Should we return to the village?
In the 1950s, the black community relied on family, neighbors, the church and their exclusive communities for advice and support in most situations . The motto was “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”
The church was an important part of the community. Families depended on their church leaders when problems arose in child-rearing, financial and domestic situations. In our household my mother called on our priest on several cases involving me. When I became pregnant in my teen years, my mother and our priest escorted me to Lincoln Hospital and registered me for my first ob-gyn appointment. The church was seen as a place of refuge when families needed help emotionally, financially or sometimes physically.
To a large degree we have lost the intimate closeness we had for our families, neighbors, friends and the church. Those relationships were vital to the well-being and success of the community. When a family’s rent or another important bill needed to be paid and they could not pay it the community came together or the church would step in. Everyone watched out for the children of the community. All adults were to be respected and could chastise a child without worrying about any backlash. Many churches are more like big businesses. It seems like more and more emphasis is put on bringing in and managing money, recognition and exclusive clubs and much energy spent on developing relationships with their congregation.
Some go to church because that was the way they were raised, some go to show others how well they are doing, others go because of the reputation of the pastor and church. There are those of us who just want to worship our God. In many ways it looks like we are in the minority. We as Christians will either have to look in our hearts and ask ourselves, are we being fed the spiritual food that we need or are we going to remain silent and continue the way things are?
I refuse to believe there can be no more communities like the Hayti I grew up in. Everyone knew who you were and who you belonged to. We had to respect our elders, not just our parents, stay in a child’s place, and obey. I was taught that there were consequences for everything. When I did good, there were good consequences and if I did something bad there were bad consequences. I have carried those and other lessons all through life and they have aided me many times. I hope these memories will touch and inspire someone.
Brenda James is a Durham resident and occasional columnist.