Restoring the ‘Beloved Community’

Understanding how the African soul endured


Now that the African is in America, the experience of enslavement has resulted in broken families, homes, communities and culture. Losing community leaves the person carrying the intolerable burden of disintegration that manifests and exists across generations. In place of an active spirituality that gives coherence, growth and unity to people-hood, family and society, we are left with our spirits mangled, twisted and stagnant.

The people, the family, and our society must transcend the immediate conditions and establish a vision by using what Dr. King expressed through the metaphor of “home,” which equals heaven on earth. Spirituality is inside of the African in America; now is the time to activate it and bring it back to the forefront of living.

The soul of the African runs deep like a river. The brutality invoked upon the African was hardest on the spirit, mind and body of the people experiencing it, but the African’s soul saved the African. How did our survival happen? What happened inside of the African psyche?

Why the brutality could not reach the soul is the study for our recovery. The ancient African committed to studying the “Journey of the Soul.” We endured. One of our ancestors wrote a song about how she got over: “My soul looks back and wonders how I got over.”

In our songs, our poetry, and our prayers, we do speak of knowing the self-enduring African. The self-enduring African is the African personality that is now in a position to create again. We can and must listen to the wisdom of the soul to get ourselves back into a place of wholeness, wellness and health from a cultural basis.

Home is to be used interchangeably in spiritual thinking with Heaven. It is the place where the reunion with family members takes place. Heaven is a perfect community of the Creator, the ancestors, and other loved ones in our families of origin. The “Beloved Community” in Dr. King’s vision was based on the “perfect community” operating in the transformational spirituality of the African in America. I understood from Dr. King that we are able to create this “perfect community” on earth wherever we live, including in counties, states, cities and neighborhoods.

The image of the “Beloved Community” epitomizes Dr. King’s dedication, belief and optimism about what could happen for the African and other people in America if liberation of the African spirit were achieved. The “Beloved Community” gave explanatory power to humanity’s interdependence and our mutual dependence. Dr. King encourages the individual to pursue self-mastery and personal excellence in harmonious relationship with each other and the Creator, God.

After reviewing Dr. King’s and even Elder Nelson Mandela’s thinking, I see this thinking continuing in Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America. I also see him and his family living in the home built for this nation’s first family by Africans who were enslaved. The enslavement did not kill the spirit of the African.

The spirits of those Africans are in the walls of the White House, and they are clapping for joy to be in this house with a Black family. This First Family models the will to foster an environment that respects a spirit of love and the capacity to create and recreate community.

The “Beloved Community” is an ideal toward which we should as Africans in America lead this nation and move boldly into living ourselves. We will be able to build structures again to house our people. We will be able to educate our people of all ages again in the mastery of self. We will be able to produce resources for absorbing the talents and skills of our capable leading community members.

We will be able to bury our dead and grieve our losses, and we will be able to prevent the victimization of our young, frail and less-capable people. Black and African men and women, children and elders are rising again. I am deeply grateful to be among you and I thank you for your sacrifices and for your blood, sweat and tears.


Elder Atum Azzahir is executive director of the Cultural Wellness Center and elder consultant in African ways of knowing. She welcomes reader responses to