Rather than look for new strategies, blacks should call upon traditional strengths in raising their families during the 1980s, sociologist Robert Hill said last week at a forum on black family life.
"I don't have any new strategies. I think we need to try some old ones," said Hill, director of research in the National Urban League's Washington office. Hill, author of "The Strengths of Black Families," continued, "Some of those things that are going to bring us through the 1980s and '90s are some of the same things that brought (our ancestors) through the 1600s."
According to Hill the "traditional strengths" of the black family include strong achievement and work orientations, flexible family roles that can be interchanged to fit differing circumstances, the extended family support system and strong religious orientation.
"The church isn't going to suffer from budget cuts," Hill said, referring to resources in the black community that he says are sometimes taken for granted. Hill also pointed to "informal adoption" in the black community, in which adults often help in the rearing of a child that is not their own.
Last week's forum -- "Raising A Black Child in the '80s" -- was the third sponsored by Network Group Inc., a social change organization of District, Virginia and Maryland residents concerned about the black community.
Eleanor Engram, president of the Scientific and Management Research Group of San Jose, Calif., stressed the need for security, protection and positive thinking in parenting. But she left the audience silent when she asked the hypothetical question, "Can I really tell my child with any amount of sincerity that he can grow up to be president?"
Some members of the audience offered their own thoughts on raising black children in the coming decades. "I tell people the answer is loving ourselves and each other, and somebody asked me, 'The answer to what?'" said Grady Poulard. "I said the answer to 'Whatever.'"
"Love" was the word of the evening at the forum: Members of Network wore and sold T-shirts that answered the phrase, "Love is Loving . . ." with the words "A Black Child," "A Black Woman," "A Black Man" or "A Black Family." Others modeled T-shirts imprinted with the group's creed: "Networking Through Love."
"As you can see Network is all about love," Director Terri Johnson said after a slide presentation featuring pictures of children from Southeast Washington's Parkland Community Center. One of Network's first projects is improving the youth center at Parkland.
Network was founed by former WTTG-TV anchorman John Raye in March after a series of informal get-togethers, where friends discussed problems of black families. The meetings drew large enough crowds to convince members of the need for a formal organization.