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African American Family in the “Soul Food” Movie Case Study

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Updated: Feb 5th, 2021

Family Composition

The family which is depicted in the “Soul Food” movie is an example of the extended African-American family that lives in Chicago. The family in the movie, called Joseph’s family, consists of Big Mama, the head of the family, who has three daughters: Terri, Bird and Maxine. Terri is the oldest in the family, followed by Maxine, and Robin who is the youngest one. Ahmad, who is 11 years old, is Maxine’s son and a grandson to Big Mama. Kenny is the current husband to Maxine and Lem who is Bird’s husband. Miles is Terri’s husband. Other members of the extended family are Uncle Pete, who is a brother to Big Mama and Faith, who is Tere’s cousin.

Problems Experienced by Family Members

Problems engross Joseph’s family following the death of Big Mama. Big Mama, who holds the family together, has been suffered from diabetes for a long time and eventually dies from a stroke that she experiences during an operation. The family disintegrates eventually due to lack of wise counsel from Big Mama. Also, the family suffers from bereavement following her death.

Besides, Teri feels troubled because of Faith, her cousin. Teri finds Faith and Miles, her husband, making love. Further, Lem and Bird suffer because Lem is jobless. Attempts by Bird to use Simuel so as to get Lem a job fail and result in Lem’s incarceration. Again, Teri and Maxine have problems with each other, because Teri is not happy about the joyful relationship that Maxine is experiencing with Kenny, who is her past boyfriend.

Teri is also not happy as she feels that all family members are exploiting her wealth. Besides, Maxine fails to recognize their traditions. These two last points make the family disintegrate. As a result, Kenny and Ahmad seem worried about the disintegration of their kinship ties and extended family.

Strengths of the Family

Before Big Mama’s death, all members of the family were in good relationships, however, now they are at wrangles. Big Mama held the family together until the time of her demise. Besides, Ahmad who is Big Mama’s grandson and Maxine’s son uses tricky methods to bring the family together once again.

Assess the Internal as well as External Family Environment

Big Mama left a great amount of money for the family. This money becomes available to family members after Big Mama’s brother, Uncle Pete, drops the money. In addition, the family is multigenerational, with three generations. Big Mama gives her advice to all family members, while Teri helps family members meet their material needs. Big Mama’s house is put at a central place, and she acts as the eldest in the extended family. All other houses are close to Big mama’s house, although, not in the same neighborhood. This allows all family members to meet on Sunday’s for dinner at Big Mama’s house.

Literature Search

Questions

  • What are the strengths of the family?
  • Is the family spiritual or religious?
  • Is the family extended?
  • Does the family have kinship networks?

Billingsley (1992) defines the African American family as the close relationships that exist between persons of African origin, who can be related by blood, through adoption or marriage. He further explains that African American families remain connected to a network of social structures as they share the history of common residence in America (Billingsley, 1992). A number of African cultural values have endured in African American families in spite of racism, oppression and persistent delineations from cultural customs and languages. For instance, customs and values of strong kinship ties and extended families, as well as respect for elders have their origin in African practices (Hill, 1997). Most of these practices have grown into valuable resources and strengths for African American families.

In order to understand African American families, we must consider the distinctive realities that have produced their experience. Most African Americans came to America as slaves and became separated from their cultural values, family life and heritage, which is different from other settler groups. As a result, practices of African American families assimilated with both American and West African cultures. Historical and cultural contexts make African American families remain linked to their past practices. These practices guide social changes in family systems, as well as ecological networks that exist within their families.

Family Strengths and African American Families

According to Hill (1997), positive behaviors in families can be established using the perspective of strengths. This entails assisting families in identifying strength areas, and valuing them more than problem areas. In order for practitioners to succeed in using strengths perspective, they must assess the needs of clients, as well as their environment and situations using critical methods (Glicken, 2004).

Hill (1997) explains that the strengths perspective can be used to integrate positive behaviors in African American family. Family strengths, in this context, are related to cultural background, and families act as grounds on which cultural and racial reflections occur. Also, family strengths are assets that become conveyed among generations through the process of socialization. These strengths are just coping strategies or adaptations that occur to counteract economic or ethnic subjugation. Hill (1997) offers a superb description of strengths in black families. According to Hill (1997), family strengths can be defined as behaviors that add to the capacity of the family to cater for the wants of its affiliates, as well as demands required by systems that exist outside families (Hill, 1997).

Hence, family strengths are essential for the preservation, endurance and progression of family systems and functions in African American families. Identifying and utilizing the family strengths that are evident in the African American families can enable practitioners to realize and find solutions to most problems in these families.

Spirituality and Religion

Since time immemorial, religion and spirituality have occupied a central place in the lives of African Americans, and most of these families acknowledged the existence of the supreme being (Nobles, 1991). These families believe that the spirit, soul and body have connections, and thus people must practice acceptable acts to both the living and the dead.

Most African Americans participate in religious activities as a way of demonstrating their spirituality. African Americans belong to different religious groups, which provide platforms for people to express their beliefs and conduct various rituals. The commonest rituals in the African American context include praying, reading the Bible and singing songs of praise.

Spiritual and religious practices in African American families direct on how families live and present ways of handling problems while sustaining family patterns (Cook, 1993). Most families use prayer when confronted with difficult situations such as death and emotional issues. Therefore, spiritual and religious beliefs are vital ingredients that promote inner strength and in the context of African American families.

Extended Family Kinship Network

African American families have a key strength in their extended family and well-built kinship systems (Hill, 1997). Some values such as protective mothers, respect for the aged and children values become reflected in social practices rooted on kinship ties and the extended family system (Hill, 1997). Other related values include loyalty and reciprocity to the family. In African American families, kinship acts as a system that directs social relationships among persons. Hence, all issues surrounding human associations can be construed through kinship networks.

The extended family, in the context of African Americans, may comprise persons who lack any blood or marriage relationship, as it expands outside the family cycle. The family has many roles such as providing social, emotional and economic support through counseling, childcare, parenting and general care (Hill, 1997). Family assumes priority over entities, in the African American family context. Mostly, kinship support systems and extended families help family members to acclimatize and endure in the course of the family life cycle. The extended, family kinship system act as a strong point, which can be used by practitioners in assisting such families to adjust to their family roles, irrespective of difficulties that they can be experienced in the family systems care (Hill, 1997).

Search Procedure and Findings

Several articles and books were reviewed in order to come up with the best intervention procedures. Also, literature review helped in giving further explanation to facts that were evident in the movie.

The study established that kinship ties and existence of extended families were key areas of strength for the family. African American families have a key strength in their extended families and well-built kinship systems. The study also established that, in African American families, kinship acts as a system that governs social relationships among persons. The family has many roles such as providing social, emotional and economic support through counseling, childcare, parenting and general care. Families assume priority over entities, in the African American family context. Mostly, kinship support systems and extended families help family members to acclimatize and endure in the course of the family life cycle.

The study established that family kinship system acts as a strong point, which can be used by practitioners in assisting such families to adjust to their family roles, irrespective of difficulties that they could be experiencing in the family systems care.

Lastly, the study established that religion and spirituality have a role in solving problems in the African American family context. Most African Americans participate in religious activities as a way of demonstrating their spirituality. African Americans belong to different religious groups, which provide platforms for people to express their beliefs and conduct various rituals. The commonest rituals in the African American context include praying, reading the Bible and singing songs of praise.

Spiritual and religious practices in African American families direct how families live and symbolize ways of handling problems while sustaining family patterns. Most families use prayer when confronted with difficult situations such as death and emotional issues. Therefore, spiritual and religious beliefs are vital ingredients that promote inner strength and in the context of African American families.

Intervention Procedures

Genogram is a tool of visual assessment that represents associations between family members for about three generations (McGoldrick & Gerson, 1985). This is the best assessment tool that can enable practitioners to realize what influences behavior, in a family, and problems of family members. Besides, genograms identify resources and strengths that are available to family members.

Hence, through establishing strengths, beliefs and customs in a family, genograms can offer an excellent framework for creating understanding and insight. For instance, genograms can a valuable way of establishing spiritual and religious aspects that exist among family members, as well as, the influence on lives of family members.

Genograms that focus on spiritual issues act as an efficient way of establishing spiritual resources and cultural aspects that may be influencial. For instance, spiritual genograms in the context of African American families can help in organizing intricate expressions of spirituality into graphical forms in order to facilitate assessment and intervention. The spiritual genogram enables practitioners to realize values of a clients and their interpretation of the world from a spiritual angle.

Genograms obtained broad use in the areas of counseling, assessment, family therapy. Genograms is a valuable tool for family assessments as it creates awareness of family events and history of family members. Genograms become employed in family therapy so as to enhance awareness concerning individual growth from the perspective of family relations. Also, genograms are used in assessing gender dynamics as they relate to families. Furthermore, the work by Thomas (1998) offers an explanation on how genograms can be used to assess diverse families.

Also, genograms can enhance understanding and offer superior insight into the individual family matters experienced by learners. Reed (1994) explains how genograms can be employed for introducing and assisting learners in comprehending the sociological roots of family therapy, and intensifying understanding of social transmission among generations. In brief, genograms can be used as instructional tools in explaining the relationship between family systems and other systematic concepts.

Discuss Actual or Imagined Issues of Engagement

First, Big Mama is dead, and family members have disintegrated due to lack of wise counsel. Second, the family suffers from bereavement following her death. Besides, Teri feels troubled because Faith has an affair with her cousin. Again, Teri and Maxine have problems, because Teri is not happy about the joyful relationship that Maxine has with Kenny, who is her past boyfriend. Teri is also not happy as she feels that all family members are exploiting her wealth. As a result, Kenny and Ahmad seem to be worried about the disintegration of their kinship ties and extended family.

The family intervention used should aspire to help this family realize their strengths. The family needs to be informed that disintegration causes them to be weak, since through their close family ties and other resources, most of their problems can be solved. For instance, Big Mama left money, which can be used to provide almost all material needs of the members of the family.

Describe the Anticipated Process or Progress

The aim of the assessment and intervention is to ensure that the family restores unity through maintaining their kinship ties and extended family relationships. This will happen through understanding and superior insight into the individual family matters. The intervention will also seek to reduce family tensions and conflicts among members.

References

Billingsley, A. (1992). Climbing Jacob’s ladder. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Cook, D. A. (1993). Research in African American churches: A mental health counseling imperative. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 15, 320-333.

Glicken, M. D. (2004). Using the strengths perspective in social work practice. Boston, England: Pearson.

Hill, R. (1997). The strengths of African American families: Twenty-five years later. New York, NY: R & B Publishers.

McGoldrick, M., & Gerson, R. (1985). Genograms in family assessment. New York, NY: Norton.

Nobles, W. (1991). African philosophy: Foundations of black psychology. Berkeley, CA: Cobb & Henry.

Reed, M. (1994). Digging up family plots: Analysis of axes of variation in genograms. Teaching Sociology, 22, 255-259.

Thomas, A. J. (1998). Understanding cultural and worldview in family systems: Use of the multicultural genogram. Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 6 (1) 24-32.

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IvyPanda. (2021, February 5). African American Family in the "Soul Food" Movie. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-family-in-the-soul-food-movie/

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IvyPanda. "African American Family in the "Soul Food" Movie." February 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-family-in-the-soul-food-movie/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "African American Family in the "Soul Food" Movie." February 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-family-in-the-soul-food-movie/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'African American Family in the "Soul Food" Movie'. 5 February.

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