Log in Subscribe

Fulfilling the Need to Know

“Sankofa”: Looking Back to Move Forward


Youth’s Responsibility to the Future

Black History Month is always a good time to develop a greater appreciation for the African contributions to world culture and civilization. It offers an excellent opportunity to relish and glorify the accomplishments of our ancestors, but time should definitely be set aside to make a careful assessment of the status of our youth. After all, Black History Month is specifically designed to provide positive information for black children.

            My personal observations, along with published research articles, have a history.

  1. While lecturing at a junior high school, I was quite disturbed to see a minimum of 12 students ejected for disorderly conduct within a 30-minute period.
  2. A survey at Boston University showed that 35 percent of the students thought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was either a former entertainer or a basketball player.
  3. A black history speaker in New York was approached by a student and asked, “Just who is this Malcolm 10, and what happened to the other nine.”

These three examples represent just the tip of the iceberg. They reflect a frightening trend that is currently sweeping the nation. Maybe Black Month has become so trivialized that just isn’t taken seriously anymore.

            Personally, I think the problem is one of complacency. Many parents and adults are not fulfilling the obligations of their heritage by seeing to it that our history is preserved and passed on to the next generation.

            The disciplinary problem that currently exists within our school system is not the fault of the teachers but the parents. I remember as a grade school student, a student wouldn’t dare talk back to the teacher, let alone get out of line. Today, this type of student is the exception, not the rule.

            A child’s behavior reflects his or her upbringing in the home, in the schools, or in the streets. The fact that so many of our youth disrespect authority figures indicates that they disrespect themselves. Self-respect is a trait that must be initiated and reinforced at home.

            For whatever reason, many parents have forfeited their obligation to raise their children along specific guidelines.

           While watching a recent segment of Eyes on the Prize concerning Dr. King’s use of children at the forefront of the demonstrations, I learned that as many as 2,000 youths filled the jails within one week. Parents were willing not only to put their lives on the line but also the lives of their children.

            This was 30 years ago, but we still find the same strategy being used in South African protests today.

            I wonder how many parents in America today would be willing to put their necks on the line for the human rights struggle. I also wonder how many youths would be willing to sacrifice their gold chains, designer clothes, and stereos for the same struggle.

            Fulling the Need to Know

            I’ve often marveled at the inquisitive nature of a child. I have a young daughter, and every other word from her mouth is centered around a question. Why? How come? Where? When?

            Children are born into this world with a natural desire to know. They are bright and observant; nothing escapes their gaze. They take information and formulate questions on what they’ve been exposed to

            Children are born natural scientists. The word scientist is derived from the Latin word scire---which means to know. Somewhere between grades 4 and 8, many of our children lose this natural “God-given” talent. Their minds become stifled, and the door to the path of knowledge is slammed shut.

            Since we are all born with a natural desire “to know,” if we lose this desire somewhere along the road, we have to find out where we lost it in order to get back on the path. Many people feel the educational system is a fault. Oftentimes, when we’re seeking the answer as to who is at fault, if we look within ourselves, we’ll find that the answer was right under our noses all the time.

            We’ll find the key to developing effective educational systems by understanding the meaning of the word education. The process of education is, therefore, the process of bringing out knowledge that is already inside you. This age-old methodology was first developed and cultivated by our African foreparents in ancient Egypt.

            The institutions for learning called the Mystery Schools, gradually introduced education and progressed through varying levels of instruction. Students in educational environments that are conducive to learning will naturally learn more. 

            Contrast this situation to modern times. Today, people are force-fed information that often contradicts what they instinctively know to be true. Imagine being taught that in 1492, Columbus discovered America, when instinctively you know that there were people already living here who were fully aware of where they were. It’s no wonder people don’t learn! 

            The mind is like a computer. If you put nonsense in, you’ll get nonsense out. Consistently feeding misinformation into a fertile mind causes it to stagnate. This process is referred to as atrophy. This is the failure of an organ to grow because of insufficient nourishment.

            As apparent, I made a pledge to myself to keep my mind as fertile as possible so that I could provide positive and meaningful information for my child. In order to fulfill her need to know, I must fulfill mine.

            Education is a continuous, ongoing process. It doesn’t stop with elementary or high school, college, or graduate school. It continues until you die. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

            In the summer of “74, my first year out of college, I began to realize how much I didn’t know. That year, I began my enrollment in a life-long educational program, which allowed me to view my existence from a totally new perspective.  

            For many years, I have devoted my time to the study of Ancient Egypt and its impact on world civilizations. I have experienced a profound reawakening and appreciation of knowledge and history. As I share this information with children and adults in my lectures and seminars, I see in their eyes and feel from their hearts a deep sense of gratitude.

            There’s more to it than that, however. The knowledge of prior accomplishments establishes a link with the past, which lays a foundation for the future. Everything is rooted in the past. Knowledge is the common pathway between the two. Knowledge can be obtained at any time.

            If I were to suggest a daily regimen for African Americans, it would be that we rededicate ourselves to fulfilling the need to know. It is our birthright and our obligation to our children.


            When this article was first written, my daughter Atlantis was five years old and just beginning kindergarten. As a single parent, my responsibilities extended beyond overseeing her physical, spiritual, and mental well-being; I assumed responsibility for teaching her African history and culture.

            My daughter attended most of my lectures. She operated the slide projector and took on other responsibilities as she grew older. Atlantis met all of the scholars who participated in the seminars I sponsored, and she attended numerous other forums. When she was seven, I felt she was ready to travel with me on one of my study tours to Egypt.

            The following year, we co-authored her first book, which was appropriately titled My First Trip to Africa. She began doing her own lectures when she was eight, and we published her second book when she was 13. This second book detailed her trip to West Africa when she was ten.

            Through her books and lectures, Atlantis has been teaching youth and adults about the history, culture, and people of Africa. “I’ve gotten many wonderful testimonials from people who gained favorable impressions of Africa as a result of hearing about it through the eyes of a child instead of a biased media. 

            My daughter is now 17 years–old, and she will be attending college in the fall. We are currently working on her next two books. One will be on her trip to South Africa, and the other will discuss her trip to Mexico and Brazil. It has been our intention, from the very beginning of our writing to the project, that her book sales would help pay for her college education.

            I present an education, fulfilling the need to know and then sharing your knowledge with others. This desire was planted in me as a youth, and I passed it on to my daughter. Together, we’re passing it on to others. It is my hope that we have modeled a tradition that will be passed on down through the generations for centuries to come.

Youth’s Responsibility, Future, Sankofa, Education, Black History


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here