Values are ideals to which one holds, beliefs about what is right and wrong and standards as to how to live life. It is my belief that the topic of values is very personal and subjective and varies from person to person, even when you are of the same heritage. There are, however, some general themes in the African American culture. Historically, church and family were the most important values in African American life. They are still important today.
African Americans are not immune to the high divorce rates in the United States. Oftentimes, with the nuclear family not remaining in tact or families needing assistance with childcare because of employment, economic circumstances or illness, it is often the grandmother who steps in to assist with rearing children. Therefore, grandmothers have earned a place of respect within the African American family. “It is she who stresses the importance of service to others, racial pride, educational achievement, strong family ties, commitment to children, self-respect, discipline, and hard work” (Ruiz, 2004). Very often it is up the grandmother to hold the family together and, even when not in her own best interests, she accepts this role.
Spirituality and a belief in a higher power helped enslaved African Americans persevere and earn their freedom. That spirituality gave them strength to fight for equal rights and end segregation. Church was where bonds were formed with the community, food for the soul was offered and important messages of hope and persistence were shared. “Apart from the family, the church serves as one of the strongest socializing agents in the African American community” (Moore-Thomas, Day- Vines, 2008). Churches not only fulfilled a spiritual need, but also economic and social needs as well. African American sense of community is deepened by ones participation in Church.
Having been denied equal opportunity for education, the African American community values education. This is due to the enactment of the Jim Crow laws which sanctioned separate public facilities for African Americans from 1877 to 1965 (Pilgrim, 2000). A poll of students reveals reports that 82% of African Americans have a high school diploma, yet only 19% have college degrees (ACCSB International, 2005). Students reported that financial obstacles were the biggest challenge.
Kwanzaa, a non-religious African American holiday founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga, centers on the principles or values of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, collective economics, purpose creativity and faith. To summarize African American values perfectly, Dr. Karenga, in his 2008 annual message stated:
This means boldly and continuously facing the difficulties and dangers that confront us; seeking and speaking truth; doing and demanding justice; treating each other with ultimate respect and loving kindness; walking and working together righteously; resisting wrong, oppression and injustice everywhere; and struggling constantly and conscientiously to bring, increase and sustain good in the world.
Karenga, Maulana, (2008). “Kwanzaa And The Seven Principles: Repairing And Renewing The World” Los Angeles Sentinel, 122508, p. A7 http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/documents/KwanzaaandTheSevenPrinciples_000.pdf
Families Maintained by African American Grandmothers: Household Composition and Childcare Experiences.Full Text Available By: Ruiz, Dorothy S.; Zhu, Carolyn W.. Western Journal of Black Studies, Fall2004, Vol. 28 Issue 3, p415-423, 9p, 2 charts; (AN 19912081)
Pilgrim, David (2000, September). What was Jim Crow? Ferris State University (n.d.). Retrieved on October 2, 2009, from http://www.ferris.edu/JIMCROW/what.htm
ACCSB International (2005). African Americans Eye College Degrees.
BizEd | 2005-104:6, | 10(2) | ISSN: 1537338X | EDUCATION, Higher; AFRICAN American teenagers; COLLEGE costs; DEGREES, Academic; BUSINESS education; UNITED States | Description: Publication Type : Periodical Language : English AN : 18175787 Abstract :Cites key poll findings in the U.S. in 2005 indicating that African-American teenagers plan to go to college, but one key obsta
Moore-Thomas, C. and Day-Vines, N.L. (2008). Culturally Competent Counseling for Religious and Spiritual African American Adolescents SOURCE: Prof Sch Couns 11 no3 F 2008
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