By Aminisha Black
With Our Children
Sankofa is an Akan word that means, “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward”. In Africa, where the highest-held value is relationships, families and community share and reinforce values. Intergenerational activities provide practical mentoring for children. While numbers of Africans come to America today, they maintain their family ties and responsibilities in Africa that have been passed down for generations. Like other immigrants, they form communities and start businesses, meeting the needs of their community. Regardless of their personal agendas, the ties to family and their extended community remain intact. Their navigation on foreign soil in unity attests to the power of the value system.
In contrast, America’s highest-held value of material acquisition has fostered individualism, competitiveness, divisions and conflict. America’s value system has impacted generations and our youth become more of an endangered species. Today, descendants of African slaves and victims of ongoing racism are being killed, or at best, psychologically and physically maimed on foreign soil as members of America’s oppressive military force. We parents must ask ourselves a serious question – What values are we teaching our children? Another way of phrasing the question is – What values are we living?
Beginning with the end in sight – We hold a vision for a world where humans are valued and coexist in harmonious, productive relationships; where individuals are nurtured, supported in discovering and developing their innate talents and are acknowledged for their contributions in sustaining the community.
Where we are – We’re on the train of tyranny fueled by the insatiable need to exploit, dominate and control for material acquisition. America’s institutions are in place to perpetuate the values that reap profit for the few at the expense of masses.
About Values – A simple formula for detecting the values of an individual or an organization – watch what they do. People will say anything but they always do their values.
Changing the course – In order to produce different results, we must do things differently. If our families become nurturing environments, our children won’t settle for less, laying new track for the train.
Following are some characteristics to cultivate for nurturing relationships.
Authenticity/Honesty – We’re programmed to live lies – we learn to adopt images to impress others. Children have mastered the art of knowing their parents. Trust is the basis of a relationship. If your child knows that you lie (about anything), trust is diminished. Practice being genuine, courageous enough to tell the truth about you.
Interdependence – We’re sold on individualism (I don’t need anyone) because it sells more products, yielding more profit. The more we include others, the easier our work becomes and the benefits come to us instead of to corporations. Practice interdependence with home projects. You can start with household maintenance, each member playing a role in producing a well-run household. Building in a periodic family meetings and ritual for acknowledgments (special meal or event) will help sell the idea.
Humility – This culture promotes competition – a preoccupation with our own importance. Practice appreciating others starting with your child by finding her strengths and acknowledging them.
Empathy – In a climate of competition and individualism, we don’t know who others are or their experiences. Focusing only on our needs and wants, we often clash or run roughshod over others. Practice listening to your child’s feelings, without passing judgment or giving advice.
Forgiveness – In this culture individuals are condemned for mistakes. Practice teaching appropriate behavior and prompt forgiveness. Give your child the experience of transforming behavior.
Confidentiality – This culture promotes gossip about others, usually negative. Practice eliminating conversations about people who are not present. Confidence is earned in the absence of gossip. Earn your child’s confidence.
Balancing Time – We are programmed to seek gratification outside the home. We work long hours to earn money so we can buy more things. Block out a period of time that will be devoted to family. Our children will know they’re valued by our interaction with them. Practice finding at least one activity that you do together.
These practices won’t be publicized on TV commercials. However, when we change our practice, we will transform our families. Transformed families will recreate old definitions of success that will honor human relationship over human obliteration. We will have honored our responsibility to our young and our ancestors.
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By Aminisha Black