Sankofa Reflection 2023: Following the Thread

Before our trip even began, our leaders challenged us to allow ourselves to be disoriented and to not get lost in information, but to allow that information to transform us. As we “followed the thread” from the beginning of slavery, through the civil rights movement and mass incarceration I could sense a level of experiential knowledge in me that I was not fully prepared for. By the end of the trip, I felt like I lived 400 years of oppression in 4 days.  

During the Sankofa journey, I saw a level of evil and racial terror that is beyond unimaginable. Millions of black people thrown overboard in the transatlantic slave trade, black children used as heaters for their slave masters feet, lynchings for asking for a glass of water, lynchings that drew audiences of 5-10,000 people, black men, women, and children separated from their families that they would never see again, black people being beaten and even killed for demanding to be treated as human beings. And the list goes on and on and on and on.  

Yet, I found such hope in the common thread of joy, strength, and resistance from my black ancestors in the midst of the sacrifices that they made in order for me to be more free. I am beyond proud to come from that sort of legacy. Yet, the work of racial reconciliation is so hard, because there is still so much resistance. But this trip has given me a fresh hope to continue their legacy and to walk in obedience even when it’s hard so that my children and their children can be more free. So that we can all be more free. 

Shani Johnson is the Associate Dean of Students and Head Track & Field Coach at Southwest Christian High School

November 8, 2023