What is Black Culture? The African Commonalities Pt 1

I have been lucky enough to experience being in American, English and Canadian African descended communities. I am struck by the similarities between the communities. It proves that although African slaves were stripped of everything material, they had, they maintained their culture and passed it down through the generations. Many of these commonalities are often demeaned, and used as fodder for comedians. This blog series will list some of these common cultural practices.

Handshakes and hugs

African American influenced handshakes have been the subject imitation all over the world. These greetings are often seen as flashy and excessive instead respectful and decorous. African Americans do not simply shake hands when they are making an introduction handshakes are an everyday greeting. They happen when one agrees with another or when someone says witty (i.e snapping). Have you ever wondered why African descended men shake hands and women usually don’t?  Women simply hug. The answer lies in the remnants of secret societies that are predominant in West Africa. Slaves were heavily abducted from the Mende, Sherbro, Kpelle, and other neighboring peoples of Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Guinea. Those slaves brought these practices to the Americas. The Poro (for males) and the Sande (for females) were responsible for guiding individuals to adulthood and supervising and regulating the sexual, social, and political conduct of all members of the wider society

The societies have had a great influence on African American culture. Cinqe of the Armistead used his Poro training to organize slaves to mutiny. His actions lead to on of the first legal discussions about slavery in America. Elements of these secret societies can be seen in maroon communities in the Caribbean. These groups of runaway slaves used rituals from African societies to bind the group together. The maroons used this secret information to rescue others from the savageries of slavery. The remnants of Poro-Sande societies survived in the religious practices of the Gullah people of the Sea Islands. The slaves of the Sea Island were isolated from European descended culture and
their Christianity is strongly influenced by those who survived the middle passage. The black Christian practice of  baptism has a direct line back to the Poro-Sande rituals. So next time you give someone a pound, dap, skin or five remember you are recalling the knowledge of your ancestors.


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