Black culture creates the appropriate belief system through stories, myths and legends.
NOTE: This is Part 10 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
The society contributes greatly to influencing our ideas and beliefs. One example of shaping cultural beliefs is storytelling through the African tradition of griots who serve as storytellers, musicians and oral historians of their communities. Messages were passed down through speech or song in the form of folktales and fables, epic histories and narration, and proverbs and sayings. Storytelling in Africa is still used to interpret the universe, resolve natural and physical phenomena, teach morals, maintain cultural values, pass on methods of survival, and to praise God. Stories can have extraordinary power. The oral tradition of storytelling makes it possible for a culture to pass knowledge, history, and experiences from one generation to the next.
Essentially, stories help formulate one’s belief system. Our past experiences are linked together in our collective memories through stories of how we believe the world works. The words create mental pictures that shape our feelings, thoughts and actions. However, believing is not knowing, and having faith is placing your trust in things that no one can prove.
Beliefs are energized thoughts. If you think, “I don’t want to take that test because I will fail”, you expect to fail. As soon as a thought carries with it the expectation that it will become a reality, it becomes a belief. There’s energy there because you created an image of failure and your spirit obliged.
Through verbal thinking, we define what kind of being we are, what we are capable of, and why. Thoughts in man are of two kinds – divine and human. Humans indulge in negative thinking about themselves and others and rationalize this behavior by living by faith, belief, hope, and wishing in place of trust in the guarantee of the laws of God.
For ideas to shape the behavior of people, they must be embedded into the physical structures of the brain – to turn words into flesh! The most important technique for achieving words into flesh is the reasoning process based on the laws. The key to behavioral change is to alter the automatic mode of functioning through meditation. Our African ancestors relied on group rituals (a form of meditation) to instill the proper images and belief systems into the minds and spirits of the people.
One of the highest beliefs to instill in people is the need to share. There is a common practice in the West to use verbal declarations as legitimate expressions of love. However, we express our love for one another through sharing, not through empty words.
Many of us fail to fully appreciate the sacrifices that others have made on our behalf because we think they should have done more. However, these good acts should serve as examples of behavior that we must make our own. If you are being asked to share, you might believe that you don’t know if you can do it and make no attempts to share. Similarly, we often harbor the mistaken belief that only material things are worth offering and conclude there is nothing we can do in return for the benevolence we received.
Benefactors are often challenged by negative feelings and wrong thoughts around the lack of gratitude from the people they sacrifice for. However, they must remain true to the law of love which is giving seeking nothing in return, as God gives to all. At a minimum, you can offer your benefactors prayers and meditations for their well-being so they may continue to help others. These ideas and beliefs about sharing are vital to instilling in people because love is the foundation for re-establishing a strong cultural community.
If our ideas are inconsistent with truth, they are wrong. If our thoughts are rooted in our humanity instead of our divinity, they are wrong. If our perceptions of others and the world are based on our feelings, they are almost always wrong. Our ideas, thoughts and perceptions must reflect the wisdom of our exalted ancestors. We must make sure that all thoughts we entertain portray us as divine beings. To do so, we must be the architects of our own reality by providing our people, especially the children, with stories, movies, books, etc. that reflect our true culture.