In the Service of our Ancestors and African Love,
Listen Seeker, I come in peace,
Not the greatest Master can go even one step for his disciple; in himself he must experience each stage of developing consciousness. Therefore he will know nothing for which he is not ripe. — African Proverb
I owe my wife for allowing me to understand the following letter. Like Mbameza, I see a utility in an after-school program if not a home schooling program; but unlike Mbameza or my wife, I saw little utility in making the material ‘digestible.’ I chalked it up to “Not the greatest Master can go even one step for his disciple” reading it as “I can’t” as opposed to how Mbameza explains it “If giving a steak, cut it up.” Mbameza does more than discuss his after-school program, he enlightens on African Pedagogy: “Mastication not (Intellectual) Masturbation.” It also helps that he is a donor to the African Blood Siblings! Please enjoy his letter.
Letter from Mbameza: Why Create an After-School Program?
Edited by Onitaset Kumat
To Onitaset Kumat,
I once heard a story about a toddler and a steak. Now, don’t misunderstand me, my wife, two sons and I are vegetarians and the boys were breastfed until they were three, but I heard this story and I want to share it with you. There was a toddler, maybe around two-years-old, who was given a steak. As any other toddler would, she walked over to the steak, tried to lift it, it fell and she licked her hand. Trying again, she dropped it and fell down herself. Trying again, she picked it up, took a bite, but it wasn’t large enough to be filling. Following all this effort, the toddler walked off to the kitchen area where she pulled at the fridge until someone gave her something more digestible. The moral was ‘you don’t give a toddler a steak,’ but deeper, ‘you give what can be digested’ or ‘mastication not masturbation,’ to put it bluntly. As to say, if giving a steak, cut it up. People cut up their own steaks after all. And they must chew it or they’ll choke. Even birds chew for their young!
Of course, I heard this story a long time ago, and it seemed fairly worthless to me, until I started raising my sons. These boys wouldn’t eat everything, but they would eat something. And as physically, so spiritually; these boys would not learn everything, or as you’d say ‘resonate’ with everything, but they will learn something (resonate with something)! Now I sent them to public school, I couldn’t afford otherwise, and when they came home, I’d ask them to read the Chancellor Williams, the Onitaset Kumat, the Marimba Ani and of course the Odwirafo Kwesi Na Rahem Ptah Akhan. You’re a great writer Onitaset, but, yeah, my children weren’t getting but a few writings. ‘Course when I think back to my youth, I recall the Disney films and the cartoons and the snacks.
Long story short, I began showing the kids children films for Africans by Africans. They really resonated with it. And whereas they didn’t digest everything, they digested a lot more than they would have otherwise. I showed them cartoons of the greats and the scholastic, even one with you based off of your story of how you spend a day. The kids feel invested in the lives of you, our ancestors and our warriors. And because they see images of scholarship, their scholarship also improved.
So, I connected with the school to show the cartoons to a class. That was my after-school program–although I intend to do it at home if my neighbors are willing to pay. But Black kids and White kids, though mostly Black kids, are watching pro-Black African cartoons about African nation building and spirituality dealing with warriors, ancestors and, of course, you! Not every kid is digesting the lessons, and not every kid is paying attention all the time, but they are watching these films and these films will stick with them. My wife also bakes pies for them, and, well, I make some money on the side selling pies, promoting some books–that are digestible–and the kids watch the films for free. It’s so far great. And no one is really as bored as they would be if they were watching documentaries.
I see, truly, the kids are curious. And from that, there’s little more that I could ask for. I’ll probably make the after-school program in my house, and maybe if I could do things again, start a home school for the neighbor’s kids, but for now this is what I’m doing and I’m creating a curiosity among African kids. I hope this letter meets you well.
Thank you for your work and the inspiration!