By RON FANFAIR
When Kofi Sankofa (born Ricardo Tomlinson) migrated from Jamaica to Canada in 1987 at age 16, his dream was to become a stockbroker, make lots of money and drive fancy cars.
His high hopes were quickly dashed when his father and stepmother threw him out of their home, forcing the new immigrant to seek refuge on the street and in various shelters.
“That process of homelessness changed my life,” acknowledged Sankofa who was nominated for a Mississauga Arts Marty award in the Emerging Literary Arts category. “I decided that I wanted to work with young people and my community. I started to re-educate myself and learn about what it means to be an African. I have learned that everything is not about money. It’s about wealth creation.”
Sankofa has travelled to Ghana to honour his African roots and reclaim his past and he’s set to visit Haiti this month for the second time in two years to assess the damage in the densely populated Cite Soleil community following last January’s devastating earthquake.
“I am looking for people to sponsor Haitian kids in that area for a year so that they can go to school and get an education and I will also be seeking to raise funds to build a school,” added the founding member of the Westside Cipher which is a collective of poets and raconteurs.
Sankofa also enjoys writing to provoke, incite and awaken unconscious minds. His spoken word/dub poetry recording The Diary of a Son, has had rave reviews and he recently released a full length CD, Sankofa Ancestral Callin.
Several other talented Black artists were nominated for Marty awards which were presented recently.
They include A.J. Saudin who is currently playing a lead role on the Canadian TV series, Degrassi and The New Generation, nail designer Tanya Morgan, Humber College trained graphic designer Oswald Shields, singer/songwriter Darcei Giles whose debut CD was recorded in New York City and contains three songs that she wrote and composed, photographer Sean Morgan, self-taught songwriter/composer Lorne Hind and dancer Tanya Birl who performed in the Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow which opened to rave reviews.
Guyanese-born teacher, poet and storyteller Peter Jailall was nominated in the Established Literary Arts Award category.
The Marty awards honour the artistic achievement of the city’s established artists while encouraging emerging artistic talent in literary, performing, media and visual arts.
“It’s good to be recognized in the city that you live in even though I do most of my work in Toronto,” said Sankofa who has been a Mississauga resident for the past five years.