June 9, 2009

Marvin Clecidor ’09 Traces His African Roots

He performed an independent study exploring how West African culture has influenced his hometown of Lakeland, Fla.

Courtney Morin ’10

Marvin Clecidor ’09 performed research that showed you don’t need to travel around the world to learn about your ancestors.

Clecidor, who graduated May 23 with an A.B. with a major in anthropology and sociology, worked on an independent study tracing the roots of West African traditional religions back through his hometown of Lakeland, Fla. He worked on the project under the guidance of Ebenezer Addo, visiting instructor of religious studies.

As a native of Ghana, Addo was able to assist Clecidor a great deal in the research development. “He understands the lifestyle and culture of Ghana and of West African nations, and was able to help me make connections between [West Africa and Lakeland],” says Clecidor.

Clecidor chose to focus on specific customs of Lakeland culture, such as marriages and funerals. He discovered that Christianity, specifically Protestantism, is dominant in his hometown, and he traced its history back to West Africa.

“The people within my city are predominantly from the African American community and most of these people attend Protestant churches,” says Clecidor.

Within the churches, he observed how people worshiped and how these styles differ from, say, those of the Catholic Church. According to Clecidor, a Catholic service generally has a mellower atmosphere, where worshippers sing hymns and listen to a priest. In the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church the atmosphere is completely different. Clecidor describes it as “a lot of singing, dancing, energy, and shouting.”

Another topic Clecidor touched upon was the traditions surrounding funerals and the similarities in customs in West Africa and Lakeland. According to Clecidor, a funeral is a major event with the family of the deceased coming together, many traveling great distances. Celebrations and events ensue up until the day of the funeral. After that, there is a mourning period, but after a few days the family disperses.

Clecidor’s research reveals that there are many subtle influences of West African traditions in his hometown.

“These influences have survived throughout generations, from slavery until now, because of the ideas and culture that Africans have preserved over the years. Traditions transform but the richness of West Africa is ever present,” he says.

Clecidor, who started on the varsity football team as a defensive back, plans to attend graduate school and receive an advanced degree in sociology.

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