Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Locating African Personhood Theory and Praxis: Filling the Gap in Social Welfare Programs

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Locating African Personhood Theory and Praxis: Filling the Gap in Social Welfare Programs

Article excerpt

Abstract

The unequal socio-economic terrain in American society yields the daily intervention of social welfare programs in the lives of African Americans. Government social welfare programs are stopgap measures for temporary support, as families struggle to enter the mainstream of American society. Yet, there are cultural developmental needs and human potentiality that often remain unchallenged. African personhood, a philosophical concept, articulates such a manifestation that organizes ideas of ontology that frame the definition of a person in society. This paper explores the need for better community programming that envelope the very best in cultural developmental theory in understanding a modern African person.

Keywords: African personhood theory, social welfare programs, cultural identity

Introduction

The need for African-centered cultural programs in the African American community continues to be a necessity. Despite significant benchmarks of individual African American progress in areas of government and corporate leadership, education and other arenas in American society, African Americans in poverty continue to subsist daily to exist with scarce resources. These scarce resources are not only absolute resources in the form of sufficient housing, nutritional foods and environment, but relative resources including institutional, economic and cultural factors (Miller-Cribbs & Farber, 2008), which deprive those who live in traditional neighborhoods created in segregation, that are now referred to as 'the hood', from reaching their full potentiality.

This deprivation creates a need for poor people to be preoccupied with seeking substantial resources. "African Americans and Hispanics, disproportionately experience poverty, [thus] they are more likely to be the consumers that human service practitioners serve, especially in public settings or agencies," (Schiele, 2000, 10). This paper explores the need for better and more applicable developmental and community programming that envelope the very best in cultural developmental theory that could create a modern African person.

Poor African American families needing monetary support is a reality that Black Studies must pay caring and deliberate attention to. Becoming a client within city local Departments of Social Services (DSS) mean that families must prove that they are poor. Families must show that their annual income is below the poverty level, established by the Social Security Administration. It is due to absolute poverty factors that persons seek social services. Yet the article will show that none of the social welfare programs provide cultural and developmental uplift or instruction, so vital in the self-understanding of African Americans. None of these programs speak to African personhood, as introduced by Kwame Gyekye, which is a philosophical idea of being, in virtues and conduct of who one is and how one understands themselves in relationship to their racial/cultural group (Fairfax, 2008). Personhood describes the behaviorial capability of a person and his/her responsibility to the community. This capability mandates the interactive nature of the relationships and the accountability of those relationships among the Akan people, as a prototype of how (Gyekye, 1992), African personhood is manifested among continental ethnic groups. These programs are not created to coerce people to understand themselves as a human being, because the goal of these programs is to target income assistance. For example, the Zulu of southern Africa teach that "To be a human being is a social practice; it requires one to co-operate with others by doing good, thereby, promoting the balance that is thought to characterize the universe. It requires human beings to live in solidarity with fellow human beings, their families, their communities, God, and the rest of the world in which they find themselves," (Mikhize, 2008, 40). Arguably, African Americans who face quality of life issues on a daily basis, such as food insecurities, housing, stable and progressive employment, insurance, finances, are not engaged in rituals and programs that clarify who they are as cultural beings in this space and time. …

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