"Most Powerful Pages on the Planet"
JUNE 23, 2008
Volume 4 - No.4
Darwin Campbell, Executive Publisher
Celebrates The African-American Family and Honors Ancestors
Looking into the windows of the past, the Black family exists today because slaves endured and survived the harsh treatment and cruel punishment at the hands of unmerciful masters whose only goals were to capitalize on hard and free labor.
Now some 400 years later, the Sankofa Experience recaptures that historical breeze and calls on every African-American to pause a moment to go back, remember and respect the sacrifices and reflect on the importance of connecting with those ancestral roots with family and community.
“Juneteenth is our Independence Day and we use it to honor our ancestors,” said Dr. Sarfisha Hill, event organizer and co-director of Act of Change Inc. “We should pay homage to our ancestors by returning to the past and learning from it, so that we can move to the future.”
June 19th, known as Juneteenth, marks the true date of emancipation of Africans enslaved in America.
Since 2005, the popularity of this historical journey continues to grow annually with hundreds coming from places across Texas and the United States to participate in the pilgrimage.
The annual observance is held on the Morney-Berry Farm, black-owned land purchased in 1876 purchased in by freed Africans, and today is maintained by their 79 year-old great-grand daughter.
Why Remember the Past?
Over 100 million peaceful Africans were kidnapped from the continent of Africa and sold into chattel slavery for over 400 years.
Those of us who are Africans born in America today are here because our enslaved ancestors survived the four to six month journey of the middle passage and survived hundreds of years of enslavement.
Sankofa is a West African word that means, "to go back and fetch it, and the celebration offers many opportunities for African-Americans to go back and reclaim part of the past.
“We are survivors physically, but we are sick (as a people) mentally,” said Esudele Fagbenro, also a co-director for the Act of Change Inc. “This is therapy to us. We must let our children know that we have that rich history and must be proud, think positive and move in positive directions.”
No other event like this in the world, allows you to journey the path of our Ancestors, from the village, through enslavement, and to freedom, Fagbenro said.
Celebrating Black family challenges, tribulations and triumphs also stand as a constant reminder throughout the reenactment as parents, children and elderly alike come face to face with the ugly past and identify with the strength of ancestors who endured the severe physical scars and mental abuses that slavery forced on Black people.
Waking Through History
During the series of re-enactments visitors experience the freedom of
living in a vibrant African village. From there, slave catchers raid the village and capture men, women and children who are then taken from the village by force and place on a slave ship.
The horrors of that slave ship and the trip across the seas to the new world are traded for the humiliation of the slave auction block, where families are split up, separated and sold like cattle to the highest bidder.
Life after the auction block consisted of learning the harsh realities of plantation life.
Participants are also given a tour of the dangers of escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
Mia Fisher, 42, of Killeen Texas made the trip because she wanted to learn more about the meaning of Sankofa.
“It was my first trip and my eyes are opened,” she said. “It is remarkable and emotional and has a power effect on the family because it helps children learn respect for elders and understand the sacrifices the ancestors made for us to be here today.”
She added that all Black youth and children should experience Sankofa and remember it for a lifetime.
“Every child and young person needs to see this,” she said. It captures the spirit of what ancestors had to tolerate and motivates a person to strive to be their best.”
Storyteller Queen Mother Suma Diarra, 79, a Katrina survivor who made the trip from Houston to pay homage to the ancestors she said had inspired her to carry on the struggle for over 65 years.
“This is a wonderful event and this place and this land is magnificent,” she said. “You can feel the spirit of the ancestors here and you can tell there is peace here.”
Diarra said here hope is that more children will be brought to the hallowed soil and that they too can experience this kind of educational treasure.
Roderick Martin, 38, made the event a family affair traveling from Dallas for the experience with his mother and 13-year old daughter Shala.
“I am concerned about getting more African-Americans involved,” he said. “We should use the past as a springboard forward to motivate positive changes in our families and our communities.”
Martin said it is his hope that learning from events like Sankofa will stimulate people to treat one another better and will help lift the community to the next level by presenting more modern success stories that help youth fulfill their dreams and to pursue positive opportunities in life.
Ola Martin said Sankofa is one way to never forget our past or roots.
However, she wants youth and families to look forward
“This should make us want to reach higher,” she said. “We must use this as a building block to strengthen us as a people.”
She said she hope this helps increase family reunions and hopes it motivates more Black families to stay closer together.
The Act of Change, Inc., Nation of Islam, Mosque #48, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA – Dallas Chapter), the New Black Panther Party – Dallas Chapter, Sharp’s Martial Arts Center, Area African Drummers, Dancers and Spiritual Healers sponsor the Sankofa Experience. The event is also supported in part by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs.
“We do what we do today because others survived,” Fagbenro said. “We must pay homage to that and that should make us get up every morning and thank our great-great and great grandmothers and fathers for enduring and surviving, so that we all can stand here today in freedom and with the opportunity to honor those sacrifices and make the ancestors proud.”