Shazel Muhammad-Neain, founder and lead consultant of Eunoia Global, was in her mid-forties when she had a life changing epiphany; she had lived over four decades with little connection to who she was. The recent uptick in momentum behind the Movement for Black Lives has raised collective awareness about the impacts of slavery and colonialism on diasporic Africans, but for Muhammad-Neain, this reckoning came several years ago. It motivated her to find a solution that would harness the transformative power of connecting with ancestral identity to help African American teens understand their present and proactively choose their future.
The African Link Initiative (ALI) was created to to meet this need. It’s an evidence-based three-part identity development program that culminates in a birthright trip to Ghana. The initiative is designed to help transform the way teens see their world and their possibilities by first transforming how they see themselves. According to Muhammad-Neain, a healthy sense of identity enables self-esteem, resilience and positive life outcomes. ALI’s approach is grounded in studies proving that programs for Black students that teach Black culture and instill cultural pride improve life outcomes for participants.
ALI is a proprietary program of Eunoia Global, and will kick-off its virtual pilot program in January 2021 in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County, AfricanAncestry.com, Vital Smarts and Global Connections Foundation of Hopewell, NJ. The program will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. via Zoom or at the Boys & Girls Club at 104 Spruce Street. ALI is free to students enrolled in an area school in eighth through twelfth grade.
Teens involved will begin their ALI experience by taking a DNA ancestry test, provided by African Ancestry. The ancestry tracing helps them answer the question, “where do I come from?” Next, teens participate in skill-building activities and Vital Smarts’ custom Crucial Conversations™ workshop to determine “where am I now?” The final components are a Teen Summit Dialogue and Family Reunion event to explore “where can I grow from here?”
The birthright trip to Ghana begins with a diplomatic VIP sendoff at the Embassy of Ghana in Washington, D.C. In Ghana, participants will meet Ghanaian youth, complete a youth-led community service project and visit historical sites of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Each night, teens will spend time reflecting on and documenting their thoughts and feelings about their experiences. This homecoming also provides authentic, direct experience to help heal the divide between native born and diasporic Africans, and help African American youth heal the divide within themselves.
Community members can donate and learn more about ALI by visiting www.AfricanLink.org and following @AfricanLinkInitiative on Instagram and Facebook. All donations are tax-deductible, as allowed by law.