This blog is my effort to create a Quilombo, Palenque, Maroon Society in cyberspace to seek solidarity with other “fugitives” and “runaways” in the African Diaspora who have stolen themselves from the hegemony of racism, capitalism, and eurocentrism, and who need a place to heal, meditate, cogitate and foment revolutions.

Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow

As a librarian, professor, and writer, I have focused much of my research on the complex history and cultures of the African Diaspora with the objective of developing the skills and knowledge needed to advance the mission of liberation though education and information science. This goal is inspired and informed by the African philosophical concept of Sankofa.

Among the Akan-speaking people of Ghana, the word “Sankofa” denotes the idea of returning to the past to move forward. Mimi Robinson in her description of Adinkra textile symbols says: “Sankofa means ‘Return and Take it,’ reminding you to go back and get what you forgot and try to fix your mistakes.” A graphic symbol is used to represent Sankofa in Akan textile patterns (see the image in the slideshow below). In sculptural works and other media it is often rendered as an ideogram. Depicted as a bird with an egg in its beak and its head facing its tailfeathers, the Sankofa ideogram represents and dramatizes the temporal and spatial movements of the human spirit. As the bird advances, it constantly and appropriately looks to its past to (re)conceptualize and (re)negotiate its future.

As an iconic figure the Sankofa bird is subject to multiple readings. Another interpretation suggests: “no matter how far you travel from home you must always return.” The past, in this sense, represents the place of birth or matrix of beginning. African philosopher John S. Mbiti identifies the past as the realm to which the dead (who are thought of as living-dead) journey to join the ancestors. This idea of “returning” or “homecoming” is therefore a metaphor for death and the “crossing over” or “middle passage” to the land of the dead. Thus life returning to its source becomes yet another way of understanding the Sankofa imagery. However Sankofa is interpreted, the basic and fundamental meaning remains: the past is present, so one’s future—in life or death—is determined by the past.

Based on the above definitions, Sankofa can be described as a three-step process. The first step involves memory or the (re)collection of past events. The second step involves the (re)construction of the past. And the third step involves the transformation of the past or (re)making history. It is at the juncture and moment of the “third step,” however, that I propose a radical change. In the effort to realize fully the revolutionary implications and methods inherent in the Sankofian gesture (space-time travel), we need to break with “History” (history with a capital “H”)—which the late Aimé Césaire defined as being “white, male, and European“—and (re)conceptualize the final stage in the process as an entirely new didactic and narrative form: Ourstory. You are invited to join me here in this Quilombo in cyberspace on this journey and adventure to (re)discover OURSTORY.

May 30, 2011

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19 thoughts on “About

    • Jessica, thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately, I have been remiss in posting for the last few months. I’ve been extremely busy. But I hope back on track soon. I look forward to future communication with you. Best regards, JC.

  1. Through the blacklist pub announcing death of Mr. Carew, searching about his ‘black midas’ then chosen this sight, all have to say ‘awesome’. Thanks ”ancestors’ for leading me here. Asyla

  2. I just wanted to pay my respects to Jan Carew as I read of his passing and this seemed the best place to go. I like the thought of his ‘finding a new way to network’.

    Kind regards – I very much enjoy your thought-provoking blog.

    • Thanks both for your condolences and your kind remarks about this blog. I am glad to be the recipient of any comments about Jan, and will gladly pass them on to his family.

  3. Hope that you can put up this video on your blog:

    It was made 23 years ago in Johannesburg when Mandela was released from prison. Never distributed before now.


    • Ann,

      Thanks for bringing the video to my attention. I posted it immediately, as you can see. I hope things are going well for you and all the great people at Middle Passage Project.


  4. I like your blog! I’m a NYC, human rights in education activist and Black mom. Have you heard of the Black Education Congress? We are convening in Chicago, October 10-12 and I am inviting you to review our mission to bring educators, students, activist parents and community revolutionaries to help develop an Education for Liberation Action Plan. I am reaching out across the diaspora to seek like minds who are willing to help in the urgent mission to save our beloved children with a real plan! Confirmed speakers include Drs. Na’im Akbar, Frances Cress Welsing, Conrad Worrill, Wade Nobles, Daniel Beaty, Anthony Browder, Malik Yakini and others.

  5. Benita,

    Thank you for the feedback about my blog.

    I did not know about the Black Education Congress or the scheduled conference, and so I appreciate you reaching out to me to inform me of the organization’s existence and its mission and goals. The confirmed speakers you’ve listed above comprise a stellar roster of scholar-activists who have been deeply engaged in our struggle to educate to liberate. I commend you for your efforts and I will publicize and support the mission. Please contact me via email at ourstorian@gmail.com so that we can make formal contact and discuss this further.

    John C.

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