Founder – Esther Armstrong
This unique children’s museum was the vision of Esther K. Armstrong, a Ghanaian-born citizen of the United States. A graduate of the University of Ghana at Legon, she has lived and worked in the Maryland area for over 30 years. Esther has always believed deeply in Marcus Garvey’s quote, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Respectfully known as “Mama Kiki,” in the cultural community, she and her husband Jim Clemmer are owners of Sankofa African & World Bazaar, a cultural shop previously located in Charles Village. Together they have been providing the community a brilliant collection of colorful African artifacts, jewelry, accessories, traditional and contemporary clothing for over twenty years. The store is now the Sankofa Museum Gift Shop. As reports of African-American school dropouts and violent juvenile crime increased, Esther became convinced that a children’s museum focused on African history and cultures would help turn the statistics around. She realized most city youth do not see themselves connected to the great achievements of their ancestors, who are seldom included in their history books. Mama Kiki noted a correlation between young peoples’ lack of education, poor self-esteem, disinterest in education and the ensuing cycle of despair, crime, arrest and hopelessness. She formed SCMAC and assembled a Board of Directors comprised of innovative thinkers. They believe that the culturally competent education of our children will result in less crime and a desire for further education. Mama Kiki then hired the dynamic and proficient Deborah Mason as Museum Director. Mrs Mason’s mission is to design and implement meaningful programing and exhibits that will educate, engage and entertain young people.
Dr. Paul S. Rhodes
Brooklyn born (1949) Paul S. Rhodes, MD is an associate clinical professor of
medicine at the George Washington University. Through his team medical practice (House Calls of the District of Columbia), he delivers geriatric home based primary care to home-bound elders in under-served areas of the Nation’s Capital. Dr Rhodes is the co-founder and medical director of the Port Antonio, Jamaica Homeless Shelter and is the founder and designer of Great Huts Resort which celebrates the West and Central African ancestry of the Jamaican people. The interior design of his home, Madison House, in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, is inspired by the interconnections of African an Jewish history, art and spirituality. He is proud of his long-term friendships with Jim Clemmer and Esther Armstrong and is honored to participate in the realization of the mission of the Sankofa Children’s Museum.
Natasha holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. She has worked in the accounting and finance field for over 15 years. Her experience includes, corporate and intellectual property litigation support, forensic and fraud analysis, bankruptcy and restructuring work, valuation analysis and back office accounting and special projects. In addition to her financial background, Natasha also has a experience in hospitality. In 2005, she took a 3 year hiatus from Corporate America to pursue her passion for baking, by enrolling in a Pastry Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD. After successfully completing the program, she has worked in the industry as a baker and Assistant Pastry Chef. Natasha has proudly been volunteering with the Sankofa Children’s Museum of African Cultures since its inception in 2016. As a Board Member, she is excited to work to bring Africa’s history and rich culture alive for the youth (and adults) of Baltimore and beyond!
With over twenty years experience in public and independent schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland as a teacher, mentor and instructional coach, Dianna Newton brings an educator’s lens to the Sankofa Children’s Museum Board of Directors. Having joined the Board this past summer, Dianna looks forward to supporting the museum’s ongoing educational efforts, specifically around curriculum development, interdisciplinary projects and teacher outreach.
Pamela J. King
Pamela J. King is a member of the Sankofa Children’s Museum of African
Cultures board of directors and has served the organization for a little over three years. Pamela brings her years of experience in organizational development and advocacy to her role as a board member. Pamela is the founding Director of Community Fellowships at the Open Society Institute-Baltimore – a program she created and has managed for twenty-three years. In her role at the Open Society, Pamela is responsible for launching and establishing the Baltimore Urban Debate League in partnership with the Baltimore City Public School System – a twenty-two year old initiative that is modeled after the New York Urban Debate League. The program is nationally recognized as an innovative, successful and transformative program. Pamela was named Maryland’s Top 100 Women by The Daily Record in 2020 and 2008, received the 2019 William and Lanaea Featherstone Foundation Changemaker Award, was a 2018 recipient of the Baltimore Business Journal’s Leaders in Diversity Award, and she was named one of Megaphone Projects 2009 Unsung Heroes. Pamela also does some work in the area of racial equity. She is a founding member of the Maryland Philanthropy Network’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee and he serves as a member of the Aspen Institute’s Racial Equity working group for Baltimore.
Oluwole Oladapo is an IT Engineer with the Federal Government. Originally from Ibadan, Nigeria, the largest city in west Africa, he is an astute thinker with strong moral ethics who likes to leave a lasting impression on everyone he meets. He is a firm believer in Sankofa’s mission to help dispel the myths about the continent of Africa and hope to, as an ambassador of the Sankofa Children’s Museum of African Cultures, instill knowledge and ideas into the minds of kids who visit us either physically or virtually.
Preserving African culture is a huge part of his role as a director here and he hopes to accomplish that by impacting these cultures in every child that passes through the museum. Oluwole’s hobbies are sporting activities and music.