African tradition examined

African religions have thrived more than four centuries after slaves first brought their practices to America.

The importance of those African religious traditions will be the focus of a three-day conference entitled, “In the Anago Fashion (Old Way):  African Religious Practices in Florida,” at the Aakhet Center for Human Development in Tallahassee.

Huberta Jackson-Lowman, Florida A&M University associate professor of psychology, chairman of the psychology department and conference director, said the event is designed to increase awareness about the presence of African traditional religions in Florida and “the influence that they have and have had on life in Florida.”

Jan DeCosmo, Velma Love and Nevell Owens are other FAMU faculty members who will serve as moderators at the event.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is largely funded by a grant from the Florida Humanities Council. It will include panels focusing on African religions, music and folklore. A film, “Voices of the Gods,” will also be shown.

“Those who attend can expect to expand their awareness of the variety of different religious traditions and practices that exist in this country,” Jackson-Lowman said.

Attendees will also get a chance to compare the culture to their own. “Even though the rituals and traditions may vary from those of some mainstream religions, we share similar beliefs in the presence of a divine power,” Jackson-Lowman said.

The study of African religious culture is vital because it provides people of African descent with a “more complete sense of who we are, of what our possibilities are, and empowers us to take control of our lives,” she continued.

Jackson-Lowman said African traditional religion s growing, yet it hardly receives positive notice.

“It receives little to any positive attention and much of the public knows very little about it,” she said. “I have been a practitioner for over 30 years and came to this tradition after witnessing the transformative effects it had on my own life.”