After spending a day at Sankofa Farm with its founder Leia Lewis Henderson, I felt refreshed. Before we had iPads and air conditioning, we had good old-fashioned hard work and elbow grease. The more “innovative” life becomes, the more we lose touch with the true humility of life itself. In order to move into a productive future, one should draw inspiration from her past – allow the happy moments to motivate you out of bed each morning and use the nightmares as fuel to reach your potential. Sankofa Vision, INC works hard to teach a lost generation the significance of always moving forward but never forgetting who you are and where you came from.
For those who have never heard of the term sankofa it’s a West African word meaning “to go back and get it.” One of the symbols of sankofa is a bird flying forward with its head turned backward, grasping an egg on its back. The egg represents the knowledge and wisdom that’s been acquired from past experiences.
In my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, one woman is determined to make a difference by living out sankofa, and many more other positive beliefs and philosophies. Leia Lewis Henderson has long been associated with non-profit organizations in one way or another. In 2002, she founded The Sankofa Series, a 10-week arts and humanities festival honoring the African American heritage of Louisiana. Presented by the Pamoja Arts Society, the festival reached thousands in Northwest Louisiana. From that 10-week festival another idea was conceived, and thus Sankofa Vision, INC was born in 2004.
Sankofa Vision’s main work is Sankofa Gardens in Shreveport’s Ingleside neighborhood. The Gardens are maintained by people living in the community and by residents of the Shreveport/Bossier City area. Nearly 100 bushels of fruits and vegetables are grown there each year. The produce is shared among participants and those who need it most. The Gardens are located on the SVI campus where various community events and activities take place.
Run solely by the hands of volunteers, the mission of Sankofa Vision is to celebrate and cultivate the art, culture, and community life of people of African descent. Sankofa Vision, INC., also known as SVI, strives to serve as a reminder to people of all nationalities that goodness is still alive in a sometimes cruel world, and to help usher us all into a better future.
One program that SVI is working hard to expand is the Sankofa Vision Community School, an inter-generational learning center. Henderson plans to renovate a traditional home using “green” methods, such as solar energy and a water conservation system. From 2009-2010, Sankofa Vision, INC teamed up with the Louisiana Tech University School of Architecture Community Design Assistance Center to create a comprehensive “green-design” master plan of the Sankofa Vision Community School and Sankofa Gardens. Green for All is just one of the many generous agencies, organizations, donors, and volunteers who have and are blessing this up-and-coming community step stool with their time, dedication, and monetary seeds. The Community School will be home to all current and future programs and activities. Once a permanent facility has been acquired, SVI will be able to work with even more families, and have enough space to do so.
Another program that SVI is working on expanding is the Sankofa Saturday School. The Saturday School is offered to boys and girls in grades 2-6. Every Saturday in June, the kids come out to learn and explore the wisdom and oneness of gardening. The children are taught about teamwork, health and nutrition, leadership, and many other things that they’ll need in life. They’re even introduced to the idea of expressing their spirits in positive ways like art, music, and dance. They also receive lessons in Math and Social Studies that don’t necessarily feel like school. The Saturday School comes to an end with Harvest Jubilee. On this day, the children invite their families to come experience all they’ve been introduced to and the achievements they’ve made. During the Jubilee, everyone shares a wonderful meal comprised of the fruits and vegetables that they’ve helped grow. In time, SVI would like to offer the Saturday School year round, and add after-school programs too.
This month, SVI is having its First Annual Homecoming at Sankofa Gardens. From October 18th through 21st, people from all over will meet at the Sankofa Gardens campus to fellowship and learn all about the vision and future of Sankofa Vision, INC. This 4-day work retreat and celebration is meant to connect community builders, educators, and many others with other like-minded people to help SVI grow and also to help ourselves grow. Hip-hop artist Markese Bryant will join the festivities and help educate folks about green jobs and living green.
For information on attending the Homecoming celebration — including schedule, directions, and lodging information — visit: www.homecomingsankofagardens.com.
Post by Ursula Brantley.