In the opening scenes of the movie Sankofa, the holy man Sankofa confronts the central character, Mona. Sankofa is the self-appointed guardian of the sacred grounds of a West African, former enslavement castle. Mona, a model of sorts, is intellectually and socially disassociated from her African ancestry and must revisit the past in order to move forward. In the opening scenes of the movie Sankofa, the holy man Sankofa confronts the central character, Mona. Sankofa is the self-appointed guardian of the sacred grounds of a West African, former enslavement castle. Mona, a model of sorts, is intellectually and socially disassociated from her African ancestry and must revisit the past in order to move forward. Mona’s persona is also indicative of the submission to and devastation of the nihilistic threat – that is what Cornell West describes as loss of hope and lack of meaning. Understanding of the past is a part of her life journey/education…as is moving forward in her journey/education.
Recently, I had the honor and privilege of presenting a workshop for the Pilot City Neighborhood Services 1st Annual Conference and 35th Annual Board Meeting. The focus of the presentation was the need for creation of a critical, holistic education for African-American girls. Many African American girls are spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and culturally dispossessed from their African heritage. Not only the heritage of the distant past, but also the heritage of the more recent past. A great breach, or schism, has occurred and the result is young African American women who do not have the skills, collective memory, willpower or what was once called "common sense" required to be resilient in the face of growing up in the racist culture of the United States. They experience dis-ease. According to Dr. Andrea Sullivan author of A Path To Healing: A Guide to Wellness For Mind, Body and Soul, dis-ease is a lack of ease or feeling of being ill at ease which is not always the same as disease). However, "Health is a process, a continuum from wellness (optimal health) to illness to death. Many people believe wellness is simply an absence of symptoms. But health is more than a physical condition… Health is freedom from spiritual, mental, emotional and physical limitation (pp19-20)"
Our current formal and informal systems of education do not provide a holistic and contextual way for young African American girls or boys to develop a healthy sense of themselves for mind, body or spirit. Mary McLeod Bethune so beautifully stated it as education for "Head, hand and heart."
It is time for African American women to step forward and reclaim those aspects of our individual and collective history, formal and informal education that helped us have a strong sense of identity, become strong and resilient women, and share that wisdom with younger women as we move forward together. It takes a village to raise a child, but we must first raise the village.
While the names have been changed, I want to share the following factional story with you that is a composite of numerous events I experienced. I was working late in my office at Pilot City Health Center, when two young African American, teenaged girls appeared at the doorway. One asked "Do you have any condoms?" I turned form my desk, looked at them smiling and replied " Now you know you’ve got to do better than that. You know I have condoms because they’re stacked all over my table. What is it you really want to ask me?" We all laughed as I beckoned them to come inside the office and sit for a moment. Once inside, I asked them how old they were. One responded that she was 15-years-old, and the other 16. One of them, who I will call "Mary", said that she needed a pregnancy test. Soon, the other young woman who I will call "Elizabeth" chimed in that she needed one, also. I asked Mary why she thought that she might be pregnant. She replied that her period was late and she didn’t feel good. At the same time, she asked if I had anything to eat because she was hungry. I reached under my desk and pulled out a box of Chips Ahoy. I talked with Mary and Elizabeth for a while and even