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Celebrating Black History Doesn’t Mean Separating It From Black Culture - Opinion Piece

Feb 12, 2022 10:00AM ● By Karen Warrington

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

February is celebrated as Black history month in America, but as we take a look at our history, we can’t separate it from Black culture. We must ask ourselves: what are we doing to hold on to the many shades of culture represented in the African Diaspora?

This is my open letter from us to us.

(Photo by Greta Hoffman from Pexels)

When are we going to construct or re-birth rituals of passage - birth, coming of age, marriage, death - that reflect our intentional pivot or deviation from European customs and rituals?

I remember a few years ago the inauguration of an African American police commissioner that took place in a major city on the East coast. The ceremony featured Scottish bagpipers and was completely non-respective of his culture. Not so incidentally, the incoming commissioner was not only African American, he was Muslim. But, nothing in the ceremony reflected his non-European ancestry or religion. This American municipal police force ceremony was continuing a European tradition without even being questioned as to why.

When it comes to modern marriage rituals, increasingly many African American contemporary couples, when getting married, chose to “jump the broom.” The act was created because enslaved Black people in America were not allowed by law to be married so they devised their own ritual to solemnize their coupling. But, today this act is in reaction to not being allowed to participate in a European marriage ceremony and is now added to a re-enactment of a European wedding ceremony rather than representing a before-slavery tradition.

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When our babies are pushed out of the birth canal, what are the rituals or prayers of protection we offer them that reflect our ancestral cultures as they make their entry into an often non-welcoming world? 

And, what is the ceremony to say to our teen boys and girls that they are now entering the path to adulthood and responsibility? It certainly has to be more than a bra or a day at the spa for girls, or a night out at a gentlemen’s club for the boys.

When we bury our dead who is the deity we pray to for their passage to another realm? Is the color of mourning really black? Is a white wedding gown symbolic of our cultural values? 

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While I know religion is a third rail subject, I hope that we as a culturally aware community start to peel back the layers of European religion-based practices that have been forced upon us. And, hopefully, we will be able to, at least, begin to explore and respect cultural, religious, or spiritual practices that infused our ancestors, that is now long gone from our memory, but hopefully remain somewhere in our consciousness.

 Karen Warrington has had a decades long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, performing artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. She is committed to being a voice for the African Diaspora.

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