Back to the First Roots

The Sankofa Africa Organization seeks to reclaim the identity of the African continent.
The Sankofa Africa Organization seeks to reclaim the identity of the African continent.

Since coming to the United States from the Ivory Coast in December 2007, Kadiatou Taore wanted to create an organization that connected people of African descent back to their roots and ethos.

“When I came to this country, I saw that my African peers forgot their culture,” said Taore. “[Some of them weren’t taking education seriously and] they forgot that their parents sent them here.”

Taore, the chairman of Sankofa Africa Organization (SAO), said she founded SAO last November with Umaru Barry, an alumnus of SUNY New Paltz. In February 2011, Taore established a chapter of the organization in New Paltz.

The mission of this club is to bring positive influence, development and changes to the continent that have been lost and forgotten, said Jada Young, the movement director of SAO.

The word “Sankofa” is from the Akan people of West Africa and was expressed in the  phrase “se wo were fi ma wosan kofa a yenki,” which translates to “it is not taboo to go back and fetch,” said Young.

“Basically at its essence, Sankofa means that we go back to our roots to understand and reclaim our identity,” said Young. “It’s also the notion that you must understand your past in order to secure a future for yourself.”

The organization allows students of African descent to be able to take an active role in reclaiming the identity of the African continent. SAO also promotes community service and projects that go toward helping Africans in Africa and Africans abroad.

“Generally, in the United States, Africa is plagued with the negative image of starving children, extreme poverty, disease and disarray,” said Young. “In actuality, Africa is where humanity began [and] where the first and arguably most advanced human civilization was found …It is a beautiful continent with a myriad of cultures and languages. We seek to enlighten people of that.”

Although SAO seeks to reclaim the identity of the African continent, Young said it would be naïve to ignore the adverse affects that European and Western colonialism have had on Africa, putting the continent in the position it is in today.

Last month, SAO held a clothing drive for school-aged children in Ghana through the Grace Imo Foundation which has direct connections to Ghana, said Vice President Jacqueline Van den Bergh.

“[We] are hoping to have a book drive and raise money for different organizations in Africa that need our help,” said Van den Bergh. “Our wish is not only to help children in Africa but to help Americans realize the beauty and wealth of knowledge that Africa has shared with us.”

In the future, SAO is planning on holding more clothing and book drives and maintaining a connection with the people within the African continent. They also plan on working with non-profit organizations like Women for Women International and the Telem organization.

“We just began our organization,” said Young. “So expect a lot more as time progresses.”

To learn more about the Sankofa Club,  visit their website and Facebook page.