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Blue Nile Passage, Inc.

About Blue Nile Passage, Inc.

Blue Nile Passage, Inc., (BNP) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the upliftment of America’s youth. It is a spiritual, cultural and moral character development mentor program with a focus on youth of African descent. Founded in 1994 by nine individuals with two of Abyssinian Baptist Church’s ministries (The Board of Christian Social Concern and The Brotherhood), under the leadership of Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III, the mission was given to create a program that could become a “paradigm for the nation.”


(PHOTO CONTENT NOTE: there’s a photo of Blue Nile students and or ceremony w/Dr. Butts – please insert here)

Now, more than 20 years later Blue Nile Passage, run by one of its esteemed founders, Elder Cliff Simmons, has indeed become a “paradigm for the nation” as it is one of the largest highly regarded well known rites-of-passage programs in America. Over one thousand young people have participated in the programs to date and many have come back as alums to volunteer as elders, teachers and mentors. Elder Simmons leads a fine team of experienced volunteers committed to serving our nation’s youth with the mission and values of Blue Nile Passage.

Currently, Blue Nile Passage is headquartered in Harlem, New York with a Harlem Chapter and also conducts a chapter in Westchester, Greenburgh, New York.

Distinguished world scholar, historian and Egyptologist, Dr. Yosef ben-Yochannan (known affectionately by all as Dr. Ben) chose the name Blue Nile Passage, attributable to the Blue Nile River which emanates from the mountains in Ethiopia and because Abyssinian Baptist Church was founded by Ethiopians.

(PHOTO CONTENT NOTE: there’s a photo of Blue Nile students and or Cliff with Dr. Ben – please insert here or use one from his service which was well attended by Blue Nile)

Noted Black Studies Professor James Smalls added to the formula by advising that the organization incorporate the use of the terms “Sons” and “Daughters” in the rites of passage program, the students who participate in the program become known as the Sons and Daughters of the Blue Nile.

What Is Rites-Of-Passage?

When children are blossoming into adult-hood, breaking through puberty, in traditional African society as well as many indigenous communities here and throughout the world, the spiritual leaders, parents and elders of the community come together to assist the young person in preparation for what lies ahead in the world. This takes place in the form of cultural grounding lessons or classes, covering various areas of life including economics, hygiene, culture, history, warfare, hunting, survival, personal behavior, responsibility, charity and the like, in the process of training boys and girls to become productive adults.

The successful completion of this milestone was celebrated in a rites-of-passage ceremony which solemnized the process of growing into adulthood signifying that the student acquired the necessary knowledge regarding the lessons and values of the community with evidence that the student is prepared to deal with the many responsibilities and challenges they may face as they get older.

In Blue Nile, the goal is to provide our young people with the level of excellence necessary to become successful in today’s society. Blue Nile is committed to working with our community’s children to develop positive values and behaviors; to enlighten youth to their goodness, greatness and unlimited potential, understanding that these gifts are meant to be shared constructively with the global community; and for each one to “become the change we wish to see in the world” to paraphrase Mahatma Ghandi.

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The Seven Principles For Living

Blue Nile’s programmatic themes are centered around its “Seven Principles for Living”:

  1. Personal Growth and Development
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Spiritual Grounding
  4. Historical African Experience
  5. Community Consciousness
  6. Economic Awareness
  7. Politics

These principles embodied in the “Blue Nile Passage Creed” are taught by varied national and global scholars and leaders. In addition to classes, students receive an interactive community experience with various trips to museums, United Nations, the theatre, concerts, retreats etc.

Saturday Sessions

Typically, the Blue Nile program year runs for eight months from September to May and is offered every Saturday from 8:30AM to 3:00PM including lunch, for youth ages 13 to 17.


The mentoring component is a one to one positive supportive relationship wherein Blue Nile pairs a mentor suited for the mentee. Mentoring provides consistent support, guidance and encouragement for the mentee.

Mentors attend four hours of training, must be vetted through official channels, must submit three references and must communicate and interact regularly (at least twice a week) with their mentee and the mentee’s family. In addition, while reinforcing the lessons taught in the Blue Nile Passage and assist mentees with assignments and responsibilities (including keeping abreast of their mentee’s school affairs), mentors must attend at minimum, one Blue Nile session a month and attend monthly mentor meetings.

Parental Commitment

Blue Nile parents play a key role in ensuring that there is continuity beyond the Blue Nile Saturday sessions. The goal is to foster partnership and better communication between all involved in the youth’s life. Parents must attend mandatory parent meetings four times a year, attend the child’s “passing through” ceremony (generally during the month of May or June), attend the “Day of Commitment”, when the child is paired with their mentor (typically in November) along with other requirements as outlined in Blue Nile materials.

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Passing Through

In order for a Son or Daughter of the Blue Nile to “Pass Through”, a number of test mechanisms called evaluations are conducted to assess the young person’s progress in the program, at home, in school as well as the student’s attitude and conduct with their peers, parents, elders, mentors and in the community. Successful demonstration means that the student will be eligible to “pass through” and be entitled to a ceremonial celebration of community.

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Blue Volunteer Nile Staff

Elder Cliff Simmons, Co-founder & Executive Director

Elder Gregory Tolson, Deputy Director

Elder Gabrielle Baker, Co-founder & Executive Program Advisor

Elder Joseph Harris, Chair, Education Committee

Program Director, Harlem

Program Director, Greenburgh

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Blue Nile Partners (list in progress)

Abyssinian Baptist Church

Wadleigh Middle School

Theodore D. Young Community Center

White Plains Youth Bureau

Union Baptist Church

Victory Tabernacle of Deliverance




If you are interested in registering a child or becoming active in Blue Nile Passage, please Email your contact information and area of interest to:

_______________________________ at __________________________

If you wish to apply now you may access the application forms here: (CONTENT NOTE: please add if possible to access forms)

Mailing Address:

Blue Nile Passage, Inc.

P.O. Box 881 Lincolnton Station

New York, NY 10037

212 561-1449 (voicemail)


The Blue Nile Passage Creed

I live not only for myself, but for the betterment of all humankind. I am a man/woman of honor, respect, dignity, pride, and compassion for those less fortunate than myself. As I go forward in the path of life:

I will speak out whenever I see an injustice, for an injustice to one is an injustice to all, an injustice which I may one day befall.

I will continue to educate myself, for I must continue to grow, not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually.

I will continue to strive to meet my potential, for all the skills I possess are God given gifts, but what I do with these skills are my gift to God.

I will work to be a light among my people, for the uncertainty of our future needs the illumination of truth, righteousness and victory.

I will use my time wisely and productively, for time waits for no one, and all that I accomplish today leaves me time to accomplish more tomorrow.

I will never look down on a person who is on drugs, despondent, or homeless, for there but for the grace of God go I.

I will reach out to teach my sisters and brothers about our rich history and traditions, for to know where we are today, and where we are going tomorrow, we must know our past, and how far we have already come.

I will always honor, respect, and protect our beautiful black men/women, for their past is my past, their reality is my reality, and their destiny is mine.

I will never defame, destroy, or disgrace my name, my body, my environment, or my race.

I will never forget those who paved the road on which I walk, for their journey was treacherous, their courage great, their vision keen, their devotion sacred, their lessons priceless, and my gratitude endless.

I will never compromise my moral convictions, for they are the building blocks of my character, which represent who I am.

I will never forget the lessons I have learned in The Blue Nile Passage, for they are the keys with will unlock the doors to success for myself, my family and my community.