S. Waziri Hassan

3 tips on how traditions can be preserved and passed down within the Black Diaspora

African immigrant parents often wonder on how they can infect their diaspora kids with pan Africanism. This article explains how to do it and why it is important among black diaspora.

The propagation of African traditions through the decades or even through centuries have been a collective- gradual practice. The diaspora communities in Africa through communal movements led by different factors like wars, search for water and feed for their animals (especially in Nomadic communities), death of rulers amongst others led to creation of new cultural practices through integrations. Adopting new traditions and exporting other traditions. For Example the Ngoni-Ngoni migrations, the movements of Hausa-speaking communities, the Berber communities in North Africa, the Oromo communities, all these groups of people and more were members of diaspora at one stage of existence during the pre-colonial Africa, which indicates migration is not a new practice in the African communal setting, so is pure ethnicity. The belief of pure ethnicity is a hard question to tackle because of these movements of humans from places of origin to places of homage.   

But how were traditions passed-on and preserved over the years? And can the current African diaspora communities hold on to the thin yet crucial thread of their identity and existence.

1. Folk tales then and now

I remember back then under the moonless sky, when the harmattan breezed south of the Sahara lazily. We could gather around our nyanya (grandma), warming from the cinders to listen to her tales. Tales of Nambi, the first Muganda and her husband (Kintu). How they lived on to sire three sons. From this tale, one of the strongest tribes in the continent was birthed. 

The prose of such tales were so poetic, we mastered our languages by heart. The distant lands we never visited before, the norms and traditions of our ancestors, heroes, these were not mere tales rather our very own identities.

How can the African diaspora communities embrace similar techniques to preserve their traditions thousands of miles away from home?

There is a romance between storytelling and the night sky, a bond that seems unbreakable not like a nuance-burden held between day and the sunny clouds- a painful burden. Take an example of the sugar, cotton plantations, the day times were filled with pain and blood and ‘cat-o-nine-tails’. The nights were to sooth the sweaty bodies, compose music and drum to the distant rhythms of deity-songs back home across the Atlantic. This was their method of never detaching themselves from their traditions regardless of being in captivity.  

The stories have definitely withered with time since pre-colonial Africa. The advent of pan-Africanism, together with the ideologies of communism and capitalism, Maoism, socialism, all these foreign ideologies changed our politics, beliefs, storytelling, even the concept of migration. 

Not similarly beneath the moonless and starless skies or cinders but rather through barbeque parties and picnics in the country side of Massachusetts, ancient tales can be narrated, heroines redefined and cultures moulded. Through NFL nights, concerts, community gatherings, all these occasions can be a basis of cultural transformation and adaptation. 

2. Passing down African traditions

Cultural identity is the foundation upon which individuals build a sense of belonging and connection with diaspora communities. This encompasses the customs, traditions, language, and art that are passed down from generation to generation, shaping the unique foundation of each cultural group.

These cultural identities should be deep rooted to bond them despite geographical settings. To forge this collective spirit that transcends frontiers, preservation and celebration of culture must be venerated.

For these mosaic cultures in the African diaspora, a reflection of various varied African descent histories must be amalgamated. The dispersed diaspora across the globe must form a system of similarity, a form of pluralism of African descents.

Setting up carnivals has been a good example for the Carribeans and Latin-Americans to always reclaim their identity, this could also work for the African-Diaspora communities.

Through carnivals, African attire will be showcased, songs will be rehearsed, and the sense of unity will be formed to always bind the African communities. This will enrich their societies with diverse traditions, adding to the fabric of a multicultural universe.

Other forms of culture preservation are through expressive art forms like poetry, literature and music. The trivium art, music and drama. In addition, culinary traditions are key factors to tradition preservation in numerous ethnic groupings. 

3. The importance of celebrating traditions

Embracing the diverse traditions with the African Diaspora is equal to preserving the African heritage and promoting mutual understanding of different cultures.

Celebrating the differences in the diaspora communities, fosters a sense of appreciation for the unique contributions of other cultural groups. Moreover, it empowers individual communities to take pride in their cultural identities, leading to a stronger  sense of pride.

African diasporas come together to honor the diverse traditions, to create spaces for cultural dialogue. These interactions breed empathy, dispel stereotypes, and foster unity among people of very different backgrounds. This collective awareness of self worth and pride, unite the African diaspora communities. 

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