FLORENCE, S.C. — The 19th Annual Sankofa Festival — resplendent with drummers, dancers and bands — happened Saturday along the creek in Timrod Park.

"Sankofa means to go back and fetch it — to go back into your history before you go forward to your future," said master of ceremonies Brother Jerome Hunter with the LaRocque Bey School of Dance Theater in Harlem. "If you have no idea where you're coming from you have absolutely no idea where you're going."

Hunter spoke before the opening Libations ceremony and followed that with lessons in African dance and a ceremonial Dance Circle.

"Sankofa is a community festival we started 19 years ago in the Florence area," said Fantah Hooker, one of the original organizers of the event. "It was an effort to bring about cultural events in the community."

The inaugural event in 2000 was supported by Florence and the Florence Regional Arts Alliance, Hooker said.

Nineteen years on, organizers next year are planning a three-day festival to mark Sankofa's 20th year.

"We always have local groups; sometimes we get groups from out of town to come," Hooker said.

This year Justine Roberts Performing Arts Academy and Driven By Dance — both local — performed along with dancers from Charlotte and Columbia, Hooker said.

Many performances were followed by impromptu dance lessons that involved those in attendance.

Also back at this year's festival was Reggae band Mystic Vibrations, which has performed at the festival for the last "15 or 16 years," Hooker said.

This year's festival ran from 2 to 8 p.m. at the stage in the park.

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Digital Editor Matt Robertson is a veteran journalist who has fulfilled just about every role that a newspaper has and now serves as a key member of the Morning News' newsroom by maintaining SCNow.com and covering the occasional story and photo assignment.

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