Sankofa: Reaching Back & Moving Forward

by Jasolyn Harris, LCSW, M.Div.

Imagine seeing a beautiful bird flying forward, while looking backward. Literally pause for a moment, close your eyes, and attempt to visualize this. You are shocked, maybe even perplexed seeing this mystical creature flying bizarrely, and yet you see something else peculiar going on. Not only is this mysterious bird flying forward while looking backward, but it is also carrying a precious egg in its mouth that symbolizes the future.  This beautiful, mystical, mysterious bird is called “Sankofa” and it is one of the many Adinkra symbols of the Akan people of West Africa. Sankofa is expressed in the Akan language as “se wo were fi na wasan kofa a yenki” which is translated to mean, “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” In other words, looking back while simultaneously flying towards our future is not unthinkable, yet necessary so we can go back and get what is in danger of being left in our past. 

I grew up in the Black Missionary Baptist Church tradition, shaped by the institution and beliefs of white Western Christianity that strongly encouraged all of us to forget what is behind us and strain toward what is ahead. We were taught to forgive and forget, especially any trauma inflicted upon us from someone in our household family or church family.  In my studies at Divinity school and experiences with various colleagues of different Christian traditions, I learned that the Black Missionary Baptist Church wasn’t the only denomination being taught flawed belief systems. Many Christian church traditions all over the world have been formed by white Western Christian beliefs that contradict the essence and symbol of the Sankofa.  Westernized Christianity tells us in more ways than one, it is in fact taboo to go back into our past and there is great risk in looking back into what we left behind. 

This is precisely why the Hush Harbors are essential to the journey of a Liberating Church. Black enslaved persons would not and could not forget their lived realities which were both various rich African traditions and the immense problem of slavery. Black enslaved persons lives were at risk if they were to show the fullness of who they were and the richness of their traditions so they had to carve out space where they could remember what they were forced to leave behind. So they would risk their lives on those days they would travel deep into the forest and worship together unapologetically. It was a place and space they could check in with one another, combine their spiritual practices and somehow, someway make it through one more day of an impossible reality. Black enslaved persons refused to forget and somehow envisioned us in the future possibilities.

Unfortunately, the Christian church today as a whole, does not serve as a liberating space for many people, people on the margins of society, and particularly not for queer and trans people of color. Historically and currently, the Christian church tradition nearly worldwide  has adopted problematic ways of interpreting the bible (rooted in a Westernized Christian perspective) which has literally convinced many parents, siblings, extended family, friends, and church communities to abandon, leave behind, and forget a vital group of people necessary for the future of the church. The Sankofa can certainly serve as a symbol to remind the church that our collective liberation can be found through an exploration of what our future has the possibility to hold when we go back and get what we forgot about our past. 

The reality is, particularly for many Black people and more specifically Black Christians, we are unaware of our past ancestry, specifically as it relates to Black Queer people and the role we played spiritually in our communities. This adds a more complex layer to the context of the Sankofa symbol and its relation to Liberating Church. How can one remember, and/or go back and get something they didn’t know they left behind? For example, in the Dagaaba tribe of the modern region of Burkina Faso, they see LGBTQIAA+ people as “…having the ability to intercede between the people…as a type of gatekeeper who has direct contact with the Divine.” As a recently Black queer femme Pastor, I discovered this vital ancestral knowledge after I graduated with my Masters in Divinity from Duke University. What a beautiful piece of information to go back and get from the past while simultaneously flying towards the future in the thicks of the present day as a church liberator! 

As we continue to reflect on the symbol of the Sankofa in relation to the Hush Harbors, liberating church, especially for queer and trans people of color it is a vital notion for the church to not only continue contemplating what it means to be in a continual cycle of transformation, but also how we can begin to transfigure. When Jesus took James, Peter and John to the top of a mountain to pray, Jesus revealed to them Jesus’ self as “a complete change or form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.” Jesus transfigured Jesus’ self quite possibly to show James, Peter and John a more beautiful future while simultaneously allowing them to see an import part of the past (Elijah and Moses’ presence) and a present reality that was difficult to fully take in (Jesus’ most beautiful state in which they never spike of to anyone).  Liberating churches through the collective memory and tangible actions of the Hush Harbors in connection to the symbol of the Sankofa helps us to see particularly queer and trans people of color as the link towards a future that remembers to go back and get what we forgot.

Questions:

  1. What are we at risk of losing within our rich African faith roots? What must we “reach back and get” from our ancestors?
  2. What is the danger of forgetting about the past contributions of queer and trans people of color in the context of Liberating Church? What are some ways queer and trans people of color are contributing to the present liberation of church?
  3. What fears or worries come up as you reflect on queer and trans people of color and the problematic history of the Christian church past, present and future?
  4. What about the symbol of the Sankofa gives you hope for the Liberating Church, including how it pertains to queer and trans people of color?

3 thoughts on “Sankofa: Reaching Back & Moving Forward”

  1. Lorella Rouster says:

    I am so sorry that in your theological studies you seem not to have encountered the true Jesus, the true Liberator. Yet He is so accessible to all. He is revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and He transforms all who come to Him. Of course, we all have to come to Him on His terms, not our own, because He is the Creator, the Lord. Are you willing to come to Him on His terms? Are you willing to let Him change you from the inside out? As much as I love the church, no church is “liberating.” Only Jesus is. Jesus on His terms.

  2. Jasolyn Harris says:

    Thanks for your comments Lorella, and thanks for reading the article! To clarify, I wasn’t saying I didn’t experience the true Liberating Jesus during divinity school. In fact, a re-discovery of the true Liberating Jesus is the reason I got through the difficult experience. I was saying what we were taught overall was limiting (at best) as it pertains to the black queer experience. Especially when looking back into our history and the roll we played traditionally in our communities as spiritual leaders. (That is the knowledge I discovered outside of Divinity School). It was just one historic example of several to share. It becomes extremely difficult to “accept Jesus on Jesus’ terms” when the very persons proclaiming that great name are simultaneously rebuking you, chastising you, ostracizing you in that same name. This article is speaking mostly to the overall black queer experience with the church and how the church represents Jesus. I personally am a Pastor of a Christian church and am most certainly a follower and believer of Christ. As a black queer Pastor I have a particular lens and insight as it relates to black queer persons and the trauma experienced through the church and the flawed, reckless ways the church has represented Jesus and excluded others in the same breath.This article mostly speaks to this reality. Thank you for sharing your series of questions. Were you able to look at the questions proposed in this article?

  3. RFID says:

    Hey,

    I want to share some extremely significant information that has been going throughout the internet regarding our future security.

    We are on the horizon of a future of a one-world cashless money society where we will be mandated to have an RFID chip placed in our body. This microchip will contain all of our data and we will lose much more of our privacy due to the tracking power.

    Bigger news than this, did you hear that this was foretold almost two thousand years in the past by a man named Jesus Christ? How could this be? Keep reading… This may be the most important thing you will ever read.

    …”And he(the false prophet) causes everyone— the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the slaves— that they should give them a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and that no one should be able to buy or to sell except the one having the mark: the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let the one having understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. And his number is six-hundred sixty six” (Revelation 13:16-18 DLNT)…

    Speaking on the final times, this can only be speaking of a cashless money society, which has yet to occur, but we are heading towards. Why? Because we could still buy or sell without taking the mark of the beast between each other if tangible money was still around. It logically deduces itself to this end.

    The mark can not be something spiritual, because the word references two different physical places. If it was spiritual, it would just say in the forehead.

    This is where it really starts to come together. It is shocking how on target the holy scriptures are in regards to this RFID microchip. Here are the details from a person named Carl Sanders who labored with a crew of engineers to help produce the RFID chip in the 90’s.

    Carl Sanders attended seventeen New World Order conferences with heads of state officials such as Henry Kissinger and Bob Gates of the C.I.A. to talk about their agenda on how to bring forth this one-world system. The government commissioned Mr. Sanders to design a microchip for identifying and controlling the peoples of the world-a microchip that would be placed under the skin with a hypodermic needle(a fast, convenient procedure that would be gradually received by society).

    Mr. Sanders, with a group of engineers behind him, with US grant monies provided by US tax dollars, took on this assignment and designed a chip that’s powered by a lithium battery, rechargeable through the temperature fluctuations in our skin. Without the understanding of the holy Bible (Carl Sanders was not a believer at the time), these men spent one-and-a-half-million dollars gathering data on the best and most convenient spot to have the microchip inserted.

    Guess what? These researchers found that the forehead and the back of the hand(the two locations Revelation says the mark will be received) are not just the most convenient spots, but are also the only viable places for constant, consistent temperature changes within the skin to recharge the lithium battery. The microchip is about seven millimeters in length, .75 millimeters in diameter, about the size of a grain of rice. It is capable of containing pages of data you. All of your standard records, work records, crime records, health data, and financial records will be stored on this microchip.

    Mr. Sanders believes that this chip, which he remorsefully helped invent, is the “beast’s mark” spoken about in Revelation 13:16-18. The Greek word for “mark” is “charagma,” which is defined as a “scratch or etching.” Additionally it is fascinating to note that the number 666 is actually a word in the original Greek language. This word being “chi xi stigma,” with the end part, “stigma,” additionally meaning “to stick or prick. Carl believes that is alluding to the usage of a hypodermic needle being poked in a person to insert the RFID microchip.”

    Carl Sanders asked a doctor what would occur if the lithium contained within the chip was exposed in the human body. The medical doctor answered by saying a terrible sore would manifest in that spot. Here is what the scriptures of Revelation 16:2 says:

    “And the first went and poured out his bowl into the land— and a bad and evil sore came upon the people having the mark of the beast and the ones giving worship to his image” (Revelation 16:2 DLNT).

    Scripture tells us that we cannot buy or sell without receiving the mark, or the number of its name. The number being identified as 666. God’s word us to count the number 666. How can we calculate 666?

    This is where it gets really interesting. Calculating the number 666 has been long debated throughout the past, but has now been unveiled in these last times by the revelation of God. What you will read establishes itself with the Bible the true interpretation to calculate 666.

    Throughout God’s Holy Scriptures, God uses the number three for confirmation. Below are a some examples:

    “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7 NKJV).

    “and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4 NKJV).

    “…Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8 NKJV).

    What is interesting is the the mark is revealed in detail in three separate verses (Revelation 13:16,17,18), and each verse lists 3 different examples of the given topic. The last 3 being the number six being used 3 times in a row. This leads to the mystery to solving how to calculate the number 666.

    What does it mean to count 666? It means to add up. How may we add up 666? Recall back to my earlier key point about God confirming in 3’s. Now logically, what would be the most reasonable way to count the number 666? To count it equally in threes based off the number. We cannot count it equally as 600+60+6, this would also bring us back to the beginning. We cannot count it as 600+600+600, or 60+60+60, because there are no zeroes in between or at the end of 666. The only logical option is 6+6+6=18. What is interesting is that the verse that reveals for us to count the number itself is verse 18, being the third verse out of 3 verses that describe the mark. What is 18 divided by 3? 6. So 3×6=18, or 6+6+6=18.

    Another fascinating point is that the two other possible combinations (making a total of three possible combinations) for moving the “+” symbol in between the 6’s are 66+6=72, and 6+66=72. Count up both 72’s together and you get 144. Why the number 144 is interesting is because the verse following Revelation 13:18 is the first time in the Holy Bible where the 144,000 are being mentioned in detail:

    “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads…” (Revelation 14:1).

    If we add up all three numbers by counting 666 by moving the “+” symbol around in all three possible combinations, we would get 72+72+18=162. What is fascinating concerning the number 162, is, if you divide 144,000 by 162, you get 888. The name for Jesus in Greek gematria adds up to 888. The New Testament was written in the Greek language. Revelation 14:1 not only mentions the 144,000, but also the Lamb of God being Jesus Christ.

    Now what is interesting about the number for Jesus, 888, is that if you apply this same formula, you get 8+8+8=24. Why the number 24? Revelation chapter 4 tells us there are 24 elders seated around the throne of God. This is the same throne where Jesus sits:

    “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Revelation 4:2-4).

    Now if you take 8+8+8=24, and 8+88=96, and 88+8=96, you get 24+96+96=216. Take 144,000 divided by 216 and you get 666. Consider that this was the same method to get the value 162 out of counting 666 that brought about the quantity 888 when dividing 144,000 by 162. It is perpetual.

    With utilizing the same formula of counting by including the plus symbol in between the numbers, why do all these numbers relate in such a manner?

    Another fascinating factor to note is that if you add up all the numbers from 1 to 36, it totals 666. The number 36, as in three sixes? Might this be a hint that we must add up three sixes as opposed to perceiving the number as six-hundred sixty six?

    So what might this mean? We know in this world we’re identified by numbers in various forms. Starting from our birth certificate to our social security card, also with our drivers license, being identified founded on a system of ruler ship. So it is conceivable that this RFID chip will incorporate a new identification that has a complete total of 18 characters.

    Might this be the identification of the beast, the number of its name? The one-world beast system that is recognized by 18 characters? This might fit the scriptures that speaks of a mark that we must have to buy or sell in our right hand or forehead, and that it additionally includes the number of the beast, throughout a future cashless money society.

    Go to: https://biblefreedom.com to see all the proof!

    The scriptures warns us in the end times that a false prophet will stand up doing miraculous signs deceiving many to obtain this mark:

    “Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image” (Revelation 19:20).

    Whatever it takes, DO NOT RECEIVE IT!

    “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).

    We’re dwelling in very prophetic times with major Biblical prophecies being fulfilled. When Donald Trump acknowledged Jerusalem as capital of Israel on December 6th of ’17, this was a large step to bring about the Third Temple foretold in the the scriptures.

    The scriptures warns us that the Antichrist will seat himself in this temple:

    “…and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

    Inside the Islamic religion, there is a person called the Mahdi, known as their messiah who they’re eagerly waiting to be revealed. There are many testimonies from individuals on-line who consider this man will be Barack Obama who is to be the biblical Antichrist. I have had unusual dreams concerning him. He got on stage proclaiming himself to be a follower of Jesus with no affiliation to the Muslim faith, but was later revealed by his circle of relatives that he certainly is a devout Muslim.

    His actual birth name is said to be Barry Soetoro, and he had his name changed to Barack Obama. But why?

    Jesus says, “And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven'” (Luke 10:18).

    In Hebrew, the word “Barack” means “lighting”, and the usage of “Bama” (Strongs Hebrew word 1116) is used to mean the “heights” of heaven.

    The day after the election of Barack Obama (11/04/08), the triumphing choose three lotto numbers in Illinois (Obama’s domestic state) for 11/5/08 were 666.

    Obama had been U.S. senator for the state of Illinois, and his zip code was 60606.

    Regardless, whoever seats themselves in the future Third Temple that is to be built in Jerusalem, declaring themselves to be God WILL BE THE ANTICHRIST. DO NOT BE DECEIVED.

    Why do we need Jesus?

    “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 2:23).

    “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

    Our good works cannot save us from our sins. If we step in front of a judge, being guilty for breaking the law, the judge will not judge us by the good that we’ve carried out, rather the crimes we have committed. If we as fallen humanity, created in God’s image, pose this kind of moral justice, how much more a perfect, righteous, and Holy God?

    God has brought down to us His ethical regulation’s by way of the ten commandments received by Moses at Mt. Siani. These legal guidelines were not given so we may be justified, however in order that we may see the need for the saviour. They’re the mirror of God’s character of what He has put in each of us, with our conscious bearing witness that we all know that it’s wrong to steal, lie, dishonor our mother and father, and son on.

    We can try to comply with all the moral laws of the 10 commandments, however we will by no means catch up to them to be justified before a Holy God. That same word of the law given to Moses became flesh over 2000 years ago within the body of Jesus Christ. He was brought forth to be our justification by perfectly fulfilling the law, living a sinless life that only God could accomplish.

    The space between us and the law of God can in no way be reconciled by our very own merit, however the arm of Jesus is stretched out by the grace and mercy of God. And if we’re to seize hold of, by means of faith in Him, He will pull us forward being the one to justify us. As inside the court of law, if someone steps in and pays your debt, even though you are guilty, the judge can do what is legal and just and set you free. This is what Jesus did almost 2000 years ago on the cross. It was a legal transaction being fulfilled within the spiritual realm by the shedding of His blood, with His last words being, “…It is finished!…” (John 19:30).

    So why did Jesus have to die for us?

    Because God is Holy and just, the wrath that we deserve could not be brushed away. Through the perfect righteousness and justice of God’s character, it ought to be dealt with, it must be quenched and satisfied.

    For God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). This is why in Isaiah chapter 53, the place it speaks of the coming Messiah and His soul being a sacrifice for our sins, why it says it satisfied God to crush His only begotten Son.

    That is due to the fact the wrath that we deserve was justified by being poured out upon His Son. For if it was poured out upon us who have earned it, we would all die and go to hell. God created a means of escape by pouring it out on His Son who’s soul could not stay in Hades, but was raised and seated at the right hand of God in power.

    So now when we put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), God no longer looks at the man or woman who deserves His wrath, but the glorious image of His perfect Son dwelling in us, justifying us as if we received the wrath we deserve, making a means of escape from the curse of death.

    Now what we ought to do is turn from our sins and believe in the savior, confessing and turning from our sins. This is not only a head knowledge of believing in Jesus, butrather receiving His words, taking them to heart. Where we no longer live to practice sin, but turn from our sins and exercise righteousness:

    “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

    By doing so we will become transformed into the image of God by faith in His Son Christ Jesus Who’s willing to provide the Holy Spirit to whoever ask of Him:

    “Most assuredly, I(Jesus) say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:5-6).

    “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9).

    So what are you waiting for? Our Father in heaven only desires the best for us, restoring everything this world has stolen from us. This is what it means to be “holy”. To be made whole.

    He’s ready to hear from you. That God given tongue to speak language, by faith, pray to Him, ask Him to forgive you by confessing to Him your sins and be willing to forsake them; that you receive the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross, and that you want His Holy Spirit dwelling inside you transforming you into a child of the living God.

    Jesus says, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him(the Holy Spirit) will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

    Did you realize that Jesus spoke more about hell than anybody else in the word of God, even more than He spoke about heaven?! For this very purpose He came to die for us, to rescue us from this place that we earned by our sins.

    He describes hell as a real place where,

    “Their worm does not die
    And the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44).

    And where,

    “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” (Luke 13:28).

    Jesus tells us who to fear,

    “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

    “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’

    Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’

    And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.'” (Revelation 21:1-8).

    Out of all of the world religions, how can we make sure the Bible got it all right? The scientific facts has established and continues to support that the universe once had a starting point wherein space, time and matter were created. Many know this as the big bang.

    “The non-biblical religions tell us that god or god’s create within space and time that eternally exist. The Bible stands alone and says that time and space don’t exist until God creates the universe.” – Astronomer(Phd) Hugh Ross

    The Bible not only got it all correct that space, time and matter all came into existence at the start of the universe, it additionally states in 7 distinct scriptures that the universe is expanding thousands of years before scientists learned these things.

    Did you know that the actual Noah’s Ark was discovered where God’s holy word instructed us it’d be with the correct dimensions? As well as proof for the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Exodus account of the Red Sea crossing?

    The Bible is the most translated and read historical document in the history of the world, packed with predictive prophecies, matching what we find inside the book of nature. Wouldn’t you expect God’s word to be so?

    This data and more can all be found here: https://biblefreedom.com

    Jesus is calling you!

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