The Sankofa bird symbol is a mythical bird in the Ghanian culture with its head turned backwards and its feet planted forward. The literal translation of the word sankofa and the symbol is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind”.
I have chosen four contemporary authors to illustrate the sankofa symbol in today’s world. Through research and observations these writers reflect on our history in light of what needs to be done for the future.
In "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander talks about those being left behind. “We could choose to be a nation that extends care, compassion, and concern to those who are locked up and locked out….”
The Akan people of Ghana believe that knowledge of the past must never be forgotten. Bryan Stevenson, The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) director, writes “We cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted during the era of racial terrorism until we tell the truth about it…” EJI created a national lynching memorial that challenges us to remember the horrors of racial terrorism.
Isabel Wilkerson in “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration”, writes “Maybe you had to live through the worst of times to recognize the best of times when they came to you.”Sometimes that meant leaving the only home they knew. I was part of that migration when I left Alabama to go to California to receive an education that I could not get at home.
Ta-Nahisi Coates writes about looking at the past and what it means for the future. He writes in We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, “An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.”