AU Students Experience a Sankofa Journey With Dr. Nathaniel Perez

NATEPEREZ CRR

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and
I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

The words of Benjamin Franklin could not be better illustrated than by the experiential education that Alliance University offers, which gives added value to earning an AU degree.

Global service-learning trips to Israel and Greece make biblical history come alive. The pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago in Spain nurtures spiritual formation. Trips to India and Guatemala have given nursing students the opportunity to serve in hospitals and to gain practicum hours. Counseling students have had firsthand exposure to the history of mental health care in Honduras.

One stateside experience that represents a slice of American history is the Sankofa Journey sponsored by the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) founded in 1885 by Scandinavian immigrants. Today, ECC is one of the most ethnically diverse denominations in North America. Dr. Nathaniel Perez arranges the Sankofa trip for his Alliance University students.

Sankofa is a word from the Akan tribe in Ghana that translates to “looking backward to move forward.” The perspective is one embraced by Dr. Perez, AU’s Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, who recently took his students to visit landmark sites associated with the Civil Rights movement. The group flew to Chicago and then by bus, to replicate the experience of social activists, traveled to Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee.

Sankofa Journey 2022
The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is located in Montgomery, Alabama,

This year’s participants who joined Dr. Perez were (l-r) Turron Alleyne, Moryliz Marquez, Koralys De La Cruz, Eileen Murphy, Janice Phillips, Marlyn Bonifacio, Valle Williams, and Joseph Tran.

Dr. Perez is an ATS alumnus (D.Min. ’19; M.Div., ’17), who developed Alliance University’s first reconciliation course during his Doctor of Ministry studies. Introduction to Racial Reconciliation, taught by Dr. Perez on the undergraduate and graduate level, is also offered in AU’s prison education program at Fishkill Correctional Facility where he has been a part of the Fishkill faculty since 2019.

With a heart for inspiring a new generation of leaders to pursue racial reconciliation and social justice initiatives, Dr. Perez has also facilitated small groups with a theme of racial reconciliation and often preached on the topic in campus chapel services.

His heart for students dates back to 2009, when he worked with AU’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) students. Beyond his role as an academic advisor, he taught developmental courses, recruited students, oversaw curriculum, and chaperoned trips to Albany for HEOP Lobby Day and New York Student Aid Alliance Advocacy Day.

His appointment as the Director of Alliance’s Center for Racial Reconciliation came in June 2020 during a season of unprecedented national and global political and racial unrest, exacerbated by the pandemic.

“The Center for Racial Reconciliation is our way to bridge the gap between diversity and community,” says Dr. Perez. “For true community to develop, we must begin to have conversations about racial justice and reconciliation. Diversity does not necessitate community, but having diversity in our institution allows us to have a platform to have difficult conversations about the Gospel and race.”

Coming up in the spring 2023 semester, a new course will be tailored to combine AU’s core value of social relevance and the urban church. Dr. Perez and Associate Dean of ATS and senior pastor Alliance Tabernacle at Clarendon Road in Brooklyn, Dr. Charles Galbreath, will co-teach Leadership Development for the Urban Church: Sankofa Journey.