By Aminisha Black
Creating Family Cultures for Social Change
The family is the smallest social unit in a society. It remains the place where principles and values can be taught that shape leaders of tomorrow. The strength of Africa’s family structure is credited with sustaining our ancestors through slavery and the following years of oppression. There are conspiracy theories that families were first on America’s hit list, with the intent of reducing them to poverty, thus forcing them to focus solely on surviving. Parents, today we have a responsibility to create a sane and secure environment for future generations. I believe the place to begin is at home.
In A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Ruby K. Payne defines poverty as “The extent to which an individual does without resources”. It follows then that if families are provided with needed resources, they will be empowered to become agents for social transformation.
A major obstacle in solving problems in this culture is the equation of resources with money. Payne, while including financial as one resource, also lists the following:motional – the ability to choose and control emotional responses particularly in negative situations, without engaging in self-destructive behavior. (War is an example of self-destructive behavior)
To change – Hostile and/or abusive relationships between parents; violence, inappropriate behaviors, excessive medication of children to name a few.
Actions for change – Promote family cohesiveness and develop self-esteem with activities that create pleasurable memories that last a life time, i.e. family picnics in local parks, family game nights, making scrap books, catch a few concerts – to name a few free and near free things available in the city.
Mental – Having the mental abilities and acquired skills (reading, writing, computing) to deal with daily life.
To change – Illiteracy, poor comprehension, measuring competency by test results, over exposure to TV, video games, separation of school, home and community, education restricted to classroom, lack of learning experiences at home and in the community.
Actions for change: a) Visit the library regularly, make sure everyone has a library card. b) Expose your child to books about their interests. c) Play family games that involve reading and arithmetic in a fun way. d) Teach thinking skills by encouraging your child to solve problems. e) Form a partnership with your child’s teacher(s).
Spiritual – Believing in divine purpose
To change – The trend of paying lip service on Sundays and tolerating/justifying immoral acts and unjust behaviors on a daily basis; reducing spirituality to religious beliefs, inadequate coverage of subject in public schools.
Actions for change: a) Research religions and spiritual disciplines. b) Attend services at different denominations. c) Check out non-traditional disciplines and follow your heart on this one. Clue – you’re seeking the ability to be an instrument of Love and Peace and connection with Source for guidance. d) Sit in silence with your children a few minutes daily or as often as you can.
Physical – Having physical health
To change – The typical American diet and lifestyles absent of exercise, exploitation of consumers by doctors and drug companies, shortage of information to community regarding holistic health.
Actions for change: a) If you know harmful things that you’re doing, change the habit. You can replace a bad habit with a good one in 21 days. b) Become an advocate for your health – question the need of prescribed medications c) Research alternative medicine
Support Systems – Friends, Family and backup resources available to access in times of need.
To change – Broken relationships (family, neighbors and others) and the resulting isolation.
Actions for change: a) Realize that healthy relationships was the basis of communal Africa b) Mend broken relationships by taking responsibility for your upsets which came from either 1) unfulfilled expectations 2) undelivered communication (yours) or 3) a thwarted intention.
It is important to see that all resources are not external. Each of us is a resource. Have family members tell what they can contribute to support the family. Post a Family Resource List
If we can bring the spirit of communalism into our families we can rid ourselves of the fear of scarcity which breeds the distrust and ruthless competitiveness that runs rampant in today’s society. Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Let’s begin that first step at home. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with comments.