(I wrote this on Thursday, March 7th, 2013)
It has been exactly 2 weeks since Sankofa. These past two weeks have flown by, sadly, without much processing or reflection time on thoughts about Sankofa. Last week was a whirlwind with my birthday and midterm final projects/presentations. This week, I have been sick since Monday. And next week…I’ll be on the Appalachia trip!…so I know that I must take the time now, even as I’m drowsy on cold meds, I must reflect and attempt to process through and share some of my Sankofa experience.
I will outline what each day looked like, and hopefully some of my feelings & discoveries:
-met for dinner, leaders shared about their experience in racial reconciliation and why they are leading the trip, left Chicago-10pm.
thoughts/feelings: I hadn’t yet met one of our small group members which made me nervous feeling like I didn’t know my small group very well, as we were leaving.
-Atiyya and I had a nice time catching up on where we’ve grown up, what we’re studying, and what we are interested in doing after college.
-As a bus, we watched a documentary that shared the story of Tom Coleman, an undercover police officer, working in Tulia, TX, know for the “Tulia 46.” I highly recommend learning about this, however I don’t remember the name of the exact documentary we watched.
reactions: Atiyya and I felt very similar about this video. We had both watched the “The house I live in” documentary just 2 days previous which dealt with many similar topics. These documentaries address the topic of institutionalized racism. We were both disturbed by this video. The way the officers arrested the citizens; the way they charged with lack of evidence and without reviewing alibis; the way the officers and court denied their blatant racism; and even when an attorney came and to prove many of the victims innocent, Tom Coleman and the Tulia officers were hardly reprimanded for their outrageous acts. We were also amazed that this happened so recently, and that it is still going on today. (1996-2005)
-after some discussion, we fell asleep. Rest stop at 2am. Woke up in TN!
-Southern style breakfast at Miss Polly’s on Bealt Street, Memphis, Tennessee.
thoughts: this was when I really started to bond with our small group. Anna, Ashley, Atiyya and I had a nice breakfast together.
-We went to the Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum. We started the tour in the museum, which extensively explores the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was very interesting to learn so much about the criminal investigation side to the assassination.
feelings: I wrote “We stood where he stood as he shot MLK. We stood where MLK stood as he was shot. This was quite an unexplainable experience. I felt so uncomfortable and almost sick as I stood where the shooter was. Niether of the places have changed…”
Here are a couple things I wrote down that stood out to me: “one of the main things I took from this experience was everything that ‘just happened’ to occur right before/during the assassination: –> One of MLK’s security guards was removed –> two african-american men who worked on the block were relocated for the day –> 2 army men were let up to the top of the fire tower for photography (best view of location) –> Stephen, the hotel tenant, was drunk –> James Earl Ray was a criminal and ex-convict in the states and in London –> the hotel and room number of MLK’s stay were both broadcasted publically…
-We went to slave haven, which is a house that was part of the underground railroad. This is what I wrote in my journal: A german man, Burkle, immigrated to the US to escape oppression. He found the same thing here. So he bought land 2 1/2 blocks from the Mississippi river and built a house that had a crawl space and a cellar to hide and free slaves. He intentionally picked his vocation as a cattle trader so he’d be able to free slaves. He “bought” 2 slaves to keep up the facad. He made connections with cattle buyers, who were also part of the underground railroad, loacted Illinois. From there, the freed slaves had to make it all the way to Canada in order to be freed. This was incredible to stand in the cellar…This man Burkle and his family were amazing…even built a tunnel from the house to the river and built barns for cover-he bought all that land.
-We learned about –>slave conditions on the middle passage. –>women were sold naked and picked for “breeding” or working.
-We checked into a hotel for the night, still in Memphis, TN
-We had a conversation as a group where we discussed our feelings and reactions at that point so far.
-We had pizza dinner and went roller skating as a group!
-We drove to Alabama and watched a documentary on the way called “The color of Fear”
-We were all required to talk about where we were at this point, either a response to the video or just in general…thoughts: I talked a little bit about my upbringing and how I have made excuses because of being so farremoved from the south and not really seeing blatant racism in Seattle. White privilege is mixed in there somewhere but it’s hard to differentiate where my race has affected situations verses my geographical location. Either way, I can’t ignore it and I want to be more involved in these conversations and learn more about racism today. Today and our past-injustices and inequities that have infiltrated our society, what will we do…
-We arrived in Selma, Alabama and went to a quite amazing museum. We walked across the Alabama River like the march that MLK and other major leaders took-Bloody Sunday. Once we had crossed the river, our tour guide suddenly started yelling at us and commanding us. We entered into a simulation with no prior knowledge or preparation. The simulation was of the african people who were sold into slavery and put on the ships.
-After we finished at the museum and simulation, we went to dinner, we then boarded the bus and headed back to Chicago!
-We arrived early for church on the southside of Chicago. The church is predominately black, Africans and African-Americans, as well as a few white families. Many blacks were in traditional dress and we had quite the experience! We were there for a total of about 4 hours. After the service, once we were back on the bus headed back to school, some people spoke and shed light of the many of the reasons and history of why the church service is ran the way it is. This was very insightful!
This sums up a little bit about the my Sankofa Experience.
This is something I will be continuing to process and be in conversation about. I would love prayers!! And thank you for all the prayers that weekend 🙂
Plesae don’t hesitate to ask me more personal questions about my experience!