Richard R. Green Central Park School, 3416 4th Avenue S., celebrated Black History Month with a presentation of poetry, music, food and arts. The Sankofa African American Family Celebration took place 5-7:30pm Tuesday Feb 28. Former FOX 9 news anchor Robyne Robinson hosted the event which included keynote speaker Dr. Josie Johnson and musical performances by the Mile High Club and Gary D. Hines & The Sounds of Blackness.
“This is a blessing to be invited to such an event,” said Reverend Mary Spratt, founder of Greater Mount Nebo Community Missionary Baptist Church.
Sankofa is a Akan term meaning “to go back and get it’. The symbol for Sankofa depicts a mythical bird flying forward with its head turn backwards. The egg in its mouth represents “gems” or knowledge of the past which wisdom is based. It also signifies the generation to come that benefits from the wisdom, which is often associated with a proverb.
The Green Central Park Choir performed Life Every Voice and Sing and Freedom Calls to Me.
Lift Every Voice and Sing was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson. Lift Every Voice and Sing was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville, Florida. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington.
The poem was later set to music by Johnson's brother John in 1905. Singing this song quickly became a way for African Americans to demonstrate their patriotism and hope for the future. In calling for earth and heaven to "ring with the harmonies of Liberty," they could speak out subtly against racism and Jim Crow laws—and especially the huge number of lynchings accompanying the rise of the Ku Klux Klan at the turn of the century.
Spratt gave a quick history on Phyllis Wheatley to drive home history and education. “Phyllis Wheatley was a famous female poet, born in West Africa, sold into slavery at age seven and learned to read at age 12,” Spratt said. "She began to read Greek and Latin as well as the bible. She began to write poetry and was supported by her parents. Even though she was adopted, they supported her in the education process,” Spratt said.
Dr Josie Johnson said education and history are at the forefront of importance to the next generation. “In my judgment, we have a responsibility to look back in order to move forward,” she said. “Society does not always understand where we have been, and why it is always possible for us to look back and move forward. We have a history and trail that follows us. If you do not know where you are going, any direction will do,” she said.
Johnson also said the current voter ID amendment shows why knowing one’s history is important. “When I hear of an effort to keep us from voting, it reminds me of 1964, when I went to Jackson Mississippi to help our people move in the direction of getting the right to vote,” she said. “The right to vote was passed in 1965. Before that, our people were denied the right to vote. We are looking back at what that meant then, trying to move forward as to where it is taking us today. Don’t lose your sense of history. It is important to remember from whence we came,” Johnson said.
“It’s not just about Black history month. It’s a month to recognize all people who have struggled,” Emcee Robyne Robinson said. “There are people that have sacraficed. No education. No school. They worked. Go back. Get the history. Pay it forward because we don’t go further unless we know our history,” she said.