TRAVEL UST-GASECRETS 8 MCT

In African cultures, families and friends gather together to "sing their praises" in a form of celebration referred to as praise poetry. Megan Taylor claims Americans can learn many key concepts from the custom. 

Imagine someone celebrating an achievement or milestone with their friends and family. Now, imagine their friends and family playing music and singing about how admirable they think the person is. In African cultures, this form of celebration is referred to as praise poetry. It’s a way for people to honor their achievements or personality traits. This genre of poetry can be written by the individual themselves or by a close companion and is often sung at any number of occasions. It’s an entertaining way for someone to brand themselves and tell everyone why they or someone else is admirable.

Americans could learn from praise poetry given that in our culture, people are discouraged from talking about themselves. It can be hard for an individual to celebrate their achievements or personality traits when doing so can be seen as arrogant. However, doing something notable or reaching a difficult goal is worth celebrating.

Whether someone received a better grade on a project than expected or got a job they wanted, the achievement made them happy. It’s human nature to want to celebrate that happiness with friends and family.

A praise poem can be used on a professional level as well. A couple things we are familiar with in American culture are recommendation letters, cover letters and resumes. These are similar to praise poetry, and they’re often needed to succeed. Throughout life, there are situations when an individual will need to have the ability to speak highly about themselves.

Whether applying for a job, an internship, a major or anything else that requires you to fill out an application, applicants need to know how to speak confidently about their strengths. More likely than not, an application is the only chance someone may have to leave a lasting impression. Failing to do so could cause them to miss out on the opportunity.

Telling an employer how well they’re doing at work can be beneficial for the employee. Those who talk openly about their progress at work are more likely to get promotions and be acknowledged for their work than people who downplay themselves. Employees may think their quality of work is automatically noticed by their employer. However, that’s not always the case. It’s up to them to make their work be seen and rewarded.

Praise poetry can also be inspirational for other people. When a person hears others singing about the accomplishments they've made or how they made a positive impact on other individuals, the listener may be encouraged to do admirable things as well. Sometimes people need to made aware something is possible, and seeing a person celebrating something that may have seemed impossible can leave a lasting impact.

It’s also interactive for the poet and the receiver. When someone performs a praise poem for someone else, it’s celebrating them personally. It’s a way for the poet to connect with the receiver and express with them the effect they’ve made on others.

Even though praise poetry has yet to become part of our culture the way it is in most African communities, people should be encouraged to lift up themselves and others.

With the stress of finals right around the corner, students should keep in mind it’s OK to be proud of themselves. It’s also important they take time to tell friends they’re proud of them as well. Life is stressful and it’s crucial to take as much time as possible to celebrate.

Megan Taylor is a freshman writing, rhetoric and technical communication major. Contact Megan at taylormn@dukes.jmu.edu.