Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Toward a Black Psychology of Leisure: An 'Akbarian' Critique

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Toward a Black Psychology of Leisure: An 'Akbarian' Critique

Article excerpt

Akbar and African/Black Liberation Psychology

"African-Americans represent the most extreme examples of victims of human oppression and would be the most appropriate group on which to demonstrate a liberation psychology" (Akbar, 1984, p. 404).

Akbar (1984) lamented the negative assertions, disparaging ethnocentric assumptions, and 'uncritical acceptance' of Western science by African people. He avowed the need for an emerging paradigm with a 'natural fit' that was culturally constituted from an African worldview, was respective of a spiritual consciousness, and had the ability to elucidate self-affirming patterns. Consequently, Akbar was among the pioneering scholars who helped to usher in the legitimacy and vibrancy of an African/Black Psychology as a system of thought predicated on indigenous African philosophy, definitions, procedures, and practices. The fundamental premise of African/Black psychology is the celebration and affirmation of the cultural ethos and traditions that imbue and empower the African spirit. It is one that reflects a system of knowledge concerning the nature of the social universe from the perspective of the African worldview (Kambon, 1998). It is a way of thinking that organizes, celebrates, and affirms Blackness in all aspects of one's life (Belgrave & Alison, 2010).

It represents a general design for living and patterns for interpreting reality. It is how someone makes sense of their world and their experiences-it determines which events are meaningful and which are not and provides the process by which those events are made harmonious with their lives (Butler, 1992, p. 29).

Myers (2009) attested that it represents cultural congruence and the authenticity of being grounded in an African-centered frame of reference. As Akbar (2003) summarized: "African psychology is not a thing but a place--a view, a perspective, a way of observing" (p. ix) ... "an intellectual 'emancipation proclamation' of the liberation of Black thought (p. xiii).

Akbar (2003) also discussed various institutional forces for maintaining and perpetuating the elements of African-centered paradigms and models that seek to liberate and advance humanity. Among the institutions listed were: (a) educational institutions (offering content to advance self knowledge), (b) economic institutions (to address critical survival needs), and (c) religious institutions (to foster spirituality and enhance a collective development). Akbar contended that these modalities 'augment and institutionalize' the African American paradigm. Other vestibules for maintaining and reinforcing the African consciousness are religious celebrations, rituals, memorials, museums, books, etc. (Kambon & Bowen-Reid, 2009). What was missing from the list of modalities mentioned by Akbar was the institution of leisure. What was missing from the list of rituals and celebrations offered by Kambon and Bowen-Reid was symbolic leisure consumption. However, individuals want freedom from social, cultural, economic, and psychological constraints and restrictions, and many African Americans seek leisure for such respite. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to explicate the elements of freedom in leisure for African Americans, from an Afrocentric perspective as espoused by Akbar.

Leisure ... A Pursuit of Psychological Freedom

Leisure (in the context of this essay) is a broad and collective term to encompass a wide array of organized sports and physical activities. Such activities include but are not limited to: (a) attending sport events, (b) watching/consuming sports via media such as television, internet, or radio, or (c) participating in sports (scholastic, recreational, or otherwise), physical activity, or fitness related endeavors. Leisure pursuits are typically engaged in on a voluntary basis at the volition of the individual's desires and preferences, and they reflect one's physical, mental, spiritual, and social engagement in life (Joblin, 2009). …

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