~Basic African Etiquette for African Descendants that are new to African cultures ~
What is etiquette? It is the the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.
Have you ever wondered what to say or how to behave in the presence of African Elders and Royals? It is OK. No one expects you to know everything. Elders will correct and help you along the way. Please do not tae it personally. We are often seen as the children coming home and there may be eagerness to help us learn the culture.
Although it differs in each ethnic group, there are a few common threads to African Etiquette.
1. Impressions ~ 1st impressions are lasting ones. Be respectful and humble at all times. No one knows your story but you. Many in Africa were told or believed that Abraham Lincoln freed the Enslaved Africans and they had a choice to come back where they were taken from but chose not to. This made some believe that we thought we were better. It is a part of my mission to correct that lie. I teach that we did not know where to return to and we had no means or finances to do so. Many of us believe All Africans were involved in selling our ancestry. That is NOT true. Many fought against it and died trying to stop it from spreading. Also, many descendants of those involved in slavery have officially apologized on behalf of their ancestors and welcomed us back home. Make no excuses . Stop following the denials. It happened. Now the conversations can really take place.
2. Filial Piety (Family Respect) ~ Show respect to the elders, ancestors, seniors (anyone older than you).
3. Words ~ Knowing when to speak and what words are allowed and what is offensive. An example is, to many African Ethic groups, the word "tribe" is offensive. Find out if this is proper to use with your group. It is an honor to be invited to sit with or speak to Elders and Royals. Many do not have that one on one opportunity.
4. Audience ~ Africa has many age mate systems. Know which one you belong to and remain in it until you are elevated by an elder. The boy scouts were founded on the African age mate system.
5. Being Humble ~ LEARN your place in the African society and take pride in it.
6. Fitting in ~ There are SOME allowances for those of us that are learning these things but it cannot be a permanent status. KNOW and GROW. Believe that an elder will make the appropriate corrections.
7. Ideologies ~ Humble yourself and do not force your ideology. It can cause the elders to ban you or chastise you in a way you have NEVER seen in your life. Allow the process to take its course and learn from the matured ones from our homeland and the ones that have literally sat at the feet of the African Elders. Culture and religion are NOT the same.
8. Customs and Courtesies ~ Study the customs and courtesies for YOUR ethnic groups and abide by them. Learn if you should bow, make eye contact, hand shake or not. Someone will teach you well well O.
9. Questioning ~ Ask questions at the proper time and in the proper venue. LEARN the correct venues.
10. Remember ~ We were taken away from our homes, we cannot DEMAND anything from those that had nothing to do with it. Instead, we MUST COEXIST, find a common ground and work with the resources we have. Being hasty and disrespectful, even if it is unintentional can cause damage. Approach your reconciliation with a humbled heart and RESPECT for the traditions of your ethnic group. If you internally wish to change a negative tradition, remember, you cannot do it from the outside.
11. Trust ~ ALWAYS REQUEST PERMISSION TO SHARE THE DETAILS THAT YOU ARE PROVIDED. NEVER POST THE DETAILS OR IMAGES IN SOCIAL MEDIA .
12. Feeling Comfortable ~ . If someone has done something to hurt your feelings, tactfully pull them to the side or an elder to the side and explain it. Things that may be normal practices in their culture may be offensive in yours. For example, when the phrase "you people" was mentioned while I was in an Igbo Chief's home, I twisted my eyebrows! Then . though wait a minute, he is talking to me and his children. So, this phrase really meant "you people". It did not have racist connotations because I was lumped in with his children. He said "Where are you people going?". I told him what it means in America and he said , I am home now. That meaning is not the same. He meant all of "you people" that he is talking to now.
13. Dressing the Part ~ Research the attire of the ethnic groups you belong to. Find shops that have those and buy the items piece by piece. Find out which items can be worn by you. Every piece of clothing and the design on the fabric has a meaning. Learn what you can wear. Please don't go and buy royal attire when you are not supposed to wear it. Ladies , please don't buy the men attire and wear it. Gentleman, please don't but the lady's attire and wear it. That is taboo.
In fact, surround yourself with items, statues, language, books, food, etc from your ethnic groups. The acceptable ones.
14. Jollof Rice ~ Know what Jollof Rice is! Please google. It is a West African Treasure. (smiles).
15. What About Them ~ African Elders and Royals are learning about us as well. Many are eager to reconnect. Some are not. That is their loss. Never force yourself into a place or culture that makes you feel uncomfortable.
16. Safety First ~ Keep in mind to trust YOUR instincts and think of safety 1st. Meet in groups in public locations. Just because someone looks like you, it does not mean they have your best intentions in mind.
** WORDS OF WISDOM ~ THIS RECONNECTION IS YOURS AND THE PERSON YOU ARE CONNECTING WITH. YOU ARE GOING INTO SOMEONE'S HOME AND HEARTS, DO NOT BE LIKE THE FEW THAT WE KNOW OF THAT TRIED TO FORCE THEMSELVES IN AFTER DNA TESTING AND WERE SHUNNED. NOTHING IS ACCOMPLISHED BY FORCE. IT WAS THE FAULT OF THOSE THAT DISRESPECTED THE ELDERS AND THE TRADITIONS***