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Oak Leaves

November 17, 2017

Speakers Discuss Journey towards Racial Righteousness


Avis McGovern 



The Board of Interfaiths held a "Sankofa Journey" VIA on Monday, Nov. 6, in the upper Jo Young Switzer Center. Students, faculty and staff attended to hear Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press and communications, and Josh Brockway, director of spiritual life and discipleship, speak on behalf of the Church of the Brethren as they presented their words and pictures of the Sankofa journey.

In 2007, the Church of the Brethren adopted the word "Sankofa," which originated from West Africa and translates to "It is not too taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot." The symbol is a bird protecting its egg. A Sankofa journey is a 72-hour spiritual trip in which a person of white color is paired with a person of black color to experience a different perspective on the social and cultural history of African Americans. The Sankofa journey was created to encourage the diversity of the Anglican Covenant Church that began only 20 years ago.

The journey began in Chicago where a group of 20-30 people headed down South. Each person was randomly provided a partner of a different color. MacFadden’s partner had been on the journey three times prior to pairing with her. The group visits Montgomery, Jackson, Selma, Jersey and Memphis.

While on the bus, MacFadden and her partner spoke and studied issues, past and present, that focused on race. "It was an intense time of watching, thinking, feeling, learning and realizing,” she said. MacFadden was adopted at the age of one from Korea and recently completed a master's thesis on race that focuses on international adoption. MacFadden added: “I think what I found is that this just accompanied me on the journey to grow interest on identity and race.

“The reality is that I’m not that unusual anymore," she continued. "Now, as we know people who are white are going to be in a minority.”

Brockway, a MU alum from 2001 who serves as a historian and advocate for the Congressional Life Ministry, chose to go on a Sankofa journey for the history. He recalled getting to the church where the four black schoolgirls were killed by a bomb in 1963, and was able to go to the exact place in the church where the bomb went off.

“When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I wanted to mark off the area for a memorial and witness to the girls,” he said." It is now a common area being used by the congregation as a powder room once again.

Brockway was also able to visit the Kelly Ingram Park where the memorial stands for students and children began a nonviolent protest for their civil rights through the city.

Students and other attendees were able to ask questions and make comments after the presentation, courtesy of the three open mics in front of the seating. Ava McVey, a first year student at MU commented, “Although I am white, I have personal connections with racism affecting my family.” She continued saying, “One thing that was emphasized during the Sankofa presentation was unity between different people of different races. That really stuck with me.”

Those who are interested can go to the Evangelical Covenant Church website to learn more about the Sankofa journey. There are two a year, usually around February and July, and start in Chicago. If you don’t bring a partner, you have to pay for your random partner’s fee.