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Contrary to Popular Belief, African Culture Did Survive in the U.S.

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I was told that when my ancestors were brought to the Americas they loss their culture and were forced to convert to Christianity but, what I discovered was that this was a myth. Prior to the advent of the slave trade, around 1482 Portuguese merchants landed on the West Central Africa coast and came across the Bantu people in the Kongo – Angolan region known as the BaKongo or Bantu-Kongo.  Amazed by the European technology and culture, the ruling king, Nzinga a Nkuwu, willingly converted to Christianity and changed his name to João in honor of the Portuguese king, João II.     

João I Nzinga a Nkuwu zealously encouraged his people to accept the new faith by having the Portuguese missionaries create a syncretism between the Kongo religion and the new faith.  As a result, Nzambi Mpungu - the Supreme Being was called God; the nkuyu were syncretized with the Christian martyrs; the basimbi were syncretized with the Christian angels and saints, while the bakulu were syncretized with the Christian devils.

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When the first Africans were brought to North America in 1619, they arrived on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia as indentured servants from the Kongo-Angolan region.  Like their kinfolk who were taken to Brazil, Cuba and Haiti, these 20 Africans were either Christians or at least familiar with the Christian faith.  They also had a working religious syncretism in place because of their sacred cosmogram called the dikenga dia Kongo, tendwa kia nza-n' Kongo or commonly known today as the Kongo Cross. 

The Kongo Cross existed in the Kongo mindset prior to the arrival of the Europeans. As Robert Farris Thompson defines in Four Moments of the sun: Kongo art in two worlds, the Kongo Cross is "Coded as a cross, a quartered circle or diamond, a seashell spiral, or a special cross with solar emblems at each ending - the sign of the four moments of the sun is the Kongo emblem of spiritual continuity and renaissance par excellence. In certain rites it is written on the earth, and a person stands upon it to take an oath, or to signify that he or she understands the meaning of life as a process shared with the dead below the river or the sea - the real sources of earthly power and prestige, in Kongo thinking... The intimation, by shorthand geometric statements, of mirrored worlds within the spiritual journey of the sun, is the source and illumination of some of the more important important sculptural gestures and decorative signs pertaining to funerary monuments and objects designated for deposit on the surface of funerary tombs, or otherwise connected with funerary ceremonies and the end of life."  (For more information See Flash of the SpiritsFour Moments of the Sun and Face of the Gods in Book List 1).

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They Survived!

Basically, contrary to popular belief, although it is believed that African Americans being the farthest removed from Africa lost all of their cultural ties and heritage because of slavery.  The facts are that the Africans did not lose their culture. However, they lost the philosophy and theology behind their cultural practices.  Although early African Americans were not able to preserve their cultural traditions as had been done in the Caribbean and South America. They left us with a type of mandala commonly called the Kongo Cross to reconnect us back to our lost heritage and establish our own way, instead of adopting the cultural practices of others and imitating what some have done in the distant past.  

The basic understanding of the Kongo Cross is that just like the sun rises in the east (Kala), peaks at midday (Tukula), sets in west (Luvemba) and is mysteriously reborn at midnight (Musoni). The human soul which mirrors the cycle of the sun through birth, life and death, provided he or she is righteous will also be mysteriously reborn.   

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However, due to slavery, mainstream American prejudice and the lack of familiarity with African spirituality, the theology behind the Kongo cosmology in North America was eventually lost, resulting in a loss of cultural traditions. As a result, even though cultural practices continue to be observed in North America.  The lack of African theology prevented one from overcoming their fears, guilts, inhibitions and other negative emotions learned through social conditioning, thus inhibiting one from discovering their true self, and developing spiritually.

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Fortunately, through cultural comparison with the Kamitic (Ancient Egyptian) spiritual system a similar cosmological guide was discovered called the Maa Aankh, which reintroduces African theology. Thus allowing for individuals to achieve balance and overcome their inhibitions, while developing spiritually. (For more information See Maa Aankh I, II & III in Book List 1).

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