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Students Learn about Black Historical Figures

February 5, 2018

 Aminata Sy reads The Water Princess by Susan Verde to students.


Students engaged in an African Community Learning Program session packed with black history on Monday, February 5, 2018.


Students watched the stories of first environmentalist and African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya, international model and social entrepreneur, Georgie Badiel of Burkina Faso, and student, educator, first ever Temple University’s Rhodes Scholar, and African Community Learning Program secretary, Hazim Hardeman of North Philadelphia.


I asked students to consider these three question as the what each video: Do you see a connection between the video and yourself?  Is there any part that especially interesting to you? Did you learn any lessons? Maathai’s video narrates her journey with the Green Belt Movement, her involvement with Shaklee Foundation, and ultimately her Nobel Peace Prize win.


“We cannot protect the Earth by just talking about it, we have to do something, and one of the simplest actions is to plant a tree,” Maathai insisted.

 Dr. Wangari Maathai's story with the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.


In a discussion on Maathai’s video, students remembered different aspects.


“She was beaten,” Adama said


“She was inspired,” Aibatou added


Did you learn anything?,  I asked


“The world changed,”Ezzeldin said.


As for Badiel, she spoke about lack of access to clear water in Burkina Faso. She said she never understood why girls and women had to go get water daily walking for miles.


“I didn’t want to do it,” she said.


She noticed the stark differences in living conditions between New York City, where she works, and Burkina Faso. She stressed the importance of educating girls instead having them fetch water every day. After watching the video, Mageed raised a question that puzzled him.

 Georgie Badiel telling her story.


“Why is a model talking about water?,” he said.


I then asked the whole class to think about Mageed’s question.


“Lack of access to water is holding girls back from getting an education,” Raheemah responded.


“Without water, we can’t live,” Ezzeldin said.


“Her cousin can’t go to school without water,” Motaz added.


By now, Mageed had more time to think about his question.


“She wants to raise awareness, so girls don’t have to go fetch water and experience what she did,” he concluded.


Hardeman talked about his educational journey from thinking his neighborhood school, Temple University, was a place he could only dream of attending to believing he could study at the institution. He described himself and fellow childhood peers as “disruptive kids.” He credits his time at Community College of Philadelphia for preparing him to transfer to Temple University, where he studied communications with a concentration on rhetoric and public advocacy.


“For me, it’s about lifting up the voices of my community,” Hardeman said.

 Hazim Hardeman Q&A with Temple University.


“ What did Hazim talk about,” I asked


“Philly is a rich city,” Ezzeldin said.


“He was a bad kid,” said Mageed. “He’s from North Philadelphia and community college prepared him for Temple.”


I read the book The Water Princess by Susan Verde based on the childhood experience of Badiel fetching water.I later pointed out that “someday the flowing, cool, crystal-clear water” did get to Burkina Faso.


“This book is good,” Helima commented.


Students then wrote for one minute about a story that stood out to them among the three.


“When I used to live with my grandmother, I also used to wake up early in the morning and fetch water,” Raheemah wrote.

 Raheemah writes her connection to the Water Princess.


 “My favorite is Hazim because I like to learn about different people, like where they live, how old they are, and what high school and college they went to,” Helima read.


Aminata Sy is the founder and president of African Community Learning Program, a journalist, and a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies international relations and English.


African Community Learning Program educates, connects, empowers, and supports people of African background in West Philadelphia.


To support African Community Learning Program visit and

or email Aminata Sy at


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Philadelphia, PA