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Students React to Yaye Aminata Ciré Talla Letter

Yaye Aminata Ciré Talla photo has a young woman.

I introduced African Community Learning Program’s students on Monday, March 5, 2018 to the woman who helped shape my life: Yaye Aminata Ciré Talla.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are celebrating influential women both in our lives and in societies through storytelling. Yaye Aminata Ciré Talla passed away on Wednesday, March 16, 2011. Over the years, I had time to reflect on what she has meant me. I passed on some of Yaye’s wisdom to our students. I shared with them that growing up I didn’t always enjoy learning the different tasks she taught me, whether it was washing and folding clothes or cooking. However, she repeated one sentence to me, “Everything you learn, you will take with you.” I have come to realize that everything she taught me I took with me and hope that our students would do same as they engage in African Community Learning Program. On Tuesday, March 6, we talked about my open letter to Yaye. I ended my letter in Pulaar with the last words I exchanged with Yaye, yen dji de jam; May we see each other in peace.

Aminata Sy reading her open letter to Yaye Aminata Ciré Talla to African Community Learning Program students on Monday, March 5, 2018.

“What do you remember from the letter?” I asked students.

“The last thing you and your aunt said ‘May we see each other in peace,’”Mageed shared. He added, “I learned more about you.”

“I really like the part you said ‘May we see each other in peace.’ Some people don’t even get to say goodbye. They just die,” Aibatou said.

“Sometimes when she gave you a job, you got an attitude about it and she told you, ‘Everything you learn, you will take with you,’ Motaz explained.

“I have a question,” Ibra interjected. “Do you have a picture of Yaye when she was a child?”

“That’s a great question. I only have this picture of her as a young woman,” I pointed to Yaye’s photo on display.

“I like everything about the letter,” Raimat insisted. “It’s beautiful. I like the words.”

Display of Yaye Aminata Ciré Talla's photo at African Community Learning Program.

The excerpt below are some those words from the letter:

“From you, I learned that we should give based on how big our hearts are, not how much we have. From you, I learned that struggle doesn’t equal the loss of dignity. From you, I learned that building and safeguarding relationships are where a person’s legacy lies. From you, I learned that knowledge and wisdom doesn't simply come from sitting in classrooms but mainly from engaging with the world around us. From you, I learned that money doesn’t determine how much impact someone can have on her community. From you, I learned that bringing people together regardless of their issues must be a priority. From you, I learned that a life of service is one worth living and sacrificing for."

Aminata Sy is the founder and president of African Community Learning Program, a journalist, and a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies international relations and English.

African Community Learning Program educates, connects, empowers, and supports people of African background in West Philadelphia.

To support African Community Learning Program visit and

or email Aminata Sy at

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