|The many faces of Black history|
|Thursday, 01 March 2012 11:59|
The new Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., scheduled to open in 2015, is intended to preserve and celebrate African-American history – from slavery through emancipation, segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, to modern-day triumphs.
However, some local South Florida academics have argued that the museum's name suggests that the space may not include the contributions of Black people from other nations
The criticism shows a deep cultural divide within America's Black community. One South Miami high school teacher was recently astonished to find, during an essay assignment to her class on the meaning of Black History that many of her Caribbean-American students failed to relate to African-American history as their own.
Throughout generations, America's diverse Black community has clung to the maxim of a singular Black experience, that we "came to the West in different ships, but now are all in one boat." But, the reality of this maxim shows that while Blacks in America may co-exist in one boat, the boat has several compartments. Within our diverse South Florida Black community alone, there are African-American, Caribbean-American, Latin American and Central American compartments.
This is not to say that Blacks among these different compartments do not share a deeply rooted bond. All Blacks are Africans first. Many Blacks of the Americas were imported by force from Africa and sold into slavery on sugar and cotton plantations in the Caribbean and America. Based on these origins, not only is it appropriate to call Blacks in America African-American, but also to call Black people in the Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean.
Secondly, most Blacks are descendants of slaves who, even after the system of slavery was abolished, were mostly marginalized within their respected homelands and fought for equal access to a life of dignity and pride. But this is also where the commonalities end.
As Blacks dispersed over North America, the Caribbean basin, and parts of South and Central America, a variety of Black cultures arose. And over the years the nuances that marked each culture as distinct have been deeply imbedded in the original communities Black Americans, Black Haitians, Jamaicans and Bahamians.
As the powerful economic pull of America attracted thousands of Black migrants from the Caribbean, Africa and other regions around the world, these migrants have in fact contributed to America's history in general, and its Black History in particular, while understandably preserving and celebrating their native cultures. This is a reality that African-Americans should understand and respect, and, in exchange, Blacks from other cultures have the responsibility of appreciating and honoring the particular culture and history of African-Americans.
Although Blacks living in America share the same victories and struggles of being Black in America, the cultural diversity among the Black community should not have to be sacrificed. The shared commonalities should be powerful enough to unite Black people in America. The knowledge and wisdom earned from the mutual appreciation of diverse Black identities will prove to be fundamental to building a cohesive and thriving Black community.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 01 March 2012 14:24|