AFRO Book Review:

Armentha “Mike” Cruise’s excellent new book, Awakened Through the Passage, is a call for increasing generational wealth in the African American community and using a rites of passage program for youth to assist in that long-term endeavor. Cruise’s concept of wealth is broad in that it encompasses not only financial wealth but also the riches of knowledge, culture, heritage, and spirituality. The focus of the book is summarized in its subtitle, Using History to Influence Wealth Creation for Present and Future Generations. That history includes the study of powerful black African civilizations pre-slavery as well as our history post-slavery.

The author was inspired by the practice of many African ethnic groups that memorialize with communal rituals the accomplishments of their youth as they transition through the stages of life. She learned that many other cultures practiced rites of passage. The rituals strengthen societal bonds and the cultural norms of the community. Ms. Cruise believes an Awakened Rites of Passage Program designed to help African American youth identify with their African roots would affect positively their self-image, behavior, and cultural values as they are awakened to self-empowerment and a collective connection to their community. The target age is 6 to 18 years old.

Ms. Cruise notes that our children have been crippled by their internalization of racist beliefs about African Americans and Africans. Those false beliefs undergird our children’s denigration of self and other African Americans, poor school performance, killing of black youth by one another and not seeing a better future for themselves. In African history, writes the author, “… we will find stories that equip our children in the navigation of obstacles and successes, while understanding themselves and the importance of supporting one another as African Americans.” The bird that graces the book’s cover, with its feet facing forward while its head is facing backward to pick up an egg, is the Akan, Ghanaian, symbol of Sankofa, interpreted to mean wisdom in looking back to move forward in strength.

Through the Awakened Rites of Passage Program, the students gain ownership of their “minds, values, beliefs, and spirit.” Having internalized that they are descendants of a great people, the students continue with instruction in the importance of financial ownership. They are taught how to achieve financial success, especially through home ownership, entrepreneurship, and investment in the stock market. Ms. Cruise shares her personal story of the methods she used to realize her dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur and being able to have a legacy of financial stability.

The author does not include a template for an Awakened Rites of Passage curriculum. She does, however, provide an outline of her train-the-trainer program. There is also a discussion guide for each of the book’s chapters. The extensive list of references and foundational resources include books, audiovisual material, and web links. Although the book is short, no more than 132 pages, it contains a wealth of significant information that should be on the bookshelves of parents of African American children and anyone else who cares about them.

Here is the fundamental essence of the author’s message: “Our goal is to create a mind-set in present and future generations to understand the powers they have within them. The Awakened process teaches youth to both recognize these powers and to tap into them at will. … And so, in life, if we are to move forward with ease and fulfillment, we must learn to tap into this power for direction and guidance. To stay tapped into it, we must live our lives in such a way so that we maintain a clear and open channel. We cannot act out of fear for fear paralyzes and creates negative energy. We must act out of faith with the belief that we can succeed … and with the understanding that positive

energy is transported into FAITH which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  To that I say, “Amen!”