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After-school Program on African Heritage Celebrates First Semester

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

From left to right: Hazim Hardeman, Raheemah, & Aminata Sy

“I am Africa; Africa is me. I am the world; the world is me.” The students stood at the front of the room during the celebration, resolved and proud. The strength and power of those words only gave more power to the words that followed, “I have the intelligence, the courage, and the power to change the world.”

On Sunday, December 17, 2017, African Community Learning Program (ACLP)’s students, parents, volunteers, and supporters gathered at West Philadelphia’s Lucien E. Blackwell Library for the organization’s Africa Celebration. The event marked the end of a successful first semester and celebrated the students’ African heritage and the continent’s culture overall. While spectators ate traditional African cuisine, several of the students got the audience involved in an introductory dialogue in N’Ko, a language common in many West African countries. Students then gave presentations on their “Africa Projects,” completed during the semester. ACLP’s board members, Abdoul Wane, Aminata Sy, and Hazim Hardeman thanked the audience for a wonderful first semester. Sy and Hardeman later awarded students, volunteers, and Blackwell Library staffers with certificates.

ACLP is the vision of Aminata Sy, its founder and president, herself a student at the University of Pennsylvania, a resident of West Philadelphia, and an immigrant from Senegal. Knowing first-hand the challenges that those coming to America face, Sy was determined to make a difference in the lives of people with similar backgrounds and experiences, building a life in Philadelphia.

“I am very proud of our students, and the work we have accomplished throughout our first semester,” Sy said. “Our Africa Celebration showcased not only African Community Learning Program’s work, but also the diversity and inclusion both among our students and volunteers. We hope to continue to gain support and grow in our mission to educate, connect, empower, and support people of African background in West Philadelphia.”

Becky Shaknovich, Blackwell Library Children’s Department Head who is a child of Soviet refugee parents, told the audience, “Be proud of who you are and who you can become. Our differences make us unique and valuable.” She also said of the students and their families, “You belong.”

The crowd mingling and enjoying African foods during ACLP Africa Celebration

From learning English and navigating a new culture compounded by rigorous schoolwork, the students in the program need help and understanding in their academic endeavors. With the support her husband, Abdoul Wane, the Blackwell Library, and Hardeman, a Temple University graduate and Rhodes Scholarship recipient, as well as volunteers from the University of Pennsylvania, Sy has been able to build ACLP literally from nothing.The current thirteen ACLP students have ties to six African countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, and Sudan) and are mostly from the Philadelphia public school system. Every day, the students leave the after-school program inspired, after having received homework help and spending time engaging with an “Africa curriculum.” Students gain more knowledge about their African heritage while strengthening their academic and life skills. ACLP also introduces its students to impactful leaders and change-makers of African descent to inspire them to dream big.

Raheemah, an eighth grader in ACLP, told Philly on the Rise in an interview, “I enjoyed being in African Community Learning Program because it taught me how to be a part of Africa, and I learned a lot of discipline, how to respect people and how to be a good middle-school student.”

To support African Community Learning Program visit and

or email Aminata Sy at

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