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The H3O/Art of Life Blog

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In Honor of the Village Who Raised Me

By Todd Michael Banks

Presented by Omni-U Virtual University

"I will praise thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." Psalm 139:14 KJV

The  axiom that “It takes a village to raise a child,“ emanates from an African proverb. The gist of its meaning is that it requires multiple people to provide a safe, stable environment for children to flourish and realize their goals and ambitions. I imagine that, had I been born in an African village surrounded by a community of immediate family, relatives , close friends, and neighbors, it would have replicated my upbringing in the latter part of twentieth century in America on the south side of Chicago.

In reviewing the “village concept,” I observed that one of the primary tenets is that resources are shared and the people of the village use these shared resources to provide for and protect family members. Sharing resources also provides opportunities for exposure to multiple ideas, each of which has the potential to provide the tools that are useful in adapting to and, in some instances, overcoming challenges.

In my case, this value of "sharing" was enhanced by an infrastructure composed of family members who lived in close proximity to one another.

From the time that I can remember, each side of my family owned property, usually multi-unit buildings, where multiple family members resided. Thus, the "village" was created. This closeness allowed for shared engagement with family members who, themselves, had diverse personalities -not to mention their associates many of whom were also major influences. This was a built-in support system- a network that created buffers which mitigated the impact of adverse events. if one part of that network was damaged or broken, another was strong enough to carry the extra weight. And, the family influencers were multigenerational - all housed within the same area or, if not in the same edifice, within walking or biking distance.

Until I was almost an adult, I did not understand how critical that influence was - especially when it came to managing  and optimizing resources. What was also most revealing, to me, was that the foundation provided for me and my peers- both relatives and friends- as it taught us how to support the village as much as the village supported us. Through our efforts to serve, to give, and to share, we aspired to emulate the village principles exhibited by our parents and other elders.

We also learned a myriad of skills that became subconsciously embedded into our DNA: gardening, sewing, cooking, handi-work, traveling on public transportation to every part of the city, etc. In addition, we learned that, while we can always choose our friends, we can never choose our family. This taught us that we should strive to love our family members unconditionally. Most importantly, those who became a part of our family through marriage, or by any other means, at any time, soon became inextricably bound to us. 

It was as though we had known them from birth. They too, were a part of the village that raised us and helped to create the indelible influences that aided us in transitioning to adulthood and beyond. These were the same influences that served as  the catalysts for the "blended families" that were successfully created and that still stand today.

As I embark upon my sixtieth year on this earth, I pen this column as a tribute, not only to  my  elders: my mother and father, "step" father, uncles, grandparents, aunts, Godparents, cousins, etc. but also to  family friends who were the invaluable members of the Village who raised me and kept me. All of them served as the role models, the people who are  responsible for who and why I am the man, the husband, the father, the son, the brother, the uncle, and the Godfather that I am. They are the ones who set the example(s) to which I continuously aspire to emulate. 

Recommended Readings

Ancestor Useni Eugene Perkins. Home is a Dirty Street: The Social Oppression of  Black Children.

Ancestor Dr. Amos N. Wilson.The Develop-mental Psychology of the Black Child.

 Ancestor Amos N. Wilson. Awakening the Natural Genius in Black Children.

Dr.Boyce Watkins. It Takes a Village to Raise the Bar: A New Paradigm for Black America.

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