The African Community Center for Unity and Self-Determination/Atlanta under the authority of the elected Unity Council is providing leadership in helping to establish and maintain a Metro Atlanta Council of African Elders. This Council is to serve our community in at lease two ways, 1) provide counsel and guidance to the Unity Council and our Community on matters of vital interest to our people and 2) help resolve conflicts/disputes/contradictions in the Community and help build and maintain a system/process for this purpose.
The following points reflect our current thinking on how we will assemble the Council, its structure or makeup and how the Council will function to serve our Community. Please understand that this process should and will grow. We call on every person in the Community to contribute to this important and necessary project. All suggestion, corrections and/or criticisms should be sent to our email address at: firstname.lastname@example.org or given directly to any member of the Council of African Elders or any member of the Unity Council. – This effort can only be successful if you and others care enough to help think through this process and offer your frank suggestions for improvement.
(1) What is an Elder? A person, senior in years, who is highly respected in the Community for their character and spirit, demonstrated through their behavior, good judgment and sensitivity to the needs of our community and people. An elder is normally a person of influence in their family and community and is often used to help maintain balance and peace. An elder would include both men and women.
(2) Age of Council Members: For our purposes, age fifty-five (55) is the threshold age: 55 and older. This age is suggested because it should give us a large enough pool (brothers and sisters in that age range) from which to draw. Selecting an age older (60 or 65) would possibly not give us a large enough pool from which to draw or pull from.
(2a) Age Levels of Council Members: 55 to 65, Jr. Elder 65 to 75, Sr. Elder 75 and older, Paramount Elder
(3) Size of Council: There would be no upper limit to the number of members of this council. It could be as large as 50 or more members. Having a large council makes it more likely that a panel (7, 9 or 12 members) could be assembled when needed. Having a large council also allows for rotation; not calling on the same elders, over-and-over.
(4) Composition of the Council: When possible, an equal number of women and men would be the body of the council. Women and men would hold an equal (and equitable) role within the council. Where there are matters which specifically deal with one gender the appropriate gender would convene to respond and resolve the issue. The other gender may share any constructive input or feedback to the gender deliberating on the issue.
It is recommended that each Elder partner with at least one youth for the purpose of intergenerational transfer/transmission of information and wisdom. The details of such a union are to be developed.
(5) Selection of Council Members: As persons are recommended from the community to serve on the council, staff and volunteers of the African Community Center would contact those recommended to let them know that their names had been submitted, inform them of the responsibilities of Council membership and assess their ability and willingness to serve. The staff person or volunteer would secure enough information to draft a comprehensive bio.
The potential Elders’ name and bio would be placed before the elected Unity Council for approval or disapproval. Unless compelled to do otherwise, the Unity Council would approve those recommended from the community who meet the basic requirements. It should be very rare that anyone recommended, willing and qualified would not be approved for membership on the Council of African Elders.
(6) Recommendation Process: Anyone in our community (Metro Atlanta) can recommend a senior (55 or older) for placement on the Council. This is done by completing a short form for this purpose at: http: //www.unity4power.org/elder-form. (7) Length of Service: Lifetime: Brothers and sisters serving in this very vital role should be encouraged to continue to serve for as long as they possibly can. Natural turnover will occur as new elders are recommended and approved and current elders leave for any number of reasons. - Our community must show high respect to all our elders, but special respect is to be shown to the brothers and sisters who give of themselves to serve as a member of the Council of African Elders.
(8) Support for our Elders: It has been recommended that, as a community, we seek ways to build and maintain a monetary fund to support our Elders in times of need. A small committee could be commissioned to research and make recommendations to the community as the process develops.
(9) Trained Mediators: As a part of our community, there already exist several brothers and sisters who have training in mediation and arbitration. These few will be commissioned to establish a training process to add to their numbers. The goal of this process is to train several new mediators each year.
The objective is to assign a trained mediator to each panel of Elders in session. The mediators would facilitate sessions, but would not be a part of any decisions. The mediators’ role is to skillfully get both sides of a concern/conflict fully exposed so that there might be healing and/or to aid the Panel in making sure the deliberation remains focused and progresses appropriately. – There could be cases where agreement/resolutions is reached between conflicting parties (with the aid of a trained mediator) before it ever reaches the Council of African Elders.
(10) The Council of African Elders as Advisers: In their role of providing counsel and guidance to the Unity Council of the African Community Center and our Community in general; the Council of African Elders would function as a panel (small number) or as a council-of-the-whole depending on the need. As council-of-the-whole, all members are to deliberate. Any recommendation from the Council of African Elders wherein ¾ or 75% of the members in attendance and satisfying requirements for a quorum (50% of total membership), would be considered official.
Any individual or organizational member of our community would be able to call on the Council of African Elders for guidance. Specific process to be established:
(11) The Council of African Elders in helping resolve conflicts/disputes/contradictions: In their role of helping to resolve conflicts/dispute/contradictions, the Council of African Elders provides the community with a venue to attain resolution without (or before) having to bring in outside judiciary systems that do not have our best interest at heart.
In this role, the Council of African Elders would divide itself into panels (7, 9 or 12). A panel with a trained mediator would be used to help restore unity/harmony to any matter correctly brought before the Council. The details of this process are a work in progress.
(12) Trigger: When an individual, organization or institution in our community has a concern it wants to bring before the Council, they can reach out to any member of the Council or call the African Community Center at 404-344-5454. That concern (w/contact info) would be communicated to a committee (3 to 5 members) of the Council for review and appropriate action.
(13) Organizing Process: This document has been and continues to be disseminated throughout our community. Everyone is strongly encouraged to share it with others and also to respond with recommendations to strengthen this document and process.
(14) What’s needed from you now?!!!? As a receiver of this document, you are being entrusted with the responsibility to do the following two things: 1) forward/share this document with brothers and sisters you know and 2) respond with your recommendations for Elders to serve on the Council of African Elders and also with suggestions to help strengthen this process.
(15) Urgent Appeal: Please do not take this effort lightly; our youth are watching and future generations will judge us. This is a clear opportunity for us to build (collectively) an institution/process that meets a real need and at the same time is a bold statement of our determination to be free of exploitation and domination by others.
Unity, Self-Determination and Love for our People,