Students: What do you think of when you hear Africa?

Africa, Education, explore, faith, Teaching, travel, Uncategorized, worldview

L🌍VE.

I’m a substitute teacher. I bounce around from school to school around my district and have yet to see more than three TEACHERS who look like me. I absolutely LOVE opportunities to ask my students this question:

What do you think of when you hear Africa?

Sure, I could substitute for both Omaha Public Schools, however I was raised in Papillion-La Vista School District. When I graduated with a class of 569 students, there were approximately 15 African-Americans. I never sat in a class with a Black teacher during my entire time in the district.

Let’s get back to the question.

What do you think of when you hear Africa?

🍍I think of sick kids.

🥑Dirt roads.

🥥Poor people.

🍦Helpless.

Above are actual answers from elementary school kids about a month ago.

When the little girl said, “Helpless.” I stopped and said, “I’m so glad that you said that, because there are so many lies that are being told about Africa and I want you to hear from someone who’s not on a screen and who actually visited.”

I didn’t go to Africa on a missions trip. I went on vacation. First to Egypt and then to Kenya. Pictured here I’m in Malindi, Kenya.

It’s in Kenya where my newly adopted Baba Baha told me, “Tell them we have ice cream over here.” He said that as we stood there eating some. We laughed so hard!

It was in Nairobi where I (confession) smuggled avocados back to Saudi Arabia because they were massive and I simply couldn’t go back without them. I took two.

It was in Kenya where I went to the Del Monte pineapple farm and stared at the unending rows and rows of pineapples.

It was in Kenya where I sat at the beach in Mombasa and drank fresh coconut water from a man who picked and pierced the coconut just for me.

So when I ask, “What do you think of when you hear Africa?” and then I hear statements like the ones aforementioned, my eyes light up! I realize: This is a teaching moment.

I do a test. I show them a picture and ask them where is this? It’s usually a picture of a dirt road or slum.

They almost always say, “Africa.”

I reply, “It’s Nebraska.”

I do it with a vibrant picture or setting and they reply, “Europe or Australia!”

I tell them, “Actually, it’s in Africa!”

😱

I pull out the photos of me in Kenya and the children’s jaws are ALWAYS on the ground.

It’s true, there are desolate places everywhere. I just have this holy conviction of telling new stories. The dirt road, shoeless kid narrative rings in our ears constantly.

Who will tell them of the golf courses in between Malinda and Mombasa?

Who will talk about the multi-millionaires and billionaires in African countries?

Who will tell them about the rich resources that can ONLY be found in heaps and bounds in African countries?

Who will tell them about M-Pesa and other brilliant mobile-tech ideas from African geniuses?

Who will show them Kenyan shillings with leaders on the currency who are even darker than me?

Who will show them the scarf that I bought and wore on the beach in Malindi that I later wore at the National Museum of African American History and Culture?

If you want to leave it to a substitute teacher to disseminate the information, I don’t mind. But I’m so glad to know that others are convicted about telling NEW stories too.

I’m not alone. Neither are you. If you went to an African country on vacation, please drop your memories in the comments.

I love hearing NEW stories.

Ciao for now!

Karissa Denae

P. S. I met a man in Kenya named Karisa. Apparently it’s a name for a boy. Guess what it means?! SHEPHERD!

P. S. S. Most of these photos were captured by Evans Maina. We attended the same church in Hangzhou, China. I was in China teaching English. He came to China for college. I think he was getting his Masters in Art there. For my birthday, he gave me one of his paintings that I saw in a gallery.