Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Black Community Involvement and Subjective Well-Being

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Black Community Involvement and Subjective Well-Being

Article excerpt

Introduction

I am passionate about the explication and preservation of adaptive African American cultural practices; a passion, no doubt, derived from my personally salient African American ethnic identity. As an academic, this passion has led me to pursue studies of what scholars and community workers label, the African American helping tradition (see Grayman-Simpson & Mattis, 2012; Martin & Martin, 1985). African Americans have a long and active helping tradition characterized by a combined focus on the sacrifice of time, abilities, and financial resources for the purpose of dismantling obstacles to Black progress (Carson, 1993; Hall-Russell & Kasberg, 1997; Hunt & Maurrasse, 2004; Winters, 1999; Wyatt-Knowlton & Royster, 2006). This tradition originated within a pre-colonial African cosmology that values the interconnected essence of all living entities, and has been maintained and reinforced by: (1) a pre-colonial African cosmology; (2) persistently oppressive American social, political, and economic conditions; and (3) a collective hope and faith in the Black community's ability to transcend oppressive conditions (Mbiti, 1970; Martin & Martin, 2002; McAdoo, 2007; White, 1987).

Black liberators such as Harriet Tubman, Denmark Vessey, Gullah Jack, and Nat Turner who risked their individual lives attempting to rescue their people from bondage serve as powerful historical examples of the African American helping tradition (Higginson, 1998; Larson, 2004; Williams & Dixie, 2003). Evidence of this tradition is also found through examinations of the Black Church and mutual aid societies that were established for the eradication of the slavery system, spiritual deliverance of Black people, racial solidarity, and the provision of financial and material resources to Blacks in need (Frazier & Lincoln, 1974; Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990; Wilmore, 1983). It is also witnessed through examinations of the anti-lynching campaign, the Civil Rights Movement, Black Nationalist Movement, and Post-Nationalist Artistic-Activist Movement (Belenky, Bond, & Weinstock, 1997; Raines, 1983; Seale, 1991). Throughout African people's history in America, this helping tradition has been essential to the group's survival and ability to flourish (McAdoo, 2007).

Empirical and anecdotal evidence leaves little doubt that the African American helping tradition continues to benefit the larger Black community. For example, in a quantitative study conducted by the Twenty-first Century Foundation, a substantial portion of study participants indicated that they offered "significant support" to the Black community through assistance to youth, religious institutions, grass roots organizations, and cultural work efforts (Hunt & Murrasse, 2004). Another qualitative study by Hall-Russell and Kasberg illustrated the ways in which the African American helping tradition, in the forms of communal child-rearing, cooperative economics, work in human services professions, and participation in social justice activities, benefits Black families, neighborhoods, and the larger cultural group (Hall-Russell & Kasberg, 1997). Still, another national study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, revealed the connection between the African American helping tradition in the form of youth work and Black community development (Foster-Bey, Dietz, & Grimm, 2006).

Although a number of examples demonstrate the positive impact that engagement in the African American helping tradition has on the larger Black community, the ways in which engagement in this tradition might also benefit individual members of the community remain a virtual mystery. As a counseling psychologist, trained to promote optimal functioning within individuals and groups, and to provide clinical interventions from a strengths-based perspective, the potential subjective benefits of engaging in the African American helping tradition are of particular interest to me. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.