Sankofa: Reclaiming our Past

At TAMS and ED Homeschool, we stress to our students the importance of our family connections. We encourage them to spend time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others who can share family stories and details about their ancestors. And, once those details have been shared, we stress to our students the awesome responsibility of preserving those stories and writing about them. 

We teach them the story of “Sankofa,” which is based on a West African proverb that says, “se wo were fi na wo san kofa a yenki,” or “It is not taboo  to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”

sankofa (1) Kansas
Marla Jackson
born 1952, Detroit, Michigan 
cotton, batik fabric, applique, cowry shells, peacock feathers, Austrian crystal, metallic thread


Sankofa comes from the Akan tribe in Ghana.  The literal translation of the word and the symbol is: 

SAN  (return),

KO  (go),

FA (look, seek and take).

The Sankofa bird symbolizes the Akan people’s quest for knowledge beginning with an examination of our past. Visually and symbolically Sankofa is expressed as a mythical bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth. It teaches us that we must dig deep into our roots, study and know our past, in order to move forward. In order to fully appreciate our African American culture and traditions, we must reach back and reclaim what we have been stripped of, lost, forgotten, or forgone.


The Sankofa bird is one of the “Andinkra” symbols. Named after the legendary King Adinkra, these symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asante people. The heart is another symbol of Sankofa.

Sankofa heartIn order to gain greater control over their slaves, slave owners robbed them of their cultures and identities. Many slaves were separated from their families and denied their given names. Families were separated due to sale, escape, early death from poor health, suicide, and murder by a slaveholder or bushwhacker. Separation also occurred within the plantation itself, e.g., by segregating “field slaves” from “house servants,” removing children from parents to live together with a slave caretaker, or bringing children fathered by the slaveholder to live in the “Big House.” 

We teach our students that they cannot know where they are going unless they know where they came from. We begin our Sankofa journey by having each child stand with their feet facing forward. Then we ask each one to look back and begin to consider who he/she might see first: Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles, Grandma, Grandpa, Great-grandma, Great-grandpa, and so on. We stress the importance of the family unit. 

Peter SankofaOver the holiday season, when families tend to gather more often, we task our students with story gathering. They are to talk to their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and learn about their immediate family. They will create a family tree with photos and quotes from their family members, especially their elder family members, such as grandparents and great grand parents. 

We hope you will encourage your children to tell their Sankofa stories and preserve their rich cultural history.

Thank you for visiting us. Let’s stay connected. Visit us at or on Facebook, TAMS and Ed Homeschool. 


In the Teen Center with Imam Shah.
In the Teen Center with Imam Shah.

As part of our World Religions project, I took the upper level students  to visit a local mosque. The entire day was incredible. Imam Shah, gave us a tour of the mosque and showed us a film about Islam and Muslim beliefs. He opened the floor for us to ask any questions we wanted. According to Imam Shah, Muslims believe in Jesus Christ and even in the virgin birth, but they believe that Jesus was simply another prophet and not God the Son, as Christians believe. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad emerged after Christ, and that he was the last prophet.

We learned that Muslims are peace-loving people.

Kneeling in the main sanctuary.
Kneeling in the main sanctuary.

We learned many other things about Muslims:

  • Their central religious text is the Quran
  • Green is a significant color. It represents nature.
  • Women cover their heads as a sign of modesty.
  • Men and women have  separate entrances into the mosque and they sit together during services.
  • Everyone must remove their shoes before entering the mosque.

    Miss Felicia standing outside the mosque
    Miss Felicia standing outside the mosque
  • Muslims pray five times a day.

    Embracing diversity: Muslim traditions
    Embracing diversity: Muslim traditions

At TAMS and ED, we embrace diversity. We strive to get to know our neighbors and respect our differences. During our World Religions project, we studied Islam, Buddism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. We learned that, although we differ in our beliefs, peace and love is the thread that binds us. 

For more information about TAMS and ED Homeschool, visit us at We teach tolerance and diversity with hands-on and real-world activities. Our home school is for students who thrive in smaller classroom settings. We teach. We challenge. They learn.   For our students, the world is their classroom.