Especially for Families – Memory

Especially for Families - Memory

The Power of Sankofa: Know History

Sankofa is an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana.  The literal translation of the word and the symbol is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” The word is derived from the words: SAN  (return), KO  (go), FA (look, seek and take).
The Sankofa symbolizes the Akan people’s quest for knowledge among the Akan with the implication that the quest is based on critical examination, and intelligent and patient investigation.
The Sankofa Bird…is based on a mythical bird with its feet firmly planted forward with its head turned backwards. Thus, the Akan believe the past serves as a guide for planning the future. To the Akan, it is this wisdom in learning from the past which ensures a strong future.
The Akans believe that there must be movement and new learning as time passes. As this forward march proceeds, the knowledge of the past must never be forgotten.



Remembering who we want to be is tied up with remembering where we’ve come from. Holding on to our roots keeps us rooted. It’s also keeps us connected to gratitude and humility. To remember where you’ve come from is to remember that you didn’t create yourself or earn your successes all on your own. Remembering where you’ve come from is also a way to celebrate your uniqueness.

Memory Poems

So this month, spend some time teasing out the unique roots that make you who you are…by writing a poem about where you’ve come from!

Don’t worry; it’s not as intimidating as it first may sound. Poet George Ella Lyon has already laid the ground for us with her poem, Where I’m from. Following her poem’s structure, hundreds of writers and students have written their own.

Here’s Lyon’s poem:

How Narratives Can Aid Memory – A Memory Exercise

“…start by reading the paragraph below, which recounts a brief and chaotic story. Your task is simply to understand what happens:

A man called Nigel is sat next to his enormous, 300lb pet squid as they travel around in the back of his lime-green limo. They’re arguing over what to watch on the limo’s TV: Coronation Street, or Sesame Street. It soon turns into a fight, which the squid wins by using its eight limbs to empty eight pepper-grinders on to Nigel’s head. Nigel leaps from the car in terror and runs away towards the sea, cleverly heading through a thick yellow field of rapeseed to stop the squid from following. On reaching the beach, he meets Prince Harry, who is celebrating his 25th birthday. Prince Harry persuades Nigel to help him confront two Gallic dancers who have eaten a beautiful “she-swan” (without the Queen’s permission). After the attack, Nigel jumps into the sea and swims out towards, as luck would have it, the Lady of Shalott, who is bobbing up and down in a boat made from a giant orange pepper. She invites him on board and they fall in love…

Your next step is to see how much of the story you recall. First, close your eyes and repeat the story as well as you can in your head. When you’re done, open your eyes and write down all the items you have successfully recalled. This will give you a sense of how many useful memories you can store in around a minute or so. Hopefully you’ll have impressed yourself again.

Now, you’ll perhaps be wondering what the point of remembering a random list of objects like this might be. But here we can reveal that the story you’ve learned is not at all random, but in fact encodes the ingredients for a Nigel Slater recipe… –

A Little Stir-Fry of Squid and Peppers

Get the fishmonger to remove the ink sacs and clean the squid. Also good with prawns.
Serves 2 as a main dish

squid 300g (prepared weight)
red or orange pepper 1 large
garlic 2 cloves
shallots 2 medium-sized
ginger 25g
groundnut or canola oil 2 tbsp
Szechuan pepper 1 tsp
black peppercorns 8, crushed
sesame oil
lime juice of 1
coriander a little, chopped (optional)

Sort through the squid, cleaning and trimming anything the fishmonger may have missed. Cut the long body sacs into thinnish rings and trim the tentacles neatly.
Halve the pepper, remove and discard the seeds and core, then thinly slice. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and shallots. Remove the skin from the ginger and cut the flesh into thin matchstick-sized shreds.
Heat the oil in a wok then add the peppers, moving them round the pan from time to time until they relax and soften, then add the garlic, shallots and ginger. Continue to fry and stir until the shallots are golden, then add the Szechuan and black peppercorns, salt and the squid. Stir-fry for a minute or two only, till the squid is opaque, then add the sesame oil, lime juice, and the chopped coriander if you wish. Serve immediately.

Document Your Memories Throughout the Year with A Memory Jar

Check out this video of this fun and simple practice.

Books and Stories

When Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) was first published in 1991, it met with an overwhelming response from readers and reviewers alike. Here was “a wonderful family story,” as The Horn Book Magazine said, “set matter-of-factly in an African-American environment.” Since then, the story of Sarah and Susan’s Sunday afternoon with their great-great-aunt Flossie—and her many hats and stories—has become a favorite book for sharing and for initiating conversations about family history. For this celebratory 10th anniversary edition, Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard has written a special eight-page afterword, illustrated with family photographs, in which she tells about her own family history and the real Aunt Flossie, a truly remarkable woman.




Memory and meaning are at the heart of this oversized, content-rich picture book celebrating the life of Marcel, a soulful elephant. From the towering buildings outside his window and his recollected world travels, to the friends, flora, and fauna that flourish around him, Marcel finds significance in his surroundings and, most importantly, in life’s abundant details.







Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way–not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.
So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It’s where she’ll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart–a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she’ll admit how much she’s missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.
Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it’s not the life she planned



Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a small boy who has a big name – and that’s why he likes Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper becasue she has too. So when he finds Miss Nancy has lost her memory, Wilfriddetermines to discover what memories are so he can find it for her.



A beautiful and heartfelt story about the death of a loved one and the memories that comfort those left behind.







Each button on Laura’s memory string represents a piece of her family history. The buttons Laura cherishes the most belonged to her mother—a button from her prom dress, a white one off her wedding dress, and a single small button from the nightgown she was wearing on the day she died. When the string breaks, Laura’s new stepmother, Jane, is there to comfort Laura and search for a missing button, just as Laura’s mother would have done. But it’s not the same—Jane isn’t Mom. In Eve Bunting’s moving story, beautifully illustrated by Ted Rand, Laura discovers that a memory string is not just for remembering the past: it’s also for recording new memories.



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