African Genesis Institute: Educating By Experience
Ali and Helen Salahuddin saw the need to provide an avenue to educate young African Americans and Latinos in 1996, so they founded the African Genesis Institute. Their mission is "to teach African American and Latino youth, ages 7-14, their correct history concerning their ancestry and ancestral homes." It is also designed to build "the self-esteem of the students, improve their academic and financial literacy, promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage entrepreneurship."
"We want them to know that their history did not begin on a plantation," Helen explains. "It began thousands of years ago in the motherland. When they know who they are they can better see themselves as contributors and love who they are."
"In school we were taught everything began in Europe, Greece and Rome and that we were discovered by white people, which clearly is not true," she continues. "We learn how beauty comes in all cultures, music, colors and languages. Schools teach our kids that all languages came from Latin; we show that African and Asian languages are rooted otherwise. We've learned that our children do better in school once they are in the program because they are more sure of who they are."
The African Genesis Institute, inspired by Dr. Edward Robinson now in its 19th year, rewards graduates with a trip to Egypt. However, students are required to accomplish a two-year study program centered on ancient African history utilizing a curriculum designed by Dr. Robison, Chike Akua and Jabari Osaze. The program is held at African American Museum in Philadelphia and consists of nine classes including reading and writing assignments, oral presentations, five field trips in the U.S. and Canada to sites relevant to the African experience in both countries.
The Institute offers a series of cultural trips, learning sessions, and other events during the year which are open to the public. Some of the places usually visited by students and other participants include Baltimore's historic Orchard Street Church, Lexington Market, the Great Black Wax Museum and a walk from James River where the slave ships landed near the auction block in Richmond, Virginia.
Philadelphia is visited by the students because of its historic features including the Liberty Bell, Mother Bethel Church, The First White House and the African American Museum. The field trips including Harlem Alive and the Underground Railroad sites in Detroit and Canada "not only provide [our] students with important educational and cultural information but also foster social relationships among the students and group leaders."
The life-transforming program concludes with the 10 day all-expense-paid trip to Egypt and then home to Graduation and Rites of Passage.
Monica Locket, a Group LeaderAfter the visit to Egypt in 2014, Monica stated, "If it weren't for the constant education from Mother Helen and Baba Ali Salahuddin who took the time and efforts to ensure all students and group leaders (43 in total), experienced an unforgettable time of our lives, I could not have accomplished this endeavor."
"Under the leadership of Jabari Osaze and Queen Anika Nfr Ka Ma at Daniels-Osaze we arrived in Cairo and transferred to the Meridien Pyramids Hotel where we relaxed and attended an orientation before dinner on the Nile.
"The next day we were educated by Jabari on the Millenia of Excellence before venturing to the Pyramids, Her Em Akhet, Sakarra, Imhotep Museum and a camel ride. I didn't know the camel raised and lowered to the point--I thought I was going to fall off!
"We had a full day in the Cairo museum with lectures and dinner. The youth swam in the pool and we shopped till we dropped. The next day we flew to Luxar and visited the Temple of Luxar, Karnac and Amen Ra, then ate a healthy all-you-can-eat buffet before retiring at the Steigenberger Nile Palace Hotel. The next day was devoted to the Valley of Kings and Queens and visits to the excavation led by the renowned author Anthony Browder of Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization. Awesome! We actually saw the excavation of a temple. The walls showed water lines of floods; there were statues and colors still visible. We next rode the bus to Aswan and visited the Nubian Museum; afterward relaxing at the Movenpick Hotel with an endless pool and buffet dinner.
"We woke early for a five-hour ride to Abu Simbel. The dinner and dancing at the mountaintop Nubian Restaurant were well worth it. Then we took a boat ride on the Nile River to the Nubian village and lost at a game of soccer--I think it was the heat....!
"Our Graduation and Awards luncheon was held at the First District Plaza in Philadelphia. The students presented what they'd learned. I cried like a baby while our Priest Jabari Osaze took each child through the Rites of Passage. It was beautiful and an event I was proud to witness."
Juanita Glen-Garlington, Participant"I saw a poster for a free trip to Egypt and signed up along with my husband, sister, brother, and my brother's three children. We soon found out the program was an amazing journey, starting from where we were in the U.S. back to our roots in Africa," remembered Juanita.
"Each step of the program it affected us differently and always led to family discussions on feelings. The elders of my family listened to the younger members' thoughts. Â On one field trip, we experienced a simulation of being enslaved. This gave us an appreciation for our ancestors and the strength of our DNA. Dr. Robinson's curriculum reminded us that we come from the best of the best who survived the holocaust of African people. "Setting foot in African soil was the highlight. Being able to touch the Pyramids that our ancestors engineered so perfectly was inspiring. To stand proud with my locs in the Cairo museum and see the locs of my ancient ancestors was powerful.
"The profound affect I saw in my niece and nephews is in the way they now carry themselves, with a confidence that only a person who truly knows who they are can emit.
"This experience was almost ten years ago and my sister and I recently enrolled in the class of 2017 with her granddaughter to offer her this unique experience as well."
Also on the trip in 2014 were Kyle (Kyle suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism) and his mother Bonnie. Kyle is very bright but often withdrawn socially. However, the founders and facilitators created an environment in which all of the children felt supported. During the first presentations students had to stand up in front of the group and explain why they wanted to go to Africa. Kyle was apprehensive at first but gained courage as he gazed out at the loving smiles, and with the positive feedback, did an excellent job.
Bonnie and Kyle Johnson, Participants
She continued, "We learned so much about our history as we completed our assignments and took field trips. The trip to Egypt was fantastic! The sites were a marvel to behold. Our hotels were five stars; we traveled together in chartered buses with wonderful tour guides and we were always accompanied by security. She was left wondering how many people can actually lay claim to visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World. She revealed that "Through learning about our origins, none that was taught in school, I've noticed a marked improvement in Kyle's confidence. He is also quick to point out media and other commentary about African Americans which is presumptive or expresses unfair generalizations."
"We are truly blessed by our experience with African Genesis and encourage others to enroll in this excellent program."
Go to www.africangenesis2.org to learn more about the program, how to participate, and/or become a sponsor, partner or donor.