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Rites of Passage marks transition into manhood
Participants encouraged to make a difference
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2018
by Freda Freeman, Correspondent

DURHAM – Brothers Kyle, 16, and Rasheed Hardison, 13, were initiated into manhood during the Durham Business and Professional Chain’s 29th annual Rites of Passage graduation ceremony Sunday. The ceremony is a way to honor and uplift young African-American men as they begin to accept leadership roles in the community.

The DBPC Cultural Committee started the program, a nationally-acclaimed mentoring and violence intervention program, in 1989. Intended for black males ages 13-17, the nine-month program consists of African and African-American history, economics, health, conflict resolution, and entrepreneurship. The program pairs the young men with mentors, with the support of their parents and volunteers.

Based on African traditions, the transition to manhood is marked with the pouring of libation and conferring of ancestral names. Kyle’s African name means “of noble promise” and Rasheed’s name means “king of the world.” The libation is a mixture of salt, which represents wisdom; vinegar because life is sometimes bitter; and honey, which represents the sweetness of life.

DBPC member Wilma Liverpool told the brothers that although the drink is bitter, it was nothing compared to the bitterness life can bring their way. Liverpool said she goes to too many vigils for young people who have died because of making wrong choices. She pleaded with them to make wise decisions and told them that if they ever have qualms about doing something, don’t do it.

Guest speaker, the Rev. Robert Lawson of Ilong Baptist Church, based his comments on Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Lawson spoke about the importance of being responsible parents and molding a child’s life. He also told the boys to honor and respect their parents.

DBPC members told the initiates that it’s not where they start in life that matters, it’s where they finish. The members prayed God’s will be manifested in their lives. They then tied a strip of African cloth on each boy’s left arm to be worn for seven days to signify completion and the passage into manhood.

Both Kyle and Rasheed said they learned a lot by participating in the program. Kyle, who’s in the 11th grade, said the program taught him to take care of his home and to treat his parents with respect. Rasheed, an eighth-grader, said he learned how to be a young man and that he loved learning about his heritage.

Their adoptive mother, Ora Smith, said she is a strict disciplinarian who, along with her husband, Ronald, are raising their sons to be hard workers and to finish high school and go on to college.

“God did not give me these two boys to fail them,” she said. “I adopted these two boys, and I have a responsibility to these two boys. I am proud to have these two boys in my life right now, and I am going to train them up the way God wants them to be so that they can grow up and be somebody.”

Also during Sunday’s program, Bishindo Mayfield was recognized as a ROP graduate. Bishindo, who’s graduating from Riverside High School in Durham, plans to go into military service.

His mother, Lois Mayfield, said that for a single mother, the ROP program is invaluable. “The program is more than worth its value on gold,” she said. “You need a male to show them how to be a man.”

For more information about the ROP program, call 919-683-1047.



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