Last night I attended my first Village of Wisdom (VOW) Black Genius Workshop last night. Let me first state how much I LOVE that the acronym VOW affirms the work they are doing on behalf of black families and P.O.C. Each time I see it/say it (VOW) I am giving myself a call to action, a call to commit, a call to care.

Let me see if I can paint a picture of how the evening went. I arrived involuntarily late – 6:30 instead of 6pm. Shoot! A large VOW banner directs my eleven year-old son and I underground toward the administrative offices at Northgate Mall. We walk into a very large carpeted room were children of all ages are playing. My son immediately spies two of his friends from school. Phew! I’m thankful that there’s planned childcare. I follow the signs that lead to a conference room. A young man wearing a bright red t-shirt that reads “Black Genius” greets me at the door. I sign in and am instructed to take a brightly colored “Black Genius” folder and a small “Black Genius” notebook and pen. Well equipped to participate and take notes, I find a seat among the semi-circle of parents and mix of older and younger children who are busy with plates of sandwiches, bags of chips and crackers, cans of sparkling juice and water. I quickly sit down and tune into the conversation in progress. Parents are casually talking to one another about their children and offering affirmations about them. Wait! This is the icebreaker. I realize that I no longer need to rush- that VOW has been intentional about childcare, food, and the need for a buffer between self/family-care and the battles of work, traffic, and bills. I end up sitting next to a neighbor and friend and meet several other friendly-faced parents.

Shabu/Hope Family celebrating Grandma's 80th birthday

Shabu/Hope Family celebrating Grandma’s 80th birthday

The facilitator invites parents to wrap up their conversations and tune into the power point presentation. Her tone is warm and familiar. The rustling of children does not phase the facilitator nor causes her to raise her voice. To her, these ambient noises are the welcome sounds of strong families. Parents lean in making the space that more intimate. The facilitator talks slowly and deliberately. The conversation is engaging and interactive with ample opportunity for parents to ask questions and hear one another’s stories. My partner for one of the activities was a beautiful Muslim woman; she was a new mother. As she spoke about her talented and precocious son, her eyes sparkled and I drank in the wonderment of parenting for the first time in many years. She asked me about my homeschooling journey and we made plans to stay in touch. By the end of the workshop, I felt listened to, offered myself as a resource, and was fed by new ideas and information. The pace of the evening and activities allowed me to grasp VOW concepts and strategies without feeling overwhelmed or worried how would I ever remember or be able to implement all of this information.

With full receptivity and transparency VOW invited the parents – “the village” in the making – to be part of an evaluation of the workshop. An easel, flip chart and markers came alive as “the village” offered “pluses” and “deltas”, or “triangles” as one parent called them. The feeling in the room was one of instant community as if we’d all been working together for weeks, rather than meeting for the first time many of us. VOW provided a framework and a container for successful community building and we were invited to take these strategies home and “build” with our own families. That chlly November evening began with a list of numerous appearances I would make at different events between Durham and Raleigh, but I’m glad I made the vow to attend the Black Genius Workshop.

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