The Sandhills Family Heritage Association started as a personal quest. The founder, Ammie Jenkins, was interested in her own family’s story. She researched how her family progressed from slavery to landownership. As part of her discovery process she interviewed many community elders, and they shared their stories and experiences with her. Through these interviews, Jenkins uncovered incredible themes of strength and resilience as well as critical community issues.
This inspired her to create the SFHA to address social, economic, environmental and cultural issues that negatively impact rural communities. The programs promote ideas like self-sufficiency, land ownership, preserving cultural heritage and education — all while uniting the African-American community members in the Sandhills region. In that spirit, each year SFHA hosts the Sandhills Sankofa Festival. This year, the festival is set for May 20.
Sankofa means “go back and get that which we have lost or forgotten.” The festival is sponsored by both the SFHA and the Spring Lake Recreation Department. Since its founding in 2002, the festival has provided a space annually for the celebration and appreciation of rural African-American culture and heritage.
This is a family-friendly event that features performing arts, educational exhibits, food and entertainment.
The live entertainment at the festival represents the diversity and immense creativity within African-American culture. The headline act is Johnny White and The Elite Band. The group has performed all over the United States and is widely recognized for their powerful vocals and soulful performances.
Puncho, an artist who specializes in blues, will also perform during the festival. The group Shea-Ra Nichi will perform a powerful and educational rendition of African dance and drumming. Mitch Capel will also make an appearance as Gran’ Daddy Junebug, demonstrating the captivating art of storytelling.
In addition to live performances, there will be artists who work in many different forms of media that represent different aspects of African-American culture throughout history. There will be demonstrations of African dancing, drumming, storytelling, fabric art, culinary arts and visual arts. There will also be a variety of vendors, many of which are local small businesses and organizations. This festival is an opportunity to experience, appreciate and share African-American culture in the Sandhills.
There are several other SFHA programs that are active year-round. They fall under five categories that create the acronym HOPE: history and heritage preservation; outreach and community education; protection of land and natural services; and economic development.
Within each category there are several specific ways in which SFHA touches the community. Examples are oral history interviews, the Sandhills Farmers Market accepting EBT Food Stamps, information about sustainable farming practices and vending opportunities at the farmer’s market. These are just a few examples of how SFHA is working to directly touch the lives of African-American community members. These resources and connections improve the immediate quality of life and future for recipients. Furthermore, when individuals succeed, the entire community grows and benefits.
Admission to the Sankofa Festival is free. It takes place May 20 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. It will be held at the Edward Mendoza Municipal Park, which is located at 1770 Little River Rd., in Spring Lake.
For more information, visit: http://sandhillsfamilyheritage.weebly.com/sankofa-festival.html.