Whether it’s just a cliché or a genuine African proverb, it stands true – “It takes a village to raise a child.” In its simplest terms, a village is “a place where people live that is usually smaller than a town.” But a traditional authentic village is so much more. It is best described as an interdependent society, comprised of an assemblage of several families, organized by agreed upon spiritual, economic, political and social laws, norms and values. If we visited any African village today, we would come with certain expectations. We would expect everyone to speak a common language; to practice the same religion, and to share a common lineage. We would also expect the members to have common political views; share a common code of conduct, and perhaps even physically resemble one another. Most importantly, we would expect to find every member of the village contributing in some way. Anything contrary to this would strike us as odd. In America, we call villages – communities.
Why does it take a village to raise a child? The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said, “Environment can influence heredity; therefore, we must be careful what environment we put ourselves in because no matter what is in you of good if you are in the wrong environment, that environment can affect the good that is in you and turn you into itself.” So, the environment can influence our biologic genetic make-up!
Conversely, the Minister also said, “Whatever goes on while something is being made, goes into the make-up of the thing. You can’t be making something in an environment and something from the environment drops into the thing and then you keep on going; it’s made into the thing.” Based on these statements, we can see how a pregnant mother can affect the very genetic make-up of her child based on the environment she is in while pregnant AND once born, this same child’s heredity can be influenced by the environment in which he/she is reared. That’s powerful!
In the Nation of Islam, we have been blessed with several divinely inspired Study Guides by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan that all fall under the title, Self-Improvement: The Basis for Community Development. These Study Guides are available to anyone who seeks them. One of the things we learn in this particular course of study is that “There is no such thing as a member of a Nation who does not count.” The Minister said, “Community development is not building buildings. Community development is building people and linking people with people.”
Consider this scenario: A beautiful, faithful couple has decided to expand their family. They have been planning physically, mentally and spiritually well in advance, as we are taught in How to Give Birth to a God; and they are then blessed with a healthy, strong child – a potential god. Where will this god be reared; a daycare; or at home? Where will this god attend school? Where will the food come from to nourish the god? Who will be the god’s doctor? Who will be the god’s playmates and friends? Which extended family members will have access to the god? Who will coach or instruct the god in extracurricular activities? Where will the god go for spiritual guidance and rejuvenation? The answers to all of these questions and many more should be found in the village. And the strength of the village will be determined by the level of development of each member and how strongly linked they are to one another.
The Holy Qur’an reads, “Surely this your community is a single community, and I am your Lord, so serve Me” (21:92). Self-improvement is not for the sake of the individual alone, but for the good of the entire community. No matter how hard we may try, we do not and cannot live in a vacuum. We are taught that no man or woman can rise above the condition of his/her people. If we do not work to develop the community or the village, it will not matter how successful we appear, we will eventually be negatively impacted by that same village. Don’t misunderstand – yes, it takes a village, but that does not absolve us of our personal responsibility to self and our immediate family. We are not to abuse this proverb by holding it up as evidence to exonerate us from bad behavior or poor parenting. The village becomes the beneficiary when we undertake self-examination, self-analysis, and self-correction. This process brings about personal balance, which has a positive impact on the community, making our personal contribution more effective.
We should ask ourselves: How am I personally contributing to the village? If we are all brothers and sisters, then we ALL have nieces and nephews that we can influence. Are we being good aunties and uncles? Do we want for our brothers and sisters what we want for ourselves? The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan once said that sometimes Aunty may have more success with a rebellious child where Mommy falls short.
A distinguishing characteristic of a village is that it is interdependent; we depend on each other. Our functions may differ, like the functions of the organs in our body, but they all depend on each other to operate at an optimum level. The heart and the liver have different functions, but the same goal – keep the body healthy and alive. Yet, we know that liver disease can weaken the heart and heart disease can impact the liver. Similarly, in the life of a child, the function of a parent is different than the function of the karate sensei; but the ultimate goal is the same – help the child to have a well-rounded and fulfilling quality of life. If either party neglects their role, there will be a ripple effect on the child’s ability to operate effectively within the village.
We know that in order to have the ideal village comprised of ideal families we are going to have to separate from our enemy; it’s the BEST and ONLY solution. In the meantime, however; we must increase our efforts to improve self, unite with those likeminded and make our communities a safe and decent place to live.