Sankofa is an Akan (Ghana) word that means, "We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward;” so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today, thereby gaining wisdom, power, and hope to make positive progress through the sharing of this knowledge.

Our Mission

Sankofa African American Theatre Company exists to engage and enrich the Harrisburg region around the African American perspective on relevant issues through thought-provoking theatre that reflects artistic excellence.  

In support of our mission, Sankofa will:

  • create access and increase awareness on a regular basis through performances that illuminate the history, culture and life experiences of African-Americans

  • be directed by African-American leadership

  • engage, educate, and empower artists and audiences around the African-American experience, with a focus on outreach and professional development to build the local artistic community.


In late 2015, members of Open Stage of Harrisburg leadership and actors from the cast of several August Wilson productions began to seriously dialogue about the need for a theatrical arena in which actors of color could take ownership of telling their own stories. This dialogue lead to the formation of founding committee who worked for over nine months on developing a strategic plan for the organization, now known as Sankofa African American Theatre Company. The strategic planning process included a survey of the internal and external strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with implementing an African American theatre company. From this strategic planning exploration, the organization’s mission and vision were developed to focus the activities of Sankofa and develop and prioritize strategic objectives to ensure the sustainability and success of the organization. Sankofa African American Theatre Company was incorporated on June 6, 2017 and is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.

Meet Our Team

Sharia Benn

Executive Artistic Director of Sankofa African American Theater Company

Donald L. Alsedek

co-founder of 

Open Stage of Harrisburg

Anne L. Alsedek

co-founder of

Open Stage of Harrisburg

Johntrae Williams

Vice President of 

Sankofa African American Theater Company

.Sharia Benn, President, Managing Director -  Sharia is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and graduate of Towson University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications and is currently the Director of Underwriting Initiatives at Penn National Insurance. In this position, she facilitates cross-functional collaboration in strategic and operational planning, project management, and implementation of growth and innovation strategies.


Sharia holds a special passion for increasing the knowledge and understanding of the African American experience as she combines acting and historical studies to engage contemporary audiences as she portrays historically significant African-American women like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper; famed abolitionist, literary figure, and champion for women’s rights. This passion fueled her efforts as a co-founder and managing director of Sankofa African American Theatre Company of Harrisburg, which was formally established in June 2017.

Johntrae Williams, Vice Presidentis a graduate of Harrisburg High School and obtained his bachelors of Arts degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  By the completion of college, he had written and produced twelve projects. He later founded his production company, 3Actrical Entertainment. It is Johntrae’s goal to continue to unite the arts community in Central Pennsylvania for a collective purpose.  He is currently working on major motion film projects and continues to plow forward in creating opportunities for others through his work with Sankofa and in the community.

Donald L. Alsedek - Don co-founded Open Stage of Harrisburg in 1984. He first served as the theatre’s Artistic Director and in 2006 assumed both the organization’s artistic and administrative leadership as its Producing Artistic Director. Upon his retirement from the organization in June of 2017, Donald was recognized by the theatre’s Board of Directors as Artistic Director Emeritus.

Anne L. Alsedek - Anne founded the Studio/School at Open Stage of Harrisburg and was the school’s education director. The school was renamed The Alsedek Theatre School upon her retirement  in June of 2017. During her tenure as education director she established a partnership between Open Stage and Capital Area intermediate #15 to establish the Capital Area School for the Arts (CASA). Anne served as CASA’s director from its inception until 2009.

Community Advisory Council

Anne Alsedek

Don  Alsedek

Sharia Benn

William Benn

Aaron  Bomar


Gilinda Cousar

Marian Camon Dornell

Jesse Hyche

Neeka Jones

Dana Kinsey

Kelly Summerford

DeAnna Williams

Johntrae Williams

Board of Governors

Sharia Benn

President, Managing Director of Sankofa African American Theater Company

Johntrae Williams

Vice President, of Sankofa African American Theater Company

Anne L. Alsedek

co-founder of

Open Stage of Harrisburg

Donald L. Alsedek

co-founder of

Open Stage of Harrisburg

Strategic Planning Committee

Sharia Benn
Leonard Dozier
Lee Kenneth Richardson
Anne Alsedek
Donald Alsedek

Contact Us


phone: 717-214-3251

Sankofa African American Theatre Company

1425 Crooked Hill Road

P. O. Box 61755

Harrisburg, PA 17106-1755

Sankofa African American Theatre Company receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.