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Cultural Groundings

A publica*on of IASBFLC, Inc. for Professional Development Training in Human Well‐being,   Family Development and Community revitaliza*on 

Volume 1, Number 1  January 2000 Wade W. Nobles, Ph.D., Editor in Chief

About the IASBFLC, Inc.. For over 28 years, The Institute for the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture, Inc., has applied Black Psychology and African centered thought to addressing the problems and advancement of African and African American communities world-wide. Incorporated in the State of California in 1980, the Institute is both a scientific research corporation and a human developmental/social services organization. The Institute’s corporate mission is the reunification of the Black family, reclamation of Black culture, and revitalization of the Black community.

Working with African American People The hidden obstacles in working effectively with African American people can be found in the unspeakable legacy of chattel slavery and White supremacy and privilege. In actuality, contemporary African Americans are only three generations removed from Americas’ barbaric system of race-based slavery. The legacy of chattel slavery has, in fact, placed the proper understanding of the African American experience in a cauldron of unaddressed Black and White pathology. The pathology of White supremacy has resulted in an unabated set of assumptions and beliefs that conceives African American reality as simply expressions of human deviancy stemming from, at best, socially determined deficits or, at worse, genetically defined inadequacies absent of any sense of cultural integrity. Too often the perceived absence of indigenous language leads to the belief that there is also the absence of culture. When it comes to providing services to African Americans, providers generally target the remediation of intrinsic inadequacies believed to be found in Black people. Seldom are African American people seen as having an intrinsic cultural orientation that has importance for every aspect (education, work, family life, recreation, etc.) of the lived experience of Black people from socialization to skill acquisition to performance enhancement to when needed remediation and/or rehabilitation. Culture is as essential to human life as water is to living fish. Similarly, cultural grounding is the critical component for working with African American people. However, the cultural grounding of African American people is too often viewed as absent, invisible or of little value. Incomplete, flawed and a historical conception of African American human relations undermines the good intentions of clinical interventions. Hence, African American services are seldom afforded the same recognition and respect given to Latino or Asian services and programming. Without question, the absence of culture is the source of programmatic failure with African American people.

The Significance of Culture Culture is not simply the song and dance of a people. Nor is it merely the compilation  of  their  holidays  and  rituals  or  the  listing  of  their  heroes  and  heroines.    Culture  is  a  vast structure of behaviors, ideas, attitudes, values, habits, beliefs, customs, language,  rituals,  ceremonies  and  practices  peculiar  to  a  particular  group  of  people  which  provides them with a general design for living and patterns for interpreting reality.    Culture gives meaning to reality. As such, culture has the power to compel behavior and the capacity to reinforce ideas and beliefs about human functioning, including educational achievement, motivation and development. Culture is the invisible medium which encompasses all human existence. It is important to note that nothing human happens independent of culture. Culture is to humans as water is to fish. It is our total environment. All education and any professional development, staff training or service delivery programming targeted to African American people should be informed by an in-depth understanding of the culture of African American people.

From Competency to Congruence Cultural competency refers  to the ability to interact  effec*vely with people of  different cultures.  What is needed is cultural  congruence wherein  services and  programming   are in agreement  and  consistent with the cultural  reality of the community  being served. 

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Components of African American Culture African American culture is, in fact, the composite of African cultural retentions and American social inventions. African Americans, as a group, are culturally complex. But despite the tremendous variety which exists among them, most African Americans continue to share elements of a common culture. These characteristics are grounded both in African culture and in the experiences that African Americans have had in North America. It is the medium in which all development and human activity occurs. Accordingly, African American life and living is grounded in both environmental conditions and a complex structure of cultural precepts, virtues, values, customs, themes and prerequisites. Traditional African American cultural values alone consist of respect for elders, race pride, collective responsibility, restraint, devotion, reciprocity, patience, cognitive flexibility, courage, resilience, defiance, integrity, self mastery, persistence, and productivity, The complete set of cultural components results in over 54 distinct yet interrelated ideas and beliefs that serve as the crucial (more often than not disregarded and misunderstood) African American cultural template.

Culturally Congruent Programming

“Whoever works without knowledge works uselessly”

For over three decades IASBFLC, Inc. has designed, developed and implemented programs, services, research /evaluation, professional development and staff in-service training projects grounded in African and African American culture. Our culturally congruent programming has ranged from youth development and violence prevention (HAWK Federation Perfected Black Manhood Training and Development Program & ASET Society Perfected Black Womanhood Training and Development Program) to family development (teen fatherhood & teen motherhood) to African centered behavioral change HIV & Substance Abuse (SA) prevention (Healer Women Fighting Disease: An Integrated HIV & SA Prevention Project for African American Women) to community development and collaboration ( Enterprise Zone & West Oakland Collaborative) to whole school reform (Nsaka Sunsum: Pedagogy and Practice for Educational Excellence with African American Children). The capacity to provide culturally congruent programming is evidenced by the successful achievement of outcomes consistent with the goals and needs of the African American community.

Professional Development Clients  (Abbreviated listing)   Alameda County Health Care Services Agency,   Oakland Healthy Start, City of Oakland,   Enhanced Enterprise Communities   Congress of National Black Churches,   Diabetes Prevention   West Oakland Community Collaborative,   San Francisco Foundation    Association of Black Psychologists,   African Centered Behavioral Change Modeling ACE Collegiums, Kansas City School District   Rainbow Child Development Center   S.F Alliance of Black School Educators  Ella Hill Hutch Community Center

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Culturally Congruent Practitioner • Respects and holds in high regard the application of culture to every aspect of the African American experience • Formally utilizes the cultural grounding of African American people in the development and delivery of services • Understands the need to have institutional and client goals in harmony • Works to achieve and/or create cultural agreement and balance between provider and consumer • Constantly in search of own cultural understanding and maturation


Cultural Groundings

A publica*on of IASBFLC, Inc. for Professional Development Training in Human Well‐being,   Family Development and Community revitaliza*on 

Volume 2, Number 1  January 2002 Wade W. Nobles, Ph.D., Editor in Chief

About the IASBFLC, Inc.. For over 28 years, The Institute for the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture, Inc., has applied Black Psychology and African centered thought to addressing the problems and advancement of African and African American communities world-wide. Incorporated in the State of California in 1980, the Institute is both a scientific research corporation and a human developmental/social services organization. The Institute’s corporate mission is the reunification of the Black family, reclamation of Black culture, and revitalization of the Black community.

Responsibility “Father only means  that you are taking  care of your children.  That’s what it means  to be a father. It  doesn’t mean having  babies. Anyone can  make a baby, but a  father helps to raise  his children. There’s a  word for fatherhood.  It is called  RESPONSIBILITY.”                       Malcolm X  

Fatherhood  Matters

Fatherhood is an achieved status wherein men accept responsibility for protecting, defending and providing for, self, family and community by defining what is good, providing a sense of security and belonging, and obtaining those things necessary to sustain life and to inspire the imagination. In addition fathers are responsible for perpetuating the species through reproduction, providing developmental guidance and education, and establishing values and codes of conduct that serve as models for their children to emulate. Fatherhood represents the achievement of mastery and completion of the internalization and acquisition of a prescribed set of skills, attitudes and values relevant to the stages of Being and Becoming consistent with the meanings of one’s cultural community. Fatherhood matters because, fathers like mothers are needed to protect and defend the spiritual balance and well being of their children and are necessary for securing and establishing children’s spiritual harmony with the best of community. Both fathers and mothers must devote themselves to the higher responsibility of utilizing the collective spirit and genius of our people to guide and direct the permanent advancement of their children and to channel their vital life force for doing good

From Boys to Men In the African and African American tradition, youth development or education was not only seen  as  learning  facts,  Ligures,  names  and  dates.  It  was  viewed  as  a  process  of  “transformation”  or  change.  The  goal  of  education  was  to  develop  the  learner  and,  through  him  to  bring  about  harmony,  understanding  and  enlightenment  in  the  world.  As  such  the  educational  process  went  through successive stages so that the learner grew from “one not knowing” to “one who knew” to  “one  who  understood”.  Black  youth  development  was  governed  by  a  particular  attitude  and  training  method.  The  attitude  was  one  of  excellence  and  high  achievement. The  African  cultural  training methodology utilized the techniques of accentuation, association and attribution and the  practices of rote memorization, repetition, recall, replication and reLinement. This developmental  process was intended to prepare the boys for participation in the adult world by providing them  with  the  requisite  set  of  skills,  values,  attitudes,  beliefs  and  behavior  that  would  make  them  conLident, competent, conscious, committed and  contributing members of society. 


The Rite of Passage

“The force of the 

From the beginning of time, society has established a socialization process   fountain makes the  wherein members of the society learn the proper and acceptable ways of   river 3low as the  acting in the society. Society created rituals to mark the “right” to transition   from one state of being to a new state of becoming, ergo, the Rite of Passage.   honor of the father  Almost all societies recognized the signiLicant points in the development   makes the child walk  of the individual as they went through the developmental life‑cycle.   with con3idence” Transitions occurred at points like birth, naming, puberty, adulthood,   parenthood, marriage, eldership, death, etc. These rituals were formally   recognized through ceremonies that enabled the society to imprint on its   members the need for a new level of consciousness and awareness and   with it a different set of duties and responsibilities as well as rights and   privileges. The African adolescent rite of passage was the most signiLicant   in that it prepared boys and girls for their future roles as adults in the   community.  Through  an  intensive  period  of  training  young  people  were  transformed  into  the  future  leaders  of  their  society. In African American communities the transition to adulthood later became an informal process wherein adults  provided the guidance and training to youth. In an attempt to reclaim African American youth who are at high risk of  self‐destructive  behavior,  The  African  Centered  Rites  of  Passage  movement  emerged  in  the  1980’s  as  a  systematic  attempt to re‐socialize youth into their proper position of governance and rulership. 

The Significance of Fatherhood Fatherhood (like motherhood) signifies a status representing greater cultural maturation and spiritual evolution. As such, fathers, as compliment to mothers, should devote themselves to the higher responsibility of utilizing the collective spirit to guide and guarantee the cooperative good and collective advancement and security of the African family. The utilization and understanding of the natural spiritual power of the community is, in fact, perceived as the "wisdom of a nurturing father.” Black fatherhood, like Black motherhood, is an integral part of the Black family and community. Fathers are critical aspects of the Black experience. From the beginning of time, Black fathers have contributed to the positive growth and development of our children, families and communities. By fulfilling their roles as fathers, Black men play a critical role in the future development of their children. Fathers have the duty and responsibility and the right and privilege of shaping who their children become. By serving as provider, teacher, nurturer, disciplinarian, fathers provide the framework within which their children develop and learn to successfully navigate the wider society. It is through their father’s (and mother’s) love and affection and relationships in the world that children become competent, confident conscious human being willing to care and contribute to the betterment of the world.

Characteristics of Black Men RESPECT and hold in high regard the application of culture to every aspect of African American life. DEMONSTRATE a sense of commitment to the welfare and well-being of the African American community UNDERSTAND the need to honor and give reverence to the Supreme Being WORK to create and/or implement policies, practices and principles that would inspire younger generations to higher levels of achievement EXHIBIT exemplary character that reflects and represents the cultural wisdom traditions of African and African American communities. SERVE as models for others to emulate.

Virtues of African American Men of Excellence (brief listing)  Creativity of George Washington Carver Integrity of Paul Robeson   Love of Martin Luther King, Jr. Grace of Michael Jordan   DeLiance of Elijah Muhammed

 Devotion of Marcus Garvey   Courage of Muhammed Ali   Dedication of Malcolm X   Discipline of Jerry Rice   Audacity of Ben Carson


Cultural Groundings

A publica*on of IASBFLC, Inc. for Professional Development Training in Human Well‐being,   Family Development and Community revitaliza*on 

Volume 3, Number 1  January 2005 Wade W. Nobles, Ph.D., Editor in Chief

About the IASBFLC, Inc.. For over 28 years, The Institute for the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture, Inc., has applied Black Psychology and African centered thought to addressing the problems and advancement of African and African American communities world-wide. Incorporated in the State of California in 1980, the Institute is both a scientific research corporation and a human developmental/social services organization. The Institute’s corporate mission is the reunification of the Black family, reclamation of Black culture, and revitalization of the Black community

The Question of Educational Excellence

Should be informed by and congruent with an independent construction of African (Black) human functioning reflective of a deep, profound and penetrating search, study, understanding and mastery of the process of illuminating the human spirit.

“Service Through Science”

Education’s Cultural Anchor The role and purpose of education is to allow each generation in society to rationally guide and systematically guarantee that it reproduces and refines the best of itself and by so doing pass on to the next generation its accumulated wisdom, and the knowledge and skills necessary to develop, maintain and participate in the society of the future. A people’s indigenous culture anchors them to reality and must be the starting point for all learning. Education, as a human activity, is cultural. Accordingly, education must be consciously grounded in and guided by an awareness, understanding and utilization of the historical conditions and cultural experiences that shape and give meaning to each child’s reality. Culture naturally identifies what is considered wisdom and knowledge and what should be reproduced and refined. Educational excellence means that the goal of the educational process is to have every child’s performance match maximal educational attainment. Placing children or centering them within the context of familiar cultural and social references from their own historical settings is key to fostering better students who are more disciplined and who have greater motivation for school work

Nsaka Sunsum (Touching the Spirit)

A Pedagogy & Process of Black Educational Excellence

Education fundamentally consists of process, pedagogy and product. The ultimate question becomes, how do we educate (reproduce and refine) African children to become authentic human beings? True and powerful education is caught in that instant that becomes a moment that turns into a path of perfection. It is when the teacher “touches the spirit” of the student and opens up the passion for knowledge and inspires the student to love learning. In reproducing and refining the best of ourselves, both the intent and content of the educational process must be captured in a pedagogy that inspires (in spirits) excellence and results in an authentic sense of personhood, an affirmed sense of purpose, and an assured sense of power. One cannot attain true and powerful education with African American children without allowing or even demanding that one’s own spirit merge, extend into, and expand with the spirit of the child. The Nsaka Sunsum Educational Pedagogy and Process for Educational Excellence with African American Children is based on applying specific cultural ideas and techniques so as to animate, arouse, affect and/or influence the student’s exalted feelings, thoughts or actions in the service of learning. The Key Nsaka Sunsum pedagogical ideas are “Love” (the undeniable desire of one’s spirit to connect, merge, extend and to expand into a greater oneness with another (spirit); “Culture” (the critical milieu without which human life can not develop or exist.) and “Education” (the process whereby humans both formally and informally reproduce and refine the best of themselves by guiding the student to human mastery).


The Divine Dance: Teaching & Learning The Nsaka Sunsum educational pedagogy and process views teaching and learning as a “divine dance” between the life’s purpose and mission of both the teacher and the student. It is believed that each and everyone of us comes from Heaven to “learn” a particular set of lessons, which are required for us to become “better” human beings, while at the same time each of us comes from Heaven with a particular set of “gifts” to be given to the world in order to make living better for us all. The lessons to be learned as life’s purpose are expressions of wisdom and the gifts to be given as life’s mission are expressions of love. For both the student and the teacher, every teaching moment is an opportunity to learn a lesson or to give a gift. In this “divine dance,” it is expected that the teacher will have greater insight and consciously express both wisdom and love by continually exploring the student’s purpose and mission while uncovering the lessons to be learned and gifts to be given by them. The spark that ignites this “divine dance” and always determines its rhythm is “spirit”. In “touching the spirit” of the student, the teacher is able to tap into the human instinct or desire to become better. Through the “divine dance,” the teacher is able to tap into the human instinct or desire to become better because every child comes “wired” with the desire to be excellent.

Toward a Spirit Pedagogy Despite all the educational reforms, initiatives, legislation, staff development, and parent involvement, our educational institutions are still failing African American students. A new vision is required. This new vision must see successful teaching and learning as intrinsic to the spirit of the student and their cultural community. The Nsaka Sunsum Pedagogy and Process is the “spirit pedagogy” needed to achieve educational excellence with African American children. Despite all the educational reforms, initiatives, legislation, staff development, and parent involvement, our educational institutions are still failing African American students. A new vision is required. This new vision must see successful teaching and learning as intrinsic to the spirit of the student and their cultural community. The Nsaka Sunsum Pedagogy and Process is the “spirit pedagogy” needed to achieve educational excellence with African American children. The Nsaka Sunsum (Touching the Spirit) educational pedagogy and process consist of an “Intentionality” (mastery, majesty, memory, and meaning); “Methodology” (relationship(s), ritual, recitation, repetition, and rhythm); and “Practices” (igniting the inner genius, divine dancing, learning gumbo, expressive personhood, rhythmic reinforcement, and sensory (auditory) learning enhancement) designed to touch the spirit. The Nsaka Sunsum’s purpose is culturally grounded and aligned with systematically guiding the transmission of information and knowledge; reinforce the desire (passion) to learn/know; encourage the internalization of behavior and/or attitudes consistent with educational excellence, human mastery and the development of good character. In a very real sense, the Nsaka Sunsum Pedagogy and Process for Educational Excellence with African American children is a conscious attempt to harness our own culture so as to utilize the notion of spiritness as the key to explicating the logical relationship between teacher and student that compels achievement, reinforces the student’s belief in their own unlimited capacity and results in educational excellence. Our children (including those yet-to-be born) and our ancestors (whose unfulfilled possibilities we are) should expect no less than that we develop and insist upon an educational practice that will Touch the Spirit of excellence and elegance in Black Children.

Nsaka Sunsum Eight Postulates 1. Every child can learn everything and/or anything; 2. Knowing and knowledge are connected directly to the child; 3. Instruction characterized by cooperation and mutuality; 4. Learning results in personal achievement and collective advancement; 5. Continually guide each child to the next higher level of functioning and fulfillment; 6.Cooperative effort is utilized to continually raise the standard of educational excellence. 7. Teaching and learning are linked to the students’ and the community’s well-being and welfare. 8. Align Educational process with excellence--no minimum standards


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