Historical Significance of “It takes a Village”

It may seem that this phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child”, was first coined by Hillary Clinton when she was our nation’s First Lady. Perhaps, for many of us this was the first time hearing this great proverb, particularly in reference to parenting children in America.

The truth is that this stroke of genius was neither conceived nor originated by Mrs. Clinton. There is great historical significance surrounding this phrase/proverb….African significance!

The idea that “it takes a village to raise a child” permeates African cultures and it speaks the same message in different languages across the continent. In Igboland, where the proverb assumes great significance in placing the child at the center of communal life (ofu onye adiro azu nwa – one person does not raise a child), the idea of “single parent’ is oxymoronic. Even as a ‘single’ parent, it is never alone that we raise our children. Influence and role models are everywhere.  The reference can be found at: http://www.africaresource.com/war/vol2.1…

Another source that will also tell you the origin is found here:http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~africa/threads/village.html

I remember when I was a teenager, growing up in the south. Though my city was progressive,  a ‘neighbor’ in your community meant something to everyone. For children,  that meant that should you be seen in the wrong place at the wrong time, or doing the wrong thing, your neighbors were like the mailman and an extension of your parents. There was communication between neighbors. The adults spoke to one another, watched out for one another, and their children too. This were given respect, as they were seen as authority figures, viewed by your family as well-meaning adults. They WERE family, too.

When I was in high school, I tried skipping school, hoping to be like one of the ‘cool’ kids, although I was an excellent student. I was inducted into the National Honor Society, and so I was given permission to drive the second car in the family, as my own. It was mine, in my eyes, since no one else drove it besides me.  One fateful day, as ‘cool’ as I thought I was, I made one fatal mistake. I was seen out of school during school hours by a neighbor. Well, that was it! By the time I got home that afternoon, the word had already been passed along to my house. My driving privileges were restricted and car keys were taken from me. Although they gave the car to me, I broke the rules of conduct. I paid for that mistake, and from then I knew. Never get caught![ and of course, never do it again]

That was a village approach, and that is so very important today to restore. So many youngsters who misbehave, get into trouble, disrespect adults, become gang affiliated, etc… need to know that there are consequences for their actions. They need a healthy sense of respect for adults and each other, and it is the adults who must make that  a reality.  I have seen others approach a mother with a parenting tip or some news about their child, in their best interest and it was not well received at all. It was  met with a retort or an insult like,” Mind your own business.” Not nice. Not nice at all, nor is it smart.

Parents need to believe that an adult living within their community means them no harm, and only means well. There must be trust between them, although you can’t trust blindly. When someone approaches one parent with news that pertains to their child, expect that it is well intended, and truthful. Maybe that’s why children are joined at the hip to their smartphones and engage in relationship-building predominantly through social media. The sense of connectedness among neighbors isn’t there anymore. What has happened?

It takes everyone working together to rear a child properly. That is where they can survive without bringing harm to the environment, themselves or others. They can be as self -reliant as their ability allows. They can be kind, compassionate, tolerant and respect differences. They can concentrate on the most important duty they have to themselves and their family. They can thrive, and become responsible, career minded adults who can form lasting wholesome relationships that lead them to become loving parents, themselves. The one responsibility of children, during their impressionable years, is to attend school, do their best to learn, achieve and realize their potential. To the outside world, children are largely a reflection of their parents. When a child is being disrespectful, has gotten into trouble of some sort, first question asked is: “Where are their parents?” Every parent wants their child to succeed, achieve in school and life as well adjusted, positive people.  Their job also is to make their parents, and themselves, proud.

Ultimately, if parents, religion, teachers pull one way and society(film media, radio, internet, peers, other adults) pulls another way it is pretty doubtful that a child will have much chance, for there will be too many gaps, disparities, and mixed messages received. It takes an extraordinary child to stand up to the waves of temptation today’s modern world offer. They need protection of caring adults who surround them in their daily lives. They need guidance from positive role models. They need everyone-you and me and the grocer down the street to help them navigate and make sense of the world. They need safe spaces to discover who they really are, and who they can be in their lifetime. hey need to know that they have a life ahead of them, a lifetime, beyond the age of 17, falling by a stray bullet. They need the absence of gun violence, discrimination, racism, and limits on life’s possibilities. It does take an entire village; AND….that’s  family, school, community engagement.

“All in!”

That is the whole child/whole family/whole village approach! Let us not forget that we are all in this together-sink or swimpipeline to prison or      pre-K to productive global citizenship!

What we do today will constitute our legacy for tomorrow! How do you think that we can restore order out of the chaos created or allowed in society today? Please feel free to leave comments.


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