And My Community

In this session, group members learn how cultural values can facilitate or inhibit desired goals. In our groups, members also discussed what values are common to African Americans and how these might differ from the values of other ethnic groups. Values were discussed within the context of social support. For example, is it easier for African Americans to give and receive support from kin and family than other ethnic groups because of the African American extended family?

An initial activity may be to discuss core cultural values among African Americans. Culture is defined as shared ways of thinking and behaving among a group of people. A review of chapter 3, which focuses on African American values, may be helpful for this task. Members should be asked to come up with their own values before they are provided by the facilitator.

A discussion of how relationships may differ among African Americans and other ethnic groups may serve as a further illustration of core African American values. This discussion may include a discussion of the central role that the family, including the extended family, plays in the lives of African Americans. Participants may provide examples from their own experiences of what their family means to them.

Spirituality as a source of support may also be discussed during this session. In our group, members spoke of the importance of attending church, praying, and other religious and spiritual practices.

In our groups, members got into small groups and discussed their perception of positive and negative aspects of social support within the African American community. For example, African Americans may have a greater willingness to look out for and take care of less fortunate family members (positive outcome). However, when this fosters over-dependency, it can sometimes lead to strained relationships for both the recipient and the provider.

A discussion of how being African American affects employment opportunities may also be helpful during this session. For example, some participants in our groups felt African Americans were at a disadvantage in the employment arena because of racism and discrimination. However, other participants felt that because African Americans are flexible, they can adapt to whatever situation. It may be useful for the facilitator to acknowledge discrimination based on ethnicity and disability, but to redirect the participant to think about how he or she can empower him or herself. A related activity is to have group members identify those aspects of the African American culture that may help or hinder their opportunities to find a job. For example, African Americans may use time differently from White Americans. The phrase "CP," or colored people's, time may be a cultural norm. However, lack of attention to present time may cause the person to lose the job if he or she does not show up for an interview on time. Likewise, if the job requirements call for independent work, an interpersonal or communal orientation may not be adaptive in this environment. In these situations, the employee must be sensitive to the requirements of the job and adjust his or her behavior accordingly. Beliefs in spirituality and the faith that this belief brings may reduce the stress associated with finding employment and enable the person to cope with unemployment.

A final activity for this session may be to have group members affirm themselves culturally by focusing on the strengths of the African American community. Since some of our sessions were held during December, we discussed Kwanzaa (the first fruits of the harvest). Kwanzaa is based on seven fundamental principles called the Nguzo Saba (Karanga, 1977). These are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamma (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumbia (creativity), and Imani (faith).

While our sessions focused on African American culture, it may also be helpful to discuss aspects of disability culture, depending upon the group. Participants can explore values and assumptions they hold with other members of their disability group and how these values impact their attitudes and behaviors.

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