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UHCL prof reflects on Ghanaian philosophy of 'Sankofa': Go, then return

February 26, 2020 | UHCL Staff

Comeka Anderson Diaz
Professor Comeka Anderson Diaz attended a Year of Return celebration and conference in Ghana.

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first documented arrival of Africans on American shores, the Ghanaian government organized a Year of Return Trip and Conference beginning last August. Because University of Houston-Clear Lake President Ira K. Blake believed it was important to have representation at the event, Visiting Lecturer of Criminology Comeka Anderson Diaz, who has lived and studied in Ghana, attended the conference and participated in the events.

“Since Ghana has won its independence from Britain, it has worked hard to reach out to blacks living in the diaspora, which is anywhere outside Africa,” Anderson Diaz said. “The year 2019 is significant because in 1619, the first slave ships arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. In Ghana there’s a saying — ‘Sankofa.’ It means, ‘go, and then return.’ This means that those who were taken away by the slave trade should take the chance to come back.”

While there, she said she’d departed the capital city of Accra for Cape Coast, which was the capital city under British rule. “The British once named modern-day Ghana the Gold Coast because of the substantial deposits of gold found in the soil,” she said. “I saw two huge fortresses there, where the governor had lived on the top and the bottom were slave dungeons. There’s a door where the slave ships would come up, and enslaved people would go out that door, and end up in the New World. When people go to Ghana, they go to that place. It’s said that if your ancestors passed through those doors, you’ll feel their spirit.”

When the slave fortresses became historical sites with public access, the passageway was named “The Door of No Return.”

She said the events associated with this conference will continue for a year. “I got a strong sense of tradition when I was there,” she said. “After attending the conference, I brought back hope. There are so many interesting opportunities to be found in Ghana for students and others. I heard about a new vision for the country and new hope for the country politically. I hope to have collaboration and exchange for students to study abroad in Ghana, as well as have students come here.”

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