Two books have inspired me and my love for our elders, one I just recently recieved in the mail and finished it the same day! Kindezi The Kongo Art of BabySitting, by the brilliand K. Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau and A.M. Lukondo-Wamba. This one has an introduction by the powerful scholar, Dr. Marimba Ani. The other book is called, The Way Of The Elders, West African Spirituality & Tradition by Adama and Naomi Doumbia Ph.D.
Both works go into a brief but important understanding of the role of Eldership in the Afrikan communities. We need to link our youth and ourselves to them postehaste. Without this link we are damned I feel. We remain disconnected from our recent past and disconnected from that wonderful ancestral memories under the roots of that silvery hair they may have. In order to recognize an elder we should be able to...err....ummm....recognize an elder! According to the Doumbias, from The Way of The Elders, “ We hold in high esteem those who come befor us and possess more experience and wisdom…our elders are fluent in the language of our ancestors…They teach us all of the prohibitions, violations, and remedies for our communities…Elders are our negotiator, moderators and counselors.”
This description of elders puts a lot of responsibility not only on the elders but on us to learn of whom an elder is and to follow that wisdom they give us. From Kindezi we learn in the intro by Dr. Marimba Ani, “Elders in Afrikan Society are those who have become physically more frail, but who are spiritually stronger because they have grown further in personal development and have moved closer to the Ancestors, to the spiritual world and to the “Source of Life” itself (Kalunga). An “elder” is not just an “old person,” but is someone still “mentally and spiritually strong and wise enough not only to maintain the community united but, above all, to build the moral foundation of the community of youth and of generations to come.”
The elders are crucial to child development and the promotion of the holistic health of the community. We speak all the time of the children being the “future” but provide them with no elders stable enough to be that foundation of wisdom upon which they can develop properly. For our well-being it is crucial that we have that intergenerational transmission of not only information but the wisdom to use that information. We must have valuable energy transference between the men and women in our communities and the elders who hold that special place or rather should hold that place. It is incumbent upon us to make the connection between the elders and our children.
In our individual communities we can make the process start by finding wise and learned Afrikan elders, and gathering the children in a formal or informal setting to sit at their feet. Have the children ask basic questions about the elder’s lives and let the elder just go at it! Please feed the elders, do for them, assist them and if you can pay them something for their precious time. We need to bring our minds and spirits to them and the minds and spirits of our children to them. This will not only show we have reverence for them but our willingness to learn further and take on the mantle of liberation!!!