The African Identity | History and Concepts

According to the Lexicon Webster Dictionary an Identity is referred to as the condition or character that distinguishes a person or a thing (Lexicon Webster, 1981). The primary distinguishing conditions or characteristics (the identity) that the slaves had were that these were black and Africans. Africans who were ripped of their homeland and brought into a "" new world "" to live under the rule of the white man (Europeans), who believed that they were inferior and whom they viewed as an oppressor. Question, did that Identity survive this oppression? Did that sense to be a proud, black, African get diminished by the slave trade? Agreeably, it could have been hard to keep that identity, but I strongly believed that the strength of the African people, the strength that made them qualify for the labour required on the plantations, was the same strength they tapped into to hold to every sense of "I am an African". With this paper I would present ways in which they slaves would have had the opportunity to embosom the African Identity and reasons why many would think it was lost. Also I would confer the evidence present today to aid that this identity survived long enough to get been transferred from generation to generation which is today, very within the lives of the offspring of slaves.

The slaves was required to struggle to retain their Identity; challenging that started as they were being forced of their homelands (Clarke, 1995). This struggle continued in the Americas. It was a brutal however, not fatal assault of the black African slaves' sense of self. These were being forced to simply accept a fresh identity; but did they really? Or was it just a concept? Although slave masters restricted all forms or African culture from being practised and enforced their cultures, the slaves found creative ways of resisting this. A straightforward method such as masking it under the practises of the whites at least to keep some semblance than it alive was adopted (Saharan Vibe, 2007).

Yes it could have been hard to maintain identities simply because they were punished for doing this. However periodically they may have interacted with no watchful eye of the slave master catching them (at nights, at church). There is always a defiant few whose bond to the sense of African identity was so strong that even these minimal occasions were used to resist against the whites by keeping alive any kinds of the identity possible with least pass it to other generations when they can (Lashington, 2011).

There are numerous practises that we take part in today in the Caribbean and the Americas that are deeply rooted in African culture that even we don't understand. These support the actual fact that the Identity survived and lives today. It was so prominent it was called Africanism, the fight of the Africans to keep Africa Alive. This they did in different cultural Expressions: Religion, Music, Dance, Festival, Folk tales, Language, and customs. The extent to that your culture was kept alive was not the same as island to island because of the time the plantation system was were only available in the particular island and just how many slaves were there (Phillip, 2010).

I can personally verify having taking part in various expressions of traditional African culture. To be a dancer I have already been aware of learning the Bele dances a native African dance that is usually danced to the music of drums, shack shacks and sticks; a totally African combination. The Religion: having relatives that actively worship as Spiritual Baptist I was exposed to the Shango and Saraca which was associated with the same African instruments. I have witnessed customs like the positioning of black and red or blue Maljo beads on babies when born to ward of the evil spirits and attended many wakes in my own short lifetime. I got taught in school of the Anansi stories that originate from Western Africa and other Moral stories. I have already been in a su su before and also have had a number of days of eating Ashum around all saints time. If I have observed and is still experiencing elements of African culture today, how could it be that it is said to havent survive the slave trade (Phillip, 2010).

The foods we eat also stems from the African Identity. Types of this are the ground provisions and salt fish (though the salt fish is more associated with slavery rather than African culture) but it was passed on. Going to the market early on a Saturday is another trait (Phillip, 2010).

To concentrate on the expression of music showing how strongly some aspects were kept as compared to others. Equally as music was used as a form of communication for the slaves during colonialism so it is today by means of Calypso (especially in Trinidad) as social commentary and Reggae (mainly in Jamaica) can be used to protest against types of oppression. In some islands/colonies because the African music was not freely allowed there was a dilution with this of the Europeans. Exactly the same was for the language; hence the amalgamation of English and African to provide patois in the British colonies and the French and African to provide Creole language in the French colonies. The emergence of the new or modified languages did however play a pivotal role in the success of rebellions and resistances which were held in the Caribbean (Take Five, n. d).

As due to the traits of the Africans' view that they will 1 day be free and return to the motherland that is passed down, we are actually experiencing today by means of reggae music that reeks of the yearning of black people to return to the homeland. Popular reggae artiste Richie Spice in another of his latest albums 'In the Streets to Africa' has two tracks on the album that pay tribute to the African heritage. One particular track, 'Black like tar', where spice sings of being proud to be black and acknowledges Africa as the Motherland. Another of his tracks 'Motherland Calling' sung as a chant to strong drumming music, Spice again acknowledges Africa as the motherland and the fact that even today the motherland is still calling; Africa continues to be waiting and one day will welcome all her children back home (Rastaman Vibrations, n. d).

Then you have the Legendary Bob Marley who fought for black or African liberation from oppression. His songs spoke of Liberation and Unity. In the track 'Zimbabwe' he urged the black man to get up and fight for be freedom/liberation and to have rights. The exact same for 'Get up stand up' another call to get right up and fight for our rights and never give up that fight. In another of his tracks 'Buffalo Soldier' what 'stolen from Africa, brought to America, fighting on arrival, fighting for survival; recognizes the fact that Africans were forced into slavery and also have struggled the oppression of the colonialist systems to keep the African identity alive throughout (Rastaman Vibrations, n. d).

The powerful message brought on by his songs continues with Marley's song 'Chant down Babylon'. Babylon to Africans or black people symbolizes the spirit of those who enslave, commit genocide, slave labour and grind the poor less advantage peoples of the world. Marley also recognize the need for unity on earth. With this realization there came songs 'One love and Africa Unite' a call to the folks of the planet to unite for the betterment of all people; especially Africans as they did during slavery. Lastly, you have the famous 'Redemption Song'- the song of freedom. A song whose intent is to reassure the individuals who freedom is possible but that they must free minds before true liberation is realized. This is clear evidence that the same spirit of the African slave to be free also to return to their house land Africa still manifest in the lives of the Black folks of the Caribbean and the Americas today.

The reasons that lots of assume that this identity didn't survive was because the great attempts of the Europeans to suppress any types of the culture; because of the dehumanization instituted by slavery in the British colonies. These activities distorted the notion of what Africans thought of themselves to be but it didn't eradicate it. This is the key reason why the slaves rebelled and resisted resistant to the inhumane treatment due to the European slave Trade; and the cultural domination it was instituting on the Africans (Bolland, 2002).

I concur that there are elements or practices that would have been lost but to state generally that the Identity itself was lost is wrong. If it didn't survive why then do we here chant of Kumbaya's ringing from black churches today? Why kids are still taught with Anansi stories in the schools? The response to these questions is easy because these things were passed on from our ancestors; slaves (Saharan Vibe, 2007).

Another reason why it is believed that it was 'virtually impossible' for African slaves to have a sense of identity was since it was hardly ever really acknowledged so when it was it was misrepresented as the white man was responsible for documentation from it (Clarke, 1995) This wasn't a happening only in the Americas.

"African history was shaped by external influences for years and years. From Muslim historians from the eighth to fifteenth centuries to the accounts of European travellers during the age of exploration to the dreadful portrayal of Arica as a continent of eternal "blackness" by German philosopher G. W. Hegel in the nineteenth century. Thus it has been very difficult even in light of the decolonization movements of the continent.

Continuing along that line, even native writers urged Africans themselves to come quickly to terms with African Identity with regards to the wanton violence that had been imposed through post colonialism which is constantly on the plague Africans in post colonial times. In a very painstaking recreation of how the lady created Africa as a historical construction, from backward, hostile and uncivilized portrayed by Hegel in to the twentieth century Europe's adoption of these older views" (LeFlem, 2008).

As a result of instances as these in conjunction with institutions including the caste system that existed in the colonial plantation days that forced upon the slaves that blacks are inferior compared to the superior Whites, there is the emergence of the mentality that still lives on that have black people convinced that the white man's country, colour, culture etc is much better than ours (Baker, 2011).

It is sometimes very easy when thinking about the African identity to equal it to Caribbean Identity or African American Identity. That is by no means true. If one tries to explain this idea of Caribbean Identity, an apt description of the typical Caribbean person is that he / she is part-African, part-European, part-Asian, part Native American but totally Caribbean; to comprehend this is to understand creative diversity" (Midrelief. com, 2007). Again, this shows the survival of the African Identity; it was amalgamated with other influences (identities) to create the Caribbean Identity (Midrelief. com, 2007). An identical conceptualization can be concluded for African Americans.

An essential aspect in this quest to determine the survival of the slave Africans' identity is to comprehend that it's been subjected to Globalization. I strongly believed the rest of the traits of this identity has been further diminished by this phenomenon. The culture that many fought to keep alive for so a long time is becoming increasingly more obsolete by the broken down barriers in communication and travel and the countless advances in technology (Take Five, n. d).


Though slavery raped us of the authenticity and pureness off of the rich African culture that was once the feature any African it was the strength of the African that helped him to keep to the struggle to emancipate himself from the shackles of your colonial legacy rather than be captives for the reason that evil system (Take Five, n. d). It is with certainty that we say that the African Identity is very much indeed animate in the lives of several individuals, communities, nations, and continents since it has truly survived the attempts of colonialist to eliminate the sense of Africanism that was kept residing in the hearts of the African natives throughout the duration of slavery and is still exists in the everyday lives of the generation whether we are aware of it or not. Agreeably the traces of the culture that is present today implies that it could not need been lost. Diluted? It's possible. Hidden in fusions with practices from colonial countries? Yes. But to say that the African Identity was lost because they were not in their homeland is not right (Midrelief. com, 2007). The onus is on us this present generation to keep what has survive to today and/or reformulate with what we learnt about the culture of our own ancestors. We need to always remember how truly a proud, courageous, and intelligent people our African ancestors were, and that people must claim their spirit. All that is left is for all of us to utilize it to totally emancipate our minds! (Take Five, n. d)

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