Summer program founded by Black educators offering first in-person learning session since 2020

·3 min read
Rachel Zellars, seen at right, is co-founder of the African Nova Scotia Freedom School. She's seen with her daughter Zora, among the students who attended and graduated from the first edition in August 2020, and fellow co-founder Wendie Wilson.  (CBC - image credit)
Rachel Zellars, seen at right, is co-founder of the African Nova Scotia Freedom School. She's seen with her daughter Zora, among the students who attended and graduated from the first edition in August 2020, and fellow co-founder Wendie Wilson. (CBC - image credit)

A community-based summer program called the African Nova Scotian Freedom School is having their first fully in-person program since their inception at the start of the pandemic, and organizers say they can't wait to introduce the youth attending to lessons tailored just for them.

"These opportunities don't come up often where curriculum is designed specifically for our students of African descent," said Wendie Wilson, one of the founders of the school and a long-time educator.

"On top of that, it's also delivered by people of African descent so students actually get to see people that look like them, creating curriculum, creating programming, specifically, specifically for them."

The African Nova Scotian Freedom School was founded by Black community educators in response to the Black Lives Matter protests that spread across the globe after the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis.

Wilson says one of the primary goals of the program is to help better prepare Black students aged 12 to 18 for school after summer break, through interactive online sessions and occasional in-person events but it's also meant to help give, during a time of racial turmoil, reassurance and validation in their identities, as well as information about their history.

"We did some things around leadership and the first year, defunding the police, and what that meant," said Wilson.

"We did a lot of sessions around what is food, what is healthy food, what is generational wealth, financial planning, all the big pieces that are connected to."

This year the school is doing something they're calling the Inaugural African Nova Scotian Freedom Summit and instead of doing their usual two hour sessions twice a week, this event will take place over a span of two days, Friday and Saturday.

Brooklyn Currie/CBC
Brooklyn Currie/CBC

It will involve a dinner, catered by a Black owned business called The Opus Cafe & Catering, which plans to open their new location in the same spot as the Home for Coloured Children.

As for the program itself, the focus will largely be on Afrocentric symbolic art and understanding the seven principles of Afrocentricity or Nguzo Saba.

The Nguzo Saba (Swahili for Seven Principles) were originally developed to reinforce aspects of African cultures such as building and supporting family, community and heritage among people of African descent.

Amaya Tolliver, 15, is one of the 33 students signed up to attend and even though this is her third year being part of the school, she's says she's still looking forward to learning more about herself and Black culture.

"It's not someone else talking about it, or someone who doesn't understand you, this is coming from real Black teachers, and Black people," said Tolliver.

"So you're taking in all this information from someone who looks like you, and is the same as you and I just think that's important."

Wilson says at this session they'll be collecting data and talking to the students to see what kind of programming they'd like to see from them next and hopefully that will guide what they do going forward.

"We're just going to be as responsive as we can to, to our students and what they need ... we'll look at offering programming at other times during the year as well."

Tolliver says she hopes other students attending walk away feeling proud to be who they are.

"I hope they feel special to be Black and I hope they know that it's okay to be you."

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