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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 5. Locating the Treasure



Everything on earth is being continuously transformed, because the earth is alive…and it has a soul. We are part of that soul, so we rarely recognize that it is working for us. (Coelho & Clarke, 1988/1993, p. 53)

The Freedom City School District (FCSD), where the FS/MGPA is located, has a student enrollment of approximately 170,000; well over 90% of its student population is African American. By the 2001–2002 academic year, more than 19,000 students were attending charter schools in Freedom City. In an effort to minimize the impact of declining enrollment resulting from students transferring to charter schools, the FCSD capped the FS/MGPA’s student enrollment at 300. During the 2004–2005 academic year, the school had a student enrollment of 260 (Aisha Shule/W. E. B. Du Bois Preparatory Academy, 2005).

FS/MGPA began in 1974 as an IBI in the format of a Saturday School. It was named the Nat Turner School; its genesis was rooted in the Black Power, Black Nationalist, and Pan-­Africanist movements of the 1960s, as African Americans were redefining themselves and their existence in American society. These movements were both political and economic within African American communities, and they promoted the ideology that Black people on the continent and the diaspora must become self-­determined and self-­reliant. ← 39 | 40 → In response to this movement, a collective of parents, educators, and professionals began to embrace the self-...

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