Boys' Rites of Passage

Our Sons' Futures

A Rites of Passage for African-American Boys

Posted by Thomas on December 11, 2010

Before you continue

This post has 764 words.

On average it will take you less than 5 minutes to read.

Although this title could be used to describe this post I prefer: A Year in the Life of a Rites of Passage Blog.

Officially this blog was begun in 2008 (December) although the concept had marinated for many years before blogging began. As the year ends I would like to reflect back on some of the key concepts this blog has attempted to enliven.

Those that have visited this site before and taken the time to read through the many pages of insight know this, but for new passers-by here is the condensed version.

Do What is Right for Your Son

When my son was entering middle school I began searching for ceremony ideas for rites of passages for boys. I searched online and referenced the rites of passage idea from a book or two. One website had adolescent boy pics (and girls) donned with African masks their ceremony being rooted in African tribal rituals. Then when I searched terms like “what manhood means” I saw ultra-outdoor ceremonies. None of these rite of passage ideas were wrong they just were wrong for our family. In your search I encourage you to take the time to find what is right for your son.

A Five Year Program

After my initial frustration I decided to write my own program and execute it. I figured it would not be hard since I had saved many of the resources I had come across—I was wrong! An idea that began when my son was in the sixth grade didn’t fully manifest itself until his junior year of high school—the program was 5 years in the making. The content creation didn’t take 5 years just the execution.

Everything Happens as it Should

In retrospect I’m glad it took 5 years because some lessons could only be delivered when my son was ready—the psychosocial and psychosexual lesson for example—at 12 years old he wasn’t ready for that; at 16 years old he was more than ready. Everything happened as it should.

Not Just for African-Americans

Although we are African-American and the blogs identity is such, I encouraged all parents to use this information. Through the two years the blog has been online it hasn’t generated the type of interest I had hoped. However, in the real world, I have spoken to many people at various times about what our family did in terms of a rites of passage program. Most people have been intrigued and even excited by the idea and concept.

The Program is Not Over

Although I’ve stated that “my son’s program is over” that really isn’t true. Anthropologists suggest that the journey to adulthood spans from about 16 years of age until about age 26. Generally we (parents, loved ones of the young person etc.) don’t view it that way but it makes sense. Think back to your own life at what age did you finally say “Now I am grown up.”? So our work continues as we earnestly guide our son into the next phase of his life (he turns 18 soon). At this point the “program” is more about open communication and guidance for him.

We are still looking for ways to share our experience with other families. We hope to help you as you raise your son into responsible adulthood. Not as experts but simply sharing what we have learned.

Five Key Building Blocks

Here’s a top 5 list of significant groundwork performed to put the rites of passage program together:

  • Introspection: a good deal of thinking about what was best for our son was the first step.
  • Remaining diligent: our rites of passage program had 13 lessons. It took time to get through the material.
  • Being creative: some principles the rites of passage program embodied did not need to be lessons expressed as written essays but lived out in action for example volunteering.
  • Getting support: it took a good deal of communication with family and friends to continually educate them on what we were doing. This was important because if friends and family remained in the dark we would not have been able to get their time, talent, or resources to support our efforts.
  • Execution: I can’t stress enough the importance of diligence and perseverance. It took an entire year before we had the rites of passage ceremony. It was postponed three different times. But being steadfast allowed us to execute.

With these five elements in mind you have a solid foundation from which to start as you design a program that is right for your son.



6 Responses to “A Rites of Passage for African-American Boys”

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  2. A. Xak said

    The moment the phrase ‘and girls’ entered the text, you lost the meaning of the whole thing.

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  6. S. Weechie Baker said


    Thank you for posting this information! Back in November I was just sitting at my dining room table thinking about my son. His birthday was coming up (Jan 20). I have never been one for planning nice birthday parties or anything, but it became clear to me that I needed to have a sacred celebration for my son this year. It felt so good to get this information/suggestion from the Most High, but I didn’t know what to do with it. During this time, we were going through some major transitions and would be moving shortly. I knew I needed to do something, but I didn’t know exactly what. I began calling as many men that I knew that I thought may help me, but none of them had a clue, either. I knew I couldn’t afford any priest and wanted this to be entirely tailored for us, and not necessarily from one particular religious view. But the ideas started to come. One elder mother gave me the best advice. She said,”ask Mother-Father God what your son needs and you do that.” So I became encouraged. Due to the move, financial challenges, and unplanned surgery, our ceremony has not occurred yet. I am on this blog tonight because of searching for a few more ideas. I must admit, though, I think Spirit has given me plenty. I was looking for something my son could do to “prove” that he’s maturing. As I write this long comment, I am already becoming inspired with some very simple things. Reading your blog was very encouraging. Although my son doesn’t fully understand what his mama is trying to do, he does seem excited about it.Two of the most crucial pieces are still missing though – more men to participate and a facility to hold the event. I am confident that it will all work out and I’m not as anxious about it being a certain way after having read your blog. It’s obviously taking longer than I thought it would, but it will happen at the right time :). Thank you for sharing. It has proven helpful.


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