By Angela L. Braden
“Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack. All dressed in #black black black. Had 24-buttons up and down her back back back.”
For most black girls, one of their earliest memories playing with other black girls includes the slapping of hands and the rhyming of words in a form of a memorable tune.
Black girls have always enjoyed making up cute songs and sharing rhythmic hand clapping and slapping with the girls they played with. It was a time of bonding for many sisters, cousins, and neighborhood playmates.
In case you don’t know what a “hand game” is, let this black girl break it down to you.
A hand game is best described as a game between two or more individuals that involves the clapping of each other’s hands and singing. These hand games require cooperation, hand-and-eye coordination, and basic communication skills to be used at the same time.
Some hand games may require dancing, touching the ground, jumping, and turning around. Many adults marvel at the complexity of some the moves the girls come up with to play their simple hand games.
While hand games can be found all over the world, little black girls in America pride themselves as being well-versed and the masters at the deeply cultural activity.
Many #African American historians believe that the reason why hand games are so popular in African American girls is due to the extremely rich oral traditions of African people.
Because there is no one way to play a hand game or sing the songs that are connected to the rhythmic game, many girls fight over which way is the right way to play these popular games. So, instead of bonding, war breaks loose amongst the little women.
Many older women enjoy playing hand games as an activity to bond with their daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and lil’ cousins.
Recently, I watched a black woman, who was in her 40’s play a hand game with my niece that is only 5-years-old. Even though the two were at least 40 years a part in age, both knew the hand movements and the rhyme to go along with the hand clapping. That’s how incredible hand games are in the black female community.
To learn more about hand games, check out: K. D. Gaunt, The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop (New York, NU., New York University Press, 2006.