Monthlong tribute themed “Sankofa: Go Back and Get It” includes a broad array of programs, performances, and talks to highlight the black experience in America.
Sankofa is an Akan term that roughly translates to "go back and get it." The word serves as encouragement to look back and learn from the past so that the future is more easily navigable. This word also serves as the guiding light for Black History Month at Oberlin, themed Sankofa: Go Back and Get It.
The series of programs in this monthlong tribute aims to examine and illuminate what it means to be black, both historically and today. Candice Raynor, chair of the Black History Month Committee and director and faculty in residence of the Afrikan Heritage House, says the programming is not just for those who are part of the Africana community. “There’s much that people don’t know about black history, and black history is American history. The programs aren’t only for those of us in the black community—they’re for everyone.”
The collection of 23 speakers, workshops, and other events display a strong commitment to highlighting black history in various ways. One of the first is a discussion featuring curators from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), who will talk about how music, specifically hip-hop, is central to the mission of the NMAAHC. The presentation, “Musical Crossroads at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture” takes place at 1 p.m. on Monday, February 12 in StudiOC.
Two programs, Winter in Wakanda: Black Panther Masquerade Ball on February 16, and a lecture by Oberlin Associate Professor of Africana Studies Charles Peterson titled Dreams of a Future Home: Black Panther and the African American Imaginary on February 18, were inspired by Black Panther, the new superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character.
Raynor stresses the importance of the film in popular culture and the impetus in highlighting it: “To see ourselves as superheroes in the Marvel universe means a great deal in how we see ourselves in the future. The movie means a lot to black people everywhere, and the students are very excited about it.”
Another of the month’s events is a Moses Hogan Sing-Along featuring music from Moses Hogan, the renowned composer, pianist, choral director, and 1979 graduate of Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The program will be led by second-year DaQuan Williams, who hopes to draw attention to Oberlin’s connection with black spirituals and black classical music. The program will take place on February 22 in Warner Concert Hall.
Other highlights include a panel discussion with an ESPN journalist, a retired professional basketball player, and professors in “What’s My Name, Fool? Black Athletes, Activism, and the Media” that will explore the history of and current conversation around activism by black athletes, and “Sankofa Remix’d: Reclaiming My Fly: Black History Month Fashion Show” that will feature African-influenced clothing created by young black designers from across the country.
Raynor hopes that anyone who attends programming during Black History Month can come away from it with greater perspective. “I’d like people to walk away more informed about black achievement and the black experience.” She also believes that the programs can help facilitate dialogue in the Oberlin community. “They can help us create a more informed community that can engage in those sometimes tough conversations.”
2018 Black History Month Committee: Marsha Bragg, Fredara Hadley, Chris Jenkins, Eboni Johnson, Nicollette Mitchell, Kiela Nelson, Candice Raynor, Brittnei Sherrod, Khalid Taylor, DaQuan Williams.