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Sankofa: History and Myth of Progress


Chris Haywood is back on The Block with another featured post. Chris Haywood, Founder of Injoymint.com, is Historian, Entreprenuer, Personal Trainer, Natural/Holistic Food Expert, and an all around knowledgeable cat. You can connect with Chris at his website www.injoymint.com, Twitter, or Facebook. For now check out his article and let us know what you think

Akan symbol for Sankofa

Akan symbol for Sankofa

Sankofa is an Akan term that literally means, “To go back and get it.” One of the Adinkra symbols for Sankofa (seen above) depicts a mythical bird flying forward with its head turned backward. The egg in its mouth represents the “gems” or knowledge of the past upon which wisdom is based; it also signifies the generation to come that would benefit from that wisdom.

This symbol often is associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates to, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” The Akan believe that the past illuminates the present and that the search for knowledge is a life-long process. The pictograph illustrates the quest for knowledge, while the proverb suggests the rightness of such a quest as long as it is based on knowledge of the past.

(san = “to return”) + (ko = “to go”) + (fa = “to look, to seek and take”)

History and It’s Political Implication

Master Teacher and African Historian John Henrik Clarke said “History is a clock in which people use to tell their own time. It is the compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells you where you’re from, what you are, and most importantly, where you should go.” History is more than facts and dates, it is and can be used as a political weapon. If history is not important, then why do those at the top of their of the stratification system see their glorious history in their textbooks and revere their ancestors while the ones on the bottom of the stratification system know little to nothing about their history?

“People who are ahistorical, who have little knowledge of history, are people who are more gullible, more easily manipulated and people who are more easily adapted to the capitalist machine than people who are historically knowledgeable” –Dr. Amos Wilson

We must use history as a tool of liberation, a vessel to transfer acquired immunities, and as a model of competency. This means we must research our history not as a form of cultural masturbation, but with a conscious magnifying glass, that analyzes our mistakes and our accomplishments. From this notion, we can eliminate behavior that causes us harm, and continue behavior that makes us successful.

History and the Myth of Progress

We sit inside our nice homes equipped with flat screen television, lap top computers and electric ran appliances and we think just because our ancestors lacked these things we have advanced in some way. A closer look inside our society will tell you that technology creates as many problems as it solves but that’s another story. My point here is most people believe time and progress are linear. That we will automatically do better in 2013 because the numbers on the calendar have changed.

Who told you that history was a linear line of progression? Don’t you know there are people who have been wiped off the face of this earth? The Ancient Egyptians, The Mongolian Empire, The Roman empire were once great nations that could never conceive being forgotten. My point here is that history works in a circular fashion, constantly going through progression and REGRESSION simultaneously. Your failure to realize this small, yet simple statement can keep you from recognizing the pink elephant in the room.

  • A study done by CNN reported Black children watched an average of 10 more hours of television per week than any other race of children.
  • In 1920, 90% of Black children had fathers at home. In 2002, that number was down to 32%.
  • The wealth gap between whites and blacks from 1970 to 2000 went from 64 billion to 130 billion.
  • We are the innovators, movers and shakers of mainstream culture such as music and entertainment, but own little to nothing of the companies that produce these products/services.

I am not advocating zero progress has been made, rather I hope to highlight historical facts that show we may not be as advanced as we think .When you want to find out about a subject, you don’t read their psychology books, you read their history books! Why? Because their actions denote their mode of thinking much clearer than empty words on a page.

With that being said, lets examine what really counts: RESULTS

Based on my history:

  • Did I do better or worse than you expected in 2012 and why?
  • What lessons can I learn from my personal history, my family history and my ethnic history?
  • What mistakes plague my family and how can I keep from falling into the same trap?
  • What accomplishments do I come from and how was I/my family/my people able to accomplish this?
  • How has this country treated me in my efforts to do more, be more, and have more?
  • Who has been my enemy, who has been my ally, who has been my support?

I encourage us all to begin reading on our history. It will become the framework that literally shapes our consciousness. To manipulate consciousness, is to manipulate opportunity. To manipulate opportunity in America is to have POWER. Do not let these people tell you to forget your history and focus on the future. Research, take what you can use from the past and use it for your own benefit. History is never past at all and is constantly shaping the world we live in today. Use it, lose it, or let someone abuse it.

Peace and Light,

Chris Haywood

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Works Cited

Goldberg, Stephanie. “TV Boost Self-esteem of White Boys.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Kunjufu, Jawanza. Black Economics: Solutions for Economic and Community Empowerment. Vol. 2. Chicago, IL: African American Images, 1991. Print.

“Sweet Chariot: The Story of the Spirituals.” Sweet Chariot: The Story of the Spirituals. The Spirituals Project, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

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4 thoughts on “Sankofa: History and Myth of Progress

  1. This video goes so well with this post! I’m really feeling this and this author’s other post. Ol boy even had a works cited! I think it’s important for people,especially people that don’t normally control their narrative, to understand their history and the power behind it. When you know your history doesn’t start with slavery or losing your land, etc. it should help give you some pride in your legacy.

  2. “To manipulate consciousness, is to manipulate opportunity. To manipulate opportunity in America is to have POWER.”

    This is VERY well stated my brotha! Each one teach one!

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