The transition from adolescence to adulthood can be a difficult experience, filled with uncertainty and emotional, cognitive and physiological change. Given the specific challenges faced by Black youth in Toronto, Rites of Passage offers resources, guidance and support as they move from one life stage to the next. Our Afrikan-oriented approach encourages critical thinking and fosters a sense of purpose, responsibility, community perspective and resiliency.
Through individual counselling and group activities — including art projects, community events, volunteerism, Elders’ circles and trips — participants explore their identity as young adults and work toward long-term personal growth and success. Rites of Passage graduates serve as community role models, reporting improved self-esteem and higher rates of enrolment in post-secondary education. Many stay connected to the alumni support network for years to come.
What is Rites of Passage?
A “rite of passage” is a process of maturation and personal development practiced in many Indigenous cultures. The Akan of West Africa believe that the transition from adolescence to adulthood is a critical moment to reflect on four age-old questions that inspire greater self-awareness and connection to one’s community:
- Who am I? (What values, history, traditions and cultural precepts do I recognize, respect and continue?)
- How did I come to be who I am? (What forces, events and people have come together to frame who I am?)
- Am I really who I think I am? (To what extent do I understand, internalize, employ and reflect the cultural authenticity of my origins?)
- What is my life purpose?
The legacy of racism, enslavement and the subsequent weakening of cultural systems (language, customs and traditions) continues to have devastating impacts on young people of Afrikan descent, reflected in low educational attainment and employment rates, troubled relationships, engagement in high-risk behaviours and disproportionate representation in our child welfare and criminal justice systems.
Yet despite generational cycles of trauma and hardship, where new and innovative support becomes available to young people, they thrive. Knowing where one comes from and the contributions one’s people have made to the development of human history gives one a new sense of connection and power.