Sankofa Festival : A Celebration of African American Literature and Culture

About the Sankofa Festival

In 2016, the Oak Bluffs Public Library celebrated the first week of August with an African American Literature and Culture Festival in honor of the Oak Bluffs Power of Place permanent exhibit in the The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The next year, the library received a sizable donation of African American research resources from a local scholar, which soon became part of our African American collection.

Now an annual tradition, the celebration – now called the Sankofa* Festival – is an important part of the library’s commitment to the diversity and inclusion which helped Oak Bluffs stand out as a historic place of belonging for African Americans. The Oak Bluffs Public Library hosts speakers, writers, scholars, artists and performers during the first weekend in August each year to shine a light on the significant Black literature and culture, which are interwoven into the tapestry of Oak Bluffs history.

*The Sankofa bird is a symbol of the Akan people of West Africa. The bird, which looks back on itself, means “it is not taboo to go back and reclaim what you left behind”. Because of its significance as an African symbol which teaches that we must go back to our past to move forward, was suggested that the library use the Sankofa bird to designate its African American collection. It was such a fitting concept, that the library renamed its annual festival to the Sankofa Festival in late 2018.


Tuesday, August 17

African-American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard4:30 – 5:45pm
Join the famous walking tour of the Highlands to learn about the history of African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard.

Space is very limited for this free tour, so registration is required. Please call (508) 693-9433 and ask for Allyson, or email to register. Only two slots per registrant, please.

Saturdays in August

Project Illuminate : Oral History Recording Studio10 – 12pm
The Oral History Recording Studio is where we archive your Oak Bluffs stories. This is your chance to tell us your story for preservation in the historic record! We are particularly interested in making sure we preserve stories that have never been told before.

If you’ve lived in or visited Oak Bluffs for an important part of your life but don’t know how to talk about it, don’t worry! Our staff will provide you some ideas about how to tell your story.

The recording studio is open to people of all ages with any Oak Bluffs story. Please call (508) 693-9433 or email to sign up for a 30-minute slot.


10:30am – 12pm ~ Sisters in Stitches Joined by the Cloth Quilt Guild
Discussion & Demonstration
1 – 2pm ~ Valerie Mosley, CEO Valmo Ventures & Global Wealth Strategist
2 – 3pm ~ Kathleen McGhee Anderson, television & film writer and producer; literary rebel
3 – 4pm ~ Skip Finley, broadcaster & local history writer
4 – 5pm ~ Roundtable Discussion with Kathleen, Skip & Others
6:30 – 9:30pm ~ Opening Reception & Celebration featuring the Photography of Dena Porter & Quilts by Sisters in Stitches Joined by the Cloth

10 – 11am ~ Elaine Weintraub, cofounder and research historian of the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard
11am – 12pm ~ Melina Mengal, author of The Vast Wonder of the World:
Biologist Ernest Everett Just
1 – 2pm ~ Kahina Van Dyke, banking industry veteran & cryptocurrency expert
2 – 3pm ~ Bob Hayden, African-American History Pioneer
3 – 4pm ~ Thelma Johnson, Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) president, MV Branch





Thursday, August 2

Paris Noir | 6 – 8pm
Special film screening of documentary about African Americans in Paris with Q&A by film producer

Friday, August 3

Special Event at the Tabernacle : Monarchs and dignitaries from Africa and Beyond | 1 – 4pm
Meet African royalty, shop the market and listen to live music

Opening Gala | 6 – 9pm
Featuring art by James Jennings, Jordan Burnham, Suesan Stovall, and live music by Papa J.

Saturday, August 4

Opening Remarks | 10am
Welcome by Culture Ambassador James Jennings

Hugh Price | 10 – 11am
This African-American Life book talk

LaShonda Katrice Barnett | 11 – 12pm
Book talk

Light Fare | 12 – 1pm

Dr. Cheryl Finley | 1 – 2pm
My Soul Has Grown Deep author talk and book signing

Feminism and African American Art roundtable discussion | 2 – 3pm
LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Dr. Cheryl Finley, and Samantha CC

Zack Zachary | 3 – 4pm
Poet, storyteller, visionary & activist

Samantha CC & Erica Chamblee | 4 – 5pm
Multimedia Performance



2016 African American Festival poster