Leon Dixon & Bill Grace

Founders's Corner

Leon Dixon Bill Grace

The W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center is a combination of two efforts designed to address the languishing educational situation in Greater Kansas City's African American community. Bill Grace and some friends had begun working with some of Central High School youth that had begun falling behind in their reading skills. Shortly thereafter Leon Dixon and some colleagues had begun to work with some community young people to improve their mathematical ability, in both enrichment and remediation.

Grace and friends, inspired by the book, Souls of Black Folk, by DuBois, named their effort operating out of the Paseo United Methodist Church "The W.E.B. DuBois Reading Center." Dixon and colleagues referred to their efforts, which was a Southern Leadership (SCLC) program operating out of the St. James Gregory United Methodist Church, as a "Mathematics Clinic" (based on a tutoring program he had work in at Texas Southern University).

The Rev. John L. Preciphs of Paseo UMC, along with Grace and friends, had been actively working with youth in community outreach. The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, II of St. James Gregory UMC (who later would become the mayor of Kansas City, MO) along with Dixon and some others activist had established the Greater Kansas City Chapter of SCLC. Rev. Cleaver naturally enlisted one of his mentors, Rev. Preciphs, into SCLC. Rev. Preciphs immediately saw the need for the two educational programs to work together. That union in 1973 precipitated the name change to the "W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center" (DLC) to indicate the tutoring of a variety of academic subjects.

The DLC operates with an all-voluntary staff. And one of its telling aspects is that it is an institution structured wherein area professionals and others can donate their time and talent to support the educational aspirations of the youth in our community. Those with technical backgrounds tutor mathematics, while those with humanities backgrounds tutor reading.

DLC Press

W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center Press

AEOSP Fables

The Lion and the Mouse

The Mouse and the Lion

The Lion and the Mouse

A LION was awakened from sleep by a Mouse running over his face. Rising up angrily, he caught him and was about to kill him, when the Mouse begged for his life, saying:
"If you would only spare me, I would be sure to repay your kindness."

The Lion laughed and let him go. It happened shortly after this that the Lion was caught in a hunter's net, and could not free himself. The Mouse, recognizing his roar, came and gnawed the rope with his teeth, and set him free. He said:

"You ridiculed the idea of my ever being able to help you, never expecting to receive from me any repayment of your favor; now you know that it is possible for even a Mouse to help a Lion."

What MORAL did you get from this FABLE?

Mouse Lion Moral

The Mouse and the Lion Moral


There are times when even the weak can help the strong.

The Tortoise and the Hare

The Tortoise and the Hare

A HARE one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing:

"Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race."

The Hare, believing her claim to be simply impossible, accepted the challenge; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course and fix the goal.

On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The Hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep.

At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue.

What MORAL did you get from this FABLE?

Tortoise Hare Moral

The Tortoise and the Hare Moral


Slow but steady wins the race.

Thoth and the Woodcutter

Thoth and the Woodcutter

Thoth and the Woodcutter

A WOODCUTTER was cutting wood on a riverside when he lost his axe in the water. With no one there to help him, he sat down on the river back and began to cry.

Thoth (an ancient Egyptian god) felt sorry for him and dove into the water and brought up a golden axe. He asked the Woodcutter if this was his axe, and the Woodcutter said "No."

He dove in again and brought up a silver axe and asked the woodcutter if this one was his. And again the Woodcutter said "No."

When he went down a third time and brought up the Woodcutter's axe, the Woodcutter said, "That is the right one."

Thoth was so pleased with his honesty that he gave him the other two axes as well.

The Woodcutter told one of his friends what happened. Who then hurried to the river, and after throwing his axe into the water, sat down and cried.

Again Thoth felt sorry for him and dove down and brought up a golden axe. When he asked if this was axe his, the Woodcutter's Friend joyfully said, "Yes."

Thoth was so disgusted with the lie that left without giving him the golden axe or his own axe in the river.

What MORAL did you get from this FABLE?

Thoth and the Woodcutter Moral

Thoth and the Woodcutter Moral


Honesty is the best policy.

Future In Our Hands



To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

When discussing the brain and the mind, researchers of various disciplines remain in a quandary as to how to differentiate between them. We will not get into that here. It suffices for our discussion to defer to Richard M. Restak, M.D., who says in his book The Brain (p.246): “When we apply psychological methods we encounter the ‘mind’; when we opt for measuring neuronal activity with microelectrodes, we deal with the ‘brain’.” It would be nice if this were the only controversial duality. But there are others: endowment versus environment; nature versus nurture; and maturation versus development. These dualities are intertwining; somewhat analogous to the DNA double helix that is held together by a common hydrogen bond. What these dualities have in common is what can be referred to as a biological clock or timetable. To everything there is a season. Most folk have no trouble acknowledging the physical biological clock with respect to human growth: Babies are nine months in incubation; baby teeth appear at about the same time (around the onset of speech); infants by and large start walking around the same time; youngsters go through adolescence and puberty, and attain their adult height in their respective times. Although, in some instances, there are differences between males and females, for each sex the timetable is about the same. There is a mental and psychological biological clock and timetable as well, and it is the brain that regulates it, much the same as it does our involuntary muscles.

Jean Piaget was a Swiss child psychologist and zoologist who devoted a lifetime observing the evolution of consciousness in the developing child. Piaget has postulated stages that a child goes through from birth through adulthood in the development of consciousness. Piaget has his critics as to the exact details of his findings, although there is agreement on the fact that there are specific stages of consciousness development. And although some children’s timetables may vary somewhat, they are present. We present his views so as to illustrate the process at work.

The first stage is that of the development of SENSORI-MOTOR THINKING which lasts from birth to around two years of age. Here the child demonstrates a series of reflexes such as turning to light or sound, grasping an object dangling in space, sucking when the lips are touched, crying or waving the arms when startled. At about two months, a normal infant will begin to coordinate certain acts: looking with hearing; seeing with grasping and later sucking. The infant starts to demonstrate a tendency to look at familiar objects such as mother or a family pet. Here he or she starts eye-to-eye contact, the social smile, and exploration of the environment. At seven and eight months the infant demonstrates reaction to strangers and an elementary understanding of signs and symbols. Near the end of this first period the child begins to demonstrate an understanding of causality and why certain things happen, such as a ball rolling into view.1

In his book, The Conscious Brain, Steven Rose discusses Piaget’s analysis further:

It is against this background that Piaget analyzes the first two years of life as those in which a child develops from a baby with no awareness of the distinction between self and not-self to the state of regarding itself as an individual set into a differentiated environment.2

At the end of this period, the external existence of objects and their relationships is accepted and the next phase is entered which lasts from about two to four years of age. Rose continues:

It is the period in which symbolic thought and PRECONCEPTUAL REPRESENTATION emerge. The child begins to use picture images as symbols to replace the real things—the objects—which earlier filled her or his universe. In parallel to the use of images to replace objects, the use of language as a system of symbols for objects begins… (Emphasis mine.)

But while the images are internal symbols meaningful only to the child, language is the way to a measure of public communication. Language is non-representative, unlike images. It is conceptual. Piaget identifies the emergence of “pre-concepts” as intermediate between image symbols and the concepts proper. They fluctuate between being symbols and concepts as the child learns what sort of power it can achieve over the real world merely by wishing: to pick up and assemble a toy, for example, which is an attainable object; or that it will stop raining, which is not.

The next stage, which partially overlaps with the previous one, is described as CONDITIONAL REPRESENTATION. It runs from four to eight years of age and forms the threshold of “operational thinking”: the child begins to recognize that the universe does not revolve around him or her alone but that there are other viewpoints, other forces in the world; he or she begins to communicate coherently in language.

The next state is OPERATIONAL THINKING itself, which emerges from seven and runs to twelve years of age. The child begins to recognize relationships between objects, to operate with concepts such as more or less, longer and shorter, heavier and lighter, and also to use them in a commutative and conservative manner, so as to be able to perform simple operations which help relate weight, height and so forth in a logical manner. As the period progresses, the operations become more formalized so that these semi-abstract concepts can be manipulated; experiments, in the general scientific sense of the word, can be made.

Finally, by natural progression, from eleven onwards into adolescence, the possibilities of UTILIZING FORMAL OPERATIONS emerge, which are completely abstract and conceptual tools. The child has become an adult, although the biochemical maturity of the brain is not yet complete.

* * *

The capacity of the brain that enables it to create and master language (cerebral abstractions) is what set the human species apart from all others. The development of language is what enabled humans to create civilization. And as civilizations evolved, they placed greater and greater demands on language. The two are inextricably bound together. Let us then look at how humans learn language.

In Speech and Brain—Mechanisms Wilder Penfield and Lamar Roberts write: “The brain of the adult, however effective it may be in other directions, is usually inferior to that of the child as far as language is concerned.” Neurophysiologically speaking, they say. “A child’s brain has a specialized capacity for learning language—a capacity that decreases with the passing years.” And “for the purposes of learning languages, the human brain becomes progressively stiff and rigid after the age of nine.”3

Citing the works of W.F. Leopold, and the works of A. Gessell and F.L. Ilg, Penfield and Roberts provide us with the following biological timetable for learning language (pp. 243-244):

During the infant’s first year he cries at once. He coos later and then babbles. Babbling is verbal play “with front sounds and clear constants.” Around the time of the first birthday he usually says his first word. In the second year it is clear that the child learns to understand and later to speak. There is apt to be a lag of two to seven months from first hearing to utterance. From two to four years the delightful lingo of baby talk disappears and is replaced by adult pronunciation. The skills of understanding and speaking are more or less perfected by the age of four. Reading and writing are not yet to be considered. During the second year of life speech consists normally of one-word sentences. Gradually the child puts two words together, then three. There are many variations to these achievements, as any proud parent will testify. But by the time of the third birthday the three basic elements of simple sentences have made their appearance; subject, verb, object. The child uses some pronouns and employs plural at this time, and is adding new words at the rate of about four hundred in six months.

Dr. Ilg would distinguish two types of child, which she calls “Imitative” and “creative.” Children in the first group learn more rapidly and accurately with less baby talk and jargon. Girls are more likely to be placed in this group of accurate learners than boys. The creative learner is slower and more apt to elaborate pronunciations and jargon of his own. Poets, she says, are prone to come from this group! It is obvious that individual differences are recognizable at almost any stage throughout childhood.

There seems to be little if any relationship between general intellectual capacity and the ability of a child to imitate an accent. Pronunciation is essentially an imitative process. Capacity for imitation is maximum between four and eight. It steadily decreases throughout later childhood.

After the imitation stage, the analytical, exploration and adventure stage begins. (It is said that up to around eight or nine, you learn to read. After that, you read to learn.) The language uses that have been acquired and set at this point allow for the depth and range of exploration and adventure the child can experience rewardingly. As an example, when trying to explain simple scientific concepts to fifth graders through junior high school students, we noticed that those students who had the mental acumen and discipline to “handle” the division algorithm (which also means their language usage enables them to absorb the explanation of the algorithm) were the ones who comprehended the concepts most easily. Quotes are put around “handle” because it seems it is not so much that the students could actually “divide” that matters—he or she may simply not have been taught how to—so much as it is the “capacity” to handle division and the “Ability to discipline” oneself to learn to master the algorithm that must be there. That is, if, during their imitative state, they were exposed to the type of experiences that called for them to imitate enough logical processes and extending language and thought patterns to accommodate them, then they may have acquired a basis upon which to expand to the processing of higher concepts; even if they have not learned division per se. This may be an area worthy of further investigation.

Again utilizing the works of Penfield and Roberts:

According to Professor Leopold the child of six to eight years has formed his native speech habits completely. But they are not so firmly established as to interfere with his capacity to acquire a second language without translation. It would seem, however, that the first language is well set by the age of four or five. … If the child is using a second language even before that time, the two may be set equally without interference.

Gessell and Ilg have concluded that at age 8 the average child is “group-minded, expansive and receptive.” At the age of nine the child is said to become more analytical in language learning. He is apt to become analytical in regard to his general attitude as well.

Linguists and observers who have studied the language uses of African Americans recognize that many employ a dialect that can be called a Black English Vernacular (BEV). (See Black English, J.L Dillard; and Twice As Less, Eleanor Wilson Orr.) This means that BEV speakers think and reason in this “their native tongue.” If this pattern has been set, after say, age nine, then the pedagogical approach to enable BEV speakers to work in a Standard English (SE) setting should be somewhat akin to working with any other people who speak a non-standard English native tongue. Many post-puberty African Americans who matriculate well in North American society are, in fact, bi-dialectical, actually bi-cultural, often “reverting to the vernacular” while conversing with friends and family, and using SE when the situation demands it. IF the BEV is well set in the speaker and SE is not, then the speaker will have to undergo the mental process of quasi-translation when using SE as would anybody else who does not use SE as a native tongue. We say quasi-translation because the words have by and large the same meaning; it is the syntax and language structure, etc., where the differences, and hence problems, occur.

The inability to handle these quasi-translations effectively can cause some very serious problems for BEV speakers. The linguists claim that this is one of the reasons why many Blacks have so much trouble reading. It is also a cause for the tremendous frustration and embarrassment felt by so many Blacks, especially Black youth. The sociologist argue further that this is an important factor contributing to the high dropout rate among Black youth; and to the disruptive and anti-social behavior they exhibit; and to much of their alienation to society.

For example, when trying to get BEV speakers to understand a mathematical or scientific concept, we first try to get them to explain it in “their vernacular.” After we are convinced they understand it, we get them to explain it in SE. We further explain to them that there are many dialects spoken in the United Stated, but there is one standard that we all use, especially in “formal” communication.

We have found that by using this approach, we eliminate the cause for much of the frustration and embarrassment that many students would normally have.

With regard to vocabulary, Penfield and Roberts state (p. 251): “When a child comes to the age of 6 he is ready to begin to expand his vocabulary rapidly, and as he passes the age of 9, the process is accelerated. He reads and talks and listens incessantly. If he is expanding his vocabulary in his native tongue, the process is simple, rapid and normal. He uses the speech units already written indelibly on the slate of his vocational speech mechanism. He can pass from a vocabulary of 1,000 words to 10,000 perhaps, using the same language set. The sound, the pronunciation, and the spelling are all so similar. He can use his recorded units. The sentence construction does not alter. His eventual accent continues to resemble the accent of those he listened to first at home and school and playground.”

Dr. Jeremiah Cameron, Chairman Emeritus of the English Department of Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City, Missouri, explained to me that the larger one’s vocabulary is the more one will be able to see when looking at a grand or complex site, say the Grand Canyon. The larger vocabulary enables one to describe, and hence absorb more subtleties. (Recall that Malcolm X studied the dictionary from “A” to “Z” while he was in prison.) The same can be said with respect to the other four senses as well, especially hearing.

Penfield and Roberts argue that the psychological urge of the child must not be overlooked when it comes to what they call the direct method of learning language, that is, “the mother’s method” or learning language at home.

The mother helps, but initiative comes from the growing youngster. The learning of the mother tongue is normally an inevitable process. No parent could prevent it unless he placed his child in solitary confinement! For the child at home, the learning of language is a method of learning about life, a means of getting what he wants, a way of satisfying the unquenchable curiosity that burns in him almost from the beginning. He is hardly aware of the fact that he is learning language, and it does not form his primary conscious goal. Language, when it is learned by the normal physiological process is not taught at all. It is learned as a by-product of other pursuits4

The learning of language, like other forms of learning, is best when incidental; that is, driven by necessity or desire to do other things. Language is man’s infrastructure for thinking, hence reasoning. It is the cornerstone upon which civilizations were built. Language evolves, again, depending upon needs and desires. A child becomes acculturated according to his or her need to negotiate the immediate environment. Children absorb morés of their family, society and civilization through the use of language. We think in our native tongue or dialect and develop thought processes demanded by the environment or civilization, and language use expands accordingly. In some instances our needs and desires cause us to push and advance the society or civilization, which in turn creates a demand for an expansion of language. And so the spiral, or rather helix, goes. Men shape families, societies and civilizations as they in turn shape the children, who become the adults that continue the process.

* * *

Since language is such a key to advancement, it behooves us to take a closer look as to how we begin to master it. Clearly we begin much of our acquisition of knowledge, and acculturation for that matter, through the five senses. And like language, there is a biological timetable associated with this process as well.

Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard was a physician and teacher for the deaf and dumb in the eighteenth century in Paris, and is known for his work with the “Wild Boy of Averone” who was discovered at about the age of eleven or twelve after having lived in the woods without human contact. In his book Wolf Children and the Problem of Human Nature, Lucien Malson, records Itard as stating (p. 117):

It may be observed that, in proportion as man advances beyond the period of infancy, the exercise of his senses becomes, everyday, less universal. In the first stage of life, he wishes to see everything, and to touch everything; he puts to his mouth every thing that is given to him; the least noise makes him start; his senses are directed to all objects, even to those which have no apparent connection with his wants. In proportion to his advancement beyond the stage of infancy, during which is carried on what may be called the apprenticeship of the senses, objects strike him only so far as they happen to be connected with his appetites, his habits, or his inclination. Afterwards it is often found, that there is only one or two of these senses which awaken his attention. (Emphasis his.)

At this stage, according to Itard, man begins to develop toward special inclinations say, music, painting, science, etc., and will develop those senses that relate most to those interests. “Of us humans,” Itard continues, “after the first years of infancy, the attention is naturally directed only to those objects which have some known and perceived connection with our tastes.”

Itard, asserts that (p. 166):

… of all the senses, hearing is the one which contributes most particularly to the development of our intellectual faculties.

… It is through hearing that children first learn to speak by imitation of what they hear.

Itard further states (p. 167):

… of all phenomena offered to the observer by a child’s early developments, there is none more astonishing than the faculty with which he learns to speak; and … that speech is without doubt the most admirable act of imitation and is at the same time its first result. … But this imitative faculty, whose influences is spread throughout life, varies in its application according to age and is used in learning to speak only at the very early age: Later it directs other functions and abandons the instruments of speech; so that a child, or even an adolescent, who leaves his native country, swiftly loses its manner, lifestyle and language, but never those vocal intonation which constitute what we call accent. (Emphasis mine.)

The essential point is this: The need to work with young people early, to start with their mental and intellectual development early, is not only a psychological and sociological concern, it is a physiological and neurological one a well.

The biological sands of time are running down. Young people, especially adolescents, seem to harbor the notion that they will always possess their present capacity to learn and develop. Little do many of them realize that that simply is not the case. As time passes, that ability to “turn on the juices” and start learning ebbs away. To be sure, they will still be able to learn some as they age, but not with the same facility and ease; more and more effort will be required as time passes on. And as one falls behind, or misses those opportune periods, it becomes exceedingly more difficult to make up the “distance,” and in some cases most of it will not be able to be made up at all. Every stage in a child’s development is crucial and must be taken “proper” advantage of if that child’s full potential is to realized. This reality is one that should be understood by our children’s caregivers and nurturers (parents, teachers, elders, etc.) and what is more, the youth themselves need to understand it. Again, “to everything there is a season.”

One of the ways we use to get many of our youngsters to understand is the use of sports analogies and metaphors. This seems to work because so many of them have athletics on their minds. As an example, consider this: Every thirty-five year old professional athlete was a twenty-five year old professional athlete (young lion). You simply cannot wait until thirty years of life to develop the necessary skills to compete on that level—no matter how gifted you may have been born. If those necessary skills have not been developed by, say, twenty-five to compete on the professional level, it is too late! Time has passed you by. The fact that women can only bear children between puberty and menopause is another example that serves to illustrate this dynamic; and although most youngsters are not overly concerned about it, they are least aware of it.

* * *

I have discussed some of the findings of physiological and neurological research that show there are mental and psychological stages and periods of development that are parallel and correlated to the physical ones. There is also research that shows that each of us is born with a set of predispositions, traits and possibilities (probabilities) to be nurtured, developed and acculturated by our environment.

An interesting work that discusses this theme is Nature’s Thumbprint by the clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University, Peter B. Neubauer, M.D., and his son Alexander Neubauer, a writer. They discuss in their book the findings of research done on infants and identical twins reared apart. One of the studies they refer to was done in 1989, of single non-twin infants. They report that the researchers’ work revealed clusters of traits that formed stable patterns over the first six months of life. These trait clusters were labeled activity, arousability, and intensity; and approach, adaptability, rhythmicity and destructibility. Those in the first set were considered drive traits—those that activate the infant, whereas those in the second set were regulatory traits—those that mediate the drives. The research team found that infants with a preponderance of the traits in some set had fewer of the traits in the other. But what was most interesting was that from six weeks to six months of age the trait clusters exhibited remained fairly constant.

Quoting the Neubauers:

This discovery of consistency in such early patterns of behavior is a formidable result: it speaks to a regularity that seem less imposed or conditioned from the outside than brought about from within. It enhances the notion of inner, intrinsic tendencies that overtime, despite fluctuation, resolve themselves in a basic constellation that can be called personality-traits organized around a theme. And early predisposed influences at birth, affect its adult shape, even if the final differentiated characteristic (taking names such as “hospitality” or “shrewdness”) inevitably vary. (Emphasis theirs.)

In our group’s study of individual twins reared apart one outstanding feature was the early social behavior of infants. Some children had a limited capacity to engage the environment, stimulate the mother to a specific response, or impose their wishes and needs in such a way as to be heard. Other children, however, expressed their needs perfectly well and got rather quick satisfaction. The first group depended on parents to: “read them” and satisfy their needs; the second group brought to the world a greater ability to demand that satisfaction and stimulation. These qualities might normally be considered a product of their environment, of parents who elicit or hinder the activity of their infants. But since identical twins were available for study, we could see that when there was either a low or high level of engageability in one infant, it was shared by the identical twin reared apart.

The ability to engage one’s environment thus appears to be predisposed. We may be born with a potential for engageability that is triggered, to a greater or lesser degree, by offerings from the environment. It will also affect the adults that these infants become. From clinical experience we know that some adults confront the world through action—by doing—whereas others prefer to formulate their thoughts and plans in a way that minimizes their need for concrete activity. Although this feature can be transformed and appear even as quite the opposite quality in adulthood, it may in its fundamental form exert influences that play a significant part in the individual’s choice of profession, in his social interaction, and the very pattern of his life.” (Emphasis mine.)5

The emphasis here is on the importance of nature—those predispositions and traits that they exist and to take them into account while nurturing children in order to best facilitate the development of their potential. The Neubauers cite an interesting example that graphically illustrates this point (p. 28):
In a case of identical twin boys reared apart, one family battled against the studied, watchful passivity of their adopted son while the other family accepted this relaxed, unaggressive quality with relative ease. Although the temperaments of both boys remained steady through maturity and both ultimately chose professions that matched their natural inclinations (one accounting, the other academic medicine), the first boy’s relationship with his unaccepting parents became embittered, and he has carried their disapproval with him for many years.

The Neubauers also emphasized the crucial role that the environment plays in children’s development. … “Although identical twins share the same pattern of genes.” They explain (p. 22-23), “and everything is prepared for identical expression, this does not mean—and this is key—that every trait will be identically expressed. What is endowed at birth is not a set of traits but a range of expression. The range is set by human evolution and the individual’s inborn variations, and it accommodates flexibility. Our genetic programs allow for, and cannot thrive without, environmental influence.” (Emphasis mine.) What we must do is understand that we respond to the environment in ways biased by our innate makeup, and furthermore, that this makeup helps select the environment we respond to. They state earlier in their book (p. 6): “When a supportive, nurturing environment was available to the child, the true power of his inherited tendencies and acceptabilities revealed themselves.”

The Neubauers also addressed the various stages of development. Although they acknowledge that the times when these stages occur may vary somewhat between individuals, the process and order is present. They point out (p. 80): “Resolutions of problems arising in one stage are essential for a healthy transition to the next, and one of the primary reasons for the push through development is the shift of energy from stage to stage and zone to zone: it is, in sum, predisposed by nature. And in the same breath it is also parental, social, and environmental.” They add (pp. 96-98): “Human beings as a species have developed a possible range of flexibility that allows for adaptation to the world, and everyone at birth has his own individual version of that general range. … If all goes well, by his early teens each person will have reached a state of equilibrium, which is the purest expression of adaptation to the environment,”

* * *

“If all goes well,” they say. The environment is powerful—awesomely powerful. It can, and often is, the determining factor in whether any child will be able to fulfill his or her innate potential. Both natural and human forces can be, and often are, the deciding factors: drought, famine, malnutrition, war, etc., can negate anyone’s potential. And the social consequences can be devastating over generations.

There are studies that indicate the situation that occurs is not so much one of genetics, whereby defective genes are produced and passed on to successive generations; rather it is the mother and care-giving skills that are not passed on. Care-giving is not an inherited trait, or instinct, it is a learned dynamic that is culturally dependent.

Richard Reskak M.D., in his book The Brain cites the work of Dr. Jamina R. Galler, who has worked for several years with a colony of rats subjected to twenty generations of malnutrition. After twenty generations of relative starvation, the rats showed stunting in physical growth and activity. However, many of the defects were reversed when good nutrition was introduced at a later point. What the research showed was a break in mother-infant interactions when malnutrition is present, and even after nutrition was restored, the rats continued to make poor mothers. “Dr. Galler thinks,” writes Restak, “the poor mothering behavior depends on disturbed patterns of infant-mother interaction repeated in each generation rather than inheritance across several generations of a genetic chance.” The notion of bad genes resulting from malnutrition being passed on is incorrect. “Poor mother-infant interaction in one generation will produce females who make poor mothers in the next. The initial nutritional insult resulted in behavioral consequences that interfere with mothering. It is this failure of mothering rather that genetic change that is passed on and can be measured several generations later.”6

Restack extends this discussion to malnutrition in humans, indicating that international studies on brain development and human malnutrition seem to bear out Dr. Galler’s hypothesis. “In the first year of life,” he writes (p. 32), “the baby explores its environment and, in addition, begins to form secure ties with its mother. Malnutrition seems to interfere with both processes. … Malnourished babies seek comfort and pacification rather than food. In turn, the infant’s passive behavior elicits poor mother responses.” Restak points out that studies that started out as a “search for the effects of malnutrition in the human development has turned into a study of the complex interactions of malnutrition, infant responsiveness and mothering.” Of the few basic points that authorities could agree on, he gives three (pp. 133, 134).

One: During the last period of pregnancy and the first two years of life, the brain is most vulnerable to permanent structural and dynamic brain consequences resulting from malnutrition.

Two: Chronic prolonged malnutrition is more likely to bring about permanent brain damage than shorter periods of inadequate nutrition. (He cites the children born during the Dutch famine of World War II, who show few effects today of the brief period of food restriction.)

Three: The effects of malnutrition on the brain of developing infants have, as its most serious consequence, an alteration of healthy mother-child interactions. Psychological experiments have proven that it is the infant who, to a large extent, determines the quality of mothering.

What we have discussed thus far are the effects of malnutrition on the mothering process, which is a learned process and is not instinctive. But this could be extrapolated to any dynamic or phenomenon that interferes with this process, especially over generations—a phenomenon that results in an undeveloped or underdeveloped environment, or a social dynamic that leads to drug, crime, or poverty ridden environmental conditions for instance. The key point to be realized is that it will not be enough to simply reverse malnutrition (providing jobs can be seen as a method of reversing malnutrition, for instance); the mothering process will have to be re-taught as well, if we are to prevent the undesirable effects from continuing to occur in subsequent generations.

* * *

In addressing these concerns, our individual and societal traits, as well as our environment, must be taken into account. For although we are born with individualities, traits, talents, predispositions and potentialities, these are all shaped, enhanced or thwarted by the environment. Traits like introvertedness and extrovertedness are genetically predisposed and are difficult to alter, whereas traits like courtesy and prejudice are environmentally induced and can more readily be shaped. These examples serve to illustrate that nature and nurture interact to produce the total human personality. This is a well known and documented reality. The significance of nurture in this interaction is illuminated by Malson in Wolf Children (p. 24):

Man’s genetic inheritance is quite formless until it has been given shape by social forces, yet the direction of these forces themselves may always be changed by the interaction of consciousness. It is as if the work of the environment in tapping man’s hereditary reserves were itself controlled by the conception he has of it which is implicit in his existential choices. Heredity and environment are not two separate things to which human actions are added. They are not independent variables. They are rather two rules of a dialectic which, by giving form to a “total luminosity” brings into being the human subject.

In a civil environment, children are born into families that are segments of a societal cultural complex. The family itself is not just a set of shared chromosomes with similar biologically determined possibilities; it is also an educational and cultural milieu that is itself influenced by the larger societal educational and cultural milieu. Each people or group develops its own lifestyle that makes up this milieu that the individual members, sometimes reluctantly, take as a standard. The different societies are manifestations of the various historical choices and impositions, and are themselves expressions of mankind’s basic creativity, ingenuity and machinations. From these societies people learn how to view and how to think about the world. From their societal environment they even learn what is good and what is bad; what is comfortable and uncomfortable. The research evidence amassed “reveals the importance of education in forming the two basic elements in man’s personality—his intelligence and his system of values.” Malson writes (p. 25), and further gives the following examples: “the Chinese have a liking for rotten eggs and Pacific Islanders will happily eat rotting fish. A pygmy will search for a fork in a tree to use as a bed, and the Japanese use wooden blocks for pillows.” He relates another interesting example from the anthropological point of view of the Zuni and Kwakiutl Indians who belonged to the same race but were separated on different reservations. “They developed completely different patterns of behavior,” Malson writes (p. 27). “The society of Zuni is quiet, peaceful, and serene. They have complex religious rituals which they consider valuable in themselves and they cultivate modesty, courtesy, and affability. The society of the Kwakiutl is strained, nervous and competitive. They despise rituals; preferring more ecstatic cults, and they encourage aggressiveness, rudeness and arrogance.”

Although human societies differ, there three universal human traits in the sphere of emotion that Malson cites Levi-Straus as having singled out: “the need for rules, the desire for reciprocity and the gesture if giving.” He explains further (p. 34):

Man in the first place, has recourse to rules in order to escape the “intolerable burdens of arbitrariness,” and he respects them simply because they are rules. Far from providing us with examples of the complete lack of order, primitive societies reveal on closer investigation the extent to which they depend on scrupulous observation of custom and careful attention to ritual.

In the second place, man always tries to establish contacts with other men which are governed by some sort of equivalence, if not of wealth, at least in his relationships. He does this … because once he has realized that he is not omnipotent he tries to achieve equality with others, as it is “the lowest common multiple of all his contradictory wishes and fears.”

Third and last, by making gifts man ensures that the other becomes a partner at the same time as he renders the object exchanged more valuable. The gift is an expression of his sense of his feelings of both strength and fear. The ego is flattered by the sense of power which the excuse gives him, yet his own weakness forces him to use the gift also as a way of winning the other’s loyalty.

All three are in the end just different expressions of a fundamental desire for peace. And in attempting to satisfy it men devise systems of rules with which to replace the laws of the jungle. They are thus able to establish an order which is preferable at least to their destroying each other. Man’s development may well have led to a chaotic profusion of different human types, but ethnological studies have cut through this apparently impenetrable thicket and revealed, beneath the manifest contradictions, the single path which man, unconsciously perhaps, attempts to follow.

What this amounts to for the purpose of our argument is the child inherits, as it’s specifically human qualities, the ability to reason and the “recognition” of others. But these features … singled out in the writings of … sociologist and psychologists … are really nothing more that the defining characteristics of man in society. The capacity for thought and the need for an alter ego both presuppose a cultural environment. (Emphasis theirs.)

* * *

The preceding discussion provides some information that sheds some valuable insight on the role of the environment in the shaping of one’s innate potential, as well as how one’s intellect and acculturation undergoes its development. A particular emphasis is given to the presentation on the biological time-clock with respect to the mental development of our youth as this discourse continues.

“Man is only what he is made to be by his external circumstances,” as Malson cites Itard in our summary of this discussion (p. 80). “He enjoys from the enviable prerogative of his species, a capacity of developing his understanding by the power of imitation, and the influence of society.” And in his own words he concludes (same page): “But he cannot achieve this on his own. The lessons and examples which he requires are provided only by his human surroundings and by the magic of his surrounding relationships with others. Itard was right that, without education, there is scarcely to possibility of man, let alone the promise.”


1. See Restak, pp. 258-265; Rose, pp 198-202; Neubaurer and Neubauer, p.133.
2. Rose, pp. 199-201.
3. Rose, pp. 199-201.
4. Malson, pp 117, 143, 166 & 167.
5. Neubaurer and Neubauer, pp. 44, 45 & 28.
6. Restak, pp. 130-138

The Lion Cubs

The Lion Cubs

(This excerpt is Chapter Three of the book Future In Our Hand: Institution Building For Supplementary Education)

by Leon Dixon, Jr.

As a twig is bent, so grows the tree.

It is important for us to recognize that the acculturation process for our children starts at birth. The human brain develops most rapidly during the first two to three years of life. After all, it is starting from zero in terms of its perception of the world’s environment and the realities it will have to deal with. (In the Textbook of Pediatric by Waldo E. Nelson, M.D., D.Sc., we find on page 15: “At birth the human brain is about twenty-five percent of its adult size. In the first year of life it undergoes around fifty percent of its postnatal growth and another twenty percent in the second year.”) In these first three years the child develops the capacity to process the information he receives through the five senses. The child can understand verbal language before he can talk and body language before he can walk. He learns to discern the moods and disposition of others. Most of what we speak of as learning, in many ways is only the icing on the cake, the tip of the iceberg or merely the finishing touches. It is like putting the body and paint on a car after everything else has been assembled. As it is with a business, it is the start up that is most crucial or how you set up shop that makes or breaks you. As with a computer, it is the software compiler you install and the operating environment for that compiler you set up that determine how the computer will function, how it can be used and what it can accomplish. In these first three years the brain is setting up preparations for lifelong journey or should we say “the journey of lifetime.”

From birth we should create an environment for our babies that is conducive for learning. This environment should be culturally enriching, enabling our babies from birth to develop a strong sense of identity. Our young lions will need to know who they are and whose they are. From birth our babies should engage in mentally stimulating activities.
To emphasize the importance of early training, consider this account by the Nobel prize winning physicist Richard P. Feynman given in his book What Do You Care What Other People Think (p. 12):

Before I was born, my father told my mother, “If it’s a boy, he’s going to be a scientist.” [Feynman’s father was a Ph.D in physics, also.] When I was just a little kid, very small in a highchair, my father brought home a lot of little bathroom tiles—seconds—of different colors. We played with them, my father setting them up vertically on my highchair like dominoes, and would push one end so they would all go down.

Then after a while, I’d help set them up. Pretty soon, we’re setting them up in a more complicated way” two white tiles and a blue tile, two white tiles and a blue tile, and so on. When my mother saw that she said, “Leave the poor child alone. If he wants to put a blue tile, let him put a blue tile.” But my father said, “No I want to show him what patterns are like and how interesting they are. It’s a kind of elementary mathematics.” So he started very early to tell me about the world and how interesting it is.

Notice that Feynman’s father had definite ideas on how he was going to work with his son, even before he was born. Notice how, as a small child, Feynman was having fun while he was learning. (By-the-way, I might add that dominoes are recommended for young children to play with. They can be used to develop pattern recognition skills, counting and elementary strategy.) Feynman has also pointed out that as he grew up his father would take him for walks in the woods and point out to him how the wings of various birds are designed to accommodate their different flying needs. Birds that needed special speed had wings shaped one way, and birds that soared had wings shaped another way. He said his father did not concentrate on the names of the birds as the fathers of his playmates were doing. Feynman said that a playmate once told him, “Your father wasn’t teaching you any thing,” because he could not identify a particular bird. Feynman explained that every bird is called by a different name by the people of different cultures. That was not the important thing. What were the characteristics of the bird? “My father,” said Feynman, “was teaching me aerodynamics.” (That is what the people who designed airplanes did also.)

Einstein’s father and uncle ran a small electrochemical factory. Although young Einstein had no interest in formal instruction, his uncle introduced him to algebra and the Pythagorean theorem. Einstein enjoyed solving algebra and geometry on his own. When he was around fourteen years old a series of popular books on natural science made a great impression on him, which led to an interest in theoretical physics. Regarding his works on relativity, Einstein said that he had been meditating on the fundamental problem concerning the velocity of light since he was sixteen,

The importance of early training and development cannot be over emphasized. I was reminded of that during a conversation I had with my former high school homeroom teacher, Ms. Evelyn Mayfield. She shared wit me a remark made to her by a Jewish acquaintance: “If your people don’t take your gifted and talented young people and develop them, you’re going to be lost.” For me, this statement is axiomatic, a basic truism. I would add, however, that there are very few, almost no, children that have no gifts and talents. The challenge is to find out what they are and help to develop them. At the very least we should try and determine what each child is good at and work with that child to fulfill his/her potential. As one of my professors at Texas Southern University told his class: “Everybody can beat every body else doing something.”

I once heard a child psychologist state that “there is one thing that all five year old children have in common with geniuses—curiosity.” Children seem to come into this world naturally curious. They want to know about everything. It is all too often that adults put a damper on this very thing that is essential for creativity and genius. For example, Kim Edwards, a staff member of the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center, speaks of an incident she observed once at a laundromat where a young boy about three years old was fascinate by the sight of clothes tumbling in a dryer. The child approached his mother about it. “Go sit down,” she said. But the fascination would not go away and again the child approached his mother about it. “Didn’t I tell you to sit down?” The curiosity of a young child is as tenacious as it is vivid. However, after a third rebuff, the child finally sat quietly, never having his curiosity satisfied, his desire for knowledge met nor his efforts to learn rewarded. This child was asking the type of questions a budding genius would ask. However, faced with his kind of rebuff, clearly a significant and vital portion of his potential could be snuffed out. Instead, if the mother had been wise she would have taken her child to an empty dryer and shown him the ridges on the inside of the cylindrical drum, and then explained to him that a motor rotates the drum and the ridges lift the clothes up until they have to fall, and that hot air is blown into the drum causing the clothes to dry. In this way she could have helped her three year old develop his analytical capabilities. This is the kind of dialogue and development that most, if not all budding geniuses receive. The various forms of creativity need to be encouraged. The type of curiosity that leads to discovery, that leads to understanding, that leads to exploring concepts needs to be allowed to flourish. This curiosity is part of the natural developmental inertia that all children are born with.

People who are around children in their early years, including persons other than parents and guardians, need to look for signs of talents. Children soon start to manifest gifts and talents early in life, and they need to be acknowledged, encouraged, worked with and developed. Indeed, there are some talents that need to be developed as soon as possible.
I was watching a public television program about sled-dogs wherein the trainer kept going on and on about the importance of the lead dog. He pointed out that his particular leadership traits are very special and how not every dog has them. His leadership skills are so crucial to the sled-dog team that they had to start training this future lead dog while it was still a puppy. Quizzically, the reporter asked, “How can you tell which puppy has the characteristics to become a lead dog?” The trainer explained: “When a litter of puppies are born, you watch them. There is always one who is the first one out of the box, the first one to start poking his nose around to venture out, and the other puppies follow along after him. That’s the lead dog!”
This raises the obvious question, “Is this also true with people?” So I began to observe young children and reflect back upon the childhood of people I know–friends and family, for example. And sure enough I saw the same phenomenon. Could it be that the young children who exhibit these characteristics are potential leaders? Keep in mind that a leader is not necessarily the wisest, the smartest, the most knowledgeable or the most intelligent. A leader is quite simply one whom others will follow. And every area and aspect of different fields and communities has its own leader.

To verify this hypothesis would take time—years. The next best thing was to talk to others who had worked with youngsters over a long enough period of time and could discuss the development of their various and particular talents with the kind of authority that is derived from experience. From long time and retired teacher, elders of families, long time little-league coaches, church elders, etc., came the resounding affirmation. They all observed the same phenomenon. Leadership traits as well as other characteristics begin to show up early.
Moreover, there was one particular characteristic that one of our staff members, Cornell Perry, Sr.., of the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center, observed that I think is worth further exploration.
For a little background on Perry, to underscore why his opinions on this matter are worth consideration: Perry, as of this writing, has been a little-league baseball coach for over twelve years. He coaches eight, nine and ten year olds and has never had a losing season. His teams are perennially in the city play-offs and he has won the city championship twice that I know of. I point this out because boys at this age know next to nothing about baseball. Also, since his team is in a predominantly white league, they face the usual amount of racism. Sometimes it is quite blatant. He lost one game 8 – 12 and the opposing team did not even get a hit! The racism he faced with his eleven and twelve year old basketball team was equally as blatant. As a result of not having lost a league game in three years and winning by lopsided scores, he was “encouraged” to move up to another level or move on to another league! Perry and his assistant coaches taught their charges, the lion cubs, to win in spite of the prejudice. In this world we live in, racism is a given fact of life. It just has to be dealt with. You acknowledge it, you abhor it, you grapple with it, you figure out how to overcome it and move on. You cannot wish it or its effects away.
Perry’s observation: “the talents that our kids have show up at a very young age, although what is normally nurtured and exploited are their athletic abilities. You can see similar potential across the board. But what usually happens to these kids, because of their superb athletic abilities, they get pampered by adults and the other kids in our communities.
“These kids are given a false sense of security and signals that they can rely solely on their athletic ability to achieve success. They consequently become lazy when it comes to academics and far too many are allowed to do just enough to get by and seldom do they teach their full academic potential.
“This occurs because the media has set the tone in our communities that the quickest way out of the inner city is through sports. And to perpetuate the myth, we as a community, allow these kids to showcase their talents in sporting events even when we know that some of them are not performing academically as well as they should. Or we give them preferential treatment so as not to hinder their chances for athletic success.

“But even among these kids, there are one or two that stand out above the others. There is something even more special about them. It is just something that they have. They are the trendsetters and are usually the most popular kids in school. And since they are their schools best athletes, with suspected professional possibilities, they are treated like royalty by a small contingency of their peers. Their activities and ways are mimicked by a lot of our other youngsters, for better or for worse. They are natural born leaders with the ability to influence whole student bodies.”

Perry’s hypothesis: “If we can identify and guide these particular youths in a positive direction, starting at a very early age, their effects on our communities could be staggering. If we can develop their natural athletic abilities, with their natural leadership abilities these young people would become very positive influences affecting whole neighborhoods, families, communities for a whole generation.” Perry calls this “the disciple theory” based on the premise that our youth are influenced more by their peers than by adults and how the teachings of the disciples of Jesus affected generations. If Perry’s observations and hypothesis are true or even partially true, and many of the indicators seem to suggest that they might be, then that suggests that this is a strategy that we need to at least try. But again, the key is early recognition of talent and the early beginning of its development.

There is even more graphic evidence why such early development is essential. There have been children discovered who have been brought up by wolves. (See World Children and the Problem of Human Nature by Lucien Malson and other works on feral children.) The social scientists and psychologists tell us that if these children are rescued before the age of about ten, eleven or twelve (before the onset of puberty), then they might be civilized. After that it is too late. The acculturation processes and mechanisms of the brain have been set. You may say, “But I can learn a different language at, say fifty.” Yes, you can, but that is because you already know and understand a language. You, therefore, are not learning a human language for the first time. You are using your knowledge of a human language that you already know, one that is second nature to you. To learn a second language, you brain does not have to be reprogrammed to understand the way humans use language. The linguists say that if you are not familiar with human language by then, you cannot be taught any human language. The point is this: basic and fundamental life trends start developing early; basic and fundamental thinking styles and patterns start developing early; basic and fundamental behavioral traits start developing early. The first few years of life are extremely critical and their importance cannot be overemphasized. (There is even some folk wisdom that a dog will determine in its first few months of life, say two-to-four, just which one of the members of the household will be its master. And also, that a dog’s training must begin early. Recall the saying about old dogs and new tricks!)

There are those who would argue that it is never too late to reach a person. And even a fifteen year old “wolf-child” can be civilized, to take an extreme example. We are not going to debate the issue. However, suffice it to say that any such attempt would require a Herculean effort. The spirit and will of a “T’Shaka Zulu” would have to be summoned. Let us consider a more typical situation. It is common wisdom among people who try to import knowledge to others that it is much easier to teach something to someone who has not been taught anything, than it is to try to teach something to someone who has been taught the wrong thing. Once an idea or concept is ingrained it has to be dealt with first before a new or different one can supplant it. This is not to be confused with building upon old ideas that lead to development. In this instance the old idea is not necessarily ‘wrong”; it only needs enhancing. The case we are referring to is an old idea, concept or way that has to be eradicated and discarded and replaced with a new one.

Children start learning early just what they can and cannot get away with—just what is and what is not expected of them. Consequently, any environment children find themselves in, the adults in charge are going to have to lay down the laws right from the very beginning. Things cannot be allowed to drift. The tone has to be set. We must begin to prepare the way for our lion cubs in order that they may proceed along the path that will lead them to become the young lions we need them to be.

It is often argued that one of the primary reasons why we African Americans do so well in athletics and entertainment is that we devote so much of our energies into those fields in our formative years. Not only are those activities enjoyable, but they also contain the lure of a fun way to achieve economic independence. They appear to be the path of least resistance. And almost everything in nature seeks to take that path. I say “almost” because there are lessons to be learned from studying the salmon, which is an exception to that rule. The salmon swim upstream. They do that because their survival depends on it. They do not use logic or reason to realize that is what they have to do. It is in their genetic code. Humans generally tend to follow whatever path their acculturation leads them. Again, considering the parameters of this society, we African Americans will have to do some swimming upstream. It is logic and reason that tell us that. Logic and reason also tell us that there will be significant resistance along the path we must take.
One of our tragedies is that so many of our youth hocus so much on feast or famine endeavors—like athletics and entertainment. Too many of our young are walking the “razor’s edge,” often so blinded by the glow of fools gold that they do not even see all of the former travelers who have fallen into the quicksand and pits-of –miry-clay along the way.
In the public television program “The Brain” it was pointed out that whenever a reasoning process or physical activity is performed, neurons and electrons blaze a path through the brain. A comparison was made to a well-traveled path in a forest that became a well-worn trail that any traveler could follow. Another analogy would be the trail or tracks in a dirt road that evolved after enough cars had passed along it—eventually a car would not even need to be steered along it. Likewise, after enough “runs,” mental and physical processes and procedures become second nature.

As an example, the series showed Olympian Greg Louganis doing one of his fantastic high platform dives (naturally they showed it in slow motion). The narrator commented that Louganis had been diving for so long and had done this particular dive so many times that he did not have to think about what he was doing. It just flowed. His muscles instinctively knew what to do. This activity had become as natural to him as walking or running was to ordinary folks.

This illustrates the advantage of early exposure, training and drill. This instilled second nature to perform a given task, whether physical or mental, when begun early is to a child’s advantage. This is especially true if concepts and analytical processes can be instilled early, for early development of reasoning, logic and analytical ability can have tremendous consequences in later life.
Far too many of our young harbor the illusion that they only need to have street smarts, mother wit and common sense “to make it.” On occasions when I am asked to speak to a group on this subject, I often employ techniques that I learned from one of my high school teacher-mentors, Dr. Chester R. Anderson. I ask those who think, believe or feel that they have common sense to raise their hands? Every hand in the audience usually goes up. Then I ask how many of them could perform open heart surgery to raise their hands? Nothing! Then I ask how many of them could fly a 747 jet? Again, nothing! Then I would proceed to tell them that common sense would carry them only so far; after that you have to know something. Those with common sense should have enough common sense to realize that they are going to have to learn something—that common sense is something you start with that you have to build upon. Again, we will need to acquire this knowledge early. By the time the lion cubs reach their pre-teens, the tendencies for many of the attributes they will use in the shaping of their lives will have set in.
There is a saying that “between the ages of about fourteen and twenty-four you can’t tell these kids anything. It’s not until they turn twenty-five that they begin to realize that mamma and daddy had a little sense after all.” I sort of compare this stage of their lives to “the back side of the moon.”
When a space craft is sent out to circle the moon, radio contact between the earth (parents) and the astronauts (children) is lost when the spacecraft begins to go around “the backside of the moon.” At that point the people on earth can only hope that all the programming, spacecraft maintenance, engineering and astronaut training has been properly done and everything will go well. While the space craft is on the “backside of the moon” the astronauts are out of the earth’s contact and are completely on their own. The people on earth just keep their fingers crossed, hold their breath, pray and hope everything is going to come out fine. When the spacecraft begins to emerge from the “back side of the moon” and radio contact is resumed, the people on earth give a great sigh of relief. And the astronauts do, too.

When young adults reach twenty-five years of age and begin to experience what the real world is like, they begin to communicate better with their elders.

But in order to make a successful journey around “the back side of the moon,” things have to be right going into it. It is virtually too late for any unfinished preparations. There is not time for confusion. You have to know what you have to do and what to expect and what is expected of you. You will have no time to wrestle with your identity or to figure out your basic responsibilities.
This brings us back to why early preparation is so crucial. There will be situations on the “back side of the moon” that they will have to be prepared to deal with. If they are not prepared, disastrous consequences could result. If they are prepared, then profound growth can occur and keen insight can be developed through the experience.
In his book, Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys, pp 5–15, Jawanza Kunjufu discusses how he observed children up to the fourth grade to be eager to learn, bright-eyed, attentive and all of that. But after the fourth grade these characteristics seem to diminish. He called this the “fourth grade syndrome.” He goes on to analyze reasons for this that we will not go into here. For our purposes, we will accept his findings as true and use it as a working hypothesis.

However, it behooves us to recall the discussion in the Interposition Section about the child’s capacity for imitation being maximum between the ages of four and eight. This sheds some additional light on the “fourth grad syndrome.” The fourth grade child is about nine years old and children of this age, according to the research findings, are beginning to advance beyond the stage where their imitation faculties are predominant, which implies that other faculties are coming to the fore. And failure to take this into account in the pedagogical process may contribute significantly to the “syndrome.”

Again fourth grade children are about nine years old. Young people approach “the back of the moon” at about fourteen. This means we have about a five year period to concentrate our efforts to make sure our lion cubs do not lose their developmental momentum.

Let us draw further on the spacecraft analogy. Just before lift-off, the astronauts (babies about to be born) position themselves for the launch (birth). Any other preparations required from or for them should already have been make. The people at command center (parents) are standing by monitoring the event (birth) and readying themselves to man the controls (guide and direct the new life). The mechanics, engineers, computer programmers, etc., (doctors, nurses, etc.) double check to see if “all systems are go.”
During the launch, the astronauts (babies) feel a tremendous amount of pressure. The people at command center (parents) have a tremendous amount of anxiety. After all, lift off (birth)—escaping the gravitational pull of the earth (severing the umbilical cord)—is one of the most dangerous parts of the flight (life). The spaceship (body) uses up most of its energy during the first stages of the flight. A space ship is launched into the heavens under certain conditions. Similarly, a child is born into the world under certain conditions. In the case of the spaceship and its astronauts, its course and mission are predetermined. A child, on the other hand, will have more freedom in choosing its course. Still, each will have to navigate its course with the equipment it has. Each will receive directions, advice, influence, etc. from outside of itself. But the further he or she goes along the way the more he or she will have decisions to make and responsibilities to carry out.

As the space ship travels along, mid-course corrections will have to be made due to both predictable and unpredictable circumstances. This brings us up to the “fourth grade syndrome” and the approximate five year period before we start into the “back side of the moon.” We do not want to lose all that we have worked for up to this point. Here we will have to do some constant monitoring and evaluating to determine just what kind of adjustments are necessary. The parents, community (people at command center and their entire support group) and the lion cubs (astronauts) will have to work closely together to deal with whatever circumstances that will be encountered.
In order for communication to be effective during this phase, strong bonds will have to have been established between positive adults and the young. Influences are like electromagnetic forces. They can be positive or negative. It is our task, our responsibility, indeed it is our obligation, to make sure that our lion cubs have far more, and stronger, positive influences acting on them than negative ones.

The major point we are trying to make here is this: Just as a typical person has developed about ninety percent of his or her physical or outer characteristics and potential by around fourteen years of age, about ninety percent of the mental or inner characteristics and potential are developed by then. To look at it another way, the mold has been cast and the clay is just about hardened. The only thing left to do now is to put on the finishing touches, place it into the blast furnace (“back side of the moon”) and wait and see how the finished product turns out.

However, in this analogy you can monitor the curing process and even influence it some—by altering the temperature for example.

There is a famous fable of the celebrated Ethiopian sage of the East, Lokman (often confused with Aesop), whose fame in Islam equals that of Solomon in Christianity. It is recounted by J. A. Rogers in his book Worlds Great Men of Color, Volume I (pp. 68¬–69):
A hare meeting a lioness one day said reproaching, “I have always a great number of children while you have one or two now and then.”
The lioness replied. “It is true, but my one child is a lion.”
What the lioness in this fable is expressing was her knowledge of just how special her child was. She knew full well that her lion cub would grow up to become a young lion with all the potential, along with the other members of its pride, “to lord over the land.”
We must see our young children in this same light. We must work to see to it that they have every opportunity within our capacity to give them to fulfill all of their innate potential. This will be no mean task. It will require dedication and commitment and time. Let us bear in mind that a child can be conceived within fifteen minutes. But it will take nine months to give birth to it and about twenty years to raise it. Altogether that is about twenty-one years of hard work and labor. And it can be and should be a labor of love.

Young Lions

The Young Lions

(This excerpt is Chapter Two of the book Future In Our Hand: Institution Building For Supplementary Education)

by Leon Dixon, Jr


Each generation out of relative obscurity must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 206
In the preparation of our youth, we should strive to imbue them with the sense of purpose of carrying out the "Fanonian Quest," as inferred in the above quotation: Of discovering their mission and leaving a positive legacy by fulfilling it, lest they betray it. This is no easy feat and to accomplish it requires understanding of the reality of certain aspects of our third decade of life--our twenties.

For many areas and endeavors in life our most creative and innovative years are in our early twenties. There is evidence of this in a wide variety of fields, from the humanities to the natural sciences. And furthermore, in virtually all walks of life the development we undergo in our pre-twenty years is the cornerstone for later achievement. All this does not mean that important works are not carried out in later years. Each age group has its role to play, its work to do and its responsibilities to carry out. But we need to fully appreciate the tremendous role to be played out by our young people in their twenties and how what is done during this period impacts the later years. Many, if not most, of the characteristic breakthroughs that define new standards and new ways of looking at and doing things are done by individuals in their twenties. It is primarily from them that we get the pushes and surges that propel us forward.
Consider the field of mathematics—a cerebral and abstract subject. Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh state in their book The Mathematical Experience, pp. 16-62:

The mathematical life of a mathematician is short. Work rarely improves after the age of twenty-five or thirty. ... If greatness has been attained, good work may continue to appear, but the level of accomplishment will fall with each decade.

Considering the natural sciences, which are both theoretical and practical, Thomas S. Kuhn writes on page 90 of his book The Structure of Scientific Revolution:
Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have always either been very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change.
It is interesting to note that Kuhn says "very young or very new." A person who is very new to a field brings to it what the very young do--fresh ideas and a fresh outlook. Also, a person who is very new to a field can bring to it knowledge and understanding from another field from which to draw different analogies.
Our focus is the very young. All they have is new and fresh ideas and an abundance of energy to explore them with! This is why so many earth shaking concepts come from them.
The contributions coming from the very young can be increased by insuring proper preparation of our youth. This will have long range social benefits for two reasons. One: by increasing the talent pool of well-prepared youngsters, there will be more persons to make valuable contributions. And two: the contributions made by those very new to a field will, for the most part, be a consequence of knowledge and insights they have acquired while mastering other fields when they were very young. History is replete with verifications of this hypothesis that so many earth shaking concepts come from them (people in their twenties).

By way of example, let us recall that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in his mid-twenties when the Montgomery bus boycott began. Fortunately, he was prepared for the task. The same can be said for Booker T. Washing who at twenty-five founded Tuskeegee Institute (now University) and Mary McLeod Bethune who at twenty-nine opened up a school that evolved into Bethune College (now Bethune-Cookman). Also, at twenty-eight, W. E. B. DuBois had published his first major book The Suppression of the African Slave Trade. Similarly, Frantz Fanon was twenty-seven when he published his first major work, Black Skin/White Mask.

This dynamic is trans-discipline and trans-cultural. Consider the arts. Charlie "Yardbird" Parker and John Birks Gillispie were in this same age group when they pioneered "bebop," revolutionizing jazz. Consider the sciences. Albert Einstein was twenty-six when he published his Nobel prize-winning work on the photoelectric effect, and later that same year, 1905, his paper on special relativity (Einstein had published papers on physics as early as 1901). When Isaac Newton was in his twenties he had begun to grapple with many of the ideas that he later would present as theories on gravity, force, notion and calculus. Years later, Newton was persuaded by his friend Edmund Haley (of Haley's comet) to complete and publish these works. The result was the famous book The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in short, The Principia.

It also noteworthy to point out that most of the memorable pictures of these people were taken in their later years, this subliminally overlooks the fact that much of the profound work that they did was done while they were young.

Also make note of the fact that at thirty, Marcus Garvey organized the Universal Negro Improvement Association, through which he mobilized the largest-ever number of Black folks in the United States. Also, Malcolm X and John Coltrane were both in their thirties when they made the world take notice. What should be emphasized for our purpose, is that much of the ground-work and preparation for these accomplishments were laid down while the purveyors were in their twenties. Even when there are good and great works performed after the third decade of life, much of the foundation for them was laid down earlier. None of the individuals operated in a vacuum or in isolation. They were products of their space and time. They and their contemporaries influenced each other while operating out of the tradition of their predecessors.

It should be realized that most of the contributions made by people in their twenties will be made on the family and community levels. Their energies are needed to inject new life and new ideas into both their families and their community. They will help their elders by doing such common place things as helping them understand and fill our various forms or to operate the latest technological gadgets. As they join community groups, including churches, social and political organizations and neighborhoods, they will bring new enthusiasm, concepts and energy to burn. This fresh energy will find its way into such activities a tutoring, coaching and mentoring many of the younger children in their families and communities. We tend to take these contributions for granted, and perhaps well we should. But this is precisely the point. We need far more of our youth to be in such a position. Far too many are falling by the wayside by becoming involved in drugs, crime, gangs and other kinds of self-destructive activities. A significant amount of talent is lost and mis-directed, or trapped within the prisons of this nation.
When the W. E. B. DuBois Learning Center had its tenth year celebration, Bob Law, the host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Night Talk" was invited to speak. While he was in town, we took him to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he spoke to the inmates of the federal prison. When he observed how well organized the were, he was moved to exclaim to them: "We need you brothers on the outside...we need people who can organize like this on the outside...we can't afford to have this kind of talent locked up behind bars...brothers with this kind of ability are needed on the outside." When Ossie Davis spoke at the Learning Center's fifteenth anniversary he recounted an occasion when he spoke at a prison on the East coast. As you might guess, his remarks to those inmates echoed the same theme.

Clearly, what is needed is for our young people to be out there, available and active in our families and communities. We are at a major disadvantage when they become ensnared or bogged down by the negative forces at work on them; or when they lose their way--our way; or when the get diverted in any way from positive activities. It is urgently incumbent upon us to realize this and work to see that they get the guidance and preparation they will need. Most of our young people are not even aware of, let alone understand or appreciate, their opportunities. Listen to Lorrain Hansberry (who was twenty-nine when her award winning play "A Raisin in the Sun" premiered on Broadway) as she addressed some participants in a United Negro College Fund writing contest (page 263 from the book To Be Young, Gifted and Black), "...I say to you that, though it be a thrilling and marvelous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic--to be young, gifted and black. Look at the world that awaits you!"
The significance of the contributions that young people in their twenties make should be appreciated. So should the continued growth and development that takes place then. For it is clear that much of the fire that will blaze in our later years will have been sparked in our twenties, if not earlier. Even though that fire may smolder awhile before it combusts, for most of us, much of the fire that will burn throughout our lives was ignited in our twenties.

I suggest that there are essentially three reasons why these bursts of ingenuity occur during these very critical years. First: Physically, our bodies are at their peak during our twenties. Second: Psychologically, while we are in our twenties, especially our early twenties, we have not quite become set in our ways. It is much easier for us to receive new and fresh stimuli, accept new ideas, perceive new insights and conceive new visions. Most of this happens because we have not yet become acculturated along the established societal and professional norms. We have not been sufficiently socialized yet. Consequently, we are better able to see some of the shortcomings of the existing ways of doing things. This is often a prerequisite to conceive new and different concepts. These new concepts may range from the unfeasible, to the very simple, to the truly revolutionary. Many youth at this age have a feeling of invincibility. They are daring, willing to try new and different things and to take risks. In actuality, they have time to recover from the failures that indeed most of them will have. As we age we become less likely to take these kinds of chances. We have acquired too much to risk losing. The older we get the more costly mistakes become. We develop a growing sense of caution, conservatism, and deliberation with the advancing years. Fortunately, we also develop knowledge and wisdom that we can offer our young people. The third reason for our burst of ingenuity in our twenties is that sociologically, most of our elders, are still in pretty good shape and do not require attention and care from the family. During that same, if we have any children, they will be young and not be as demanding as they will become as we grow older. Also, during this same period of our lives, we probably will not have become too stressed out, allowing us to focus more on our chosen areas of work. It is during this period that we have the greatest opportunity to focus on our chosen goals, areas of work, or talents.
However, we should all clearly realize that this peak period, this optimal opportunity is ephemeral. While we are in our twenties, and it is our time to "make hay while the sun shines," the time is coming when our parents' health will begin to fade. We then will have to take on more and more responsibilities. We will need to support our parents in their efforts to make the remaining years of our grandparents as comfortable as possible. Simultaneously, we will be required to give increasingly more attention to our own growing children. (Recall the joy and pain of the teen years!) Depending on the spacings between generations, and other variables, this phase could occur at any time. In essence, what needs to be acknowledged is that we may not have as much time to reach and fulfill our potential as we think we do. And, we usually never fully recover from opportunity lost.

The manner in which our young people have used their time, up to this point, is extremely critical. They will assuredly leave their "footprints" on the sands of time one way or another. They are the warrior class, the young lions. (Although we are focusing on the third decade of life, the range of this class has been defined from fourteen to forty.) These young lions have the highest energy level. They are in an excited state. It is their time to move. And, if they are prepared they are in a position to make quantum leaps forward. A point that Haki Madhubuti made in a lecture in Kansas City was that "If this energy is not used constructively, then it may be used destructively." Robert Bly express this in his book on Iron John (p. 179): "If a culture does not deal with the warrior energy--take it consciously, discipline it, honor it --it will turn up outside in the form of street gangs, wife beating, drug violence, brutality to children, and aimless murder."
From our young lions we get pushes and surges that propel us forward (or backwards). They serve as a barometer of the momentum of our movement. The status of our young lions is indicative of the forces at work in society and the effects that these forces and our young lions will have on the rest of us. If they are in a physical, psychological and sociological healthy state, they will have a positive impact on the development and progress of the community, family or group into which they belong. If not, their effects will be detrimental. Whenever this status is positive, other members of the group can more readily contribute toward the group's advancement. Whenever this status is negative of at a standstill, come of the participation of the group that could nave been directed towards positive contributions, will have to be diverted into efforts to counteract the negativity, causing the progress of the group to range from decreasing to reversing. Thus, the young lions are key to the survival and progress of any group.

The charge of our communities or groups is to channel the energies and activities of their young lions into positive areas. Failing to do this will, and I repeat myself, cause energy and activity of other group members to be diverted into dealing with the problems generated by the counter productivity of their young lions. This is energy and activity that otherwise could and should be directed towards the groups' overall progress.

This is analogous to the turnover in the turf battle game of football that results in a fourteen point swing ( the seven points your team could have gotten plus the seven points that your opponent did get.) But the game we are discussing, the game of life, is infinitely more serious and the consequences are infinitely more dire.
If our young lions are to fulfill the productive and positive potential which our progress requires, they will have to be prepared and ready when their appointed time comes. And let us keep in mind that time is transitory, and figuratively speaking, like the life of the Mayfly, short lived. At that time the foundations and fundamentals necessary for creativity and innovation in their chosen areas of interest will have to be second nature to them. Our young lions simply will have to be well-grounded and well-versed in whatever fields their talent lay in order to make progress and breakthrough contributions. The quality and quantity of their contributions will be commensurate with their preparation. In the reality of this life, (as a fellow co-worker, Edward Ford, often quotes his former junior high school principal as stressing) "if you fail to prepare, then you prepare to fail." Not only will our young lions have to do the right thing, they will have to do the thing right, and then do the thing right away. And if they do not take the time to do it right, they will have to take the time to do it again.
The situation is statistical. The more of our young lions that are prepared (quantity) and the more that our young lions are prepared (quality), the more competent contributors we will have making positive and productive contributions. Since most new ideas will not work anyway, we will need a lot of ideas in order to extract the few that will work. The Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling, who also "intuited the molecular origin of sickle-sell anemia" (See Physics Today, May 1990, p. 82), on a public television program responded to the question "Where do you get the good ideas?" by answering, "First you get a lot of ideas and then you throw out the bad ones." Figuratively speaking, for example, it may take one hundred ideas to get ten worth trying, and out of that ten that are tried perhaps one will work. And from those few ideas that will work we nave to extract the even fewer that will be outstanding. That is how we increase the probability of having some truly remarkable contributions that can affect the activities of generations to come.
In order for our young lions to produce, we need institutions in which they can exercise their gifts and talents. Some young lions may seek to establish their own institutions. But most will utilized the existing ones to employ their skills and crafts. The organizational and coordinating skills need to create institutions tend to be held by older members of the group or community. Therefore, we must insure that the mechanisms exist in our communities through which our young lions can be helped to develop.
I reiterate, there is a certain amount of knowledge and wisdom that comes with advancing age. Our young lions will have to be acculturated so that they not only respect that knowledge and wisdom but actually seek it out. Among the many ways they can both acquire and learn from the knowledge, wisdom and insight from the elders is by listening to them and by reading works by and about them.

In all forms of activities and aspects of family, community, and society, the young lions leave their mark. Their impact will be felt directly or indirectly. Their consequences will show up sooner or later. They will affect the higher-ups and the lower-downs, the professions and the professionals, business and labor, the services. etc. There is no area of society that can escape their influence. One way or another they will have to be dealt with. The question is, Just what kind of influence will the young lions make? Will our young lions collectively be an asset or a liability?
This will be determined by the manner in which they have been challenged, channeled and allowed to develop. As individuals, they will be a result of all of the forces that acted upon them and the collection of these individuals forms a basis for their group. Hence, the position the young lions will be in at their appointed time will be like a weighted sum of each member of their group. The historical impact of their group will be like a weighted sum of all their actions in their times and reactions of their times.
The development of our young lions cannot be left up to chance. Chance favors the prepared mind. If we just let them drift like a raft upon the sea, then they will be blown in whatever way the winds of society will carry them. And when we consider how the parameters of the society are set, the consequences for the African-American community are obvious. Our current drug situation, teenage pregnancy fates, rampant crime rates, joblessness, homelessness and hopelessness are in no small way a manifestation, metaphorically speaking, of the difficulty our "ships" are having trying to navigate the troubled waters of society. All of these are examples of the result of the destructive uses of energy that was referred to earlier.

I repeat, the preparation of our young lions is the charge of our communities. They have to produce enough young lions who are motivated enough to seek new horizons and are prepared to meet the challenges and champion the causes that await them.

Meeting these challenges and championing these awaiting causes, will often be the responsibility of the warrior who is in the service of a higher calling, a transcendent cause. The warrior employs strategy and discipline. A soldier simply obeys and fights. Warriors defend their space, their ideas and culture and those things held sacred. It is the warrior within that causes one to singularly pursue a certain field, discipline or profession against all odds and nay sayers, and focus his or her energy. Thus, warriors have careers, professions and/or callings, whereas soldiers simply have jobs. It is the warrior spirit that causes one to forge ahead, to conquer new territories, advance new thoughts and ascend to new heights. The warriors are defenders and purveyors of "the way."

And as our young lions, our warriors, proceed in the pursuit of their calling, it will be most beneficial for them if they do so with the blessings, and encouragements of their elders. Young lions will certainly need all of the encouragement that they can get in order to successfully meet the challenge of the "Fanonian quest and dichotomy" by first discovering their mission and then fulfilling it.

Osirian Legend


Short Bio's

The Childhood of Booker T. Washington

The Childhood of Booker T. Washington

The Childhood of Booker T. Washington:

And How He Made it into Hampton

A Drawing Book for Self Expression

Compiled & Edited By Leon Dixon

(Based on his autobiography Up From Slavery)

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W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center Homepage

01 Hello there










Booker T. Washington: Hello there.

It is often said that one's childhood experiences shape one's future. Let me share some of my experiences as a young man with you.

02 My Early Life

My Early Life





I was born on a plantation in Franklin County Virginia. I don't know the exact place and time. But I I've been told that it was in a log cabin near a crossroads post-office called Hale's Ford. It must have been around 1858 or 1859.

I know almost nothing about my family's history. In slavery days, very little attention was paid to the family history of Black folks. I do remember that my mother had a half brother and a half sister. I also remember hearing old folks' whispered conversations in the slave quarters. Many of them were about the tortures that Blacks had to suffer in the slave ships that brought them from Africa to America. I am sure that my ancestors on my mother's side endured that trip, which is known as the middle passage.

04 My Early Family Lifestyle

My Early Family Lifestyle





Our cabin was poorly built. It had no glass windows. It only had openings in the sides to let in light. Those same openings also let in cold air in the winter. In the summer the heat from the open fireplace was equally as trying. As for sleeping arrangements, my older brother John, my sister Amanda and I used a pallet made from bundles of filthy rags laid on the dirt floor.

Our mother had little time to care for us during the day. She did snatch a little time for us in the early morning before she started cooking, and at night after she finished. One of my earliest memories is of her waking us up late one night to eat a chicken she had cooked. I don't know where she got it, but I'm pretty sure it came from our owner's farm. If someone did something like that today, they would be considered a theft. However, given that it happened during slavery, you could never get me to regard my mother as a thief.

W.E.B DuBois Learning Center Homepage




by Leon Dixon, 1994

The mindset of many of our youth is running amok, generating behavior to the detriment of us all. It is my belief that if we are to eliminate this plague we are going to have to look deep within our own culture for the cure. No one else will be able to do this. And we will have to be proactive and approach this much like the way the medical community would handle an epidemic. That is, we have to take preventive measures while simultaneously treating the ailments.

Attacking culture plagues will take time and we will have to employ studied and measured responses. A speaker on C-Span explained that it takes four things for the advancement of a civilization, a nation, or a people. They are:

1. A shared sense of the sacred.
2. Definition of what that means.
3. Institutions to develop, foster, and implement the desired concepts and ideals.
4. And leadership for all of the above.

This provides us with a framework that we can use to address our pressing concerns.

Giving Meaning To
“A Shared Sense Of The Sacred”

The concept of “a shared sense of the sacred” takes on spiritual, although not necessarily religious, overtones. Some examples of this are the concepts of:

1. “Integration” that led to the historic “Brown” decision in 1954.
2. “Black Power” in the 60’s and 70’s.
3. “Quality Education” in the 80’s and 90’s.

What was missing with all of these was a clear definition of what they meant. People were left virtually on their own to give meaning to these concepts. And a lot of confusion set in as to just what were the objectives or goals.

“A shared sense of the sacred” at its essence is something that we all believe in. And that is why I submit that we have to look deep within our own culture to find such a concept. When we explore its depths, one of the things that we find resting within the cornerstone of our survivability is “THE SANCTITY OF THE MOTHER.” It is this ideal that I propose we resurrect, give definition to, promote, and instill within our youth.

In the scientific community there is a premise dubbed “the law of parsimony,” which emphasizes that the simplest possible explanation or the shortest possible answer is the best one. In this light, I suggest we keep this concept simple by defining as a PRIMAL IDEAL that: “Each person in our community is to be regarded according to the relationship they have with their own mother.” Indeed, I submit that this PRIMAL IDEAL is a valid predictor for the quality of relationship that can be developed with any of us. I know that this is a sociological argument, and therefore perhaps has its exceptions. But I steadfastly hold that this is the prevailing indicator. The type of love and respect a person has developed for their own mother forms the basis of the type of love and respect that they can develop for you. The type of loyalty to, honor for, and treatment given to one’s own mother is the highest form of these attributes anyone can expect from a person. How can you expect to trust anyone who is not even trusted by their own mother?

Let me address some words to the young ladies of our community.

If you want to determine how a young man will treat you, consider these three things:
1.How does he treat his mother?
2.How does his father treat his mother?
3.How does he treat the other women in his family?

Again, this is a sociological consideration and there may be some rare exceptions. But if any, and especially if all, of these signs are bad—beware! You simply cannot expect any better treatment from any young man than that which he gives to that one person he loved first and foremost.

This deification of the mother lies deep within our culture and goes back to the dawn of civilization when we first began to divinize manifestations of life-giving and life-producing things and substances as females. That is why we have to this day such expressions as “mother earth” and “mother nature.” In one of her many roles the ancient Egyptian goddess, Isis, is an aspect of this deification. This PRIMAL IDEAL of THE SANCTITY OF THE MOTHER reaches into every crevice of our cultural experience since time immemorial. It crosses all boundaries. It has no detractors. Every one of us supports this premise.

If we could universally get our youth to live up to and honor this most primal of ideals, then I think we would make a major step in the rehabilitation of our communities. I say “step” because there is no limit to where this simple concept could lead us. And again I say, let us keep it simple. We only need require for starters that each one of us relate to our own mother in this manner. If we just start with this, I will project that it will lead to greater things.

Among the tenets that should be enforced are:
1.There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to raise one’s voice at one’s mother.
2.There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to disrespect one’s mother.

These are to be adhered to, even if one feels that their mother is wrong. If things seem to be getting out of hand one must exercise enough inner discipline to simply remove oneself politely and respectfully from their mother’s space, as I once heard Haki Madhubuti explain. Indeed, honorable treatment of one’s mother is to be highly admired and praised.

Of Our Institutions

Among the many responsibilities of our institutions is that of transmitting values. In chapter three of my book, Future In Our Hands, I discuss the concept of an implicate order. This is an unseen , or implicit, order that influences the flow of things. In one sense, it can be thought of as the underlying structure of our environment, its infrastructure, if you will. It is sort of like a current that carries things along. In other parts of the book I discuss how this implicate order is shaped, both consciously and unconsciously. One of the key ways we can consciously shape this implicate order and our cultural environment (an explicate, or explicit, order which is a manifestation of it) is through our institutions. Our families, our civic, social and religious organizations, etc., are institutions that we have enough control over to consciously shape and give direction. If the prime movers and participants of our community-based institutions consciously promote this PRIMAL IDEAL of THE SANCTITY OF THE MOTHER to the point that it is actually instilled in our institutions and aggressively acted out and expounded on by the many movers and shakers throughout the community, then we would, I think, begin to see a positive difference in the disposition of our youth.

I submit that if we could establish this principle throughout our community of love and respect for that one person who is supremely important to each and every one of us, everyone’s first symbol of a deity—one’s own mother—it will only be a matter of time before it spreads out to other parts of our community.

On The Leadership Required

If the above suggestions are to work, they will require leadership. Now, a leader is quite simply someone who can get others to follow. This means that leadership is displayed in many forms and takes place on all levels.

On the peer level. this means that those in leadership should subscribe to this PRIMAL IDEAL to the extent that when anyone influenced by them violates any tenet of THE SANCTITY OF THE MOTHER, that they become chastised, ridiculed or scorned. It should be made obvious to them that such behavior, whenever it occurs, meets with disapproval. And conversely, behavior in keeping with this PRIMAL IDEAL is to be met with admiration and praise.

Younger people tend to look up to older people. So this same dynamic should take place here. We all should insist upon the internalization of this PRIMAL IDEAL to the extent that our community expects our older youth to correct our younger youth whenever and wherever they observe them violating any of its tenets. Indeed, these actions should be sanctioned, just as upholding its precepts should be encouraged.

The more prominent and visible leaders of our community should help promote and explain the meaning and significance of upholding THE SANCTITY OF THE MOTHER. They should help to make clear its underlying precepts, its depth and its profundity. And together we all should be poised to move it to higher levels.

Of The Men And The Women

Let me speak of the men.

All the members of the brotherhood that I have ever known have this feeling about their mothers that mere words cannot explain. It is something you just know and feel. I can recall as though it was yesterday how even the wimpiest boy would gain respect from his peers when he would fight over his mother. (In these times a few even kill, as was graphically illustrated in the movie “Menace II Society.”)

It takes some tremendous imagination and creativity to capture the essence of this PRIMAL IDEAL. And therein lies the challenge for our bards, seers, speakers, and griots to rise to. Their vision and eloquence are needed now as never before if our youth, in particular our boys, are to see clear.

Now let me speak to the women.

As has happened so many times before, a most awesome burden rests upon your shoulders if we are to be successful in this endeavor. It has been written: “To whom much is given, much is required.” You are the focus of this PRIMAL IDEAL of THE SANCTITY OF THE MOTHER. All eyes are upon you. The extent to which you carry yourselves to be worthy of this “sanctity” that is bestowed upon you is a measure of our very essence.

It takes an extraordinary amount of wisdom and patience to instill in our youth this character. And herein lies the challenge for the caregivers: to raise our youth to bestow this honor on their mothers; and to raise our young girls—our mothers of the future—to be prepared to receive it in their appointed time.



World of Our Dreams

01 Cover

03 Prelude Steppin'

04 Chapter One Seven Steps to Heaven

05 Chapter Two Giant Steps

06 Chapter Three Stepping Iinto Tomorrow

07 Chapter Four Steppin' Out

08 Interlude Congo Square

09 Chapter Five Observations

10 Chapter Six Contemplation

11 Chapter Seven Innervisions

12 Postlude Familiar Waters