Culture, socialization, and community

It should be noted that in the African worldview, though each individual has a their own destiny, such a path and its fulfillment becomes a communal obligation. This means that the community is charged with maximizing the development of its members. Since it is believed that one’s maximal development is best expressed by one’s discovery and fulfillment of their purpose, it is then the duty of the family and community to ensure this. This is why the Akan proverb states, “Woforo dua pa a na yepia wo,” that is, “It is when you climb a good tree that we push you.” Such wisdom is found throughout the African continent, including among the Kongo. As shown in the below excerpt.

“For the Bântu, in general, and the Kôngo, in particular, the coming of a child in the community is the rising of a new and unique ‘living sun’ into it. It is the responsibility of the community as a whole and of ndezi, in particular to help this ‘living sun’ to shine and grow in its earliest stage” (taken from K. Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau and A.M. Lukondo-Wamba’s Kindezi: The Kôngo Art of Babysitting).

Ndezi are those who facilitate the socialization of the child within the Kongo institution known as Kindezi, which is charged with the comprehensive development of the child into adulthood. Kindezi functions on the basis of the interdependency of the family and community. While one’s parents are critical to one’s development, the Kongo recognized that the rearing of children and their acquisition of the various domains of knowledge required of them to be effective adults within Kongo society required the support of everyone. Therein, all, at some point or another, serve as ndezi–a most sacred role. One who has been properly socialized is one who has fully learned their culture and who is then prepared to transmit it to future generations.
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We need a new way of thinking about intellectual work which de-centers the academy and sees the community as its center. We must find ways to make this work compelling and viable for those of us who see our scholarship as more than a path to the awards of the university (i.e., tenure and promotion), but as ways of illuminating the hidden, awakening the dormant, enlivening the nascent, and ultimately reassembling our shattered humanities in the wake of the interrelated systems of white supremacy and capitalism. This also means that our teaching must be imagined and enacted, not as mere performativity, but as incubating the emancipatory potential of our students and ourselves.

We are, many of us, constrained by a university system that commodifies our knowledge, reduces the import of our teaching to its most superficial forms, and seeks to mine our bodies and minds for profitable ideas while paradoxically devaluing our labor through instruments of surveillance. In short, we need spaces that seeks to serve the unfettered ends of liberation. Moreover, I believe that we have models of this work emerging out of the social movements of the last half century which might inform this work, models which emerge from the grassroots rather than the centers of power who have so effectively redirected many of us from revolutionary struggle to the toil of survival and the banality of “victim analysis”.

We have failed to hold the “contested zones”. We are left with the task of creating new liberated zones, and making these the center of a new way of being.