By: The JTM Team
Celebrations of Black History Month originated as a corrective to the absence of people of African descent in American cultural historical education and many of its efforts focused including and highlighting previously ignored historical figures, experiences and moments. At Join the Movement, we honor Black History Month as an intentional opportunity to engage in the antiracist practice of sankofa. From the Akan people of Ghana, Sankofa means “to go back and get it.” For us, this means that it is not enough to simply learn about the suppressed and ignored aspects of Black History; we must also bring that history forward and ask what it means – how it changes us – for today.
In this era, where cultural historical education is increasingly targeted by those seeking to maintain the systems and structures of white supremacy, we cannot underestimate the importance of our Sankofa antiracism practices. As Christians, we recognize that going back to the past and bringing it forward is a spiritual practice. Our scriptures are filled with Sankofa invitations like, “remember that you were slaves in Egypt,” and “do this in remembrance of me.” Just as our Holy Communion celebrations invite us to go back and get the radical meal practices of Jesus so that our lives might be shaped by their kindom vision in the present, so, too, we are called in each moment to the life-changing sacred work of bringing history forward.
In Mississippi during the summer of 1964, an incredible intergenerational movement unfolded that would give rise to life-long activism for many participants. As violence aimed at squelching the civil rights struggle in Mississippi increased, local organizers with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress of Racial Equality imagined and organized a mobilization that would establish Freedom Schools around the state and work to register disenfranchised voters of African descent. The curriculum, aimed at middle- and high-school aged children, was designed not only to make up the deficits in education left by segregationist educational inequities, but also to empower students to think and act politically and give expression to their experiences creatively. At the same time, voter education schools were preparing Black adults for the state’s registration exam. In the “Mississippi Summer Project,” as it was known, people of every age developed and joined a grassroots freedom movement that would be sustained long after that summer.
This Black History Month, we invite you into the antiracist spiritual practice of Sankofa, offering the opportunity for all of us to “go back and get” the wisdom from the Freedom Schools for building an intergenerational movement toward racial justice in your communities here and now. Throughout the month we will be highlighting and launching resources aimed at building and amplifying our collective capacity for racial justice at every age. We invite you to take some time with these offerings and discern how you and your community might lean into the Sankofa practice this Black History Month.
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