As an African American male, reared in a single parent home, family and community are of the utmost importance to me. I grew up at a time when the community participated in the upbringing of the future, to include me. I accredit the person that I have become to the teachings that I have gained from family, community, and society. Even now, when I return to my hometown, I still receive the same warm and refreshing welcomes from those that are still there. It gives me joy to say that I am from Beatrice, Alabama. Many wonder where the town is in the state, as no grand acts have placed it under a watchful eye. To my family, community and myself, it is a hidden gem.
Family has played an integral part in molding me to assume the role that I currently portray. “Children imitate the activities and styles of their primary mentors – parents, older siblings, adult family members, teachers” (Paris, 2004, pp. 38-39). Though my mother was a single parent, rearing five children, my father was still very involved in my life. As it would happen, I was in contact with my mother’s side of the family, more so than my father’s, so most of my learned behaviors and thought processes were affected by her side of the family.
My family has always been diverse in acceptance of cultures, as different family members have spouses and friends from various cultural backgrounds. I was taught to be culturally sensitive to others, because not all cultures share the same belief and practices. This enhanced my outlook on life, at I grew to be accepting of all people. As children, and carrying over into adulthood, it was instilled in each of us to revere the elderly, not only in our immediate family, but throughout society. “Africans and African Americans highly value the wisdom of their elders because of its grounding in a reservoir of experience” (Paris, 2004, p. 39). The primary goal of my family has always been to preserve our own culture, by participating in activities that generationally resemble valued practices of the African American race. “These traditions consist primarily of black religious and civic institutions that sustained familial and communal networks of support” (West, 1993, p. 24). If I was tasked with attaching a theme to my family’s values, it would be “faith over fear,” as with our cultural upbringing, we have been saturated with Christian viewpoints, whether we have continued the practices or not.
Community has also been vital in helping to form me in to my current self. I was reared in a very small community of about 450 people. Like others, we experienced issues that caused us to take sides, even when we did not want to interact in that way. However, we always seemed to work the issues out for the greater good. I admired the community and its leaders, because even as children, we were aware of the happenings. “Living integral lives as adults is far more daunting than recovering our childhood capacity to commute between two worlds” (Palmer, 2004, p. 21). In other words, there was no steel curtain that separated children from a secret society of adults within the community. Though, as children, we might not have understood all aspects of situations that arose, we were still privy to a general knowledge of the experiences that affected our community.
Having been blessed to have the familial and cultural background influences that I have had, I am better prepared for dealing with societal aspects. By no means is there any level of perfection related to my background, as some may deem it to be rather simple, but it has given me more of level playing field relating to my interactions with others. The rearing that I was afforded gives me confidence in my abilities to connect with others through cultural differences, as well as similarities.