Charter school strives to make African culture part of every day
by Sheila Simmons and Janine LaBletta
Reflections of African culture are prominent at Imani Circle Charter School, located at Greene Street and Chelten Avenue in Germantown. Imani is one of several Philadelphia charter schools with an African-centered approach that shapes the curriculum and the school environment.
The school describes itself as "a community-based public school which uses an African-Centered approach to teach Reading, Math, the Sciences and Technology."
Here, African-language greetings punctuate the hallways and classrooms. Paintings and framed artwork of legendary African American figures, historical events, and places decorate the walls. Tables are accented with mustard-yellow mud cloth and wooden "Circle of Friends" statues. Through these and other everyday sights and activities, students can learn about aspects of Africa throughout the day.
The door of each classroom carries the name of a current or historic African nation, people, or tribal territory - Mali, Xhosa, Zulu, or Shona. Inside, the students deliver greetings in the language of that nation or community, and learn what region of the continent the territory is based and the way of life of its people, such as agriculture or fishing. Each teacher has researched his or her classroom's territory and teaches elements of its life throughout the year.
Imani was founded by CEO Francine Fulton in 2000 to provide such an African-centered focus. Therefore, Imani is different from District schools in working to integrate elements of African culture into so many aspects of the life and operations of the school.
For example, the principles of Ma'at - an ancient Egyptian code of ethics - of which Imani focuses on seven (faith, balance, truth, order, reciprocity, righteousness and justice) permeate much of the interaction here, from how a class forms a line to how the computers in the resource room are arranged.