A Modern African American Pioneer Addresses School Children Nationwide

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President Obama isn't the only one who has something important to say to America's students at the start of school year. Miles J. Dean of Piscataway, New Jersey, a middle school social studies teacher, has literally rewritten history with the help of a horse, and millions of school children and adults have witnessed his incredible accomplishments.

President Obama isn't the only one who has something important to say to America's students at the start of school year. Miles J. Dean of Piscataway, New Jersey, a middle school social studies teacher, has literally rewritten history with the help of a horse, and millions of school children and adults have witnessed his incredible accomplishments.

Dean's story of courage and determination is featured in the unique book Horses with a Mission: Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service (New World Library, September 2009) by best-selling, award-winning authors Allen and Linda Anderson. In "Sankofa, the Horse Who Rewrote History" Dean tells how the dedication of Arabian stallion Sankofa made it possible for him to complete a grueling, cross-country educational journey of a lifetime. Horses with a Mission is available in bookstores nationwide and online. http://www.horseswithamission.com

Frustrated that textbooks didn't include much, if anything, about his African American ancestors, Dean longed to draw attention to the role African Americans played in the exploration, expansion, and settlement of America. His goal was to honor and present contributions of African American ancestors particularly during the period when horses were the major means of transportation and Black cowboys and cowgirls rode them.

He decided to follow the paths of African American pioneers by riding a horse across the country while communicating his discoveries to students back home. He hoped to engage them in the African American aspect of their country's heritage in a much larger, broader, and more stimulating way. Dean called the project A Modern African American Pioneer. Previously he had co-founded the Black Heritage Riders, and is the nonprofit organization's executive director. Its mission is to enrich cultural diversity, foster pride, and contribute to building character and self-esteem in African American children.

Dean focused on the history of Black Conquistadors, the Revolutionary War, slavery, the abolitionist movement, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Wild West, indigenous people, the Alamo, and the Buffalo Soldiers. Along the way in his journey, he and the patient and persevering Sankofa stopped for special events in thirteen states, Dean recorded podcasts for the Star Ledger, New Jersey's statewide newspaper, and interviewed experts at Black colleges to make history come alive.

He called back to his school every week with updates that were broadcast over the loudspeaker for all the students to hear. He spoke to thousands of school children and faculty about the benefits of connecting black culture to math, science, and literature. Dean says, "Students and teachers, government dignitaries, friends, family, and supporters, as well as millions of ordinary people followed my journey on the Internet. They learned the history of each state told from an African American viewpoint."

Taking nine years to plan, the sacrifice of a year's unpaid leave of absence from his job, and his life's savings, Dean and Sankofa traveled from the African Burial Ground in Manhattan to the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. In between the start and endpoints they climbed mountains, trudged through deserts, and faced Nature's wrath, including 700 miles and 22 days of treacherous Texas terrain.

Dean encountered obstacles that would have derailed anyone else, much less a 58-year-old man. Shortly after formulating his plans, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This caused him to become even more determined to complete his mission in what might have been a shorter time frame. Fortunately he beat back the nemesis of the tumor using holistic methods. He found, raised, and trained the foal Sankofa, a Ghanaian word that means "to return to get it," and formed a friendship that enabled a teacher and a ten-year-old stallion to fulfill a dream.

The Andersons say, "The story of Miles and Sankofa proves that if you've ever thought that horses only display abilities on race tracks, in riding stables, in beer commercials, or in movies, you're missing out on their ever-expanding services as sentient partners and willing coworkers."

Melanie Sue Bowles, founder of Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary, calls Horses with a Mission "an important book that will spark your imagination and inspire you" and says, "This book is a joy to read."

Carson Kressley, equestrian and Emmy award-winning TV host as the "Fab Five's" fashion expert on Queer Eye, says, "This collection of stories will remind anyone who has ever had a horse as a best friend, confidante, and soul mate of what a special gift that can be."

"With hearts and minds open, we can learn from the wild and domesticated horses in this wonderful book." - Joe Camp, creator of the films starring the canine superstar Benji

Horses with a Mission: Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service
By Allen and Linda Anderson
September 22, 2009 ( Animals ( Trade Paper
$14.95 ( 186 pages ( B&W Photos Throughout ( ISBN: 978-1-57731-648-0

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