By Catherine Pugh

I was sitting at a dinner meeting recently that began with a family tradition: before the meal, we bless the food. When the president of the organization finished the invocation, I began thinking about things that once were traditions in many  Black  families– including my own –that don’t occur as often today. Perhaps there are things which we should return to as Black people, and as members of the human race in general. 

So many of our old, wise teachings are not discussed, like teaching our children to read and write before they start school. It is also time to again take younger generations to the voting booth with us, so they understand the privilege of voting and their history. These traditions helped us understand our worth and respect our elders, who have given so much for so long.

This month, the AFRO is highlighting the importance of returning to our roots and understanding our history. Below is a list of traditions I believe could make us stronger as a people and a nation. What “ways of old” do you think we should return to? 

  1. Prayer

Prayer changes things…Deitrich Haddon sang about it

In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled against prayer in public schools, stating that it violated our first amendment rights.  However, it did not rule that we should not pray at home.  

Perhaps our school systems might consider a moment of silence before school starts. I believe it would help create a peaceful atmosphere.  

Before every meal and before we left home as children my parents prayed with us. Before we went to bed at night we kneeled together and prayed.  The act itself bonded us as a family.  My parents would require that we rotate saying our blessings over each meal.  It was seven of us,plus my parents, so it would take a little more than a week for each of our turns to come.

Where could you add prayer or a moment to meditate back into your family routine?

      2.  Eat together as a family 

Family gatherings around breakfast and dinner tables were not out of the ordinary in many households, and may not be today.  However, more families find themselves eating on the go, rushing to work or the next appointment. Some family members may arrive home at contrasting times, so those moments of sharing and socializing are lost.

Studies show that eating together is not only a wonderful way to start or end the day, it is a way to promote healthy eating habits and weight control. In fact, a Stanford University study says, “When a family sits down together, it helps them manage the stresses of daily life and the hassles of  day-to-day existence.”  

Carving out mealtimes on a regular basis according to the study can enhance family dynamics. 

 I agree.

What meals could you share with your family? How could a shared dinnertime in your household strengthen the family bond?

      3. Travel together as a family

My parents could not afford luxury vacations.  But in some ways, they seemed luxurious to us. Both migrated North from South Carolina.  Every year when my father would take his three weeks’ vacation, they would pack us up in the Buick and drive 12 hours to Newberry, S.C.  The dynamics of the annual trek was amazing.  We were all excited because we were going to my grandparents’ farm.  

My grandfather raised cows, pigs, chickens, corn, tomatoes, okra and much more. The conversations along the way were wonderful, but what happened on those visits created important memories.  

We learned to milk cows, grab eggs from the chickens, along with spending valuable time with my grandparents.

Studies indicate that traveling together as a family helps improve communications, reduce the possibility of divorce, strengthen lifelong family bonds, and increase a sense of  well-being in adults and children. 

Take regular trips with your family! It doesn’t have to fit the definition of “luxury” when cherished memories are made. 

      4. Support Black businesses

Here is the reality: a dollar spends 28 days circulating in the Asian community, 19 days in the Jewish community, 17 days in predominantly WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) communities, seven days in Hispanic communities and only six hours in the Black community.  

The data shows that 99 percent of our 1.3 trillion dollar buying power is spent outside our community.  Some would argue that integration separated us from our communities and Black businesses are hard to find…others are led to believe that Black products are inferior.  

Our businesses still struggle because of racism and discriminatory practices, however there are more and more opportunities to support Black businesses whether online or at their locations.  There is hardly a product or service you can’t find when it comes to the community of qualified, Black business owners.  

     5. Return to church

History tells us that the Black Church was born out of protest over racism in Philadelphia, 1787. In his book, “How the Black Church Saved America,” Henry Louis Gates notes that both Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass were grounded in the church. He cites the Black church as a “parent” of the civil rights movement and the Black Lives Matter movement as one of its “heirs.”

Church and Bible school was a commitment our family made every Sunday.  It is where we commune, increase our faith, participate in the choir and usher on the usher board. Churches are where many of our Black colleges and universities were founded.  Today, churches offer day care centers, credit unions and many other services such as job training and scholarships for our youth.  Among the roles of the Black church today is to create change.  Church attendance promotes family togetherness. 

Catherine Pugh is the former mayor of Baltimore City.

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