FUND FOR TEACHERS

Believing the teacher knows best how they can make a better impact in their classroom, Fund for Teachers awards fellowships for self-designed professional growth to PreK-12 teachers who recognize the value of inquiry, the power of knowledge, and their ability to make a difference.
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The Maafa and its Meaning for Boston Students
At the height of the African slave trade, grandsons of America’s founding fathers chartered The English High School in Boston. Almost 200 years later, three teachers from that school designed a Fund for Teachers fellowship to research the slave trade in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Chris Summerhill, Benny Benzan and Logan Jones spent the month of July documenting West Africa’s progress toward academic and social achievement to help their Latino and Afro-Caribbean students connect with this period of history. They share, in dialogue format, fellowship highlights:

Chris:  “Maafa” is a Swahili term that means “the great disaster” and is used to describe the history and effects of atrocities inflicted on African people. Our students’ lack of functional and cultural literacy about the “Middle Passage” of the slave trade in Africa led us to design this fellowship. We wanted to provide students with first-hand accounts and resources about the transatlantic slave trade because, as Marcus Garvey said, “A people without knowledge of its history is like a tree without roots.”

Benny:  “Our fellowship began in Ghana, where we visited three monuments: Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, the W.E.B. DuBois Center and Elmina Castle. A pioneer in Pan African thought, Nkrumah is honored with a park and museum about this country’s first president, prime minister and founder of the Organization of African Unity. At the DuBois Center, we visited the home and resting place of the co-founder of the NAACP and leader of the expatriate community in Ghana. The final and most powerful monument was Elmina Castle, that held Africans captive before they walked through the infamous Gate of No Return to ships that carried them to slavery. I feel a mix of anger and deep sadness when I think of the atrocities committed there.”

Logan: “In Liberia, we explored Monrovia – the capital city named for President James Monroe in honor of his support for the country’s colonization in 1822. I enjoyed seeing and feeling the differences between each of the countries; our observations will be extremely valuable in providing students an accurate version of their history to study so that they can put their lives into context.”

Benny: “We first witnessed the presence of Islam in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. At any moment, we heard sermons from Christian preachers or Muslim Imams blasting through speakers in homes, businesses and buses. My favorite site there was St. John’s Maroon Methodist Church built in 1808 and named for the “Maroons,” or runaway slaves comprising its membership.   After learning about how a group of Jamaican Maroons ended up in Freetown, I plan to develop lesson plans based on my photos and research.”

Chris: “Every aspect of this fellowship will bring our teaching to life. We’re now able to teach from our own experiences, as well as insights of many people whom we met. Our formal interviews, coincidental meetings and numerous experiences will authenticate our students’ knowledge and perspectives on Africa.”