“The community is a body in which every individual is a cell. No harmful or inappropriate cell is allowed to remain in the body. One way or another it will be ejected. One must learn how to function as a healthy cell in order to earn the privilege of staying in the body and keeping it alive.” – Malidoma Patrice Some, “Of Water and the Spirit”
While Malidoma allows us to experience living and growing in a traditional African society, Maulana Karenga’s gift of Kwanzaa allows an outline for healing and re-creating African values. In Edwin J. Nichols’ “The Philosophical Aspects of Cultural Difference”, one can see the similarity or differences between Euro-American – African/Afro-American/Hispanic/Native-American – Asian/Asian-American/Native American. A family project – research Karenga and Nichols and look for any similarities observable today in Nichols’ grouping, i.e., what values are shared between African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.
Africans knew that all things were interrelated. That sense of integration brought cohesion and order to their lives. The train in which we travel places little value on ethics and order, foolishly places a price tag on peace, reduces life to debate and offers material trinkets as a distraction so that we don’t notice that we are living in a nightmare and we are all endangered because of the separation, the insecurity, the fear and the brutality born of this lifestyle. We owe our children a chance. In looking for solutions to the problems facing our youth, all paths seem to lead to the need for an integrated community in which all individuals recognize their own self-worth and contribute to the entire community’s growth and development. We owe our children community. Your definition of community shapes your philosophy and your actions.
Community for some means shared beliefs or ideologies as in religions and politics. For some it means shared heritage – the African-American community, or affiliations-organizations. Unfortunately, those communities often establish boundaries that classify or exclude individuals and creates more fragmentation. The community I envision is one which organizes itself to provide for the physical and emotional needs of all its residents. In order for that community to emerge, we must cleanse ourselves of the attitudes of self-hate, self-centeredness and scarcity that is synonymous with Western culture. No easy task.
Some Points in Creating Community – Every adult should become an advocate for a young person. You may not have the personality to interact with young people. Plan or contribute to an activity where others can. It works to select the youth from your neighborhood – because relationships are formed among the adults as well. Develop stress-free ways of supporting parents and children.
Parents appreciate genuine interest and concern about their children. Problems often occur when people judge and make parents and children wrong. No one likes to be attacked. Sponsoring free or low-cost group activities are great. Not all parents know how to coordinate such activities. It’s a great investment. Children remember all the things adults do to and for them. The “brat” may change his/her ways when shown some positive attention. Parents of adult children are valuable resources when they can be unbiased about their experience and have a productive relationship with their grown-up offspring.
Often, parents seem to think that when they have reared their children, they no longer have any obligation to the children of the neighborhood. These individuals usually criticize the parents, comparing their actions to their own while parenting. Children who grow up without nurturing will be the angry, hostile youth who mug, burglarize and kill. Feeling a responsibility for the community creates a context for our individual families and motivates us to extend ourselves to others in the village, truly an African cultural tradition. Parents, don’t let your child think s/he cannot be chastised by another adult.
On one hand, we have adults who are verbally, emotionally and physically abusive to children, which is not to be excused or tolerated. On the other hand, we have parents who are ready to fight if an adult chastises their youngster. Children are very smart and will use that parent to get away with all kinds of mischief. Children and parents must learn to recognize authentic adults and children should know that adults are primarily concerned about their success.
Adults can make a difference for the children who live on our blocks by using the principles of Kwanzaa and recognizing neighbors who have contributed. The Parents Notebook will list opportunities in the coming issues. In the meantime, review the Kwanzaa Principles and choose one you would like to see blossom and share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.