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Swahili



Katrinka Blunt says: "I believe that African Americans adopted Kiswahili rather than other African languages because for one thing it is less "difficult" to learn than some of the other languages, which require clicks and other mouth exercises foreign to the English language. During the 1960s and 1970s there were efforts to teach pride in one's African heritage and there were language programs set up in junior high and high schools teaching Swahili. These programs were set up primarily in lower income neighborhoods where the percentage of African-Americans was highest.

The language as well as various African symbols from a variety of countries have been adopted because they help to give one a sense of one's past, with the assumption that ties to the past are a better foundation for the future. As we have discussed in previous WAIS discussions, language can be seen as an essential element to culture and one's "identity". Kiswahili was used for that purpose and it is phonetic and easier to learn.

I studied African history and learned swahili for similar reasons--a study of a people or region (for me Kenya) is incomplete without a study of the languages spoken by those people".

My comment: While studious Black Americans can profit from learning Swahili, and languages are an essential part of areas studies. At the same time, Black children must concentrate on learning good English, without which they will not find jobs. Priority should be given to studies which which promote this. Some generous local white women funded a trip to Africa by a group of Black children. It would have made more sense to take them to Washington to see how the American system works, and for the same amount of money a larger number of children could have made the the trip.

Ronald Hilton - 3/30/02


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