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date: 26 March 2017

Jeff, Morris F. X., Jr.

Abstract and Keywords

Dr. Morris F. X. Jeff Jr. (1938–2003) was an Afrocentric-centered social worker, practitioner, activist, advocate, trainer, and consultant who spoke with clarity on urban problems and solutions using an African-centered paradigm.

Keywords: Afrocentric practice, social equality, African American issues, empowerment, community activism

Dr. Morris Francis Xavier Jeff Jr., also known as Sankofahene Barima Odi Akosah (1938–2003), was a social worker, therapist, advocate, trainer, activist, and consultant who spoke with clarity on urban problems and solutions using an African philosophical approach. He was a licensed clinician and a widely respected expert on a number of subjects including transracial adoption, Black-on-Black violence, welfare reform, reparation, manhood development, cultural diversity, the middle passage, rites-of-passage programs, Kemetic (Egyptian) culture, and African spirituality. Dr. Jeff was the fifth national president (1986–1990) of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) and was an active member of the New Orleans NABSW Chapter, making it one of the most viable chapters in the country.

Jeff was a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1965 after serving as a caseworker with the Children’s Division of the Cook County Department of Public Aid in Chicago, Illinois. He received a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University in New Orleans, a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta) in Atlanta, Georgia, and a PhD in social work from Tulane University in New Orleans. As part of his body of work, he was the director of the New Orleans Department of Human Services for 20 years. Like his father, Morris Sr., he dedicated his life to fighting the battles of those who needed it most, African American children. He championed the many unpopular issues within society while challenging those around him to join in the struggles.

After his arrival in Louisville, Jeff first served as project director at the Presbyterian Community Center. In 1966, he accepted the directorship of the Plymouth Settlement House and served in that position until 1972. The Plymouth Settlement House at 1626 West Chestnut Street was started in 1917 to serve the African American population of Louisville’s west end. Jeff was most proud of the work he accomplished at the Plymouth Settlement House. He once said, “In the years since I have been here, Plymouth Settlement House has become seen as an agency that is competent and committed to the needs of serving Black people. We are the only settlement house established by Black people for Black people.” Jeff was a true believer of the need for preserving and advancing African American families. He appeared on NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Night Line, CBS’s Night Watch, and the Oprah Winfrey Show as an opponent to transracial adoptions. He asserted that Black people can and must care for Black children. In 1981, he developed the Harambee Closing Ceremony to honor African culture to be held as part of the National Association of Black Social Workers annual conferences. Harambee is a Kiswahili word that translates as “pulling together” or “we all pull together.” The ceremony has since been renamed the Dr. Morris F. X. Jeff Jr. Harambee Ceremony to honor his legacy and immeasurable contributions to the National Association of Black Social Workers, as well as to the brothers and sisters throughout the African Diaspora. In 1998, he was enstooled as Sankofahene (Chief) Barima Odi Akosah of Kibi. Kibi, or Kyebi, is a town in south Ghana and the capital of the East Akim Municipal District, a district in the eastern region of south Ghana, on the eastern slopes of the Atewa Range. Jeff’s mother, who was 80 years old at the time, witnessed the momentous occasion, of which he was extremely proud. Until his death, Jeff was a dynamic voice, provocative public speaker, educator, lecturer, advocate, and activist who spoke with clarity on urban problems and solutions.