My definition of Cultural Appropriation: A group “takes” what is my legacy, something my ancestors created, that which has been passed from one generation to another as a honored and often sacred tradition but you laughed at it, devalued it, called it hood and ghetto until you begin to see it as trendy, a thing to do or have so you now consider it, evaluate its worth for your brand, your market, your sense of style and you “take” it, rename it and claim it as a new thing/creation and you choose (intentional or not) not to acknowledge or even admit the true source of its elegant majesty.
How an individual chooses to dress or how they style their hair is of little consequence to me but when it becomes an issue of cultural pride and relevance what I need from the “new” user is that they acknowledge and value the origin of their “new thing.”
You see, my community is so used to being ignored, devalued and overlooked that when our legacy, our ancestral tradition/legacy is assimilated, subsumed, absorbed, consumed and renamed by those who have no clue to the why of our pride or they are not even interested in its origin or sanctity within a community, we call it as we see it, OFFENSIVE!
I love the maxi skirts made of African cloth and recently was gifted with three. I have worn one and I love how I feel when I wear it, how it looks on me. But, recently, I read an article/blog by an individual from Africa who called us out on making their heritage, the cloth, into a fashion statement. This concern certainly has made me more conscious of how my choices, innocent though they may be, may appear frivolous and offensive to the group of origin. I will wear my skirts but I will also do my research on the cloth and its “history” so that I may consciously honor the group and their ancestral legacy through my acknowledgement of its cultural roots and pride of heritage when I am complimented.
We must all become just a little more sensitive to how our choices appear or impact others especially when it comes to those “products” of culture.
“THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS” ~Langston Hughes
I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers