Sankofa 2024: My Personal Reflection

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by Jayden Lawrence


Traveling is a beautiful thing. A new backdrop to life tends to relieve the stress that the world brings you, especially with just the right people, and with the right circumstances. Sankofa 2024 brought the opportunity for me to relieve my stress. We were able to enjoy our spring break in Atlanta, Georgia, but I wasn’t confident as I loaded my bags to go to the A. Outside of the pricing scares and the financial situation I struggled with, I worried about my own credibility going on this trip. If I didn’t have Atlanta, what else did I have?

See, I was born in Georgia, four hours away from Atlanta, in Savannah. I heard this quote early in the trip from our Graduate Assistant chaperone that analogizes my situation best: “It’s like saying you’re from Chicago when you’ve only lived in Naperville.” My dilemma was worse, though. Going “home,” I didn’t know what to feel. I moved years ago, at the age of eight. What am I still holding onto?

I found something to clutch onto once I woke up on the busy highway of the ATL in our North Central van. Eight-plus lanes that were so crowded, you could compare it to Chicago streets right before an Ed Sheeran concert. As I woke up, I remembered driving down that same street and the loud, brash, confident person that I used to be.

Now, that person is gone. As I continued the festivities and learning opportunities Sankofa brings, everything felt different. There went the CNN Building, Phillips Arena, and the Georgia Dome. When I stopped to think about it, they left with me, only a little later. They were replaced with the State-Farm and Mercedes-Benz spectacles, just as I had seen students who also replaced me. It was hard walking downtown; I felt distraught by the fact that I could never retrieve the home I lost.

In that distraught state of mind, I discovered quite a bit. Through the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more about my trip to Atlanta on air as there’s so much to unpack. But one thing to mention is that the first radio station to be owned by an African-American was in 1949. Jesse B. Blayton ‘purchased’ the station now known as WERD. Blayton couldn’t buy the station under his own name, but despite that, he obtained it. He followed that up by hiring his son as the Station Manager. The bravery and resilience of the past cannot be overlooked; individuals who were given nothing truly defied expectations and created something.

That explains why the art on the side of buildings is so powerful. Political messages are art that can change the outlook of a community, as well as unite people into a common movement. Realizing how tied to the Civil Rights movement Atlanta truly is, helped me understand myself. Atlanta instilled the activist in me. I figured out that we develop biases in our introduction to new topics.

For example, I met a man named Upendra. He’s a physics major that I met in Atlanta working as a hotel concierge. Understanding his story and feeling his struggles had an impact on my mentality. Born in India, he moved to Detroit. I had the impression of Detroit being the worst town in America, yet he compared Detroit to Chicago, and it was then I realized I’d let the media tell me what was there. Therefore, I let my biases dictate my beliefs. The entirety of this trip for me was a look into myself through my history. The reason I became a journalist was to share the struggles of a common people. Besides, not all was gone from my origins.

Centennial Olympic Park certainly remained as a point of history that will never be erased. Again, I can’t emphasize enough the beautiful art that still canvases the sides of the buildings showcasing powerful messages. Also, the people remain the figures of hospitality that make Georgia…Georgia.

We all have an art. My art is writing. As well, my home is within my writing. Wherever I may be, I now carry my true home with me every day. I’m also still being true to Atlanta that way.

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