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Diasporian News Sun, 22 Feb 2004

Could the Youth be ?Black and Proud? in Canada?

?I?m Black and proud! Say it loud. I?m Black and proud!? That?s a popular hit by the Master of Soul Music, James Brown. Could Black people everywhere say and demonstrate that we are proud of our culture wherever we find ourselves? Are African Youth in diaspora losing their heritage as Black people? Every year, February is celebrated as Black History or African Heritage Month. We celebrate our past and present contributions to the advancement of humankind as a people. I would like to use the occasion to draw attention to a particular dilemma that the African youth faces in North America. It is the dilemma or struggle of choosing between two cultures.

Definition: Culture is simply the way of life of a group of people. It is defined as ?the social and religious structures and intellectual and artistic manifestations etc that characterize a society? (see The New Lexicon Webster?s Dictionary of the English Language, 1988 Edition). Culture, thus, makes a society or a group of people unique.

North American Culture Verses African Culture: Every progressive society has cultural heritage, which is jealously guarded and transmitted to the young ones in that society. North America is largely a permissive society which allows the child to have too much of his/her own way-overemphasizing rights of the individual at the expense of responsibilities. Obviously, North American culture is more or less individualistic, competitive and, overtly materialistic. In Canada for example, one frequently hears the clich? that ?it?s not your business? even from children. In the courts it?s the word of the child against that of his/her parents. This trend gives undue freedom to the child, which could be detrimental to the total mental, physical, social and moral development of the child. As a result parental control is constantly undermined by such permissiveness. Parenting becomes more challenging. This society does not subscribe to African values. Unlike North American culture, African culture places more value on unconditional parental control. The whole village raises the child. It is therefore every adult?s responsibility to correct the child wherever he/she goes wrong. The African society is less competitive and less materialistic. It values submissiveness and respect for authority at whichever level. It appears Africans are the latest immigrants to Canada. They face the problem of adjustment. The raising of the African Youth in the apparent emergence of two cultures has become an issue of major concern to the whole African community in Canada. For, to the African it takes the whole community to bring up the child.

The apparent dilemma of the African Youth in the emerging two cultures they have to put up with in Canada as reflected in recent media reports of crimes involving Africa Youth (including Ghanaians) in North America needs our mediate attention. As a teacher, a parent and a social commentator, I take this opportunity to contribute to the discussion of the issue and the subsequent community action to arrest it.

It has become obvious that in the western world the very fabric of the society-the family (home) is being constantly endangered by the secular philosophy, which emphasizes materialism at the expense of spiritualism. This danger is indicative of the fact that any attempts to remove the frustrations that face the African Youth in Canada must begin at the homes of Africans living in Canada.

The Undeniable Fact:

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Unfortunately, in Canada only three percent out of the twenty percent youth population receive services at a time. African Youth in Canada who are part of the invisible minority groups therefore receive zero percent or no recognizable percentage of such services. The efforts in helping the African youth to overcome their frustrations largely rest with the African community in Canada.

Some Frustration Facing Our Youth in Canada:

Some areas of frustration include immigration problems, the racist behavior of the police and the big news media corporations towards Blacks in Canada and the impediments put in the way of Black students who want to attain higher academic heights. Others are problems of resources and the hiring system, which favors mainstream Canadians.

Perhaps, one other serious frustration that confronts the African Youth in Canada is the lack of enough parental care. This problem is largely due to the strenuous economic responsibility on the parents. There is apparent lack of effective communication and the teaching of parental skills such as cooking, banking, discipline, studying the scriptures and conflict resolution between family members in many African Canadian homes.

Suggestion and Conclusion:

Raising or educating the African Youth in North America is the most challenging issue that confronts the African parent in Canada. There is therefore strong need for collective responsibility on the part of the African Community in assisting the African Youth to overcome the frustrations they face in the growing under apparent two diverse cultures.

The community and the numerous African churches in Canada should educate the African Youth on African values (cultural heritage). Could Black History Month, if not any other time at all, be the best time to embark on such education? The youth must also be made to behavior appropriately towards the police and law of Canada.

Study groups could also be formed to assist Africans who come to study here to excel in their schools and colleges. There should be adult community-based education for Africans working in factories to upgrade themselves academically and socially for better living.

Above all, I expect African parents to communicate effectively with their children in language they (parents) could speak best. They must also have quality time with their children at home. Listen to them, help them do their homework and teach them spiritual values and everyday skills. Parents should also make time to visit their children at school.

All said and done, there is the pressing need for Africans living in Canada to strike a balance between African traditional values and those of the highly individualistic society of North America. We should therefore discard the ?pilgrimage mentality? that makes us not fit properly into the Canadian society and plan our lives effectively wherever we live. Our youth are living dangerously under two diverse cultures and it is incumbent upon the African community to assist them to over their dilemma. We are Black and proud. Say it loud!

Source: Joe Kingsley Eyiah, University of Toronto, Toronto-Canada