This story originally ran in February of 2015
It has been a busy year for Village of Wisdom (VOW). To be more precise, I should say it has been a busy five months for the organization. Since August 1st of 2014, we have witnessed VOW evolve from an idea to an organization that has worked with over 20 families with a potential reach of over 50 children. We have organized a four-person board and a squad of twelve dedicated volunteers. Thus, I’m happy to report that Village of Wisdom has a growing team of passionate supporters and we are pushing towards making significant impact.
While this is all exciting news, there is a great deal of work ahead of us. One of our parents said it best, “We are trying to do undo generations of mistreatment!” With our parents at the lead, we move into the New Year seeking to understand how many #WiseWords we have inspired and the impact those words are having. So, you may ask, what are #WiseWords and what exactly is VOW seeking to accomplish?
At VOW, our goal is to work hand-in-hand with families to close the academic opportunity gap that exists for Black youth. Our main goal is to implement a unique, two-generational approach that focuses on engaging parents and children. Wise Words are the conversations shared within and between families that ensure children develop a healthy identity about race, gender, and academic ability. We witnessed these wise words come to life as two of our parents practiced the conversations they planned to have with their children and saw them pour love out of their souls and into each other.
The opportunity gap families face is the consequence of current and historical injustices and currently comprised of social and resource inequalities. Socially, we know families have to prepare Black children to adapt to the different environments they navigate between school and home. Black children have to be prepared to navigate schools and a society that treats them with negative bias, along with encountering negative identity messages. Related to resources, we know Black children are more likely to live in poverty and have less access to pivotal out-of-school learning opportunities than other race groups. So, in reaction to these challenges VOW works with families to help their children develop a resilient identity and when necessary we connect family units to a suite of resources that increase economic stability and access to out-of school learning opportunities.
The primary mission of VOW is to encourage parents to share with their children wise words about race, identity, and academics. Words that convey to a child that as a Black person, she or he comes from a long line of inventors, scholars, creatives, dreamers, freedom fighters and generally dope individuals. This is a story that has to be instilled in Black children because far too often they first learn of their blackness through a negative experience, seeding their first thoughts of self-doubt and inferiority. Even more, the task is necessary because subliminally and explicitly, our society erroneously suggests to Black children that they are less capable. These transgressions do not come without a cost to the self-image, emotional health, and academic performance of these beautiful and capable human beings. The VOW of our organization is to work with families as their children pay this unfair cost and assist them in defining their own way to destroy the policies and traditions that force this payment.
Although we believe we are taking an innovative approach to the challenges facing Black youth, we also recognize that we stand on the shoulders of countless advocates, parents, and scholars that have illuminated this path. Even more, we know that we can’t move forward without tapping into the existing community of folk who believe in making sure families can build on their inherent strengths to guide their children to success. So, as we move into this season of reflection, family, and hope we ask you to consider contributing to the future of our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers.
William P. Jackson
Founder, Chief Dreamer