Sankofa: The Case for Ideological Education

Dr Edward Yusuf Mitole

I really hate letting the air out of the tyres of any of the Black Bandwagons, but someone has to do it.

One particularly over inflated bandwagon is the whole Black Academic Achievement Bandwagon.

Every year around graduation time folks start posting these images and links that demonstrate the brilliance of Black students, some young Brother who earned a 5.0 GPA and got accepted in to all the Ivy League schools, or the one inner-city school that sent every single one of their graduating seniors to college, etc.

Having been an award winning high school student myself, I don’t want to take anything away from these youth, but I also don’t really see what the fuss is about because our brilliance is a given, with the proper supports and motivations Africans always excel, in fact; if we understood the amount of time, resources, and planning our Oppressors put in to suppressing the brilliance of our youth, we’d almost feel sorry for the Oppressor, it’s not an easy thing to do.

But that’s not my ultimate point.

The real issue is; we’ve failed after more than100 years of being off the Plantation, and having varying opportunities, to be a literate and educated people to fully understand the real value of education.

We seem to be the only people on earth at this point who fail to understand that “an Ideological Education is far more important than an Academic Education,” if the Ideological Education is not given, then the Academic Education is null and void, or worse, it will only further entrench you/your People into ignorance, subjugation, and powerlessness.

That’s why we as an African people lose more ground as we send more and more of our youth off to be academically educated by institutions we didn’t build, own, or control.

Without African Ideological Education we get:

-More and more chronic diseases in our community, and shortened life spans even though we have more Black Doctors than ever.

-The great fighters and warriors that arise from our communities end up enlisting into the armies of our Oppressors, and refuse to use their martial training for the protection and interest of the African Community.

-Our incarceration rates explode even though we have more Black judges, lawyers, and investigators than ever.

-We see an inflation in both police brutality and inmate abuse in prisons even though we have more Black Cops and Correction Officers than ever.

-We have all these brilliant Black scientists and engineers, but they seem to be unable to address any of the structural, or technological problems that plague Black Communities, or Africa. They also willingly and enthusiastically develop technologies that aid the Global White Minority in sustaining their systems of Global White Domination, from surveillance to weapons technology, our Black engineers and scientist have had a hand in it all; but where are the resistance technologies?

-We have the most creative minds and athletics bodies but with all that, there are no Pan-African Games, no entertainment or athletic industries or manufacturing in the hood, and the works of our greatest entertainers are owned by non-Africans, feeding the families of Culture Bandits as the descendants of some of our greatest artists live in poverty.

-We are the most Spiritually endowed people I’ve ever encountered, yet our communities have not been able to shield our children from all of the degenerate values and practices of the Dominant Culture.

-Finally, we have more Black Billionaires, and Multimillionaires than ever before in modern history, but we collectively have the smallest share of property and wealth than at any time in our history since the Reconstruction Era. From land to home to business ownership; we are losing ground. We’ve yet to surpass the economic progress that our ancestors made under Jim Crow laws, and open racial discrimination. Just review Dr Claud Anderson’s research if you don’t believe me.

So, even though I’ve been accused of being Anti-Education, it’s the furthest thing from the truth, I’m Anti-Indoctrination that bestows all these skills and money on our youth, but renders them incapable of identifying and addressing the problems and issues specific to Black people.

Just think about that the next time you post or read a link about some Black youth’s outstanding academic achievement. Ask yourself; “is all the Black Brilliance gonna be captured and used by our enemies, or even turned against the Black community, or has that Black youth been grounded in African values, and understands their obligations to the Black community above all others?”

Personally, it makes me shudder whenever I read about some brilliant Black youth, overcoming the odds, then being packaged and shipped off to one of these institutions that have a history of producing individuals who’ve attacked our People, and subverted our Movements. Remember, the CIA, FBI, and NSA all have close ties to all of these Institutions of Higher Learning, and the multinational corporations are essentially dictating the curriculum at this point. So if a Black child is shipped off without any ideological preparation and cultural armour, what chance will they have?

“Harvard has ruined more Negros than bad whiskey.” Carter G. Woodson

(Remember, Woodson was the second Black man to get a PhD from Harvard, and he broke it all down for us in The Mis-Education of the Negro, way back in 1933! We didn’t get the message then, and I don’t think we get it today.)

Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to “Go back and get it” (san – to return; ko – to go; fa – to fetch, to seek and take) and also refers to the Asante Adinkra symbol represented either with a stylized heart shape or by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth. Sankofa is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”

In addition to being used on adinkra cloth in Ghana, the Sankofa heart is a common design on gates in the United States, particularly New York City. In Brooklyn, the Sankofa heart is commonly upside down on gates to Brownstone residential buildings.

The sankofa bird appears frequently in traditional Akan art, and has also been adopted as an important symbol in an African-American and African Diaspora context to represent the need to reflect on the past to build a successful future. It is one of the most widely dispersed adinkra symbols, appearing in modern jewellery, tattoos, and clothing.

Africa needs a new type of education that is rooted in traditional African philosophy and indigenous education. The word, SANKOFA, in the title of this article sums up the purpose of this article.  SANKOFA is an Akan word which roughly translates as: ‘Return to the source and fetch.’ The source is our culture, heritage and identity. It is the power that is within us. SANKOFA means that as we move forward into the future, we need to reach back into our past and take with us all that works and is positive. And this is precisely the intention of this article: to focus on what is positive so Africans can build on it as a foundation for future education. Readers who are looking for what is wrong or lacking in Africa, can go to any library where they can find a plethora of books that have been written, from a deficit perspective, ceaselessly comparing Africa to Europe and America.

A part of an Afrocentric education is for us to integrate those experiences, slavery, neo-colonialism in a way that makes us healthy and makes us healthy for the world. Ultimately then, an Afrocentric education seeks to regain what is our due. An African-centered education will prepare black people to no longer be the footstools of other races. An African-centered education is not just about truth, its a system that represents a full political, economic, social and ethical program. 

An African-centered education is designed to bring into the world a new world order. We recognize the world order that is now dominated by the Europeans is psychopathological, it is diseased and malignant, it ultimately has the world faced with suicide, destruction, and pollution. Therefore, an African-centered education must be designed to bring forth a new world, one that is clean, one that is moral, and produce a moral transformation of the world. 

The African-centered education does not merely seek to lift self-esteem or increase academic performance, obviously even though that’s what it does. It is about self affirmation, an affirmation of life. It is about self reformation, not to change white folk, not to change other folk, but to change ourselves. As I said, we are not only created by whites, we create whites. Whites cannot be what they are unless we are what we are. Consequently, if we transform ourselves they are transformed automatically, they cannot help it.

Therefore, an African-centered education is not trying to save white folk, its not trying to use moral persuasion against white folk. It is concerned with the self reformation of African people with our transformation. It is an act of revolution within the African community itself. It is about healing and restoration. An African-centered education represents the hope of African-Americans, of Africans across the diaspora and ultimately a hope for the world.

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