Jamila Thompson (second from right) with supporters at a March sip-and-paint event for MedAse and Sadiki (Courtesy photo)
Jamila Thompson (second from right) with supporters at a March sip-and-paint event for MedAse and Sadiki (Courtesy photo)

A group of D.C. youth, many of whom have never traveled internationally, will spend nearly two weeks in Tanzania this month on a trip organized by a local nonprofit dedicated to turning Black youth into global citizens and strengthening their ties to the motherland.

The 12-day excursion, which starts with a ferry ride to Zanzibar from Dar-ses-salaam and includes a visit to the Arusha region, home of the Serengeti National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. Another part of the trip exposes students to Pan-African history rarely taught in mainstream educational spaces.

“We’ll go to the farm purchased by [Black Panther couple] Pete and Charlotte O’Neal back in the 1970s. They built a school on the property, started an organic farm, and focused on educating the children of Arusha,” said Lydia Curtis, founder and executive director of Sadiki Educational Safaris, which organized the upcoming trip with MedAse, an organization founded by local schoolteacher Jamila Thompson.

Upon their return to the United States, the five participants, hailing from Boone Elementary School in Southeast and Duke Ellington High School in Northwest, will use video footage collected on iPads to create short films about their travels, all to be shown at a public screening scheduled for the fall.

In December, Sadiki Educational Safaris and MedAse launched a campaign to raise funds for the young travelers that will culminate with a live musical event on Colorado Avenue and Longfellow Street in Northwest.

On Memorial Day, singer/activist Luci Murphy, Abeeku, and members of the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers collected $300 during an afternoon performance at the intersection of 7th and H streets in Northwest. Proceeds from a June 14 concert at Fellowship Baptist Church in Northwest will go toward meeting a fundraising goal of $5,000, Curtis said.

“This trip is designed to target children who wouldn’t normally get any chance to travel,” she told The Informer.

“We want to give children from underserved neighborhoods in D.C. an opportunity to become global citizens, shape their identity, and learn about the good images of Africa and Africans that will help them shape their own positive identity as Black people,” Curtis added.

Experts tout travel abroad experiences as paramount in the young person’s tolerance for different cultures and ideas. Some also point to the various learning opportunities that go beyond textbooks and videos. Such experiences often prove difficult for students who have limited means that preclude them from acquiring tickets, let alone passports and other required items.

Since its 1995 inception, Sadiki International Safaris and MedAse have tackled this issue by organizing and raising funds for trips to Jamaica, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal. In recent years, local school districts across the country, including D.C. Public Schools, have taken on that cause, launching free study abroad programs.

This year, for the first time in more than 20 years of Sadiki’s existence, some parents will accompany their children on the trip, part of what Curtis described as an attempt to make the cultural exchange more of a family affair.

Ja’Teah Knox, future Sadiki Educational Safari traveler and Boone Elementary student, spoke to the potential for growth when she explained what she anticipated in the weeks leading up to the trip.

“I want to learn about African culture and see what it’s like to live there,” Ja’Teah said. “I think it’s important for young people like me to travel to Africa because we don’t know about other places and we can learn. I plan to tell my friends what it was like to visit Africa when I get back.”

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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