By Dr. Conrad Worrill, Chicago Crusader
The impact of African people being captured in the slave trade and introduced into the western hemisphere as property and commodity are at the root of the breakdown of the African family. Our ancestors were extremely creative in finding ways to develop families despite the chattel slave system established in this country. After chattel slavery was abolished, the African family continued to be creative in developing family life.
However, the more we began to emulate our former slave masters, the worse the internal social conditions of the African-American became. Today these conditions are at an all-time low. We have thousands of African-American children today who have had virtually no positive family input into their development. This has resulted in what we are witnessing with so many of our youth— total lack of positive family oriented input.
In this regard, Useni Eugene Perkins the renowned poet, playwright and social practitioner wrote, Harvesting New Generations: The Positive Development of Black Youth, which was published by Third World Press and is a book we should all read. Harvesting New Generations addresses the issue of our youth in historical, theoretical and practical context. In this book, Brother Perkins thoroughly deals with the challenge of reclaiming our youth through positive African centered program development.
Brother Perkins, or Useni as he is called by most who know him, brings a wealth of experience, research and study to Harvesting New Generations that is reflected throughout the book. Useni is the editor of Black Child Journal and his book, Home Is A Dirty Street, was cited by Lerone Bennet, Jr., as “one of the most important books on the sociology of the streets since publication of Black Metropolis.”
Brother Perkins was the former executive director of the Better Boys Foundation Family Center in Chicago and is currently a social service consultant. Useni combines his professional expertise and experience as a trained social worker and community organizer with that of a creative artist and writer.
Harvesting New Generations gives the African-American Community a beginning prescription for addressing the problems of our youth. Brother Perkins points out that “The rites of passage was perhaps the most important stage in an African boy’s life, for it not only indoctrinated him with the spiritual and cultural manifestations of his people’s traditions, but was the catalyst that consummated his manhood. African girls participated in a similar type of training during their puberty which prepared them for womanhood. Womanhood carried with it great importance in African societies and each society helped to prepare a girl for this important role.”
Brother Perkins observes that “In contemporary Black America, the only ceremony that approximates the African youth’s rites of passage may be the coronation which introduces young men and women to Black middle class. However, this is primarily an elitist affair that focuses on social status rather than social development.”
Reclaiming our youth involves re-establishing and creating a rites of passage concept for African in American youth that becomes the basis for all youth program development. A few Africans in America began this process by establishing SIMBA (for boys) and FULANI (for girls) rites of passage youth programs. Some of these examples are cited in Harvesting New Generations.
Again, Brother Perkins emphasizes that “the family and its extended relationships played an important role in rearing of African youths. The African youth was the center of family life and his socialization became the shared responsibility of all family members.” I strongly suggest that you purchase Harvesting New Generations and spread the word about this powerful book as we continue to seek ways to reclaim our youth.
We must “Harvest New Generations” if our race is to survive and develop.