MIAMI GARDENS — Black parents have had a formula for raising their children right but have simply moved away from it. That formula, according to Jawanza Kunjufu, is “The Lord, the Village and a home cooked meal.”
“If there’s one hour we need to spend together as a family, it’s the dinner hour,” Kunjufu told a gathering of about 50 parents at the “Real Talk for Moms” lecture sponsored by Charesse Chester and Associates, the city of Miami Gardens, the Miami Chapter of Jack and Jill and Nahbulunge, an apparel firm.
Speaking March 27 at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex in Miami Gardens, Kunjufu said research showed in 1990 that the greatest influences on children were home, school and church but that, in 2014, the greatest influences are peer pressure, music and digital entertainment such as video games, television and Internet material.
“Rumor has it that this is the first generation of black youth that may never leave home … Rumor has it you may not be the biggest influence on your child … There’s a rumor that some mothers raise their daughters and love their sons,” Kunjufu said.
Despite having built a career on researching, compiling and presenting best practices to raise black youth, Kunjufu admitted that parenting is not something for which there is a tell-all manual.
“There is no job more demanding or more taxing than being a parent. It’s hard because it calls for 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a minimum of 18 years,” he said. “There are courses you can take to learn how to do other jobs but where do you learn how to be a father? Where do you learn how to be a mother?”
He challenged parents to celebrate their children’s uniqueness, take an approach of praise, be cautious of the words they use and have frequent, quality conversation. He advised against cursing at children, having low expectations, rewarding mediocrity and single mothers’ telling young boys they are the man of the house.
“At age 9, you lied to your boy and told him he was the man of the house. You might have had good intentions but, once you tell a boy he’s the man of the house, you’re no longer his mother, you’re his girlfriend,” he said.
Kunjufu is known for acclaimed books such as Motivating and Preparing Black Youth for Success; Restoring the Village: Solutions for the Black Family and State of Emergency: We Must Save African-American Males. He is a speaker at colleges and universities across the country and has been a consultant to many urban school districts.
His remarks resonated with Cornelius and Meggan Williams, parents of three children who run a home-school in North Miami Beach for students aged 2-12 called Genius Home Academy.
“We came out so we could see how to be better parents and better teachers because we definitely believe in continual growth and development. He has given out some golden nuggets for us to capitalize on,” Cornelius said.
Added Meggan, “We are forever learning to be better at what we do. I feel we still have lots of work to do and we will implement some of the things we’ve heard at our school.”
Chester said she simply had to bring Kunjufu to the community after reading one of his books and hearing him speak.
“I thought it was important to host this, first, as a mother. I’m raising a young African-American male and I was trying to better understand my role as a mother and what it is I can or cannot offer to him. The feedback has been tremendous,” Chester said.
Kunjufu is slated to return to South Florida in August. Also, he will release two new books this year, titled, Educating Black Girls and Raising Black Girls.
Asked why he dubbed as “rumors” many of the statistics he cited in his talk, Kunjufu said it was to communicate the message that just because statistics confirm something that doesn’t mean it has to be an individual’s reality.
“I wanted to inspire the parents that just because there is a ‘rumor’ it doesn’t have to apply to them. In their house, they can make a difference,” he said.
Theresa Clark also came to get tips on raising her son so he won’t become just another black male statistic.
“I have a 15-year-old son who is 6-1 and I’m raising a young black man. So any information that I can get to help me raise my child, I’m there,” Clark said.
“My son is going to beat the odds,” she said. “If it’s with my last breath, I’m determined for him to be successful. He has no choice.”