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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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What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one “dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.” (Coelho & Clarke, 1988/1993, pp. 91–92)

Much like Santiago, it was a dream that started me on this journey. The universe was giving me an omen, speaking to me concerning my preparedness to create an optimal educational experience for children of color, specifically African American children. In my dream, I was leading the children toward a destination. The children were depending on me to safely lead them and moved in lockstep with me. They obediently followed my direction and only became distracted when I began to demonstrate my own ramping levels of unsoundness and concern. At that point, chaos and confusion prevailed and the conclusion of this virtuous and benign endeavor was destruction of the children while I looked on in paralyzed horror. I think what I found most challenging about the dream was that once the children began to seek their own solutions for the problem of crossing the street safely,...

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