ALANA celebrates its 5th annual Sankofa at BCHS

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On Thursday, June 20, students from the Bethlehem Central High School class of 2024 who are members of ALANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Native American & Allies) took part in ALANA’s fifth annual Sankofa. 

ALANA is a student alliance at Bethlehem Central High School created in 1998 to promote cultural awareness and inclusion. Members and advisors of ALANA provide leadership, community service and activism on important issues within the school community. 

Introduced to BCHS by ALANA advisor and school counselor Dr. Lisa Carr in 2020, the rite of Sankofa celebrates an important transition for ALANA seniors. With its roots in Ghana, Sankofa provides ALANA students and their families an opportunity for reflection and celebration ahead of graduation. 

Dr. Carr, who has been the ALANA faculty advisor for 26 years, served as host of the Sankofa, which she described as, “never forgetting our past, honoring our ancestors, and celebrating our future.” The literal translation of the word Sankofa and its symbolism, she said, is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”

The highlight of the Sankofa is a “donning ceremony” where students are presented with a colorful “kente” stole each will wear at their graduation ceremony on June 27.  Kente is known worldwide as a representation of West African culture featuring unique colors and patterns. At the Sankofa, a special family member or trusted friend places the kente stole on the graduate and each are encouraged to express what the student means to them and to their families.

This year, the donning ceremony took on special meaning as fellow ALANA member and current BCHS junior Joy Dzigba, who was born in Ghana and moved to the United States when she was seven, shared her emotional connection to Kente.

“Kente is clothing worn in times of celebration, or simply just to go to an event,” said Dzigba. “I’ve worn kente at weddings like when I was a flower girl for my aunt, birthdays (like my 14th birthday ), church (for special Sundays like Easter and Christmas or just regular Sundays), funerals (like when my aunt passed away and the whole family and church wore black and white kente in celebration and remembrance of her), and any other event you can think of.

“Kente is a powerful symbol of unity and heritage,” said Dzigba. “As I stand up here in my very own kente cloth, carefully sewn by my aunties living in Ghana, I can proudly say I understand the power behind Kente and all that it has brung, is bringing, and will continue to bring to everyone who is aware of it.”

Teachers, staff and administrators — including Superintendent Jody Monroe — were joined by parents and former ALANA members to celebrate the ALANA graduates.

Caldonia Dickerson, a 2021 BC grad and current Howard University student,  performed a beautiful version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the Sankofa. A delicious dinner was catered by Allie B’s Cozy Kitchen in Albany. A lovely keepsake program was designed by ALANA president Rurika Suzuki.

This year’s ALANA graduates include:

  • Stella Apuzzi
  • Oona Ko Knight
  • Dhara Patel
  • Rurika Suzuki
  • Jevonni Taylor

“On a regular basis, I have the pleasure of working with some of the most talented students in our district. The ALANA students are committed to impact change and help make the world a better place,” said Dr. Carr. “They also understand the value of a group and the power of the student voice. ALANA provides a diverse group of students a brave and safe space to share their thoughts, concerns, hopes, and dreams.”

In 2024-25, the ALANA student leadership team will include Johanna Radcliffe, Joy Dzigba, Avani Dixit and Lulula Umar. BCHS students interested in joining ALANA can contact Dr. Carr in the Counseling Center.