The upcoming Sankofa Festival previews a new museum in Cobb to open in 2023 that will examine the lives of Africans before slavery

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By Arielle Robinson

When European slave traders kidnapped Africans from the western and central parts of the African continent during the transatlantic slave trade, not only were people kidnapped, but entire cultures were forcibly ripped from their origins.

The Igbo people, the Wolof people, the Mandinka people and many other ethnic groups in Africa through slavery became black, and black became slave.

Traders and slave owners forced Africans to take the names of their owners and brand the native African traditions as immoral. Slave owners actively attempted to suppress the cultural practices of the many African nations brought to the Americas.

Despite attempts at suppression, slave owners ultimately failed to completely erase the cultural traditions of Africans, and some of those same traditions are very much alive among people of African descent in the Americas today.

Pat Snipes, the founder of the Before Slavery Museum and the Vibrant Health Association, says many African Americans today are unaware of their specific cultural ties to West Africa.

She hopes that will change when before slavery is coming to the Atlanta metro area in the spring of 2023. It will be located in Cobb County near Battery and Truist Park.

Before the museum opens, however, the Before Slavery Museum will host the Sankofa Festival on Sunday, September 25 from 2-6 p.m. at Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna.

The festival will serve to raise funds and publicize the museum. He will also have an overview of the museum.

Twanda Black, host of KISS104.1 FM “Good Morning Gospel”, will host the festival and Dr. Ameena Ali, who acted as a special envoy for UN Women Gambia, will speak.

Snipes said Ali is aware of her West African cultural heritage through oral tradition passed down and can directly trace her ancestry, which is rare for African Americans today without DNA testing.

DJ Samuel Davis, Milkshake Mayfield and the Mayfield Quartet, and the Uhuru Dancers will perform music and dance.

Representatives from the embassies of Ghana and Nigeria will also be present.

Snipes said there will also be a free health check.

VHA is a non-profit organization and is focused “on the health of the whole person mentally, spiritually, emotionally, in every way,” Snipes said.

“‘Sankofa’ means recovering things or value from our knowledge of the past,” Snipes said.

The word is in the Twi language of the Akan people of Ghana.

Snipes said the fact that black Americans are unaware of their cultural roots has an impact on health.

Black people “reclaiming” those roots can lead to more cultural pride and better overall health, as black people are told they actually had a history before slavery, Snipes said.

“[The VHA does] presentations, exhibitions, workshops and addresses all these different parts of being human,” Snipes said. “We realized that African Americans have no idea where they are or where they come from, and it’s a great need for humans – to have an idea of ​​your identity and your place in the world. .

“That’s why the museum was born. It’s called Before Slavery and the Before Slavery museum focuses entirely on the history of the people who came to what is now the United States as slaves, so now we can connect with our heritage, our origins and our history.

The museum will be interactive and immersive, Snipes said. Visitors can get a sense of life in Africa before slavery and colonialism.

Snipes said that walking through the museum, a visitor will see recreations of the pre-slavery and pre-colonial environment.

“For example, one of the first things you see in the walkthrough is a West African village, that’s what we’re going to bring to the festival,” Snipes said.

The narrators will tell stories about life in West Africa, with particular emphasis on the traditions of the five major ethnic groups from which African Americans are drawn, including the Igbo and Mandinka peoples.

Snipes said the museum had been under construction for a decade by an all-volunteer team.

Faculty, staff, and students at Hampton University, Spelman College, Georgia Tech, and the Art Institute of Atlanta have been instrumental designers and funders, among others. in the creation of the museum.

Cobb EMC is one of the festival sponsors.

Snipes studied black history in his spare time for about 35 years. About 12 years ago, she said she had a desire to share the knowledge of black history she discovered with others in her community.

“That’s how the concept of the Before Slavery museum was born,” Snipes said. “I went straight to Ambassador Andrew Young and talked to him about it. He was enthusiastic and encouraging.”

Visitors can learn about domestic animals that existed at the time, libraries in the area, how history was recorded through song and dance, and writing systems, among other cultural aspects of life in West Africa at the museum.

“African Americans are generally said to have been illiterate in their home country or country of origin or had only an oral history,” Snipes said. “The thing is, yes, they had an oral history, but they maintained the story in different ways.

“You’ll be able to see what the average diet was like, the trade, they had international trade, can you imagine? They had whole systems – they had a monetary system, they had government structures – there’s a lot of things that we don’t usually know, but when you come to the Before Slavery museum, not only will you learn these things, but in a way fun and entertaining way. It’s not like sitting down and reading a book.

before slavery website says the story behind the ancestry of African Americans has always been present, but has not been widely shared in one place.

“It’s just my view, but when Africans were brought here as slaves, they were treated and considered like cattle, almost. So there was no interest in preserving their culture. Why would the colonists be interested in preserving the culture of the people they enslaved? And so over time, and as things started to progress and African Americans gained more freedoms in this society, the focus of African Americans shifted to understanding themselves. But the education system, and so on, doesn’t focus on that. So you have to find those things independently,” Snipes said.

Snipes said West African cultural influences are alive in people of African descent throughout the Americas.

“Some of the foods that we consider American, which are part of the American diet, come from West Africa,” she said. “American music – so much has come from the people of West Africa and has been incorporated into American life. America wouldn’t be what it is today without the influences that came from Africa from West.

To attend the Sankofa Festival and get a glimpse of the Before Slavery Museum there with the live performances and speakers, one can purchase a ticket for $40 at beforeslavery.com.

“We seek to help heal lasting trauma that is not talked about. African Americans have lost their connection to their common origin and collective identity, and we are helping people reestablish that connection,” Snipes said.

Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She is the current president of the academic section of the Society of Professional Journalists and former editor of the KSU Sentinel. She enjoys music, reading poetry and non-fiction books, and collecting books and records. She enjoys all kinds of music and reading poetry and non-fiction books.

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