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On Their Shoulders: Honoring the African American Contributions to Patrick Henry and America
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Mr. Syid Abdullah (Father of Mr. Yusuf Abdullah) sailing on the USS Providence during the Vietnam War

We're trying to make Black History Month stretch over an entire year. We invite all staff and students to take a moment and write the answers to these simple questions:

  • Who in your family, community, and our country has inspired, motivated, and lifted your spirits to help you become a better person? 
  • What actions did they take that made you and the world a better place to live? 
  • As you stand on their shoulders what will YOU do to inspire others and also make the world a better place to live?

A great place to look for community and national leaders is at the African American Registry

Ms. Mosiori Remembers Dada Anna, A Torch Bearer

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Dada Anna, a Torch Bearer

by  Ms. Kadia Mosiori

My education is my late father’s legacy.  Born and raised in colonial Belgian Congo (now known as Congo Kinshasa), he was a man of little education  with only about 4 years of schooling.  However, he strongly believed in empowering us his children with the best education he could afford to pay for us. So, as doors opened in post-colonial Africa for more advancement opportunities for Africans, my father was determined to work as hard as he could to send us to  missionary boarding schools, which  were the best  but also expensive schools for secondary education.   He set very high expectations for us and constantly encouraged us to make the most of available opportunities for more education. My father’s high expectations pushed us children to pursue excellence, but it was my eldest sister Anne-Marie (affectionately called Dada Anna) who was my inspiration.

 Fourteen years my senior and the first born of the family, she went to college when I was still in elementary school. Not many women of her generation had a high school education, let alone a college degree.  In fact, Dada Anna is the first woman in my whole clan to go to college. Girls of her generation got married as early as age 13. Even those who managed to finish high school mostly got the equivalent of a 10th grade education.  As the story goes, when she was still in the upper grades of elementary school, her age mates in the neighborhood would mock those who were still in school. Educating girls was a “colonial mentality” that many Africans ridiculed, but Dada Anna paid no heed to the scoffers. Fearing that she could be forced to marry a boy who was seriously interested in her, she found refuge in a Catholic convent.  She was determined to get as much education as she could, and becoming a nun was her own way of escaping early marriage.

I still remember, as an 11-year-old girl, how proud I was when I learned that my sister Anne-Marie was in college. I personally did not know anybody who had a college education, but I decided right then that I would also go to college. I was determined, and nothing could have possibly stopped me. With that determination, I became the second person in the family to go to college. In fact, when I got my high school diploma, Dada Anna, an ex-nun at the time, was the one who went to the college admission office on my behalf to get me admitted. Also, I was fortunate to go to college in the city where she was living and working as a teacher. Being far away from my parents could have been a challenge without her material and moral support. She was my mentor, my “cheerleader” and my helper. She paid for all expenses that my scholarship did not cover (A scholarship was a privilege that all college students in many African countries had until the 1980’s). When I was still in college, Dada Anna encouraged me to seek opportunities to go overseas for further education.  She was truly an inspiration, and from her came my aspiration for higher education. I can humbly say that I was truly blessed to have a sister like her who led the way for me to follow.

Dada Anna was one of the most selfless and sociable people I have ever known. As an educator, she had touched the lives of many people in the various schools where she had worked, in the various communities where she had lived as well as in deprived communities both far and near. For several years, she worked for a mining company that had its own schools. Her teaching job paid well and allowed her to have a comfortable life. During her breaks from teaching, she often shared her time between educational activities for uneducated rural women that took her to remote villages, and girl scout vacation camps. Because of social and political unrest in our province, her life suddenly changed for the worse. She lost her job and everything she owned, except for her house.  She eventually chose to leave the comfort of city life and moved to a semi-rural area. In this socially and economically disadvantaged community where until recently most girls dropped out of school early for marriage, Dada Anna continued to be very active serving people and making a difference slowly but surely. 

 Dada Anna’s untimely death on April 10, 2011 came shortly after the first publication of this narrative. Her demise followed a short illness that she caught during a trip to a rural area where she had gone to register voters for the 2011 presidential elections in Congo. Unfortunately, her death came before I had an opportunity to send her a copy of this story paying tribute to her. Although she is gone, the torch that she carried for so long lives on.