“In youth we learn, in age we understand.”
-Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
Over the summer, I had the pleasure of attending the Advanced Training of Champions’ seminar as an intern for Akoben. In my first encounter with this work, I participated in one of the communication exercises where everyone in the room was organized into one large restorative circle. As a part of the initial training, Dr. Malik Muhammad opened the circle with a single question, “How are the kids doing?” Prior to our discussion, Dr. Muhammad explained the question’s history as a greeting between Masaai warriors. “Kasserian Ingera?” is a question rooted in the Kenyan tradition, emphasizing the importance of children.
In responding to the question, several champions conveyed their respects for today’s generation with words like “strong, resourceful, and resilient”. In retrospect, I believe that such optimism is honorable. However, we must acknowledge that, in the United States, there exists a system that murders black children, alienates refugees, and segregates Muslims. Families are torn apart between bullets from mass shootings and borders from corrupt politicians. As a young, black member of this society, I am not comfortable with accepting these problems as normal. In order to change the narrative of our youth, I believe we must confront these issues head-on. Where there is beauty in the resilience of youth, there also remains the ugly truth of their struggle. It is time for all of society to contribute towards a space of vulnerability and sensitivity. The youth should not continue to suffer from the inadequacies of their predecessors.
The traditional response to Kasserian Ingera is, “All the children are well”, a confirmation of the warriors’ priorities: peace in the community. As warriors of change, our champions have the responsibility to educate the children on these values. Restorative education can be cultivated within the mindset of each generation before the punitive cycle continues. Exposure for our youth is crucial to their progression as a collective. Subsequently, our youth are accountable for continuing the formula for change (Connection+Challenge=Change) amongst each other. Eventually, the failures of the punitive system will create a space for restorative work. Still, the question we must ask ourselves now is, “When will the children be well?”