What good is a college degree if one who earns it thinks that it is the end of all means? It’s no good at all for those individuals and collective of schools who seek to impart African centered information using an Afrocentric approach. The challenge is that many people with earned degrees in education remain ensconced in Eurocentric knowledge bases that are counter to the requirements needed for them to teach Afrocentric information using Afrocentric approaches. The ‘Duh factor’ kicks in and all of a sudden their ‘higher education’ degrees become useless instruments of status only. Many times, the challenge to learn the information needed to teach Afrocentrically is ignored and the teacher does what is comfortable for her/him. In most cases, this resorting to one’s ‘comfort zone’ of Eurocentric knowledge bases involves teaching the subject material without connecting the African child to the information, without notifying them of their ancestors or elders contribution to the development and or practice of the subject being ‘taught.’ Woefully, this is to the detriment of African students born in America.
During my encounters with teachers, who are Africans born in America having earned their higher education degrees and gain the opportunity to teach at an Afrocentric school, realize that they still need to study. Their faces read…”What?” I’ve studied enough already, I’m not going to teach that ‘Black stuff’ ‘I don’t even like to read, I’m going to teach my subject because this is what the students need to pass the test.” Well I have news for them and the news is that they still need to study some more. They need to study more because in order to internalize and comprehend the information and then incorporate it into effective approaches that will guarantee the success of African youth. The aforementioned will only be achieved if the African youth are located or placed within the reality of the humanity of their African ancestors and elders. Teachers need to first know and practice the African worldview and expand the components thereof via knowledge of the definition of African centered/Afrocentric, knowledge and education approaches. Afrocentric knowledge is that information which involves the approach or study of life phenomena that focuses on the perspective of African people, i.e. An Afrocentric educator will ask her/his student; What will an Obama presidency do for Africans born in America? or What is the impact on the overall vote count, if 30% of the African American population cannot vote due to previous incarceration experiences? Further, teachers in Afrocentric schools should orient their approaches to the exposure and incorporation of the African worldview into their lessons by reading, viewing videoarticles, doing some personal research, and consulting with an African centered scholar or practitioners in the field of education (we do exist), so that they can enhance their approaches in order to successfully reach our youth.
Nowadays, in order to successfully reach our youth, educators who aspire to engage African youth using an Afrocentric approach should incorporate contemporary technological approaches into their teaching styles. Hence these lessons would include African centered lessons on hi-tech communication devices like ipods, MP3 players, cell phones, videos, etc. These teachers should encourage their students to access or purchase a computer, and then engage the students via the interchange and exchange of information where demands are placed on the student that require its usage. They must keep the students interested in the topic of the day/lesson. etc. by incorporating technological approaches into the daily/weekly lessons.
These are the kinds of lessons that administrative teams of schools with the potential to be Afrocentric should require of their educators. Furthermore, administrators should require that these lessons possess levels of consciousness regarding African people and African centered information and approaches to learning. Since it is administrators who plan and provide staff developments, they are the ones who should arrange for the entire school personnel to gain some level of exposure to the works of Afrocentric scholars, sponsor them at Afrocentric conferences and expose them to a collective of educators from Afrocentric schools in other parts of the country/world, as well implement a system of enforcements to monitor educators who are supposed to provide an optimal education experience for their students, and in the case of African students they should be ones based on the lives and contributions of African people, across grade levels and subjects.
In addition to all of the above including the gathering together as a collective of educators, there has to be movement beyond the five f’s of culture; fashion, food, festivals, fun and flags. We need Whmy Msu (repetition of the rebirth (Hilliard, 1998) as there has to a de-programming, of the minds of our youth which will lead them to cultural rebirth connections affording them access into a mental state of liberation. In many instances the liberation of African people was gained only in the physical realm and some of their minds are still pre-occupied with being in a state of oppression, subjugation and inferiority, their humanity remains in an elusive state. It is only when educators who have the will to educate African children by freeing their own minds that the real educating of their students will follow.
In educating African youth, they are dealing with the liberation of the minds that are the progenies of the founders of all forms of knowledge. It is the Afrocentric educator’s obligation to reconnect their African students to the greatness of their African ancestors and elders by de-programming them and re-educating them, however, they must first start with themselves. In starting with themselves, it is beneficial for African students born in America that there is the existence of Afrocentrc educators who were educated outside of the realm of the European status quo. They were raised in Afrocentric households or communities or went to Afrocentric schools and have degrees from higher education institutions that adhered to an Afrocentric course of study and luckily even still there are those who completed their degrees in majors other than African American studies and were still able to liberate their minds from the drudges of a Eurocentric consciousness. These are the ones that are needed at schools who have the potential to be Afrocentric. These are the ones we have been waiting for because without them, we remain the purveyors of superficial educational experiences based on the five f’s of culture; food, fashion, fun, festivals and flags.
The five f’s of culture become the determining factors for some people as to whether or not a school is Afrocentric. These are superficial or shallow determinants that have minor connections to the true mission and vision of Afrocentric education. What must occur in this matter is the identification of these variants as superficial and comprehension of the fact that educators who are themselves Afrocentric will provide a deeper level of consciousness to their students. One based on African Value Systems; the Three Essences of Humanity, the 42 Admonitions of Maat, the building of Iwa Pele (good character), the knowledge of the qualities of Maat and Djhuti and the Nguzo Saba.
It is these African Value Systems that are all based on the African worldview that will prepare the Afrocentric educator and their students for an interchange and exchange of knowledge that will allow them ownership of the information they encounter during the learning process. for instance, the things that my life experiences and degrees in African American Studies prepared me for is the continuation of the study of African people and our life experiences. Further, it prepared me for the recognition of the need for the practice and respect of the collective Be-ingness of all humans and living things in order to fulfill the practice of Maat (goodness in thought, speech and action). My practice has been challenging and worth the while in terms of being in the ‘field’ of that which I have studied. Teachers who aspire to establish an Afrocentric knowledge base in Schools that are Afrocentric or have the potential to be Afrocentric, what did your Eurocentric degree(s) prepare you for? What are you willing to do to effectively provide our African youth with the Afrocentric education they deserve? I’m here, where are you?
Iya Adjua Zauditu Mandikizela Hetheru Zenzile, Ph.D.
Owner/Operator of Wehemy Mesu Productions/Cultural Rebirth Connections is an Independent Scholar and Edupreneur.