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.
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.
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.
Perkins, or Useni as he is called by most who know him, brings a
wealth of experience, research and study to Harvesting
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
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
New Generations gives the
Community a beginning prescription
for addressing the problems of our youth. Brother Perkins points out
that “The rites of passage was
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.”
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.”
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
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.
must “Harvest New Generations” if our race is to survive