By Teresa Younger •
At Black Feminist Collective, we are celebrating Imani House, an organization that allows Black people to empower themselves through the provision of education, information and support services in the United States and Liberia, West Africa.
Imani House is a good example of work in action. IHI was co-founded in 1981 by Bisi Ideraabdullah, affectionally known as Sister Bisi, an an educator, organizer and activist – most recently – a winner of the Aurora Humanitarian Prize, placing 4th in the Modern Day Heros Category). She and her husband founded Imani House in Liberia, W. Africa, where they immigrated in search of a homeland for their five children that was free of racism. In 1990, she also created IHI Brooklyn. Today, Imani House, Inc. is an award-winning organization that provides supportive programming for youth, families, and immigrants. The Brooklyn Programs include after-school performance arts, camps, and development programs for youth, and adult education classes for mostly immigrant women. In 1999, Sister Bisi founded the Women of Color Writers’ Workshop, in an effort to support Black women writers who are often overlooked by the literary world. Collectively, Women of Color Writers’ and Imani House provide services to over 18,000 people each year.
In the near future the IHI community will unveil its Bridge PI project, a collaboration that utilizes the handheld computer that requires no electricity; the raspberry PI, which can provide educational skill building, medical and entertainment modules that can link up to 50 tablets or phones. Not only will it bring an interactive opportunity for staff in Liberia and New York, but it will also enhance their knowledge and computer literacy. Sister Bisi explains, “We call it “Bridge PI ” because it’s bridging the gap between what we know, and what others don’t know. This will enhance computer literacy, improve preventative health behaviors for our community at the IHI clinic, and the literacy classes in Liberia for our after school camp programs. The instrument is outstanding because it does not need an internet connection to use, and can be charged by [Solar Power] for the limited electricity needed.”
The Imani House clinic on wheels is expected to be reactivated. The IHI Ambulance is used for this on purpose. “With invitations, we go into remote areas to provide health education through the PI and the IHI “Liberian Women’s Health Manual, as well as to provide testing for diabetes, high blood pressure and to treat or refer for other illnesses that we may meet,” said Sister Bisi. “Building a lasting relationship with these communities, where clinics are in very short supply and doctors non-existent, has been one of our best projects for engaging the community in improving their own health.”
Additionally, the literacy program in communities without fixed line telephone infrastructure or easy internet access. “So it has books; it has Shakespeare on it. It’s just an amazing little instrument, but instead of using it for gaming, we’re using it for learning and we will be projecting it to upgrade the skills about basic clinic workers, those who have taken training and practical nursing, et cetera, um, and talking to them about prenatal care and it’s all in, it’s all already loaded on the PI.” As Sister Bisi travels between the U.S. and Liberia she brings technology to Imani House based in Liberia. With her background in education, empowering communities through adult literacy is also dear to her heart. As a result, Adult Literacy is one of Imani House’s main programs. IHI Is a licensed user of ProLiteracy (formerly known as Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America), which they use to create literacy education programs for adult learners in the U.S. and Liberia.
“…[Raspberry PI will be used to have] more of a classroom, a group session, and it’s a type of technology that raises self-esteem, that’s really important to me. We will probably end up putting some things on there that have to do with social justice…[so] people have to think about and answer questions and challenge themselves to what the future of Liberia looks like to them.”Bisi Ideraabdullah
Teresa Younger is an educator who enjoys history, writing, gardening, and loves being a part of a vibrant community. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UVA and her Master’s degree in education from USC, and has been living in Virginia since 2003 with her husband and her daughter.