by Jennifer Strickland
If you live in Western New York, it’s very likely that you’ve had an encounter with Jomo Akomo.
You may have met him as a Buffalo Public School student sometime before he graduated from Hutch-Tech High School. Maybe you bumped into him while he was studying to obtain his Associates Degree at Erie Community College. You may have even been in the midst as he shared the story of our African heritage through the rhythmic beats that flow effortlessly, from his African drum as a drummer and instructor.
This multi-dimensional community activist, educator, WUFO/96.5 radio show personality and producer, is also a full-time Union Carpenter and Council Representative for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters. He wears all these hats while being married and uplifting the responsibilities of being a father of seven!
No matter where he is, and regardless of the task he’s undertaking, Akono will be found sharing his views on the subject of African consciousness. Which brings us to perhaps his most visible and long standing afro-centric connection as Executive Vice-President of Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, Inc.
Jomo’s leadership skills and commitment to educating and globally spreading the need for African consciousness is reflected in his commitment to the annual festival that is now considered one of the largest event of its kind in the United States. It’s an event which draws tens of thousands to its nearly two weeks of festivities that promote the culture, arts, and unity of a community that he says has been “mis-educated and mis-governed by systems” for so long.
As a young adult he joined the Festival as a parade participant, playing drums for different groups as they traveled the parade route wowing spectators. He became a committee volunteer and, after talking to other ‘conscious’ volunteers who also believed in educating both the young and seasoned about “what in the world really happened to us,” he established the pre-festival events under the umbrella of Sankofa Days.
“Sankofa” is a Ghananian term that means go back, fetch, and return. Jomo believes that it “it carries the energy that it’s right to go back, find what’s necessary, and return, so that there can be a connection created, internally, to find out why our communities are filled with disproportionate challenges.
What are the sources of these challenges and how do we amass our potential to secure a productive and free future, void of the challenges that have plagued us for generations? Akono’s drive is to ensure that the roster for Sankofa Days is filled with events that respond to the question, “ why have the Juneteenth (Festival)?” and reflects his passion for doing what he’s been called to do.
“Being able to help our community ‘know itself’ rang an internal bell that satisfied a deep spiritual calling,” he reflects. “ This organization (Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, Inc.) is centered around one of the undisputed universal realities in the world, the Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade.”
Juneteenth 365 is the focus of the organization going forward, and Jomo Akono definitely has a clear and precise vision of its implementation and prospective impact. “This vision should be supported by all groups and entities that want to see Africans in America reach their full God-given potential” he said. “ The support system will include those who have a passion for development and ‘social’ security for our city and region. We must position our power to create ‘all-age’ learning settings that support the premise that wisdom and knowledge of progress may be freely provided to our people. Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo plans to operate this community and educational resource year round as its “Communiversity!”
The Marcus Garvey Science Program, which currently operates from Festival headquarters throughout the year, is a staple of the Festival’s weekend events. Housed under one of the many massive tents in MLK Park, Akomo, is director of this initiative. He and his team provide hands-on, practical science activities, according to Marcus Garvey’s directive to teach the higher developments of science to our children.
“The program’s aim is to make sure that our 21st century cultural community is prepared to master education, technology, and innovation. Knowledge and appreciation of science must be integrated in our daily lifestyle,” declares Akono.
What is Jomo’s Juneteenth dream?
“I’d like to have a Juneteenth Community that builds the hearts and minds of our people to become good governors of their destiny and their environment,” he mused. “ I’d love to see other Americans re-educated on the history of our people and how the Western experience is seen through the eyes of African people. Buffalo has the honor of hosting the largest Juneteenth festivals. The local and global im-pact increases yearly. People from near and far, come and witness history and progress in new and enlightened terms. Musicians are being inspired to hold on to culture and promote what is good in Buffalo, and as our youth are given a cultural refuge in a 21st Century polarized world through Juneteenth 365, the knowlege and confidence in themselves and their community is paramount to their knowing freedom”
Jomo Akono, a might man of valor is outspoken and not to be underestimated or misunderstood. He’s here to communicate and activate a message of empowerment and inspiration to a global community that WILL raise its African consciousness. Peace &Love