Named after the internationally acclaimed film called SANKOFA (produced by the founders) , Sankofa Video, Books & Café carries with it an expectation of quality and discovery. Founded in 1997 by filmmaking couple, Haile and Shirikiana Gerima, Sankofa Video and Books specializes in videos and books about people of African descent around the world.
Sankofa Video, Books & Cafe is nestled in the college campus corridor of Georgia Ave, in Washington, DC, across from Howard University, two blocks from Benjamin Banneker Sr. High School.
The Gerima couple have been producing films since the early 70’s when Haile Gerima completed BUSH MAMA and HARVEST 3000 YEARS as a graduate student at UCLA. Mypheduh Films was created in 1982 by Shirikiana, Haile and sister Selome Gerima, in the basement of their home in Washington, DC, in order to control the distribution of their products. This company continues to operate along with their production company, Negod Gwad Productions, inside of the Sankofa building. The movie SANKOFA, was produced thirty years ago by this team over a ten year period, in that same basement. A story about a woman who travels to her past on a plantation, and other enslaved Blacks that plan and execute rebellion, was not an easy topic to get funded or distributed once completed.
SANKOFA, which is an Adinkra term for “going back to our past in order to go forward,” obtained numerous awards and special screenings internationally, but domestically no distribution company would touch it.SANKOFA then became an example of what community and artist teamwork could accomplish if the will was great enough. This (extremely arduous) distribution model successfully kept SANKOFA in theatres across the country for two years. The drama in the SANKOFA story and its distribution, demonstrate the significance of choosing “Sankofa” as a name for this establishment.
The filmmakers moved their operations from their basement in 1994 and rented offices at K and 4th Streets NW before purchasing their current location in 1997 at 2714 Georgia Avenue NW Washington DC. SVB has become a liberated zone or sanctuary for provocative black film and literature, that is all too rare around the country. Sankofa Café was added to the premises in 2007 adding a combined great cuisine and charm to the video and book business that attracts the hungry and the inquisitive sojourner.
Despite the statistics that show a reduction in reading and in the printed book, SVB is evidence that an intellectual environment to gather, read, contemplate, discuss, challenge and be challenged, a place to relax and be thoughtfully entertained, is still very critical to the definition of community.
The inventory offers classic titles from the pillars of black culture and history, as well as new releases in culture, history, sociology, biography, and fiction. Some of the prominent authors who have held readings and signings on the premises include Sonja Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti, Eloise Greenfield, Tananarive due, Sista Souljah, and many others. We also stock the largest collection of children’s black literature in the DC area, hosting a period Magical Mirrors Childrens’ Black Book Festival.
SVB has had regular film showings as part of its broad array of provocative programming introducing local audiences to an array of filmmakers, and exposing them to films from around the world.
Our plans for the future include expanding our capacity for screening films, in order to increase the seating capacity, improve the projection and speaker quality, and isolate the operational sounds of the café. The Café plans to upgrade its outdoor seating space for comfort and seclusion.
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