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Alchemy of the Soul

An African-centered Education


Joyce Piert

It started with a dream, a dream in the night that challenged the dream of the author’s life. That dream, which evolved through her personal experiences, was to start an African-centered school. The dream in the night ignited the journey that led to this book, which was to discover answers to critical questions such as: What is an African-centered education model? How do former students perceive this experience? And can, or even should, this educational model be effectively adopted in traditional public schools? Joyce Piert offers this book as a critical resource to parents, educators, potential teachers, community leaders, and policymakers who are seriously pondering the question of how to provide all students with a holistic educational experience. In Alchemy of the Soul, the vibrant voices of African American young adults share their stories in robust and candid narratives of their educational experiences at an African-centered school.
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Chapter 1. The Dream Within a Dream



And dreams are the language of God. When he speaks in our language, I can interpret what he has said. But if he speaks in the language of the soul, it is only you who can understand. (Coelho & Clarke, 1988/1993, p. 9)

The Dream

The children were lined up in a long row, and they ranged in age from 3 to 5. They were young and diverse in race, but the file of children was mostly composed of children of color. They looked ahead, almost like robots, not given to distractions as most young people their age, but intensely focused on keeping in step with the child in front. I was leading the group like a Pied Piper of sorts, being careful not to walk too swiftly, ever conscious of the young stride that followed me in lockstep. We were walking down a street. It was the business section of a town and it appeared to be one of the busiest streets that could exist in any town. In fact, cars were careening past us on the right, while lines of buildings were stretching to the sky on the left. We were sandwiched between these two impenetrable forces. As I looked ahead, I could see that we were approaching a clearing. The long fortress of buildings was ending as if cut off like an unexpected cliff and an intersection of streets emerged. I...

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