DURING A recent visit to the home of an elderly family member, I spotted the 2013 calendar she had on her wall. Upon closer inspection, I noted that it wasn't labelled as a calendar – it was an almanac. Oh how I laughed. "Who in this day and age still uses the word almanac?," I thought to myself. The old-fashioned word that many Caribbean folks once used would probably be lost on today's younger black Brits, as most of us are familiar with the more common name given to the 12-month guide: calendar.
It got me thinking about other cultural trends that seem to be losing significance for today's younger black Brits. And soon enough I had to wonder: is our culture dying a slow death?
Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that the black British experience over the years has been very much about forging our own identity, and rightly so. For those of us born here in the UK, it's tiresome when English folks ask you where you're from, and upon informing them you're from England, they reply, "No – where are you really from?" In those instances, many of us don't wish to be defined by where our parents or grandparents were born; we want to be regarded as British, because that's what we are.
But equally, many of us are influenced by our parents'/grandparents' heritage, whether it's the food we eat, the way we speak or the way we behave. And while there's nothing wrong with adapting/evolving, the thought of all our cultural trends fading into oblivion is, for me, a crying shame.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
Many of us black women have done away with our natural hair in favour of weaves and relaxers. Whether that choice was made for easier manageability or to 'fit in' better in British society, this trend is one example of us veering away from our heritage.
I say this without judgement because I relaxed my hair in my teens and throughout most of my 20s. I only recently decided to (literally) go back to my roots. But many of us only have to look at old photos of our elders, complete with their large afros, to see that today's hair straightening phenomenon wasn't one that our elders subscribed to years ago.
Manners cost nothing
One thing that is always sure to make me feel much older than my 29 years is when I hear black youngsters swearing in front of 'big people'. During a recent chat with a few black friends of my age, we all confirmed that cursing in front of elders – whether they were people you knew or strangers on a bus – was a definite no no.
With many of our elders believing firmly in the importance of manners, I can't help but shudder when I hear our youngsters talking to – or even in front of – their elders with no respect. Often, it seems that the culture of instilling manners into our young people has gone out the window.
Food, glorious food
I've lost count of the amount of times my sister and I, when planning events over the years, have said, "Dad can cook the curry." And having been to many family functions where Aunty so-and-so fried the fish or Sister so-and-so from church did the rice and peas, I know it's common for younger black folks to call upon their elders to cook traditional food for their various events.
Clearly, it was important for many of our elders to learn how to cook back in the day. And it was during a recent event – for which dad did cook the curry – that I suddenly wondered: when my parents' generation is no more, how many folks of my generation will know how to cook those dishes that our elders cooked? How many of us have made an effort to ask our elders to teach us how to cook those dishes we know and love? After all, recipes from cook books will never be quite the same as the way mum/dad cooked it.
The foundation of faith
You may remember an article I wrote last year entitled “Time to go back to church?” In it, I examined how so many black folks of my generation have given up the practice of church-going that our parents and grandparents did (and still do) without fail each Sunday.
It's an issue I've pondered even more since the birth of my daughter four months ago. Should I – myself, a church drop out – do as my mum did and raise my daughter to know the importance of church life?
My Christian faith remains with me, but like so many people of my age, I only find myself in church for weddings, christenings and funerals. Why have so many of us let this once-important element of our culture become a thing of the past? And could returning to the foundation of faith that shaped so many of us make for a better society?
We all know that times change and traditions die out, but I can’t help but wonder if it will be to the detriment of future generations of black Brits to simply give up all the practices of our heritage. Perhaps if our community wants a brighter future, it might be an idea to look to the cultural foundations of our past.
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