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A royal journey back to the land

Feb 9, 2011, 1:27 PM | Article By: Abdoulie Sey, University of the Gambia

The ongoing International Roots Festival is a very significant event in the Gambia and Africa’s historical and cultural calendar. Since it began more than a decade ago many Africans in the Diaspora have been able to come home to Mother Africa and share their experiences with continental Africans.  This is important as dialogue is the first step towards understanding each other. The more we engage in discussions, the more we realize how time and space has never succeeded in separating African children from the motherland.

Some or many in the Diaspora no longer bear African names or speak African languages but they still look like Africans, and indeed they are African. Malcolm X, one of the most renowned civil rights or correctly, human rights activists in 20th Century USA said it clearly in his 1964 “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech. These were his exact words, “… African-Americans -- that’s what we are -- Africans who are in America. You’re nothing but Africans. Nothing but Africans.” He was one of the first to coin the term African-American.

It is interesting to note that most black consciousness ideas and movements such as Negritude and Pan-Africanism, just to name a few, had their roots in part or in whole in the Diaspora. Who does not remember, Marcus Garvey, W.E .B du Bois, Bob Marley, Amie Cesaire and a host of others who gave their time, effort and life to the struggle to reassert African glory. The list would be incomplete without the name Alex Haley, the author of “Roots”, the book that partly inspired the establishment of the International Roots Festival.

The above is a brief analysis of how concerned and interested is the Diaspora in African affairs. They are and shall continue to be real stakeholders in our development.  Therefore, I must commend the President of the Republic for his foresight in championing the cause of the International Roots Festival and for re-naming James Island Kunta Kinteh Island. My gratitude also goes to the National Center for Arts and Culture for a job done well.  Finally, I would like to suggest that a monument in honor of Kunta Kinteh be erected in the Gambia. I must say I was greatly inspired when I visited his monument in Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, USA. I know Americans value Kunta Kinteh but we too value him no less.