Religious Beliefs. African Americans practice the three main monotheistic religions, as well as Eastern and African religions. The predominant faith is Christian, the second largest group of believers accept the ancestral religions of Africa—Vodun, Santeria, Myal—and a third group of followers practice Islam. Judaism and Buddhism are also practiced by some people within the community. Without understanding the complexity of religion in the African American Community, one should not venture too deeply into the nature of the culture. While the religions of Christianity and Islam seem to attract attention, the African religions are present everywhere, even in the minds of the Christians and Muslims. Thus, traditional practitioners have introduced certain rites that have become a part of the practices of the Christians and Muslims, such as African greetings and libations to ancestors. The African American is spiritually oriented; having given to the American society the spirituals, the master songs, the African American people have learned how to weave religion into everything so that there is no separation between religion and life. Many of the practitioners of the African religions use the founding of Egypt as the starting date for the calendar; thus 6290 A . F . K . (After the Founding of Kernet) is equivalent to 1990. There is no single set of beliefs to which all African Americans subscribe.
Ceremonies. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, birthday, January 15, and Malcolm X's birthday, May 19, are the two most important days in the African American calendar. Kwanzaa, a celebration of first fruits, initiated by the philosopher Maulana Karenga, is the most joyous occasion in the African American year. Kwanzaa is observed from December 26 to January 1, and each day is named after an important virtue.
Death and Afterlife. There is no wide acceptance of Cremation in the African American culture; the majority of African Americans choose burial. Funerals are often occasions of sadness followed by festivities and joyousness. "When the Saints Go Marching In" was made famous as the song to convey African Americans to the other world by African American musicians in New Orleans. Sung and played with gusto and great vigor, the song summed up the victorious attitude of a people long used to suffering on earth.