|An excerpt from SANKOFA: Look to Your Past Forgotten Heritage
by Paula Penn-Nabrit
Step One: Articulation
The first step was our determination as parents to indelibly mark our sons’ passage from childhood to young manhood. Charles and I forced ourselves to sit down and begin the arduous process of articulating precisely what we expected of our sons. Our sons, Charles and Damon, fraternal twins, were young, but rapidly maturing African-American males, and we wanted our expectations to be as clear as possible. Our hope was that our expectations would help them shape their own.
Part of the rationale for this critical first step was the desire to circumvent what we term the vortex of assumption. All too often a consensus of goals, if achieved within the family or community, is not articulated to children moving to adulthood. The existence of such a consensus of goals is not articulated, in fact the existence of goals, simple and complex is neither expressed nor implied. Without an expressed or implied articulation of positive goals, a negative space is created. Within this vacuum non-productive and unhealthy beliefs and behaviors evolve and foster.
We wanted to assure ourselves that we clearly had begun the process of life sustaining goal articulation for our sons. “Begun” is emphasized as the development and certainly the attainment of goals is an ongoing, highly personal process to be engaged in fully by our sons.
Our job, essentially, is to create an environment conducive to their growth and development in that process. As we began this first step, we were forced to confront both the individual and societal assumptions of what it means to be a “man.” First, there is the general, societal assumption of the need/desire to dominate abusively other individuals and Nature herself.
Our goals for our sons included their focus on the perfect union of the spiritual, intellectual, and physical components of the self. This primary goal formed the foundation for our approach to the rite of passage…
We articulated, first to one another and then to our sons, what our hopes, expectations, and goals were for them words, yes, we want them to graduate from high school and college. A graduate degree would be nice as well. We want them to find meaningful work at a living wage, and, of course, we want them to marry spiritually and intellectually enlightened African or African-American women. However, we also want them to have a clear and conscious sense of commitment and responsibility to God, their community, and people of the African Diaspora, wherever they may dwell in the global village. We knew the first set of goals would be repeated and supported by us and others involved in Charles’ and Damon’s lives. We wanted to articulate for ourselves, for our sons, and for our community that we value the other goals as well.
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SANKOFA: A Christian Rite of Passage for African-American Males