Jewish people have Bar Mitzvahs, Hispanics have Quinceaneras but what do African Americans have? Is it important for a race to have a ritual or a rites of passage to highlight life’s milestones? It is absolutely important and much needed in the African American community. Lets examine what a “Rite of Passage” is: A rite of passage is a ceremony that marks the transition from one phase of life to another.
Today Bar Mitzvahs commonly acknowledge the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Its a celebration for boys turning the age of 13. According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys become 13 years old, they become accountable for their own actions from a spiritual standpoint. Additionally a conversation is held between the boy turning 13 and the older men in the boy’s life. These men all weigh in on what it means to be a man and what is now expected of the soon to be 13 year old young man. Now contrast this with African American boys. How do you think the average 13 year old African American boy would answer the question of what it meant to be a man and what is expected of him as a man? Now imagine how much further those same boys would be if all the men they look up to and respected took time to explain what would be expected of him as a young man.
I think it is very important for us to establish a ceremony for young boys and girls. We have all heard of the saying “what you focus on grows.” This saying is true no matter if what you focus on is positive or negative. Have you noticed how big and elaborate Prom is compared to graduation? Families pull out all the stops, limos are rented, custom outfits are purchased, and the entire family comes together to see teenagers off to Prom. Even Baby Showers are highly celebrated, no matter if the parents are teenagers, or if the parents aren’t even married. Friends and family are eager to host the shower and take pride in doing it but you rarely see the same enthusiasm and support when it comes to graduation. The family is excited about high school graduation but the same amount of enthusiasm just isn’t there.
Again what you focus on grows. I think its important that we take the time to create a rites of passage for African American boys and girls that explains to them what is expected of them as young men and women, and how to conduct themselves. In addition to explaining these things to the boys and girls they need to see how important it is through the actions of their family and friends. IJS but who am I, just a concerned father.
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