Stolen From Africa is a Toronto-based education organization that works in public schools to teach students of the culture and history of the African Diaspora. Founded in 2004, SFA began as a clothing campaign during the increase in gun violence. The release of the mixtape “Banning Guns Won’t Stop Gun Violence, Changing Mindsets Will” lead SFA to collaborations with the Toronto District School Board.
This opportunity gave SFA the platform to connect with students of color in the public school system. Their programs and educational resources teach marginalized students the history that is not taught in schools. SFA provides students the tools they need to grow into emotionally intelligent and empathetic citizens. Onside Media was privileged to speak to Neil “Logik” Donaldson, Executive/Creative Director, about the noble initiatives of SFA and the impact it has had on its youth over the last 13 years.
What initiative are you the proudest of providing through Stolen From Africa?
I’m proud of the youth initiatives we provide within schools. We are lucky enough to be able to run programs during school hours. General skills, building self-esteem. We work with principals, teachers, and social workers to fulfill the kids’ needs, and we see tangible results. Currently, Stolen from Africa is looking to expand outside the TDSB.
One of our students didn’t want to attend school. But with the work we do, he was able to have adults who believed in him. Our Responsibility Program gives students the tools they need to respond instead of reacting. We also do check-ins and create a safe space for kids to be vulnerable and open up. This generates a real connection between the students and us, as well as amongst each other.
Before the pandemic, our in-person sessions ranged from 10 to 25 students. When we first begin working with a group of students, we provide an anonymous response to our questionnaires. This way, students can open up about more personal, negative experiences. After a few weeks, the anonymous aspect is dropped, and the students are more comfortable sharing any struggles they have.
How did the students respond to the Weekly Homework Help? How has this improved their social and academic lives?
The students’ response has been positive because they know that there are adults who care about them. For younger students (in elementary to middle school), we provide additional support. At Stolen From Africa, we believe that it takes a village to raise a child.
How did SFA navigate the transition to operating online due to the pandemic?
All our approaches have been responsive. We were already doing Zoom meetings before the pandemic with students from all over Toronto. When the pandemic hit, everything became virtual, but we still experienced limitations. We wanted to find other ways to connect. Keeping young people connected is challenging because a lot of this work thrives in-person. We continuously have check-ins and ask the students questions. SFA tries to remain fluid so that we will be able to accomplish more. Due to the lockdown, we have been able to expand our reach beyond the city of Toronto.
Tell me about Host to Hidden Treasure. How did that initiative come to fruition?
Host to Hidden Treasure is an educational resource that focuses on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its economic impact. Africa provided a lot to the global economy, but we are taught that countries in Africa are filled with poverty. In the current public-school curriculum, students are disconnected from the real history of slavery. We wanted to make Host to Hidden Treasure fun and educational, so we chose two hip-hop artists. Jelly (from Toronto) and Yoshi (From Atlanta, GA) know the history. This creates an interactive journey that has space for dialogue. At SFA, we are adding to the curriculum that already exists. The bottom line for us is humanity. We stay committed to this through integrity and initiating dialogue.
What do you hope to accomplish with SFA in the next year?
We hope to develop more establishments with schools and expand in a meaningful way. The goal of SFA is to be recognized as a complementary resource that supports what already exists in education. We want to continue to help students by moving away from the theory and put it into practice. SFA is not here to step on people’s toes. We prioritize relationship-building because we recognize that there are real people behind the school walls. We need to approach people with patience, empathy and validate where they are coming from, even if we don’t always see eye to eye.
For more information on Stolen From Africa’s initiatives in schools and the community, visit https://www.stolenfromafrica.org/