We recruit and hire youth and young adults labeled the most violent in north Lawndale. What we have witnessed over these 16 years is that our young men have no life-giving markers to define when they cross over into man hood? The need for young men to have a purposeful, structured process in which they fight through to become the men that they were created to be, is missing. The only markers that are prevalent in this generation young men we serve in our Lawndale have been jail, carjacking, and shootings. The false reality that these boys are men because of street activity clout has locked them in a perpetual state of immaturity.
In traditional African American culture, there are four (4) major stages in everyone’s life:
Birth, Rites-of-Passage (Man/Womanhood), Marriage, Death. As African Americans, both family and community gather to celebrate the birth of a child, attend wedding ceremonies and funerals to show love, support recognition of these significant stages of life. The missing element in African American culture is the formal and structured ritual celebrating each boy’s passage into manhood
We have established 8-month rites of passage that teaches five key elements of manhood: Identity, Family, Faith, history, responsibly. We will journey with young men who have been involved with our work at the Firehouse teaching these values. Within the 8 month preparation to Ghana they will create two service projects, trip to the Justice Museum and to several other historical locations, weekly one on one with their mentors and study of their history.
We have designed our rites of passage around our work with young men to take an intentional journey meeting twice a month over 8 months. We are planning to bring 20 young men (ages 18 to 30) and 10 mentors on this journey and concluding in Ghana. During this time young men will recognize the root of their trauma and ways to heal. The power of transformation starts with knowing the root and rebuilding from there.
We will conclude with a 12-day trip to Ghana where we will serve, learn, and celebrate a name change reflective of their journey. All the lessons center around separation from that which has held back living in one’s purpose, living in one’s transformation, and returning to incorporate new life in the community towards restoration.