In 2022, Sankofa Impact was proud to organize, facilitate, and lead the CHOOSE180 staff and Seattle Seahawks football team on our Pilgrimage to the South. Recently, Tascha Johnson, CHOOSE 180 Associate Executive Director, shared her experience.

Only a few short years ago, a global pandemic swept the globe, taking millions of lives. Many folks quarantined, communities were isolated from one another, and toilet paper somehow became a commodity. We, the survivors, feel the effects of the pandemic every day through shifts in our careers, strains on mental health, and chronic illness. Like many others, I live with long COVID. Social distancing—a term most of us had never heard before—became a part of our modern reality. Yes, it has been a tough time.

In May 2020, George Floyd was brutally murdered at the hands of Minneapolis police. The heinous act was caught on video by several onlookers, some of whom were attempting to intervene and help. The videos of this moment, coupled with the unrest of being socially isolated for months, ignited a movement that drove people into the streets, demanding change. My own mother lived through the Civil Rights era in Indianapolis and she told me that she had never seen anything like the uprising of 2020. The movement wasn’t only happening on American soil. It was happening around the world.

People could be heard yelling, “Never! Never again can we go back to the way things were!” And yet…here we are…four short and also very long years later, still sorting through and processing the events of 2020. The movement and pandemic are very firmly in the past tense because we humans have short memories. As if it all occurred long ago. This is often how folks feel about history. The past is passed.

In November 2022, CHOOSE180 had an opportunity to take a trip to the American South. Just as the world was working its way, “back to normal,” our staff had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage with the leadership of Sankofa Impact, a Seattle-based organization that focuses on place-based learning, intentionally centering the stories of the Black American freedom struggle in the South. The trip was of importance for me because having an understanding that we have made progress, though it may not seem like it, is a reminder of the sacrifices and struggle for freedom that so many have made. It brought history alive.

Having an opportunity to experience the South in a way that I never thought would be possible was a journey through time that I will never forget. Hearing firsthand accounts from Civil Rights foot soldiers as they recounted their experiences from the movement was so powerful. They are still here and a living testament that the fight for human rights in the 60’s is actually quite recent. And meeting current activists fighting against white supremacy and oppression empowered us to connect experiences of the past with the present, forming a collective sense of history. 

Learning from our past helps to inform what we do and who we are in our present. And who we are now informs and transforms our future.

Looking back at our history, it is clear that millions of people, some known, most of them unknown, have made tremendous strides toward our collective liberation. We, the survivors, have many more steps to go. I was not around during the Civil Rights era, but I am here now. I am a part of this movement and continue the march alongside my mother, the folks we met on our pilgrimage trip, Sankofa Impact, young people involved in CHOOSE180 programming, my trusted colleagues, and all those committed to justice and liberation.

Yes, it has been a tough time. This is why we must all join in unison to, “say it loud,” “that [we] ain’t gonna let nobody turn us ’round,” and despite setbacks, “keep our eyes on the prize,” because, “we shall not be moved,” and know know in our hearts that, “a change is gonna come.” Oh, yes it will.