Diaspora Spotlight: Regine Romain

Hello CREAD Family!!! It is so good to be back in the blogosphere with you all.  

I had the good fortune of spending a month in Benin, West Africa.  I went to spend time with my friend and colleague, Regine Romain.  Regine is truly a phenomenal woman and I felt so privileged to be with her in Benin. Being in her company for the last month I was able to see the magic she wields and how she brings together all kinds of folks for envisioning, collaboration and meaningful action and creation.  She is truly an educator-alchemist. Regine has been living in Benin since 2016, working as an educator, researcher and director of the WaWaWa Diaspora Centre, an intergenerational arts, education and tours project.  She has also continued to promote and share her project, Brooklyn to Benin: A Vodou Pilgrimage.

Regine has traveled all over the world and throughout the continent of Africa. It goes without saying that her rich background in world history and anthropology has enabled her to bring forward the work of culturally responsive education and helping to reframe our collective narrative and history as enslaved Africans.

R Romain Work
Images from Romain’s photographic work to be featured in the upcoming book, “MFON Women Photographers of the African Diaspora”.

Regine began working as a humanities teacher at the English International School (EIS), where she transformed the prescribed geography and language arts curriculum into an in-depth, multi-faceted study of the history of the transatlantic slave trade.   She designed a unit study that engaged her students in poetry, writing, music and filmmaking to teach them the little known history of the Clotilde, the last slave ship to leave the shores of then kingdom of Dahomey, to sail to America. By making student engagement and participation the focus of her practice, she was able to help her students not only learn the historical significance of the Clotilde but also become more personally aware and conscious of their shared history.

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Regine integrates her skills and experience as a photographer and anthropologist to inform her practice and push her students to express and create in new and innovative ways.  Students wrote original poems, performed short plays, took drumming lessons and most importantly, visited the historical site of the Door of No Return in Ouidah, Benin. All these lessons and activities were necessary groundwork to help her students to truly connect not only the historical facts but also the human experience of the horrific slave trade. Regine equipped her students to go beyond the typical assessment to achieve deeper understanding. As a result of these interactive lessons and activities, students were able to apply their understanding and help create an original documentary, The Clotilde: A Poetic Voyage. 

As we continue to delve deeper into Black history during Black August, I think we can draw inspiration from Regine’s work with her students, just as Black August reminds us that despite our circumstances, we must learn and acknowledge our forgotten histories and narratives. Her work also emphasizes the importance of community and collaboration, which we constantly emphasize here at CREAD. Don’t hesitate to call on folks you know, not just your fellow teachers to help teach and innovate in your classroom. Lastly, Regine prioritizes engagement for all students, no matter what, as the key to academic success. This means you look for multiple points of access for students and how they can find meaning in what they are doing for themselves.

As educators we want to continue asking ourselves what overlooked or forgotten narratives, histories and perspectives can we share with our students? What can we do to really engage our students? And most importantly, how do we help students to use their talents and abilities to be academically successful? We always urge you to use the CREAD Commandments as a guide as you ideate and develop instruction for your students.

Seeing Regine Romain’s work with her students firsthand, was an important reminder for me about the kind of courage and commitment we must bring to our practice everyday if we are to dismantle the educational colonization in our schools. I encourage you to explore the resources featured here to help you begin crafting engaging and meaningful content with and for your students this coming academic year.

Teaching Resources:

http://www.regineromain.com/

Peace and love good people!

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