‘’When I was a child, books saved me from despair: that convinced me that culture was the highest of values ’’- Simone de Beauvoir
If one were to adhere strictly to the recent population of sub-Saharan descent, there will be about 1.2 billion black people on earth. This figure will however climb further when an objective metric like melanin measurement is taken into consideration10. In-spite of these revelations, many including members of the black population are ignorant about the numerous benefits obtainable from black culture. The burden of this essay therefore seeks to define some terminologies and discuss about the important roles black culture plays in making the global society a better place.
Definition of terms
Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs, and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation11.
Black culture on the other hand refers to culture of Africa, African American culture or the culture of black communities in other parts of the world1.
Important roles of black culture
*Have one of the healthiest foods on earth
From my experience, the saying, “you are what you eat” is now a reality. I underestimated this saying prior to the Covid-19 pandemic but as death toll rose, the important role black culture dishes played in boosting the immunity of her consumers was glaring. This revelation even compelled a white friend of mine from the United States of America who had been infected with Covid-19 to seek recommendations from me regarding some black culture diets he could adopt to build the immune system of his family.
According to an international study published in the medical journal The Lancet, people in Mali, Chad, Senegal and Sierra Leone enjoy healthier diets than those in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada. The study examined diet trends in different countries between 1990 and 2010. Researchers examined diets linked to obesity or conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Evidence of countries where people eat a relatively high proportion of healthy foods coupled with countries where there was relatively low consumption of unhealthy items like unprocessed red meat, processed meats, sugar-sweetened drinks, saturated fats, and salts were also taken into consideration2. Findings suggested that the nutritional cuisines of a number of West and Central African countries were some of the healthiest in the world.
Irvinia gabonensis commonly known as ogbono is a black culture diet in high demand because of its high socio-economic, nutritional and medicinal values. According to numerous studies, the seeds contains about 18 amino acids with a good number of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It also contains anti-diabetic properties, prevents constipation, aids digestion, and can be used for astringent and dental purposes3.
Okoho is a soup made from the okoho stick, which is slimy after preparation. It is usually prepared with bush meat and best served with pounded yam. It can also be eaten with semolina, eba and yam flour. This soup is usually prepared without the use of oil. It is the most respected and demanded food in all Idoma events such as; traditional weddings, burial ceremonies, birthdays and other festivities. The soup is medicinal and known for its ability to aid digestion.
The fruits are edible in soups. Ethno-medicinal uses include treatment of sore breast, indigestion, venereal diseases, intestinal parasites, oedema and eye problems resulting from attack of black cobra. The root has been used traditionally in the management of sickle cell disease. The plant is also used as a cathartic, aphrodisiac and antidote to arrow wounds. The stem bark has been reported to contain carbohydrates, tannins, cyanogenic glycosides, anthraquinones and flavonoids. It is used in the management of infertility in males and also used to treat respiratory issues, ulcers, mouth sores, inflamed gum and sore throat. Its extracts have been credited with antibacterial properties, as an anti-trypanosomal plant and a source of gum powder. It is a component of an herbal anti-sickling Nigerian formula. In Benin Republic, it is used for its diuretic properties while in Ghana; it is used as a post-harvest ethnobotanical protectant. The aqueous extract of its stem bark is associated with aphrodisiac/fertility potential among the Yoruba-speaking people of South-West. The use of C. populnea as an aphrodisiac and fertility enhancer among the males has been attributed to the declining fertility trend that has been established in this population over the years coupled with the attendant increasing levels of erectile dysfunction4.
*Health benefits of black culture music and dance
This is an aspect of the black culture that is often neglected due to ignorance. Indigenous healing rituals around the black culture often use powerful rhythms, music’s and dance for therapeutic purposes. According to a study from the Journal of alternative and complementary medicine, Ngoma ceremonies are used throughout Central and South Africa to help people address difficult issues like medical illness. In conducting the study, the Congolese Zebola ceremony was modified to be religion neutral and to involve only moderate exercise. Out of the 17 participants, 15 had chronic illnesses while 2 had no medical diagnosis. Participants spent 10 minutes in focused activity before dancing to the rhythm for an hour and half with a rest duration at 20 minutes intervals. The results showed that 16 of the 17 participants found the ceremony to be a positive one, which influenced their experience. None found the form uncomfortably foreign or disturbing. Diverse benefits described by the participants included increased exercise tolerance, stress reduction, feelings of group support and beneficial spiritual experiences5.
According to Jaachynma N.E Agu, “you are addressed by the way you dress. Your attire reflects your sense of value or taste…”
The black culture fashion is unique and important because designs creatively incorporate cultural elements that helps them blend with modern trends. These outfits also helps in telling stories about the histories of black culture.
The Ankara fashion style for instance is presently a household outfit in many nations. The style dates back from the early colonial age and describes originally a wax printed cotton textile with colourful perseverative patterns of mostly symbolic contents7.
Little wonder, the bright and beautiful prints, unique personality presentation ability, wear-ability, accessibility, availability and match-ability characteristics makes black culture outfits acceptable globally.
*Black culture folktales, stories and literature promotes forgiveness
In several black cultures, children often gather around older members of their communities to listen to moonlight tales about historic events like the slave trade.
The transatlantic slave trade for instance transported 10 to 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to America from the 16th to 19th century. According to my dad, young boys and girls approaching their prime were forcefully taken away from their families to toil on sugar plantations. Those who resisted were either tortured, killed or thrown off board ships to perish. These practice promoted lawlessness, depopulation, under-development and left the dependent members of the black culture destitute. In-spite of all, storytellers still encourage their listeners to avoid resentment against the whites and learn to forgive for the benefit of the global society.
*Greeting and culture of respect
According to the black culture, younger members of the society are mandated to show respect to their elders. Boys from the Yoruba culture for instance lie down/prostrate while the girls genuflect while greeting. This makes it very uncommon for waywardness to thrive among many members of the black society.
*Helps in ending racism and all forms of discrimination
Due to ignorance about black culture, many subject blacks to discriminations like racism and xenophobia. The black cultures publicity however helps in equipping perpetrators with knowledge to shun these behaviours and appreciate the beauty of being black.
The black history month is the annual festivals that are observed in the United States to recognize the achievements of African American reformers, civil rights activists, and other essential people in black history9. This commemoration helps in raising awareness about the importance of the blacks and fuels the younger generation to pursue excellence in their endeavours.
*Black culture artefacts and crafts promotes tourism, research and relaxation
Many tourists prefer spending their holidays around museums housing crafts like Nok terracotta’s and Benin bronzes because of their ability to relieve stress and connect visitors with history. They also play an important role in aiding researches by archaeologist.
Finally, melanin produced by melanocyte cells provides some protection against skin damage from the sun12. For members of the black culture, nature has abundantly blessed us with this pigment to withstand heat from the sun and overcome skin cancer. If the rest of human race were to run into a medical deficiency that required melanin donation, maybe members of black culture who have continuously held unto the philosophy of “black is beautiful” from generation to generation will save the human race.
Since every part of the body plays an important role to maintain proper body functioning, so does black culture to the global community. Neglecting its importance will deprive the world of nourishment and cause all round starvation.
2 https://www.expatica.com/healthcare/healthcare-basic/where-are-the-worlds-healthiest -countries-1051384