Sankofa: Black History Month celebration

Green Templeton’s Black History Month celebrations culminated on Friday 29 October with an iconic Sankofa night. It included inspirational messages from excellent speakers, an exhibition, and a dinner that welcomed members from across the university community.

Josephine Agyeman-Duah speaking next to lectern and in front of powerpoint display dressed in red and greenIntroduction To SankofaThe theme Sankofa (in Akan Twi language, Ghana), which translates as back to our good roots, was selected by the Black Students’ Representative, Josephine Agyeman-Duah to celebrate the history of Black professionals and their contributions at Oxford and to society at large. It was also a call to action to forge ahead with positivity as Green Templeton embraces its cultural diversity.

Sankofa is symbolised by a bird with its head turned to its back, and with an egg in its beak and the chest pushed forward. The body of the bird represents the past, the head represents the present and the egg in its beak is the future. In her speech, Josephine narrated the unlimited possibilities one realises when we pause like the Sankofa bird to reach out to fetch knowledge from our past. The memory of our ancestors who toiled to give us the privileges we enjoy today must not be forgotten, she said. Celebrating Black History Month is an opportunity for self-reflection, to be proud of and learn from our past, as we unlock our unlimited possibilities to forge ahead to make society a better place for humanity.

The event opened with a welcome from the Principal, Sir Michael Dixon, followed by talks from the first GTC Black Students’ Representative Josephine Agyeman-Duah, His Excellency the Gambian Ambassador to Switzerland Professor Muhammadou Kah, President of Oxford Africa Society Ebenezer Azamati, and Miss Africa 2004 and Miss Burkina 2003 Georgie Liberty.

In the Principal’s welcome address, Sir Michael Dixon said ‘we have been able to introduce a very inclusive and diverse approach to the things that we do at GTC.’ He gave the assurance of the college’s strong commitment to environmental sustainability and diversity and iterated that, ‘we want to be a leader in equality and diversity, and inclusion and everything that we do should be underpinned by these values.’

Michael also made the formal announcement of the formation of the Black Students’ Society at GTC, an initiative of the Black Students’ Representative. In his remarks he said, that the college welcomes the group and he will be happy to work with them personally in taking forward the college’s agenda of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Reflections on the panel discussion

HE Professor Muhammadou Kah highlighted the place of Africa’s communal philosophy as essential for contributing to addressing modern global transboundary problems such as climate change and pandemics that are incurable by regional self-interest if not the cause. Ubuntu, which translates, ‘I am, because you are’ extends solidarity beyond the self and acknowledges the interdependence of self progress on society or society’s resources thus, the wisdom of prioritising communal interest safeguards self-interest. By going back to our roots, we harness tested and tried values that have enabled our survival without conflict with human-nature harmony.

Ebenezer Azamati cited Black students’ contributions at Oxford and dwelt on rethinking education, and tailoring learning with values that serves and empowers people of African descent. Participants were charged by Georgie Liberty to give back to society, citing her projects in Africa to provide water to underserved populations. She ended on a happy and congratulatory note to all saying, let’s celebrate ourselves (as Black people)!

Other aspects of the evening

Sankofa Guests In ObservatoryDinner celebrated food from the Middle East (menu selected by Raood Ahmed) as previous Black Cultural events had served food from the Caribbean, East and West Africa – showcasing cultural plurality among Black Communities not limited to only African Blacks. There was a musical display Acheampong Atta-Boateng

The event engaged both in-person and online attendees with dinner supported by the Annual Fund. The Black Students’ Community acknowledged the collaboration from the Oxford Africa Society, GTC BLM Taskforce, college management, GCR Committee, staff, students and the kind support from the Academic Fund towards the Sankofa event.

Special thanks to all who supported activities from the Black Students Community over the past year, especially the core team of  Scholastica, Ache, Claire, Rutendo, Gloria, Segun and Josephine.

Created: 11 November 2021