Our Children Need “African” Teachers!!

Posted on April 21, 2014 by


The issue of the education and mis-education of African American children and youth continues to get a lot of attention these days, with the “pipeline to prison” realities of the nation’s public education system (from Pre-School to High School and beyond!) being in the spotlight far too much, far too often. Under these circumstances, it would serve us well to reflect on the words of one of our outstanding African educators – ASAR Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III (August 22, 1933 – August 13, 2007). His whose words continue to ring with meaning, purpose and power — a sacred blessing and challenge from the ancestral realm.

ASAR Asa G. Hilliard, III

ASAR Asa G. Hilliard, III

“To Be an African Teacher” is the title of an essay by Dr. Hilliard, in which he challenged us to truly understand what these words mean: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” He was challenging us to grow in understanding that it takes a “refined and nurturing cultural foundation to raise a child” and, furthermore, that we, today, are not doing enough!!

“What a pity,” he wrote, “that our communities have forgotten our ‘Jeles’ and our ‘Jegnas’ – our great master teachers . . . and our great traditions of educational excellence, wherein teaching and the shaping of character is one of our great strengths.”

“What a pity”, he said, “that we have come to be dependent on the conceptions and the leadership of others, some of whom not only do not have our interests at heart, they may even be our enemies. Some actually seek to control us for their own benefit through the process of mis-education.”

Dr. Hilliard cited a pre-civil war example of that genocidal spirit regarding the education of Black people, in the words of one Henry Berry of the Virginia House of Congress who said, “We have closed every avenue through which light may enter their minds. If we could only extinguish the capacity to see the light, our work would be complete.”

With our Black children today comprising 18% of the nation’s pre-school students but bearing the burden of 42% of the suspensions from those programs, and the immoral-criminal zip-code way that education is funded across this nation, and the grossly disproportionate application of severe disciplinary measures being applied to Black students from elementary through high school, and the cost of college education soaring to obscene levels, and the advent of prisons-for-profit along with the rush to lower the age at which young people can be tried as adults — that genocidal spirit continues to plague our existence.

“To Be an African Teacher” calls us to cultivate a revolutionary understanding of the importance of being the village – “the refined and nurturing cultural foundation” — that our children (and their children) need, if they are to be raised correctly; if our world-view, in which they are seen as divine gifts of our Creator, is to be prominent in their lives; if they are to have teachers arising from that foundation to tap their genius and touch their spirit and empower them to bring their intelligence to the task of continuing to raise the village — to protect and perpetuate it.

The villages from which children and teachers such as these arise understand that the tapping of genius and touching of spirit is a process that flows from day-one of the children’s lives – and before. This is illustrated in Dr. Hilliard’s reference to the book, Kindezi: The Congo Art of Babysitting, wherein we learn that “great attention is paid to whoever has a role to play in the life of the child,” for the children are the humans with “the quickest copying mind;” that it is understood “that childhood is the foundation that determines the quality of a society;” where, therefore, all young community members, girls as well as boys, are taught the art of babysitting – including the discovery of the mystery of human growth and the psychology of the child, and the transmission of cultural values from one generation to the next.

With this reference, Dr. Hilliard expressed the hope that revolutionary growth and understanding will take place; that sufficient numbers of us will truly realize, “It really takes a whole village to raise itself, a village that values every member as a ‘living sun,’ a village to which the child belongs, a village where every child is shown that he or she ‘will never be given away.’ Clearly, this is a different order of ‘child care.’” Clearly, such villages produce teachers – Jeles, Jengas – who embrace an African world-view and take teaching as a sacred calling.
(You can read ASAR Dr. Hilliard’s entire essay at this link: http://kintespace.com/kp_asa0.html)

And let us never forget, that the first and pre-eminent African teacher(s) in our children’s lives are their parents! Rise up, you mighty teachers and cultivate the divine genius essence entrusted to the ones, the “living suns,” who The Most High has entrusted unto you! ~~ Bro. Mxolisi