by Donney Rose
May 2, 2019

Just over three weeks ago the Urban Congress on African American Males, an initiative of MetroMorphosis, hosted its annual General Convening. The convening’s theme, #TheVillageRenewed, permeated the course of the day as guest speakers and delegates of the Congress articulated at great length the value of restoration/renewal of African American neighborhoods in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas. The collective intelligence in the room formulated many options in charting a path forward to improve outcomes specifically for Black men and boys. And because the work of MetroMorphosis does not exist in a monolith, the ideas shared will not only serve as guiding principles for Black males in our community, but will help inform the way we push towards the overall transformation of communal disenfranchisement for all of our community members, because villages do not exist in isolation.

And on that note I have spent time reflecting on the multiplicity of villages that raised me and who were the players involved. At one point or another my rearing was influenced by church ladies, summer camp counselors, working class parents, drug dealing classmates, starving artists, college educated neighbors, and relatives who cycled in and out of the prison industrial complex. For better or worse the diversity of these individuals shaped elements of my worldview that I either had to unlearn or expound upon the knowledge they offered. Lessons on what not to become are often as invaluable as what to become, and the teachers of these lessons do not always embody the character traits of who one would assume to teach them. Whatever evolution of a principled, community-oriented person of integrity I morphed into was molded by the various aspects of village I allowed into my development. There are folks who are no longer in my life that modeled for me a sense of personhood that I can never repay them for, but am thankful that in all of my childhood foolishness I opted not to tune them out. Which is the benefit of growing up in villages that surpass identity politics and perceived cultural norms.

It is my hope that as we continue the work of transformation in this potential-filled city, we reject the notion of isolating any counsel that can lead us to the best version of ourselves. It is said that even a broken clock is right twice a day, which can be interpreted to mean that the village may contain folks misguided in their wisdom, but should not be subjected to having their wisdom discounted. We are all looking to chart a more equitable path in a place that often marginalizes our humanity. Therefore it is counterproductive to create VIP sections within the village with regards to who can and cannot be a conduit for change. I have been fortunate enough to emerge as a relatively successful product of multi-layered villages and am appreciative of EVERY lesson learned.

 

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