Taking Pride in African Heritage at a Brooklyn School

Sharifa Hodges, founder of Seneca Village Montessori (Photo by Megan McGibney via BKLYNER)

In January 2018 Sharifa Hodges will see her dream realized – the opening of Seneca Village Montessori, a school for children ages 3 to 6 centered around African heritage. She speaks to reporter Megan McGibney of BKLYNER at the future site of the school in Crown Heights.

“The Montessori part means the whole child approach,” she explains. “Cognitive, social, physical. The African aspect helps a child of color know that they’re great, that they come from a great lineage. It does not begin with slavery, that’s not where your story begins. Kids will say, “I know that I am great.”

The idea for the school came about while Hodges was teaching special education.

“Being in public schools, I noticed something going on,” Hodges says as she sits in Lincoln Terrace park, a block from her school. “There was a lack of confidence, a lack of positive sense of self. Children of color are confused,” she says, noting the current political climate. “Nothing is new, but it is more in the face and apparent. I wanted to do more than just sit and talk about it with friends over coffee.”

Drawing inspiration from Kamali Academy, an African-centered education created by Dr. Samori Camara, Seneca Village Montessori will teach students the history of Africa – the people, places, tribes, food and many cultures of the continent. They will also learn to speak Swahili and French (the latter is the main language spoken in West Africa). They will also learn about the African Diaspora in Brazil and the Caribbean.

What will the children call teachers and elders? What kind of curriculum will the school follow? Why is it “very difficult to find staff”? And what are the origins of the name “Seneca Village”? Find out in the full story at BKLYNER.

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