Health Notes will end its African History Month tribute by talking with teacher, mentor and founder of WE WIN Institute.
Titilayo Bediako was born and raised in Minnesota, and is the daughter of civil rights leader Matthew Little. She is instrumental in using African and African American history to African American youth through WE WIN Institute ( a non-profit organization dedicated to the academic and social success of all children)
Bediako says participating in African rituals helps give African-American youth a sense that they belong to something larger than themselves or their surroundings.
She says that's something she never received when she was in school. After graduating from high school, she moved to Tennessee where she joined an African history study group. "The more I studied and the more I learned about myself, the more my given name, which was Michelle Little, didn't fit the person I had become," says Bediako.
The name Titilayo is from the Yoruba of Nigeria. She says it means "everlasting happiness." Bediako is from the Ashanti people of Ghana and it means, "born to struggle for her people."
Symbols of Kwanzaa, celebrated by African-Americans in December. Participating in African-rooted rituals and ceremonies, like Kwanzaa, is one way African-Americans nurture their African side. "So I get everlasting happiness in struggling for my people," says Bediako. "The one thing that I've learned is that struggling for African people makes it possible to struggle for all people."
Like Bediako, many African-Americans have adopted African names. However, despite attempts to identify with Africans, African-Americans carry the physical and emotional baggage of slavery and racism. Bediako says many African-Americans have poor self-esteem because they were born in a country that historically has devalued their lives.