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Why is Language Important?

Hazim talking to students about the importance of language.

African Community Learning Program’s secretary Hazim Hardeman kicked off his presentation on Monday, January 29, 2018 with a question that generated many reactions from our students: “why is language important?”

Students reflected on this question for a moment through writing and then discussed their ideas.

“If we don’t have a language, we can’t speak,” Ezzeldin said.

“I think that language is important because without language we can’t communicate,” Aibatou noted.

However, Hazim explained that people regularly make themselves understood using gestures. Language doesn’t always involve words.

Raheemah's reflection on language.

“If you can’t talk, you can use your hand,” Ibra said.

“Without language, we can’t start a business,” Mageed continued. “And without a business, we can’t make chuching [money].

“If you want to get a job, you need language,” Tamara added.

“Language is spoken in many ways by many people,” Adama highlighted.

Helima posed a question, “if you came to America and didn’t speak English, what would you do?

Students watching "The Danger of a Single Story" by Chimamanda Adichie.

After engaging with the students’ thoughts, Hazim showed clips from novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” Chimamanda detailed people’s vulnerability to stories pointing out how the mind absorbs them. She also mentioned that how stories are told and who gets to them depends on power.

Hazim shared a quote of writer and historian Teju Cole, “Writing as writing. Writing as rioting. Writing as righting. On the best days, all three.”

He explained the message as follow: “Writing as writing,” being the everyday practice of writing, “writing as rioting,” the act of reclaiming power over stories through uprise, and “writing as righting,” meaning correcting the wrongs in writings.

Hazim asked students what kind of stories do they read at African Community Learning Program.

“Stories about Africa,” few students exclaimed.

“We read Diop’s work taking about ‘Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannas' and Sangoel’s story told from his prospective,” Hazim started. “It is important as people of African descent that we own our stories.”

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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