My Safe Place: The meaning of Sankofa, an African term

We must return and claim our past in order to move toward our future. It is in understanding who we were that will free us to embrace who we are now.  


Identity is part of our lives that does not change, even when society and the people around us do. We are the ones focused on giving certain individuals and groups profiles that sometimes are not so appealing. I grew up in the South, where racism and prejudice were the norm and expected. I believe knowing who you are can complete you and allow you to be who you were created to be. 


Living and growing up in a place where not much mattered besides family, friends and traditions, these things became my way of life.  Family was the one thing I could count on and friends were the other thing that I knew would bring me joy and laughter. I enjoyed being with my aunts and uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters, who were in abundance. As a young child, I spent my days on my grandparents’ farm, I got involved in every school activity that fit, and I participated in community service and much as I could.


  On my grandparents’ farm they did everything for themselves and they taught me about every plant, tree, and animal because it was all on their farm. I believe this was a way to teach me to love them and myself.   My grandmother was always so amazingly kind and very smart, especially getting work done with our help.  She needed us and we need her for today, however, not knowing it until now.  She never fussed or yelled. She just made work seem so fun and a part of what we did to make family life special. The work was not always easy, yet it was always rewarding. I do not miss those times because I never left them behind. I just decided to implement and embrace those lessons in my life today. I believe in working hard in all that I do.  I believe in holding those sweet values I experienced and learned on the farm in my life today. Working together with my grandparents and watching them love one another became my motivating inspiration. 


School activities were limited, but the teachers were not my grandparents nor were they my parents.  I learned from them such character traits as respect, truth, and discipline at home, thus implementing in school.  If I did not implement those characters in school, there were consequences at home and at school. I believe much of our society has forgotten the system of loving and caring for one another in a way that resulted in destructive consequences, therefore leaving us to decide to choose disrespect over respect, lies instead of truth, and selfishness instead of discipline. 


Starting college was somewhat frightening because I was so close to family and the familiar. I wanted to please my people and wanted to make the better choice in life. I had not seen too many failures, but I saw some. From the failures I saw, I decided that they would not be my story. My story would embrace respect, truth, and discipline. That would be my cause and my destiny.  With this in mind I believe as we look at where we are in our lives, it important that we never forget the lives of those who sacrifice their lives for us to grow and create self-worth, not just for ourselves, but for others around us. In doing so, we create a safe zone that encourages others to want to do the same.