The Washington Sankofa room of Witherspoon was packed full of children and organizations as they energetically anticipated the start of Heritage Day Saturday. This day was meant to be a day of empowerment and celebration as children learned of their ancestry and how their ancestry relates to life today. It was also a day of honor, as everyone was encouraged to respect themselves, others and their past. Although the day was full of learning, the children never stopped having fun. They spent the day in 30 minute interval workshops where they engaged in many different activities that added to their knowledge and growth.
The workshops were each run by the different organizations that participated in Heritage Day which included; the girls track team, College of Humanities and Social Sciences-Multicultural Association for Students also known as CHASS-MAS, African Student Union (ASU), African American Design Student Association (AADSA), DanceVisions, Black Finesse, Commercial Break, African American Textile Society (AATS), National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), and other volunteers. At the end of the day the children showed what they learned during the program in the segment “Showtime.” As the children bravely took the stage the whole audience was captivated by the talent, confidence and willingness the children embodied.
The first group to take the stage was the track group. The children in this group learned the importance of stretching before engaging in strenuous activities. They also learned how to properly execute a three point stance and a relay race was provided after the events of the day. Following this AADSA and AATS participants displayed their arts and crafts projects to the audience. This workshop provided the children with a new side to art that they may not have been aware of otherwise. “They were exposed to a culture where the value lies in the craft and in the nature. The beads [in the necklaces] show the value, unlike in the U.S. where the value lies in gold and diamonds,” said Brittany Davis a senior in Industrial Design.
After their presentation Black Finesse, DanceVisions, Commercial Break, ASU and NPHC participants walked the cat walk and performed the new dances and steps they learned for the rest of the audience. Lastly, Toni Thorpe, CHASS-MAS, and some of the student participants shared the story of Sankofa. The Sankofa story reiterated the message of the day, “remember who you are and do not let anyone else define you.”
When asked how she felt about the story, senior Iwinosa Idahor who majors in middle grades education said, “They took a kid, friendly approach to tell a very important message. It was very effective. The children enjoyed it and understood the gist of it.”
At the end of the day, the room was filled with smiles and a sense of pride. One of the students, Chris Hodge an attendee of Daniels Middle School said he enjoyed himself and “learned new steps and how to be together in unity.” Not only did the students enjoy themselves, but so did the volunteers. “It was great to work with the kids and see how excited they were. I think all the kids enjoyed themselves and I enjoyed working with them,” said Charisse James, a senior double majoring in psychology and sociology. It seems like Heritage Day was a great success for all of the participants and everyone left feeling uplifted in some kind of way.