Asa G. Hilliard’s book, The
Maroon Within Us, once again reminds us of a major
problem that we, as African people in America, are besieged by.
Dr. Hilliard described this problem as cultural surrender.
In explaining the problem, Dr. Hilliard wrote, “African
Americans remain one of the very few groups in the United
States who do not honor their own
cultural traditions, sometimes even when they are honored
on this point, Dr. Hilliard states that, “If there is
a major illness among African American people it is that
we unceasingly honor and utilize our culture less. All
great nations and people do the opposite.”
Dr. Hilliard further explains, “Cultural surrender is
more than a matter of rejecting one’s father and mother
culture. It means that one accepts a new definition as
a person. The culturally dependent person is a mere spectator,
a receptacle for the creativities of others. To demand
freedom from slavery, only to use that freedom to commit
one’s self to a voluntary cultural servitude, is to lose
the chance to be human.”
erosion of many of our African cultural traditions and
foundations are most evidenced in our family and community
life. Far too many African people in America are getting away from the essence of family
life. The cultural tradition of African family life is
that of the extended family that centers itself on the
rearing of children and caring for the elders.
life is the basis for which a people maintain their cultural
traditions, traditions that are important to the survival
of a people. The way we raise our children in the context
of extended family life for African people was always
connected to the overall development of the larger community.
Hilliard writes, “There have always been Africans or Black
people in America who have been both physically and mentally
have also had far too many of those who have yielded their
bodies - and worse, their souls - to people and systems
whose purpose was to exploit to take all and give nothing.”
is in this context that Dr. Hilliard provides several
reasons why this devastating trend of cultural surrender
is taking place. He says, “…we have tended to accept certain
false dichotomies,” such as the following:
challenge that African people face in American, and throughout
the world, as we enter twenty-first-century is to create
programs, strategies, and institutions that will reclaim
and preserve our rich culture.
such program that has emerged as one approach to preserving
our culture and traditions, aimed at our youth, is the
growing Rites of Passage Movement. This Movement
seeks to place African and African people at the center
of independently working with our young people.
in Rites of Passage Programs are generally taught aspects
of our history that included our literary accomplishments,
our accomplishments in music, science and technology,
and the spiritual concepts of African people that direct
our moral and ethical behavior and treatment of others.
we look out and observe the African World Community, we
can see a common set of problems that all African people
face, as a result of hundreds of years of exploitation
by Europeans and others against African people. This exploitation
has developed into a worldwide system of white supremacy
and white domination, aimed at wiping out African culture.
We must resist and refuse any efforts to wipe out
Dr. Hilliard writes, “Cultural surrender or cultural
destruction leads inevitably to the loss of any possibility
for a group to mobilize on its behalf. There can be no
African/African American family in the absence of a cultural
W. Worrill, PhD, is the National Chairman Emeritus of
the National Black United Front (NBUF).
to contact Dr. Worrill.