“Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates as “Go back and get it” (san – to return; ko – to go; fa – to fetch, to seek and take) and also refers to the Asante Adinkra symbol represented either with a stylized heart shape or by a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back.”
The meaning behind Sankofa teaches that we must go back to our roots to move forward.
For over 400 years Africans in the Diaspora have been spread throughout the western hemisphere by way of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Not by choice, but by force, our Ancestors were ripped away from their homeland, their language, their cultural traditions and their spiritual practices. If for a moment, one could visualize the pain of being forcefully detached from everything you’ve ever known. This was the harsh reality of those who lived before us.
Now, we are here as descendants and the surviving generation of these strong and powerful people. We are the children of the strongest of them. Many of us have been craving a true connection to the Motherland. We have yearned to be reminded of who we are and where we come from. We have longed for a sense of identity, a sense of self and a sense of freedom.
The truth is that, our ability to make the connection has been immensely disrupted by the pain of being and living in the west. We are a people recovering from the trauma that our Ancestors have lived through. Our collective diaspora is inevitably going through the process of healing and restoration. One would be remiss to not acknowledge the effects of slavery and every system that was born out of the institution of slavery (ie. Jim Crow laws, capitalism, micro-aggression, police brutality) as contributing factors to our collective mental well-being. How it presents itself? It often looks like anxiety, depression, mass incarceration, teenage pregnancy, poverty, poor education, suicide and so much more. However, as our dear brother Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has reminded us, “We are not African because we were born in Africa, but because Africa was born in us.” With that, our connection to the Continent is profound, despite the institutions and systematic attempts to disconnect us from home.
What I am proposing today is that our Sankofa, whether it be individually or collectively, is an important part of our healing journey. The return home is a life-changing experience that is a natural healing mechanism to the melanated soul. I must confess…I am biased in this proposition. You see, I made my Sankofa in November of 2017. It was my first time touching the soil. I was blessed with an excursion of Ghana, Benin and Togo. And, my life will never be the same again. There are a few perspectives that brought a sense of emotional resolution to my spirit that I will share with you:
- We are a powerful and self-sufficient people with skills, ideas and innovation. It is imperative that we see ourselves in this light for the freedom and liberation of our generations to come. Traveling to the Continent, I saw Africans who look like me in all levels of entrepreneurship, from the man selling the coconut water to the investor building new property. This made a difference. This shifted my mindset from needing approval to approving myself.
- We are a spiritual people. Although colonization brought with it Christianity and the worship of a European God, our spiritual practices are still very alive today. All throughout the Continent, there are proverbs, affirmations and rituals that are maintaining and sustaining us as a people.
- We are all brothers and sisters. Growing up in the West, there was a false belief that Africans on the Continent had no love for Africans in the Diaspora. I experienced the contrary. We are loved and welcomed in more ways believable. The human capital that was taken away from the Continent through the transatlantic slave trade is now needed. Many countries are asking for a Sankofa from the brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. It is our time to return home.
This is my proposition. What are your thoughts on repatriation? Have you ever considered making the Sankofa as a means to your mental wellness? Let’s hear from you!