February 5, 2013 – Higher Than This: Celebrating the Love of Culture

Celebrating Black History Month

If I had to rank the fruits of the spirit in their order of importance, the attribute of love would be foremost.  Love is unselfish and benevolent.   It is loyal and self-sacrificing, and is a Christ-like love, the foundation of any culture and all other graces.   According to Romantic Legends, February is the month of love and affection. In the United States, February is the month we reserve to honor the significant value, influence, and mass contributions made by the African-American culture also known as Black History Month.

African-American culture and history has been a distinct part of the American culture. The root of African-American culture is unmistakable in its historical identity and experience of the masses, including the Middle Passage.   The impress of Africa is evident in myriad ways from politics to language, music, hairstyles, religion, dance, cuisine, and world views – the epitome of this very culture.

Proposed in 1925 but officially celebrated in 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, established Negro History Week.  His employment of such was a way to encourage people – not just blacks, but nationalities of all kinds, to learn more about the unique events of the black struggle. This 1926 movement stimulated teachers, historians, students, scholars, philanthropists, communities and progressive whites alike, to further endorse the effort.  In the early 70’s, the term Negro History Week was amended to Black History Week to show the revolutionary language used to portray African-Americans.  It was not until February of 1976 that the U.S. President issued a proclamation declaring the second month of the year Black History Month or National African-American History Month; 84 years later as a global community, we continue to uphold this sacred responsibility.

The recognition of African-American history is imperative to me.  As an African-American woman, I am proud and inspired, strong and uplifted.  My culture has had a pervasive and transforming impact on many elements of mainstream American culture, and I am indebted for the strides made by that of my many ancestors.  Elegance portrayed from sisters and brothers alike, from the inner beauty that radiates to the curly coils of hair, to the full lips, hips, and derriere – phenomenally, that’s history.

African-American literature has played an integral role in my personal growth and development as a writer and poet.   From reading the earliest of literature of the 18th century, like Phyllis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano; to prolific Harlem Renaissance authors and poets of the early 20th century like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington, I embraced the love and strength of those “spoken” words.  Respectively pursued by Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, and James Baldwin, these authors of the Civil Rights era further influenced my hunger for indulging, learning, and distinguishing the issues of racial segregation and other aspects of African-American life. These noteworthy catalysts of change encouraged my love for writing and eccentric poetry at an early age and so today, I continue to encourage young aspiring writers to strive, thrive, and dream big.

I find no coincidence in that I love music.  Music is like the air we breathe.  Its’ continuous refinements afford endless opportunities to inhale, explore, adopt, create.  Jazz fusion, swing, ragtime, rap, funk, disco, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, bebop, and rock “n” roll have been shaping African-American music for centuries.  In African-American culture, music is a part of everyday life.  It is not only used as entertainment, but also for communicating, teaching, telling stories, and sharing bliss.  Similar to African-American Art and Poetry, music is the fabric that binds us.

African-American music is typically the polyrhythmic music of the ethnic groups of Africa, specifically those in the Western, Sahelian, and Sub-Saharan regions.  From the blends of traditional European hymns with African elements during slavery time – to the widespread and acceptance of African-American music in American popular culture in the 21st century, the musical experience has been both enchanting and awe-inspiring.  In the early 1980’s and as a young adult, I remember when house music hit the scene in black communities everywhere, beginning in the neighborhoods of Chicago.  I was a part of that era as well as the multicultural movement of hip-hop, new jack swing, and go-go.

From the variations of beautiful skin tones, unique physical features, array of hair textures and styles, African-Americans are a people of beauty, style, and grace. From the head wraps, fashion, aesthetics, dashikis and spoken languages, African-Americans are a people of great creativity and diversity.   Exuding strength and leadership, African-Americans have been an indispensable and central part of religion, theology, communal development, and political movement in America.

The love shared within our culture expresses the benevolent concerns we have for one another: brotherly love, sisterly love, Godly love.  Love is the highest esteem of which God has for His people.  It is this same level of regard people should have for God and one another.  What love is higher than this?  A reflection of integrity, a history of strength, a symbol of faith, a determination to excel…we celebrate life.  We celebrate love.  We celebrate Black America.

Love and Light for your Tuesday.

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