I conducted interviews
to better understand: (1) the purpose of rites of passage in general and
specifically in the African American community; and (2) to gain further
insight into how self-concept and education are influence rites of passage.
I interviewed five people familiar with rites of passage process. Three
(Jon - husband, Joan - wife and Sara - friend) of the five are Jewish.
They were interviewed as a group. My other two interviews were with African
Americans. I refer to the interviewees as Donna and Mike. Both were initiated
into the Akan Tradition Model of "rites" by Anthony Mensah. Donna had recently initiated
into "Rites"; less than 2 months. She had dropped out of high school
to get married. Presently, she is a mother of two, divorced and a college
student. I hoped she would contribute perceptions from a parent, student,
and as a new initiate. Mike has been involved in "formal" Rites
of Passage about four years. He is a father of two, married, and a professional.
I hoped to gain insight from a person that has been involved with "Rites"
long enough for it to have a "lasting impact." Also, Mike was not
initiated into the same kollective as Donna. It was my assumption, given their
different situations and length of involvement, that each will have a different
Joan and Sara
Joan and Sara Interview
GOGGINS: I am conducting
an interview with Jon and Joan, and Sara as research for my Master's Thesis.
First I just want to make sure that I have everybody's permission to do so.
THE GROUP: Yes.
Sara: Can I start with
Sara: O.K., to me, traditional
Judaism is a way of life. And from the very beginning, that foundation is
with the family. The most important thing in Judaism is the family. It's the
raising of the children, the love, the nurturing, the teaching, all these
things are very, very important. We do not take them lightly. And, I think
that's the real cornerstone for what you would call it success. Along with
it there are several burdens too because we have great expectations of our
children. You know, I think a lot of times our children feel that they are
driven, because of the responsibilities that we have placed on them. The Bar
and the Bah Mitzvah is a perfect example because of the responsibilities that
they have got to accept for that service, and the meaning behind the service,
that once they complete that process, the learning process, then they are
legitimate carrierson of the tradition. They are able to then be a part
of the community, the religious community in conducting services and being
part of the minyan. So it's a tremendous responsibility, and it's not taken
lightly. It think it's typical of a Jewish parent, the way we rear our children,
and our values. There are things I know,with my children growing up, that
they would say to me, "why do I have to study so hard? The kids in my
class don't have to." And I would say because "you are working toward
a future. You have responsibilities" and even when they were very young.
Communication is very important
in a Jewish family. Jewish people talk a lot. And there's always this dialogue
back and forth. And we allow our children to disagree with us, That's O.K.
We want them to think.
Jon: The sixth or the seventh
commandment of the Ten Commandments is "thou shall not, thou shall revere,
and thou shall listen to your parents." (laughter) So, it's not the opposite
way. Honor then, honor. . . well it's honor. .
Sara: That's true. But
we also make them realize that what they have to say is important, too. I'm
not saying that they should have carte blanc to disagree. No, no, no, I'm
not telling them to rebel, God forbid! We've had this discussion. If you act
in a certain manner, then the outcome, you have to realize that the outcome
can affect all of us. That you don't live in a vacuum. The family name is
Jon: Very important. In
Jewish religion, there's no dialogue, there's selfprescribed laws and
you should live by them. It may require patience maybe, but the laws were
given wherever, on mt. Sinai, wherever they were given, a set of laws prescribing
how to live and how to die and how to raise children. It supports all. It
isn't a question of dialogue.
Sara: Dialogue, sir, comes
later, later on when they're older. When you have already hopefully instilled
these values in the.
Joan: He's talking about
the law that was prescribed 3,500 years ago when Jews were in the desert,
coming out of Egypt, to the promised land. And then's he talking about the
twentieth century United States, where Jews are in a plight that we face today
in the way our children are raised. And in between, there is a variation,
there's a variation. He's talking about our Torah, which is a book of Law.
And in the book of law there are prescribed certain behaviors. It's really,
if you take the books of law, it's the five books of Moses. And many, many
interpretations of that go on really for a 1,000 years. The interpretation,
and many books were written about, "what's that mean? What's that mean?
What does it mean to honor our parents"? What does it mean? It means
that when they are old, you're supposed to take care of them until they die.
It means that. It means that you wash their feet till they die. I mean they
discuss everything. What it means about though shall not steel. What if you're
hungry? On and on, there're a million questions about every little part of
the law. The Ten Commandments is just a little unit of the center. And there
are the books of law, and then there are the interpretation of the books
of laws, and there are different books. And then the way people make adjustments.
You know they say the biblical time, "An eye for an eye." They did
not mean that today kill somebody's eye, or even then did they mean that.
The Rabbis explain what it means, the equivalent of what is worth an eye,
that means you have to pay in damages. So people say, "Oh Judaism, an
eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Say you lose your tooth. What is
to pay? You have to pay for reparation. All these are questions of interpretations.
But I want to go back to the Rite of Passage and speak to your issue, and
why some many of Jewish kids reach a high level in education, and not only
now. It goes through our history. I want to say several things. First of all,
they emphasis on education is tremendous. Then they mentioned the family.
The family is the first unit of education. It repeated in every way possible
from the beginning of time. The responsibility of the parent is to teach the
youth and the children the Su bonton. The word, it comes from a Hebrew word
meaning teeth. You chew it up to them, like with you teeth, until its broken
down, until they understand it. You chew it up for them. Su bonton means repeat,
repeat, and repeat it. And we say that if we repeat a hundred times, and a
hundred and one times is better than a hundred times. And so this responsibility
is the parents. Every one of our holidays, in our life cycle, the holidays
were directed toward teaching our children the different methodology. To make
the children accessible to ideas that may be to too abstract.
Sara: And along with that
teaching comes in how you live. It's not a matter of just saying it. You have
to live it for your children. It's not just a matter of do as I say, because
you have to do it as well. You are the role model for that child.
Joan: I want to go through
some stages. There are some more generalities. At birth when a person, and
we talked about this before, they receive circumcision, which is on the flesh
of the boy. . . he's already a part of the covenant, which means responsibility
and it means work. In a world when he feels like that time when they called
themselves holy people, people that had a certain responsibility, but their
reward that they are really God's people. They fit, so they fit very good
about being a part of the group.
Jon: They appear?
Joan: If they belong to
the group, if they belong to the group. And you belong to that group. So when
the child is born, sure that child and that family doesn't have some responsibility,
but the identity is in the flesh.
Sara: It's symbolic.
Joan: It's symbolic. And
it's interesting that in the time of this ceremony, the Rabbis or whoever
does this particular ceremony, he says this child, it is the eighth day, they
do it after the eighth day, to make sure the child is alive and has some strength.
They say thirteen years from today, it will be Bah Mitzvah. And we talked
about the Bah Mitzvah. And he's still approached with such and such. They
announce already that it will be his responsibility to do the reading, because
every we will read the Torah. we will read a certain section, I know that
on my birthday, every year at that day includes this Torah. So my grandson
is going to be Bah Mitzvah in June. We know exactly their birthday, and I
look at the calendar and I know it is Torah Week. In the Bah Mitzvah, they
say he will read, they say like that, (Yiddish) which means "the little
one will grow to be a big one." The possibility will be he will be raised
up within his section. So that is the first one. The child is only actors.
You know, later on, as we mentioned before, today children go to Sunday School.
In the old days, they studied. They go to Sunday School. They go to Hebrew
School. Hebrew School starts in the third grade. And children go after school,
sometimes twice, sometimes three times, sometimes four times, after school.
The children say, why do I have to study all the time? To learn a foreign
Sara: No, this was just
in public school.
Joan: Besides the Sunday
School, regular school, I mean, I know that there's a very, there is a stigma
Jon: Now, now, you said
one thing that is very correct. That is that Jewish religion is a way of life.
We live it. The day you were born, the circumcision, it's the first initiation
of the part of the covenant. That's what the meaning of circumcision is, it's
the covenant, the contract that God made with Abraham and every male is a
part of it. Then the rest is education. . . we live. . . it's a way of life.
It's not only one time a year, it twentyfour hours a day. For good or
bad it is the Jewish way of life.
Joan: Jewish life goes
4,000 years, if you look back. In so many different countries, Jews live differently.
They don't only live differently, they tell you that they are Jewish people
who come from Ethiopia, they're darker than you. They carry a different burden
also, see, they are definitely identified. . . besides being a minority in
the region, wherever they are whether in Ethiopia or Yemen, so dark skinned
people, so Jews live in many different environments, but it is something that
we are talking about that is common to all. Maybe they have sing the tunes
of the Torah, in different tones, some Yentl, some European, but it's still
the same text. It's the same religion, it's the same text. They go back to
the old land of Israel or Canaan. In Bah Mitzvah, I want to speak a little
more about the Bah Mitzvah. At age thirteen, it used to be only boys, but
not its girls too. The United States, they started with freedom for women
with equality for women, and girls say I go to Hebrew School, and I cannot
read the Torah? So, they have Bar Mitzvah for girls also. After five years
of going to afternoon school, or day school, a person is qualified to enter
the preparation of the Bah Mitzvah. If you did not study five year, you cannot
enter. Now that's in our constitution. We have problems, sometimes children
live in let's say, Salem Ohio. It's very hard for them to come to the Hebrew
School here. Sometimes we have children from Dover and New Philadelphia coming
into Canton. Sometimes the teacher goes to teach there. Or Sometimes we make
accommodations, that after Sunday School, they remain and study privately
with the teacher. So those Jewish children who live far away from a solid
community really have a hard time. But you'll see the dedication of their
parents to drive them every Sunday to Sunday School.
Sara: My husband's a perfect
example of that. He lived in Kentucky. His family was the only Jewish family
in the area. The closest place that had a temple was Lexington. So every Sunday
his parents took him and his sisters because it was important to them. And
we all have to make sacrifices, that part of it. Because it's the sacrifices
that bring the rewards. You don't get something for nothing.
Jon: Regardless of what
we do and how it's performed, and how it's achieved, does not change the definition
of it. The definition is that at thirteen, a Jewish male regardless of whether
he has any studies or anything, becomes an independent person, responsible
on his own before God, he becomes an adult, where the religion is concerned.
Regardless of how much he knows, what he does or what he says. But he's regarded
as a person on his own, responsible for his actions. Before God, an action,
he has certain responsibilities, and religious practices to perform. Regardless
of what he had. . . education, of whether he had a formal celebration. But
by the law, they, the old religion is set up, a man at thirteen, a boy at
thirteen, becomes independent. Bah Mitzvah means "son of the commandments."
He's responsible on his own. Judgment is coming from his own, the parents
are not responsible for his sins or good deeds anymore.
Joan: In the Bah Mitzvah
ceremony, traditionally, the father say, he say (Yiddish) "thank God
that I'm free from this responsibility for the sins of this young man."
Jon: Stop now! How it developed
in the rituals that's another part. But basically, in Jewish law, you need
ten men, or women now, to have an official service. You need a quorum. At
age thirteen, you are counted in the quorum. So at age thirteen, you are a
part of the . . .
Joan: There's a word, minyan,
MINYAN, this is a quorum of ten, this is a formal
service. That means everyone by himself can pray in the morning by himself,
perform the morning prayer, but together everyday, for several days, they
come in, and they call it a minyan, it's just a short service. I go back to
the Bar Mitzvah, the Bar Mitzvah grew with the years. Today it's a bigger
thing than it used to be in the past. Today maybe because of the hardship
of going after public, you know when Jon when to school, or my father went
to school, they went to Jewish school all the time. So to be Bar Mitzvah was
very natural. But when they went to public school, here, and then after they
move there, they have bigger sacrifice, they want to have more of a reward,
and they make a big party, and they receive a multitude of gifts. So the child,
so when my son was Bah Mitzvah, he was ecstatic. He was so well prepared.
He could not wait to do the performance. He carries the whole service. They
do, they stand up before the whole congregation. And if it's Bah Mitzvah,
it's a full house, So they have to be able to read Yiddish, they have to be
able to read Hebrew, They have to write a speech, They have to interpret stuff.
They are really caring the role of the Rabbi. And if you are too bashful,
many think you have to sing or to carry a tune, you have to know a lot of
the prayers; conservators, they like to sing, if you go to the Conservatory,
they sing they whole service. So it's really a big undertaking, it's a big
accomplish. And to see the big party for the adult and a big party for the
youngster. And they sing, And I asked my son, "what did you feel about
your Bah Mitzvah"? He said, I feel it was wonderful? What was so wonderful?
And not just my son, believe me, I ask a lot of young people. And they said
the most wonderful things was that in one time in my life, I was the center
of attention. Everybody look on me.
Sara: My kid said the same
Joan: I did not share it
with my wife when we got married, I did not share it my parents, like in the
_____________ and all the celebration, It is the one single time that I was
in charge, and I had to perform and it was a real high challenge, but it was
worthwhile making the effort. So, we also as educators, we see the Bah Mitzvah
as a window of opportunity. Because kids don't really like to go to Sunday
School, their behavior is a problem, Sara reality knows, she was a teacher,
I was a principal. They cannot say a lot of the time that as a kid grows,
there won't be a problem with discipline, a few might be disruptive, but when
it comes to the year thirteen, the year of their Bah Mitzvah, they're very
serious. They don't want to shame their family. They want to do good. So I
call it a day, a time of opportunity, and we like to put the most in that
year, in values and knowledge, and teach them a lot. Some Jewish education
ends right there, and after that they no longer attend school. But not now.
Really now they go to the confirmation. To go to Confirmation might be in
the tenth grade, or maybe the eleventh grade, Confirmation is another challenge,
but hey, it's not individual, it's a whole group, a class and every one has
a part; to write something, but it's a class together. And confirmation, it's
a kind of a commitment. I want to review several steps. We talked about the
circumcision, which is where you enter the covenant, then there is religious
school, which we call it consecration. It is just for the first time they
look at the Torah, the book, and I mentioned to you last time that the rabbi
passes to them honey so they associate sweets with the Torah. The Torah is
sweet, the Torah is life. And then you have the Bah Mitzvah and then the Confirmation.
After that you come to wedding, you know. I don't see how it's any different
than a Christian wedding, really, the Jewish wedding as far as commitment,
it's very similar. Right?
Sara: We are very fortunate
in the Rabbi that we have in the community, because he personalizes each
and every one of the weddings. It's just a beautiful thing. I've been to
other weddings, Christian and Jewish weddings, where it's very impersonal,
you know. But being that we have a small community, our rabbi is intimately
involved with the people and the children. I mean when my kids come home,
he knows there's coming home, he asks about them. Now, with e-mail! He's
writing to my daughter on her computer, and he's doing that with the kids
who have e-mail, to keep in touch.
GOGGINS: That's nice.
Sara: It's a wonderful
personal touch. And my kids have no, I mean, when they get married, they're
going to get married here in Canton Ohio because John is their rabbi, and
he'll always be their rabbi. You know, it's a lot of time and energy that
you put in, that you get back. There is a definite commitment. And what we
do, we take seriously.
Joan: I want to explain
some things to him.
Sara: My favorite holiday.
It's my favorite holiday. It's also the most different holiday.
Joan: When I mentioned
about the holiday being a tool of education, I want to take one holiday and
dissect a little, and show you that it's not just words. And maybe it is the
one that's the most meaningful and the most educative. We talk about the holiday
that is coming now. Now we are in the eve of Passover. The origin of the holiday
is agricultural. It's time to plant, in the country, all of the Jewish holidays
go with the agriculture, the holy land, Israel the agricultural cycle. So
Passover is _______________. In other cause for the Passover is the redemption
from slavery. Scholars disagree with about this, how many Jews went to Egypt,
how accurate is the story of slavery, how accurate is the Jews building the
pyramids? Is it true that six hundred thousand Jews of one family went to
Egypt, the family of Jacob, and four hundred years later, six hundred thousand
came out. They say in the Bible, it was six hundred thousand, exactly, I mean
they give you the number, and they divide it into twelve tribes which tribe
descended from one of the twelve children of Jacob. I will tell you what the
tradition says because that's what effects, see if you talk about Christianity,
what Jesus did while he was dead, or the immaculate conception, that's not
to discuss. The fact was that there was somebody there that made a great enough
impression on civilization that a great number of the world follow his teachings.
So that's the important thing. Not the story of his life and all the details.
Definitely; someone was Moses or not Moses. That is irrelevant. When don't
look at that so much. But the fact that there was exodus, Jews are trained
everyday from their home, and the fact that they mention it, and don't ever
forget your slavery. Your whole historical memory is that you were a slave.
And don't ever think that it happened 3,500 hundred years ago. Feel as if
it happened to you. That you have are a witness. Just like you feel that you
are a witness when Moses came and gave the Torah and he said the word, I know
it by heart. . . You are standing before me with you children and their children
and your families and your grandchildren, but not only you here but all the
generations to come for many thousands of years in the future. All of you
are standing before me. He said that. The thinking about Passover, when we
take the book, we have a standing book called the Haggadah, I'll bring Haggadah
and I'll show you. I probably have fifty Haggadahs, with different printing,
different decorations, from different periods of time, but it's the same text.
And it starts from the first, Jesus when he was in the first century, the
beginning of the first century, he used this Haggadah. Maybe there is some
addition to the text but basically, he used that Haggadah. And the stories
in the Haggadah are from his period of time, about people who lived and rabbis
who interpreted the Torah, and the law in his time. O.K., so you take the
whole book, and you look at it as in his period of time, Jesus for the sake
of the children. You have to start, you sit around the table at the Passover,
you sit there, and all the generations, try to get together. The oldest man
is the head of the Seder He sits on a pillow like in an honored place. And
everyone has this Haggadah, which I'll bring to you before you leave, I'll
show you, and they start with the same song that says, ancient song, goes
back to biblical days, is in Arabic to show you it was the time of Jesus,
they spoke Arabic a little different in Hebrew but it was very similar. So
they sing the song "everyone that is hungry join our table." Sandy
called me and said are your going to the second Seder, not one is enough,
so we go to the second, you going anywhere so join our table. It was at least,
our families were under big stress, I think I told you our daughter was in
a terrible accident so we didn't feel like making Seder, maybe go to Chicago,
I don't know. So see our friends remembered us and she don't laugh not in
Sara: When my kids were
in junior high school, I told them that they could invite a friend to the
Seder. And we (flip tape) Another year we had a one of the Catholic fathers
from the monastery. . . he had never been to a Seder.
Joan: Inviting guests is
very very important part of the completion. And then on the table, every part,
their is a centerpiece. I have seen many different kinds. It's a traditional
plate. On it, there are marks of what should be. And each one is a symbol.
The whole dinner takes hours.
Sara: It's narration.
Joan: Narration. Everybody
participates and there are many many
songs. And every time,
you know the head of the Seder, you know .the holy sacrament. . .
GOGGINS: Unleavened bread?
Joan: Unleavened bread.
Is three months old. See there, three. One would be for here, one would be
here, and in the middle those marks are the head of the Seder in the beginning.
He takes and he breaks in half, and he tries to hide it someplace. He's supposed
to keep the attention of all the kids to see where he's hiding it. And at
the end of the Seder, maybe three hours later, they all go to look for it,
and they get reward. We don't want somebody to cry so everybody gets something.
Whoever finds it tries to make it into two pieces. But that's a game, the
methodology, you know, they try to keep the kids awake. And they have at the
end of the Seder the Haggadah, a lot of funny songs, you know, see how long
you can sing in one breath, you know games they use. . . it's very educational.
I'm teaching Hebrew tonight.
Sara: But they're all Biblically,
their origins are from Bible stories.
Joan: The head of the Seder,
he holds the matzoh bread and he asks, it starts after we sing the song, all
the guests come in and the youngest child sings the song. He says, how is
this night different from all other nights? All other nights we eat everything,
right, just like we eat the unleavened bread? Why every night we eat all kinds
of vegetables; tonight we eat bitter herbs? Why bitter herb? He asks four
questions. He says, why every night we don't dip in salt water, but tonight
we dip many things in salt water, why the salt water? The last question is
why every night we sit in many different ways, tonight is very festive. What
is so special about tonight? That's the question. And the song is sung by
Jews in Yemen, in a different tune in Spain, and from Germany with a different
tune, and in Israel there's some new tunes and in American, right? But these
are the questions. And the rest of the Seder they have the Seder matzoh. He
takes the matzoh. He says, "you see this matzoh? We were slaves in Egypt
and we worked so hard and we suffered so much in slavery. He tells the story
and how we came out and there was no time to bake bread because finally Pharaoh
let us go and we had to rush and there was no time for yeast to rise,so they
just took the bread and because it was so hot, and really matzoh can be like
a pita, it cooks very quickly, especially on a hot especial the corn you get
it at one time almost like a pancake. And so quickly so we can run away to
freedom. As much as we want them to remember slavery, in the Torah in our
book it's very important to see freedom. And if a slave does not want to go
free later on when they gave the law, a slave sometimes said I don't, . .
in the seventh year Jews had to let slaves go free. So he said I don't want
to go free, I love my master. Then he's punished for that. He has to go free
he must go to be free. Because freedom is valuable. You should not say I just
love my master. Freedom is a higher value. So you first, "why the matzoh."
Then you ask "why the bitter herb"? So you know the bitter herb,
it is horse radish' and everybody eats them, on every plate we have a little
bit, and everybody eats the bitter herb and the fathers and grandfathers recall
that slavery is bitter. And what about dipping in the salt water? Because
of the tears we shed when we were slaves. Think how beautiful it fits into
slavery? Isn't that beautiful? Every item of that, the tears that we cried,
or take the egg or this . . .
Sara: But it also carries
through the whole idea of social action, and why Jews have been at the forefront
for standing up and talking against social inequality because we have been
brought up through stories through our history that freedom is to be valued;
it's precious. But none of us will be free until the last slave is given his
freedom. So there's a burden that we carry along with that. And never to forget
those people who are still enslaved.
Joan: And not only the
people have to be enslaved, even the land, so there's supposed to be a jubilation,
there is a seventh year you should not plant in the seventh year so the land
can rest. You cannot just pluck all the time you have to let the land rest
a little. Seventh year, you let the land rest. So these are some . . . you
see there are more here than four. . . one here, one here, you have a hardboiled
egg, some bitter herb, it's like Easter, it's to remind you of the springtime,
or growth. Then you have here some lettuce or parsley to see that everything
turns green; it's a part of our cycle. Then you have some bitter herb, and
I mentioned the bitterness of slavery. Then you have a nuts and apples, because
all the children love it, it's sweet, you put it with honey and sugar and
they love it. They make it sweet, they make it with lemon juice, they put
it on the matzoh and they love it. Before they taste everything they say their
blessing. So why the charoses, and again they say because we had the head
of the family says because we had to build the pyramids and we didn't have
material and we had to put together for mud and straw and try to make shift
some kind of thing to make the bricks. So remember the hardship that we did.
And then we have a bone, a shin bone, to remember the Passover Lamb that they
before they left Egypt they sacrificed a lamb, and they sacrificed a lamb
. . . O.K. so these are the different things, and you have each one the same
thing here. The egg and the water and all these. . . here it say in memory
of Passover, in freedom and redemption of our souls. So this is the heart
of it, it is a holiday and it lasts for seven days. And you're not supposed
to eat bread so it's you learn something from it. Most Jewish homes, you don't
see bread. Some people don't care that much about the tradition, but what
I'm telling you is what's supposed to be. And you can come to Canton to some
homes that have never had a Seder.
Sara: I remember growing
up in high school and I would bring my matzoh and my non Jewish friends couldn't
wait to eat it; they loved it. But there's something . . .
Jon: You know what it is?
You want to see one?
GOGGINS: It's unleavened
Sara: You eat with matzoh?
GOGGINS: Oh yeah.
Sara: But there's something,
you know there's a time in kid's lives when they want to be like everybody
else. But then there's a time when they appreciate being different. But in
order for that to happen, they also have to have an understanding of who they
are, they have a good strong identity. And this is what we try to do. Because
Jewish people living in a nonJewish community are living in two worlds.
And we have to balance both without giving up the other. You see what I'm
saying? So it's like a subculture within a culture. Even with our own language.
Because the beauty of that,and I had a discussion with somebody who was Catholic,
because the Catholic church was trying to do away with Latin in the service.
But Hebrew is very important because it's a link throughout the world, pick
up a book, a prayer book and read the service because it's the same language.
Joan: I'll bring some Haggadahs
and show you.
Sara: We were in Amsterdam
and one Friday night we decided to go to Shabat services. And it was wonderful
because we could participate. That's the strength of a language. It can be
a unifying factor, or it could also separate people out. So it has its strengths
for us as Jews because we feel part of a community wherever we go because
of that language.
GOGGINS: In talking, you
had mentioned the idea of dual cultures, or I guess the scholarly term would
be dual cultural reference. There's a book written by W. E. B. Du Bois in
1903, and it's called The Souls of Black Folk. And in it, he mentions
the idea of having what he called dual consciousness. Being in America how
Blacks had to have this at that point and at this point really still, warring
reference points. That identifying with America was to identify with the oppressor.
And how do you then come to terms with this? And I think something that you
said, the idea of once having a strong sense of identity and having that as
a base. . .
Sara: It makes it easier.
You know who you are in your heart of hearts. And I think that true for a
lot of people. Strong selfidentity is very important.
Jon: But see, my point
of view is that we have not adopted any other culture, but in doing this trying
to live our culture in the general society with the being able to live in
the same society, our way, and being a part of the other general community
in a positive way. We're not saying we don't have to give up ours, and we
don't have build ours up enough but we are and we need to adjust and be able
to function in life's society. Many times we would say it is it the same as
to say we should be, I'm going to put it in simple terms, to be a Jew home
in an American society. You should act like you're part of the society, and
at home you should act the way that your culture is.
Sara: And they can be compatible.
Joan: I want to say something.
If the society becomes intolerable for a Jew that he cannot practice his way,
two things happen. One, suddenly stuff for Jews took for granted and didn't
care that much suddenly become very dear to them, up to a point. Then they
are ready to give life for it, things that, uh, they didn't care that much.
But take it away from them, take away from the Jews in America certain freedoms
and you'll see Jewish identity grow a 1000 times stronger. If it is physically
impossible, then Jews leave the country. That's what happened in Spain, that's
what happened in Jordan, that's why we called the wandering Jews. . They pack
up their things and they go and most of the time they cannot take property
so they go with nothing. They go with nothing.
Jon: I have to go so I
want to tell you something else, why we adopt the way. Even with the strict
adherence to our rules and regulations, that we call it, Jewish Laws, and
even the ones that are Orthodox,there still is a way out because it is prescribed.
The laws of the country take precedent. If our rules of life that I should
cross the street here, I have a right. If it's a red light and the city says
no, then it takes precedent over my laws. If they interfere with my life,
then I have to stay home and do what I have to do. But the laws of the country
in the place where Jews live have precedent over our rules. Not in personal
behavior at home. I'll give you an example. Jews have a rule that for example,
how they bury their people. There is certain Jewish prescription on how you
bury people. In this country they say you have to be buried in a casket. And
it has to be closed. It's not a sin for us to do the way of the country. Many
times you find a way to make the interpretation. So if they say, . . strict
Jewish law, would make the casket there would be no nails in that casket.
Joan: It's not natural.
Jon: Under strict Jewish
law the casket would be very simple and shouldn't have any nails. The rule
of the country takes precedent over our behavior.
Sara: Because our tradition
says it has to decompose, it has to go back to the earth.
Joan: Another thing in
Judaism, there is a law about cashult, dietary laws. We, our group, not keeping
particularly to these laws, but Jewish laws from the Bible that you're not
supposed to eat meat and milk together, there are certain forbidden animals
that you don't eat, there are certain forbidden fish you don't eat, you know,
so there are a whole list, many many things that you cannot. And there are
some ways, also some ways to slaughter the animal. In the United States we
slaughter differently. Like in Judaism, they say blood is the soul, so you
don't eat blood, you don't drink blood. There are some societies where people
drink blood. In Jewish society, they don't drink blood. The kosher meat has
absolutely no blood at all. You know, they let the animal bleed until there's
no blood, then they soak it in salt until absolutely they don't get any blood.
It's just against the law. So in the United States, there's some people who
say the Jewish slaughter is inhumane because you know what they do now, they
give shock to the animal to kill it. Whatever they do it's not really so inhumane,
it's not any more inhumane than any other killing. There's no humane killing.
I'm not sure that they pig. . . you know Jews don't eat the pig. So there
is a law that Jews cannot have the keep the slaughtered. That would be a disaster.
For orthodox Jews, it would be a disaster. They would not, what they would
have to do, they will have to ship meat from Canada.
Jon: Some countries where
they have laws against Jews slaughter, spiritual slaughter, . .
Joan: So they bring from
Jon: No, no, they invented
that what you did was you gave electric shock to the animal, so that when
you slaughter it, you can slaughter it any way you want to because the animal
doesn't know anything.
Sara: Yeah, that went around
Joan: O.K., but there are
some, I'm just giving examples. . . . There are some things you can live with
and some things you cannot.
Jon: My point was that
in some instances, not in everything. It depends on if somebody if you get
the right Christian minister come and tell you I have to kneel down and I
have to pray because this is the laws of the country, I would not obey, we
would not obey. I'm talking about living in a society where there are certain
rules that they overrule some of our rules and behavior. You have to live
with them regardless.
Sara: As long as there's
no conflict with out basic value system, then we would disobey.
Jon: So we do adapt to
our society. . .
Sara: Within reason.
Joan: O.K., I mentioned
one holiday the Jewish calendar has many holidays, as I showed you in the
book, many holidays. And I think the holidays are a part of keeping the children's
spirit from going down. Some holidays like we just had a week ago. The _________
holiday where people can drink and by merry and wear costumes. And you need,
they celebrate the historical event of redemption from disaster. What really
happened, it's the time of the Persian rule and Jews were in exile. When the
king passed, everybody had to bow down. And Jewish law said that you only
bow down to God. Somebody refused to bow down and it implicated the other
Jews. And somebody suggested to the king, you know you have so many wars and
you coffer is empty; kill all the Jews, take their property and get rid of
this nuisance. These people don't bow down to your when you pass; they don't
give you honor. So this is a story. And the king fell for it, and he picked
a date from a hat. And the first date of that particular month, they will
destroy all the Jews in the whole kingdom.
Jon: This is the way it
is historically. There are two types of holidays prescribed in the Old Testament.
The Jewish holidays are prescribed in the Old Testament. The culmination of
events in the Jewish history. . .
Joan: And we have a couple
of modern ones. We do have some modern ones, there are not religious holidays,
but they're very important ones.
Jon: The interpretation
of the religious holiday is prescribed in the old testament.
Joan: Even there there
were three holidays that made people come to Jerusalem. People came from all
over, from the New Testament.
Sara: Can I get back to
one point about the Seder. You know you talk about teaching children. Judaism
is not a religion for adults. We try to incorporate everything in with the
children and have them have a sense of responsibility. Like the four questions
she was talking about. The youngest child has that responsibility or honor,
whatever you want to call it. So that, they are always involved. And that's
very important in the teaching of the children, that they become a part of
that ritual, and that they have a place along with it.
Joan: I have many Haggadahs
here, look, that is a Haggadah, with a decorative Haggadah, This is some of
ancient old decorations, see how you see head at the head of the table, and
the symbols that you see here, These are regular, if you come to my Seder,
the table looks just like that. Just like that. Then this is the part that
I told you they sing, they sing (she sings). Everybody wants to come and join.
I love I know all these songs from my childhood, I would sing them well. And
people love for us to come to Satres because I know all the melody. And they
love it. I sing it, my children fighting to see who would come and joins the
Seder because with us, you know, these are a . . . all these are . . . I'm
going to give you one Haggadah with you so you can see it. . . These are the
songs that the child would sing (she sings). This night is different from
all other nights. (She sings). So the kids is asking, and the grandfather
sits there. And it goes in a four part like this how this night is different.
That is published by Maxwell House Coffee and they give it free. I have many
of them. Maxwell give it for free, they give it for free. Here is the plate
and they tell you how to prepare for Seder and how it goes. So if you read
the English, some of it you'll understand, some of it you find very difficult.
Like here they have some stories that tells about how we came out of Egypt.
And here is rabbi Stitz . . . these are rabbis from the first century. I told
you these are all stories from the first century. And I tell you, here's Rabbi
_______, because that's when the book was put together. They talk in here
about four different sounds. There are four types of children. There is one
wicked one. He says, what are you doing here? That's your business, I'm not
a part of it, the one that is not including himself in the community. O.K.,
so, then there is one that says, he is a simple one. He says, yes, what is
this, I want to know, yes, teach him. And there is one who does not even know
how to ask. He sits there and doesn't ask much. He says, open, you don't have
to wait for him to ask. Teach him; he has to learn. See, we talk about the
different. And the first one is _______, he says, explain to me what are all
these customs of our people? He wants to learn to be part of it. Here's a
wise one, he teaches him and he becomes a part. The wicked one feels it's
not my business. He's a wicked one, he's not part of the community. But you
still have to teach him. Here it goes through the history of slavery and how
Jews came out of Egypt. Here it says what brought us up from Egypt. All kinds
of stories. Some people are actual impatient. They don't read the whole book.
And this is all translation, modern translation. These you can take on your
own time. I show you some more of the pictures. See, that shows Moses how
he see s that how, you know you remember that Moses saw that somebody went
and hit a slave, and Moses went and killed him. And he had to run away. So
this is a painting of this there. That's again slavery, all kind of stuff.
. . these are the four different songs. . . four different types. . . the
community. . . and on it goes. . . I'll show you more. . . See how the grandfather
is seated there. . . I'll show you. . . in the cheapest Haggadah look what
it says, (Hebrew) and though shall pay tell thy son in that day they sing
because of that which the Lord did for me when I came from Egypt. That's what
the grandfather tells the son. Not what it looks like for them, but what it
looks like for him. He was a slave. Look how he looks, He was a slave. He
came out of Egypt. It's really incumbent on the Jewish people to be sympathetic,
and to feel empathy for the suffering. That's why I told you that I think
that is the difference between Jews and Blacks in America. It is not excusable,
it's something that has to be worked out. That has to do something with the
society today, with morals and different economics. See, so it becomes more
a class problem. The people
GOGGINS: I have just a
little bit of tape left. I got a pretty good feel, I think. This is pretty
good and it's given me some things to work with. I want to go over with you
some of the major themes I picked up and you tell me if they are right.
Joan: Oh if you write,
I'll . . . when you write, I want to read it.
GOGGINS: The idea of historical
continuity. That it's important to like you say with the grandfather and the
son, that history is passed from one generation to another and that that generation
then becomes responsible to pass it on. So the history . . . linking
Joan: A chain. . . linking.
. . we call it a chain. . . linking. . . . . . linking. That's why we feel
bad for somebody. . . so intermarriage breaks the chain and then they broke
the chain and it's then end. That chain is finished for that part.
GOGGINS: So we talked about
the chain, and that's the history. Responsibilities and expectations from
the very first day. The child has expectations and responsibilities, even
when you say from the birth they know that on your thirteenth birthday, you
will read this particular part, so there's a certain responsibility and expectations
set up from the very beginning.
End of side A
GOGGINS: Looking at kinship.
It seems to be a very important thing. As Sara Miller, I mention in a minute.
Before you go into the world, there is something that links you all together,
the religion, the language. Also you're saying you also were a witness to
some, so you have kinship to those people. . .
Joan: What happened in
Sinai and what happened in Egypt. These are the two major events.
GOGGINS: I would say that
. . .
Joan: I want to talk about
two modern issues, modern in these days that impact upon our society at some
GOGGINS: O.K., there's
a centeredness about being able to adapt to the society, however there are
certain central values that do not change. All that you do focuses in and
around the Torah and the experiences of the people. So there's a certain centeredness
from which you'll be able to go around and participate in society. But you
always have that particular thing to fall back on, so you can always go out
Joan: The word ghettos
was the center of Jewish living. It was by choice that they lived there. To
be able to live their life, they wanted to live there.
GOGGINS: Also, you said
that the idea of family name, which it kinda goes back to kinship, but I was
thinking more of specifically the family itself.
Joan: The family name,
it's the family name is a very important thing. We didn't develop this concept.
We don't know what happened after death, we don't worry a lot in Judaism about
after death. But we keep saying what is important is our good name, our good
name. We know for sure, once we live, we have our good name. A good name is
better than good oil, (Yiddish) better good name than good oil, oil means
product. And good name, and any one of the people in the past left his name,
that means waste of knowledge and spirituality to everyone. A good name is
very important. And the opposite also. If somebody blows up and does something,
it is such a shame, it is family pressure. Family name is very important.
Sometimes you wonder how somebody can do something and shame his family like
GOGGINS: Also that I've
seen the common theme of land. You mentioned that the holidays had. . . and
also the idea of land still. That there is a country, that there is a place.
Joan: Very important, the
land. In the old days, when a person died, they put some soil from the holy
land on their eyes when they're buried in the grave, hoping that the Messiah
come and they may be revived, and they will be in the holy land, just a little.
Just the sense that they will be a little in the holy land.
GOGGINS: Those, those are
the. . .
Joan: The land . . . In
this book, you remember the six points, you know they had six points, and
which one is important. . . God, . . Israel, . . the redemption. And Redemption
is very important thing. You know it is the individual, its the national,
it's the universal. You know, always looking something to do for the day of
redemption. Which to get out from all these burdens and all these pain. Because
live in a great deal of
GOGGINS: Those are the
things that I noticed thus far.
Joan: O.K., I want to elaborate
about a couple of other things. In Judaism, there are high points and their
are low points. The reward and the responsibilities, but tremendous burdens.
There is an expression in Yiddish and in Hebrew and in English (Yiddish, Hebrew).
In English it means, "It's how to be a Jew." You know, people many
people say it's very hard to be Black, it's very hard, it's a burden, it's
a problem, it has words. And I think those people who say "Black is beautiful"
continue to build up the selfesteem and the whole learning about what
was culture in Africa, and to learn some of these things that happened when
the people in Europe were still in the trees. They were nothing! And Africa
had a great culture. They contributed a lot to strengthen the ego and the
selfesteem of the Black child. I think it was very very important that
they did it. In Judaism also, there are the highs and lows. And one way you
have this holiday and you have all these biblical stories that shows what
we are like, I don't like to use the words "the chosen people."
I hate it! I really hate it because I don't know of anybody that was chosen.
But they really have the feeling that they were chosen as people. They did.
I mean they totally had the concept of chosen people. What is chosen? I really
think that they suffered a lot from those expressions in the Bible that says
God picked Abraham from all people, and Moses from all people these were all
destined. It's hard for me to accept it. I mean I see all people so accepted
and under the same umbrella. But the Jews did believe. They got a lot of strength.
And when they were oppressed, they always felt superior inside their heart.
I don't know that's why when I was reading this book, this book here, I was
thinking about this and yours slavery. And I don't know that the child under
slavery had the opportunity to be taught of all the wonderful things. They
didn't give him this, they denied him that. So he was really cut off from
everything. Not only from his parents but from his culture and from these
roots that nourish the life. You read some books on the holocaust, and under
the most humiliating, when a man is worse than a rat, when a man is worse
than a dog, a dog is nothing, you can't compare, he's like a rabid dog, that's
how he's treated. And yet inside, I just finished reading a book called Alicia.
I'll even give you the book, take it. Sometimes you have time on an airplane
to read it. And you read this book, and the most important in this book, it's
about a little girl who survived the holocaust, and what gave her the strength,
you'll learn more than all these things, by the age of eleven, she was born
the day I was born, the same year, the same day, the same month, and when
I read that book, it just tore my heart in little pieces. When the war started,
she was nine, and then she was in the story, she was eleven, and she suffers
so much, and how she feels about where she is and where these Nazis are, she
looks at them and she feels so superior to them. It gives her strength. I'll
give you the book, don't forget. I'll give you two books. I'll give you this
Haggadah and I'll give you this book, Alicia, This woman that wrote
the book, I was so touched by her that I found her phone number and I called
her and I invited her to speak here in April. She lives in LA area. And we
had such communication, fabulous. And she was planning to come and I sent
the tickets, and then she had a stroke and she was paralyzed, and this just
happened a month ago. So that was fate, what can you do? So I'll give you
the book and you read it. If you don't read the whole book, you read one
chapter, you get it in the first chapter, what I'm talking about. And she,
at age eleven, she's so well educated, that it is stunning. How much she
knows, she knows Hebrew well enough to speak Hebrew. Jon, when I met him
when he came to Israel, he was at that time early twenties. He went to Hebrew
school till age fifteen. When the war started, he couldn't go to Hebrew school
or did he went to any school. He was in the camps. From camp to camp. You
should see how he spoke Hebrew when he was young. How he spoke Hebrew, when
I met him, we communicated in Hebrew and old Hebrew, you would not know,
it was not active in Israel. Ten years that passed with all this horror and
suffering. So I want to mention two holidays that made an impact on the modern
Jew. One was the holocaust. I cannot describe; it was a period when our whole
civilization was in Europe. Our whole civilization. And the Jews were so
horribly treated. Not just from the Nazis, but our own neighbors turned against
us. Our own neighbors, with exceptions. Here and there, sometimes for a short
period or a long period, some righteous people. But it left an impact that
we understand. That's why I was reading this book and comparing, you know.
What can be compared is that I think that slavery made an impact upon Black
people the same. So powerful, it's forever, it's forever. It's so powerful,
there are so many side stories you don't have words in your vocabulary to
describe it, to describe it, where
do you start? It's so deep and powerful and horrible what they did to the
slave, the humiliation, the cruelty, treating a human being like he would
be a dog. And on the other hand for the Jews it left an impact that can't
leave us. It cannot leave us, it's like a hand grenade exploded and left the
fragments in our heart. That's how strong it is. It made us distrustful. If
you look at other people, you say, what would they be like. If the time comes
really, would they be our friends. I think it made Israel a little more touchy
and violent, Israel, the behavior is more violent, you can't count it. Don't
believe the world, don't believe anybody, nobody cares, anything can happen
to us, we have to be strong, the whole world, they really don't care. It's
affected us, not all positive not all negative. I know that, you know again,
I don't want to compare. The fact that the Black people also, in some positive
and some negative. It's you know again, you feel that the society, you can't
trust it. You can't live by your law. The white man, he only cares about what
he can get from you. You know, this distrust, it's very hard to clear, very
hard to clear it away. So the holocaust left a very big impact, especially
Jews that came from Israel. American Jews were a little different, they were
protected. I cam from Israel and I didn't go through the holocaust, but I
was so close to that, and so many of my family perished from that I read so
much about it. American Jews maybe were not that deeply affected. They were
far enough away from it that they didn't want to hear much about it, you know.
But European Jews, survivors, had a very big impact upon it. There were Jews
in Greece that completely disappeared. They were put on trains, and by the
time they came to Auschwitz, they were dead. Everyone was big and strong just
like you, they were people who worked in the sea. O.K., he writes about this
thing, and compares, and he said something that I said to you. In slavery,
at least there was room for the power of the worker. I mean they wanted more
children so there would be more workers. In Nazi, the opinion of Jews was
that it was a poisonous root, it was a poisonous society like fumes. And you
really have to. . . like poisonous fumes from the train, you've got to stop
it, you've go to stop the tradition so it will not continue to poison the
world. That's how it looked. The people though this, so they questioned how
did it develop, from where did it come? And you can find all kinds of reasons.
That's why children, it made a big impact upon us. In the state of Israel,
it gives you a lot of hope and something to worry about constantly. You always
worry about it. You always worry that somehow Israel will be attacked and
destroyed. I mean it's just an unbearable thought. I came from there and I
lived there, and you always leave with a thought that your enemies will overrun
you. Only five million Jews now, but when I lived there, there were half a
million. And there were hundreds of millions around us. And they didn't accept
these units there. So there are these two things, we have two celebrations,
we have Israeli Independence Day, and we have a commemoration of the Holocaust.
I'm going to give you also. . . . You know you have African American culture
day, to commemorate the culture, right?
GOGGINS: We have Black
Joan: Black history month.
Well we adopted the same concept and we have Jewish history month. Just published
here, Jewish history month. Look at all the program, we are a slow community,
all this program, I labeled down there, even I have chaired on everything.
I really do all the preparation, but when it comes to the actual event, people
helping me. . . people set up, this one does this, this one bakes cake, this
one. . . . Anyway, these are all the events, open to the public, all free,
I mean we have a fantastic movie here that costs three dollars at the Palace.
And the whole thing has no budget, it has no need for budget. We sell Israeli
craft, I have it all here, I bought myself from some place, and we sell it,
it's not expensive and we make very little profit. We just like, it's all
Passover stuff and holiday stuff to enrich the Jewish homes. I have a box
here, O.K., and we will put it in here and we will sell it. This is going
to be a scholar that is coming here. He will be a guest in my home. He didn't
charge. He's a very unusual man, just came to the United States to finish
on some research in Cincinnati. And he will be here, he'll be in my house,
a friend of mine is bringing him here on a private plane, he didn't charge,
and we will give him some honorarium. This is a movie the Palace Theater made
agreement that all the money goes to them and if it will not be successful,
they will not listen to me again. (Laughs). This one is it doesn't cost anything.
This one we are borrowing from people. I'm going to borrow from my house.
We have twentyfive paintings that will be in the center. This is the
film festival that we rent from Chicago. The whole thing cost me $40.00, that
we rent from Chicago. This is served completely, the reception, it didn't
cost us anything because our kids are doing the program. I'll have three hundred
people here. These are very find entertainers from Los Angeles. This I have
a budget, but we will charge $5.00. This we will charge for participation,
and this is a food market, a food fair. So the whole thing is absolutely many
many. I mean this brochure costs money.
GOGGINS: This is a Tuesday,
a Tuesday, well I can come to this one.
Joan: This will be and
this will follow it. Right after that will be a game show. The most interesting
thing, this one, this one, it's all open to the public.
GOGGINS: Actually, I'm
going to see if we can . . .
Joan: Any part of this,
this thing opened, and I hoped to do it with Malone College.
GOGGINS: Actually, can
I have this?
Joan: Yeah, that's for
you. And I think we've finished. I'll give you the Haggadah, you have a choice
of this one, or this one. Did I give you book Alicia.
GOGGINS: I really appreciate
of the page
GOGGINS: Hello, name is
Lathardus Goggins, II. We are interviewing Miss Donna for a class assignment
for Dr. Linda Rogers, that will also be used in my Master's thesis. Miss Donna,
what I would like to do this evening, is ask you a series of questions looking
at Rites of Passage and some of its meanings, and some of your interpretations
of it. This work will be transcribed and turned in for a class project, and
I'll also use it in some research, particularly for my Master's thesis. I
can promise you confidentiality. However, I cannot promise you anonymity.
Is that O.K.? Do I have your permission to continue?
GOGGINS: Thank you very
much. Miss Donna, I would like to ask you what does Rites of Passage mean
Donna: What does Rites
of Passage mean to me? It's helped me to understand the changes that I've
been through. I may not grasp them right away, but it helps me to understand
those changes, and it helps me to go through them better. Do you understand
what I'm saying?
GOGGINS: What do you mean
Donna: Better is because
I have an understanding of certain things that have to do with my spirituality
and things like that. It helps me to cope better with everything.
GOGGINS: Cope, with what?
Donna: With whatever life
hands me at that particular time.
GOGGINS: Could you give
me an example, please?
GOGGINS: Do you care to
Donna: Having a mother
who was ill, and knowing the end result would be that she was terminally ill,
I still go through the process of the crying, the anguish and all of that,
but at the same time I'm totally aware of the fact that there's a purpose
for everything, and that she would be at a higher level and would continue
GOGGINS: How has Rites
of Passage affected your job or lifestyle? What changes have you seen since
you've been newly initiated into it?
Donna: What changes have
been, I'm becoming more conscious of myself, things that I should do that
I don't do, things that I do, I should not do. Example, everybody does it,
and you don't feel like going to it, but you make yourself go. Working two
jobs is not easy, and I have to do that because, it's just me. I'd like to
think I've always been an open minded person. An openhearted person,
I'd like to think that that is something that's been in me, and that shall
continue to be in me, and will be enhanced in me.
GOGGINS: You mentioned
enhancing, you said that you're working two jobs. Have you worked more than
one job before?
Donna: Yes, but not to
the particular, I have worked more than one job, but when I was working two
jobs, the second job wasn't more than fifteen hours a week.
GOGGINS: And you would
attribute to you working the hours that you work and the level that you're
working now to Rites of Passage?
Donna: No, you asked me
the question of how has it changed me in my work or in my personal life.
Donna: It makes me conscious
of the things that I know I have to do. More conscious.
GOGGINS: More conscious.
O.K. How would you define Rites of Passage?
Donna: Hum. Without using
the definitions, I would describe it as something that helps a person do exactly
what the definition of it is, which is to help a person go from one life situation
to the next smoothly, basically. And, to make that transition a little better
than it would have been had you not been conscious of the things that take
place in your life, whatever, good or bad, and how you handle them.
GOGGINS: Would it be a
Donna: It has something
to do with values, yes.
Donna: No. (Laughs). I
can't explain. It's a little like . . . . no, I can't explain. It's in me,
but it's not coming out.
GOGGINS :O.K. How would
you define education.
Donna: How would I define
education? Education is a process of learning. Now be it so called instructive,
or with the student and instructor, what are you asking me?
GOGGINS: I'm asking you
how would you define education.
Donna: Education is a process
GOGGINS: Now you just mentioned
the student and the instructor. What do you mean by that?
Donna: I mean that in the
sense that we are all teachers. Just as you may be the instructor, and I the
pupil, I can teach you some things, just as you can teach me.
GOGGINS: What do you think
about the educational system, overall.
Donna: I think it sucks.
The reason I think that is because it doesn't take the time to find out what
the needs of the individual child are and it doesn't provide those needs.
Right now, we look at things totally politically, and that's not the way they
should be looked at, it you think about it. The minds of children are people.
I see that in all forms of education and institutions of learning and environment
when it comes to them not giving their best, the instructors. That's discouraging
to students, and it limits the student because they have no idea what their
potential is. And right now, our school systems, for the most part, its not
to say that all schools are bad, but the whole educational system is totally
messed up. However, we have major problems.
GOGGINS: Where do you see
the emphasis on correcting it. . . that's a leading question. . . if you were
to change it or if you were to correct it, you mentioned the idea of it being
too political, would you expound on that, or give me your ideas on how you
would make it more suited to your viewpoint.
Donna: Your viewpoint,
now are you talking about all people?
GOGGINS: Whatever people
you were referring to.
Donna: All people. Actually
I think that people who care, if you don't care, then you don't need to be
in the profession. If you don't care, then you don't need to be on the board.
If you don't have kids in the system, you shouldn't be a part of that. And
that's only because in order for you to be able to look at it totally objectively,
you need to have something at risk, as opposed to going to parochial school.
You need to have some risk. And you also need to have the truth in the text
books for whatever subject it is. That aids with diversity, cultural diversity.
You need to be honest, totally. That way, we can all get a better education,
a better understanding. Because they don't teach the truth in schools. And
they don't necessarily teach things that are necessary for you to make it
in your daily life, even on the job!
GOGGINS: What things would
Donna: Math is important.
But for a student who is not going into engineering, pharmaceuticals, medicine,
someone who doesn't necessarily need trigonometry, all that other stuff, it's
not as if they shouldn't have it. They should, there should be a way that
they should pinpoint wherever it is a child is gifted and not gifted, and
help them where he's gifted, and also push him a little where he is not gifted.
Not just totally push what it is that they think it is necessary for them
to have, not just the basics. For one thing, we're not teaching reading, come
on! O.K., yeah, we got hooked on phonics, but they are not teaching.
GOGGINS: A couple of things
you mentioned: that teachers who don't care shouldn't be a part of school.
Board members with no kids in the public system, let's say then that those
are necessary evils, for whatever reason. There are teachers who will teach,
who may not care. How, then, do you operate in that system. What are some
things that you believe would help a child in that environment?
Donna: There has to be
someone there who will care. There has to be. There's is no way in the world.
A kid goes to school thirteen years of his life and that's before he gets
to college. And he only finds one teacher who cares and makes a difference,
that's great. If a kid goes through thirteen years of school, and doesn't
find one teacher who made a significant difference, and when I say that I
mean to build a kid's selfesteem, to let that kid know that he or she
is an intelligent person and capable of achieving whatever it is that they
want, than, we don't need these teachers? I don't care how necessary you say
it is. Yes, it's necessary to have teachers, but if they don't care, that
would be like me being a doctor, and not giving a hoot about you as my patient.
I have to genuinely care.
GOGGINS: But if you didn't
give a hoot about me, I'm not necessarily just at the mercy of your lack of
Donna: This is true.
GOGGINS: So what then,
as a pupil, do you believe a child can bring to that situation?
Donna: Hopefully his parents.
Or that's a problem, too, because a lot of parents don't care for whatever
the reason. We're not all just necessarily busy, there are just a lot of parents
who don't care. Who are not going out to school, who have no idea what the
teachers and the students are doing, or have no idea what the grades are.
They have no idea that their kids even go to school. I believe that automatically
if you've been in trouble one time with this system the way it is, if you've
been in trouble one time, you're marked as a troublemaker, especially
if you happen to be a black student.
GOGGINS: What role, if
any, or what impact, if any again, would Rites of Passage, a person who had
gone through Rites of Passage, what impact, if any would that person have
in the negative school, or educational system? What would be the impacts on
that person, in particular?
Donna: In today's school
Donna: It wouldn't easy
for that person especially if they were bringing in things that they've learned,
and they started to apply them to in the classroom. It's not to say that those
things would be easy, but they are necessary. In which case, we have to find
a way to have our own educational system. But until then, you have to suffer
with what those parents are deal with. This system as it is, and bringing
your new thoughts and the truth to the school system, and no you can't just
bring it to them and throw it out because they're not going to hear.
GOGGINS: What, O.K. what
impact, positive or negative, what I'm suggesting, though, or asking, what
would be the impact on the child or the pupil who has undergone Rites of Passage,
what would be the affect on such?
Donna: Learning in the
school system as it is today?
GOGGINS: Learning in the
school system as it is today, a child who had undergone Rites of Passage.
Donna: Having a child who
has gone through, and who is going to continue to go through Rites of Passage,
what it has done for him is open his eyes to some things that say you can
see certain things that you didn't see before, and you're understanding some
of the things that are going on, such as, you walk down the hall and flipped
off somebody's cap, the wrong person saw it, and now you're speaking up for
yourself, and you're going to get slapped with insubordination. You're going
to see it as unfair, that student who going through that. Part of it is because
they have gone through that and they understand how the system works so to
speak. And the other part is because of other things that are going on, and
it's, and we expect that a lot. Hopefully, that student is going to go through
there with an open mind and be able to overlook some of those ignorance.
GOGGINS: When you say overlooked,
what do you mean?
Donna: Understand that
just because this person is ignorant to certain things doesn't mean that you
have to come down to their level.
GOGGINS: Have you noticed
a change in your son's experience since he's been involved with Rites of Passage?
Donna: That's kind of a
tough question. Mainly because my son is already a pretty exceptional student.
I have noticed he does get upset if he does not get the grade that he thought
he should have gotten, the grade that he deserved. His grades were never a
problem. His citizenship, however, that has improved.
GOGGINS: Would you say
that it has improved mainly because of maturity?
Donna: I would say it has
something to do with maturity, yes. I would also say it has something to do
with an appreciation for who he is, who he understands himself to be. And
where he came from and where he's going. And where he wants to go.
GOGGINS: Any other changes
or effects you've noticed on your child?
Donna: Actually his maturity
level is unreal. And I don't think, I don't contribute it all to age. I don't
think it is because of age.
GOGGINS: Are you going
to, you have a daughter as well. Is she enrolled in Rites of Passage?
Donna: Not at this time.
GOGGINS: Is there a particular
reason why she is not given the Rites of Passage program?
Donna: Initially, when
it first started, she had started with it. I found it difficult, because of
transportation problems, and we did not, the children did not continue. However,
my son's class continued on. My daughter did not. She has been informed that
it is probably best for her to start up again.
GOGGINS: Informed by whom?
Donna: By her mother.
GOGGINS: What do you expect,
why would you assume that it would be best for her?
Donna: Why would I assume
that it would be best? It will help to ground her. It will help her to have
some understanding, some guidance, some appreciation, connectedness. And all
of that is necessary.
Donna: Connectedness to
her brother, connectedness to her people. To her creator, to everything that
she needs to be connected to, as opposed to the things that she doesn't need
to be connected to.
GOGGINS: Is there anything
else you would like to add about Rites of Passage, education?
Donna: As far as Rites
of Passage goes, I think that it is something that needs to take place for
all people, as far as adults and children. Not just the African community,
but people as a whole need to have some sort of Rites. That's all.
GOGGINS: O.K., Miss Donna,
I appreciate your time, and your sharing your wisdom. Thank you.
GOGGINS: My name is Lathardus
Goggins II. I'm a student at Kent State University in the Educational Foundations
Program. What I would like to do with you, Mike, is to interview you concerning
some questions about Rites of Passage. The interview itself, depending upon
the questions (there are basically three questions I'll ask you), other questions
might be spawned from your answers. Total length might be close to an hour,
depending on how talkative you get. The information that will be used will
be confidential; however, I cannot promise you anonymity. And the information
is intended to be used in a research for a qualitative research class, and
also to be used in some research on a Master's Thesis that I'll be doing.
Do I have your permission to continue?
Mike: Yes, you do.
GOGGINS: The first question
I would like to ask you concerning Rites of Passage is how long have you been
involved with Rites of Passage?
Mike: Formally, for the
last four years in Formal Rites of Passage. In other words recognized from
state and national organizations.
GOGGINS: Using the term
"Formal Rites of Passage," how long would you say that you've been
in an informal Rites of Passage?
Mike: Probably since High
school. High school. . . I was introduced to a lot of its elementary stages
in high school because of the environment in which I grew upDetroit.
It was there that the Black Panthers had affiliations, there were community
centers, so it was a lot of that kind of conscious awareness going on.
GOGGINS: So then, how would
you define Rites of Passage formally and informally as far as, what does Rites
of Passage mean to you?
Mike: Rites of Passage,
to me, is a way of life. It's a focus; it's a centeredness of you knowing
who you are and how you tie into everything else that goes on. You see your
linkage with the whole cosmos down to the simple neighbor on the street. So
the term Rites of Passage is the process of transition from one stage to the
next. It's an order, it's a balance, taking natural forces into consideration,
as opposed to social forces and influences that may not lead to the best end.
And that's a lot of where I'm coming from. But Rites of Passage is a bigger
end in store for everybody. And that's what Rites of Passage has offered me,
that insight, that foresight to realize that definition that describes all
of us, the realization that I cannot achieve what others don't achieve. We're
all in this together.
GOGGINS: You mentioned
social forces that are acting upon us. Could you elaborate on that, please?
Mike: Political climate;
for example, a lot of Europeans ask me my interpretation of that. Democratic
and republican: to me they are one and the same. To me, there is no major
difference because of the school of thought both of those individuals more
than likely went to. And to me, or a particular ruling class that is based
upon Democratic and Republican. The social forces whereas technology; I want
to kind of use technology, so to speak. To me I can see the tremendous disadvantage.
The key point is where we drill for oil, because we take oil to try to stimulate
the economy. Now, we spill it. We have major oil spills. So technology, if
we aren't careful with that, it's going to show our search for something is
not what we're looking for after all. I hate to see us reach a highly technological
stage, and we still can't deal with another sitting on top of a waste field.
It means that technology has not prepared us. We can have all the technology
in the world, but the people are not resolved to the basic fundamental differences,
or survival skills, feeding each other, clothing each other, then technology
is working. I don't foresee us getting the technology to feed and cloth the
world's people. Rites of Passage is a term, they should realize, that we are
all tied in. If any one of my brothers or sisters is hurt, then I'm hurting.
If anyone is homeless than I must also feel those pains. No matter where they
are on the planet. That's the focus of our agenda.
GOGGINS: In terms of technology,
you see that Rites of Passage provides the balance that you were talking about
earlier in this more of whole picture of an aura insuring that there is a
focus on or a linkage to one another. And, we don't get away from that. Is
that part of. . . ?
Mike: Right. The key is
you cannot own. Rites of Passage, or that whole concept, I'm saying, "we're
all tied in," is that you cannot own it. It has come because of the pains
and frustrations of a need for a people that triggered the research to go
after that. Had it not been for whatever group of people that you saw that
triggered your research, you wouldn't have discovered anything. So in turn,
when others would claim that, even patent it, to sell it back to the people
who really gave them the idea to go out and pursue it. That bothers me. And
even to the point of saying, we need to make sure that it's universal, linked
in with nature. Because there are certain things that we get, like nuclear
waste. It's gonna take a million years for some of that stuff to deteriorate.
Well, we need to understand that if nature really tends to heal itself, we
may have to get out of the picture. Nature will heal itself, un huh. I don't
have a problem with that. But our time frame, our own existence may cease
to be while nature's healing itself. Ozone, global warming, a lot of factors
or terms, I think that technology has gotten to the point that we don't see
ourselves tied in. We don't realize that we must maintain a balance. And we
are one with nature, one with the universe. We have to be very careful. Here
again, that's why they call it Afrocentric approach. It's an approach that
I understand the spiritual purpose, for, Nature is a part of me. Nature made
me, Nature has a purpose for me.
GOGGINS: We are beginning
to talk about some of it, I believe, but if you could elaborate on how Rites
of Passage has affected your lifestyle, or your occupation, possibly, and
other aspects of your life?
Mike: My life, well my
lifestyle now, I have a very, I'm a very patient man. And as I understand,
as I say about some of the forces that govern someone's life or their view
of the world, I can understand them being dictated to by a particular generation
or some of the current fads that exist or television, the must read books
that try to dictate your outlook or your concept. And I was a victim of
that. I was a victim of I'm O.K., You're O.K. , the whole Freudian trend.
I was really in there. I was in there with these schools, so I am totally
aware of it. However, Rites of Passage brought me back to the community
that could answer those questions. And I was always aware of the fact that
I could pursue higher educational levels as I explained before. Rites gave
me a means of knowing who I was first. Before I could see anything else,
I needed to know who I was first. Therefore, when I digest that information
from a knowledgeable individual as opposed to what I may conceptualize,
I began to understand who I was first. Therefore, when the information
came in, I understood it. Therefore, when I see other individuals out for
influence by trends, I talk to them. And possibly I don't so much that
it's from mis-education, because in many institutions aren't pursuing or
copying certain things, I understand it. To me it's just another product
of nature, our miseducation. We have proved we aren't the last of our world,
so therefore, we have moved into something else. I hold that patience,
honest, because of my strong sense of identity, of who I am as a black
man. And working for the state and county system, a lot of white people,
they don't know just what to think. You don't know quite what to say except
that they know that I know who I am and I'm respected. I'm respected highly.
I have a staff of eight people in social work, I'm talking about all degreed
individuals. Because of my approach with them, I don't try to beat results
out of them. I use a totally different approach, the means justify the
ends, not the ends justify the means, and I want this done. I let them
know that we're all tied into this. Look at why this needs to be done.
And they'll do it. Not so much, I will disapprove, but my approach works,
and the fact that we're all tied in together, so any one of us can be replaced
at any time. So let us be aware of the thing that it's not the job that
makes us responsible. It's because of who you are that makes this job what
it is. So I've given them back a sense of independence, and some of the
old guard don't quite like my approach, but they can't challenge it, because
it represents a kind of utopia to them. I wish I could do it this way.
But they don't understand that the object is knowing themselves and being
absolutely confident in who they are. It stems from testing what I call
unknown waters. I would really like to do this but I don't feel comfortable.
And it is allowing me to get a lot of exposure and promotions on the job.
GOGGINS: A couple of things
that you've said thus far: when you're alluding to the Democrats and Republicans
and some of the other social forces, you mention they had a particular school
of thought. Could you elaborate on that; also, could you elaborate on the
ideal of the importance of knowing yourself. It appears to me that you place
a lot of importance on that, on the idea of knowing yourself in terms of interpreting
what you can do in the world around you. So if you would address those two
things, the school of thought, and the importance of knowing yourself.
Mike: The school of thought:
historically when you look at the way that the majority of the people are
being directed, approaching the language of the structure or family origin,
if we look at it the way it is now, we know it is from a Eurocentric,
a European dominance. Historically, if we look at the fact that which ever
group dominated because of warriors, because of colonialism. Search anywhere
around the globe; that particular ruling class forced condition on the ones
who they overthrew to adopt their particular way of life. In doing that,
we can forget that we are victims of colonialism, and we've adopted that
colonialized lifestyle, not realizing that is not what we are. That is not
what we were. And we will never become who we will be because we have been
victims of colonial war. I have stated this many times; We always talk about
the orphanages, and we always see, and I know that the media digests these
things for us, but they always show the mixed children, which is a product
of wars. Colonial war always have mixed breed. That is something that has
been proven time and time again. Women have rape and philosophies left behind.
So the school of thought here, based upon poverty, takeover, mayhem. If you look at the
ruling class and you look at some of the wars, you'll understand they don't
have feelings, and swords guns, weapons muskets, and stuff. You don't need
to fight a particular enemy if you can get what they want? I think that we
as a people have got to get a hold of that no one will realize that there's
a battle going on, and that we have to go back and regroup and come back again.
They have actually forgotten that they were in a war. And now that particular
enemy doesn't even have to fight a particular group of people. And I say that
all the time: blacks in the United States have forgotten who they were before.
We've been colonized and taken over, stripped and put somewhere else, to the
extent, now, that we believe that it was always like this. There was nothing
else. We miss the point, because you don't read. You could still get the understanding
of what we were. So that's the whole thought process. But I must maintain
who I originally was. I must do that. Then, I'll understand who they were.
As we do that, we'll climb, or go through our own chain of existence, that
is not a problem. I always want to know who I leapt in with. I know who we
were. As we have started to manifest some of the barbarism, historically,
you can go back, to a stage that barbarism was always in us. Repeatedly, time
and time again throughout our history, it was not in us, it was in something
else that formed what we are today. How much longer will we let it go on?
A particular class, and if we look at what they've been based upon, they have
left so much, and they have traveled on. I mean, the mass destruction. And
what I call a serious lack of humanity. Also, a lack of spirituality. I cannot
adopt that, that school of thought and all of its derivatives. Here again,
I don't realize who I am. I may be reading something. Cause I must be certified
by some of these institutions. And the only way. The current school of thought
. . . they are masters of deception. They can make the untrue appear true
and totally relevant. Totally true and relevant. And what is true, European
thoughts . Case in point: the pyramids possibly built by people from outer
space. You got mummies in here, even the burial Rites, the whole life story
of man in an attempt, because they have not been at the master. That part
of that thought process. If we ever would want to make a group of people forget
who they were and whatever contribution they gave to the world, because here,
again, Afrocentric thought, Rites of Passage thought, I cannot gain anything
as mine, it belongs to the world. Because of the one environment that gave
me the design (mumbling). . . I was given the source of my discovery. I can
never claim it for myself. So that's the key to me. You had another question.
GOGGINS: Speak on it, because
you brought it up again, the idea of the person knowing themselves.
Mike: Like I used to say
from an African proverb: If you never know where you came from, you'll never
know where you're going. If you don't know where you came from, you'll not
know where you're going. The old saying that you can go a thousand miles in
the first direction but you must take the first step. There's always a first
step to it, to reach your destination. The key is in which way you step. There
are many people who step backwards or sideways. And I think life always has
those forks in the road. For some reason, we fail to use the term, and you
reach that turn in the road, our people the term sankofa, you can always go
back . We have an illusion, and I think there's the thought process that says,
"O.K., well, let's start fresh." No, I don't want to start fresh,
I want to go back. According to our tradition, you see what went wrong, then
you go down the right road. But there is a repeated attempt to tell people,
"Now, let that go, and start fresh." I bring closure to this. Whoever
created that is still on that road. If you're on the wrong road, you can go
back, it's that simple. But a lot of people go the wrong way and say, well,
let's just keep going up that road. There will be light at the end of the
tunnel. I would hope to go back and find what I've lost. And if you go back,
one thing about it, you'll see what they had to go through. But we don't want
to do that. We'd rather say, "O.K., well, yeah, there were some mistakes
made, I'll make amends for it." So, that just teaches us all a lesson.
I don't want that, I want to go- These are attributes that could make that
man a major general, a captain, because he could handle stuff. He knew how
to draw energy from those whose endorphins were flying and they were totally
out of control. He could take it and master it to the task. I wish more people
could understand. I did sports in my day. There aren't too many young kids
out there that understand. I wish they could understand. I've been put in
frustrating situations that draw from the energy of those around. (Lots of
mumbling). I push kids the same way. Make it work for you. Make it work for
you. It is so simple. And I have seen it work, time and time again. You will
either fail,or you'll be successful. You have endurance, and it will also
be exciting. And that's crucial, that crucial for them. That back. A good
preacher (lots of mumbling). And a lot of individuals and institutions don't
want to go back. And sure, if we go back, we have to look at everything we
went wrong. We have to look at it, that whole concept. You must see yourself,
and see who you are in relationship to everything. And I wish a lot of the
people, and educational institutions would focus in on that, even in the sciences,
math., all of the different technologies, engineering, just to show that you're
tied in with everything. So whatever is that innate ability, that drive that
is pushing one particular person to come out, it is something destined in
them that will make them pursue that particular calling. I worry about that
because I look at, for example, a lot of what we may perceive, or what the
media may perceive as successful, like sports figures. . . I really don't.
. . I understand why boxers always get back at their opponent. There's a nerve
that they get in a crowd, because that is a form of achievement. That is why
a Michael Jordan always wants to go back and do something for somebody, we
could say, man, we don't want your athletics. But that's part of it too, part
of the destiny. To me, that was not what he was destined to be. The real man
in him , I'm sure he was fantastic. That's an engineer's mind. He could take
a round ball, and make it go through a hole this big, or knowing who you are.
Master general, no matter the situation, the cool and calm. A tactical wizard.
And I'll use a biblical term. It says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
You can't love someone else if you don't love yourself. The only what to love
yourself is to know yourself. You can't love what you don't know. Nor will
you really care. Of just to be fooled, to be deluded. You can even fool yourself:
"Oh I know who I am." Then you ask them, "Who are you? What
system defines who you were?" In the current system, don't. I'm on that
road again. The road don't mean anything, but if I back up I will see who
I was being defined by, what their motive for defining me? Their motives were
not good. AfroAmerican, colored, mulatto, the colored, I don't know.
The colored means to me, demeaning, how colonialism raped our women. From
all these victims, we got mulatto, we got everything. Now where did ya'll
come from? Negro? Slave term? Niggers? It was an abusive slave term, that
whole term, I had to go back and look at that. I had to go back on the other
side of that there is no term. Tell me, what should a Yoruba be doing in 1994,
a Housa, an Egyptian and Yorubas, and that's what's on the other side.
GOGGINS: So, to kind of
summarize: the purpose of know oneself, a part of the process of know oneself
is the Sankofa, going back critically examining history , what things you
did right, what things you did wrong, learning from them, then defining oneself?
In terms of what you've learned about history? Is that a fair assumption?
Mike: It's a tremendous
tiein because history in turn will give us an idea or a perception of
ourselves of the moment. I always say how we perceive ourselves is our current
reality. Our perception of who we are is our current reality. And I always
hold the belief that the only things you can deal with is right. Nothing else.
We can really control the content of our history, more than we could have
imagined. If we call each other, because we need to call each other now, immediately
after I say this, it will become history. And it will become a reference of
how you were called into history. We don't realize how much control we have
over that perception, and how historical, it would clear a room. What we do
know, immediately becomes history, it becomes our record. It becomes a series
that we stand on until we come to the next turn or possibility. So I will
always say certain things so that in turn as they become a historical analogy
for me, I can revert back to them and say I lived. That is what's important
in my life. That reservoir of knowledge that I keep. (Tape stopped: side two).
GOGGINS: A couple of things
in your talking about knowing yourself. You mentioned education and you mentioned
being successful. One of the questions I have here is, what do you think about
education? Its role, its importance? And specifically, how would you define
Mike: To me, education
is inevitable. It's something you can't get around anyway. Visually or audibly,
your learning returns. It's to see something different. You're picking up
something new all the time. The academic educational arena, I worry sometimes
about that because curriculum is being used to create a product in the end.
If I just use the whole capitalist system, and I try to tell African Americans
this all the time, if they produce this in your public school systems, why
are we still going to public schools? If a product came out that defective,
who would buy that product? Simple analogy. No one would; they would be fired.
There is no way that they could still hold their job. That's their system.
If their system they believe is not working, why is it not working anymore,
why is it that they are not teaching one that will? So the whole academics
I hold the belief that we gave to the world. Science, math, medicine, and
because of historically, a group, we coming over with a little bit of knowledge,
and they tried to take that, though it was not enough to do what they needed
to do. They give us the courage to develop, the Afrocentric courage to develop
the whole academic arena. As times goes along, the thirst for academics will
solve some of these problems. We will automatically solve this next problem.
As each generations comes into existence, they create a product for themselves.
And they are happy to solve by themselves for those who come along after them.
I think that academically, there are those who acquire academics, or job skill,
and in all my years that all you can get out of it. And I don't live like
that. I don't care if you're possibly ninety years old, your have reasons
that will enhance all of humanity. I don't care how I get my thirty years
in, but I understand that it isn't my education or my whole academic thing.
When I see something, based on all the things I've accumulated, there again,
I just don't tie it in to some area of specialization. What did you major
in, what did you minor in? That comes from the whole colonialist school of
thought. And maybe another area that you may be very good at, you don't know
why that's driving you. They interfere. Because, I was caught up in it, between
being in a semijob, an artist, and I liked drama. And I was strange guy,
yeah, I come in busted up from playing some sports, and I go to art class
and draw somebody nude. It was no thing for me. So I knew I was a little bit
more hole (large noise! Talking to a kid). So I was caught up in all of that.
African Americans have a right to be paranoid today, without being diagnosed
as schizophrenic. Seriously. If we fail to acknowledge that paranoia, then
we continue to accept the fact that we are an endangered species, a dying
breed, 85% of us are being harassed by the police continually, and no one
thinks anything about that. We don't need to go through that. Or, we don't
trust our own to the extent that we never come together and grow. That's really
troublesome. The thing that we can do, we affirm somebody else's story. I
think we really do. I think the current existing academic arena affirms someone
else's story, and someone else's ideas. The existence of the structures, the
current academic role has been to promote the whole western civilization and
the names at the point in history are given to make you believe that there
was nothing civilizing outside of that experience. So of those writers said
they studied in the Nile Valley! Excuse me?!! Now if they studied in the Nile
Valley to become the great scholars, to give us that whole Greek piece, well,
why don't we forget it. It's like, O.K., I'm gonna follow the student and
forget about the teacher. And I think in essence, that is regressive. So often,
we are following the student, picked up what they could get out of it, and
then they give you what they want you to hear.
GOGGINS: So in light of
the Rites of Passage: how would you define academic success? A person who
is entered in to the Rites of Passage, this way of life, how would then you
perceive them perceiving academic success? How would you define academic success?
Mike: Them, I would see
them saying that, and I like to use a picture and parable. I tell the young
kids when I talk to them, "Black child, Black child, what are you going
to do?" And their response is, "Whatever my people need from me."
I say, "How and Why" They say, "I can't be what I want to be
if I try to be, and I will." The key is nature, your life circumstances,
is cause for you to be accountable. It is calling. However, we want to control,
to restrict the discipline ourselves, to say, I must be in the correct career.
What is the correct career opportunity that will allow me to get to success?
What little growing steps, what little contributions that others might see
as small, that may be your God's gift to the world. In the whole spiritual
arena, we need each have a task that we have come here to complete in order
to go on to the final hereafter with the ancestors. Maybe something that
simple, if we are willing to accept our spiritual destiny. Stop being conned
by external forces. It maybe something, not monumental, but just to say,
step out and into the unknown and become what you were meant to become. Rites
of Passage gave me destiny. You need to be who the spirits, the Gods meant.
And you may have to give up some plans, you may have to be multipurpose,
and that is fine, but you must do that. That's what Rites of Passage gives,
gives that person the ability to step out into the unknown. I tell churches
that, I say you're missing the parable: stepping out into the water, it is
not so much that it is stepping out into H2O. It's stepping out into the
history of that time, it was a troubled times were created with water, the
unknown. In 1994, the unknown is the streets. Step out there, you must step
out, no matter how hard it is. You can't live in the predictable structures,
academics societies, that are safe, the predictability of something trivial.
It's not going to be a high probability, so therefore we've got all these
probability, this high propensity to in the eyes of the world to create scenes
of violence. Rites say step out, if you see the situation, you must step
out. If you step out there and things are not right, how are you going to
bring calm? Just say sankofa? If you say the right thing, if you say it spiritually,
not like the world, you can't outrap those little kids out there. I know that.
I don't even try. But if I speak through the spiritual, they'll hear me. I
don't try to kick it with them like I'm one of them, I know I'm not one of
them. They could see the fake. I speak to the spiritual side. And, they can
GOGGINS: So you say, then,
academic success in light of Rites of Passage. Is when a person has prepared,
or is preparing themselves successfully to meet the challenge that has been
defined to them, or has been defined to them?. . .
GOGGINS:. . . by the community,
by the history, the ancestors, the elders, all those people that make up your
community in a very large sense. . .
GOGGINS:. . . So academic
success is then when you have prepared yourself to meet that mission, not
necessarily that you've prepared yourself to get a job.
Mike: You said the key
word, prepared yourself for that particular mission. Because you will run
into that. Here again I want to always say, whatever is your destiny, you
will repeatedly run into it. You will repeatedly run into it when you have
not prepared yourself to meet it, to no longer make that an obstacle in your
life. That is the whole academic role, the Rites, the Afrocentric tradition.
The benefits to the world, I look at the true Africans throughout history,
their attributes were not personalized, they always gave something that the
GOGGINS: So I hear this
theme of linkage again.
Mike: Yes. I don't want
to do something that I am not totally tied into. I can't do that. My reward
is not here. I don't want man to say, because if you ask man who I am, he
will equal the term. It's a trend, it's a fad, there's too many potential
perils. So I don't look for their accolades. That one has not been easily
won. At first it wasn't, but now I've made the transition to where really
for me, it is not a problem. I go way beyond it because I don't have to deal
with it. I do not burn my energies convincing someone that they have to see
it my way. The truth will manifest itself to be had. Whatever school of thought
you have, that is who controls you, that is the perception you have of this
day. I understand that. Our intellectual perceptions, our church, or different
religious affiliation. I will not be bent. I don't do that. That is the kind
of allegiance I have. That's the common bond that we talk about. That's not
in education. That's common, referring to people, to individuals, and I don't
think it opposes anything intellectual. I see too many challenges to mess
with that, academically. Those who academically may master a particular craft,
so to speak, but they never made it. You know. The gentleman who created the
bomb, Brilliant! Had he know what he was doing, or the future of what he was
doing, he would have never given his knowledge to it. With our kids, Afrocentrically,
we need to be a aware. And they are not aware of their true purpose. We allow
stuff to happen.
GOGGINS: A couple of things
I want to speak on before we run out of time: the idea of, as I'm quite
sure you know, given your work, some of the troubles that, as you've talked
about, if a system is failing, and producing a, at least a perceived inferior
product, in terms of African Americans coming through the school systems,
how do you see a person who is in The Rites of Passage process, how do
you see that person interacting with the current system? Would that bring
benefits, or would that cause conflicts? Also, then, a sense of the idea
of coexistence. How can you with your Afrocentric mind exist in this Eurocentric
Mike: We always have, and
we always will, the key to the meaning of that. We always have, and we always
will. The key to the meaning of that is I will never give those who (door
opens, people come in and talk), the key to that is, I guess I, here again,
I want to go back to the historical piece, I have roots who rule, or who could
rule over, or dominate, in any of those situations, any of those circumstances.
You understand, you have to look at who you were. Case in point: the Jews.
The whole Germany ordeal: they never forgot who they were, to the extend that
they said, world, we're not going anywhere. You won't forget what happened
to us. To me that principle, is based upon even the whole African origin.
We have to remind the current generation of how we have created civilization
through many snares, through all these troubled times. I understand that if
I may have to walk for, it was an old term I used to use, that if I was in
a whole, I would squirm like a worm. If I have to walk through alleys, I began
to scream like a rat. So in term, some of my external mannerisms, may conform
with the environment that I am. Here again, we look at some of the African
art, a lot of time, the chameleon the head, sometimes, the need to take on
the form of the environment. And a lot of times, the female train the males.
But you must learn to conform, mentally, to the environment that you are into
survive. That's the whole chameleon thing. If I see that chameleon, or lizard,
or whatever you want to call it, that is his philosophy, that he can blend
in with his environment. That our nation is bigger than a particular politic
climate. That's not going to affect what my mission is in life. Or Abortion
or a court order, or. . . that's not going to affect me. That doesn't matter
to me. And I don't govern myself based upon those decisions made for me within
that system. I understand what the chameleon does, conform with his environment.
And I know now that a group of people must raise and educate all people not
just a particular group. Because if you're only trying to educate one, then
you forget the other one could have the same kind of knowledge. You're back
in the same boat. You changed the rules so that the ones who used to have,
or the ones that don't have, now they have and are taking it away from the
ones who used to have. They're the enemy, and they rely on the oppressor and
we're not the oppressor. You don't want them to think that, so you look at
it from a political point of view, you aren't going to be racially turn things
around, economically turn things around. The African tradition would have
us in harmony. I must help balance the lack of harmony. And that means I cannot
hate the person who is doing what they are doing. We must try to help change
their nature. Historically, we've always done it. We'll always go back. They
don't really want to get down with that true story and understand who raised
their whole intelligence. And it's sad because there are certain groups out
here, they know, but they won't tell the story. Like the Freemasons. They
know the story very well. But they've always called it a secret society. They've
always wanted it to be a secret society. African tradition means that knowledge
belongs to all around you. And that's the claim that I use. I must walk a
certain way, and deal with whatever frailties I have. Oh, I have my problems,
my vices, I'm still a warrior. The success has come because I know the Creator
is saying I have something for you to do. I am eternally watching what you
don't know. But you must stay alert. You must say alert. And so, I do it.
I really do because I advocate too much to the generations coming behind me.
And I try to push the ones ahead of us so they can do what they should be
doing. And I want the ones behind us to do what they should be doing. That's
the Rites: we will never leave our generation behind where they can't be connected.
That I think is one of the major crises today with our African American boys.
They don't have linkage to the adult world, so they have to step into a transitional
model all alone and figure it out. The key thing that they lack is spiritual
connection. They can get stuff. They do that, they get cars, they get money,
they get women, they get babies. But for some reason, that's not it. We are
the ones who must let them know it is the spiritual world that makes all of
us. It is not acquiring some material things and in turn even creating children,
they think that's what adults do.
GOGGINS: You mentioned
the idea of the Chameleon being able to conform, but yet still have self.
That you change you. . . .Mike's outward appearance, but still maintain the
truth to self. Could you elaborate on that in terms of academic success in
terms of the school system, given the school barrages you with images that
you say are historically not true, politically has the ulterior motive of
colonizing or taking over. How does that play into a person who has a Rites
of Passage experience. How does that then play out, this idea of the chameleon,
and being able to deal with different places, or those things that might be
adversely against you.
Mike: For example, when
I was growing up as a young boy, the things that I did around certain school
yards were socially acceptable. But when I got back away from that, I did
what I wanted to do. And now, a lot of young men, they can't separate the
two. They can't live a dual social life. And in turn, they've have been
chastised, because they reveal so much about themselves, that they don't
understand the European concept. They don't understand that the illusion
that they've been told, that they can achieve what you perceive in your
system, all you have to do is work hard. Americans get so excited over
the Anglo-Saxon white hard work ethic, but the end result is that is not
going to work for them. But they don't tell them that, they tell them that
it's going to all come through, but it's not based upon that, and they
don't tell them what it's based upon. That is not so. Rites will tell them,
help me to become a young man, understand who you are and that you are
in a battle zone so you must protect yourself. These are the kinds of tactics
that you most need. Do not go there thinking that the system is going to
afford you the same opportunities that it affords them. You were not written
into that original blueprint. You were added later on. You are fighting
for certain things within your own relative's lifetime. So I want for us
to get that back into our mind. They have bought in to the American dream
to the extend that they no longer know the realities of thought. Even to
say that "I want a piece of the pie," is to
say that they have already just given in to a system. You've already said
this is the only pie. I want my own pie. No thanks, I can make my own. Black
people, we need our academics. The Jewish environment, I know that a major
part of their life is not what they learn in schools. I know that. A large
part of their academics and their academic environment they learn outside
of the American school system. African Americans depend on their academic
answers in the school system. And it's foolish. And they don't realize that
it's an accumulation f everything, it your whole environment, your home your
church, it's your society, your neighborhood, all that is building who that
person must become. But we have bought into the magnet of the school. To the
extend that we lobby for more discipline. We want dogs and police. We don't
need that. Just get a better system of accountability. Then young males would
know, they can't steal your ideas. Let them ride the crest of those ideas
and wisdom. We got to try to start looking at the system, then looking away
from the system until they can see that the answer are there tomorrow in us.
We must solve our problems for us. The problem is there is not enough shared
experience to come up with a viable solution.
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