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Topic subjectAfrakan in the New world
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=12064&mesg_id=12084
12084, Afrakan in the New world
Posted by Solarus, Tue Jul-10-01 11:04 AM
(Christianity and Afraka PT 3 of 3)

Across the waters, into the “New” World, also referred to as the “Americas,” Afrakans entered to lose all traces of their culture. Upon arriving they were no longer Afrakan, just “West Indian,” “Caribbean,” “Hispanic” and “African American,” no correction, just “American.” Lost were their traditions and knowledge of who they were. Lost were all of their cultural connections to the Yoruba, Ibgo, Akan, Kongo, Fulani, Wolof, Mende, Temne, etc. Lost and gone forever…

Unfortunately this is an erroneous sentiment expressed and believed by many people. Afrakans that crossed the Middle Passage were still Afrakan when they reached, and their culture was not lost, but rather, infused, altered and sadly in some cases, was replaced. Culture is medium through which all aspects of life are filtered. Culture is not an independent variable in one’s life comparable to gender, race, or class. Although this is controversial topic itself among the scholastic world, the “culture-as-a-medium” construct is one of the underlying assumptions for this entire thread (and in fact has been for EVERYTHING that I have EVER written).

A theologian (whose name I can’t remember at the moment), referred commented that the general religious differences between African- Americans and African Caribbeans/Latinos could be categorized as: the “Death of the Gods” vs. the “Gods in Exile,” respectively. His point was that for African-Americans, the African spiritual beliefs that they possessed were largely supplanted with newfound Christian beliefs whereas Africans in the Caribbean and Latin America still possessed African spiritual beliefs but in an altered form, infused with Christianity and other aspects of European culture.

One point that needs to be made is concept of “enculturation:”

: the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values

This process occurs through the institutions that a given society possesses. The educational system, religious institutions, media (communications) and other social institutions all play a role in enculturating its own citizens and/or foreigners. The enculturation process in the United States is largely responsible for the supposed “death of the gods.” Being under the daily scrutiny of Europeans, added with the fact that the use of Afrakan names, languages, customs and other cultural characteristics were largely discouraged, prohibited and in some cases legally outlawed (see Virginia no drumming laws), Afrakan were more effectively enculturated into a Western cultural ethos, specifically, “American.” However, the number of small number of Afrakans compared to the number of Europeans is not the sole reason for the greater enculturation of Afrakans in America versus the West Indies. The main reason is the effectiveness of the institutions. If we were to fast forward to the present we can see that the effectiveness of enculturation into a Western cultural ethos is far greater because of the larger availability of schools and the dominance of Western culture in the media for West Indians and to a great extent continental Afrakans.*Afrakan rituals were often outlawed in the Caribbean but because of the few number of Europeans, they were able to practice their rituals in secrecy.

Thus looking at the development of the “gods in exile”- syncretistic religions in the West Indies/Latin America, we find the “God is IMMANENT” concept still shining through. Some of the most popular belief systems that we find are: Voodoo-Haiti, Candomble-Brazil, Pocomania-Jamaica, Santeria-Cuba. Each of these systems vary on the amount of Christian infusion but they still hold the “God is IMMANENT” concept. “Pocomania” of all of the systems listed , possesses more of an Christian/European influence which is due to the persistence and effectiveness of the British enculturational processes.

Voodoo, Santeria, and Candomble have their origins mostly from the Yoruba of West Afraka as one can find the persistence of Yoruba “deities” throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Specifically the deity, “Shango,” is probably the most prevalent deity throughout the Americas. However one must realize that "deities" or "orishas" (called "loas" in Haiti and "orichus" in Cuba) are only forces/energies, parts of the whole, that can be imbibed when necessary.

The inclusiveness of the Afrakan conceptual system (deriving from the “God is IMMANENT” concept) enabled Afrakan “gods” to remain and for Christian gods and saints to be included. Jesus, the Trinity and Christian saints were not dismissed as untrue or abhorrent. In fact Afrakans were often boggled at reason for the European emphasis on believing only in “HIM.” Not accepting particular customs is one thing but totally negating “deities” is another.

The negation of Afrakan "deities" is expected when one considers in emphasis on being the ONLY way to God, separation from God, and God of total "goodness," thus separating good from evil. This however is not so within any Afrakan tradition as stated before. Especially the concept of "good vs. evil." This also is not an Afrakan concept. If "God is IMMANENT," how can God NOT be "evil?" But the more prolific question is, "what IS evil?" Christian theologians often compare the orisha, Eshu (AKA Elegba, Echu <-in Cuba, Elegbara, Legba<- in Haiti)with the Devil because of Eshu's mischievous acts. In fact the Bible, translated into the Yoruba language, replaces "satan" with "Eshu." This is completely in error. In conclusion, I'll end with a quote from Janheinz Jahn, who said it best:

"To identify Eshu with evil is to misunderstand the basic principles of Yoruba philosophy. Unlike the European, the Yoruba does not conceive the world as a conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, God and devil. He is realistic and recognizes that all forces-even divin forces- have destructive as well as constructive possiblities. The secret of life, then and the purpose of orisha worship is to establish a constructive relationship with these powers."


Further Reading:
_Muntu_ by Janheinz Jahn
"Culture in Development" by Michael Cole
_Olodumare:God in Yoruba Belief_ E. Bolaji Idowu

***Words of Wisdom***

"Every time you rise from your sleeping state, you have been reincarnated. Every time you recover from a bad experience, you have been reincarnated. Every time you have been given a new lease on life, you have been reincarnated. Every time you breath in and out, take in the fresh breath of life and feel the divine intelligence flowing in and around you, you have been reincarnated."- Mfundishi Bakari

On "love":

"I am in love everyday, whether I am with someone or not. Why? All love is based on a search for spirit. For me love is timeless, transcendent, peaceful, freeing, soul-based, unifying, and enhanced evolution. This is the basis of my activism."- Nettrice, the embodiment of Oshun

"Since we all make up the rules as we go along, love can mean many different things to many different people. But, for me love is a total commitment to understanding that is not limited to just people but is open to the totality of life. As long as we approach love from a fear based mentality and perceive it through veils of guardedness and anxiety, it will always be restricted by our fears."- Mfundishi Bakari