Monday, February 21, 2011

The Village Movement is Evolving

In the Puget Sound region, along the I-5 Corridor from Seattle to Tacoma there is a movement afoot African Americans are evolving from being externally defined as a community to self defined existence as A Village. The Village as we know it,  is based on human development, needs and contributions. A community is a  concept externally and politically defined with determinations about the people without regard to culture, or the people's ability to self diagnose problems and create solutions.

The Village that has emerged along the I-5 corridor is a vibrant emergence of talent and accomplishments with many generations coming together to sustain longevity.  In a recent gathering with Village Elder Dr. Maxine Mimms, she eschewed the word legacy and has replaced it with longevity. We liked that open ended view of what we bring to human development. A legacy sort of has a beginning and end where longevity just keeps on going without end.

What determines our Village is how we are as a people together. How we determine the outcomes of what we do and what occurs for us. An example, a report came out from Seattle Public Schools and is recorded by the WA Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on their website. The report is data that would have any who read it  assuming that where there are majority populations of non white children who live in the margins of material prosperity, then these children can not learn math and science or how to read and write.  The Village looked at this and went into action, there is a crisis among those who are teaching our children, they do not know how to teach them. We must then make arrangements to teach them our selves. We start with math, and intellectual expression. We call on the parents to step into this thing they call an achievement gap. We bring in the best and brightest among us to create learning labs.

Fear No Number Math Academy
  is created at the Zion Preparatory Academy campus on Saturday to enrich African American children, and other children who will benefit from learning to have no fear of any number. The parents have to see this as important in their vision of an accomplished child able to compete in a global society.  The children learn to calculate using an abacus and go back to the basics of how to count. They have not been taught how to count, nor how to calculate up to the nth degree, they have been taught fear and failure; these the ancestors of those who built great pyramids and just now toppled a despot within a month without funding or too much bloodshed. The teacher is Mr. Norman Alston, the parents are managing the Academy with Yvette Diaubate guiding parents to see the worth of excellence.

Parents for Student Success has existed for a quarter of a century, it is a conceptual and methodical way of having parents see their worth in getting children through the rigors and challenges of Pre-12th grade education. It is a method that says to a parent; "Your are the constant adult figure in your child's life, you are the one who determines if your child will be a successful adult. Your are the Coach, it is your team."  Co-founded by former WA State Representative Dawn Mason, the author of this blog.  She sees too many organizations funded based on the failure of African American children and other children and their parents who face many levels of trauma associated with failed learning and the inability to think and reason.  Organizations that have been in our midst for decades even not more than a century have led us to this level of failure in our children, yet too many parents allow their children to be used to the tune of billions of dollars granted to organizations, agencies, organized religious institutions, without evaluations that include us.
When this concept of giving money to people to fix other people's problems started African American children were learning and performing socially better than they are today. We did not have huge numbers of children in juvenile justice systems, we did not have children not knowing how to read and write or of all things, killing their grandmothers and brothers and using lewd language in the presence of elders or their little brothers and sisters.  The village did not tolerate any of this. Now others are getting money and creating employment for themselves and their friends saying we will fix this for them.

The Village movement once fully established will question this use of our our children's failed intellectual and social development, teach parents the ways of the ancestors in child development and learning and reclaim our children.  It is already occurring.

The Koinonia/Maxine Mimms Learning Center is a testimony of  what can occur when adults are clear about the vision and the intent. Dr. Emma Jones has been without doubt that any child can learn and she does not believe that ADD exists or any other thing that keeps a child from being a good person, a smart person. There are no large grants coming her way, she does not write them, may not know how. She just makes a determination that with or without funds the village will assure the education of any child. When the public school says they are unteachable and tosses them out, she and Dr. Mimms reclaims them if only to prove the point that yes, they can be taught. So on February 18th Black History Month program two of the MMHS students stood in front of parents and community and recited some of the most difficult classical poetry written; The Creation and Judgement Day without paper, props or teleprompter.  These girls attended public schools where tax payers are spending $8,000 per student and having them returned to us untaught. Dr. Jewell Hollaway, stood with her students and cried as they took their applause. I surmised from her comments, it was not difficult for them to learn these poems and deliver them perfectly, what was most challenging is to teach them that that yes, my children you are brilliant.

The Village throughout has placed as the most important element of reclaiming our people is letting them know at whatever age they are that yes, you are brilliant, and worthy of being all that you can be and even more than your ancestors who despite being robbed and pillaged and used as slaves to build this great nation, left for us longevity.

The Stolen Ones and How They Were Missed by Marcia Tate Arunga places us in a place different than we were taught. We were not traded - nothing was given for us of any value, we were stolen; kidnapped. The villages where the children were stolen from put out alerts - the Amber Alert was not the first time entire nations looked for their children.

Marcia is important to the Village Movement, it is what I have learned from and with her along with what we both and so many who we work with have learned at the feet of Dr. Maxine Mimms and what we bring from our own parents and ancestors and that make the re-energizing and re-establishing of the Village possible. It is intricate yet easy because it is intuitive. People who survived what people born of African blood have survived  are graced with longevity, with genetic memories of how to create something from nothing, they are close to God because they have not had in modern times the privilege of use of even their own resources. The minerals and natural and resources of Africa have been used by Europeans for centuries in ways that establish them as some superior people, when they are not. So Marcia is telling the story to children and their parents and teachers not to make a bundle of money with a gimmick tale, but to bring truth where it is missing. She says "Had I known that I was not sold or traded, from the motherland, and that I was missed. My back as a child would have been a little straighter, I would has stood a little taller..."  It is this message to the children an allegory that tells them they are a missing generation and we are looking for and finding them.  We have an Amber Alert fully functioning.

Black Girls Rock is inspired by the need to say to each black girl that "You Rock" you are awesome in who you are, how you look and the gifts and talents you bring to the Village. During African American History Month, the Village of Hope a precursor the the Village Movement showcased Black Girls Rock in a packed SRO gathering hall at White Center Heights Elementary School. Sherrell Shell pulled it together and Monica rocked the house as she showcased the many talents of young girls and their role models. Dressed creatively in outfits made for black bodies, bodies. They did precision drill routines in a multi aged performance with the youngest at the front learning from the older girls the way that the Village around the globe has children learn the best of who they are.  And they praised god silently with only movement; the young female Mt. Zion Praise Dancers who despite the turmoil in that part of the Village, God can use a child to show faith and belief. They accepted with grace their shout out "Mt.Zion Youth Praise Dancers Rock!!"  The mantra of Black Girls Rock, because in the Village to "rock" is to be caught being your best self, to be a contributor of talent and energy and to be part of the vision and walking along the path of longevity. 

South Shore K-12 Public School where Keisha Scarlett is Principal and many of the classrooms have some of the regions best teachers with our children, the Village has determined that South Shore is a Village school and will be excellent. To that end on February 14, for the entire morning and into the afternoon, African American parents assembled to receive inspired messages. This was organized by Lisa Robbins, Anita Mwamba and Sabrena Burr with the support of many others. It takes alot to inpire parents who lost inspiration by having to sign one bad report card after another and in ways be co-conspirators in the failure of schools to teach their children.  So they need constant messages that their children were born with a gift, they have within them God given gifts that are buried by concepts and words and methods developed by adults to bring forth that which challenges them. We know that if we showcase the gifts that humans possess, their challenges which we also are born with, will be diminished.  So at South Shore once we have parents knowing the gifts and supporting intellectual skill building in their children, we will bring them out of South Shore ready to walk across the street to Rainier Beach and declare it a place of excellence. The students and parents will let them know that we reclaim our schools as primarily centers of learning for students, over being primarily employment centers for adults. We will bring balance where teachers who teach and elevated learning get to stay, where students who accept instruction rightly given have to practice and apply to life what is taught. Students are respected and respectful because parents are raising them to be successful with full intent that they will maintain longevity of the Village.

The Successful Young Women Program is the brainchild of Danna Johnston. She grew up in SE Seattle and lived a life of many lessons and learned the most important of them all contribute back what was given.  She along with my own daughter who is a produce to SE Seattle and now a Registered Nurse, and Gwen Dupree a retired public School administrator are putting in place model of how in the midst of failed instruction that has rendered Rainier Beach H. S. the lowest performing in the Seattle School District and among the lowest in the state. This is a school that produces championship Basketball teams.  The young women as they are known because they do not fight in the halls, or curse on the public transportation, or give their most precious possession away because they need to feel loved. They have a goal and a vision, they are going to a four year college.  Last year this goal was met by their graduating seniors. This is a model program for the Village, it is self financed by the Danna K. Johnston Foundation. The Seattle Foundation rejected their request for funding. So as we do in the Village we do not let the decisions of others determine the worth or work of the people of the Village.

There are so many others individuals and organized efforts occurring as we re-claim our selves and our future and longevity. We got off the path for a moment, we allowed others to define our worth and our vision, we allowed others to determine our problems and the solutions and to gather money in the name of our children without respect or regard for any but their own determination of our children as lesser beings, incapable of learning at high levels. A visit to any of the learning centers mentioned will prove differently. The ways that funds are granted make it difficult for those who are doing effective work with our children to get these funds which really belong to us. Those who determine who gets what, do not always give to those who will strengthen the Village or the people. They seem to like those ways that enable and require nothing much of anyone involved in the equation.

The Urban Academy of Life Long Learning exists through Dr. Maxine Mimms and the thousands of human lives she has touched in some direct way since the mid 1950's. She is our Chief Elder, a recognized Elder of Distinction and a model and mentor of excellence.   Life Enrichment Books, owned by Vickie Willams and Aaliya Messiah,  has become the campus for university learning; many seminars are held here.  Dr. Mimms on the third Fridays, sits and listens and applauds the greatness of African American effort and excellence. She guides our way of thinking to see the greatness within and among us as African Americans. On the occasions when others of ancestry not African join the conversations she reminds them that they are at their best when they are not invoking the privilege they have acquired, they must learn to follow, because their leadership has created what we are now experiencing in the world.  They listen but seldom return, it is hard to go from being the reference group the determining factor in all that occurs to living with true equity. So they go back and use their money to fund what often does not work.  It is an interesting concept that has existed too long. There is more than one village for African Americans in the Puget Sound region. The Village that is emerging as one of collective action, and shared dialogue, and excellence, has gained the favor of the people and respect of other clear thinking people.

The Institute for Cultural Reconnection comes from the philosophy that people of African ancestry must visit the motherland and reclaim our rightful place in the universe if we are to maintain our worth and continue as a creative people in the world. There is a privilege that Africans in America possess and that is freedom of travel around the globe that no other people of color possess. It is this gathering to travel home to Africa and centering ourselves in Kenya that has created the Institute for Cultural Reconnection. The Institute as we know it, is based on four principles that guide the reclaiming of a good and supportive culture; a natural and peaceful way of being, a way that is respectful of human dignity. The research is based on participation in the reconnection to a culture that makes natural sense, and respects the rites and rituals of that culture and knows that gender specificity brings balance and that ongoing dialogue solves problems and grows the village in dynamic ways.  The Institute is a creation for the longevity of learning and I am proud to have had bestowed upon me by the Institute of Cultural Reconnection an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy Degree.

Being a Cultural Custodian requires a respect for human dignity a way of being that assures success and the well being of the elders, and the intellectual development of our young people.  As functioning adults we bring energy and balance to who we are. We operate within the protection of the Village,  we are expected to give the best of who we are and to maintain our longevity by creating sustainable solutions to problems that naturally occur along the continuum of human development.

There will be more to report and document on the re-emergence of what has always been in place, but dormant. The Village is a natural way of being for people of African Ancestry and for the good of all humanity. The European way of being evolved out of a lack of many things which created fear and then greed. Now as we are facing a time of limited fiscal resources, many things must be re-ordered. Within the Village there is no lack of anything, because the abundance that ceases to be was never shared with us in the first place. We we are the Stolen Ones who for more than three centuries toiled to build a nation on a land stolen from the indigenous people of what is now North, South and Central America.  The history having been revised, re-written, or not taught at all, does not erase the facts nor the genetic memories and the culture passed on by the millions of mothers who gave birth to millions of humans who have been denied equity in the Americas.

Any who have been denied equity have this phenomenal way of rising up spontaneously and recreating justice in the face of injustice.  The life of J.T. Williams the ancestor of the indigenous people, a man who sustained culture through his art, was taken by one whose mother passed to him a culture of human privilege. He believed he could take a life without retribution.  But this life was taken at a time when the people are looking to themselves in the collective around the world as capable of regaining human dignity in the face of greed.

So we are part of a world movement to reclaim for our children what was stolen.  And we will continue in this vein until our purpose is restored. I thank God and three people who sustain me in my purpose; My husband, Deacon Joseph Mason who God has raised up to be a man able of supporting this woman. Dr. Maxine Mimms who I love and who loves me in ways that I can not enumerate, and Marcia Tate Arunga who challenges my thinking, and pushes me forward, so I am out of the way and she can grow and expand. Each generation must do this for the next grow out of the way.We are so pleased at the way that the Village is growing in an organic and spirit filled way. How there is room for the many and material desire diminished so that the people can flourish based on non material greed and need.

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