For more than four decades, Marvis Cofield, founder and CEO of Alkebu-lan Village, has been a strong advocate for the empowerment of African American youth in the city of Detroit. It has been his belief that when significant time, energy, knowledge and resources are poured into the lives of young people, they will be better prepared to meet the many challenges of life.
Cofield was honored for his passion and organization’s work to empower inner city youth. Cofield, along with 55 other community leaders from across the country, was presented the prestigious FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award during a ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C.
FBI Director James B. Comey presented the award.
“It was a great honor to be chosen,” said Cofield. “It was a testament to what Alkebu-lan has done in serving more than 350,000 youth and families over the past 37 years. We believe in taking action, not just talking about action. It’s about putting boots on the ground in the community to reach our young people in many ways.”
“Marvis Cofield is a revered community leader in metropolitan Detroit,” Paul M. Abbate, special agent in charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office said in a press release. “He has been an advocate and community partner with the FBI Detroit Field Office, Community Outreach Program for more than 10 years.”
Cofield began his journey of youth advocacy in 1978, when he opened Alkebu-lan Martial Arts Federation, an east side martial arts training facility that also taught young people discipline and other interpersonal skills needed to succeed in life. As a 7th degree black belt and victor in national and international competitions, Cofield, a native Detroiter, was able to connect with many inner city youth when others could not.
In 2000, Cofield’s Alkebu-lan Martial Arts Federation evolved into Alkebu-lan Village. The newer organization offered more services to develop young people educationally, culturally and recreationally. The organization is dedicated to preparing black youth (5 to18 years of age) for the 21st Century through mentorship and teachings of leadership, entrepreneurship and social understanding. The organization has numerous programs that support youth success, including tutoring, after-school initiatives and a juvenile diversion program.
The name Alkebu-lan is the ancient name of Africa. It was with this Afrocentric mindset and pride that Cofield chose the name Alkebu-lan for his two organizations.
As a product of the 1960s and early 1970s, which were pivotal times in the both the civil rights and black power movements, Cofield has never forgotten his roots, or their importance to his community-empowering endeavors of today. He grew up on the city’s east side wanting to help elevate his community and his people. He realized that young people were the leaders of the future, but required special guidance along the way.
Thus, after graduating from Kettering High School, Cofield earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Wayne County Community College, a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Detroit Institute of Technology and a teaching certificate from Wayne State University School of Education.
From 1980 to 1990, Cofield taught at Kettering. Additionally, he worked in leadership capacities with Inner City Sub Center, a community-based organization on the east side, dedicated to providing meaningful services and activities to local black communities. This organization served as a foundational rock on which Alkebu-lan Village continues to stand.
“We are an African-centered organization,” said Cofield, a former Detroit Public Schools board member who currently serves on the board of New Detroit. “We embrace our rich culture, history and traditions of Mother Africa, and we choose to teach our black youth principles that go back many thousands of years ago in Africa.
“I look at what I do as a ministry because I’ve been blessed,” he said. “For me, the gift of reciprocity is to learn and gain something, but give back so others will be helped.”
For more information about Alkebu-lan Village, located at 7701 Harper Ave. in Detroit, log on to www.alkebulanvillage.com or call 313.921.1616.