Thank you Soledad and Grace!

King Arms

Thank you Soledad and Grace!


Dear Soledad (from Haiti) and Grace (from Congo),

I want to thank you both, for your inspired initiative at last Thursday’s Pencils for Africa meeting, when Grace was our PFA Guest Speaker. Soledad, thank you for arranging for your friend Grace from the Congo to speak to the PFA students and to answer their curious questions.

Grace, a professional kindergarten teacher, caused looks of awe amongst the students when they asked her how many languages she spoke. Grace speaks Lingala and French – languages of the Congo – as well as German – her family emigrated to Germany from Congo – and English.

Pencils for Africa is all about “understanding” the African continent, through Grace, and all the guest speakers before her, over the past 5 years. We remain so appreciative of all the African guest speakers that have graced our PFA Meetings and enriched us with the gift of “understanding”.

The list includes everyone from our first speaker Saki (Zimbabwe) to our recent speakers Jackson (Uganda), Dapo (Nigeria) and Yema (Kenya). We are grateful for the gift of “understanding” our African speakers have given to PFA students and for their contributions to the PFA Community.


My beloved mentor, an African-American, Charles Vert Willie, Professor Emeritus at the Harvard School of Education, just turned 90 years old ! When I was a doctoral student at Harvard, Professor Willie supervised my work as a young teacher, teaching in Harlem, and in the South Bronx.

A devout Christian, Professor Willie valued the gift of “understanding” and wisdom above all else, and would often quote this line from Scripture:

Wisdom is the principal thing. Get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.

— Proverbs 4:7, The King James Bible

I suppose anyone can come up with a nice quote, but it meant a lot more coming from Professor Willie, because of the gravitas of his experience. Professor Willie, a grandson of an African slave was a classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Morehouse College; and lifelong friend of Dr. King.


He marched alongside Dr. King and Congressman John Lewis, from Selma to Montgomery, braving violence from white supremacists. As we march forward with Pencils for Africa, we will continue to ensure that the dignity, and the diversity, of the African Continent is never silenced.

The first half of today’s Pencils for Africa meeting, will be devote to the African roots of the country of Haiti, and to the remarkable people of Haiti: From those who braved the earthquake eight years ago, to Frankétienne, playwright, poet, painter, and candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The second half of today’s Pencils for Africa meeting, will be devote to the smart Africans in our new series Smart African ( Soledad and Grace, thank you for your generous gift to the Pencils for Africa community of understanding and wisdom and of solidarity and grace.