Yensomu: Building and Maintaining Harmony with Self, Family, Community, and Heritage


Rites is a life-changing process grounded in traditional Afrikan values

Builds Self Esteem

Besides preparing youth to make a successful passage into adulthood, one of the primary goals of Rites of passage is building selfworth and to instil a sense of identity. During slavery and colonization the names (cultural identity) and rights (freedom, human value) were taken away. Having your identity stolen will no doubt take it’s toll on one self-esteem. Although we are no longer physically enslaved, many are still dealing with the emotional and and psychological ramifications of racism. Rites of Passage addresses this issue by instilling cultural pride and a sense of identity.

Develops community awareness and unity

In traditional African society, individual and group responsibilities are viewed as mutually dependent because they did not view themselves as isolated entities but rather, part of an extended family of initiates and mentors. In the African-centered rites of passage emphasis is placed on the principle of unity – “Umoja”. Umoja (unity) is the first principle of Kwanzaa: it teaches us to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community nation and race. We are a communal people and traditionally we believe that, spiritually and culturally all people of African ancestry are family. This is why we refer to each other as brothers and sisters.

Gives rise to a sense of belonging

During adolescence, peer relationship become increasingly important and during the teen years, peer acceptance take precedence over adult approval. Teens need to belong; this desire to belong puts them at a greater risk of giving in to negative peer pressure. The African-centered rites of passage process meet their need by providing a structured, positive peer group to belong to.

A safe haven to discuss social issues and life skills

Young men and boys are growing up in a time when they have to deal with man issues that we probably never had to face, such as: gang violence,HIV/AIDS, media and adult negativity. Group rap/break-out sessions provide practical strategies for dealing with tough life issues.

What is Rites?

What's involved?
Rites assists candidates in answering four key questions

A rite of passage is a ceremony and marks the transition from one phase of life to another. Although it is often used to describe the tumultuous transition from adolescence to adulthood, it does refer to any of life’s transitions (Births and Beginnings, Initiations, Partnering, and Endings or Death). There are many passages in our lives if we choose to mark and celebrate them. The Rites program is a 5-6 months process, consisting of an assessment of readiness, bimonthly meetings, a weekend retreat and an initiation ceremony. Yensomu’s process cultivates one’s identity positively through critical thinking and learning, community competence, challenges and developing life skills, and providing candidates with a deeper connection to their history and tradition through mentoring support.

  • Who Am I?
  • How Did I Become Who I Am?
  • Am I Really Who I Think I Am?
  • What's My Life's Purpose?

Committee Members

All of our steering committee members are trained in Rites and practise its principles in their daily lives.
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Steering Committee Member
Lindis is a Yensomu Rites Initiate, Mrammuo 2009, and the Youth Facilitator of the African Canadian Heritage Association, where the Rites of Passage approach is utilized. Lindis is a registered physiotherapist working in private practice with neurologically impaired clients in the community.
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Lee (Kodjo) Miller

Steering Committee Member
Lee Miller is a Yensomu Rites Initiate (2007), chair and a co-founder of York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities and Vice-chair of Destiny Community Outreach Program. He is also the founder of Ebony Gifts and Consulting Service Inc., which evokes African art within the mainstream.
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Kamilah Abena Clayton

Steering Committee Member
Kamilah completed her formal Rites process through Yensomu, in 2014, and has been continuing her Rites journey since that time. She is a registered social worker in the area of child welfare as well as a mentor for African Canadian youth in the care of the Children’s Aid Society in Peel.
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Kemi Jacobs

Steering Committee Member
Kemi became a Rites initiate when Canadians had to travel to the US to do so. Through Yensomu, she continues her work of strengthening the African family.–by birth and chosen–greatly. Of utmost importance to her are self actualization, honouring the Afrikan and a singing soul.


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