I am excited for you all to read the beautiful wisdom from our inspiring client and dear friend Kai Gillespie. A little bit of background about Kai and why she is someone you should know: She currently leads the learning and development strategy at IMT Insurance and first introduced us to the Sankofa Bird while working on a project together. Teresa and I were both struck by the simplicity and the power. Now is a beautiful time for all of us to learn about the Sankofa Bird.
Kai and I have known each other for a number of years. We first met through the Association of Talent Development. I had the pleasure of seeing Kai’s thoughtfulness, humor, wisdom, and candor first hand when she was a student of mine through the Drake Master of Science in Leadership Development. Her passion for helping people discover and own their potential is inspiring. I’ll let Kai take it from here.
When most kids are young, their parents read them bedtime stories. When I was young, my mom and I snuggled and she told me stories of history and culture while we looked at a map hung on my wall. My mother loved to tell me stories about African civilizations and one that was particularly meaningful was the story of the Sankofa bird from a Ghanaian tribe.
The word Sankofa translates to “Go back and get it” and it reminds us that we must look back to get teachings from our past to build our future. As African-American women, descended from slaves, this practice was especially meaningful to my mom and I when I was growing up and it feels meaningful in a different way now. My mother strived to raise me to be a strong woman who used our history as a strength, not an albatross. It is through those lessons that we learn to be stronger, better versions of ourselves. As so many of us pause and think about the lives we have created and this great opportunity to evolve our lives, the time is ripe for Sankofa.
Questions to guide you in a Sankofa-inspired reflection:
What are the stories you heard when you were growing up about work—both the kind of work that was valued and the ways of working?
What were the values that were communicated to you by your family? Remember to think about things they explicitly stated as values, but also things they modeled with their actions.
- How can cultural and familial stories inform how you show up in the world?
- How can you give space for others to reflect on their past as they make decisions?
This weekend, take a Sankofa moment to reflect on what has been to create what will be. We would love to hear what became clearer for you after doing this practice.