An innovative art exhibition that tells the story of the African experience is coming to Stanford Nov. 21. The entire campus community is encouraged to attend this free and educational event, which is aimed at increasing awareness of the black experience and racial intolerance, both at Stanford and around the world.

“Experience Sankofa Project” is the creation of Spearitwurx, an Oakland-based organization led by educators and curators Mizan and Sizwe Abakah. (Image credit: Alex Kekauoha)

“The ‘Experience Sankofa Project’ is a living museum that portrays the African and African- American diasporic history,” said Dereca Blackmon, assistant vice provost and executive director of the Diversity and First-Gen Office. “It celebrates the challenges and resilience of that community and uses actors and visual artists to create a live museum that allows for deeper reflection and conversation on the black experience.”

The main attraction involves a walk-through of 23 exhibits depicting various scenes throughout history, from life on the African continent through present day Oakland. The exhibits include scenes portraying the Olduvai Gorge paleoanthropological site in Tanzania, black migration and the Harlem Renaissance. Some address such challenging topics as slavery and use emotionally charged imagery, such as a man on a transatlantic slave ship. The exhibits use lights, sounds, smells and trained theater actors to bring these scenes to life and evoke a visceral response from viewers.

The walk-through is preceded by a conversation in which participants receive a brief explanation of the exhibits, followed by a second conversation discussing the exhibits and sharing thoughts on how to address racial intolerance.

“Experience Sankofa Project” is the creation of Spearitwurx, an Oakland-based organization led by educators and curators Mizan and Sizwe Abakah. The project has been brought to Stanford to further the university’s goal of embracing diversity and addressing the need for greater education around racial intolerance following recent acts of racial hatred, both at Stanford and around the world.

“Students and staff often talk about the emotional labor it takes to educate people about racial hatred,” Blackmon said. “This is a response to requests for the university to put on a campus-wide educational initiative around healing racial hatred.”

The “Experience Sankofa Project” is brought to Stanford with support from the president and provost. It is one in a series of events – announced this month by Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole – aimed at improving awareness of racial hatred and honoring Stanford’s diversity. The other events include a student-designed hackathon for teams to research and propose ways to address racial hatred and violence on and off campus, and an exhibition featuring the work of Project 562, a multi-year effort to photograph members and communities of all 562 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.

The entire Stanford community is encouraged to attend these events and to consider the impact that racial hatred has on the Stanford community and the broader world. “Experience Sankofa Project” will take place in 45-minute or 1-hour sessions throughout the day at the Oak Lounge at Tresidder Memorial Union during the following times:

  • Session 1: 10:45 a.m. (45 minutes)
  • Session 2: 11:30 a.m. (45 minutes)
  • Session 3: 12:15 p.m. (45 minutes)
  • Session 4: 2:30 p.m. (1 hour)
  • Session 5: 3:30 p.m. (1 hour)
  • Session 6: 7:30 p.m. (1 hour)
  • Session 7: 8:30 p.m. (1 hour)

Please RSVP for any of these sessions here. For questions or further details about the event, contact Dereca Blackmon at