Tag Archives: Black History Month

Updates and Summer Math Tutoring

Greetings,

I hope your summer is off to a great start.  We are visiting family for the summer and then heading back to Belize.  This year has been productive so far; I’ve been blessed to co-write and release a new book, 50 Afrikans You Must Know Vol. 2 with Dr. Samori Camara, and to walk with my Master’s in Education from the University of Houston.  The focus areas of my master’s program were Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Technology.  I’m using the tools that I’ve gained to offer more distance learning opportunities to our children.  This year, that involves the independent educational services I offer, instructional design for Kamali Academy, and helping international African-centered schools transition to online platforms.

More updates – Belize has been a good move for us.  It has been peaceful and I’ve been able to get a lot of writing done.  Many of our friends and family have been down to visit.  My son has been having a great time too.  He has not made a ton of new friends, but his friends from Houston have been coming to visit for extended periods.  He also communicates regularly with his friends on Google Hangouts.  He enjoys seeing new animals and swimming in the river most right now about our environment, but spends a lot of time working on writing, programming, and animation too.  He just finished writing his first novel, which I will be helping him edit and publish over the course of this year.  This is his third full length book and he just turned 13, so I would say that homeschooling and being in a rural environment has been good for him creatively.

We took a trip to Merida, Mexico by bus over Easter for 9 days.  It was sooo awesome!  Since we live by the river in Belize (not close to the beach), it was great having lots of beach time and also enjoying all of the excitement of the city.  Merida is safe and very affordable for family trips, in my opinion.  A nice hotel with wifi and AC was around $20US per night and taxi rides were $1 – $2US around the city.  Also, many of the attractions (such as the beach, street concerts, museums, and city events) were free.

Some of the highlights of our trip were: the delicious food, the vibrant markets, cotton candy, snow cones, fresh fruit popsicles every day, free museums, the Spanish/English bookstore, horse and carriage ridin’ through the city, Mayan sculptures, LOTS of art everywhere, cheap taxis, dancing in the streets with live bands, watching the crazy amazing Mayan ball game, stunning beaches, fresh fried fish on the beach, the old school traveling carnival with games and bumper cars, visiting the pyramids, swimming in the cenotes, meeting new people, and being amazed at the MAGIC of each day.

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If you are looking for a fun trip this summer, look into Merida.  A final update – I am offering online math tutoring this summer for grades 6 – 12 one-on-one via Google Hangouts.  I can take 4 more students based on my schedule at this time, with monthly flat rate pricing on a structure based on your child/children’s learning goals for the summer.  Please fill out this short interest form if you are interested and I will contact you: https://goo.gl/forms/vM0sw7Ru6tPkDIXB2.  I have 8 years tutoring experience and have assisted many children in reaching their educational goals.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Those are my updates for now!  What’s going on with you this summer?  Feel free to message me or comment – it comes straight to my email either way.  I love you all!  Happy schooling!

Love and Light,

Nikala Asante

 

 

 

Roadschooling for International Service Work in Haiti: Part 1

Greetings,

I would like to share a rather long post with you about my and my son’s recent service work in Haiti.  Please grab a cup of coffee and settle into a comfortable chair.  This will be broken into three posts, of which this is the first.

Sadhana Forest Haiti

Sadhana Forest Haiti

With cooperative support, my nearly eleven year old son and I were able to travel through Santo Domingo to the border Haitian town of Anse a Pitre last month.  This was my first time taking my son on an international service trip with me.  My friend Sarah, a University of Houston Psychology alum and child educator, traveled with us.  Once there, we engaged in reforestation with a permanent community, Sadhana Forest.

It was quite the adventure getting there.  The Spanish that I learned waiting tables for 5 years as a teen paid off in navigating through Dominican Republic.  The first little road bump was when our taxi did not show up at the airport.  I was able to secure a taxi and negotiate the price.  We made it safely to our hostel in Zona Colonial where we slept the first night.  You see, the Haitian border is only open during certain hours of the day, so if you do not arrive in Santo Domingo before 6:00 am or so, you have to wait until the following day to make the journey to la frontera (the border).

We rose around 4:30 am, which was too early to get the complimentary breakfast, but I was prepared.  I had so many Cliff bars in my bag, lol.  Our taxi arrived around 5:00 am to take us to the bus station.  As we drove along, he pointed out Chinatown, beautiful governmental buildings, and the Presidential Palace.  The Palace is constructed much like the United States capitol building, but with what appeared to be Christmas lights illuminating it through the morning darkness.

We arrived at the bus station, which was well lit and bustling with people, nothing like what was described in our communication with Sadhana.  Sarah was the first to realize that we were at the wrong bus station.  There was no way to be sure, but she had a feeling.  I communicated with the taxi driver again that we wanted to go to the border town of Pedernales.  He insisted that we didn’t  - that to get to Haiti, we should take the air conditioned tour bus to Port au Prince.  He thought that we were confused about our destination.  We insisted, no, we want to go to Pedernales.  Finally, he resigned with a frown to take us to the bus station to Pedernales.

The sky was still dark as he drove us down a narrow alley filled with discarded clothes and cans.  My heart was almost jumping out of my chest.  No, let’s go back to the tourist bus, I wanted to say.  As we pulled into an even narrower, darker alley, he pointed to a guagua, or minibus, and said, “There.”  The sun started to rise, bolstering my confidence as we moved our luggage to the guagua.  Shortly, women began to set up cooking stations along the street to sell sausages and bread to workers.

The bus began to fill with mainly Haitians, trying to return to the border.  Then, with chickens and small farm animals.  The bus driver moved us to the front because we were, “Las Americanas”.  I was a twinge guilty, but also thankful, for the privilege of a US passport.  The ride would be 7 hours long and I did not have to worry about the noise and smell of chickens bombarding me for the entire trip.

Once we arrived in Pedernales, our group that was scheduled to meet us was not there at the bus station.  I was so nervous just standing there with luggage and a young Caucasian woman, both of which identified me as not from there.  Pedernales is actually a very safe town, but at the time, I didn’t know that yet.  Moto conchos (motorcyle taxis) crowded around us to offer rides to la frontera.  Sarah was nervous about riding a moto concho, but our bags were too heavy and conspicuous to drag for a long walk.  I realized that we should we packed only backpacks.  I turned to Sarah and said, “we’re going to have to ride the motos.”.  She reluctantly agreed.

I had seen 4 or 5 people at a time riding moto conchos during my 2013 Human Rights trip to Dominican Republic, so I wasn’t nervous about riding.  I knew that the drivers were very skilled.  I placed my son in the middle so that he was sandwiched between me and the driver.  Another moto took our big “checked” bags, while we carried our backpacks.  We held on tight for a bumpy and gorgeously green ride to the border.  Once we arrived, I realized that Sarah had placed her leg on the hot part of the moto and burned it.  She knew not to do this, but in her nervousness, accidentally did it anyway.  The locals began prescribing remedies.  ”Toothpaste,” they said.  Sarah pulled out her toothpaste and swathed it across her leg and foot shaking off the pain like a soldier accustomed to adversity.

The border was so calm that we should have realized that something was not right.  A verbal stir went about of “pasaportes” and “las Americanas”, before we were swept into the Dominican immigration office.  Our passports were stamped and we were allowed across the bridge.  It was not until we crossed into Haiti that we were informed that both offices were closed for the day due to an earlier protest.  They let us through because of our nationality.

In Anse a Pitre, a young Haitian man from Sadhana was waiting for us – Roosevelt.  He informed us that someone was at the bus station now looking for us, but had been a little mixed up on the time.  There is an hour difference between the DR and Haiti.  I was so happy to have confirmation that my journey would soon reach a destination, I wanted to go right away.  We hopped on moto conchos again to reach the forest community.  The area was clearly a desert as far as climate – there was so much dust and many rocks and cacti.   Yet, as we neared Sadhana, mango and avocado trees replaced cacti, with mountains swooping overhead in a breathtaking horizon.

Since we arrived on a Friday afternoon, our volunteer requirement would begin on Monday.  We were able to take a tour of the facilities and visit the local beach.

After becoming acquainted with the rules and expectations of the community, eating a delicious meal of black beans, rice, fresh eggplant, and green salad, and enjoying a documentary with our new friends (The Coconut Revolution), we were guided to our beds.

 

The “tetras” were room slots about 15 feet in the air to prevent scorpions, tarantulas, centipedes, and such from crawling over us while we slept.  I felt like the main character in the movie Avatar when he found out that he had to sleep in a hammock tied between trees far above the ground.  I feared that we would fall, so I brought our luggage up to my son and I’s room to surround us like a fortress.

Our first work day was Monday.  We rose at 5:30 am for stretching and activity assignments, and began daily by 6:00 am.  Our volunteer work was titled sevas, which I believe is Sanskrit for service or a love offering.  It’s funny how when I thought of reforestation, I just thought of planting trees.  I did not get to plant a tree until maybe the third day there.

I carried heavy buckets of water around the grounds to water trees, cut weeds with a machete to mulch trees, reached nervously (for fear of spiders or scorpions) into piles of fallen bamboo leaves to mulch trees, cleared the canal of clothes and trash to allow water to flow through to irrigate trees, carried saplings in buckets for 2 mile stretches to reach yards in need – not to mention what needed to be done to maintain the facilities and volunteers.

See more about our journey in the next post!  Meet you there!

Best,

Nikala Asante

African American Children’s Books

Greetings,

There is a significant under-representation of African American authors in Children’s Fiction.  Prolific talents such as Patricia and Fredrick McKissack have made vast contributions to creating balance, with over 100 children’s books written together over the course of their marriage.  Despite phenoms like the McKissacks dedicating their lives to this important work, in 2013, only 68 of the 5000 children’s books published were written by African American authors and only 93 by authors of any ethnic background were written about African Americans.  For this reason, it is so essential that we celebrate and support African American authors.  Our support will assist them in continuing to show our image and tell our stories.

Community advocate Noah Rattler, author Nekisha Pickney and illustrator Thaddeus Lavalais have teamed up to create Noah’s Walk, an inspiring children’s book that tells the story of Rattler’s journey while walking 1,800 miles from Houston, Texas to Los Angeles, California, to raise awareness for homelessness.

noah

Noah’s Walk tells the story of real life heroism and of a young man who makes a decision to impact the life of others.  Ms. Pickney is able to capture Noah’s odyssey as he encounters the elements, animals, and friends who support along the way. The book also serves as a fun learning tool that highlights vocabulary, geography, and cultural cognizance.

Noah’s Walk is available on Amazon.com and all other online book sellers in English and Spanish (ISBN: 978-1494968076).  It is also available in the Kindle store and borrowing library.  If you want an autographed copy, you can purchase one from co-author Nickesha Pickney’s website: freeheartoftruth.com.

Enjoy, and let me what you think when you’ve read it.  My son loves it.  The book also includes educational appendices that can be developed into lesson plans for homeschooling.  Thank you for visiting, once again.

All Best,

Nikala Asante

noah2

Creating Cross Curricular Lessons

Greetings,

Interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching involves a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles, and/or values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The disciplines may be related through a central theme, issue, problem, process, topic, or experience (Jacobs, 1989).

Malcolm X - El Hajj Malik El Shabazz

Malcolm X – El Hajj Malik El Shabazz

What are Cross Curricular Lessons?

Cross curricular lessons integrate knowledge, improve learning, and increase student engagement.  Instead of narrowly focusing on one subject at a time (i.e.: adding single-digit numbers for a Kindergartner), the student interacts with multiple subjects around one central objective (i.e.: learning to make a fruit salad using single-digit calculations – 6 grapes + 4 grapes equal ?, etc…).

Where can I find some to use this week?

KinderArt is a great site for free Cross Curriculum Art lessons, grades K-12.  Objectives from the disciplines of Math, Literature, Geography, Music, P.E., Science, Social Studies, Transportation, and Architecture are introduced through fun art activities.  KinderArt also has great multicultural lessons.

The National Education Association has put together this awesome free collection of lesson plans, printables, and videos with various disciplines such as Math, Art, Architecture, and History learned through lessons from Mayan culture.  The lessons are targeted toward grades 5-12.

Games Children Play introduces children’s games from around the world, through which your students will improve knowledge in math, history, and language arts, while having a great time and being introduced to a new culture.  I can’t wait to play Senet, a board game from ancient Kemet (Egypt).

How do create Cross Curricular Lessons?

First, decide what the objective that you would like to centrally teach.  For example, in the video below, I wanted my son to understand that poems were not composed of just words, but of images.  When he writes his poetry, he can be cognizant of including images as well.  Sometimes poets can get so caught up in their language that we forget to string images together.  I am sure that you can think of a poem that you read in high school that seemed to be a heap of vocabulary with a signature, instead of an accessible piece of art.

In order to reach our objective, I shared an excerpt from my poem, The 16th Strike.  Since the images in the poem are connected to specific historical events, we had to stop multiple times for clarification.  This was great because the lesson became creative writing, art, and history – all-in-one.

Enjoy the video and please, let us know how you create cross curricular lesson plans.

 

 

Because of Them, We Can

Greetings,

I am IN LOVE with these photographs! Check out more at: http://www.becauseofthemwecan.com/

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The site describes their mission as:

The Mission :To Educate and Connect a New Generation to Heroes Who Have Paved the Way

On October 28, 2008, just days before the election of Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States, my first son Chase was born. On July 9, 2012, a few months before President Obama’s historic re-election, my second son Amari was born. Six months later, a few days before February 2013, I began to reflect on my sons and their promising future – specifically the opportunities they could pursue as a result of the progress and achievements made by individuals past and present. I also thought about the responsibility and at times the fear, I carry as a mother raising Black boys. I thought about how just one-year prior, Trayvon Martin was murdered. The murder and circumstances surrounding Trayvon’s death awakened my consciousness and moved me to create the “I Am Trayvon Martin” photo campaign. It was through this painful time for the Martin family and America that I came to realize that my lens could truly serve as a microphone that could amplify the feelings, fears, dreams and even the pain of a community.

The Because of Them, We Can campaign was birthed out of my desire to share our rich history and promising future through images that would refute stereotypes and build the esteem of our children. While I originally intended to publish the campaign photos, via social media, during Black History Month, I quickly realized how necessary it was to go further. With so many achievers to highlight, and thousands of children to engage and inspire, 28 days wasn’t enough. On the last day of February, with just 28 photographs in my collection, I decided to resign from my job in order to continue the campaign. On March 1, 2013, after most national and local conversations about Black History and Achievement ended, I released a photo of a mini-inspired Phyllis Wheatley and began the journey to continue the project for a full year.

A year later I have come to the conclusion that even 365 days aren’t enough. What began as a mother’s passion project quickly evolved into a movement. Today we are committed as ever before to encourage and empower people of all ages and hues to dream out loud and reimagine themselves as greater than they are, simply by connecting the dots between the past, the present and the future.

I think that you will enjoy them too!  Black History 365!

Best,

Nikala Asante

October is Black Science Month!

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Greetings,

If you have never heard of Black Science Month, it is no fault of yours.  This special time to celebrate Africana scientists was recently established by four young African Americans: Leonce Hall, Kimberly Washington, Sydeaka Poisson, and Asar Imhotep.  They are committed to “promoting the accomplishments and achievements of Blacks in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”.  Currently, while Black Science Month’s website is under construction, the collective is sharing tons of valuable information on their FaceBook Page (https://www.facebook.com/BlackScienceMonth).  Some of their recent posts concern free medical school for Blacks and Latinos, a link to a Black inventor online museum, and a cartoon with Black characters personifying the scientific method.

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Blacks are “not good” in Math or Science is a long proclaimed myth that through self-fulfilled prophecy, is affecting many of our children each day.  How many of our boys believe that they are supposed to excel in athletics and struggle with academics?  How many of our girls believe that computer programming and electrical engineering is only for Whites and Asians?  Projects like Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S (a hip-hop based science program) and Black Girls Code  (both of which are shared on Black Science Month) are working diligently to change these myths.

Fallacies about Africans in Science are also dismantled by Black Science Month.  Many students believe that Africa is one big charity case or war zone, based on images that they have seen in the media.  Learning about the Nigerian who built a jet car that runs on the road and sea or the South African student who invented a waterless shower will open students’ eyes to a new reality.  A reality in which their history and present is inundated with creative genius.

Asar Imhotep, a University of Houston Linguistics alum, states that he got involved with creating the page, “to encourage Black people to participate more in the various sciences, whether it be Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Mathematics, Agriculture…”.  Imhotep gave us the inside scoop on what’s next for Black Science Month – exciting science experiments that children can conduct at home!  Like the page on FaceBook and stay tuned throughout the year for news, history, opportunities, and much more!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

Why Black Parents Choose to Homeschool

Greetings!

Please check out this great article by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, PhD, about why many African American parents are choosing to homeschool (http://theatlantavoice.com/news/2013/sep/27/more-100000-african-american-parents-are-now-homes/).

Dr. Kunjufu lectures, trains teachers, and has written many books about improving academic achievement for African American children and the importance of African Centered Education.  One book by him that we personally use in our homeschool is Lessons From History, Elementary EditionEach chapter presents a stage of Black history, beginning with ancient African civilization.  Also, there is a vocabulary list, questions, and exercises for each topic.

lessons from history

 

I respect Dr. Kunjufu’s work and would recommend it to any parent to use for a Black history component of their homeschool.  There are only two criticism that I have of Lessons From History.  One: Sometimes Kunjufu makes broad statements without fully explaining them, and you will have to do the research yourself to justify his statements to your child.  This is less of an issue in the Middle School and Advanced editions because the length of the text allows the author space to detail each idea introduced.  The Elementary Edition is simplified.  Depending on the comprehension level of your elementary student, you may just want to skip straight to one of the more advanced editions and make adjustments as necessary.

Enjoy the article via the link, and tell me, why did you choose to homeschool?

All Best,

Nikala Asante

Teaching Ancient African Civilizations During Black History Month

Teaching Ancient African Civilizations During Black History Month

Greetings,

One consistent major issue of American education has been the lack of Black History set before Africans were enslaved in America.  Ask an average child what Africans were doing before before slavery and they will most likely have no idea.  Worse yet, they may believe that Africans were “savages” and had no civilizations before America.

One site that I enjoy for teaching Ancient African History is Mr. Donn.  As a scholar, I do not agree with every detail about every civilization that he covers, but he provides an adequate amount of balanced history.  The civilizations of Egypt, Kush, Ghana, Mali, and Songhay are covered with outlines of their daily lives, entertaining stories, powerpoints, maps, free clip art, and activities.

I do not agree with the accuracy of all the images included because none of the ancient Egyptian images are Black.  It has been proven by Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop that the early Egyptian dynasties were ruled by Black Africans (read: The African Origin of Civilization by Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop).  He even did melanin tests to validate these claims.  There were also Egyptians who appeared as Caucasian or Middle Easterners do today, both of African descent and from migration of foreign peoples.  I believe that Egyptians of all skin tones should be portrayed, for sake of accuracy.

Thus, I would encourage you to use the histories, enjoy the activities, and not to take the images at face value.  Have a wonderful Black History Month.  May our education on the histories of Black people around the world truly advance!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

Livin’ Healthy with Vegan Soul Food (Plus Recipes!)

Get your Veggies!

Greetings!

I hope that you and your family had a wonderful week.  As homeschooling parents, one of our everyday responsibilities is cooking.  One of the biggest challenges for the African American community (and Americans in general) is healthy eating.

We have easy access to fast food restaurants and processed foods that seem to make our lives simpler, but wreak havoc on our bodies.  Not only does the food lose nutrients during processing, the additives contained in them, such as high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial colorings, and trans-fatty acids,  cause serious damage such as migraines, diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and much more. :(

(View Chart of Effects of Processing on Food Here)

There are many reasons to eat healthier and institute healthier diets for our children.  We may have more energy, be in better moods, attain and maintain our ideal weights, and prevent common diseases (even those that we believed were hereditary).

Our children may be calmer and more well-balanced after we remove stimulants such as caffeine, high fructose syrup, artificial colorings, and refined sugars from their diets.  Their focus may improve, so that they can concentrate on learning rather than excess fidgeting or being subject to frequent cravings throughout the day.

Implementing a healthy diet may also be an effective assistant to managing ADHD, autism, or other difficult issues.  If your child has health issues, please begin a research process on the effects of diet on your child’s issue if you have not done this already.  I would be interested to know what you find!

In the African American community, many of us have been raised on fried foods, refined sugars and grains, white rice, and delicious  high fat desserts.  Now that we have children of our own, we can create new traditions.

As a step towards healthy living, I would like to share links to vegan/vegetarian soul food sites.

PETA Vegetarian Soul Food Recipes: PETA shares recipes for vegan meatloaf, hoppin’ john, sweet potato pie, and more.  The recipes look tasty, but I tend to avoid margarine because of negative health effects.  Earth Balance vegan butter is a better product.  Smart Balance also manufactures a healthy vegan butter.  Too much soy is not good for you, so enjoy these recipes and stay as close as you can to whole fresh foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains) in your everyday life.

West African Vegan/Vegetarian Recipes: Many of the West African recipes that we base African American soul food on are naturally vegan or vegetarian.  Enjoy delicious foods such as red beans, chickpea soup, baked sweet potatoes, and banana fritters with no guilt afterwards!

Vegan/Vegetarian Caribbean Recipes: Another sister to African American soul food is Caribbean food.  Islands such as Jamaica and Haiti received the same West African migrants as the American South.  Try some savory tempeh patties, steamed callaloo, black bean and potato soup and coconut rice.  Who said healthy vegan food had to be tofu and carrot sticks?

Enjoy cooking these scrumptious recipes!  If your children are old enough, maybe they can help out in the kitchen.

Be sure to comment back and let me know which worked best for you!

Here’s to a healthy and happy new year!

All Best,

Nikala Asante

“Darkness canno…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love is the most powerful weapon in the world!