While working for the Peace Corps, a young African-American woman traveled her usual route from her homestead in Tanzania. She waved as she like she did every day to the women sitting or working outside their homes. But this particular day they called her over and inquired about her family origin, when they finally understood she was from the U.S. they nodded in harmony and responded, “Oh, you are one of the lost ones.” As perceived by this woman in a small village in Tanzania, the African-American community has strayed from the village.
The virtue in being lost is that there is always a way back. Still, the intellectual will question, “Where have we gone and what was the starting point?” The truth is African-Americans all throughout the world are breaking ground each and every day in one area or another. However, the lack of unity and collaborative movement has hindered macro progress. The Village Method’s approach breaks the cycle of hopelessness and mis-education by creating a community to sustain the vision, a community that lives the culture, and grooms the next generation to set the tone of the conversation.
While villages vary in traditions and customs, there are a few reoccurring themes. The ‘kauye,’ as it’s referred in Nigeria, is the core of one’s community, culture, and personal values. Furthermore, it links each into a shared vision and in turn, action. When one is a part of a village they have a role and are held accountable, and they hold their fellow-man accountable. The community is typically comprised of a small number of families and contributes local support through a rotation of officers who unites the village to longevity. Not only in the development of the community but also in the people. Village rulers built the physical, social, and spiritual structures of their communities to sustain against natural disaster and war; ultimately securing survival. Today, African-American communities are developing without a core. And without a solid sense of identity and community, many young African-Americans are vulnerable to peer pressure and environmental circumstance. As a proactive intervention, The Village Method (TVM) stands in the gap and becomes the center of interdependence, direction, and identity.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Black Psychology, researchers found that using “cultural orientation, Afrocentric values, and racial socialization predicted positive youth development variables, with these effects varying by gender.”
During a time when African-Americans represent just 13 percent of the U.S. population, with 12 states having an African-American population of less 3 percent, it’s essential that growing Black youth have access to a network that strengthens them to go the distance. Many African-American adults can recall the first time they discovered the idea of race. Most likely brought to their attention by someone else, it’s then that they began to see themselves through the eyes of others. Growing up feeling masked and examined influences how one accesses the world. While precautions are justified in the wake of police brutality and the surge of digital racism, the negative behavior of others cannot become the African-American community’s burden to bear.
African-American youth are living in a state of double consciousness, often impacting the way that they approach their school, work, society, finances, and health. In the 1903 publication of “The Souls of Black Folk,” Du Bois introduced the concept of double consciousness, describing the awareness of feeling as though your identity is divided into various parts, making it challenging or difficult to have a unified identity. TVM programming places youth in an environment that not only acknowledges their academic or financial needs but their cultural ones as well. And within the system of parents, teachers, and community leaders, the youth’s sense of self is continuously validated.
Ubuntu, a South African philosophy says that “I am because we are.” As a village, everyone is equally invested, and thus intrinsically driven to reach a holistic objective. People genuinely want to see the best for one another, as one is a part of the whole. With a model that balances leadership and the versatile influx of information, TVM encourages oversight, social responsibility, and support, for when a community member or youth become weak and require help to achieve their next goal.
The African-American community is facing a variety of obstacles; most are complex and fragile from years of agitation and partial resolutions. With a variety of moving pieces and stakeholders, it’s imperative that everyone is on the same side and lifting up the youth to reach the next level of excellence. In the words of Thurgood Marshall, “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because of somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”
Imagine when mass numbers of African-American students failed in schools, there was a network of educators and administrators who advocated for policy and curriculum improvements. Now visualize the world where African-American parents have access to mental and physical health physicians who understand their narrative and cultural lens. That’s the vision of the Village Method’s framework. TVM invites individuals with the information and experiences to participate in the proactive developments of today’s youth. Instead of coming together following a tragedy to remedy a solution, the TVM approach implements strategies in four core areas of community development: academic excellence, financial literacy, healthy living, and cultural development. From the parents, school administrators, law enforcement, and community mentors, everyone works in pursuit of a unified goal, ensuring that in each area the youth never loses their way. No one can do it all, and burnout and bias are a reality.
Community collaborations with leaders from each sector guarantee that youth remain surrounded in compassion and possibility.