Sis do you ever question why you have life skills that you just can not find in your children? Could it be that you are not growing your generational traditions? Do your children know the difference between a dutch pot and a wok? Can they tell you which is sweet potato and which is cassava? Ladies, these may seem like insignificant things but actually these nuances speak of the diversity, range and beauty of what makes up Black people. They also assist us with resilience, self-awareness and strength of character.
So let's look at a little list of traditions which we believe are worth growing:
'Washing your baggy' - For us this was a rite of passage, when you were put over the bath, bucket, bowl or sink to wash clothes you knew you had arrived. Not everyone was happy mind you, but me, I was, I was ecstatic, big 'umen (women) now ya nuh!' Until it became a regular Saturday morning ting, and my hands were sore from the abrasive soaps and my arms ached from the wringing of the clothes. Oh how I moaned, well in my head I did lol! But then there was a time when I levelled up, yes, I could make the clothes washing noise with my own hands (and not pretend by using my mouth), now this was an accomplishment. Fast forward to my own children and the first two like me learnt how to wash their clothes, especially their undies from as young as five. They could wash by hand before I taught them how to use the washing machine, no joke! I too had a washing machine growing up but my grandmother didn't believe it was for everything. My third child, now she was precious, she was to be my last baby lol lol lol, I'm a mother of five, ...say no more. But number three learnt to wash her draws at fourteen, yes, I hang my head in shame, and I tell you why. There comes a time in life where appreciation for material things, respect for the hustle and life-skills meet your character and invoke a sense of self satisfaction, that 'I have arrived feeling'. I believe my life distractions, robbed her of this feeling, much earlier in her life. Some would say it's just 'baggy' but those that have had to be self reliant and are successful regardless, will get the concept of growing this generational tradition.
'Cleaning' - oooooowwww do not get me started. This is a pandemic in itself lol! Dare I say back in the day when I was knee high to a grasshopper (nah just joking) but raised by my grandparents who would say 'cleanliness is next to Godliness' had us kids cleaning early, daily and with a purpose. So can my kids clean, hell yeah, do they...well Ladies, I am hurt at times by their inability to maintain the standards they were raised with. I will stop there before I shame the devil, and just say this, knowing how to and doing so is not the same thing in this and upcoming generations. So, if you have a standard that fits your upbringing, you are proud of, and you want others to share, don't just teach it, insist on it!
'How to greet your elders' - Now look I don't care where we are from we were all raised to greet our elders, so why are our children barely raising an eyebrow from their screens to address their peoples people. I am a great believer in personal space and choice but when we don't teach respect we will not receive it. When we don't acknowledge disrespect it becomes normal to be disrespectful. There may not be those on road that are questioning your child about their attitude, behaviour and whereabouts, but they are thinking it. More importantly our children are left with a lack, that wont grow just because they become adults. You know that disrespectful ex that you are glad to have left in the past, he weren't born that way, but he was enabled to grow that way! My youngest two children and my two grandchildren are Nigerian, they're being taught from small how to greet their adults and without resistance they follow, again because it's insisted upon, not hoped on, that the desire to do so will spontaneously or miraculously grow!
'Cooking your main/traditional dish' There's something not just satisfying but also comforting when you tuck into your traditional dish and it tastes just like it should. There are literally chemical reactions happening in your body as everything reacts to your meal. Whether it's your taste buds dancing or heart melting from the nostalgia. Then there's that inexplicable feeling that comes over you knowing that the recipe for this dish has been handed down from generation to generation. Now as Bajans (sorry can't wrap my head around Barbadians) our "national" dish is flying fish and coucou but there's so many different things that can be cooked in our house and indeed our family that all speak of our beloved Bim. My sister never liked coucou (the cornmeal version) so mum would do a breadfruit adaption, flying fish is not easily available in the UK like it was when we were younger so often coucou is now prepared with saltfish. I'm ashamed to say that my children have yet to try this dish, but what they have had is souse. My eldest more than my youngest is convinced that my mum should become a chef based on her ability to cook traditional dishes and I often find myself in this day and age in a race against time, trying to gather as many recipes as I can from her so that they're not lost. What would be lost if you don't capture those recipes???
'Speak your mother's tongue' -This doesn't need to mean a different language. When I was a little girl in school, my friends were Jamaican, St Lucian, Indian, Iranian and of course British. We actually all ate very similar foods just in very different ways, and we all called them different things but we knew what they were in our house. I remember being blown away by my Jamaican friend calling a crystaphine, chou chou and coming home to ask my mum, only for her to tell me that there were many things that we have similar yet use/call differently. Beyond the names of foods, can your children recognise the accents and or inflections which signify your country? I once was driving along with my niece who saw a set of twins crossing the road in front of the car, she proceeds to tell me that they were "her people" I, not wanting to be rude or dismissive, said ok and then asked my sister about it later. At this point I was told that she was being trained by her Dad (Nigerian) to recognise 'her people'. Now again we don't have another language but we have tones and the 'look' which can tell our children exactly what's on our minds without others around us, having a clue. The more we come away from entrenching our children in certain traditions the less these key (and sometimes life saving) skills are known to them.
Ladies by all means embrace the new, enjoy today and plan for the future but always remember you didn't arrive on this earth today and much of what you learnt prior to now has been impactful, had an effect on who you are today. Not all traditions are for celebrating or keeping, no one enjoyed a beating or being told to look down in the company of caucasian people, but where there are those things that have saved, enhanced and empowered your life let them live on by sharing them with others. Your children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews. Your friends, their children, the unsupported young person or the promising prodigy. Remember, growth is continual and representational so let Black things, tradition, heritage, culture and customs be in the future too.