Abyssinian’s commitment to winning more souls for Christ extends beyond the church walls, where affiliates uphold its rich activist history and work to address the social and economic concerns that impact our community, our youth and the world.

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 (Ministry 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.”

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, most highly regarded and well-known rites-of-passage programs in America. Over 1,000 young people have participated in its programs. Many alums return to volunteer as elders, teachers, and mentors. Elder Simmons leads a fine team of experienced volunteers committed to serving our nation’s youth by instilling the mission and values of Blue Nile Passage.

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

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 the origins of Abyssinian Baptist Church, which was founded by Ethiopians.

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; hence, 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 adulthood, 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 them 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, etc., 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. It also signifies 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 grow 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.

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.

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.

Blue Nile Passage Excellence

BNP daughter, Tasia Hawkins, after graduating with honors from Howard University in May 2016, started a new career path this August with Google in San Francisco. Blessings & Congratulations from the Village!! She will always remember the lessons she’s learned in the BNP! – Reported by Elder Marjie Phillips; Tasia’s mentor is Elder Brandi Womack

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

Blue Nile Partners include:

  • Abyssinian Baptist Church
  • Wadleigh Middle School
  • Theodore D. Young Community Center
  • White Plains Youth Bureau
  • Union Baptist Church
  • Victory Tabernacle of Deliverance