Group of people walks through the airport.

Malik Harris was walking through the halls of Malcolm X College when he noticed a large white board that read “STUDY ABROAD.” The 20-year-old student had never traveled on a plane before and figured this could be his opportunity to explore the world outside of Chicago.

Malik is part of a group of around a dozen other Black male students from various City Colleges who left Chicago on Thursday, February 15 to travel to South Africa for a 10-day cultural and educational study abroad experience. Accompanied by Malcolm X faculty and staff members, the group will visit several historically-significant landmarks, including Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

“It’s a trip of discovery,” said Mario Scott as he waited in the lobby of Malcolm X to get on the bus leaving for O’Hare Airport. Mario, a community health worker student at the college, is making the journey alongside his son Miles, who is studying business. The father-son pair are hoping to connect with their African roots, with Mario noting that taking this trip with his son is “lifechanging on so many levels.”

The idea to organize a study abroad experience to Africa was born a few years ago, when Malcolm X College President David Sanders says the college discovered a disconnect between some of its Black male students and their ancestral roots. They decided that one of the ways to address that disconnect was by giving students the opportunity to visit Africa and experience the culture of their ancestors first hand.

To pay for the study abroad experience and ensure students could access the opportunity at no cost to them, Malcolm X College worked with Congressman Danny Davis, who secured congressional funding for the project. In addition to the South African trip, the funding will cover several others to Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and other African countries, which are all set to take place this spring.

“It’s important to us to give our students an opportunity to see where they came from,” President Sanders said. “That matters and can impact our students in a positive way.”

Group poses for a photo.
Malcolm X College President David Sanders (center) wishes faculty, staff, and students well as they depart for the 10-day trip.