Brother Jesse: What inspired the launching of African Genesis Institute? How important is institution building in our community?
Ali Salahuddin: The program started as the d’Zert Club, an organization dedicated to bringing positive entertainment and cultural information to youth in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas. We did a teen dance club, Juneteenth and Kwanzaa celebrations, and things like that. As we got to know many of the youth connected with that program we felt that expanding into education was the next step to helping develop a well rounded child.
Brother Jesse: Why was the motto “It is better to build a child than repair an adult” chosen?
Ali Salahuddin: This was a paraphrase of a saying coined by Frederick Douglas in the 1800’s. We thought it most adequately described the objective of our work since its focus is on children as opposed to adults. Building a child means we are giving him/her all the tools needed to become the kind of adult that will be self assured, self efficient and community and culturally based.
Brother Jesse: Why is the program specifically targeting Black and Latino youth? How many young people have gone through the program and how has it impacted their lives?
Ali Salahuddin: We chose Black and Latino youth for the following reasons:
1. These are the people of our Black community. 2. These are the people who are suffering the most 3. Black and Latino youth, especially boys, are under attack from those who continually lead the effort to keep us down causing the school to prison pipeline and mass incarceration, fratricide, high school dropouts and high unemployment.
Over 3000 students and adults have graduated from our program and traveled to Africa with us.
We have seen the following results: 1. 97.2% of our graduates attend college, many on 4 year scholarships. 2. Academic performance has increased. 3. Scores on standardized tests have increased. 4. School attendance has increased. 5. Respect for elders has increased. 6. Incidences of disruptive behavior have decreased. 7. Since inception (1998), only 1 of our students has been accused of a misdemeanor crime. 8. Since inception, only 2 female students have gotten pregnant before graduating from high school.
Brother Jesse: I read that the program takes students on at least five field trips inside the U.S. and Canada to sites that are relevant to the history of our people in both countries. Why is the component of traveling so necessary?
Ali Salahuddin: Educational field trips are important for the following reasons: 1. There is an old saying that “travel makes you smarter”. 2. By traveling to sites that are relevant to the history of Black people in this country, such as the “Underground Railroad Tour to Detroit and Canada, the students learn of their ancestors’ strength and resilience in their effort to gain freedom. The students also learn of their ancestors’ creativity and ingenuity despite living under harsh conditions. 3. Traveling on these field trips gives us the opportunity to teach the students how to travel in a group, which is much different than traveling as an individual. This is extremely important especially when traveling in a foreign country where the majority of the population does not speak English. 4. Some of our students have never flown on an airplane or eaten in a restaurant. These field trips give us the opportunity to address these issues.
Brother Jesse: You all are on a fundraising drive to take students on another life-altering trip to Egypt. Why is Africa chosen versus other continents? When was the first time you visited there and how did it change your life?
Ali Salahuddin: The African Genesis curriculum traces our history back thousands of years. It is a scientific fact that Black people are the original man and woman on this planet and the Father and Mother of civilization. It is also a fact that Africa is the cradle of civilization. Based on our research, most Black people in America are descended from those ancestors who inhabited the Nile Valley, built the great empires in that region and migrated to the West Coast of Africa escaping persecution. So our curriculum follows that path and the students study the history and the accomplishments of their ancestors in the Nile Valley. Thus, they sojourn to Egypt (Kemet) where they can see with their own eyes what they have been studying during the course of the program. We hope to add an advanced curriculum for youth 15-17 where they will study about and travel to West Africa.
My wife/partner and I traveled to Africa for the first time in 1996 when we visited Senegal, West Africa. Since then we have visited Africa over 20 times and each time we step foot on the Continent we feel the spirit of home and the ancestral energy. That is the change, knowing that we have connected with those who came before us gives us confirmation that our work is important and life altering. We believe that children of African descent must experience that connection at least once in his/her lifetime.
Brother Jesse: For those wondering, why would their donation be a great investment in these young people? What will the students gain?
Ali Salahuddin: Many people in the Black community sit around and lament about the behavior and condition of our young people but offer few solutions. Our position is that in order to change a persons’ actions, you must change the way they think.
The African Genesis Institute positively impacts the way our students think does what the schools are not doing, teaching our youth their true and correct history. Unfortunately many of the parents too are unaware of their true history. The young people in our program are beginning a journey to find their true selves. To real race and self esteem and knowledge that will aid those in all they do. The journey begins here in the USA where they are taught their history but about being healthy, financially independent and self sufficient. The journey continues to the Motherland for it is better to see for yourself than to hear about it a thousand times.
(Help their students raise $9000 for their trip to the Motherland by donating @ https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/please-help-our-students-visit-the-motherland–4#/)