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The Sankofa Award

The Sankofa is a Ghanian Adinkra symbol, typically depicted as a bird or heart, that represents looking at the past for wisdom to best build toward the future. The Sankofa Award recognizes Harvard Divinity School community members of African Descent who embody the importance of passing on wisdom, care, and commitment to the generations to come. This year's recipient is Dean Melissa Wood Bartholomew.

more about this year's recipient

melissa Wood bartholomew

Melissa Wood Bartholomew (she/her), MDiv '15, is the Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Harvard Divinity School, where she is also an Instructor in Ministry. She is a Christ-centered minister and a racial justice and healing practitioner committed to a multidisciplinary, Afrocentric approach to healing justice rooted in the African philosophy of Ubuntu, restorative justice, and love.


Melissa’s passion for social justice was cultivated at Howard University where she received her undergraduate and law degrees. She is an attorney with nearly a decade’s experience in public interest law. After practicing law and then working as a mediator in the judicial system, she realized that the law could not facilitate the heart changes required to eradicate racism from individuals and systems. Her call to ministry led her to pursue her MDiv at HDS.


Melissa is earnestly committed to eradicating racism and advancing healing and societal transformation through spiritually-engaged, multidisciplinary strategies emerging from her experiences in law, mediation, ministry, and social work. She has studied restorative justice in Rwanda, transformational leadership in Ghana, and has published various articles exploring racial justice and healing.


Melissa received her MSW from Boston College where she is completing her PhD. Her research interests include the impact of racism, incarceration, and other systems of oppression on the mental health of Black people and the role of religion and spirituality in their resistance. She serves as part-time faculty at Boston College where she teaches courses in diversity in the School of Social Work and restorative justice in the School of Law. Melissa is supported on this journey by her husband Edward and their son Eli.

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