Recognizing the need to counter the (mis) education about Africa that has permeated U.S. society and education, some African Americans have incorporated programs that provide Black youth with opportunities to learn about African cultures and to have first-hand experiences within the continent (Wilcox, 1998; Wilcox, 1997). This dissertation critically analyzes the life stories of five board members, eleven scholar alumni, and two parents of scholar alumni associated with the target case of Sankofa for Kids (SFK), a community-based African diasporic organization founded in pre-Hurricane-Katrina New Orleans. The research explores the ways in which participants discuss traveling to Africa in the context of their life stories. More specifically, the study attempts to understand the ways in which African Americans who participated with SFK conceptualize their African diasporic travel within a historical, social, and educational context that has consistently perpetuated stereotypical and racist understandings of Africa and African people.
Designed to elicit critical life stories embedded in a case study, the main data collection methods utilized were semi-structured and life story interviews and surveys. In addition, written documentation and archival information were reviewed. The data include thirty-one interviews and eleven surveys. This research lies at the nexus of numerous facets of identity—racial and cultural as well as local, national, and global. The data are analyzed within the conceptual frameworks of critical race theory, ethnography of diaspora, and rooted cosmopolitanism.
The study found that the participants negotiated their racial, ethnic, national, religious, gender, and language identities when reflecting upon their African diasporic experiences. It also found that familial, community, church, and kinship relationships were central to the lives of the participants and profoundly helped shape their worldviews. In addition, education (in the broadest sense) played a vital role in participants' experience of youths as educators, their perceptions of U.S. and African views of education, the importance youths attached to teachers, and their perception of (mis)education as a perpetuator of stereotypes about Africa and African people. The findings, along with the two life story excerpts that are included, highlight the importance of community- and school-district-based African diasporic programs in New Orleans and in the lives of African Americans.