“It takes a village to raise a child,” right? I am a firm believer of this African proverb; however, how can the village effectively raise the child if the village is disjointed? Let’s take it a step further and implement this ideology: “Strong families build strong villages.” If the “village” or in modern terms, “the neighborhood”, is broken or dysfunctional, we need to look at our families. What happened to our family structure and its reliability? What has happened to our marriages, our sisterhood and brotherhood? What happened to young people instinctively respecting their elders? It feels like we’ve lost some of our sense of heritage and unity amongst our communities. The notion of, what happens to one of us, happens to all of us, appears to be extinct.
Growing up, my hood was East Orange, N.J. I was raised in a traditional household with two educated parents and a big brother that I followed around incessantly. My views on family are a culmination of my mother’s Southern background and my father’s West Indian roots. My late grandparents, as well as a host of neighbors, church members, teachers, mentors and friends were all an integral part of my “village.” Despite my strong family values, it hurts me to know that there is still some disconnection within my own family. Every missing member of the family is a missing link to the chain of the family’s strength. No family is perfect; but I want our “villages” to do better! Try harder. Be present. We need to talk to each other so that we can begin to heal! How often do you hear stories of estranged fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, grandparents and grandchildren? This sense of abandonment, isolation, and anger within the family only puts our future generations in danger. Young people are particularly at risk, which is why I believe there is a strong association between broken families and societal ills such as delinquency, crime, substance abuse, high school dropout rates, and teen pregnancy.
I now understand why there was so much discipline in my household. No boyfriends until I was 16(that they knew about), school work first, and the infamous “NO BACKTALK”! The fact that my parents have been married for over 40 years, taught me the value of commitment and partnership. Thankfully, my mother insisted that we sit and eat dinner together every night as a family. This quality time kept us connected and allowed us to share thoughts, stories or just laugh together. Too many children are now being piloted by a remote control and programmed by a TV screen. Their impressionable minds are downloading “popular” yet, negative images that they attempt to emulate.
Growing up as a little Black girl, it was beneficial to hear how my grandparents owned land, opened businesses, became educated, or excelled in a profession amidst a racially divided country. This gave me a sense of power but also a sense of pride. Many of us carry that same pride but some still have yet to be awakened. However cliché’ this sounds, I say, “Let’s get back to our roots”! Respect your homes, your businesses, your sidewalks, your schools, your playgrounds, your churches… your villages! But it starts at the center and works outward. Recognize that by uplifting your family, you are simultaneously uplifting your hood and laying down the groundwork for the next generation. I know it can be a harrowing task and a hefty responsibility, but please, let’s do our best!
Catch Naturi Naughton on the next episode of Power, this Saturday at 9pm EST on Starz.