Sankofa: “Looking to the Past to Create the Future”

The concept of “Sankofa” is derived from King Adinkera of the Akan people of West Africa. “Sankofa” is expressed in the Akan language as “se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenki.” Literally translated, this means “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot”.

Sankofa teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone, or been stripped of can be reclaimed, revived, preserved, and perpetuated.

The Sankofa bird has its feet firmly planted forward, but its head turned backwards, with an egg, symbolizing the future, held tightly in its mouth. Not only is there wisdom in learning from the past to build the future, but we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. In every aspect of life – personal, spiritual, business, professional, whatever, you cannot move forward until you’ve looked back and absorbed where you’ve been.

Today’s generation has seemed to stray away from that path. We are raising a society of individuals who lack respect for their ancestors, their elders, and most importantly lack respect for themselves. They have no idea where they came from and what’s worse is that most of them have no desire to learn. After all, most of our history isn’t taught in schools so we must educate ourselves, but they have no desire to do that either.

What will become of us when our youth are more concerned with how they will buy the newest pair of Jordans rather than thinking about how they will make a difference? Where are our leaders today? We are raising a nation of followers who spend most of their time on social networks instead of reading books.

Today’s youth have somehow veered off that path of greatness that was paved for them by those who came before them, by the ancestors who sacrificed their lives so that their voices can be heard. History is not made by being silent, but instead by standing up and demanding that our voices be heard even when no one wants to listen.

On March 20, 2012 the New York City Latina Writer’s Group (NYCLWG) in collaboration with Hue-Man Bookstore will host an event where we will do just that. With an amazing line-up of performers and panelists, we will focus on honoring our past, our ancestors, and reclaiming what is ours so that we can create OUR futures.

I feel honored to be a part of such an important event. It is my responsibility to educate and to make sure that our voices are heard. We should all be responsible for teaching the young people in our lives about their history, about the importance of their lives and how what they do or don’t do impacts our legacy as a people. I encourage all of my readers to take part in this important discussion because how can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you came from. Sankofa!

One thought on “Sankofa: “Looking to the Past to Create the Future”

  1. So well written… beautiful… my father always taught me to KNOW: “si no sabes de donde vienes… como vas a saber para donde vas?” if you don’t know where you come from… how will you know where you are headed…? I am so grateful that we have the opportunity remind people how important our past is… or we will have no future! ❤


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