This challenge was issued on Tuesday evening, (19th July, 2011), by the Chairman of the National Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, Dr. Ken Ballantyne, who was the guest speaker at the launching event for a new sensitization program to break the silence on the atrocities of slavery and the slave trade in the Caribbean.
“Today, as we mark the launch of the “UNESCO National Scientific Slave Route Project”, it is very important that we ask ourselves the vexing question: Are we as a people ready to embrace our past, or are we trying against the odds to erase all the vestiges of our history? Are we trying to forget from whence we came? Or perhaps more pointedly, do we, especially our young people really know the Roots from whence we came?”
“I submit that we take this opportunity to look back and reacquaint ourselves with our painful but illustrious and significant past in order to chart a new peaceful and wholesome course for our future,” said Dr. Ballantyne.
In the Akan language of Ghana there is a term “Sankofa,” that translates in English to mean: “go back and take”. The Akan people use an Adinkra symbol to represent this same idea “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten”. One version of this symbol is similar to the eastern symbol of a heart, and another version is that of a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back. It symbolizes one taking from the past what is good and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress through the benevolent use of knowledge. Visually and symbolically, Sankofa is expressed as a mythical bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth, said the UNESCO committee chairman.
He said 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.
Why Sankofa? —– Because we must not forget that ….