Sankofa Society Induction – 2019
Authored by Phoebe Son Oh ’21 in “Investing in Radical Black Feminist Counterhistory“
last updated 02.09.2021
In thinking of the Black feminist “commitment to love” and care as “political practice,” how do these images offer a space in the counterhistory to reflect on the power that intimacy between Black women and femmes holds (Nash, 2019, 115)? How does this intergenerational love and sense of connectedness through community transform the way Black women and femmes at Davidson perceive themselves? By centering this transformative type of love in the counterhistory, the counter-archives and these very images can serve as legacies of protection for the next generation of Black women and femmes at Davidson College, while also reaffirming that the institution does not define or control them. This final photograph is from the 2019 Sankofa Society Induction, featuring faculty, staff, and students who are part of the Africana Studies department. From top to bottom and left to right, the people in this picture are: Dr. Nneka Dennie, Meg Sawicki, Max Ramsay-Burrough, Oge Ibida, Bailey Norman, Ramona Davis, Jennifer Thompson, Dr. Takiyah Harper-Shipman, SJ Kline, Phoebe Son Oh, and Anisha Dhungana. The concept of Sankofa comes from the Akan tribe in Ghana, and represents the importance of bringing the past into the present in order to make progress in the future. It is important to know our histories because they inform both our present and future, especially as it relates to Black and Africana Studies. In this image, there are a mix of Black folks, white folks, and non-Black people of color. Every person in this image has different backgrounds, lived experiences, and privileges, but the one thing that connects us all is our passion and commitment to Africana, and ultimately the greater investment in the fight for global Black liberation.
Africana Studies is one of the most integral spaces for radicalizing Davidson students, and has always been a catalyst for change at Davidson. What makes the Africana department even more special and unique is that so many of the professors and adjunct faculty are Black feminist scholars. I think of the brilliant Black women and femme professors I have interacted with and formed relationships with at Davidson (shoutout to Dr. Benson, Dr. Bowles. Dr. Dennie, Dr. Harper-Shipman, and Dr. Dougé-Prosper,) and how they have helped shape not only my intellectual framework, but have also loved and cared for me in so many ways. What Africana Studies does, that Davidson as an entire institution does not, is prioritize the well being of students, especially Black femme students who bear the brunt of the university’s failures. What is imperative to notice though, is that Black women and femme faculty are forced to take on institutional labour, as well as t he emotional labour that comes with mentoring students. This picture of a diverse body of people invested in Africana Studies, serves as a call to action to also be a part of creating a counterhistory rooted in radical Black feminism. As I stated in my introduction, it should not solely be the labour of Black women and femmes to fight for their own liberation. In Africana Studies, and in the counter-archives, there should be no intellectual gatekeeping, because even though we center Black women and femmes in our work, we do this knowing that their liberation also entails our own as non-Black peoples.