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'Rebuilding the Block' Culminates With Sankofa Awards



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By Sarah Geegan

The S.T. Roach Community Conversations series, "Rebuilding the Block," will conclude its seven-month sequence on Father's Day weekend by honoring outstanding men in the community.

The Sankofa Awards, honoring African-American men who have demonstrated excellence in the categories of service, social and environmental justice, scholarship, philanthropy, creativity and entrepreneurship, will provide a symbolic end to the series that began in December 2011. Consisting of monthly public forums led by UK experts at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, the series focused on the theme of African-American males.

Frank X Walker, associate professor in the Department of English and the African American and Africana Studies Program, led the effort to develop the program.

"As we close out the season with an overarching theme to remember, it's important to also remember that even with so many negative images and caricatures of African-American men on the news, there are still good black men of every age who were raised right and who do great things in our communities every day," Walker said. "That is why we are closing out the series with an awards program called the Sankofa Awards."

"Sankofa" can be translated three different ways: it can represent the word in the Akan language of Ghana that translates to "go back and get it," the Asante Adinkra symbols of a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back, or of a stylized heart shape, Walker said. It is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi," which translates to "it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten."

As the series aims to help strengthen UK's relationship with the East Lexington community, the African American and Africana Studies Program added new partnerships with community organizations such as The Fayette County Fatherhood Initiative and Phi Beta Sigma fraternity's graduate chapter, in order to close the series with the Sankofa Awards.

"These two organizations are helping to 'rebuild the block' in the east end, proving that it's always worth going back and claiming things we may have forgotten," Walker said.

Immensely pleased with the turnouts that the forums drew throughout the series, Walker said that he is optimistic for next year as well.

"We not only plan to continue the series but we hope to improve on them by broadening our reach and finding a way to link the series to our entire year's programs that include the Carter G. Woodson lecture series and the Black Women's Conference," Walker said.

The experts who lectured throughout the series include: Walker; Arnold Farr, Martin Luther King, Jr. Cultural Center scholar-in-residence; Vershawn Young, professor of African American studies and English; Lynda Brown-Wright, professor of educational and counseling psychology;  Jai Gilliam, UK College of Medicine alumnus and physician specializing in pediatrics and internal medicine at Baptist Internal Medicine and Pediatrics; Melynda J. Price, professor in the UK College of Law; and Jakobi Williams, UK professor of history. Each expert presented a different perspective of issues relevant to black men, ranging from health to law, and history to psychology.

Walker said that the Sankofa Awards will be a fitting end to the series of distinguished lecturers and the important relationship-building with the east-end community.

"Friday, we not only remember that there are exemplary men in our community," Walker said. "We honor them."  

The awards will take place at 7 p.m., on Friday, June 15 in the UK College of Law Courtroom.