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Black Community Opinions

Local Voices: Child Support in 757/804

No, this is not about so-called ‘dead-beat dads’, per se. Rather, it is more applicable to a traditional Afrikan proverb that many of us have heard–”It takes a whole village to raise one child.”

What that phrase evolves from is the Afrikan concept of the worth of children to the culture–ALL children. In traditional Afrika, children were valued so much that practically any child could wander throughout the village and be fed, clothed, cared for by the village residents as if that child was a near relative of that household.

Here in the west, traces of that cultural practice were/are still present in some of our communities. I can distinctly recall playing with a childhood friend at his house in the community, and we both fell asleep on the floor of his house watching TV, only to be shaken awake by his mother who told me to get up, time to go home. She then helped me sleepingly off the floor and called across the street to my mother that she was sending me home and watched until I was safely home in my mother’s arms.

That was a demonstration of our ancient Afrikan traditional love for our children who were not molested or abused in others’ homes.

Our focus is to recognize some community leaders who, in the tradition of the Afrikan village, have contributed their time, skills and dedication to the betterment of Black children,
In such an effort, please forgive me if I do not mention others that should rightfully be included. It is certainly not a slam on them at all, but I can only write about those that I know of.

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HORACE DOWNING (ANCESTOR)

Mr. Downing, often called the Mayor of Berkley, was a true community man who was instrumental in forming the local Boy Scout/Cub Scout troops that played a vital role in socializing young Black boys at a time when rampant racial hatred was very prevalent in our community.

Mr Downing seemed to always wear a natty bow tie and used his love of our people to help channel young Black boys into more productive behavior patterns. He was, I believe, a pressman for the then Journal & Guide Black weekly newspaper, and was active in the community in other ways.

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After his transition into the ancestral realm, Mr. Downing was honored for his community service with the naming of a public library in his honor. Unpaid service to our community, but certainly not un-recognized is his legacy to us. May his spirit live forever.

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JOE AUSTIN (ANCESTOR)

Every one knew Mr. Austin. He was a community icon who was very active in helping young Black boys and girls to athletically develop, among other things. There was hardly a sporting activity in the community that Mr Austin was not involved with for Black children.

Gruff of voice and authoritarian of stature, Mr. Austin epitomized the image of a Black coach. Many Black Boys found their athletic niche under his athletic tutelage at a time when athletic opportunities were extremly limited for Black athletes.

His brother, Matthew, was equally adept for us as the keeper of Black history in the community. may their spirits live forever.

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SEKO VARNER

Seko, it seems, was always involved in community service for the development of young Black children, dating from the mid 1990s when I first met him. Many of our young Black parents had their young boys enrolled in Seko’s Rights of Passage programs that helped to shape their focus and orientation.

Later, involved with the Boys and Girls clubs, he continued his community work on behalf of our often, mic-labeled ‘at-risk’ children.

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His annual Kwanzaa programs were legend, and his community involvement in other productive areas tend to be-lie the fact that Seko is still a younger man, but old in community service.

On occasion, my Afrikan study groups were greatly assisted by his donation of meeting space, for which we remain very grateful. Hopefully, his model will be emulated by other young volunteers for the betterment of us all.

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DR. SHAWN EURE

Here was a young sister/educator who had a dream of helping young Black children to matriculate educationally via the establishment of an Afrikan-centered school. Again, Seko Varner, himself an educator by profession, was at the center of a community effort to bring her dream into reality.

I can recall attending meetings with a small group to help her vision materialize. Searching various local area facilities that were economically feasible for this effort, we eventually settled on a store front building in South Norfolk to launch the Kujichagulia Schule, pre-K and up for young Black children who were often branded by the public school system as attention-deficit, disorderly and other bureaucratic educational handicaps.

But, in the rich tradition of other Afrikan-centered schools around the country, Dr Eure and Kujichagulia soon had Black students learning their alphabet in Kis-swahili and English and 4-year olds doing addition/subtraction at an advanced level, something they would not ordinarily accomplish in public school until maybe 3rd or 4th grade!

I know Black parents today who still boast about how well their so-called ‘under achieving’ Black school children advanced under Dr Eure’s Afrikan centered approach. And it is no secret, that those schools have the key to our children’s educational progress and achievement. We need more of them today, especially here in 757 since the demise of Kujichagulia.

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We had intended to also include mention of Aldia & Kindu Shabazz’s Fahoodi Schule Home School Co-op in 804, but did not get their response in good time. But, please check them out at www.fahoodischule.org.

All said, these are the kinds of community-based efforts that our community desperately needs to project and protect if we are to survive as an identifiable Afrikan people instead of some ones debilitating statistic of Black self-destruction.

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By Kwasi Imhotep

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