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Rites of Passage
Developing Healthy and Authentic Communities


East End


The Drum



To institutionalize a process that will result in the development,
support and regeneration of Healthy and Authentic Community


The Rites of Passage Institute will provide the Training,
Programming, Evaluation, International Field Trips
and Dissemination of Information to develop
a critical mass and community of servant leaders.

Click here for information on Developing a
Rites of Passage Program

Creating and Supporting The Village to Raise the Child

The journey of life is a series of passages that must be bridged to fulfill our purposes for being. The Journey begins with birth and ends with death. Life is a succession of stages or passages. We are not unlike the lobster. The lobster grows by developing and shedding a series of hard protective shells, Each time it expands from within, the confirming shell must be sloughed off. It is exposed and vulnerable until, in time a covering grows to replace the old. With each passage from one stage of human growth to the next we, too, must shed a protective structure. We are left exposed and vulnerable also yeasty and embryonic again, capable of stretching in ways we hadn't known before.
Above, Passages youth participant with mask she has created. National Rites of Passage Institute, Cleveland, Ohio.
Everything that happens to us, birthdays, baptism, graduation, getting a job, losing a job, marriage, childbirth, divorce, death--affect us. Adolescence as a stage of life is one of the most difficult and important. It is that period of time in betwixt and between. It is that prolonged period of development between childhood and adulthood.

In the photo above, a group of young adults in the Stars Program take part in an initiation ceremony at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.
Countless young males and females in contemporary America who refuse to assume the responsibilities of adulthood, and who are consumed by childish narcissism, condemn themselves to the Peter Pan never-never land of perpetual adolescence. In traditional societies the in betwixt and between period of childhood and adulthood was regulated by family/community so that age class members or individuals in a group successfully came to know themselves and purposes for existence. However, there existed a clearly defined state of existence or passage in their lives.
In traditional societies there was little room for the "unplaced person" who had yet come to terms with his/her society. In part the creation and extension of adolescence is a reflection of a casual motif in modern social structures. The distinctions between the developmental stages of a person's life in American culture have become blurred. A chasm has been created with respect to an individual's development from childhood to maturity; it has been filled by a loosely defined adolescence that can appear to have no end. Passages youth participant with mask she has created. National Rites of Passage Institute, Cleveland, Ohio. In the photo above, a group of young adults in the Stars Program take part in an initiation ceremony at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. The photo below shows adult initiates in Toronto, Canada. Both of these ceremonies were organized by the National Rites of Passage Institute.
The photo above shows adult Rites of Passage initiates in Toronto, Canada.
This casual motif is further evidenced by the decline of ritual and ceremony in a secularized world. Formalized definitions of transition such as graduation or religious confirmations play a relatively minor role in our social life. The function of ritual is supposedly to imbue an event with meaning; in a modern context, ritual seems to trivialize an event. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that a secularized urban world has lessened the need for ritualized expression of an individual's transition from one status to another. An increasing number of individuals are forced to accomplish their transition alone and with private symbols. The casual motif in modern society may eliminate the dramatizations of the passage from childhood to adulthood, but is does not necessarily eliminate the felt need for the individual to undergo that transition. The failure of modern society to dramatize or take serious the need for such transition during adolescence has contributed to disruptive social groups such as youth gangs and the mid-life crisis of the "unplaced" or "uninitiated" persons.

Shown above is the Passages Leadership Group of the National Rites of Passage Institute. This group is attending a two week Summer Enrichment Program at Piney Woods Country Life School, Piney Woods, Mississipi in July of 1997.

Rites of Passage as a developmental and transformational process is culturally-specific, not universal. It is based on the multi-cultural premise that a group must recognize and affirm itself before it is able to share and appreciate the differences of others. Rites of Passage as a process also recognizes that entry into adult life involves the realization of social obligations and the assumption of responsibility for meeting them. What initiation does is to set a time on the journey for bringing the individuals into formal and explicit relation with their kindred. It also confronts them with some of their basis social ties, reaffirms them and thus makes patent to them their status against the days when they will have to adopt them in earnest. Rites of Passage as a developmental and transformational process will not only provide self-development and cultural awareness, but will foster a sense of belonging; adolescents and adults will become part of community life- not persons alone, lacking support, sanction, and purpose.
If you know of a smart, talented boy or girl in grades 7-12 who would benefit from a challenging, but stable environment check out:

Founder of the Rites of Passage Institute, Paul Hill, Jr. is a husband and parent of seven children. He resides in East Cleveland, Ohio and is a Graduate of Ohio University, Athens, Ohio and The University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin. As a Licensed Social Worker, He has over twenty years of service in line and Social Services Administrative positions. Since, 1981, he has been CEO/President of one of the oldest settlement and neighborhood centers in Cleveland, Ohio The East End Neighborhood House (Founded in 1907).
In 1989, he received a W. K. Kellogg Leadership Fellowship. The three year Fellowship enabled him to travel world wide to study male socialization among indigenous cultures. In 1992, he authored Coming Of Age, a book on African-American male socialization and life cycles development. He has also written and published numerous articles on Black Child Development, Rites of Passage, Ritual and Ceremony, African-Brazilian and West African History and Culture.
You can send email to Mr. Hill at:

NROPI Directory

Cikunza mask - Zaire and Angola, Jokwe. Made of branches, resin, beaten bark and fibres. This mask imposed the authority of the man directing circumcision rites. The next rite of passage that a young man faced after his circumcision ritual was usually initiation into one of the secret societies in his region.

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Address: 2749 Woodhill Rd.
Cleveland, OH 44104
Phone: (216) 791-9378

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Rites of Passage Institute