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Young men need to hear their fathers speak affirmation and love
Sonja Scott
Sonja Scott

By Sonja R. Scott

“Please, don’t be late,” I pleaded as I walked briskly to my car with a handful of decorative seashells and my iced coffee for the day. The anticipation builds as the final preparations for Isaiah’s 21st birthday dinner is underway. Driving separate cars on this day was not a great idea, but I had to make it to the party venue early in order make a few final touches to the decorations which included placing the seashells around the candles on the tables.

In my mind, I wanted everything to be just right for this celebration which included one of our most cherished family traditions -- “The Abrahamic Blessing Ceremony” based on Genesis 12:1-3.  This is our family’s rite of passage in which their father, Roger Sr., along with our spiritual leaders, Bishop James Wright, Jr. and Elder Clayton Wright and other men in our family read scriptures, impart blessings, and pray to God for our sons’ journey into manhood much like a bar-mitzvah in the Jewish community or baptism in the Evangelical community and other rites of passages for young men around the world.  

 With the rise of mental health issues, isolation, and an entire generation learning how to be a man through social media, rites of passages foster self-development in young men by providing experiences that help them understand their transition from childhood to manhood with the father’s voice as a source of direction, leadership, and accountability. It is a moment for the father to “speak over” their sons, introduce them to the community or village, and portray acceptance for the son as a man.

The more rites of passage that are acknowledged publicly in a young man’s life, the more likely he will live out his true purpose.  Apostle Paul gives us these insightful words in I Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

 After weeks of preparation, which I thoroughly enjoy, the venue is decorated with royal blue and gold, symbolizing royalty, crisp white tablecloths adorned with Kente cloth runners to pay homage to our Gullah culture. Additionally, I added large palm leaves embellished with an array of candles and seashells to further connect to our sea island heritage.

No celebration is complete without food -- and lots of it!  We presented a well-prepared meal with more cultural symbols: savory meat dishes such as curry chicken, shrimp and gravy, an array of vegetables and, of course, the staple of rice, a mainstay of Gullah cuisine. The fragrance of the food filled the room as Roger and I greet guests with smiles and hugs.

On a table decorated with a gold tablecloth, I had carefully arranged the beautiful bird-themed cake, a framed piece of Isaiah’s bird artwork, along with a poster of his first artist in residence opportunity with The Gibbs Museum in Charleston last spring. It was important to me to celebrate the past, while thanking God for his future. The entire room was buzzing with music and laughter as uncles, aunts, cousins, and even his college roommate from Cornell University enjoyed a scrumptious meal, posed for pictures, and laughed as stories of his childhood are shared.

Roger, along with our spiritual leaders and Isaiah, came to the front of the room. I stood in that moment with such a thankful heart. Isaiah was the “baby” and now he was becoming a young man.  As the ceremony unfolds, we could hear the love in Roger’s voice as he read scriptures with intensity, petitioning God to bless his sons.  At the end, he embraced Isaiah and his brother amidst tears. The affirmation of the father is a powerful force.

 As God said of Jesus in Matthew 3:17, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased,” a young man needs to hear his father speak over him words of affirmation and love. Rites of passages can change the trajectory of a young man’s life by simply pausing, planning, and allowing the father to speak over their sons.

 

Sonja R. Scott is an educator, motivational speaker, youth minister, and entrepreneur. She and her husband share their home in Coastal Georgia with three extraordinary boys and their beloved Shih Poo, Cocoa. Sonja attended the University of Georgia and obtained a BA in public relations. She later obtained her Master of Teaching-Exceptional Children from Armstrong-Atlantic University.