African Community Learning Program’s (ACLP) students, volunteers, friends, and family gathered at the Lucien E. Blackwell Library to attend the organization’s 3rd Annual Africa Celebration on Sunday, December 8, 2019. The day commemorated students’ growth, heritage, and learning while attendees enjoyed presentations, abundant African dishes, and an award show. The event included surprise guests Principle Richard Gordon of Paul Robenson High School and his baby Ryan Gordon.
Principal Richard Gordon of Paul Robenson High School with his baby, Ryan Gordon.
Program Director Daniel Akuma and Secretary Similoluwa Ayinde opened the Africa Celebration with pleasant words reflecting on students’ progress in ACLP. “This semester was a very eventful one for African Community Learning Program,” began Ayinde. “Throughout the semester we focused on the theme of Excellence. We explored different people from different countries and ages who embodied our theme of excellence. We started with an 11-year-old young pianist named Joshua Akinotan from Nigeria. The students were inspired as they began to see that excellence is not defined by age and comes in many different forms,” Ayinde continued.
“We then read about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah from Ghana, who despite setbacks such as being crippled from birth, shocked his community by becoming a well-known cyclist and soccer player. Our students learned that everyone has weaknesses; however, it is possible to turn what seems to be a weakness into a strength,” Ayinde added.
Daniel Akuma, ACLP Programs Director, Simi Ayinde, ACLP Secretary, with student, Ibra Wane.
“We then looked at individuals who embodied excellence from American history. The first figure of excellence we learned about was Maya Angelou, who was a very talented poet, actress, singer, writer, and activist,” Ayinde explained. “The students were inspired by her many artistic abilities and how she used her gifts to fight for the rights of other people,” Ayinde detailed.
“We finished the semester reading about Dave the Potter, who was an enslaved African American man in South Carolina,” Ayinde said. “Although banned from reading and writing, Dave found a way to learn these valuable skills and went on to inscribe poems in his pottery and it is through his artworks that we know more about him today,” Ayinde explained.
Books ACLP will read or has already read
“We wrapped up the semester by thinking about our talents and how each one of us is excellent in our own different ways and that regardless of age we can use our excellence for the good of the world,” Ayinde concluded.
Poetry was a major tool for student growth. Tenth-grader Raimat shared her love of poetry with the audience by reading a poem on Dave the Potter. “No matter what situation you are in life, I believe you should always stay positive,” Raimat insisted.
Raimat reads a poem on Dave the potter
Second-grader Ibra spoke about how Maya Angelou maintained her confidence in the face of adversity through writing poems. Tenth-grader Dieynaba also reflected on Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise. ” In concluding Dieynaba said, “One day, I want to be an important woman just like Maya Angelou.”
Dieynaba reflects on Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise”
ACLP volunteers, Kwaku Quansah and Bonirath Chhay, performed a dramatic reading
Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” The audience met their moving performance with admiration and thunderous applause. They recited together at the end, “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear. I rise. Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear. I rise. Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave. I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise.”
Kwaku and Bonirath reciting the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou
Students and volunteers recited the ACLP’s chant called “Awareness” along with gestures reflecting its words. “I am Africa, Africa is me. I have the intelligence, the courage, and the power to change the world,” they chanted.
ACLP Students reciting ACLP Chant
Founder and President Aminata Sy thanked the executive board, Abdoul Wane, Akuma, and Ayinde as well as volunteers for their commitment to ACLP’s mission to empower the youth through education and reminded them that ACLP’s work is very important, even if it’s with one child.
“In supporting the students, think about it through that lens,” Sy insisted. “It’s really not about the number. It’s about how deep you can impact one child. And what that one child can then go on to do to impact their communities, their countries, and their world.”
President and Founder of ACLP, Aminata Sy
Since its first semester in fall 2017, ACLP has continued to be successful in teaching its students, creating a quality curriculum, and attracting dedicated partners and volunteers to advance the organization’s mission of having a meaningful impact children’s lives.
Reflecting on the importance of ACLP’s work for students, Akuma said “I wish I had an ACLP to help nurture my own goals when I was their age. But this is the beauty of paying it forward. When we climb, we send the ladder back down so that others do not have to figure it out all over again by themselves.”
When asked what he thought about the Africa Celebration, Ibra said, “It was very good!”
Faith Arimoro is a MD Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and volunteers with African Community Learning Program.
Daniel Akuma, ACLP Programs Director, with student, Ibra Wane
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