To many, cultural identity is a vague concept. We easily overlook its impact and effect in our lives. While its presence may be difficult to recognize touch, its absence creates problems for which we may never understand the cause.
While African-Americans have been in America for as long as 400 years, we have been African for more than 4,000. That heritage still carries the greatest influence and deepest impact in defining who we are.
Men of a Fanti Family - Cape Coast 1910 - courtesy Smithonian Institution Archives
We are unique among the people of the world. Unlike others, we have suffered the trauma of the forcible separation from, and loss of our ancestral cultural identities. We have been named as a color rather than a culture, and too often we have come to identify ourselves as nothing more than this color. Negro, Black, or worse. Tags affixed to us by others for their convenience and our manipulation. Our cultural identity has been hidden from us for centuries. This concealment was done so well that many of us do not realize that it occurred.
The loss of the knowledge of who we were, and the societies that we were a part of, has left us crippled and deprived in many ways. We have fought through slavery and Jim Crow era terrorism, to prove to ‘White’ America that we were just like them. No different than them. Therefore worthy of equal treatment. These efforts helped to ensure our survival and were defining of our progress. But while fighting to become accepted, we lessened the importance of learning who we were. We ceased to place value on knowledge of our ancestral culture and the continuation of its practice.
Fante Performers 1910 - courtesy Smithonian Institution Archives
Today, many believe (myself included) that a cause for the most devastating ailments that plague our lives and our communities is the adherence to this false understanding of who we are. Our ignorance of our legacy and heritage as Africans fosters low self-esteem, and continually sabotages the growth and development of our families, communities and societies. The remedy for these ailments resides in the restoration of African cultural practices and values in the African-American community. I am committed to this goal.
A part of this restoration lies in how we dress and adorn our homes. We are a beautiful people and it is important that we allow our identity to shine as we move about our communities from day-to-day, on special occasions, and as we display within our homes, that which we believe to be important.
In my decades of travel to Ghana, I have had the pleasure of amassing a collection of African clothes and artifacts. An assortment of these items can be found at www.AfricanLegacyShoppe.com. I invite you to peruse our collection of cultural items and to share our site with your friends and family. I also invite your feedback on this blog. Through our collective efforts towards re-establishing African culture in the daily lives of African-Americans, we do and will shine and create improvements in all facets of our existence. I hope that you will join me in this promotion.
Nana Kwesi Agyeman