- Faith & Family
There was soft beating on conga drums, and all eyes were on the 17 young men as they walked to the front of the building with their families. It was during this ceremony where the young men would separate from their families and sit on their own. It was the young mens’ rites of passage, a process that every young boy in Africa goes through, which is symbolic of him transitioning from boyhood to manhood.
In one African tribe in order for a boy to become a man he must live in the wilderness, kill a lion and bring the lion back to the tribe. When he comes back to the village, he is then recognized as a warrior.
The rites of passage for young men, held a couple of years ago, is one of the many events that the African American History Ministry at New Birth Baptist Church Cathedral of Faith International held to celebrate and educate congregation members on their heritage.
During the ministry’s rites of passage program, the young men didn’t kill any lions, but they learned useful information that prepared them for manhood. The young men met with men of high morality, respect and responsibility and were taught about many things, such as family, politics, religion, education and identity, over a six-month period.
“They were not the same individuals that came into training,” said Dr. Caleb Davis, the leader of the African American History Ministry. “They left more enlightened in terms of who they were.”
The ministry holds events to celebrate the African heritage of the members, such as cultural movie showings on a quarterly basis, monthly book readings/discussions and even large-scale events. One of the ministry’s big events was The Fifty-Four Nations of Africa Flag Day, where every church member was given a flag for one of the nations in Africa.
The ministry’s mission is to educate and inform the congregation and community members of the history, origin and culture of African American people. The ministry attends an African American class every Sunday morning following the 7 a.m. service, which equips them with information to use in their lives and pass on to other congregation members.
One of the problems that we experience as a people is that some of the youth and even some older people don’t know the origin of their history, according to Davis.
Shirley Roulhac-Lumpkin, who has been a part of the ministry for about 10 years, said that everyone in the class shares the same passion for learning their history and attributing what they know to empower others.
“It’s consistent and it has helped me define myself more,” she said.
Sandra Nobles, who has also been a part of the group for years, said that unlike some other races, a lot of Black people don’t teach their children their history.
“If you don’t define yourself, others will define you,” she said.
Cardinal Bain, a member of the ministry for years, believes that if more people knew their history, they would be more compassionate to those who have the same racial background as them. Bain is grateful that he is able to learn about his cultural history in the class.
“We’re really getting a college education for free,” Bain said of the class. “[Davis] is such a dynamic teacher.”
By learning more about African American history, you can very well breed a lot of hate for the race of people who have enslaved Blacks, according to Bain.
“But coming from a Christian point-of-view, the class teaches you how to love and forgive,” he said.
By Malika A. Wright