ritual – n. a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
We have rituals year round, but the winter is ritual central. Intentionally. The cold of European winters are the impetus for the festival that eventually became Christmas. The church moved the celebration of the birth of Christ to the winter to piggy-back off of an already existing and necessary ritual. The ritual, for many, is the key to breaking the winter blues. Ritual is a mood booster. It’s crucial in a cold cruel world. The world is never colder or crueler than in winter.
In the United States, where church and state are separate but our money says in “God We Trust”, we take our corporate rituals to heart. Some of our biggest rituals, Christmas, The Super Bowl, Valentines Day, are now inextricably tied into our national passion for consumerism. These days help us mark time and American business set sales projections. We openly talk about part of the ritual being able to view the new corporate art meant to sell us stuff. I’ve got products I want to sell, art I use to sell it with, and I would love for you to ritually give your money and attention to me. I realize I would be asking to much if I thought we can separate ourselves from these corporate rituals, but we have to make sure our rituals aren’t only the corporate ones.
Even the ritual of football itself is understandable. For many boys it’s their path into manhood, their lessons on teamwork and perseverance. Football is the chance for young men to use and push their bodies, something every growing person needs. There are generations of American boys who grow nostalgic around the all the sights smells and emotions that go with football.
The tart sweet smell of fresh cut grass.
The funk of the inside of your helmet.
The laps chanting and panting with your teammates.
The orange slices.
The screaming parents.
The mud caked into your cleats.
The pregame and halftime speeches.
The run through the tunnel and breaking through the banner to screaming fans.
The coin toss.
The kick off.
As fans of it we have our rituals. We know when to cheer, we know what food to expect. We know what friends and family we will see for the first time in a long time when our team is having it’s big game or the Super Bowl. We know who has what seats on the sofa and the big comfy chair
If we were anywhere else in the world our passion would be football (what we call soccer), or another time period it could’ve been lacrosse, or wrestling, or jousting. The culture around the sport pervades our language and our memories. Its highlight moments are frozen in time for us.
It is almost impossible to expect us to break from such an ingrained aspect of our society the way some people (including myself) think we should. But if it’s too much to break this time honored tradition, let’s at least make sure we are celebrating the non-corporate and pro-community rituals that we have always celebrated and are now creating.
My man Diallo Sumbry, and the family at Adinkra Cultural Art Studios , are starting what I hope will be a new ritual with their festival in Accra Ghana this month with the Backyard Band. Combining the ritual of African drumming, with the ritual of DC go-go music, and this new ritual of visiting where we came from. I’m starting to raise funds now to take my family on the same trip next February and make it an annual thing.
Ericka Bridgeford and the whole Baltimore Cease Fire movement, who take the time to make a city numb from drugs and violence aware of it’s self every time they memorialize a loss soul to violence with a Sacred Space or have one of their inspiring cease fire weekends. Congratulations to Baltimore for no murders this weekend (The second stretch at least this long this year). We are not going to be numb. We are going to keep education, healing and loving each other.
We’re about to partake in another revived ritual, the black movie. I remember how we came out for Spike Lee movies, Eddie Murphy movies, Denzel and Wesley Snipes movies, even the Morgan Freeman movies in the 80’s and 90’s. Our desire to break through the cold cruel representation of us in corporate media had us coming out in droves. I don’t want to end that ritual, I’m panning my Black Panther outfit and got my whole family tickets to a private screening, but I want to make sure I’m also putting as much energy into my communities 50th anniversary Kwanzaa celebration or my friends and former students albums and short-films. We need to create the same sense of urgency, and ritual, around those.
Last year’s Super Bowl was the last one I’ll probably ever watch on purpose. I fell asleep at halftime of the greatest Super Bowl comeback in history. To this day I haven’t felt a moment of regret. I’m avoiding explaining my politics around the NFL in this piece, because that is not the point I’m trying to make. That Super Bowl night was the first time in a long time I was with my two closest friends, basically my brothers, since the 5th and 10th grade respectively. We all have more children and responsibilities then we have time, but we made the time to try to observe this American ritual. It was great seeing them, it broke me out of the winter funk I was in at the time. Evidently it gave me a chance to get some much-needed rest. Getting together with my brothers is the human part of this corporate ritual I want to keep, and expand on, and make it a ritual of it’s own.