Black culture encourages the proper use of nature to establish one’s divine nature.
NOTE: This is Part 12 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
Virtually everything we do is affected by our health — our thoughts, behaviors, how we handle challenges and setbacks, how we relate to others, our mood, vitality levels, ability to achieve goals, etc. Health is a major component of our lives. As we age, our health issues often become more prominent. Thus, promoting good health should be a principal aspect of an “advanced” culture.
If you want to improve your health, you must know some basic biology. When you’re emotional, certain chemicals are activated – namely adrenaline and cortisol to stimulate the fight or flight response. Blood flow goes to the muscles to stimulate a reaction as though you’re being threatened. If you remain in a persistent emotional state, the shortage of blood flow is what makes you sick because it deprives vital organs of blood and nutrients. If you indulge in these emotions several times per day, your body cannot rejuvenate itself. Since the indulgence of emotions is the chief cause of illness, the key to health and longevity is to eliminate stressful responses.
According to the World Health Organization, stress is “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way we respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to our overall well-being.” Stress is your physiological response to a challenge… …it is not the situation itself that is “stressful.” Avoidance of so-called stressful situations does not resolve the problem.
Stress causes a variety of problems in life. For instance, stress makes it difficult for many people to relax or sleep well. Stress also causes a range of emotions, including anxiety and irritability. When stressed, we may find it difficult to concentrate, and experience headaches or other body pains and digestive problems. Chronic stress can worsen pre-existing health conditions and increase the use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances. In addition, functioning in a persistently stressful (emotional) manner will invariably cause opposition with others and lead to conflict and estrangement.
Stressful situations can also cause or exacerbate mental health conditions, most commonly anxiety and depression. Mental health conditions are often due to symptoms of stress that have become persistent and have begun affecting normal daily functioning.
The chief cause of stress is in the mind due to wrong thinking and not in the myriad of events that have been classified as “stressors.” The primary cause of illness is your self-image, i.e., what you think and believe about yourself. The human self-image lays the foundation for reacting emotionally in life. The human believes it is natural to behave emotionally. It is the acceptance and perpetuation of these emotions that create illness. The ultimate cause of healing is to adopt a divine self-image. A divine self-image is when you are peaceful and joyful no matter what is going on in your life.
The key to healing is to eliminate negative emotional responses in your life. Holistic healing requires establishing peace and joy in your life. If you can hold onto peace and joy in all situations, you will be healthier. Tension (or stress) is the opposite of peace and it inhibits your ability to be peaceful. A major source of stress is a false belief that your physical circumstances cannot be changed, which leads to low self-esteem, worries, doubts, fears, depression, etc. Once we eliminate the stress, all that remains is peace.
Challenges are unavoidable and provide opportunities for personal growth. Our natural response to adversity and challenge is peace! The negative effects of emotions result in lowered IQ, poor performance, ill health, etc. If negative emotions diminish your well-being and survival it cannot be natural. However, being peaceful amid all challenging situations promotes mental clarity, improved performance and problem-solving, better health, etc. Therefore, peace is natural to your well-being and the stress response is unnatural.
Life is all about how to attain the goal of happiness, but first, you must heal your brain and re-train your mind. Tension (or stress) is the opposite of peace and it inhibits your ability to be joyful. Everything on earth is transitory, but peace and pleasure are eternal. Once we eliminate the stress response through deep meditation and self-reflection, yoga, qi gong, proper diet and nutritional supplementation, quality sleep and other healthy lifestyle practices, all that remains is peace and joy.
Adherence to good health practices is an essential requirement for a good life by living in accordance with nature. Our culture is under assault due to unnaturally poor health practices. However, good health is a vital component of Black culture. Since Black culture is rooted in functioning in a godly manner above everything else in life, all the other elements of Black culture are designed to help you properly handle your earthly existence through the adoption of a divine self-image. The establishment of our divine birthright is our most beneficial health practice.
Kofi Adebayo began his search for truth 40 years ago while majoring in philosophy in college. Even as a child, Kofi realized the world subsists on a web of intricate lies promulgated primarily by “intelligent” political, business, and religious leaders. He began with many years of independent study of African history, culture, and religion. Even after decades of discovery, Kofi believes he has only taken a sip from a wellspring of Black thought and achievement.
Black culture transforms people into advancing or achieving their divinity.
NOTE: This is Part 11 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
We have the power to change!
Every one of us can overcome our fears, worries, anxieties, anger, greed, addictions, etc. These human imperfections can be counteracted through spiritual cultivation. Life constantly reminds us to overcome negative emotions and inappropriate responses to problems and setbacks. The wrong responses are often triggered by the challenges in your life, but the challenges aren’t the problem. That’s how you learn. If God doesn’t give you problems to solve, then you don’t grow.
Your main challenge is to become a divine being by replacing all your emotional challenges with peace. Change, evolution, and adaptation are a natural part of life, and a major source of stress is the inability to change in the correct manner. The most effective means of change is meditation. Meditation allows you to replace the stress response with peace.
Meditation is natural. It is an intermediary between you and the behavior you’re trying to get rid of. The primary function of meditation is to transform behavior, but this transformation is powered by devotion. You must meditate repeatedly and consistently to change your behavior. What’s going to make you do that is devotion. Devotion reveals what you truly worship.
The ultimate survival mechanism is developing one’s divinity. The objective of everything that you do has to further your love for God. All your meditations should be dedicated to nourishing your love for God. Loving God is just not a feeling, it’s doing everything to elevate yourself so you can express your love through helping others. Since the capacity to love people is already hardwired in your psyche, you can transform your human love to generate the love for God.
For most of us, we don’t go through our lives every day thinking about our love for God. What you take into trance and what you are devoted to is manifesting your divinity because that’s how you demonstrate your love for God and for others. Your meditations must always include images of you being at peace during a specific challenge or personality deficiency you seek to overcome. You nourish your divinity by repeatedly seeing yourself being an example of God on earth and expressing appreciation for what God has given you.
Consistent appreciation generates the love for God. This means we must always look for things that we should be thankful for. We should deliberately incorporate an attitude of gratitude. And when that occurs, what flows out of your spirit is an energy to bless others which are acts of love.
Growing spiritually requires identifying with the divine part of you, not the human aspect of your being which is ego-driven. At the beginning of this life, you came into the world with an infant persona. To grow involves change and challenge. The challenge is to transcend the animal and human parts of your spirit which includes rejecting the ego.
African culture celebrates and embraces change. For instance, our social systems were designed to reward spiritual growth with positions of influence and authority. Our ancestors were largely revered due to their high moral character. Children aspired to be priests, not pop artists or athletes. In many traditional African cultures, the king also served as the chief priest because they understood that leadership should be bestowed based on spiritual cultivation. Becoming a better being — a divine being — has always been the hallmark of Black culture and represents the goal that all of us should aspire to change into.
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.
Scattered across the immense vacuum of space are stars, galaxies, suns and moons that are older than our human minds can comprehend. The age of our universe is about 13.8 billion years. The sun was born about 4.6 billion years ago and the age of Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years. The rise of mankind is recent, with the first modern human appearing around a million years ago and Homo Sapiens — today’s humans — arriving only in the past 200,000 years. If you compressed the time the universe has existed into a single day, humans arrive at 11:59:56pm, just four seconds before the end of the day. Imagine that – it took nearly 14 billion years to create the conditions for humans to exist!
It’s difficult to imagine millions or billions of years ago since man’s frame of reference is right now. The term “now” means everything and nothing at all. When does “now” no longer exist? If you ask someone, “what time is it now?”, by the time they respond, now has become the past. Yet now is all there is. We don’t live in the past or future, but within perpetually occurring moments of “nowness.”
Einstein discovered that the passage of time is relative. This relativity of time is the basis of this article, but from a philosophical viewpoint. If man measures time relative to his lifetime, then a few months or years seems significant. However, if time is measured relative to the unfolding of the universe, then a lifetime is but a blink of an eye. Most of us view time from within our lifetime. However, there are an infinite number of time perspectives. For instance, one can view life as a continuum beginning from the past 10 million years AND into the next 10 million years!!!
When you look at your life from this vantage point, then your personal problems — the things you worry about, the goals you failed to achieve, etc. seem trivial. Your life is not insignificant, but your worries, fears, and insecurities are. This is mind-blowing because it allows you to view the concept of time and your personal life from a different perspective. Why worry when you have a few more millions of years of life remaining? Of course, this notion of time is balanced by the precept that you can’t keep God waiting, so we’re not entitled to become complacent in overcoming our deficiencies.
There are stages of growth in all aspects of nature. In other words, all growth occurs sequentially through evolution and God oversees your growth process. The stages in your spiritual development require more than one lifetime to complete. Life is a continuum of cycles – you’re formed and re-formed through a series of incarnations.
Growth not only occurs at the individual level, but also at a group level (families, nations, races, etc.). Westerners don’t acknowledge the concept of reincarnation and their culture reflects this limited understanding of what life is. “Seize the day,” they say, because “tomorrow you die.” If there’s only one life, then there isn’t much incentive to engage in self-improvement. This is why Black people shouldn’t model our lives after Westerners because they have yet to adopt reincarnation as a fundamental principle of the evolutionary structure of life.
Growth occurs at its own natural pace. If someone or a group of people needs to grow, you’re not going to talk, march, picket, plead or vote them into developing faster than nature intended. This is an important consideration when addressing racism and white supremacy, for example. The bitter truth is it will take more time – perhaps many centuries — for people of European descent to develop the capacity to overcome their prejudice and racism. Once again, a few centuries are merely a blink of an eye from God’s perspective.
Once we begin to view time over billions of years, we can become more patient and understanding of our own faults and those of others. Reliance on a human clock leads to incorrect emotional responses to challenges in life. When we encounter difficulties, we tend to express negative emotions in adverse situations. The problem isn’t the situation, but in our responses to them. Adverse situations are natural, unavoidable and time-constrained. The proper response, even in tumultuous scenarios, is always peace and joy.
You may be using the wrong clock to determine what time it is. You are not a lifetime event. You’re a star in an infinite galaxy that is constantly evolving, and you grow brighter as the universe unfolds. You have a destiny and purpose that cannot be confined within the expanse of a few years in an earthly vessel. You’re a spiritual being that transcends space and time. Your journey began billions of years ago and will extend billions of more years into the future. So the next time you want to know what time it is, just remember that you are timeless. You were born before the sky was made and you will still be gleaming when this galaxy ceases to exist.
The world constantly changes, but not all change is good. One of the central issues in the African Diaspora involves intergenerational relations and whether modern African families provide adequate support and care to their elders. How a people treat the helpless, elders, women, and children speaks volumes about their culture and moral character.
Respect for elders is a core cultural value in Africa. In most African traditional societies, elders played important roles in providing guidance to the family and community. The traditions, laws and initiation ceremonies were entrusted to the elderly. Likewise, in all major religions in the world, it is a virtue for the youth to respect parents and elders because it’s essential for building and maintaining a strong society. Respect is shown through obedience, deferential behavior, and in providing goods and labor.
In Africa in the early twenty-first century, respect remains a strong cultural value, and families are deeply concerned for their older members. However, the ability of families to provide for elders has diminished in recent years due to widespread poverty, labor migration, and the competing needs of children and aging parents. Technology has also adversely impacted our personal interactions with our older family members. The formal educational system and the advent of social media have diminished their roles as social guides. Furthermore, elders have lost control over cultural resources as the youth pursue wealth, prestige and power based on the influence of Western culture.
Our elders are the purveyors of culture who pass it on to the newer generations. As we enjoy the fruits of their labor, it is our duty to repay them by not only listening to them, caring for them and following their example, but by maintaining our customs, values, and traditions. This is the greatest honor we can bestow on our elders.
Black culture reinforces the correct images for joy and harmony to prevail
NOTE: This is Part 9 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
Generally, Black people are a joyful people. The world has always been envious of our boundless joy and creativity. There’s something within us that exudes joy despite the challenges we’ve encountered. We’re masterful in our capacity to create and inspire others.
Creativity is the product of the imagination. Imagination is a power of the spirit; the images we replay in our minds guide our life force. Our imagination influences everything we do. Every choice, idea and behavior begins as thoughts and images in our minds. Since we control our own minds, we have the power to reframe our thoughts and images to make them work in our favor.
Through your imagination, you can travel anywhere with the speed of light. What we imagine repeatedly can come into being. Proper use of the imagination strengthens our ability to recreate our world and reshape our lives. Since emotions are invoked by the images we associate with them, we should entertain only positive emotions which are enjoyable. Thus, joy and the imagination are intertwined.
To take advantage of the power of joy, you should always entertain joyful images of success, good health and well-being in all areas of life. Joy is the energy state that triggers all your vital functions to work well. Joy radiates energy, energizes and heals you, strengthens you, and vitalizes you. Don’t wait for things to happen to bring you joy. You have the power to make yourself joyful. Never-ending joy is happiness.
The highest spiritual significance of joy is to get excited about becoming a divine being. God created you to enjoy life. You were brought into the world to become joyful about being made in the likeness of God. Your imagination can help establish your divine identity if you begin to visualize yourself functioning as your highest Self.
If you find yourself lacking joy, then appreciation and gratitude can help ignite the joy and turn the excitement on. There’s a lot in your life to be thankful for. The list of good things in your life likely outweighs the few problems you may be currently encountering. Likewise, identify those things in your life that you have received but didn’t earn. Begin to appreciate the seemingly small things such as a budding dandelion in your yard and marvel at the Divine Intelligence that created it.
Black culture reinforces the joy of being Black and encourages the proper development of the imagination. Our creative cultural expressions are rooted in our spiritual practices. Art, architecture, music, dance, etc. were historically used to reinforce the positive attributes of man and his/her purpose in the world. For instance, the primary purpose of music is to induce a trance state for ritual ceremonies. Likewise, drumming and dance stemmed from the same source.
Ultimately, our joy comes from knowing and loving God. So the next time you see a group of Black people enjoying themselves, remind yourself of the source of true joy and happiness and appreciate the fact that God granted you the ability to choose to be joyful at any time, so choose joy all of the time.
Black culture allows for the proper expression of freedom by balancing individual needs with the needs of the community.
NOTE: This is Part 8 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
Western culture has no clear concept of freedom. From a Western perspective, freedom allows us the opportunity to pursue happiness while ensuring our rights are protected. It stands for an equal opportunity to achieve a good life (however one defines it), pursue dreams and goals, provide for a family, etc. unfettered by malicious government policies, racism, sexism, or any other cultural biases. Freedom is often associated with liberty, autonomy and the civil liberties with which to exercise them without undue interference by the state including freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of choice, and freedom of speech. The degree of freedom given to citizens is dependent upon the responsibility the citizens demonstrate for assuring these freedoms are maintained for everyone. If one’s freedom infringes upon another and the government doesn’t intervene, then everyone isn’t afforded the same freedoms.
However, freedom has a different connotation for the wealthy class. In their view, freedom lies in the private enjoyment of one’s life and goods which implies virtually no government accountability. Wealth is often built upon the exploitation of workers, contributing to environmental problems, food and goods that cause harm and poor health, etc. The wealthy do not want “the people” to dictate when, where or how they spend their time and money. They want the freedom to ensure they maintain their power over the majority.
America, for example, is the “land of the free” and is most closely associated with the concept of freedom. Americans applaud their freedoms. For instance, they think they’re free to say anything they want. But if what you proclaim publicly is ignorant, foolish, hate-filled or offensive, then what is the value of this freedom? How many people are led astray every day by people who don’t know what they’re talking about? Likewise, in America, hate groups are a vital part of the culture and they are free to assemble with the full support of the US Constitution.
Of course, Black people have a uniquely different experience with these ideals of freedom. An important part of re-establishing one’s own culture is re-defining the overarching ideals that serve as stabilizing and unifying concepts for a nation. For instance, what does it mean to be free? To answer that question from an African cultural perspective, we must start with God.
Our will – the ability to choose — allows us to be made in the likeness of God (only God and man have will). The will is the essence of our divinity. It is the tool used in the internal battle to resist emotional impulses. Man’s will is free to ignore all emotional urges that seemingly compel us to think and behave in a certain way – usually the wrong way. There is no divinity where there is compulsion. You are never compelled to act in a certain way. God granted us the freedom to follow or reject Its laws and to follow or reject our emotions.
You are free to will anything in life. But when you choose to live as a divine being, you seek to align your will with the will of God through the living of truth. However, we often abdicate our freedom by following our passions, wrong thoughts, likes, dislikes, emotions, etc. The inability to control behavior, impulses, passions, and bad habits are major causes of stress. Many people blame it on “lack of willpower,” but there is no power in the will. The will is empowered by your spirit.
Within you is a natural urge for independence – you want to do what you think you’re supposed to be doing out of a sense of freedom. However, that urge to be free must be guided by wisdom and take into consideration the needs of others. Just as parents direct their child’s development by allowing them the freedom to act within a circle of limitations, the Supreme Being develops man’s divinity by allowing a certain amount of freedom.
As above, so below. Members of a community are free to function within a set of limitations established through norms and customs. The African concept of freedom is communalistic whereas the Western approach is individualistic. Freedom in a traditional African society isn’t doing whatever you want because the interest of the whole is greater than the desires of the individual. Instead, freedom from an African perspective is subordinating one’s personal aspirations to society’s norms and values to serve the greater need. You are part of a family, a clan, and a community – each of which has individual requirements and expectations of you that maintain social order.
Freedom will accrue to Black people throughout the world when we re-establish our cultural identity. Yes, we must fight for our freedom, but the battles are ideological and spiritual, not physical.
Black culture promotes justice, not only for everyone in the community but for everything in and around it.
NOTE: This is Part 7 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
For centuries, Black people have endured horrendous forms of injustice. As a result of generations of repeated traumatic experiences, many of us have become bitter, angry, and vengeful.
Justice is fairness in the way that people are treated. But who determines what fair is? Is it fair to treat everyone equally? How should people be treated? To render justice, there must be a set of laws. Once again, we encounter problems when determining if laws are just or unjust. Justice, as applied in Western thought and culture, is not easily understood.
The American criminal justice system is a perfect example of injustice. Policing, more jails, tougher sentencing laws, etc. don’t create social harmony. Punishment should be for the purpose of correction, but this rarely occurs. It’s a barbaric system and some people have the audacity to refer to prisons as “correctional facilities.” Moreover, the recidivism rate in America is over 50% which clearly demonstrates the model doesn’t work.
When you interact with others, there will be transgressions. But most of us seek vengeance or punishment if we are wronged, not rehabilitation for the wrongdoer. If someone steals my money, and the person is caught and punished, is the wrong righted? No, because my money is still gone. Punishment comes after the fact. At the other end of the spectrum, a criminal begs a judge for mercy even though he knowingly did wrong. We, too, want to be treated with mercy when we treat others unfairly. If someone wrongs you and you seek vengeance, have you taken into consideration all the wrongs you’ve done? Should all those whom you’ve wronged likewise seek vengeance against you? You can’t serve justice in an unjust manner.
Let’s dig a little deeper — many of us go about our lives believing we don’t do harm to others, but if you indulge anger, inflict fear, argue, cause others to grieve, etc., you’re harming others. These human emotions are the source of all problems in the world. We’ve all seen those science fiction movies where aliens perceive humans as a virus that needs to be destroyed. Humans, by expressing negative emotions, wreak havoc wherever they go. A just culture should encourage and educate its members to eliminate negative emotions as a primary means of protecting others.
Justice protects the wronged and the wrongdoer, but not through punishment. The negative events that occur in people’s lives are often the logical conclusion of violating the law. If you jumped off a 10-story building, would you blame the law of gravity for your death? The major religions got it all wrong whereby heaven is the reward for good people and hell is punishment for bad people. All of us have come to earth to grow spiritually and we’re bound to make mistakes along the way. Why would God punish us for mistakes which are a part of a natural growth process?
You can’t avoid injustice. People are going to do you wrong, and oftentimes there’s nothing you can do about it. For instance, Black people throughout the world are victims of racism. Individually, you may not have the power to eliminate racism/white supremacy in the world, so you need protection from it that is beyond your capacity. Such protection can only come from God. However, you must qualify for God’s protection. If you want justice for yourself, then be just to others. If you’re functioning as a divine being or at least doing your best to strive to do so, God’s got your back because what you want is in sync with what God wants. Divine protection from the injustices of others is yours only if you live truth, and you can’t live truth unless you’re at peace.
A major contributor to incorrect responses to injustice, namely vengeance, is the thought that the wrongdoer will escape justice. Ultimately, no one escapes divine justice. We cannot avoid associations with people who for reasons only known to God, will do us wrong, despite the love we have given them. Once again, only peace can restore balance in these situations. A negative response from having been wronged creates another wrong and leads to suffering. There’s truth in the phrase, “you’re only hurting yourself.”
Our ancestors didn’t have prisons. Instead, we created a culture that diminished criminal behavior. In ancient times, we created a just society by striving to elevate people spiritually. In this manner, Black culture’s understanding and practice of law and justice are diametrically opposed to the Western approach. Black culture seeks to build people, not build jails. We recognize that justice is guaranteed, not by man, but by God.
Love is the cornerstone of culture.
NOTE: This is Part 6 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
Love is the most misunderstood and misapplied word in the world. To most people, love is an abstraction associated with virtually anything that looks or feels good. It represents a profoundly tender, passionate affection or sexual desire for another person. Many believe love is a set of emotions that results in happiness, and trust, and can vary in intensity and change over time (i.e., fall in and out of love). After thousands of years of human bonding, science is still trying to sort out what love is. Researchers debate the extent to which love is a biological or cultural phenomenon.
Let’s shine a light on this illusive term — put simply, love is giving, seeking nothing in return. Love is expressed through sharing, by helping someone who has a genuine need without judgment, especially if you have you go out of your way to help them. The wealth that comes to you belongs to everyone. You help the person out of an understanding that we’re all damaged goods and we need each other. That’s why you shouldn’t judge anyone.
If you want to express love, then invest your time and energy in someone else and expect nothing in return. You become a loving person when the dominant interest in your life is your concern for the whole above your own self-interests. The wellness of all is balanced by one’s own interests because it is enmeshed in the “all.” Stated another way, the more that you do for others is the more that you do for yourself. It is when sharing transcends the bonds of affection and blood kinship that love comes into play – especially when you have nothing to gain in return.
As far back into the historical record and into the present day, poets, poets, philosophers and preachers – all have acknowledged the power of love in countless ways, raising it above all other virtues. Surely, there must be something inside each of us clamoring to feel love, spread love and be loved.
To understand why we seek to love, let’s begin where we started…in Part 2, we affirmed the fact that all of us have the same goal in life – to be at peace despite what is going on around us. For man, there is a natural urge to be at peace. Since challenges in life cannot be avoided, we want to be peaceful as we undergo them. Being peaceful is man’s highest form of expression because peace transforms a human into a divine being.
Although peace is the goal, it is love that propels you toward achieving this goal. Peace is established through acts of love. Our Blackness isn’t what makes us divine, but it’s our knowledge of the purpose of life that always seeks peace through the power of love.
To be a loving person is to have an automatic reflex to help someone out of purity with peace. Thus, love is natural. All thoughts and acts that lack love (i.e., selfish, emotionally driven, ulterior motives, etc.) are unnatural and create disorder.
The universe functions on order – the sun rises and sets in predictable intervals, tides rise and fall in concert with moon phases, the day progresses into the night and night becomes day, etc. We depend on order for everything we do, but our lives are disorderly. Most of us fail to live in accordance with the rhythms of nature which is a product of God’s love. God’s love is manifested in the order of the universe that guarantees our success in life if we live within the order that God established for us. Love is the highest force of nature, the supreme unifying force. That’s why we say, “God is love.” God shares with all Its bountiful blessings. The sun shines for everyone, not just those who we think deserve it.
However, we don’t appreciate God’s love just as a child often doesn’t appreciate her parents. A universal image of love is a mother caring for a child. The child cannot care for itself, so a mother devotes all her energy to feeding and caring for the child, and she won’t hesitate to put her life on the line to protect the child. It is within her nature to do so. This is an example of how our love for God and love for others should look like.
To live as God is to live in a loving manner, and to be selfless. The highest act of sharing and love giving is to place your mind, body and spirit in the service of God. Through serving God, you must serve all men through sharing while cultivating a love for God above our love for anything else in the world.
However, we often want to quantify our sharing in a manner that is comfortable to us. We want to direct to whom, how much and when we give. That’s not love. Love is selfless which means being concerned more with the needs of others than with one’s own. If you share, but only on your own terms, then it’s a form of selfishness. Of course, one should maintain a healthy balance between helping others without persistently diminishing one’s own time and resources to his detriment.
Clearly, Western culture’s concept of love is firmly entrenched in selfish behavior. For instance, a husband and wife are said to love each other, but they want something in return. The wife may want her spouse to be more emotionally available to cater to her own emotional needs. Likewise, a husband may place sex at a high priority with more frequent expectations of his mate. The problem arises when the prevailing culture reinforces these notions which leads to a perpetual lack of understanding of what love is.
Black people, on the other hand, must re-establish a spiritual approach to love that promotes the love for God as the highest manifestation of love. If love is the ultimate unifying force, then we must define and demonstrate love in the correct manner. Black culture must foster a love for one another, love for nature, and love for God. It is love — the ability to share the best that you have with those truly in need — that is the foundation for establishing order in the family, society and the world.
Black culture creates a long-lasting social structure through tradition.
NOTE: This is Part 5 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
Everything in the universe is structured because all things function according to laws. For a culture to thrive, it, too, must be based on universal laws. Culture provides a structure for the development of a people, and this structure is replicated over centuries through learned behavior, beginning at a very young age. Culture is passed on from one generation to the next through the socialization process:
The child just grows into and within the cultural heritage of his people. He imbibes it. Culture, in traditional society, is not taught; it is caught. The child observes, imbibes and mimics the action of his elders and siblings. He watches the naming ceremonies, religious services, marriage rituals, funeral obsequies. He witnesses the coronation of a king or chief,
the annual yam festival, the annual dance and acrobatic displays of guilds and age groups or his relations in the activities. The child in a traditional society cannot escape his cultural and physical environments.
(Fafunwa, A.B. 1974. History of Education in Nigeria)
Children are unstructured. An essential requirement of raising children properly is to give them structure. Without structure, a child’s behavior can become wild and harm others within the social group. Similarly, there’s a rebel within your spirit called the human being that wants to be free of structure. Immaturity is often demonstrated as a rebellion against structure. Being born into a culture that understands the purpose of life will curb rebellious behavior and aid you in your journey toward fulfilling that purpose.
You have come to earth to learn how to develop your divinity. The path to divinity is cultivating peace through the challenge of poverty or illness or injustice or temptation, etc. God didn’t make a mistake when God created you, and it’s your job to construct a good life for yourself and your family. To do that, you must adhere to a tradition that your ancestors created for you. Traditions provide structure for social groups and aid in defining and reinforcing the values and code of conduct of its members.
What happens when traditions break down? Let’s examine the concept of the family. For thousands of years, the family has been the nucleus of all societies. Establishing and maintaining family units is universal and fundamental to the development of a community and a culture. What makes family so important? It’s the best approach to survival!! A child has two parents to ensure its safety and security, plus siblings, grandparents and cousins – all of whom share in the responsibility of raising a child so he or she can mature into an adult to replicate this cycle of life. That’s how nature works. However, if the family structure breaks down (i.e., single-parent households, children disrespecting their elders, promiscuity, etc.), it reduces the capacity of a people to survive.
For most of us, the importance of family was never explained in this manner. That’s why culture
is vital to the re-development of Black people – to reinforce the significance, values and purpose of what we have come to earth to achieve. All of this must be accomplished within the context of a family unit. Our former slave masters and colonists understood this as they imposed and continue to deploy a variety of “divide and conquer” tactics to destroy our family structures.
The most powerful principle of social organization is the concept of “family” derived from blood-relationship, which is characterized by kinship affinity, loyalties and obligations of relatives. This regulates social behavior and attitudes and orders social interaction through groupings of families we call, “community.” The community sets normative patterns to maintain this harmony. The African believes that his life is intertwined with his/her community. African people recognize there is no past and future – only the now. We can only reside in the present. Evidence of how we relate to time is ancestral communication. We don’t die; instead, we travel to another plane of existence, and we can communicate with the “dead.” Likewise, we seek to live forever so we are not forgotten by our future family, i.e., so they, too, can invoke us for wisdom and guidance.
Life is a continuum – you’re formed and re-formed through a series of incarnations within a family. Of course, Westerners don’t acknowledge the concept of reincarnation, so they see no point in trying to change. “Seize the day,” they say, because “tomorrow you die.” This is why we can’t model our lives after Westerners because they have yet to learn what life is all about.
By the way, you just don’t grow as an individual, you also grow as a group. You need a group to support your spiritual growth and you have a responsibility to uplift your entire group, your race, your family, and your spiritual community.
Spiritual philosophy begins with the understanding of the meaning of life, before and after death, which could only be proven through communications with the deceased. The most important thing about understanding your ancestors is culture. By striving to live within your tradition, you will attract ancestors to mutually assist you in advancing the family or group in its spiritual evolution.
The significance of tradition in providing structure can be more clearly viewed from an individual basis. All people have a set of natural urges that must be fulfilled. For instance, there’s an urge to procreate, but that sexual energy needs to be controlled in the proper way. Since culture and tradition establish social norms, the urge to procreate should be regulated appropriately. Likewise, we all have a natural urge to experience joy, and these pursuits must also be regulated to ensure the well-being of society.
What happens when someone isn’t properly cultivated? Simply put, the resulting behaviors of any people in this predicament tend towards decadence – violence, drinking, drugs, indiscriminate sex, materialism, etc. We experience a devaluation of our role in society which manifests on a personal level as a lack self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. For Black people, what most often occurs is we assume someone else’s culture and/or adopt the behaviors of a perceived culture established by the colonizer. For instance, there’s a popular notion that Black men don’t take care of their children, and this idea is reinforced within some of us as we assume this characterization.
Black people’s worldview is fundamentally the same all over the planet. There are numerous universal African cultural traditions, to name a few:
• Religion forms the basis of the community
• Ancestral veneration
• Rituals; libation
• Respect for elders
• Rites of passage
• Extended family
There remain vestiges of our traditional ways of life throughout the Diaspora, despite two thousand years of insidious acculturation. The “soul” of our people continues to flow in our veins. In fact, Black people continue to be major influencers of culture in the world. A modern example is the vast influence of our musical expressions on nearly all other cultures. Black people also serve as moral authorities; we are acknowledged for forgiving our transgressors.
Black people have the responsibility to solve a huge problem in the world – curbing violence. Violence leads to the breakdown of social order. Wars and conflicts consume scarce resources which could be used to improve education, health services, social protection, and infrastructure needed for development. Thus, the link between peace and development cannot be denied. There is a need to reinforce the role that culture can play in enabling communities to resolve their disputes and to strengthen the ties that bind them together.
Peace is not just the absence of violence, but also the presence of social solidarity. To re-establish social solidarity in violence-prone communities, we must revive cultural attitudes and values that have been proven to foster an environment within which peace can flourish. In fact, African traditional cultures can help in promoting peace among societies and facilitate the global cooperation necessary to reduce war, conflict, and violence in all its forms.
The greatest gift we can give to ourselves and to the world is to reconnect to our past. To recapture the totality of our greatness, we must return to the days of old by reviving our culture, religions, customs, and traditions. Essentially, to be Black is to live in accordance with the culture and traditions of our ancient ancestors.
Kofi Adebayo began his search for truth 40 years ago while majoring in philosophy in college. Even as a child, Kofi realized the world subsists on a web of intricate lies promulgated primarily by "intelligent" political, business, and religious leaders. He began with many years of independent study of African history, culture, and religion. Even after decades of discovery, Kofi believes he has only taken a sip from a wellspring of Black thought and achievement.