Education and socialization in the old days, as well as the development of skills to focus the individual’s life work, was concerned with growing deeply conscious of being permanently anchored and spirituality connected to the creator’s presence in the community. Our ancestors were masters at creating practices through ceremonies, rituals and customs tying these over time to their knowledge of community, making us human, or Hu-mane.
As African Americans, part of our work is to create a group of elders who are now stepping up to our cultural reality by bringing to bear the work of developing cultural citizenship with matching laws to govern the behavior of the community. The following are 21 laws to follow for cohesion and healing among us created by myself, Atum Azzahir, and Geovonne Ford.
- Parents, grandparents, children, friends and neighbors take responsibility for each other.
- If you see someone in trouble, help immediately.
- Help, guide, support, acknowledge and correct every child.
- Greet every member of the community with love and respect.
- Ask for help before there is a crisis.
- Provide help and support before being asked.
- Share what you know and what you’ve learned — that which has helped you.
- Acknowledge the help you have received.
- Celebrate each other’s success.
- Remain connected to family and community even when it hurts.
- Work through problems together.
- Hold each other accountable to what is right and good.
- Inspire each other, especially children and elders.
- When success comes, share it — help others succeed.
- When failure comes, be willing to receive support and accept responsibility.
- Be good to one’s self in order to inspire others.
- Get up, show up, and take part in building and maintaining community.
- Respect elders, family and community as core to having a good life.
- Get education, training and personal development.
- Acknowledge spirit as essential to community life and cultural heritage.
- Never give our children up, or give up on our children.
Stabilizing the children’s sense of hope is simple. Each day please assure our children by saying to them directly, “Yes, your family loves you. Yes, we will be here when you return today.”
Please also attach the teachings of African wisdom to the term “Black.” Begin to understand “Black” as a cognitive process anchored in an intellectual life and desire for living. Let’s tell our children Black is beautiful and is also a way of thinking and being in relationship to the Creator.
Looking back to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the law was passed and is stated as being the most comprehensive law in support of equal rights for Black people in America. The law sought to protect us against discrimination and segregation. It established the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and authorized financial aid to “assist communities in the desegregation of schools.”
This assistance turned out to be for the European community to further build invisible walls around themselves. The African communities did not receive assistance and in many ways became even worse off because of the Civil Rights Act.
This writing is our attempt to highlight the elements of cultural dependency that still remain with us as African American people. In the African community, cultural dependency became a survival mechanism allowing us to endure a brutal chattel enslavement and subjection to scientifically induced dehumanization. We were legally and politically characterized as only three-fifths human in this country’s Constitution and in the minds of its people.
The enslavement, commodification, and attempt to dehumanize the African in American left us in the position of yearning across time for a guaranteed sense of belonging to place and people. For many members of a new generation of African thinkers, this lack of a sense of belonging, ordained by the U.S. Constitution and defining us as nonhuman, is now understood as core to the country’s inability to acknowledge the African as a legitimate citizen.
Our treatment by systems and laws of this society is consistent with this reality. We must reverse the thinking from each of our children following us.
Our collective education and development was sorely neglected. We eventually forged our way into European schools, only to again become the target of ridicule and neglect. All of these experiences inform the recovery work we, as parents, are now forced to do each day.
The work intensifies during the school year. We have to teach our children before, during, and after school about the lifeways of our grandparents and the knowledge behind their statement, “Prayer changes things.”
We pray by being clear that we are not begging for belonging. We know that we belong through Creation and the Creator. Our Ancestors knew, and now we know this to be true. To have a system of knowledge and knowing, which includes Ancestors and elders having direct communication with the Creator, is amazing. We must now use this as an intellectual and spiritually based way of getting up on our feet, standing up, and moving across Life’s pathways.
Atum Azzahir is the elder and founder of the Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis.