The African School

by Terry Watson | July 11th, 2013
Tonya Poole, Dawn Tafari, Dr. Tiffany Quaye, D. Noble and the African School Students

Tonya Poole, Dawn Tafari, Dr. Tiffany Quaye, D. Noble and the African School Students (Photo by Howard Gaither)

After graduating from NC A&T with a BA in History, Tonya Poole searched for ways to put her degree to use. She has always loved learning about various cultures and history. The idea for The African School came in 2010 when she realized that her daughter and other children were not being exposed to the rich cultures and histories of Africa and the African Diaspora in their schools. Tonya was alarmed to discover that outside of the typical lessons taught during Black History Month most school-age children did not learn much about topics of importance to the global African/Black community. The African School was born the following year out of the need to create opportunities for children and adults to experience what they lacked in school.

TAS is an educational program that creates learning tools and events, designed to bring children and adults into an experience with the histories and cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora. TAS seeks to demonstrate how the knowledge of our past is relevant and practical to today. In February 2011, TAS held its first workshop called Discovering Our History Through Sound, Word, & Art. This workshop was facilitated by local musicians, artists, and poets who taught African-American history through the lens of the arts.

Since its beginning, TAS has always produced workshops that focus on various topics such as the cultures of Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica, and St. Kitts, and a look at the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. In July 2013, TAS will launch their first online curriculum titled, “Africans In America: Six Lessons About African-Americans You’ll Never Learn In School”. This online educational experience will guide students through a series of six lessons in African-American history (two lessons released each week) that are focused on three main areas: Business & Economics, Agriculture, and Hip Hop. The curriculum is geared for children between the ages of 8-13 (3rd-8th grades).
Highlights of this learning experience are:

  • It’s Online: Allowing students to participate wherever they are, even if they’re traveling on summer vacation.
  • Downloadable Worksheets: Lessons can be printed if the student prefers.
  • Learning Journal: Participants can document what they learn into a downloadable booklet and use the info for any of their projects/homework for the upcoming school year.
  • Guided Experience: Very easy to follow and is designed to have a parent or teacher assist the student through the process.
  • No Previous Knowledge Required: It is a learning experience for both the young student and the parent/teacher who is following along.
  • Certificate of Completion: Each participant will receive a certificate acknowledging that they have finished the program.

Poole says she didn’t want TAS to be just another program where people are given a bunch of data. “I did not want people to simply walk away feeling like they knew what years Harriet Tubman was on the Underground Railroad. I wanted them to experience the history and know that they have the same power as the people of our past that we celebrate. I want them to believe that they could be Harriet Tubman or whoever they desire to be,” she says. Poole is inspired by what motivates anyone to create. The conditions that motivated people to create Jazz, Poole says is just as inspirational as the story behind what caused individuals to birth Hip Hop.

Being able to create an environment for people to experience what they’ve never experienced is what Poole says she loves most about the TAS. “I love working with others to find creative ways share lessons with TAS participants. Most of the time I have a general idea of what I want people to learn, but in working with others I am always amazed the wealth of knowledge there is to be shared and the many creative ways to do so,” she says. TAS promises to make connections that other traditional methods have fallen short of.

Assisting Poole with instruction for the online curriculum are Dawn Nicole Hicks Tafari. A native New Yorker, she is passionate about the arts, culture, education, and translating theory into practice. Her research interests include Black boys in public schools, Black male elementary school teachers, Hip-Hop culture’s influence on identity development, Hip-Hop feminism, critical race theory, critical race methodology, and narrative research. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hofstra University, her Master of Arts in Teaching from The Johns Hopkins University, a post-baccalaureate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from The University of North Carolina Greensboro, and her Ph.D in Educational Studies with a Specialization in Cultural Studies from The University of North Carolina Greensboro. She has served as an elementary school teacher, college professor, and currently serves as a lateral entry teacher trainer and Developmental Studies Faculty at Davidson County Community College. She is also co-founder of the Greensboro Kwanzaa Collective. She does educational consulting with her husband and enjoys traveling and providing interactive, research-based workshops and curricula development for institutions around the country. Dawn lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her amazing husband, two brilliant daughters, and two spirited dogs.

Dr. Tiffany Quaye is a native of Leakesville, Mississippi. She obtained her Ph.D. from the Department of History at UNC-Greensboro and currently serves as a Guest Lecturer at North Carolina A&T State University. In the Spring of 2012, she became the first African American to graduate with a Ph.D. in History from UNC-Greensboro and became the youngest person to ever graduate with a Ph.D. from that same program.

Dr. Quaye has done extensive work on the 1979 Greensboro Massacre and has a particular focus on Post-Civil Rights activism in black working class communities. Since being at North Carolina A&T, Dr. Quaye has taught African American History, U.S. History, The Nature of Writing History, and The World Since 1945. Equally important to her professional and personal development has been her commitment to making international connections and establishing herself as a world citizen through volunteering. In 2006 she lived in Ghana where she taught English as a second language, built schools, and processed local gari. Just this past year, Dr. Quaye served as the leading historian for the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina where she helped develop social studies initiatives for over 300 students in the states of North Carolina and Virginia. Additionally, Dr. Quaye has served on numerous committees dealing with the politics of Haiti, merging the gap between Africans and African Americans, and current problems of the “color line.” In her spare time, she volunteers tirelessly for the Alzheimer’s Association where she has helped to raise nearly $10,000 over the past nine years.

Dr. Quaye received her Bachelors Degree from Florida A&M University in African American Studies and her Masters Degree from UNC-Charlotte in History. She is the mother of one daughter.

D. Noble is an activist, scholar and nationally renowned spoken word artist. He earned his Masters of Arts in English and African American
Literature from North Carolina A&T State University where he graduated as a Wadaran L. Kennedy Scholar in May 2012. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in the African American Studies department at UNC Greensboro and plans on pursuing a doctoral degree in fall 2014 in either Literature or American Studies. His research interests include Marxism, Critical Race Theory, African American Literature, Popular Culture and Hip Hop Studies. His work has been published in esteemed scholarly journals like The African American Review, The Journal of Pan African Studies and The Journal of Black Masculinity.

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