Reflection from "Reifying Wakanda" by Adaugo Pamela Nwakanma
It has been an honor and privilege working with my group of students this summer and also getting to know the other students outside of my class. I have been blessed with such an inspirational, intelligent, energetic, charismatic, funny, and interesting group of students with a variety of personalities and interests. This past week, our students had the opportunity to present their final projects to their peers in the other class during a “teach-in” program where students dressed up and played the role of teachers in order to educate everyone on some of the things they had learned in the past four weeks. This summer, my students have learned about Africa’s ethnolinguistic diversity; precolonial, colonial and post-colonial history; the inspiration behind the Dora Milaje in Black Panther; the role of Sudanese women in leading the current uprisings against the government; gender inequality across various periods; the #metoo movement in the U.S. and Senegal; and the variety of ways in which African women are transforming politics and the media.
Even beyond the course material, my students were intrigued by my own identity as a multilingual Nigerian-American woman with experiences in different parts of the world. I was able to share stories of my experience attending boarding secondary school in Nigeria, conducting research in Rwanda, swimming with dolphins in Mozambique, and traveling to various parts of the continent for a variety of reasons. We were also able to talk about the opportunities that exist for studying, interning, and volunteering abroad in college and beyond. All of my students, Aniyah, Keyonia, Lakyia, Shontia and Tavia, expressed excitement over the possibility of visiting the continent and learning West African dance forms, which I taught them in the last few days of class. I was extremely proud of them when they performed their dance during our MFP end of year celebration and was deeply moved when Lakyia led the girls in prayer right before they performed to quell their anxieties. Another fond memory is when Tavia would often say “A huru m gi n’anya” (I love you in Igbo) or “Selam” (hello in Amharic) to demonstrate her genuine interest in learning African languages. These anecdotes are the ‘why’ behind my work here in Mississippi.
Being able to connect with my students on multiple levels is not something that I take for granted. I appreciate the opportunity to not only teach material that I am passionate about to a group of Black young women, but also the chance to engage in professional and personal development. With all the energy, drama and inconsistencies that come with teenagers, I am grateful that I was challenged in ways that led to greater self-reflection and growth. I thank God almighty that I was able to have this particular experience with a phenomenal team of Black colleagues who inspired me every day with their passion, intellect, kindness, wit, enthusiasm, and dedication to positively impacting Black students. This particular summer in Mississippi with our high school students, my co-teachers, the MFP staff, and the middle schoolers will leave an indelible mark on me in ways that will influence my future endeavors. A sincere thank you to the MFP family!