African Diaspora

 " I Know               

    What

                          I Know"

We are excited to present a new mini-series that is both thought-provoking and inspiring. This series of reflections by Achlaï Ernest Wallace explores many facets of the perceptions of culture, heritage and individuality, both founded and unfounded, in a way that goes beyond the surface and delves deep into the struggles and rewards of knowing who you are and from where and who you came.


Mrs. Wallace, like all of us do at some point in our lives, faces external challenges to who she sees herself as and what she knows herself to be as an individual, as well as professionally and culturally speaking. We are sure that in her words you will see yourself and your own struggles and personally identify with some of the victories, as well as frustrations, that are inherent to living, growing and achieving your goals in the world as it exists today.

 

    I am Haitian.

I know my culture.”


An Essay of Reflections of a Canadian-born Haitian woman living in the U.S.

      
Written by: Achlaï Ernest Wallace       

 

 

**Note from the author: this is simply my personal reflections on the following topics, and is not intended to be an academic paper.
Also, it is sectioned into 4 parts, to facilitate reading. Feel free to come back and read it one section at a time.

 Part 1
At times, I feel so helpless and defeated. Just this morning I prayed the Serenity Prayer twice. And yet I still find myself being controlled by others, their thoughts, their opinions. In the heat of the moment why can’t I think on my own two feet? I always think of what I’d like to say in defense, or to correct them afterward. So this is me responding to the unasked question in the comment ―How can you say you know your culture if you are not born in Haiti?‖ And when I asserted ―I know my culture,‖ my very-well-educated American friend responded ―That’s relative.‖ Perhaps I should have said: ―what do you mean by that?‖ Instead, a series of emotions exploded in me – as I experienced fierce and quick anger at one more American daring to challenge my assertion of what was mine – my culture. We’ve talked through it some, ―kissed-and-made-up‖ and we are as tight as ever, but the conversation marked me deeply.


This Essay of Reflections, is my response to the accumulation of all sorts of conversations I’ve been having with many of my American friends and/or colleagues over the last few months and the experiences of living in the United States as a Haitian-Canadian woman over the last 4 years especially in light of the horrific and tragic earthquake of two January’s past. Yet, I wonder, how is it that in Canada no one ever challenged me if I said I was Haitian? In fact, often the opposite was true there. Being Haitian, and knowing Haitian culture was assumed as going hand in hand. In fact, having to assert that I was also Canadian, and knew Canadian culture as well as the next person, even though my skin was dark, and had ethnic roots elsewhere was what I sometimes had to establish. I have realized something significant that contributes to this experience. I think it probably reflects the differences between the Canadian mosaic (you are Canadian and you may retain your culture) and the American melting pot (get rid of your culture as fast as you can (assimilate) and become American). I do recognize that this is changing in both countries and don’t want to be overly simplistic. And of course the Canadian mosaic model had some of its own challenges there; I’m not going to attempt to make life in Canada sound altruistic, but alas, that is not the focus of my reflections.


Here in the U.S., between reading a book by a white American on Haiti, and conversations with all types of Americans (particularly white and black) over the last few months, it seems to me that overall, there is just not enough accurate information here in the United States, about Haitians, the various Haitian experiences within Haiti, and the various Haitian experiences of those in its Diaspora. Perhaps it is because of the ongoing hard struggles of the Haitian people that allow some Americans to feel as though they can think, say and believe whatever they please or suppose, with authority, about Haiti, Haitians and the children of Haitian immigrants. Perhaps it is just unconscious arrogance and ignorance that would allow another American friend, innocently, I’m sure, to suggest that she’d heard there were not more Haitians doing Ph.D.’s ―because they are too emotional and no one will want to work with them.‖ I do not know how founded these assertions are. At this phase in my journey, I only know my cultural experience as a Canadian-born Haitian who grew up in a Haitian household that I know what I know. I don’t only relatively know what I know. I know what I know. Culture is forever evolving and changing and metamorphic in nature, and is subjective in many ways – therefore one could say that that is relative. What I know is my experience and I know it well. That culture is relative – I don’t contest.

Perhaps it has taken me some time to think through my very strong response to that hard and uncomfortable conversation. I do know what culture means. Culture is more than just a place. People take culture with them when they leave a place, they bring it with them in their hearts, their memories, their lifestyles, their worldview, their ethos – and this, they pass down to their children, for that is all they know. It is the way of how you are raised. Growing up in a room where you hear “Timoun, vin isit! Vin mange! Mange a ap fret- children, come here! Come eat, the food will get cold!‖ My American friend asked me, challengingly, speaking of the Haitian experience, how can I possibly know what it means to be Haitian – especially since I’m educated and speak French? L’expérience d’être Haïtienne. Je le sais . (The experience of being Haitian, I know it). Feeling as though I have to prove my Haitian-ness because I was not born in Haiti to many of my American brothers and sisters in light of their ignorance, becomes both tiresome and emotionally draining. Will my children be denied their African-American/Haitian-Canadian identity which is a part of the culture that they will inherently be born into?


To know one’s culture, particularly when you grow up in an immigrant family in Canada, is, I suspect quite different an experience for the children of immigrants who grow up in the United States. For me, to know my culture is to understand the feeling of ―kompa‖ (Haitian-style Caribbean music) in every rhythm, every song, to know the quiet lullaby of ―do-do ti pitit‖ (sleep, sleep, little baby) from Mammy, and ―map kale w – al chache sentiwon an!‖ (I’m gonna whoop you – go fetch the belt) from Pappy. To wake up in a Haitian Christian cultured home is to wake up hearing year after year from birth until present day: ―Grand Dieu nous te bénissons!‖ (Great God, we bless you!) or ―Leve-leve, Jezi di konsa li lè pou nou priye‖. (Wake up, awake, Jesus says that it’s time for us to pray). It is to experience the laughter resulting from story after story, ―blagues kap di‖, (joke after joke), to know ―Langishat. (a famous nation-wide Haitian comedian) – and of course, always having Si Dye vle, (if God wills) at the end of every sentence, whether you’re religious or not. To know the Haitian experience is to be taught from age 12 ―ki jan ou met pwa nan di fe‖, ―ki jan pou nou toufe di riz‖ e ― pa met tròp sèl nan sos nan‖ (How to cook bean sauce, literally ―how to put beans in the fire‖ and how to cook rice, ―to choke rice‖ and ―don’t put too much salt in the sauce – probably made with chicken or beef).


All of this is not merely language learning, but the passing down of culture, the teaching of the children, and for me, as a girl-child, how to survive, to learn her place and role, and later in her own household to serve and nurture her family well. To hear and understand ―sanwont‖ (without shame) knowing deep within you that the worst thing you can do as a Haitian girl or boy, is to bring shame to your family. To be Haitian is to take pride in schooling – contrary to popular opinion, -- good grades and hard work. To be Haitian is to take pride in cleanliness, whether poor or rich, each person as they’re able, striving to make sure ―rad-ou fwote e passé fe sou rad ou! ‖ (scrub your clothes clean and iron those clothes). And ―Mezanmi, an ede timoun yo. Fon nou fè yon bagay!” (Friends, let us try to help the children! We must do something!) And then again, ―ki sa??!! Mwen pa nan rans ave w!‖ (What?? Don’t mess with me, I’m not playin’ with you!). It means to understand when Manmi doesn’t want me to do ―move san‖ (have a tantrum, literally do bad blood).

 

Part 2
Here is a very brief definition of culture: a group of people who adhere to similar norms, values, and way of thinking. (To see a more in-depth definition, please see the Notes at the end of this Essay).


Another matter that I find many that are simply ignorant of, or have been erroneously taught concerning Haitians and those of its diaspora is that of religion – the belief that Haiti is synonymous with Voodoo. This is not reality. There are many Haitians who practice Voodoo and there are many Haitians who do not. There are many who practice Christianity, there are many who do not. There are some who do not fall within either of those categories. No one should say that because I am not a Christian, or I do not practice Voodoo, I do not know Haitian culture or that I only relatively know it. There is not just one religion in Haiti. And in fact the majority of Haitians I know, are Christians. But suffice it to say that there is a level of diversity in religions Haitians practice, so it helpful to try to refrain from assuming (and saying to a Haitian) that surely they must know/practice Voodoo. For this is similar to assuming a Haitian can probably not read.


Illiteracy is not synonymous with being Haitian. It happens to be true that many Haitians in present-day Haiti are unable to read. That is not to say, to truly be Haitian or to know Haitian culture is to not know how to read. I was told, ―if I don’t know the life of a Haitian who can’t read, then can I truly say I know the culture??‖ That since the culture is basically illiterate how can I truly relate? How offensive! To reduce culture to one or two components alone, negating the many wonderful aspects which make up an entire culture leaves much to be desired. One would not say that to be American means to be materialistic, even though many Americans are materialistic nor to go further and say, if one who is not materialistic or obsessed with money, one does not know American culture. And as far as language is concerned, the dynamics involved, even within Haiti, are complex between those who speak French and those who do not. One who speaks ―la langue du maitre‖ as my American friend wrongly asserted, is not any less Haitian than one who speaks the Haitian Kreyòl of the most rural countryside. Not anymore than you would consider a person who lives in South Carolina any less American than someone who lives in New York.


At any rate, as Haitians debate those complexities of language (and by the way, the official languages in Haiti are both French and Haitian Kreyòl) among themselves, it is not for any outsider to decide or pronounce a judgment. Yes, a non-Haitian may speak of Haiti and of her people, as well as her Diaspora, if it is welcomed by a Haitian -- provided that what they bring to the table is education-based and comes from a place of some real depth and understanding or perhaps some extensive study of it. I don’t believe it is appropriate for any non-Haitian to challenge or debate a Haitian’s ethnic or cultural identity, -- any more than it would be appropriate for a white person to tell a ―light-skinned‖ sister that she is not as Black as a ―brown-sugar‖ sister.


Returning to literacy -- yes, perhaps it is true that there is a 45% illiteracy rate in Haiti. That is a sad fact which should not be used by anyone to say that if you are literate, then it means you cannot with authenticity say you are Haitian. The heart and the weight of the Haitian struggle can be, and is, in my heart just as Haitian blood pumps in my veins today. No more than you would say to anyone, that because you don’t know what it’s like to be a slave, you cannot claim to know Black or African-American culture. nor to reiterate that you only relatively know it. One should not equate slavery with being Black or knowing Black culture nor say to be Black is to be a slave. How many stories have we heard of powerful Black women, who when they were in fact slaves refused that ―less-than‖ inferiority-complex bestowed on them by whites? Who dared to stand and say Black does not equal slavery. (Harriet Tubman, is one who comes to mind immediately!)


In the cases when these unfortunate conversations are with Black folk, it is sad that sometimes, we in turn, speak of, or think of other countries of the African Diaspora with such inferiority… or of other Black brothers and sisters very much in the way we wished our white counterparts would not speak of us or to us. It is true that I am not personally acquainted with the atrocities of poverty and disease, and I am grateful for that. Yet I stand in solidarity with my Haitian brothers and sisters as their fellow Haitian sister in this mutual quest to fight poverty and illiteracy in Haiti. One would not say of an American middle-class citizen who is unacquainted with the poverty of America (and there is poverty in this nation), that she cannot claim to know American culture or further yet that because she knows poverty, she cannot claim to know American culture. It is erroneous for one to say that to be Haitian, is to be poor. Since when was Haitian culture equated to being poor and illiterate? Hearing people speak in this way or alluding to these thoughts offends me, and my people. Poverty and illiteracy are human atrocities and are to be combated, not norms that are to be described as Haitian culture. Haitian culture is not merely characterized by illiteracy. This is why I can say I know Haitian culture and be educated and well-read, and not be acquainted with many Haitians who cannot read. We cannot reduce culture to whether a man can or cannot read. Otherwise, we could say the same thing of the American culture as there are plenty of Americans who are illiterate. Yet one would not dream of saying American culture is represented by illiteracy and if one knows how to read, then they cannot claim to know American culture. And certainly not all Americans can relate to the experiences of their fellow Americans who live below the poverty-line. A culture is not characterized alone by the atrocities of humanity that may plague it, nor should it. Is there a culture of poverty which plagues certain communities here in the US and in any other nation? That is not to be denied, and yet it is not the sum of who they are.

 

Part 3

On Haitian writers: when I say that I want to see more writings from and by Haitians, I mean in English. There is, of course, a plethora of Haitian-authored writings in the beautiful French language. But I am referring to texts in the English language, as my colleagues tend to be English-speaking, since I live in the U.S., and most do not speak nor read French and therefore are not exposed to the history, culture and other realities of the Haitian people. The hard part, is that in several of my experiences, it is these same people, who have formulated many opinions on Haiti and Haitians – hence my assertion that they need to be informed and educated, by Haitians on the reality of the whole Haitian experience.


And why couldn’t it be that people choose to describe my culture in its positive terms – 55% of the population, in Haiti are literate, and so affirm that I definitely know the culture – and thus suggest that Haitian culture is represented by this half-full cup of literacy. Why do many people choose to allude to the image of the half-empty cup to describe my culture, and attempt to suggest that I must therefore not know it, because I’m literate and well-read? Clearly we often pick and choose how we will present our thoughts and challenges, often not considering how our insensitive assertions may affect the other person. I’ve done it as well to others, I’m sure…None of us are exempt from belittling and invalidating, this cruelty we push on others.. Though 200 000 of us, Haitians, are among them in Canada, and 1 million of us, in the U.S., (such as myself, a woman of Haitian descent living and working in the U.S., paying tax dollars like every other person, or at least how every other person should), I do not believe that our stories are told enough in the English written text and so the majority of Americans are left to hear and understand Haiti, its history, and even what concerns its Diaspora, rarely from or by the Haitian, but rather through American media and hearsay. And because part of their ethos is to be very proud of who they are (as they should be), often unintentionally or intentionally, many with some level of misplaced authority attempt to tell us, who we are and what our people are like.


Remember, when you are speaking to someone else about their culture; make sure to do so with graciousness and credibility. A good rule of thumb is always, ask lots of questions. Should you choose to challenge or raise some issues, make sure it is from an educated point of view, know your facts, and even as you do, in order to not risk being offensive, ask your questions with candidness, but also with humility. One needn’t walk on eggshells – I assure you, the Haitian people, if nothing else, we are a very resilient people. However whether you are speaking of culture with them, or with anyone from a culture other than your own, never assume to know more about them, than they do. That’s a sure way to potentially burn bridges. I recognize some might say ―well, isn’t that walking on eggshells?‖ No, for I will not break, regardless of how you speak to me, nevertheless, if we are to promote healthy discussion and desire to learn how to engage with the many diverse ethnicities and people groups which are a part of our North American communities, it would behoove us, to learn how to engage appropriately, in ways that will keep the lines of communication open.


On education: some of my dear friends, seem to believe that only through an education outside of Haiti, or through the benevolence of outsiders, has any Haitian ever learnt anything. My Haitian grandfather, born in 1919, who passed away only this year, 2011 (at the age of 91), was an educated man, having taught my mother and her 5 siblings to read and write in French. A learnt man, who never left Haitian soil, who lived the rural peasant village of Petite Rivière, knew la langue de Molière, (the equivalent of English Shakespeare) and at the same time, raised his children to know and love their beloved Kreyòl! My mother went on to study health sciences and nursing – all in Haiti – and continued on to be a nurse at Deschapelles, Hospital near the city of St. Marc, in the department of L’Artibonite, in the north-western region -- in Haiti. My father, a well-educated accountant, before he left his country, was also a scholar of philosophy, studying Marx and Lenin, before he ever stepped foot on Canadian or US soil. Later, in Canada, he became a welder by trade, and continued in bi-vocational clergy and ministry. Dozens of family friends left Haiti as lawyers, doctors, learnt men and women, all educated within the country of Haiti, many solicited by the Canadian government to teach, educate and work in the province of Quebec. Education is not the monopoly of Canada or the US. Education is not, thankfully, something to be monopolized by any one people-group or for just one, two or three nations to dole out – no matter the rhetoric of the place.


Calamity and plagues of illiteracy, can happen in any nation. If indeed a place is fortunate enough to have an upright government and people with power at least at some level, which do right by a nation, then praise be to God. Beware when you have much, of that insidious slimy thing called arrogance – be aware to not say, when a place prospers, as says the Ancient Book, ―My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.

 

Part 4

Now, because I was born to an immigrant family in another country other than Haiti, (Canada), I can say with confidence that I know two cultures. One that I was born into (Haitian culture), and one that I learned by living among Canadians. Do I know them perfectly? Does anyone know every aspect of their culture and have all the shared and exact same experiences with other members of their culture at all times? I would be hard-pressed to find such a person. Are there certain aspects of Canadian white- majority culture I simply do not know? Because I am not White Canadian I did not grow up with the inner markings of their culture and don’t have it as my own: the mentality, thought patterns, the worldview, or the outer parts of their culture such as potato-based meals, Canadian-Scot jigs, roast beef stews, etc., So I don’t know that first-hand. Of course with time and learning English while living in Ontario, (French and Haitian-Kreyòl were my first languages) naturally there has been a fusion-type of culture created later on.


Nevertheless, what I was taught first-hand in my own home was the Haitian way of thought and how to adapt to life in the new world. I do know the inner-Haitian mentality, thought patterns, intrinsic spiritual worldview (not necessarily Christian for others, but it is for me) – and I know exactly what it means when a Haitian sister laughingly says to me ―You’re so Haitian‖ or brother says in a certain tone: ―Haï---tien.‖ (meant to ―harmlessly mock). If I wasn’t raised in Haitian culture, if my home was not a Haitian household then what would one call what I was raised in? How would one address the ―ou-konnen sak passe? M’ bouke avek timoun sa yo?‖ (You know what? I’m tired of dealing with these children!)‖ The camaraderie of a dozen family members living with you, always room for your family and one more, of hearing cousins or others being told the constant threat ―map voye-w Ayiti wi!‖ (I’m going to send you [back] to Haiti !) and ―m voye pou manman-m, ti-fre-m, kouzen mwen, zanmi-m nan ki pa gin fanmi‖ (I’m sending for my mother, my little brother, my cousin, my friend who has no family). This is where family is everything, where it’s unacceptable as an adult to move from your home unless of course ―mwen voye-l lekòl nan ki kote sa ankò?‖ (I’ve sent my child to school, to where’s that place called again?) or ―mon enfant étudie en France ‖ (―my child is studying in France ‖ - said with great pride). No, because ―ou se demoizel” (you are a young lady) who must respectfully ―ret lakay jiske ou marie‖(up until you are married). And then I, as ―a good Haitian,‖ did exactly that. I left home permanently only at age 28, to be married, because traditionally, for a Haitian young woman, to leave ―without good reason‖ before marriage is to potentially bring shame to the family. ―What did your mother do that made you leave‖ the community will wonder. ―And not even married‖ they will huff! People may gossip about your father. Only the ―blan‖ people (anyone not Haitian) get apartments and leave their families. And of course: ―A pa’ou lagem‖ (you’ve dropped me!), when you get a phone call or visit from a friend you’ve not seen in a long time. This is what I grew up in. Perhaps that is only ―relatively‖ knowing my culture, but Haitian culture in my home growing up, is all I knew. (And by the way, I’m not saying that I agree or like all of our ways and can’t criticize it—just asserting that I do know and am intimately acquainted with them). I grew up in this home environment with my Haitian father and Haitian mother who came to Canada when they were 33 and 26 years old respectively. And that’s all they knew to give us; their way of life, their Haitian way of thinking, their Haitian mentality which was inevitably and intentionally given to us. This thinking and being is all a part of knowing one’s culture.


To be sure, sub-cultures are created whenever a group migrates to another place, and the ways in which they knew life in the ―motherland‖ is transferred and replicated and yet contextualized in the new land. But it has been said that often immigrant groups are even more ―militant and aggressive‖ in their ways of life, as to ensure that the culture is known among their children, loved and cherished and not lost. When immigrant groups congregate in the new land, it is very different than if just an individual went. Particularly in Canada, people groups are highly encouraged to maintain their culture and language (all the while learning how to adapt in the new land – and those two things are not necessarily mutually exclusive). As well, when a population of immigrants more than 90,000 live in one province, and primarily in one city, and you grow up in that city among that population, surely you will come to know your home culture. Mine happens to be Haitian. Because I know two cultures, does not mean that I don’t know either. Neither does it mean that I am asserting that I grew up in Haiti. It means that I was raised to know, love and cherish Haitian culture. Certainly I grew up within the Canadian context, and therefore it looks different than in Haiti.


Please know that in Haiti, not everyone is poor. Most are poor, true, but to equate poverty or illiteracy, with being Haitian, is to misunderstand a tragedy in a nation and among a people that culturally value education, but unfortunately, for so many among them, there is little to no access. This does not mean that Haitian culture is void of education. Or that because I have an education, that I don’t know Haitian culture. Do I know what it is like to live in Haiti? No. I’ve only spent a little time there. But to assert that culture is limited to a geographical location alone is erroneous at worst and limiting at best. It is well documented that immigrant communities attract their compatriots when they relocate, and often virtually recreate as much as is possible aspects of their homelands, often just out of default, but always with the children in mind, desiring them to know as much as possible first-hand their culture. Hence in New York City and/or Miami, we have strong immigrant communities such as Little Haiti, Chinatown, and Little Italy. In Quebec, where I grew up, where the Haitian population exceeds 100, 000, it is almost impossible to be raised Haitian and not know your culture. Are their numerous aspects and components of actual life in Haiti that I only minimally relate to or not at all? Absolutely! I do not know what it is like to get up each day and ―bale lakou‖ or go to the ―Mache‖. (sweep up the yard, or go to the open market, daily for groceries). But I hope that I have established here that culture is not just about where I was born and where I live. When I say I know Haitian culture, I mean all of the above and so much more. There is no way for me to capture it in full. Suffice it to say: what I’ve got is that deep-down-in-your-gut good Kreyol which only a Haitian can understand and can relate to. Haitian-ness runs through our veins, as we say ―li nan san’m!‖ (It’s in my blood). To know my culture, is to know la folklore Haitienne, danse konpa, danse zouk,know pwovèb, to be deeply ―spiritual‖, to love a good party with family and friends.

 

Final Reflections:

There is yet-to-be-acknowledged by the world a richness and depth to the culture of Haiti and her people wherever they might find themselves. Of this richness I am proud and fiercely stand for it. I don’t only see the misfortunes of centuries-long on-going battles with corruption and therefore cycles of poverty. I don’t only see debris and lack of education. I see who we were, who we are and who we will be. I see that we will rise again with the help of Gran Met la (the Great Master-God).

When I say I know my culture, I also mean that I know who our ancestors have been and understand with great humility that my people have left great legacies in history, culture, art, science, literature and have been leaders in a world-inspiring revolution, the fight to become the first black independent nation in the world. (Some have said she has paid dearly for that feat and continues to pay). Another has also said: ―This is the nation that taught our hemisphere what it means to be freedom fighters, what it takes to break the chains of slavery.‖ "To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born," Marcus Tullius Cicero declared, "is to remain always a child.‖ Yes, when I say I know my culture, I also mean I know our history such as the early beginnings of Toussaint L’Ouverture, a self-educated slave, the great Haitian general who turned a slave rebellion into a revolution. ―This monumental achievement occurred at the height of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and therefore was a powerful inspiration to all enslaved and colonized people and particularly African people everywhere.‖++ This revolution defeated the French, who sought only the wealth of Haiti, always at the expense of the people whom they oppressed to cultivate it – the wealth that few remember Haiti ever had. Yes, I know my culture. From Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1758-1806), another one of the founding fathers and leader of the Haitian Revolution who took over after L’Ouverture, to Michaëlle Jean, who was appointed by Queen Elizabeth, as the Governor General of Canada (2005-2010), Haitians in their own right, have contributed much to the world, and it is narrow-minded and a display of ignorance to assert the notion that ―whatever they have, they only have it because we gave it to them.‖ And this attitude should be abandoned, not just towards my people but for any nation. For that was and is not perpetually the case. Nevertheless needing help, should not be a source of degradation or superiority from the one who is blessed to give it – but rather we must remember that no matter who is being helped, we are brothers and sisters in humanity and must uphold each other with the level of dignity we want to be given, no matter the circumstances, for one day it might be us who need the support, help, and collaboration. Ayisien, songe ,”Kenbe fem. Pa lage”. Fellow Haitian, remember: ―Hold strong. Don’t let go.

Je suis fière d’être Haïtienne. I am proud to be Haitian.

 

  Notes of Credit:
++ Taken from ―RediscoverHaiti.com‖
+++ According to the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute:
Culture is a definition highly misunderstood and misused, thus the need for an explanation. Culture refers to the following Ways of Life, including but not limited to:
· Language : the oldest human institution and the most sophisticated medium of expression.
· Arts & Sciences : the most advanced and refined forms of human expression.
· Thought : the ways in which people perceive, interpret, and understand the world around them.
· Spirituality : the value system transmitted through generations for the inner well-being of human beings, expressed through language and actions.
· Social activity : the shared pursuits within a cultural community, demonstrated in a variety of festivities and life-celebrating events.
· Interaction : the social aspects of human contact, including the give-and-take of socialization, negotiation, protocol, and conventions.
All of the above collectively define the meaning of Culture.
++++ From theFreeDictionary.com
a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
c. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
d. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization
                                  
                       

3 Responses to African Diaspora

  • Miranda Jones says:

    Mrs. Wallace has issued both an edict and challenge to us all. She dares us to question how one self-identifies in relation to their culture(s). Initially I began thinking of the dual consciousness that Dr. W.E.B. DuBois spoke of in the early 20th century when he spoke of African-Americans feeling both African and both American at the same time, and how both are inextricably linked. The problem now being African-Americans changing how we identify almost with each decade. There are those who want to challenge our ability to do so and our desire to put African in front of American. How dare they? If nothing else, we deserve the right to call ourselves what we will.

  • Miranda Jones says:

    Mrs. Wallace has a right to identify herself as Haitian if she so chooses. What qualifies anyone to tell her how to self-identify? And on what basis? Beyond that she makes us confront stereotypes that we hold about our beloved Haiti. For instance, it was once exceedingly difficult for me to see a Haitian person as Christian, Jehovah's Witness, Seven Day Adventist or the like. I would instantly associate a Haitian person with practicing Voodoo. I can say that I really did not see this as a negative association. In fact, I thought they were honoring the animist origins of their African roots, but I understand that the majority of people do not feel this way. I respect the breadth and depth of multiple religious experiences. Suffice it to say, she has taught me to also associate Christianity as a part of the Haitian religious experience.
    I do wonder if most of the negative associations come from the media, and maybe even from Haitian politics. Nonetheless, stereotypes do not exist in a vacuum or fall out the sky. At the same time, this does not give us the excuse to be lazy and not inform ourselves-if we care. I have read almost of the works of Edwidge Danticat, and read much about Brother Toussaint, and yes I appreciate zouk and fried plaintains. Haiti, the first idependent black nation-I love you!
     

  • Kets says:

    Wonderful and insightful article!!! We need to hear more voices like yours! Thank you for bringing  to our attention the experience of a woman of  the African diaspora.  Too often we liken our experiences and thoughts and impose on others.  We need to make more space available in our society to hear the diverse voice and respect that voice as one of authority when they are the one experiencing or have  come from the land.

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