The Uncommon Man

November 09, 2006

The Spirit of Africa: Nigeria Training: Day Three

I barely remember the beginning of this day, filled with experiences that have challenged and altered my consciousness. The Spirit of Africa is speaking to me in ways I have only known in the deepest chambers of my heart, and I am humbled by the Power that has guided us here, to the People of Ebonyi, to learn from each other and dream of a world together.

The energy of the day built slowly, with people gradually coming into the training hall throughout the morning. We began by discussing strategies for organizing men. Mbati and Stencilous shared lessons learned from the three-year history of the Zambia Men’s Network. Fidele talked about the formation of the Rwanda Men’s Resource Center over the past five months. And I spoke of my experience creating the Men’s Resource Center of Western Massachusetts. Steve Jefferson’s comments on the MRC “Journey to Healthy Manhood” video about his own personal transformation moved and inspired many people.

The room buzzed with possibilities as each person shared a personal action commitment to end gender-based violence and support positive masculinity. The reading of a Nigerian Men’s Pledge and a Nigerian Women’s Pledge was greeted with hearty applause. Posters from Men Can Stop Rape and Family Violence Prevention Fund were presented for the strategic ways they “advertised” our work. Many conversations had to be limited as time moved all too quickly toward the ending of the training.

Suddenly, the room was filled with young girls in traditional costume and the polyrhythm beats of African instruments, bare feet and bodies moving together in power and beauty. We were invited to place small bills over the hearts of the dancers and join in the celebration. After the dances were done, the girls listened wide-eyed as the traditional ruler explained the purpose of this gathering of men and women.

In the closing ceremony each participant was honored with a certificate from MRI. We planted the bamboo pole in a bucket, adding stones of our commitment to make it stand strong. As each person held a ribbon tied to the pole in a mandala of color, we invoked the poles just like this one at Men’s Resources International in the United States and the Zambia Men’s Network, and imagining circles of women and men in communities around the world. Amen!

In the evening several wonderful men took us out for more conversation. We learned more about the legacies of militarism and corruption in Nigeria, the marginalization of the people of Ebonyi, and the development of their empowerment. They described the interweaving of family relationships in their community, and I experienced a glimpse into a reality of profound connectedness. Their smiling faces invited me to know them as a collective spirit moving in a beautiful dance of survival and love, and, as I accepted the invitation, something shifted in my being, blessed by the Spirit of Africa.

— Steven Botkin, Executive Director
Men's Resources International, USA

Posted by Daniel at November 9, 2006 01:10 PM

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