The Nashville Annual African Street Festival

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The Nashville Annual African Street Festival is an event hosted by the African American Cultural Alliance (AACA) in Hadley Park. This amazing event has grown tremendously over the past thirty years because it interconnects its family-oriented atmosphere with African and African American culture which allows for it to attract thousands of people of all walks of life. Overall, the African American community has come a long way to be able to accept and embrace the challenges that they have been faced with in order to move forward with their lives. The usage of Positive Psychology was demonstrated by these African Americas allowing them to approach human emotions, thoughts, and behaviors from an optimistic viewpoint (Peterson, 2008).

Positive psychology focuses on the strengths of each aspect rather than focusing constantly on the weakness, building a stronger foundation in the good life instead of repairing the bag, and elevating the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely onto in those who are struggling up to “normal” (Peterson, 2008). In this connections paper, I am focusing on the positivity, happiness, and life satisfying outcomes that the African culture received through the African Street Fest by simply sharing their culture with everyone in the Nashville community. I will elaborate more specifically on the roles of music and culture and Africentric values and racial identities and how they interconnect into the overall effect of positive psychology on the African American community.

Music and Culture

Music can be viewed as an outlet or a way to express the emotions felt through beats and rhythms, rather than through the typical way of talking. Music plays an essential part in the overall outlook on culture and is often a way to record achievements and benchmarks in people’s lives. For most people, from various cultural backgrounds and different walks of life, music can distinctly capture the emotions felt at that particular moment, which allows it to hold great significance to that individual (Avent, 2016). The African Street Festival was loaded with different people expressing their cultural unity of African culture through beating on Djembes, blasting their favorite songs, and even yelling out chants.

Music has evolved significantly throughout the African American culture enabling our ability to cope with circumstances and persevere through them. Initially, music was used as a way for slaves to communicate to each other and express their sorrows, but now to me it seems to have changed into a way for African Americans to reflect back on how far they have come over the years. Slaves were able to reframe their oppression, reclaim back their power, and build strong communities all through the act of singing. A majority of the time, the lyrics to these songs that slaves sang held secret messages of freedom, hope, and endurance to help them make it through their trying times (Sanger, 1995). As of today, if we were to take a moment to look back at slavery from a more optimistic viewpoint, then we would be able to see that African Americans are a people that have gained strong foundations in perseverance, faith, unity, self-determination, which real says a lot about the type of people we are as a whole.

I can remember seeing the people dancing with one another to the beats from the Djembes with smiles bigger than life itself. By looking at their faces, it confirmed that we as a people have great resilience and a strong sense of forgiveness. It’s hard to imagine that these people’s ancestors–grandparents, mothers, and fathers–were a part of or even products of such a tragic event like slavery, yet they still have the will and energy to smile and engage with the people that were once not on their side. African Americans used music and their songs as tools that would depict a sense of familiarity and togetherness among workers at the time, but it developed into the way the African American race interacts with each other, and the African Street festival showed just that.

How everyone interacts with each other singing the words to songs, dancing to the beat illustrated to be just how similar we all are when it comes to culture. Before Positive Psychology, African Americans were not recognized for having great resilience to keep pushing through tough days, internal happiness regardless of their circumstances, and a will to forgive even when there seemed to be no reason to. It is seen today however, that the resilience African Americans have had all this time has brought them to a better way of life and now because of this they are seen in a more positive light. It takes not only resilience, but also strength to accomplish all that we have done and to come as far as we have.

Africentric Values and Racial Identity

The African Street Festival utilized and demonstrated African American rituals and values in ways that depicts to others that they are proud of the background that they came from, and that they have a strong perception of their Africentric values and racial identity. There are a plethora of studies completed that focus on Africentric cultural values as a strength and a protective factor for African Americans rather than as a limitation. The best definition to fit Africentric cultural values is that they are a set of values, beliefs, and assumptions founded on African cultural traditions that emphasizes the understanding that Africans should be viewed as syncretic in a light that positively reflects African American values (Caldwell-Colbert, Parks, & Eshun, 2009).

By attending the African Street Fest, I was given an opportunity to see the African American community in a different angle, illustrating positive racial identities and Africentric values, which led to my overall enjoyment and appreciation of the African Fest. Research has proven that African Americans have received psychological and behavioral benefits from being able to identify with more specific factors related to traditional African culture (Shin, 2011). As a result of the various sociohistorical factors that have affected the African diaspora in the United States, white supremacy and cultural colonization, there is wide variance in the level of adherence to these traditional values across African American communities (Shin, 2011).

As I walked around the festival, I noticed that there were a lot of tables that were selling paintings of black advocates of all kinds, symbolizing the pride that they take in the people that stood for Black existence and the respect we deserved. I saw paintings, drawings, and sculptures of icons like President Barack Obama, Dr. Martin L. King, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and even the Black Panther movie cover. These people were encouraged to own and embrace their ethnic/racial heritage with pride, including the experience of being part of a targeted group that refuses to be suppressed by celebrating the legacy being victorious in terms of making it this far and still being able to smile and see the positive in the situation rather than being viewed as the victim. Everything that the African American people have been faced with is evidence that their level of strength and resilience to never quit is embedded within them.

Another one of the main factors behind the strength of the African American community is religion. Religion has evolved into a central force that is a vital asset to African American values and lifestyle. From adolescents, to adults, to elders, the African American community has been known to be very religious. An activity that slaves picked up during slavery has become something that has become very vital to the lives of African Americans (Gooden & McMahon, 2016). Engagement in religion influences mean-making, coping, and endorsement in prosocial values in both the African American adults and youth.

Many studies have shown that coping has been tied to psychological adjustment to the point where it solves the issue and releases the stress that came with it. This same strategy is utilized when it comes to religious coping. The African American community relied heavily on religious coping in a positive way, resulting in a higher level of overall well-being (Park, Holt, Le, Christie, & Williams, 2018). I can agree with the high usage of religion because of how strongly it is used within my family and even my everyday life. The African Street Fest was the reality check that I needed to realize that African Americans are very intelligent, creative, and selfless beings that are strong mentally, physically, and emotionally.

In conclusion, the African Street Fest was an amazing event to allow me to witness the positive psychology that we as African Americans have gained throughout our existence. I had the opportunity to see that there is beauty behind each and every struggle that we face and that it’s just about how you look at it. To be able to visualize the culture, traditions, and values that we have created from a circumstances that seemed to be hopeless to others, was evidence that our heritage and culture is one to take pride in and to be very proud of.

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