WRITE | To Say We Have No Culture

If we don’t claim and identify and wear our culture proudly, it’s not surprising that Vogue or any of these other magazines are Columbusing the crap out of what we know to be ours.
double dutch black culture

Photo: Art Sisters Jump for Joy Double Dutch Competition 

One of the biggest buzzwords being thrown around lately is the appropriation of black culture. This idea that our white or non-black counterparts adapt parts of black culture while ignoring the origin and citing the new owners as the originators. And it got me thinking about how in various instances I have heard, friends, acquaintances, random people try to downplay black culture themselves.

"We don't really have a culture." I've heard people literally say. They were basing it on the fact that we really don't have a “country” of our own and many of us don't know a lot about our origins. This in comparison to Caribbean culture or African culture. But I've always combatted the notion that we do indeed have a culture very correctly defined as African and American.

Yes the way we all got here, to America, was foul, disgusting and in many ways unbelievable. But the fact of the matter is, this is now our story, our culture, our history.  A distinct mix of African traditions and American.

Let's take time to think a little of black culture. When I think of my culture, I think of BBQs, block parties and family reunions. It's double Dutch in the middle of parked cars. It's hide and go seek, O’ clocks, and soul food. It's hair braiding in the summer. It is Sunday dinners and big hoop earrings. It is hop scotch and manhunt. It's the city pools and sitting on the porch in the summer. It’s growing up watching Martin and Living Single. It is Bantu knots and twist outs. And the list goes on and on.

On many occasions I have heard this longing for "culture" or a place where we belong but unfortunately and fortunately this screwed up country is it for us. If we don't claim and identify and wear our culture proudly, it's not surprising that Vogue or any of these other magazines are Columbusing the crap out of what we know to be ours.

Funny enough I had the thought for this post way before appropriation of black culture was becoming such a hot topic and it was all based off of a conversation with someone that we do have culture, values, and traditions. No I don't know exactly where my ancestors came from but as far as I can remember, we're a Cambridge and Marion Station, Maryland family. We love crabs in the summer and I adore my family’s country accents. My grandmother grew up on a farm and knew that country living was not for her and so she moved to Philadelphia with her two brothers Quitman and Earl. Friday nights were spent with her kids. She made a decent living and lived in North Philly where she raised my aunts, uncles and my mother.

Would it be great to know more? Of course! But I'm pretty happy knowing at least those memories. My childhood, growing up and all the things that make me a black American. And even though this country refuses to really see our value, I see it. I see that this is what we have, and when we appreciate it, when we say, this is ours, there is nothing that anyone can take away from that no matter how hard they try. Black lives and Black culture matter, we can't let anyone else tell us otherwise. 

What are some of your favorite memories and traditions from growing up? 

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