EAST SIDE: HARPER-VAN DYKE
Alkebu-lan Village, located on the east side of Detroit, is a long time staple in the neighborhood and a beacon of hope for the young people that live in the area. It has expanded far beyond its original purpose of offering affordable martial arts training for the African American youth. But it has expanded without abandoning its core mission of teaching martial arts in a way that incorporates African-centered principles.
Since its inception the organization has trained more than 250,000 individuals in the martial arts.
“Children of all ages come from all over Wayne County,” said Marvis Cofield, founder and CEO of Alkebu-lan Village. “They come for various reasons; some come for prevention, some come for intervention and past detention (those that have been in trouble). Some after being in trouble, and some are in trouble, but they all come to learn the most important tool Alkebu-lan Martial Arts, the African way of martial arts; called the 3 m’s: mental, moral and martial arts.”
Cofield said the program incorporates the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
“We are one of the few programs with a holistic approach,” Cofield said.
Cofield has a wealth of experience in martial arts; he has been a martial artist instructor for more than 35 years and is a 7th-degree Black Belt.
As an educator and CEO of Alkebu-lan Village he has recognized and skillfully used the martial arts as a tool for youth develop. “I have trained and promoted more than 60 students to the rank of Black Belt,” said Cofield.
During the past 41 years, the organization has expanded to include youth and adult sports and fitness, leadership training, visual and performing arts, homework assistance and tutoring, youth entrepreneurship training and community service. In November 2000 the organization launched its new identity as Alkebu-lan Village to reflect the growth and program expansion. Alkebu-lan Village currently provides educational, cultural and recreational programs to over 1,000 Detroit youth and their families each year through on-site and outreach programs.
Alkebu-lan Village is open during the school year and during the summer months. Young people from 5 -18 years old attend the program. They are separated according to age. Approximately 75 – 150 students attend the program each day during the summer. The teachers are former program participants, 60 percent have black belts.
“I’ve been in these types of programs for more than 50 years, since I was 14 years old,” Cofield said. “I started in the Inner City Sub-center. It was started on the eastside of Detroit by college students that provided after-school tutoring.
“It is important for these young people to know who they are and whose they are, and to have some pride about themselves. I came as a participant and really liked the Martial Arts. Martial Arts is the core of the program.”
Alkebu-lan Village actively participates in the annual Neighborhoods Day every year. On Friday they clean the neighborhood. Saturday is mass training martial arts demonstrations where different schools come together and exchange techniques. This will also be the second year that we will celebrate Obama Day.
“The Alkebu-lan philosophy is to live in harmony with self and others by learning and teach self-respect, self-discipline, self-control and self-defense.”