The Rites of Passage – Black to the Future 1

A community child – Black to the Future (BTTF) A Sankofa Exploration of Youth Work Project was delivered after a planned pregnancy and an 18 month gestation period (I have profound empathy for female elephants). Eighteen months sounds like an eternity but that just goes to show the amount of work that went into achieving the project deliverables.

In March 2017 the parents and extended family from Germany, the Netherlands and London (with roots across the African continent) gathered together and agreed that the time was right for the fertilisation process of this truly international baby to happen. The seed was planted, before you know it the baby started to become a real thing. This meant that a birthing plan had to be developed and some support systems put in place.

From its conception there was no doubt that this baby would be nurtured and raised by the entire community, and that the younger members would be as equally involved at every stage, sharing responsibilities for its development. But come on, let’s be honest, raising a child is challenging at the best of times, and this one had some added complexities such as managing intergenerational relationships, dealing with international travel arrangements, prioritising work commitments, and all the other day to day problems that will arise when trying to create something new. So it was no surprise that some of the extended family were not able to stay the course. However, one of the great things about a community raising a child is that the smallest input can have a huge impact.

When some of the family took time off or left for whatever reason, every single bit of their input, conversation, discussion, debate, suggestions and advice was valued, and played a part in the BTTF child’s development. The village raised this child and though sometimes the saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” came to mind, this child epitomises Ubuntu – “I am Because We Are”.

In September 2018 at the end of the 18 months, the parents and close family from the three countries got together for the weekend long coming of age transition. The funders (Erasmus+) end of project requirements what guided those activities, and to be honest, some of it was challenging. On the agenda were topics such as: The evaluation report; the tool kit; digital map, data entry; budgetary compliance, lessons learnt and ‘what next’. But it wasn’t all work – we time fun and laughter over breakfast and dinner, and managed to fit in a quick visit to Cambridge City Centre.

That coming of age weekend was one of self-exploration, allowing the family to do some deep introspection, and while we all acknowledged that some things could have been done differently, we felt that this community child deserved a sibling. The sibling would gain from our benefit of hindsight and from the considerable amount of informal learning that happened along the way – Collectively a vast amount of knowledge was shared such as blogging; using social media; principles of Sankofa and Ubuntu; the art of journaling; digital mapping; undertaking evaluations; intergenerational interpretations; appreciative enquiry; world café; valuing diversity; managing conflict; developing a toolkit; and a powerful session on “To Us Africa is Home”. That’s not all though because the family were also very fortunate to visit spaces and places in Europe that engage with the topic of Black Youthwork.

The delivery of this child is by no means the end, so if you are interested, watch this space because Migrafrica – our project partner in Germany has submitted a follow up application for BTTF2 to explore Youth Work Practice in Rotterdam, Wales, Munich, and Lisbon.

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