Developing Excellence closed out its year w/ a bang. Youth playing jazz is powerfully, connective and continues Ourstory. We called out their names: Callie House, Mammy Pleasant and shared the great efforts of Maulana Karenga, Mark Dean, & many more acknowledging their creative contributions to our present day existence. As always, the youth made it all worth while!

[slideshow id=1]

The Number Thirteen

The Egyptians were the first to develop a superstition for the number thirteen, but for them the number brought good luck. They believed that there were twelve steps on the ladder to eternal life and knowledge and to take the thirteenth step meant going through death into everlasting life. Thirteen, for the Egyptians, was associated with immortality.

It was in Roman times that the number thirteen became associated with ill omens, particularly those bringing death and destruction.

For Christians, the number thirteen also brought bad luck. The superstition stems from the Last Supper where Judas Iscariot became the thirteenth guest to sit at the table and would later betray Jesus, leading to his crucifixion. Still to this day it is considered very bad luck for thirteen people to sit down for dinner together. It is believed that one of the dinner guests will die within the year.

Norse mythology also has a superstition surrounding thirteen at a dinner table and the bad luck that ensues. In fact, it is believed that the Christian story of the Last Supper may find its origin in this particular myth. Apparently twelve deities sat down for a meal at a gods’ feast only to have Loki, the god of mischief and disorder, come along and crash the party. He rose the number to thirteen, causing one of the gods to die during the meal.

The number was adopted by witches for their covens, which always number thirteen.
Still, to this day, the superstition lives on.
Most hotel chains have no room number thirteen and many skyscrapers are without a thirteenth floor.

Book results for the number thirteen in Ancient Egypt

The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology … – by William Kelly Simpson – 628 pages
The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt – by Ian Shaw – 559 pages
Historical Deception: The Untold Story of … – by Moustafa Gadalla – 356 pages

What good is a college degree if you end up in an Afrocentric school?

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.

Doing Sakhu Through Sankofa To Remind Our Souls

To do Sakhu is to illuminate the spirit (Wade Nobles, 2006) of our Afrikan ancestors. Sankofa means to return to the source of our origins (Marimba Ani, 1980). We need Sankofa to remind our souls of the efforts of our ancestors and elders who are responsible for our very existence today. Definitely we need to be asanteful (thankful) for the powerful life achievements and accomplishments of a multitude of our ancestors like Anna Julia Cooper, Septima Clark and Nannie Helen Burroughs who cared enough to sacrifice their daily lives to educate black women in our communities. We need to also know of the lives and say the names of Asa Hilliard, Ivan Van Sertima and Jacob Carruthers who valiantly cried forward for our need to reclaim the minds of our Afrikan youth, notifying us that we have been and remain at war in this regard.

As I could do an extensive document in the above regard, the idea of this essay is for Afrikan people, to do Sakhu via Sankofa in order to remind our souls daily of why we are here on this planet, of why we were chosen to mortify into this realm we call life. To achieve the aforementioned, we must know of our ancestors and their life efforts, we must do Sakhu, illuminate their spirits via Sankofa, return to the source of our origins so we can optimally remind our souls of the efforts and life experiences of Afrikan people. We need remembrance so that we don‟t allow their lives to go unnoticed, in vain, and becoming obsolete, or “something that happened long ago” which is something often said when it comes to Ourstory. The only way we can overstand who we are, where we are and why we are here on this planet is to do Sakhu, Sankofa and remind our souls.

Surely we are sent here in the physical from the metaphysical realm to continue the life cycles of our ancestors and elders who created us, it is they who are our Creators, our Gods. Therefore we must connect to those who have gone before, those who have tried and succeeded in making a difference in the lives of Afrikan people. When we learn of and acknowledge the life efforts of our Hatshepsuts, Aramintas, Kentakes and Nzinghas, we must commit to continuing their Sakhu (Nobles, 2006) via Sankofa (Ani, 1994).

The only way to do Sakhu, illuminate the spirit of our Afrikan ancestors is to Sankofa via learning of then practicing Afrikan Value Systems (AVS). AVS such as the Afrikan Worldview, the Neteru, the DWAT – Deep Well of Afrikan Thought, and Kwanzaa permits a constant reinforcement of the power and beauty of being Afrikan. The Afrikan Worldview is a system of guidelines for living based on the life experiences and practices of our Afrikan ancestors (Carruthers, 1994). The Neteru (Maulana Karenga, 2006) is a comparative of the “Complementary Pair” also know as Maat and Djhuti. The DWAT (Asa Hilliard, 1998) is a circular script of Afrikan terms relative to Afrikan life experiences and Kwanzaa (Karenga, 1966) is a system of values based on the Nguzo Saba (seven principles) that Afrikan people can and should practice on a daily basis. These AVS permit and reinforce the life goals of Afrikan people to attain a daily reminder to our souls to continue the life work of our ancestors thereby achieving our humanity. We succeed in doing the life work in which our ancestors sent us here to complete in this realm of our existence.

In completing this most deserved task called life, we must do Sakhu and Sankofa, we must remind our souls by doing Sakhu, by calling the names of our ancestors, learning of the lives of our ancestors, following the traditions of our ancestors and continuing the work of our ancestors. This too is how we claim our Afrikan agency (Asante, 2001) via giving voice to the life experiences of Afrikan people knowing that such a claim cannot be fulfilled without knowledge of the life experiences of Afrikan people. The knowledge and practice of Afrikan Value Systems (AVS) allow us to remain connected to our ancestors continuously illuminating their spirits and maintaining Afrikan agency.

Through the practice of AVS that we learn of and then model the powerful life efforts and achievements of our Afrikan ancestors and elders. We do Sakhu to Sankofa and remind our souls of the imperative need to become a part of the cycle of the lives of Afrikan people. We remind our souls via Sankofa but first we absolutely must do Sakhu. Doing anything else is living in limbo as a disconnected Afrikan person who is not apart of their ancestor given collective. You exist as a person who is living in the life experiences of people who are not culturally connected to the life experiences of your Afrikan ancestors. You become yurugu – an incomplete being (Ani, 1994).

Iya Adjua Zauditu Mandikizela Hetheru Zenzile, PhD

Independent Scholar and Edupreneur

A Dinner Party for Enslaved Africans?

A recent performance at the African American Museum of Philadelphia sponsored by a local group of artists who I believe had good intentions in terms of exposure and sharing artistic expressions of Africans who were enslaved by George Washington, annoyed me greatly.  While the performing artists Germaine Ingram and Alexandria Bradley were excellent in there tap dance portrayals of what some of our ancestors went through in making decisions about freedom versus ‘staying with a good life’ and equally so in their renditions of ‘ring shout’ dances, one artist and the project archaeologist were annoying to me in their descriptions of their motivations for a couple of the jazz selections.

When one artist was describing the Africans enslaved by G. Washington he gave two descriptors before saying that they were human.  This annoyed me greatly because to me if he was really seeing them for who they were, humans enslaved by an unjustly deserved celebrated hero of American society [G. Washington], then he should have referenced their humanity first.  While I can comprehend the approach taken I definitely do not accept or respect it as adequate descriptors of my African ancestors.  Surely, there are some who may see this as nit-picking however, when someone is attempting to share expression of my enslaved ancestors, I want to hear about their humanity first and foremost.  In this sense that person who is sharing about my ancestors is giving agency (Asante, 2005) to the Africans about whom they are speaking.

The archaeologist for the project kept thinking about the enslaved Africans having a dinner party and this was one of the motivations for a selection played by a majority European jazz group.  So one of the artists shared that he wanted to accommodate the archaeologist’s thoughts about this picture in his mind and that this was the motivation for the selection titled ‘Dinner Party.’  Needless to say, I was at the height of my annoyance at this point because although the Africans enslaved by G. Washington probably had more access to resources than their fellow enslaved African family, I’m sure they did not consider themselves, ever at a ‘goddamn dinner party… especially not when they were thinking about freedom.’  This I’m sure of as Hercules, Oney and their fellow enslaved African family eventually rightfully garnered their freedom and at great cost to their very lives and the lives of their family left still in the confines of enslavement.

This is why we need to assist our fellow family from different groups when they are attempting to express the thoughts, feelings of African people.  We should notify them of the possibilities of audience offense and heightened annoyance.  A word to the wise in terms of future presentations is that the artists reference the humanity of the enslaved Africans first this way their progeny in the audience will determine them as sincere in their presentation/interpretations of the feelings of their African ancestors.

You see, I always think of and myself, my elders and ancestors as humans first, everything else is secondary.

Iya Adjua


1. Join an organization that promotes African interests.
2. Help stimulate the economies in the African community. In other
words, support progressive African-owned
business establishments.
3. Think about visiting Africa and other African population centers,
e.g. Brazil, Jamaica, Haiti, Panama, Fiji, just to name a few.
4. Support the scholars and activists that bring and promote
messages of African liberation.
5. Support African educational institutions, be they HBCUs or
independent African community-based educational institutions.
6. Especially support African bookstores.
7. Have African literature in your homes and display African art on
the walls of your homes.
8. Preserve African archives and libraries.
9. Get involved in programs supportive of African elders, African
youth, those Africans facing physical challenges, and the growing
army of Africans incarcerated in the criminal just us system.
10. Stop bad-mouthing Africa and Africans and sit down and talk
with African people individually and collectively with love, concern,
tolerance, understanding, patience, and respect.

Cultural Event Planning Sessions

Consultations with leadership teams and/or subject, grade groups to determine what information, approaches, resources, etc are best for effective cultural centeredness.

Cultural Planning Sessions are consultations with leadership teams and or subject, grade groups to determine what information, approaches, resources, etc are best for effective cultural centeredness.

Contact Us For Bookings/Inqueries/Pricing for your specific needs!

Adult Empowerment Session

Select gathers inclusive of specifc age group/genders that address personal empowerment life strategies and character development… (Adult)

Select gathers inclusive of specifc age group/genders that address personal empowerment life straegies and character development, includes powerpoint presentation & strategy building session.

*Price increases/group size

Contact Us For Bookings/Inqueries/Pricing for your specific needs!

Youth Empowerment Session

Select gathers inclusive of specifc age group/genders that address personal empowerment life strategies and character development… (Youth)

Select gathers inclusive of specifc age group/genders that address personal empowerment life strategies and character development, includes powerpoint presentation & strategy building session.

*Price increases/group size

Contact Us For Bookings/Inqueries/Pricing for your specific needs!

Tutorial Session

These sessions address the academic needs of the youth, connecting them with strategies for success inclusive of how to study & time management…

These sessions address the academic needs of the youth, connecting them with strategies for success inclusive of how to study & time management.

*These sessions last one hour and require a 6 – 12 session purchase.

Contact Us For Bookings/Inqueries/Pricing for your specific needs!