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Brother/Sister in Black America (2/2)

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Despite African American Slavery's devastating effects on Spiritual Bonding, Enslaved Africans brought with them the concept that humans' true nature as man and woman is by Soul (i.e. ones Higher Self)--and our parent, the Universal Spirit. Hence, the Enslaved devised ways to keep it somewhat alive. For example, during the Middle Passage of the Slave Trade, relationships that developed between shipmates formed the pattern of social organization. These continue to shape ongoing social relations between lower and middle class Blacks. The term “shipmate” (in Jamaica) is synonymous with “brother” or “sister,” as with Surinam (in Dutch Guiana); Sibi (“malungo” in Brazil); “malongue” in Trinidad; “mati” in Suriname; and “bâtiments” in Haitian or Creole (from the French for ship). Each of these terms imply 'dearness and a bond of affectionate compassion.' On plantations of the Americas the European captors chose names to attact the Self-Esteem of the Enslaved. Oddly, they would use "sister" for Enslaved females but not "brother" for Black males. Perhaps this was because most Western etymologists realized the mysteriousness of the word "Buddy" since it appeared with no apparent English ancestors. Thus, they agreed it could be an alteration of "Brother"--a concept originally dating to Ancient Africans' extended families and the closeness of certain members. However, the captors had no end of offensive words to attack Black males' self-esteem--and mainly out of hiding an intense envy by attempting to feel superior.

Memories of Africa's formalized friendship groupings and societies led to their partial replication in Enslaved quarters. Both gravitated deeper and deeper together to further develop their relationships; to help soothe each other; to exhibit bits of harmony (e.g. being in tune with each other); and an ability to communicate without words. A form of Black community greeting was to refer to non-relatives as "cousins" and "brothers"; and "sister" to any adult female. Each of these were ways of reinforcing the African Law of Sympathy (all God's creatures and creations are related, no matter how remote in time or space). These greetings symbolized the Unconditional Love they had for each other and all suffered unspeakable pain when any member, and especially a family member, was torn away from them at the auction block or when sold to other plantations. Such misery was also felt when one of them was killed or died a painful death. This Law of Sympathy has remained to the present as the core of Sippi relationships. Such also applied to "Brothers" during and after slavery. The social organization of the quarters was the primary environment which gave the Enslaved their ethical rules and fostered cooperation, mutual assistance, and solidarity (Blassingame, Slave Community p106). Stealing from each other rarely occurred and punishments for any thefts were harsh. In this setting there developed a certain sameness from having almost identical experiences and from their shared expectations, ideals, ways of thinking, feeling, expressing, and acting. As an act of avengement the Enslaved vividly displayed the hypocrisy of White people through folktales which symbolized Europeans' state of perpetual war; disharmony; and the meaninglessness of their civility, rules, laws, codes of morals (right/wrong), codes of ethics (appropriate/inappropriate), and lives. Their fables spoke of animals (White people) who called each other "brother and sister" one moment and were at each other’s throats the next. Throughout and following slavery, for Black People to greet each other as "brother" and "sister" has been a feature of their bonding mystique.

For example, in my boyhood days it was unheard of for Black People to pass each other on the streets without greeting each other as "brother" or "sister"--even when they were strangers. In Sunday school we children were summonded as "brothers" and/or "sisters." In the 1950s the term "Soul Brother"--abbreviated to "the brothers" (or sisters) was further shortened to "Bro" when used in a greeting. The friendly speech patterns demonstrated by Black youth toward each other on college campuses began with "brothers" and/or "sisters" and followed by some rhythmic pleasantry. The point: Black People are alike in their Souls (i.e. the image of God). Unfortunately, starting in the 1970s, much of this began to be lost. We must bring back this togetherness!!!


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