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Black History

“To her, we were scholars ..with the potential to change the world.”

Mrs. Ollie McClean, the beloved community activist, and teacher who “educated young minds for more than 30 years” and encouraged her students to be strong and walk in power, joined the ancestors in the summer of 2015, but not before leaving more than fond memories behind. The founder and director of the famed Sankofa International Academy on Harriet Tubman Way lives through the former students and mentees who now deliver to others the instructions and messages of their mentor, teacher, guardian, guide, and “warrior queen.”
When we learned of an excellent essay scholarship developed in her name, we asked to hear from some of her former students. The response was immediate; the words were like poetry. As part of a special series devoted to scholars and scholarships, those long and short responses will be shared in Our Time Press. It is our effort to spotlight the scholarship so that more striving students will have an opportunity to be touched by Sis. Ollie McClean’s message and life. Attention students, parents, guardians, and parent coordinators, for Ollie McClean essay scholarship details, please visit for more information starting tomorrow.

The Sankofa symbol translates to an Akan proverb: “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi”, meaning “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.”
The power of Sankofa lies beyond this proverb. While I attended, it was the very principle and foundation of The Sankofa Academy, formally known as Henson Preparatory School.
From the moment I walked through those big red doors each day, Mrs. Ollie McClean, the principal, ensured that we all knew where we came from. To know your history is to know your truest potential. Mrs. McClean ensured all her students knew that our history did not start with slavery. We come from a long line of Kings and Queens, and she held us to that standard. Her high expectations for our success set us apart from other students. We were scholars with the potential to change the world for her.

Reflecting on the Sankofa proverb, I owe much of my success to Mrs. McClean; she truly believed in me. She motivated and supported me in ways I have never received from any other principal or educator. Because of her impact on my life, and her constant voice in my head pushing me, I now have my master’s, and I am looking to obtain my doctorate in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
She has impacted my life in such a remarkable way that I am now not only pursuing a career in education as she did, but she has shaped my mission. I truly hope to continue holding the torch she’s passed onto me and shine a light on the injustices of the education system. I plan on carrying out her mission to help scholars have access to high-quality education and achieve academic success regardless of their backgrounds. I will be the voice for those who’ve come before me and for generations to come. I am the voice for the minority children who have endured the pain inflicted by the education system due to the color of their skin.
I am Imani Ianthy, a descendant of black queens, including Mrs. Ollie McClean, and this is the beginning of my story. Asé