I love my hair, a book by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and illustrated by E.B. Lewis takes one on a journey about loving yourself. It takes us into the life of a little girl named Kenyana who has started to dislike her hair.
Kenyana’s mother reassures her that her natural hair is beautiful and can be styled in so many different ways.
“I can put your hair into straight lines and plant rows of braids along your scalp, the way we plant seeds in our garden. Then wait and watch them grow,” she told Kenyana.
Keyana comes to love her hair, urged kids love and appreciate their natural hair.
Kids were seated at Chez Alpha Books, an educational center with a library and resources center in Dakar reading “I love my hair.” It was more than just reading, it was empowering them. The center is preparing children for future challenges by exposing them to reading and arts.
Every year, the center celebrates the UNESCO International Literacy Day and helps promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.
This year, UNESCO’s theme was “Reading the Past, Writing the Future,” said Angela Franklin of Chez Books.
The children that gathered around the books were not just kids, they are Senegal’s future generations of leaders, who will change Senegal for the better. Kids have some wild dreams but just like Dr. King, no dream is too big or small not be become reality. Their mentors knew they had to know the past to have a great future.
“A Man of destiny: the Life of Léopold Sédar Senghor” couldn’t have been a better book to inspire and energize them.
Senghor is the founding father of modern day Senegal – the West African nation’s first president after French colonial rule; a man that saw beauty and goodness in all people who realized that the urge for freedom is in the heart of every human.
Now the kids were smiling as they get to know about a president who built strong democratic institutions for Senegal long before they were born: Senghor the great poet and philosopher and a wise statesman.
UNESCO says efforts and progress has been made to increase literacy rates around the world and that global leaders are addressing current challenges and looking to innovative solutions to boost literacy.
After reading I Love My Hair and A Man of Destiny, students got busy creating designs for commemorative postage stamps that would honor famous writers, activists and leaders from Senegal.
The kids use fabric, crayon, paint, glue to design patriot of prominent and well known Senegalese personalities to inculcate sense of patriotism and leadership in them.
Dakar is fighting a different issue as well – children forced to beg on the streets but authorities have taken swift action to address it.
Senegal has a 49.7% literacy rate and 61.8% of this are men and the 38.7% female.
But democracy always wins in Senegal because of Senghor’s visionary leadership. It is going through rapid infrastructure development and whiles many African nations headed to dictatorship, Senegal became a successful post-colonial democratic country.
Léopold Sédar Senghor was the first African elected to the Académie française.
The cultural theorist regarded by many as one of the most important African intellectuals of the 20th century.
Senghor was not the man who just follows his dreams but leads them. He was not known for giving up on them no matter how many times he failed. In his own words, it was “sixteen years of wandering.”
In 1928 Senghor sailed from Senegal for France starting his post-secondary studies at the Sorbonne. He quit high school and went on to the Lycée Louis-le-Grand to finish his prep course for entrance to the École normale supérieure, a grande école. Paul Cary, Henri Queffélec, Robert Verdier and Georges Pompidou were also studying at this elite institution. After failing the entrance exam, Senghor prepared for his grammar Agrégation. He was granted his agrégation in 1935 after a failed first attempt.
The kids at Chez Books will take a lesson from this history to believe in themselves, be proud of who they are (their Africanism, country and culture) and keep pursuing their goals no matter what.
(Reporting from Dakar; Writing by Sainey MK Marenah; Editing by Sam Phatey)