'Til Death or Distance Do Us Part: Love and Marriage in African America

By Frances Smith Foster | Go to book overview

FIVE
MYTHS, MEMORY, AND
SELF-REALIZATION

WHEN KRISHNA AND KWASI STOPPED TRYING TO FIGURE out exactly how to “jump the broom” and concentrated instead on figuring out what “jumping the broom” meant to them, they moved from confusion to confidence. They realized that the primary task of ancestral stories is not prescription but description. The multiple versions encourage flexibility and adaptation. Myths and music are kin. Music stirs the soul in wordless wonder. Myths use words to explain the wonderful. Myths and traditional stories are akin to jazz. Learning the song comes first, but to own that song and to own our cultural heritages, we need to creatively adapt ourselves to them and them to ourselves. Tis means we need to synthesize, improvise, and perform our own arrangements while always keeping the original melodyies as our standard, our boundary and our guide. To define ourselves both individually and collectively, we need to act within cultural boundaries even though by our very existence we are, at the same time, changing them. Krishna and Kwasi had learned enough about tradition to understand that their responsibility was not to resurrect a wedding ritual, but to enact it. Their wedding became a reflection of them, where they came from and what they envisioned themselves becoming.

Learning to use one’s past is the necessary sequel to learning about one’s past. There is a lot of mystery around which myths have developed, especially in and about marriage. The previous chapters have offered stories about courtship, love, marriage, and sexual morality from the stories

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