I had never planned on being a teacher, I went to school to be an engineer. So, I enrolled in Clark College, now Clark Atlanta University, and their dual degree program. Under the program students in the Atlanta University Center spend three years at their home school and afterwards they attended an engineering school-Auburn University, Boston University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Rochester Institute technology. I completed a degree at Clark Atlanta University in Physics, but instead of finishing an engineering degree at a member institution, I went to Graduate school at North Carolina State University. Near the completion of my degree in Material Science, the International Foundation for Education and Self Help (IFESH) gave me the opportunity to teach math and physics in at Mbeji Academy, Ngiya Kenya.
So, two weeks after completing my Master of Science Degree, I hopped on a Lufthansa Jet, flew to East Africa, and arrived in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, an organization that develops strategies for harmful and useful arthropods, graciously hosted me at the Duduville International Guest Centre for a couple of days. Afterwards, I took a train to Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city. Once I got to Kisumu I took a matutu, small vehicle packed with people like sardines, to Ng’iya. For the next school year, I taught math and physics to boys, who inspired me to be a teacher.
Mebji Academy is located in Nyzanza Province, the district of Siaya, and town of Ngiya. My students came from all backgrounds. For instance, some of the students came from the wealthiest families in Kenya, while others were orphans who fees were paid by sponsors or harambees, the community pool their money together to pay for tuition of the student. My classroom consisted of a room with no lights and a chalkboard and the floors were covered with dirt. Despite the physical environment of the classroom, the boys were attentive and seemed to enjoy the lectures. The lab equipment, which was housed in a different building was more than adequate; the supplies better than some of material I have in my classroom today.
One evening I was walking toward the fellowship hall and I heard singing. It took me a moment to realize that the people who were singing were my students. The voices of the chorus resonating with the night breeze rivaled any choir that I had ever heard. More than that, I couldn’t get over the fact that a group of teenage boys could randomly get together and sing for fun. I would’ve never had done it. I think that these young men could freely express themselves because they had a good sense of who they were. This sense of pride permeated in their studies, on the soccer field, on the basketball court and in rugby.
After my teaching experience in Kenya I was excited about teaching back home in America and couldn’t wait to get into the classroom. So, I landed a job as teacher at Kennedy Middle School, a school in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System. However, I was in for quite a surprise teaching ninth grade science; too many of my African American kids didn't care about education, in particular the boys. It wasn’t just normal teenage apathy toward learning. There seemed to be something missing from their DNA to make them care.
After a year in Charlotte I moved back to Atlanta and noticed similar observations that I observed in North Carolina ; too many of my students had willy-nilly attitude toward education. The most disturbing observation was an indifference toward anything, not believing right or wrong. In other words, they could be easily influenced to engaged in activities they were detrimental to the academic careers and lives. In my opinion they were missing something that my African students had, and they didn’t, an understanding and a respect for their African culture. The Kwanzaa Coloring Book was created to fill this cultural void that I think exist in African American students. Using coloring pages, games, and puzzles that teach the principles of Kwanzaa the publication seeks to buttress the cultural deficiency present in African American kids.