It’s all about the children!

From left, Ollie McClean founder of the Sankofa Academy, Alfonce Aaron, a donor, and MC and host Stanley Banks.
Photo by Lem Peterkin

There is a great debate about the educational achievements of school children raging among pedagogues. Some promote the alleged virtues of Charter schools, which are mostly in African communities, while others extol the possible value of public education.

Both groups wrap themselves in arguments justified by watered down test scores as, children of African ancestry continue to be subjects in mind-destroying experiments. Bystanders cheer from the sidelines for their selective group, based on children’s performance on these questionable tests.

The daily unfolding of these episodes are highlighted in the media. Parents and guardians continue to search for solutions to the mis-education of their children.

Ollie McClean states that her independent school, Sankofa International Academy, receives calls or visits every day from care givers who tell stories of their children’s experiences in the NYC school system and express their desire to give them a more relevant education. McClean’s response is always in her soothing, nurturing voice “just bring them, we will work it out, we must save the children for tomorrow.”

Conversations with McClean make it clear that it is about the children. So when the economic downturn made her consider closing the school after 25 successful years, it is no surprise that Sybil Clarke, wife of historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke said “No” to this modern day Harriet Tubman.

Clarke sent out word that this valuable independent school had to stay open. Dr. Adlaide Sanford, member Emeritus of the NYS Board of Regents, while speaking at a Sankofa function at Tropical Paradise, which was sponsored by Rev. C. Herbert Oliver, president of The Black Solidarity Education Committee (B.S.E.C), summed up the urgency of the occasion in her riveting, poignant address about the importance of a curriculum that includes the contributions of Africans and their descendants, in the development of the world and especially America. She made it clear that the children at Sankofa were exceptional because they knew their history and lived up to those high expectations.

This message was reinforced with Gil Noble on his Channel 7 “Like It Is” program where the panel with McClean, discussed the true worth of an education rich in African culture and critical thinking, as taught at Sankofa.

But, on Tuesday night, Oct. 19, at the Sugar Hill Restaurant in Brooklyn, when world renowned artist Stanley Banks, bassist for George Benson, told of his encounter with six- and seven-year-old children at Sankofa who recited, in alphabetical order the 52 nations of Africa, identified them on the map and stood before their classmates, staff and parents every Monday morning to give oral presentations without notes and that the depth of their knowledge of culture and history are forever etched in his mind, the wall-to-wall guests gave a standing ovation.

That is why he organized the Musical Extravaganza & Fundraiser on Oct. 19, and had several artists volunteer their time and talent in support of the children. This intergenerational group, comprising of more than 60 well-known musicians and performers kept all genre of music going for more than six hours.

Baba Mpho and Shanta Drummers.
Photos by Lem Peterkin
Photo by Lem Peterkin

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