Late last year, America elected its first youngest Black mayor. Jaylen Smith, 18, was elected the mayor of the small city of Earle, Arkansas. In a television interview, Jaylen said, “a man is raised by a village of people”.
As far as I can remember, this was the way it used to be. This is the way I was raised; by a village of people – ranging from parents, relatives, neighbours, teachers, and even perfect strangers. If I did something wrong, the nearest adult would put me in the right.
There were certain main roads we were not supposed to cross. There were certain places we were not allowed to go to; like abandoned quarries, where boys went to swim. The unwritten law was that, if a boy was found flouting certain rules, the nearest adults would take it upon themselves to lay down the law.
Way back when, there was a sense of community, akin to a village. I think this can be attributed to the fact that this was the pioneer generation that came to the city. They still had communal values. As time goes and modernity takes root, these communal values are eroded and it becomes, “every person for their child, and God for us all”.
Times have changed. Nowadays, you cannot even raise your voice against a child whom, you can clearly see, is headed to “Forty-Four” if nothing is done. (Forty-Four is the street name for Kamiti Maximum Prison). Woe unto you if you raise your hand against someone’s child.
Notice that Jaylen used the term, “man”, as opposed to, boy. Some people may think Jaylen is still a boy, but he prefers to be seen as a man. I think this is because man is a person who takes responsibility for his decisions and actions. I believe that maturity isn’t determined by age, but by the ability to juggle manly responsibilities.
Notice also that Jaylen used the term, “a village of people”. That’s instructive because some of us have let our men to be raised up by, ahem, “a village of gizmos”.
When a man is raised by a village of people, it does not matter whether he comes from a two- or single-parent family. The collective efforts and strengths of the village of people cover any parenting shortcomings the immediate family may have.
A friend who is married to a woman who has two children, a boy and girl, from a previous relationship was telling me the challenges of disciplining his stepchildren.
“I can’t count the number of times the little man has said I’m not his father whenever I read him the riot act,” my friend lamented. “What’s a man supposed to do in a situation like this?”
Imagine that. If this little man cannot be raised by the nearest male relative, how will a village of people raise him?
I am old school. I still respect the people who raised me. Not so long ago, I bumped into Mrs. Mwangi, my class one teacher at Martin Luther Primary School. I stood respectfully with my hands held behind my back as we spoke. That’s what being raised by a village of people does to a man. It leaves him with permanent indelible marks.
Granted, in a village of people, not all will mean well for a man. That’s human nature. But we also learn how to live and thrive when there are people who are against us. Hate and opposition prepares us for the challenges of life. Which means hate and opposition also raises us, and causes us to be better men.