Insight News

Feb 10th

WE WIN students teach African history

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wewin-elders-communityBlack History is every day, not just February, according to students in WE WIN Institute’s Rites of Passage programs.  The elders from Booth Manor, a senior high-rise downtown Minneapolis, were enlightened about the rich African history, by 30 students from WE WIN.  The theme of the program was, From Africa to America.   The students narrated the African quest from its beginnings in ancient Egypt: how their ancestors invented and built the pyramids.  They informed the elders about the first African doctor, Imhotep, who is not only recognized as the real ’Father of Medicine’ but also as the first architect and engineer of ancient times. Imhotep was the creator of the Pyramid of Djoser, popularly known as the Stairstep Pyramid, in which we find architectural techniques that are still in use like columns, stone walling, flooring, lintels, and jambs.

Women of Distinction, a WE WIN program at Cooper High School in Robbinsdale, as well as WE WIN students at the Zion Baptist Church, a WE WIN site in north Minneapolis and students from the south Minneapolis program, participated in the performance.  With student pictures, poetry and stories displayed throughout the room, children showcased the vibrant and colorful African culture. 

Filled to capacity community room, with the elders, parents, family members and the community, children were cheered and supported.  The elders were of various ethnicities, including African Americans, Russians, Eastern Europeans and Caucasians.  Interpreters were at the performance, for those who did not speak English.

Students, aged 5 through 18, shared the tragedy of the Triangular Slave Trade, where millions of Africans were stolen from Africa and taken on a brutal ship ride, packed like sardines, in what was called the Middle Passage; only to be brought to America to work as slaves from sunrise to sunset, for no money—for 250 years.

The audience was told how African people were not expected to survive the ordeal of brutal slavery, yet in 1865—the abolition of slavery—4 million Africans lived in the United States.  They were told that when slavery was over, Africans were set free but given no money or land was provided to them for survival. They were told that because African Americans valued education so much, many made deals with the slave owners to stay on the plantation in return for educating their children. 

The young people shared the magnificent accomplishments of African Americans including the development of mathematics, science, the gas mask, and even the ironing board.  They also shared how great educators like Mary McCloud Bethune lead the way to educational excellence with her Bethune-Cookman-Bethune College.  They discussed how the hard work and struggles of African Americans led to the election of the first African American president, Barak Obama.

WE WIN students danced to the sounds of African drums, recited poetry, quoted excerpts from Maya Angelou, Audre Lord and Langston Hughes.  They presented spoken word and performed the African rituals that they recite daily in the Rites of Passage program.  The performance ended with the quote, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now!”


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