1.Tell me about yourself.
My name is Samantha Bailey. I am a Brooklyn environmentalist mother, I grew up in Long Island, and received my bachelors from the University of Miami
2. Why a vegan diet and in what way does this enhance the learning experience of the students?
I would like to first explain why our school is vegan. We here at Konjo Isizwe are creating, “solutionaries”: individuals who will have to tackle the environmental/climate crisis they will inherit. It would be hypocritical to support animal agriculture while teaching our students to be environmentalists. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of CO2 emissions into our atmosphere and a major cause of global food scarcity.
Our food is more than vegan, it’s healthy. We offer all real foods no sugar, low salt, low oil, mostly made from starch. Exposure to an all plant diet gives our students and their families variety. Most of our students turn up their noses to our whole foods meals at first, and who could blame them? They are used to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pizza. Now they have brown rice, curried lentils, and sauteed red cabbage with bell peppers, all great foods, but unfamiliar. However, within two weeks, they all begin to eat and enjoy their meals, and parents tell us their children have become less picky at home. We also provide breakfast, which is normally a green smoothie. I believe the vegan diet keeps them from being either hyperactive or lethargic, which makes for a more productive classroom setting.
3. According to NHERI (National Homeschooling Research Institute), African Americans are the fastest growing demographic in homeschooling. Why do you think this is?
American “Black” families are the fastest growing homeschooling group because of the fact that our children are ignored, left behind, or not given the chances of biases of non-black students, specifically their Caucasian counterparts. Black children are suspended at a much higher rate starting from Kindergarten. Black children are the most likely to be unfairly assigned to unnecessary special ed courses which kick starts their entire school career being behind and ultimately leads to an adulthood that starts behind the curve. Fifty-one percent of Black males drop out of high-school and their future beyond that is bleak. The majority of Black student’s teachers will be white and not from their own communities and this is reflected in their school curriculums which lean towards and European revisionist history.
In African-American Communities, Growing Interest In Home-Schooling
On a quiet street in Detroit, light pours into the back windows of the Kirksey home. In the back of the house the walls…
But when Black children attend Black private schools or are home schooled, they actually fare better than the American average. This is why, even though Black people may not always have the resources or financial means, we are aiming to keep our children out of the public school system.
4. What do you believe public school systems could learn from Konjo Isizwe Academy’s model?
What our schools could be doing is being honest in their history and social studies lessons. They should be including stories of amazing Black, Indigenous, and immigrant American figures. It is awful that we still learn great things about Columbus and have statues of James Marion Sims in our medical schools and he tortured Black women. Most of our currency features slave owners on them, and we need to be talking about why this is and having these discussions in our schools.
Students need to know the importance of Benjamin Bannekar, who was the son of a slave, and how he designed Washington D.C. They need to know the history of the trades between the Aztecs and the Malian empire 1,000 years before Columbus. And revolutionaries who effect real change that could lead to economic freedom like Toussaint L’Ouverture and Marcus Garvey.
5. What advice would you give to Black parents who want to homeschool?
My general advice to parents who would like to home school is this: Education does NOT have to resemble or feel like standard American classrooms; do not attempt to re-create their classroms. Instead, figure out what education looks like and means to YOU. Education can look like virtually anything.
The location of your classroom can be outside, at a friends house, traveling in a car, in bed, at a meeting of adults, or a playground with other children. The subjects should be what you and your child find important: Economics, cooking, food security, mindfulness, cartooning, capoeira, you name it! The math, grammar, penmanship, and science are laced in every topic. Be pliable, be flexible, and be fluid when it comes to education.
6. What advice would you give to Black parents who may not have the time or financial stability to home school, but want to be more involved in their children’s learning process?
If you lack the time, opportunity, or desire to homeschool your children yourself, you can look up your state laws and consider using a retired or college aged relative who has spare time. You should attempt to connect/network with or create a group of like minded parents who also want to be more involved in their child’s education and hire a tutor that the collective agrees upon. You can also include Saturday/Sunday classes at a cultural center near you. Some of these things are offered during after-school programs as well and can be found with a little digging. Most importantly, reflect what is important to you and your child inside your home. Posters, art, decorations, dolls, movies, t.v. shows, clothing, food etc. : Use these to create normalcy in the topics and to create dialogue as they begin to grow and ask questions. Be strategic in playing specific songs or speeches while the child is home. Don’t even force them to listen, just have it playing. Talk about your personal experiences and the experiences of your family when you socialize with your child there are lessons there!
7. How can parents enroll their children in Konjo Academy?
Konjo Academy is actually taking a year off to do legal work for our building, curriculum, and status. Enrollment for September 2018 will begin in June 2018. We accept any child as young as potty trained up to the 3rd grade level. We have a diverse student body and would love to keep it that, as such, we accept children from any religious, ethnic, or national background.
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