late, great ancestor, Dr. 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 by
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
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 free. We
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:
- We have tended to equate sophisticated technology with culture,
believing that such technology is exclusively European and that to
affirm African culture is to reject technology.
- We have tended to equate modern with technology, and to value
modern as if it were cultural progress. At the same time, we have seen
the affirmation of African/African American culture as a matter of
retrogression. Further, we have seen African/African American culture
as static rather than dynamic and adaptive.
- We have tended to equate European culture with wealth and African/African American culture with poverty.
- We have tended to associate education with the acquisition of all
the cultural forms of Europeans, and find it hard to conceive of
educated persons who live the African/African American culture.
- We have tended to equate self-affirmation with the hatred of others.
- We have tended to equate religion with particular forms of
European interpretations of Christianity and have not seen our people
as religious or spiritual.
we have failed to study ourselves and to know our culture.
challenges 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
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
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
hundred 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 our culture.
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 base.”