Ask yourself this question: how many times did you hear the word ‘sankofa’ in school?
A better question is have you ever heard the word?
If the answer is no, it is not your fault. Black people live in a world that doenst want you to go back and learn the lessons of your past.
Why? Because if you were to study, learn, and apply the lessons of Black history to your life, that knowledge would make you unfit to be a slave.
Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave. – Frederick Douglass
Sankofa is an Akan concept meaning ‘to go back and fetch it’. In other words, go back into the past to fetch the lessons learned by your ancestors.
Even if you havent heard the word, you have seen its symbol – the image of a bird looking back over its shoulder.
The Pan-African Alliance (the Black organization behind this website) was built for one reason: education for unification and liberation.
But in this day and age, everything is about ‘breaking news’, trends, and futurism.
“Why should I bother learning Black history when we have serious issues going on in the here and now?” is a common question we receive.
And its a fair question, but the fact is there wont be a future if you dont understand the past.
There is a quote that reads ‘those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it’. But history shows us that those who forget their past suffer a fate worse than death.
Living a life without a knowledge of your history is like waking up each day with absolutely no knowledge of what happened in your life the day before.
Each day you wake up, spend time trying to figure out who you are, where you are, how you got there, and what you should be doing. Day after day. Year after year. Until ultimately you die, having never found any answers or making any progress.
Think about that.
Now imagine that same person wakes up with 300,000 years of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. How much further in life would he be able to go? How much more would she be able to build and achieve?
The moral of the story is that you can spend your life trying to figure things out with no knowledge of the past, or you can study, learn, and apply the lessons of Black history to unleash your fullest potential on the world around you.
Knowing Black History Means Knowing Yourself
Studying Black history is more than learning about the accomplishments of other people. These stories have a lot to teach you about yourself.
In fact, you could be a direct descendant of some of the greatest military, economic, and political figures of the past!
If that is true, then the knowledge, wisdom, and experience they acquired runs in your blood and in your spirit.
Their experiences are a part of your consciousness, and are passed down to you in two very real way.
Epigenetics is the study of how living things respond to changes in their environment. These changes cause genes to either turn on or turn off.
Let me give you a ‘non-scientific’ example:
If a pregnant woman smokes, the environment that she creates in her womb can cause some of the genes responsible for learning to turn off in her unborn baby.
That baby is then born, goes to school, gets frustrated, and quits. The baby – now a teen – falls in with the rest of the crowd that isnt at school during the day.
You know the types I am talking about.
During his time running the streets, he deals with stress, instability, and maybe even life threatening situations. All these conditions also have an impact on the young man’s genes. Its proven.
If that man becomes a father, then not only has he created conditions that work against his children, he has also passed his learning deficiencies, frustrations, and the impact of his environment down to his children.
This is why some families say they have a ‘generational curse’.
(Dont get discouraged – genes can be turned on again with effort, time, and the right conditions. ‘Generational curses’ can be broken.)
What does this have to do with Black history?
Right knowledge corrects wrong behavior.
What happened in the past had a direct impact on the biology of your ancestors. And they passed these biological ‘memories’ down to you.
Learning deficiencies, addictive behavior, emotional instability and beliefs can all be traced back to your ancestors.
And by knowing what they struggled with, you gain insight into the nature of your own struggles.
Collectively, knowing what we struggled with as a people (like the weapons of white supremacy) can help you understand why we behave the way we do – and how to change that behavior.
We did an excellent podcast on the The Yoruba Mind, Body, and Spirit With Dr. Tariq Sawadi (click here to listen to it). In that podcast, Dr. Tariq introduced us to the concept of collective consciousness. Here is how it works:
In the Yoruba religious system known as Ifa, when the human spirit leaves the physical form it becomes part of the Egun.
As a part of the Egun, your ancestors – called the Ara Orun or the ‘residents of heaven’ create a collective consciousness that influences the living world.
As an individual, you make the Egun – the collective consciousness – a reality and by doing so, you reaffirm and reproduce it by living in ways that reflect it.
Why does this matter to you?
If you struggle to understand your behavior, your beliefs, and the results that you produce in your life, you must start by understanding who you came from, the beliefs they passed on to you, and how their collective consciousness manifests itself in your life.
By knowing who your Ara Orun are, and by understanding their history, their environment, and the events that influenced them, you will come to understand why you behave the way you do.
Black history is more than the study of facts and figures. It is the study of self.
You Produce Faster Results In Your Life
Black history is filled with stories of magnificent successes… and heartbreaking failures.
When you read about the rise and fall of Marcus Garvey, you learn how to replicate his successes as a leader of the largest Pan-African organization in history while avoiding the mistakes that led to his downfall.
And when you know the history of the ancient empires like Kush, Woot, and Ndongo, you also know the political mistakes that led to the destruction of those empires and the deaths of scores of citizens along with it.
These lessons are more than great bedtime stories – they are fables that help you make better decisions that lead to better results.
And by avoiding the mistakes that your ancestors made, you can achieve those results far faster than trying to figure it out on your own.
You Understand The World Around You
Everything you need to know about the world around you can be found by studying Black history.
The world might seem complicated now, but there are clearly defined events that have happened in a logical order that have led to predictable outcomes.
When you understand these events and their outcomes, you cant be bull-shitted into believing lies.
Look at Egypt today. The people that live there in the year 2018 look like this.
People who look like Egyptian satirist Bassam Youssef and who identify as Arabs have tried to steal the credit for the greatest civilization in human history. So have Greeks and Romans.
Anyone who challenges their claims are met with the rebuttal “Just look at the people who are there now and you can see who built this civilization!”
So what happens to your psyche and your racial self esteem when you are forced out of the narrative? You come to believe your people haven’t done anything of value and thus the study of African culture is worthless.
And deep, deep down that makes you feel worthless.
But if you knew Black history – if you actually read the just a few of the Black Consciousness books that we suggest here, you would know the names and faces of the real builders and rulers of Kemet.
Its time for you to stop stumbling around in the darkness.
Its time for you to stop seeking answers everywhere but within the pages of your own history.
Its time for you to ‘go back and fetch it’ (remember that word sankofa?) and reclaim your stolen legacy.
There can be no knowledge of self without a knowledge of Black history.