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quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
I'd like to seriously discuss the pros and cons, if anyone is interested.

I think oral tradition is better because it involves and engages the community, also there is alot less room for dishonesty.


I think they're both interesting...but regarding the supposed honesty of oral traditions, the story may be more complex... I once saw this documentary about an oral society. It was a long time ago and I don't remember many of the details but one thing that struck me was that there were "official" oral histories and historians in the culture and if someone - a ruler say - fell into disfavor, this person would simply be purged from the official account and hence from collective memory.

I was fascinated. Anybody have more knowledge on this topic?
You might be right, Herustar. It's an intersting question.

In one sense, there might not be much difference, for written stories can be oral stories put into a book. They also will help stabilize the memory of the community, for the memories will not change. Some oral ones can't help changing.

On the other hand, an oral tradition has to engage the entire community in ways that books, being much more individual, would not and perhaps can not. Clans do not gather around a campfire to hear the stories of their people read from books.

Unless it is that, by the time that a people gets to writing books they've already passed beyond the oral tradition stage.

Interesting.
Literate societies tend to be associated with modernity, advancement, and intelligence while societies that remain committed to oral traditions are regarded as "backward" and "primitive." But people should not confuse literacy with intelligence. Language and communication is not limited to writing, neither is intelligence. Great topic brother Heru! I look forward to reading others' responses.
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This is an interesting topic, but as a religious scholar, I confess that I have a bias to texts. But you are also correct that much is lost with respect to oral/aural cultures. Memory, the capacity to listen and hear, attention spans, etc.
And yet, it is difficult to engage in some kinds of extended reflection without the written word.

Also, as one who has done work with the WPA/Federal Writer's Project, there is the real sense that writing has saved thousands of first person accounts of slavery that would have otherwised possibly been lost.

I have also done archival work at the Schomburg in NY on black churches, and one of the sad things has been that lack of records kept. Again, the stories of our people have been lost forever.
I agree about what a great topic this is! I think written traditions work best in a more complex, advanced society, because there's so much knowledge, so much information, and so many available points of view, that an oral tradition would just get swallowed up and ignored by most people. Orally transmitted articles of faith would never survive in a world of science. So if faith is important, religious traditions have to be written in order to serve their purpose.

Oral traditions are more vital in less complex societies, because their power lies in the vitality and unity-building that comes from that person-to-person exchange.
quote:
I think written traditions work best in a more complex, advanced society, because there's so much knowledge, so much information, and so many available points of view, that an oral tradition would just get swallowed up and ignored by most people.



Written is very important. But can it be justified as an all encompassing replacement for oral traditions? Advancement? I think we would be much more ADVANCED with oral traditions. Many things were committed to memory which advanced and created a strong foundation of common knowledge. Your reference was your brotha or sistah. You and I are both saddened by the things that our brothas and sistas don't know, but we know WE SHOULD know. There is so much that SHOULD be common knowledge.

Oral traditions facilitates a thirst for knowledge and a search for knowledge because of the communal foundation of knowledge. It's a headstart, or a jumpstart, so to speak, that prepares us to ask the right questions, or better yet, just ask questions period.
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:


Oral traditions facilitates a thirst for knowledge and a search for knowledge because of the communal foundation of knowledge. It's a headstart, or a jumpstart, so to speak, that prepares us to ask the right questions, or better yet, just ask questions period.


That's... a pretty impressive point.

Based on the dichotomy between what you're saying and what I observed, what would you say about this idea: Ideally in a society like ours, some sort of institution, maybe the schools, maybe a community-based organization for young people, is where this communal knowledge-sharing can begin. Part of the knowledge, of course, points the people in the direction of books to read among the other things.

In my life, I've witnessed this very thing you're talking about happening among our people, in colleges, barber shops, and in the neighborhood, on a very informal, microcosmic level. The thirst for knowledge that it creates would often lead people right to the bookstore or the library. Or, today, the Net. If you know what I'm talking about, then are you suggesting a more formalized, more organized, larger scale tradition of this kind of knowledge-sharing?

Keep this in mind: After over 900 years of oral development, Ifa today has written texts. But you better believe that not a single adherent of that faith ever stumbled onto it without first being orally galvanized to do so. But still, I doubt that it could effectively "compete" in today's scientific marketplace of ideas unless the written form is there to solidify it to potential new adherents.
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
I think we would be much more ADVANCED with oral traditions.


Oral traditions, however, are still very much alive in Black communities. One of the places where the power and influence of orature reigns supreme is of course the Black church. In fact the longevity of a pastor's church heavily depends on her or his ability to deliver powerful sermons. Thus a preacher knows, when addressing a Black audience, that she must be skilled in the art of orature if her church is to be successful. The utility of orature can also be observed in modern Black music. Rap, spoken word, and rhythm and blues are all genres where orature is still very much alive and sustaining. Black people are indeed a "speak and be heard" kind of people. We value the importance of movement, communication, and relationships.
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quote:
Originally posted by Vox:

Ideally in a society like ours, some sort of institution, maybe the schools, maybe a community-based organization for young people, is where this communal knowledge-sharing can begin. Part of the knowledge, of course, points the people in the direction of books to read among the other things.


I'll say this, and then I'll let some people who really know the ins and outs of what I think society is in desperate need of... oral tradition.

Raphael Saadiq has a song on his 'Ray Ray' album call 'Grown folks'. Some of the lyrics...
"Help the grown folks, they need more help than the children do" (sung with Curtis Mayfield vibe)

Yes the youth are the future, but we're in the growth process together. Not all 'grown' folks are wise, or knowledgeable. Should we just act like they don't exist? Curl our nose up at the site of them... us?

We place great expectations on the youth, great responsibility, but don't even have a 'grown up' support system, to back these expectations. We expect youth to have a 'DO' attitude without any leadership, or solid background/foundation. We have this 'I'll POINT them in the right direction approach', hoping that they make it to their destination, but knowing full well we should have walked with them.
I was thinking about this thread and wanted to add these things in to the mix for our consideration.

When we actually look at how actual oral societies function, I think that we need to consider the following:

1)Oral societies are inherently conservative. This is not a political statement, but rather a functional one. They are what anthropologist would call "cold societies" where change, if it takes place is very, very slow. Innovation is frowned upon. The person who is different or who advocates change is treated like the nail that is sticking out of a piece of wood; they tend to be hammered back into place.

Examples that many people may know: the biblical tradition and the references to the stoning of the prophets. Look at Joseph, Jeremiah, or Jesus for that matter.

I would submit that oral traditions/societies are simply not adaptive/responsive enough to function well in the 21st century.

2)Size/stability
Again, when we actually look at oral societies, one must take into consideration size and stability. Usually, we are talking about groupings that are not expansive (the family, the tribe). This is not necessarily the case, but I would suggest that when it is not, factors such as geography and more importantly stability come into play. By this I mean that to the extent that an orally transmitted tradition becomes part of a expansive grouping of people, it is because of issues such as proximity for long periods of time.

Again, I would submit that oral tradition/societies are not practical in a 21st century globalized society. It works well for hunter/gather communities or even agrarian societies, but that is about the extent. Indeed, a sociologist might point out that part of the social/cultural trauma that we are experiencing is due to the transition from a text based community to a digital one.

Though in some sense I am loathe to bring up Europe, the Gutenberg could be seen as indirectly responsible for things like the Reformation as well as the revolutionary movements of the 16th and 17th centuries. One has the rise of a more literate population, greater innovation and dissemination of information whether it be Bibles, political pamphlets, tracts, etc. It is in this context that one sees new social structures as well as the "industrial revolution,"

Again, these are just some things I thought to add to our reflection.
trying to resist...
quote:
Originally posted by Kresge:

Again, I would submit that oral tradition/societies are not practical in a 21st century globalized society.


So are we to sacrifice Identity, Community, and Solidarity, for the sake of global integration and assimilation. The Black population would be four times larger had we NOT assimilated into Caucasian and Arabian colonialism and taken on their religous and cultural identity.

What purpose does expansion serve if OUR agenda, and history is overridden, and white-washed? What is expansion but conceding to opprressive colonialism?
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
trying to resist...
quote:
Originally posted by Kresge:

Again, I would submit that oral tradition/societies are not practical in a 21st century globalized society.


So are we to sacrifice Identity, Community, and Solidarity, for the sake of global integration and assimilation. The Black population would be four times larger had we NOT assimilated into Caucasian and Arabian colonialism and taken on their religious and cultural identity.

What purpose does expansion serve if OUR agenda, and history is overridden, and white-washed? What is expansion but conceding to opprressive colonialism?

I do not know what the basis of asserting that the Black population would be 4x larger than it is now. Be that as it may, I think that it is a romantic notion to believe that one can go back in time. Even if one is a separatists, there is no way to escape the impact of globalization and technology.

Take this discourse, for example. This is taking place via the internet, using quite sophisticated forms of technology. We are using digital and written forms of communication, not oral. Most of us have never and may never meet face to face. I would not recognize your voice if I heard it. Are you saying that the utilization of this technology is assimilation? Should it be rejected as the product of colonialism?

Another example is that concepts critical to our identity are post-Enlightenment and are inextricably liked with technology. The concept of blackness or Africaness are modern constructs. Prior to colonization, there was no such thing as "Africa" or Africans, e.g., one was Igbo, Yoruba, Akan, Hausa, Baule, Dan, Guro, or Mande. It is in the aftermath of modernity that we have began to reflect on what we have in common.

As I said, I think that there are important things lost with the decline of orality and aurality. Yet, I am reminded of another thread here the talked about the growing digital divide between black and white folks. Historically in this country, I think that black folks have tended to be behind the curve with respect to the adoption and adaptation with respect to technology. We can not let such trends continue.
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quote:
Originally posted by Kresge:

The concept of blackness or Africaness are modern constructs. Prior to colonization, there was no such thing as "Africa" or Africans, e.g., one was Igbo, Yoruba, Akan, Hausa, Baule, Dan, Guro, or Mande



What do you make of the name Bilad as Sudan "The Land of the Blacks", or terms like "Children of the Sun", or Africa South of the Sahara...
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
quote:
Originally posted by Kresge:

The concept of blackness or Africaness are modern constructs. Prior to colonization, there was no such thing as "Africa" or Africans, e.g., one was Igbo, Yoruba, Akan, Hausa, Baule, Dan, Guro, or Mande



What do you make of the name Bilad as Sudan "The Land of the Blacks", or terms like "Children of the Sun", or Africa South of the Sahara...

Are these terms used in a self referential fashion for a transcontinental transtribal identity or are they terms of ascription? I meant the former as opposed to the latter? I may not have been clear that my concern above was with respect to self referential identity.
I once did an abstract on a study involving one teacher, two stories, and a group of first-grade students. The purpose of the study was to explore the impact storytelling versus reading stories had on students. When the teacher in the study told a story to the children utlizing her memory, the children were a lot more attentive to the story, they could summarize and recall parts of the story with better clarity. And because the teacher was free from holding a book, she was able to be more expressive and animated in describing the characters, making the story a lot more interesting. Also, because the teacher did not have to look down to read words on a page, she was able to maintain eye contact with the children, commanding her listeners' attention.

When the teacher read a story to the children, however, the children were less attentive than before and some even became disruptive. Because the teacher had to keep her head down and/or turned to the side in order to read the words on the page, she could not maintain eye contact with her listeners, and as result, some students became disinterested. In addition, fewer students could recall what took place in the story after the second story was read to them.

Thus, reading teachers and researchers recommend that teachers integrate more storytelling in their instructional reading times so that students can benefit from both storytelling and story reading. Storytelling also shows students the importance of reading body language and using expressive communication. I thought it was an interesting article.

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