our self of origin is no longer in question by others and should not be in question by us.” The Center’s culturally specific curriculum and method of teaching is delivered to African people through community-created classrooms for learning and relearning in homes, inside the schools, or in park buildings.
A mother thanked our faculty for reminding her of the cultural law and value of cooking food with her own hands, which is where she is able to pass on her deep love, prayers, and thoughts of a heavenly peace as she cooks and serves the food to her children. This basic practice was a highly valued one for our ancestors and is an old Black spiritual way of transmitting a sense of belonging and acknowledgement.
Life functions, such as eating together, are healing; food is medicine; listening to the sounds of satisfaction places each person experiencing it at the threshold of the African heart. To begin recovering, we desperately need acknowledgement and a sense of belonging from our own mothers, fathers and elders.
We as parents have been talked out of simple gestures such as breastfeeding, cooking, setting the table and loving the visible comfort that comes upon our family members when the food that we have prepared is eaten by them. When eating food prepared by our hands, the family member feels from us, “You are beautiful “and “You are wonderful.”
Re-teaching the art of cooking to our children as taught by our parents is a way of returning to our people the habits of connecting and passing on to each generation an unwritten law of loving through feeding our own. African culture, spirituality and knowledge are all realized and fully functional in daily life practices.
Practices are assigned to each age stage by the elders. Each age stage in the community from birth to death has a role to play and a lesson to teach.
The community systems of men, women, boys and girls living together building structures and producing products for the needs of the people are developed and redeveloped by each generation that is prepared to learn, share, give and receive as their turn comes to carry on this system and build on it. The plan is fueled by knowledge, culture and spirituality. It is held together by the SOUL.
As we have seen, we will attach the power of the soul to food, music, friends and mates. In doing the soul attachment, we get the authentic power of endurance and the Creator acting through creation.
Next week: Stripping the enslaved African of his humanity
Elder Atum Azzahir is executive director of the Cultural Wellness Center and elder consultant in African ways of knowing. She welcomes reader responses to [email protected].