Oakton College hosts annual Sankofa: Black Teen Summit, welcoming local high school students

Sankofa emphasizes the importance of embracing one's heritage while moving forward.

Oakton College welcomed high school juniors and seniors from four local schools to its annual Sankofa: Black Teen Summit, Feb. 13. The event, held in celebration of Black History Month, serves as a platform to introduce Black students to Oakton, offer insights into the college experience and fosters meaningful connections within the community.

“Rooted in the Ghanaian concept of ‘Sankofa,’ which emphasizes the importance of embracing one's heritage while moving forward, the Summit provides Black teens an opportunity to come together to pay tribute to the ancestors who have shaped our history and culture, and to contemplate the path they wish to forge ahead,” said Ella Whitehead, Oakton’s assistant director of Enrollment for Equity Outreach.

This year, participants engaged in a thought-provoking writers’ workshop titled “Knowing Who I Am and Where I Am Going,” led by Tina Fakhrid-Deen, Oakton’s Creative Writing coordinator and English professor. Each student delved into introspection by exploring three fundamental questions: Who am I?, Whose shoulders do I stand on?, and Where am I going?

Tina Fakhrid-Deen, Oakton’s Creative Writing coordinator and English professor, facilitated the writers' workshop. Courtesy of Oakton College

The theme for this year's event was Mardi Gras, celebrated on Fat Tuesday. Students had the opportunity to engage in a clinic delving into the historical roots of the second line tradition. Originating from traditional West African circle or ring dances, it was introduced to New Orleans by enslaved Africans. Over time, it evolved into a significant ritual for African Americans, particularly in various processions, including funerals.

The “main line” or “first line” represents the primary section of the parade, typically featuring a brass band. Following them, the second line comprises individuals who join in to revel in the music and dance and foster community spirit. The clinic was facilitated by the Chicago Windy City Ramblers, a nonprofit brass band organization dedicated to the cultural development of the youth of Chicago through the brass band and second line culture.

Following a learning session, students joyfully participated in a lively parade alongside the Ramblers, traversing Student Street at the heart of the Des Plaines campus.

In addition, throughout the day, participants interacted with Oakton faculty, staff, administrators and current students, gaining insight into Oakton's programs and initiatives, including the Building Lasting African Culture and Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) Student Success Program and the Emory Williams Academy for Black Men.

Lindsey Hunter, Oakton’s director of Admission and Enrollment, talked to students about preparing for college. Courtesy of Oakton College

This year's Summit attracted students from Evanston Township High School, Maine East High School, Maine West High School and Notre Dame College Prep.

For information about Oakton's commitment to diversity and student success initiatives, please visit

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