I instantly admired the work of Nia House.
Having my son, Atticus, attend Nia House further deepened my sense of the value of this school and community.
Following a conversation with Milani Pelley, Nia House alumna (’89-’95), my love of Nia House is abounding and affirms again that Nia House is where children belong.
Milani, now twenty-seven years old, is a mother, 1st grade after school instructor, artist, and spoken word performer. She went down memory lane a little with me, recounting her days at Nia House- “I can’t imagine having started any other place.”
What she remembers of Nia House? Sour grass, Phea taking out splinters, the playhouse, eating lunch with Jessica and Denise, colorful plastic building blocks, Jeanie, Tita, and the “great presence” of Lee.; Milani remembers feeling free, free to explore and entrusted with helping out in the toddler room. This, she says, built her confidence, made her unafraid to lead.
“Nia House teaches young people how to be free.”
I wondered about the connections she made while at Nia House. Do these friendships last? They do. It is a “Good feeling to go all the way back and still be on the same path.” Milani still encounters Ka’ra Kersey and Armando Davila, friends and fellow artists from the Nia House days. “All the folks from Nia House that I run into are on a path- they are creative and great people- Impacted by the diversity of the school. There is a creativity and spirituality coming from everyone.”
Milani shared a bit of her creative and spiritual side, describing a passion for writing and performing poetry as a spoken word artist. She recently performed at the 30th Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference at U.C. Berkeley. Milani also designs and creates jewelry with a spiritual focus, her craft inspired by numerology and precious stones.
“Seriously, I love Nia House.”
My love for Nia House grew after this informal interview, for Milani, now twenty years since her Nia House days, still captures the freedom, leadership, spirit, and love that feels present today. As a mother and teacher, the values she named are ones we pray are imparted in these creative childhood years.
Thank you, Milani, for your grace and artistry.