There are moments in life that you assess that become the basis for reflection and insight into your own character. In these instances, you’re either satisfied with the standards by which you live your life or you aren’t. When the latter happens, it is up to the individual to seek out the tools that enable personal growth and achievement. The Sonship program is one such tool, and for the African- American community in Las Vegas, it’s also a blessing in the embodiment of Yusef Sudah.
Sudah is a man of gentle stoicism and commanding intellect. He neither confesses nor professes anything without meticulous study and contemplation. Born in 1944 and reared in Chicago, Sudah is the third of five children. His roots trace back to Tanzania, a small country in Africa where his grandparents were born. Although he’s never been to the great continent, his connection to Africa seems to have prompted what would become a lifelong passion to help his brethren thrive in America.
As a young boy, Sudah was able to avoid the allure of gangs and instead developed a taste for the refinement of language and arts. With the ushering in of the ‘60s, Sudah’s creative persona helped him navigate a turbulent period for African-Americans when living in the land of the free required living under an umbrella of suspicion, ridicule and hatred.
The country was reeling with anxiety from a confounding war, and a massive social movement was underway. Reading and learning as much about the world was a way for Sudah to understand the language of his time. The collision between social awareness and activism is a defining one, and for Sudah, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement and Pan-Africanist Movement were those moments that gave him clarity to pursue a life of service.
It’s difficult being discontent when you are content to listen, and Sudah is a man who listens. Whether it’s listening to the CFO of a company or organization, he is tasked with restructuring a young man who needs guidance for an uncertain future. When asked to help restructure a waning mentorship program for young men and boys in the Las Vegas area, Sudah once again listened.
His creative thinking and administrative know-how is what helped Sonship take flight. Described as a “ritual passage to manhood,” Sonship provides space for fathers and sons to re-bond and heal while a community participates, encourages and applauds.
“Being a man is an ongoing, learning process,” Sudah said.
Ethics, integrity, honor, responsibility and accountability are the five principles at the heart of Sonship, a 12-week guide that helps young men find power in knowledge and freedom in truth.
“Biology alone does not make a son,” Sudah stated of the program.
The five guiding principles create a lasting foundation for sons and fathers to build upon. Solutions are needed for young men torn from their fathers and thrust into a world they’ve learned nothing about.
“I would like young men to think, reason and arrive at viable constructive solutions to their life situations,” said Sudah. “By achieving understanding and arriving at solutions, we serve all living creation to keep our Earth alive.”
If Sonship is fresh air for those lives decimated by fatherless homes, then Sudah is the man who contributes the oxygen. He is the chief architect of Sonship and abides by the principles he set in a program he designed.
Held at the West Las Vegas Arts Center, Sonship helps broken families thrive in their community. He is addressed as “sir” by young members who welcome him with appreciation and fondness for his valuable contributions to their community.
KemuEl, 38, didn’t meet his father until he was 15. For him, Sonship was an invaluable way to “participate in positive community activities.” KemuEl, who mentors within the program, is eager for his 3-year-old son, Sunjahta, to benefit from his knowledge so that he can “end the cycle [of dysfunction] and not perpetuate the same actions.”
Isaiah, 13, hasn’t seen his father since he was 6. He has two sisters and one younger brother. Isaiah’s self-awareness extends well beyond his young age. According to him, his maturity is precisely due to his participation in Sonship, which taught him the value of being a better son.
“Certain things you can teach yourself, and some things need to be taught,” said Isaiah.
Alfatari, 35, is also a mentor with Sonship and the father of a 3-year-old daughter named Adamma, which means “queenly.” Alfatari welcomed the chance to put his turbulent past behind him and take advantage of the “opportunity to fellowship with other sons, other fathers.”
“Sonship is a village coming together, teaching and growing,” proclaimed Alfatari.
With Sudah at the helm, the Sonship program does all of that and much, much more.