Sankofa, “Return and Get it”
The meaning behind symbol is so powerful that there are two symbols to reflect it. The first symbol is the one pictured above that looks like a heart. The second symbol is that of a bird with its body facing forward as its head is turned backwards placing an egg on its back. Why would one word have two symbols? Because it’s that important! Sankofa is the symbol of importance of learning from the past. It is used to remind us that it is important to remember where we’ve come from. This is one of my favorite symbols for that very reason.
We currently live in a climate where a Revelation is happening. The Millennial generation has often said that we live in a post-racial environment. Well, that was mostly said during the Obama era in America. Now, there is an unveiling. Things haven’t changed as much as people would have you believe. We have learned that there is still racism, slavery, genocide, sexism and every other way that there has always been to find a way to persecute and prejudge someone. The past was not so long ago, and it’s still here for many in the world.
Personally, I’m not yet 40 years old and I know that at least one of my great grandparents was the child of a slave. That’s my Grandparent’s parent! I have ancestors who survived the transatlantic slave trade, were slaves, sharecroppers, had to deal with Jim Crow laws and lynches, lived through segregation and every other thing that America has put them through. I have ancestors who built wonderful kingdoms, monuments and works of art. I have ancestors who were the first to step foot on different land around the globe. I have ancestors who became important members of society despite the circumstances surrounding them. Why would I say all of this? Because they make me who I am!
I am the accomplished person that I am because of my family and my ancestors. All my ancestors, via blood or due to the similar journey that we have taken together. My foundation is based on the backs and lives of my ancestors. I am minuscule compared to what they have done to get me here. That is my privilege. It is the privilege of the supremacy of the world we live in today.
White supremacy only exists because of the past. At a time where other cultures, societies and races are starting to speak out against the problems in the world, there are now people who vehemently oppose those actions because they threaten the foundation that gives them the privilege that they have had their entire lives. Therefore, we have the results of the presidency after the Obama era. His whole campaign was built around “Make America Great Again!” My questions are, “When was it great” and “Great for Whom”? This is not meant to be a hate piece. This is what is going on right now. But, it explains perfectly the reason behind the need for Sankofa.
It is important to look back and understand the past. It is important to know that even if there is no one who looks like you where you currently are, or that you are so afraid to take the next step to further your dreams, goals and future that it was done before. Barriers were broken before. Dreams have come true. It is important to know that we are manifested dreams of our ancestors.
When that happens, we will be able to move forward into a greater future. Our future is dependent on what we have learned from the past. There was a saying when I was younger that said, “If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.” Essentially, Sankofa. We are planting the seeds for how we want to live our lives, but we are also setting up our descendants. If we don’t understand what went wrong in the past and fix it, then we leave that burden up to our children. If we don’t understand the great things that happened in the past, then we lose it. It’s hard to imagine that by the time I actually have children that some of the beautiful animals that I thought were abundant may be extinct. I remember learning about the mythical Dodo bird as a child, learning that it wasn’t a smart bird and became extinct. Was that true? Are elephants, tigers, lions, rhinos, bees, polar bears and so many of the other animals on the endangered species list stupid? Or is it us? We will continue to kill this world and doom ourselves in it because we don’t remember how important the animals and flora are to this world?
The African Diaspora will not advance in the way that it should until we understand Sankofa. I am a Negro, Black, African-American, Cushite, Moor, Ethiopian, and other words because those are what my ancestors were called. People automatically judge me based on my skin color, hair, and other traits that were passed down through my DNA. That makes me connected to the African Diaspora regardless of my living location. I am Black first, proudly. I am no better than anyone. I am no worse than anyone. I am connected to the great continent of Africa even if I have never stepped foot on it. It is my original home and it deserves my respect. Imagine how strong of a people we would be if we all thought like that?
Sankofa is critical to our survival. Remembering and understanding the past in all aspects is the only way to utopia. Sankofa is knowledge. Knowledge gives true power. There is another old saying, “there is nothing new under the sun.” We would go further if we remembered these old sayings. I proudly wear a T-shirt that says, “I will honor the sacrifices of my ancestors”. How can we do that if we don’t understand the sacrifices that they have done for us?
By: Rosalynn J. Hamilton