I have been an advocate of researching and teaching ancient African spiritual and cultural traditions to African Americans for as long as I can remember. I have always believed that it is important for African Americans to connect with its indigenous culture from a spiritual and social perspective.
Many African Americans believe that the significance of connecting with our African heritage is overstated. They believe that it is not necessary for us to reconnect with our African heritage in order to be prosperous in America.
African American leaders and sociological experts claim they have the answers to why African Americans have so many social problems. However; when I listen to these so-called leaders, I am amazed, as well as frustrated, when I fail to hear them mention lack of ethnic pride and lack of unity among African Americans as a source of our problems. I hope that a recent study titled “The Effects of Changes in Racial Identity and Self-Esteem on Changes in African American Adolescents’ Mental Health” will change people’s minds. The authors of this study are Jelani Mandara, Associate Professor at Northwestern University, Maryse H. Richards and Noni Gaylord-Harden (Loyola University Chicago) and Brian Ragsdale (Walden University).
According to the study, as stated by Professor Mandara, “A rising sense of ethnic pride appears to be particularly helpful to boys in buffering against symptoms of depression. He further states that “It may be that race is a more salient issue for boys in this age group than it is for girls.
The study validated the importance of ethnic pride separate and apart from self-esteem. “Psychologists have been theorizing about this for years,” Mandara said. “Our empirical evidence indicates that we’ll see African–American teens with fewer depressive symptoms if we pay more attention to building ethnic pride.”
In my opinion, this study is one of the most important research projects regarding African American youth in the last 20 years. This study helps answer the question: Why are the African–American people not as prosperous or as unified as other ethnic groups in America?
The answer is: We are the only ethnic group in America who does not have linkage with its indigenous ancestors; thus, there is no linkage to our indigenous culture. Our indigenous culture is part of our nature. In essence, we are not living according to our nature; therefore, we are dysfunctional as a people. Living the “American Way of Life” without any true understanding of our own culture has been a major reason why we have not reached our true potential here in America.
Armed with the results of this study should make it easier, for African American scholars, teachers, community leaders as well as national leaders, to galvanize our people towards seeking the truth about our indigenous cultures, traditions and spiritual philosophies. Many prominent African American political leaders shy away from speaking from an African American perspective for fear of alienating other ethnic groups. This is silly, because other ethnic groups could care less about what we think about them and how they stand united and prideful of their ethnicity.
We are descendants of a great and mighty people; we need to stop looking at ourselves as minorities or as some helpless people who need others to help us. Our history goes back to the beginning of civilization; actually, Africa is the birth place of civilization as we know it today. Everything from mathematics, science, astronomy, medicine and religion has it roots in Africa. Our people need to know their true history; with that said, let the teaching and the learning begin!