My Impressions Of Getting Acquainted With The African American Culture

The culture, a bond through any item or event in which many people create a relationship from. The African American culture, is a tight knit community with their own personal advancements and social behaviors. I first was introduced to the definition and background of the African American culture through my dance teacher in the ninth grade; granted I knew about Rosa Parks and Malcolm X but that was about all I knew.

During my freshman year of high school I was placed in a dance class with instructor Shakema Cyrus, and with that the window of knowledge of the black culture was opened. HBCUs, black ballerina’s, and black excellence in general were new images that Ms. Cyrus and the dance class introduced me too. Those images of African American entertainers created a new spark of interest in me and my classmates, young black girls, who took that dance class for the following four years of highschool.

My first memory in the dance class with Ms. Cyrus was her speaking on her background; I remember her speaking on attending Morgan State University, one of many HBCUs in the country. And from that statement she went on about her participation in the clubs at the school and her being on the majorette team. So after her speaking on her background she posed a question to the class which was, “Who knows what HBCU stands for?” However, no one could answer her being as though the class had no idea what it was, so she decided for our first assignment we would research what HBCUs are and what they stand for; and in the paper we wrote, we had to decide which one caught our interest the most and why.

As a class we were annoyed to have homework on the first day but as I went on to do my research I decided Clark Atlanta University was the HBCU to catch my attention, mainly because it was in a location, Georgia, in which I visited often and felt a familiar sense of environment to New York city. I realized from my research that they were founded in the 1980s and also created with that university was the institutions Spelman and Morehouse College, and out of Clark Atlanta University came the composer of the negro national anthem James Weldon Johnson.

When interviewing Ms. Cyrus in present day, I decided to as her a few questions from remembering all the research she had us do on African American culture and the stress she put on the importance of having this knowledge as black young women. I asked,

“What was your strategy in teaching the young black girls in Nazareth Regional High School, about the black community in the arts?” In which she replied “ .”In saying that I realized later on that the papers were not pointless, if I can still remember to this day about Misty Copeland, Janet Collins, and Olivia Boisson, being that prior to that dance class I had no idea who those people were or the impact they had on young black girls like myself, showed the major impact writing those papers and doing research had on me. During a in class assignment junior year we were given a outline of a ballerina and told to color it, she saw that most of us colored our ballerinas white and decided to give us the assignment of researching African American ballerinas and their impact on the black community.

During the interview Ms. Cyrus explained how when she was younger she would always dance, reason for her going to a performing arts high school and getting into the majorette team at Morgan, the image of ballet or dance was never someone her skin color and before she research, that idea stuck in her head. So when she saw the skin tones we choose to color our ballerinas she realized our mind set was never expanded past what society placed in magazines and tv shows. That assignment put color to my reality and memory which was bland. The next question I posed was “What makes you passionate being apart of the black community?”

“.” I realized with her statement that her passion soon became mine, I wanted to be bigger than what society view me to be. And for that she was one of the many people me and my other peers spoke to when creating a African American Studies class in our school, once we realized the with our school being majority of minorities; we felt they deserved to learned about their culture apart from the schools history curriculum. She spoke on knowing that she was destined for greatness, and her definition for greatness wasn’t being famous but was to “ inform the younger generation of future entrepreneurs, entertainers, and etc who were African American that they can be whatever they set their minds to even if a black person hasn’t done it before.”

I posed the question who inspires you and she responded with “ Ago” and I chuckled and said “Ame,” she always would say this to our dance class when we were nosey and we would response back to her showing we heard her; “Ago” meaning “listen” and “Ame” responding back meaning “we are listening.” Baba Chuck Davis was a named that was constantly spoken in our class; we were given a assignment to write about him and his shows, which we attended every year called Dance Africa. And from him she coined the phrase “Ago, Ame,” making the class look it up and always remember the Twi language from West Africa, at which during the time we learned about the culture and for the theme of the class that semester West Africa and its “umoja”: unity, learning about different cloth, music, drums, and colors worn in West Africa for different piece, and learning from a instructor in BAM, it inspired for a african piece for our annual spring concert. Taking what we learned about with us throughout the rest of our lives.

With interviewing Ms. Cyrus and taking the Intro to Contemporary African American Culture course many, but not all, of the questions I had on African American culture were answered through my own research and analyse and the teaching for my instructors. In being in a Africana studies class in college many of the material shown to me were touched upon in high school, but not by my history teacher, mostly from my black female teachers including my dance instructor Ms. Shakema Cyrus. Images of black influencers like Berry Gordy, Jackie Wilson, August Wilson, James Baldwin and more have now become less of names being thrown at me and regular names in my search engine on any article I could find on them to learn more about their impact on the black community.

The many assignments in relation to the lectures we had in class stirred up the need for researching these talented individuals and their background. In doing the assignments, they differed from the papers in my high school dance class; the resources given by the Pro. Byam were, for one way more accurate then the websites I would find my information from in high school. Instead of just popping the names of some of the greats from the black community in a google search engine, we were given websites such as poem hunters for Maya Angelou and her work; snagfilm and itstherub for information on James Baldwin and the evolution of hip hop music. The course was not as hands on as being in that dance class for five days a week, but it required a lot of analysis that prior to was not needed from me.

In many assignments, the knowledge and input was not from just the viewpoint of the black community, but also putting the students in the course out there to be vulnerable and open to many other cultures that closely affect, and vise versa, the black community. With assignments like going to different church and writing on how it affected the black community or walking through a community and viewing the food choices the area had and determining whether its a food desert or not, created a sense of awareness and boldness that I can personally say I didn’t have before.

But one thing that I remember for the course that affected my studies and research was during an lecture, Pro. Byam spoke on how “the world won’t give us anything, and that we must take it and decided what we do with it,” she spoke on how we can research information but what we do with it is what really matters. And from there it made me realize that doing the assignments and not analyzing it does nothing but waste my time. Being African AMerican and granted to learn more about my culture in a class strictly for that, showed how much I and that class demonstrate, mine and those who took the course or dance class, understanding of the ideas that inform cultural practice.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” this quote from the late great Maya Angelou is used as a benchmark for critical lesson about African American culture. Learning about Maya Angelou and her backstory I choose to use that quote in an assignment given on the lessons learned about African American culture after reading her and other famous black writers work. Expressing our thoughts through literature and music, have become a exceptional way of not only creating history for African Americans but aid in the movement of black culture.

The different poets, actors, and playwrights are reasons for many of modern day black writers now such as Walter Mosley, Issa Rae, Michelle Obama and etc. People like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison who are responsible in creating critical lessons in African American culture by “hiding the medicine in the food” subsequently. There pieces of work not only entertain those who come across them, but cunningly introduces different lessons that black people use to constantly elevate the people as a whole.

The discoveries of the course created a new knowledge about African American culture. The realization of the importance of analyze; deconstructing the information found on the culture and taking it for face value created a new sense of data and awareness. Realizing that every writer, playwright, actor, dancer and other career and people have influenced the African American community; and with that the classes, music, shows, and more also influence the development of new notions and advancements in the black community. In learning and researching, we grasp the concept but in spreading the knowledge and expanding what we know to create and be better for our community is what can be taken from learning about the black culture and its constant growth, and that execution of what is done with the knowledge determines how we advance the black community as seen through Ms. Cyrus, the course and its readings.

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My Impressions Of Getting Acquainted With The African American Culture. (2023, Jan 14). Retrieved from