Written By: Preston A. Thompson
On the last week of July of this year my family and I traveled to Aiken, South Carolina for a family reunion consisting of extended family from my grandfather’s parents (my great-grandparents) bloodline. And let me tell you, we had a great time. And…what I enjoyed the most about it is the family reunion was a traditional family reunion.
Yes! A traditional family reunion like the ones you saw on TV and/or attended once in your life. Set at Odell Week’s Park we gathered under a pavilion set in the middle of the park. The temperature was around 88, but a few clouds, a pavilion, and plenty of trees kept up somewhat cool. The tradition was there; grilled food, distant cousins of every generation, laughing, taking pictures, older family members dancing to old school black family music, family reunion t-shirts, the “Wobble” and the “Electric Slide,” did a Tik Tok video (not all of us), and played games like cornhole, spades, uno, chess, checkers, sac racing. From our oldest living family member to the newborns, it was the perfect family bounding experience we needed. The family love we shared on that warm Saturday afternoon in July was special. It was like the family reunion never took a hiatus for a few years. Tradition mixed with the new age. It is something every family member should experience especially if you come from a big extended family like myself.
On the way home I thought about my first blog. Just to summarize, I questioned if black families may have inadvertently lost its traditional role in today’s black culture and if social media contributed to it. From my perspective the internet became more prevalent and affordable in our everyday lives over the last two or three decades, and our methods of staying connected benefitted from it. Before we knew it our culture became consumed with the digital era perks as new information became consumer’s knowledge in less time (sometimes as soon as it happened) with the help of smartphones. My opinion was avid posting left little to no surprise value, so the need to be present for events like the annual family reunion is not as important as it once was. Also, we as a culture are busier than ever and have moved longer distances from family. It’s not that we avoided family gatherings on purpose, it could be we just don’t have the desire to make the long trip when smartphones and social media makes it so much easier to send information to family from the comfort of our own homes.
Then I started to think about how corporate has really taken over in our society which sometimes push culture to the side. I am starting to experience this trend in one parts of my everyday life. Corporate is all about making money and managing your time to continue to make more money. It is work hard now so later you can “maybe” climb up the corporate latter with the possibility of living the financial life you deserve. It is the if it’s not making you money then it’s wasting your time. Sleep when the work is done (if I wrote this blog in 2012, I would have call this #TeamNoSleep). It is gain, gain, gain. Increase, increase, increase. Expand, expand, expand at all costs.
Corporate is not all bad, don’t get me wrong. Going corporate is a form of business growth and recognition. For starters it is our way to earn a larger income. There are promotions and awards for your hard work. Growth is there in corporate. New opportunities await you each day. The chance to prove your worth is unmeasurable depending on where your company values are.
Although this is great for business, going corporate can usher in a competitive environment. Who does what better and why does this group or person deserve more of your business? Businesses scramble to prove their worth over the competition sometimes doing whatever it takes to claim that number 1 spot which is determined mainly by yearly revenue over quality of work. If it means working long hours and staying open 24/7, then it will happen with no regards for how the actual workers feel. At this point corporate loses the personal relationships that culture developed and replace it with a business relationship. This makes it easier to replace anyone who does not live up to corporate’s expectations. No matter how great or unproductive of a worker you are, you can still be let go. Only those who fully invest their lives into corporate can handle this lifestyle. To go fully into corporate, they are willing to sacrifice their culture (even friendships) for a corporate life.
Then, there is culture. Proud, colorful, family-oriented, country-specific, ethnicity-driven, knowledgeable, traditional, fashionable, and marketable just to name a few. It’s what defines us, especially as African Americans. From our hairstyle to our personality to the clothes we wear, culture is always there. It holds tradition and keeps us in line with our roots. Culture gives us a reason to unify and identify with others who share the same or similar culture in a world where we are the minority. In the past corporate was able to separate itself from culture by creating handbook rules that told you how to dress, what you can listen to, and even how to talk. But when talent left for corporations that accepts their cultural side, you started to see corporate allow some culture to be on its premises. And what caused the change that made corporate loosen up on its rules regarding culture? Take a wild guess…it’s the loss of money and seeing other corporations that allowed a little culture to have positive impact on their earnings. In a sense culture does not have to follow the market like how corporate does.
We can turn our backs on culture, but it will always be there with open arms and a forgiving spirit. There are no cutting ties from it because if you were born into culture, it will always be there by your side. No matter how much money you make, you move up the corporate ladder, you move up in class, or busier you become, a part of you will still have culture on the inside.
So, before you make that decision I must ask, are you sure you want to trade in your culture to become corporate? How much of your culture do you want to sacrifice just to become corporate? If you built certain aspects of your life with culture initially involvement, would you later regret it if corporate no longer wants you around?
A think piece for you to think about: Where corporate will move on from you, culture will move with you.
- Thompson, P 2021, ‘Has the Traditional Black Family Become Disconnected in Today’s Black Culture: A Perspective’, The Book of Think Pieces., no. 1, posted 16 June 2021, <https://wordpress.com/post/bookofthinkpieces.com/71>.