Africa Revisited: A
“History is not everything” John Henrik Clarke
once wrote, “but it is the starting point. History is
a clock that people use to tell their time of day. It is a
compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography.
It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they
On August 2004 Frances
Brown was on a mission to Africa. Eight years had passed
since her last visit abroad. Now she was answering a call.
A few months earlier, Frances was convalescing from surgery.
When she received the “call” from the
American Federation of Teachers in June 2004 to serve on a
special mission to Nigeria, she knew at that moment, she was
destined to make an important journey back to Africa. She would “pick
up her bed and walk.”
Brown’s previous visits were as student and tourist.
However, this time, she would return as an educator. She would
return to Africa as a member an American Federation of Teachers’ international
delegation on a fact finding mission. The summer journey of
2004 would be a different kind of mission for Frances. This
mission would be...up close and very personal. This mission
would be a time for reflection, introspection as well as a
reconnection with fellow Africans. It would also be a time
to assess the progress of the AFT teacher-to-teacher program
to eradicate AIDS in Africa.
Frances Brown and 50 fellow educators from all over the Diaspora
arrived in Nigeria to attend a conference on democracy with
members of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. This much needed
educational exchange would provide a greater insight into the
role of democracy as it related to the Nigerians. Such an intense
fact finding effort would serve as a means to create a social
studies curriculum on Nigeria for implementation in schools
throughout the United States in the future. In addition to
the aforementioned, the mode of education used in the prevention
of AIDS in Nigeria would also be explored. Presently, the devastation
the virus causes among the African populace is incalculable.
Once the draft of the
social studies curriculum was crafted, there would be opportunities
to present the draft to Nigerian teachers for feedback. Cross-cultural
connections would be made. In addition to fact finding, numerous
educational resources would provide the vehicles for disseminating
all critical information about AIDS. Surely, education means
survival in any society. As Frances Brown states, “The
underlying strength of the Nigerians is in education. Many
students are economically disadvantaged. However, their strength
lies in their wealth of knowledge. Union to union we are
making a difference by providing the economic resources to
inform the public about AIDS in Africa. Education is key.”
Frances Brown speaks this time as a member of the BLACKNYSAFT
Caucus. As co-chair of the AIDS Campaign, the caucus was able
to raise over $15,000 in a Herculean effort to eradicate AIDS
in Africa. Through the sale of AIDS pins, this campaign against
the spread of AIDS continues to grow as contributions come
in, daily. And though this AFT initiative, lives are being
Frances Brown is proud
to be a member of the United Federation of Teachers. The
BLACKNYSAFT, founded by the UFT Special Rep., LeRoy Barr
Jr., is an AFT/UFT connection. One day, history will show
how the BLACKNYSAFT, in its time, became a beacon of hope
to needy brothers and sisters at home and abroad. And Frances
Brown’s work will continue to personify the tireless
commitment of AFT members who make a difference in the lives
of many--year after year.
Yes, “History is a clock that people use to tell their
time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on
the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but
more importantly, what they must be.” Frances Brown we
salute you. Press on Sister!
Prior to Ms. Brown’s
retirement, she served as a Teacher of Social Studies and
UFT Chapter Leader at P.S.123 and MS 113 in the Bronx, NY
Phyllis Murray is a literary teacher and a UFT chapter leader at PS 75, Bronx.