The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Speaker defines black culture, consciousness

By Bitty Reilly/south news editor

   Cultural rhythms opened the South Campus presentation on black culture and consciousness, followed by a quick language lesson. Jambo means hello and habari gani means what is the news—both Swahili words.
   Dr. Pamela Hill, a local educator, said the majority of the audience proved a theory that black people are conditioned not to be noticed.
   The front tables were occupied by two whites, one Asian, one black … 18 blacks sat in the back.
   Although invited to move to the front, students hesitated until Hill said to “do so in the name of Rosa Parks,” producing front row success.
   Hill, director of education at The Act of Change, Inc., Institute of Cultural Arts and Scholars Academy, spoke Feb. 16.
   Defining black culture and consciousness was the format behind the event.
   “ We came here. We aren’t going anywhere,” she said. “We need to learn while we are here, assume the position of our ancestors.”
   Volunteering as a visual aid, four men lay on the floor side by side, bunched together almost overlapping each other with their arms down by their sides.
   Using her tambourine, elevated about eight inches over the men’s faces to represent a platform, Hill demonstrated the next level above the men, which held more men and more on a level above that, in the holds of captivity on a ship.
   “ You speak different languages. You can’t communicate. You were separated from your people and put on this ship,” she said. “You need to go to the bathroom. Go.”
   Hill meant they would stay there while they “go” and lie in their waste. She replayed the events of the history of African slaves brought to America in ships on journeys that lasted many months. The prisoners would lie in this fashion most of the trips.
   “ You are here because your ancestors survived this journey of passage,” she said. “You were chained together at the feet, at the arms and at the neck.”
   Anthony Vaughn, one of the student volunteers, said the experiences transported him in time.
   “ I was not aware. I was thinking ‘this was how they really did it back then,’” he said. “I want to know more about history. I would like to get more information about my heritage.”
   After the demonstration, the audience sat in silence.
   “ Culture is important,” Hill said. “It is in everything we do. Singing and dancing is part of that culture. It’s who we are. Black culture is, was and will be.”
   Three students from the Act of Change Academy played music and recited. Hakimra Haslering, 10, played the wood drum.
   “ I’m in the Shantae Nation,” she said. “I know my culture.”
   Issa Ruh, 6, played the samba, another type of drum, and Safisha Himm, 6, played the bell.
   Music, food (such as sweet potato pie) and communication (the way of walking and animated body language) are part of educational tradition passed down through black heritage, Hill said.
   “ Be aware. Educate yourselves in the difference between slavery and heritage,” she said. “What is popular may lead you astray.”
   “ A word of warning,” she said. “Baggy pants mean, ‘Baby I’m interested in you.’ That came from the prison.”
   Annie Dobbins, South Campus counselor, said people who leave prison wear their pants that way because they are going back. The life of “three hots and a cot” (three square meals and a bed) is appealing.
   “ That is how the man knows you are his woman,” she said. “The style [these men] bring out [of prison], with their butts hanging out of their pants, means ‘you can be my fresh meat.’ During slavery, men didn’t have belts to keep from hanging themselves.”
   Hill said sagging is not culture. And, she added, tongues are not meant to be pierced.
   “ Tongue rings mean ‘anything, any time.’ We do things and don’t know why we do them,” she said.
   Hill told the audience to read, learn what their actions say and comprehend their heritage.
   In answer to a question posed from the audience, Hill said churches are sleeping rather than teaching.
   Hill recommended Sankofa, a film by Haile Gerima, that recaps the Maafa, an African holocaust.
   “ Get your tissues ready,” she said.
   The film teaches consciousness. Sankofa is an African term meaning “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.”
   Passed-down education may not be present in today’s black society with elementary schools’ racial gaps, Esudele Fagbenro, executive director at the Act of Change Institute of Cultural Arts, said.
   “ What happens is that we don’t have the community that we used to. A lot of mothers work, but [the difference is] our elders had community,” he said. “So a common unity of neighbors and friends helped to raise children. We are moving further away from the source that has given us what we need.”
   Fagbenro suggested a book about education of blacks in America from times of slavery to the Civil War: The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 by Carter Woodson. Although no longer in print, it is free on ebook at www.gutenberg.org/etext/11089.
   One member of the audience wanted to know why television and newspapers show blacks only playing football, playing basketball or rapping, but not as astrophysicists and doctors.
   “ If you read about someone, you may dismiss the John Swartz and John Connors and assume someone’s white because you don’t see a little picture of him.” Fagbenro said. “There are brothers behind the scenes that are doing a lot of great things.”
   Hill said the media has a strong influence on black culture.
   “ The media wants you to be a rapper,” she said. “We allow the media to dictate who we are.”
   Ryan Harris, a second semester student, attended to learn about the cultural experience. Hill said Harris’ features indicated he may have Nigerian heritage, but he was not aware of that. Harris said he is very interested in his family history.
   “ I have a big family tree, started and passed down by one of my slave [ancestors]” he said. “We have lots of copies, but I have the original at my house.”
   Harris said the detailed family tree adds to his education.
   “ It was started from a runaway slave, Adline Rheams in Cherokee County, Texas, in 1840. The history is a culture experience,” he said. “I was aware the way slaves came over, but I didn’t know it was quite like that.”
Hill encouraged the audience to learn black history.
   “ Talk to your elders, to the facility and staff if you are not doing so; become mentors, she said. “When you know who you are and your purpose in life, you can do it.”

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