Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University Together With
the United Nations Department of Global Communications Presents
Return to the Root: Exploring Racism Through Slavery
Join us for an important virtual conversation about racism and slavery with moderators Mark Fitzgerald Wilson, Executive Director of Zoellner Arts Center and Dr. Terry-Ann Jones, Lehigh University Director of Africana Studies, featuring insight from Rafael Palacios, Artistic Director of Sankofa Danzafro, an Afro-Colombian dance company, with remarks from Maher Nasser, the Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations Department of Global Communications. Return to the Root coincides with the United Nations International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on March 25th. (Photo by Paulina Perez)
Return to the Root: Exploring Racism Through Dance discusses the themes of systemic racism, the vestiges of slavery throughout African diaspora populations, and the possibility of living in a city that embraces and acknowledges people of color. The word “Sankofa” translates “to return to the root.” This concept is deeply prevalent in Palacios’ work, using the past as a lens through which to look at the present and future. The company’s mission “is to question the overall knowledge [and] to build a voice of self-awareness, which will allow us to reveal the ‘epistemologíes’ of the African diaspora in the world. “I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this conversation. Although the bodies of Afro-descendants are no longer being sold into slavery, oppression continues through the appropriation of our knowledge and culture,” says Palacios.
Rafael Palacios is a choreographer and Colombian dancer dedicated to the exploration of Afro-traditional, contemporary and urban dance languages. His experience as a dancer in Africa and Europe has been the basis for the foundation of the Sankofa Company, with which he has created a wide repertoire of works that have been presented in Colombia and other countries such as Jamaica, France, Spain, Canada, Brazil and Burkina Faso. He has developed training processes aimed at teachers and dancers as well as young people and children: National Counselor of Dance and Counselor of Black Communities (2009-2011); Master Teacher of the Training Program for Trainers of the Ministry of Culture in the Pacific region (2007- 2013). Palacios received the National Dance Award of the Ministry of Culture (2008) with the work San Pacho…Blessed!. In 2009, he held an internship with the Company in Burkina Faso, Africa. He was director of the project Steps in the Earth (2010) that received recognition from the UN as Good Practice of Afro-descendant Social Inclusion in Latin America. He was invited as artistic director for the Colombian dance show held in the framework of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena (2012), and was the choreographer for the production of the Cali World Games (2013).
Photo by Sergio Gonzalez Alvarez