In last week’s post titled "Your 'Black' Ain't like My "Black'," we shared how people of different cultural backgrounds had differing definitions of the term “Black.” Surprisingly, they had differing definitions of the term “African” too. Some people reserved the term "African" specifically for people whose families came to the Americas voluntarily and therefore know the specific African countries or cultures their families come from. On the other hand, some people whose families were forced here explained that they very purposefully use the term "African" to describe themselves as a way of showing that their hearts will always be with the continent they were forced away from.
We thought for sure that everyone would agree on this term -especially since a number of people during our test run in May said it was always important to describe oneself as "black" to show solidarity when it comes to social justice issues. It turns out, we found these two conflicting definitions:
Many people whose families had been in the US since slavery tended to define “black” as a unifying term that encompasses anyone of African descent, no matter how distant or unknown the lineage.
Conversely, a number of people whose families immigrated voluntarily from African countries defined “black” as a specific segment of people: only those whose families were brought to the US via slavery.
As you can see, the responses for this question varied greatly. Below are some of our favorite quotes:
"Whenever they start to forget their roots is when the new culture begins"
"She is the start of the new hybrid culture, but still Igbo. Her great-grandchildren probably won't be as Igbo"
"They never stop being Igbo"
"The phrase 'new hybrid black culture' is problematic"
"Although her children are born on American soil, they are still Igbo. It's about what runs through your bloodline. I define them as African American because they are both African & American"
"That's hard to say. I know 3rd and 4th generation people who are still very in touch with their roots, but also very much involved in African culture."
"Only once black rights were adopted into the constitution could I call her lineage anything including the words 'American'."
*Please note: For this post, we here at The 2015 Soulville Census are using the term “Afro-American” to mean “the new hybrid culture unique to North America that was formed by Africans who were brought here via the slave trade.”
There was a notable difference in the terms used to describe Lupita Nyongo (the actress who came to the US voluntarily), and Kunta Kinte (the lead character from the television series Roots who was forced to come to North American via the slave trade). Despite the fact that both represent the first generation in their families to move to the US and that both know the specific cultures the black folks in their families came from, 34% of online census responders used different terms to describe them. The rationales expressed a feeling that it's important to convey whether a person came voluntarily or by force because how you came affects how your relationship to the US.
Interestingly, even when people agreed on what terms to use, there were some conflicting definitions for those terms. These differences in definition were again centered around the idea that coming here by choice is different than being brought by force. Below are quotes that illustrate this trend among people who used "African American" to describe Lupita and Kunta:
"Kunta was brought to America involuntarily, despite his rights, as a slave to white Americans. Lupita came to the USA voluntarily and free, so I would assume she would now consider herself 'African American'."
"Traditionally, if you're enslaved, the term is African-American, but if you're a voluntary [im]migrant, you're more likely to go by the name of the country you came from."
In last week's post, we shared that the only notable difference in terms people used to describe Barack, Michelle, Sasha & Malia Obama had nothing to do with where the black folks in their families came from. Instead these differences were due to Barack’s mother’s heritage. Even though the 2015 Soulvile Census questions only ask about the black folks in your family, people repeatedly referred to the white folks in the Obamas' family when explaining the terms they used to describe them.
Thanks to AFROPUNK we received hundreds of responses from their fans in Atlanta during the months of September and October. That brings our online census responses to (drumroll) over 1100 people!
Now that the AFROPUNK Atlanta responses are in, here are some of the most thought provoking census results from the online census*. We hope they give you food for thought.
Today's census Result: "One big Happy Family"
There was only a minimal difference in the terms people used to describe Barack, Michelle, Sasha & Malia Obama. The most notable difference had nothing to do with where the black folks in their families came from, but were instead about Barack’s mother’s heritage.
*Please note, these are separate from 600 paper census responses we collected.
Last week, we shared that hope seems to be a new thing. Census responses from the International African Arts Festival indicate that, although several black folks have run for president in the past, we weren't really hopeful a black person would win the presidency until Obama's 2008 campaign.
This week we have a new statistic from the IAAF responses that indicates sometimes hope is relative -or dependent on your relatives that is... (it's a cheesy pun, but we couldn't resist!)
DO YOU BELIEVE BARACK OBAMA WOULD HAVE WON THE 2008 ELECTION IF THE BLACK FOLKS IN HIS FAMILY HAD BEEN FROM THE CARIBBEAN (LIKE SHIRLEY CHISHOLM'S) OR BROUGHT TO THE US VIA SLAVERY (LIKE JESSE JACKSON'S FAMILY?
65% of those who were alive and remembered said yes
35% said no
We finally got to crunch some of the number from the International Arts Festival this weekend. Here's what folks had to say about one of our favorite sets of questions:
DID YOU BELIEVE SHIRLEY CHISHOLM MIGHT WIN THE PRESIDENCY IN 1972?
14% of those who were alive and remembered said yes
86% said no
DID YOU BELIEVE JESSE JACKSON MIGHT WIN THE PRESIDENCY IN 1984?
10% of those who were alive and remembered said yes
90% said no
DID YOU BELIEVE JESSE JACKSON MIGHT WIN THE PRESIDENCY IN 1988?
13% of those who were alive and remembered said yes
87% said no
DID YOU BELIEVE BARACK OBAMA MIGHT WIN THE PRESIDENCY IN 2008?
89% of those who were alive and remembered said yes
11% said no
DID YOU BELIEVE BARACK OBAMA MIGHT WIN THE PRESIDENCY IN 2012?
87% of those who were alive and remembered said yes
13% said no
Last week we shared a clip from Blitz the Ambassador's Soulville Census on the question above. Here's a clip of Gullah artist Charmaine Bee's thoughts on this juicy question we may be adding to the July 4th census.
Last week we shared a clip from Blitz the Ambassador's Soulville Census interview. Here's a clip of Blitz's thoughts on the juicy question we may be adding to the July 4th census.